Carlisle Blues Festival Review
by Lionel Ross
Carlisle Blues Festival took place at the Swallow Hilltop Hotel on 12th-14th
November. There had been eager anticipation for some time before the event in
view of the mouth-watering line-up. That anticipation was proved to be fully
justified as the magnificent programme was expertly rolled out to the delight of
the 400+ enthusiasts in attendance.
festival was opened on Friday evening by Kevin Thorpe’s Tipping Point,
who performed an emotive tribute to their founder, Kevin Thorpe, who had
recently died immediately following the band’s appearance at the Newark
Festival. The fondness for Kevin among the audience was palpable in their warm
appreciation of the performance.
then grabbed the assembled throng by the throat and maintained her grip
throughout her high-octane set of heavy blues rock. Her dexterity was stunning
as was her impact on the decibel scale. Several punters felt obliged to leave
the concert room to protect their hearing whilst fully acknowledging Chantel’s
ears were soon restored to normality by the laid-back delivery of Mud
Morganfield, the eldest son of Muddy Waters. Backed by the excellent
Dirty Aces, he eased through his father’s songbook and a smattering of
original compositions. His voice is uncannily reminiscent of his paternal
heritage but his clear reverence towards the master ensures that he is far more
than a mere tribute act as the warm appreciation displayed by the audience
evening’s entertainment was completed by James Hunter, who delivered an
array of self-penned numbers, with his soulful vocals and spiky guitar work ably
supplemented by his rocking band that included keys and a couple of saxophones.
The fun was continued in the hotel’s bar with a jam session led by the highly
talented Dale Storr, who had earlier contributed his considerable
keyboard skills to Kevin Thorpe’s Tipping Point.
Saturday afternoon session began gently in acoustic mode. First, hugely popular
artist, Steve Jones (aka Pablo), demonstrated that his artistry is not
confined to painting by accompanying himself on guitar to open the proceedings.
He also contributed the main prize for the festival raffle in the form of a
marvellous pastel portrait of Muddy Waters. Steve was followed by Lucy Zirins,
an eighteen-year old singer/guitarist from Burnley, who confirmed her potential
as she combined powerful vocals with impressive guitar work to deliver a
commendably assured performance.
contrast, The Revolutionaires then exploded into action with a vibrant
mix of rock and roll and hip-shaking swing. Singer, Ed Stephenson, demonstrated
his tremendous versatility by swapping his guitar for keyboard and harmonica
with consummate ease. It was a powerhouse performance that had the crowd baying
for more. And more they got – or to be precise, Moore – Nicky Moore’s Blues
Corporation, that is. True to form, The Voice interspersed his top class
singing with irreverent banter and was admirably backed by his splendid band,
notably by his son, Tim, on lead guitar.
covers a profound spectrum, which offers the potential for considerable
diversity at a festival, including the unconventional. Hokie Joint
epitomises that category. Fronted by the rasping vocals of charismatic singer,
Jojo Burgess, and embellished by the harmonica mastery of Giles King, they
provided a gripping preface to the evening programme. The scene having been well
and truly set, it required a big personality to maintain the momentum. Step
forward Hamilton Loomis. The man from Galveston, Texas, delivered the
goods in his customary all-action funky-laden style, oozing warmth, personality
and quality musicianship. His band is equally dependable with Stratton Doyle
excelling on sax and keyboard, underpinned by the exceptional talents of Kent
Beatty on bass guitar and Jamie Little on drums. They delivered a highly
entertaining set that raised the bar mightily for the final act of the evening.
the extravaganza was Michael Burks, who is widely hailed as one of the
very best of the current crop of US bluesmen. Backed by a fine rhythm section
and a superb keyboard player, the Chicago-based singer/guitarist began somewhat
tentatively but once in his stride he proceeded to captivate the audience with
his soulful singing and his brilliant guitar playing. The more he relaxed and
integrated with the audience, the greater was the appreciation of his
considerable talents. It just got better and better to round off a truly
who were not physically and emotionally exhausted, the night continued in the
bar under the expertise guidance of The Deluxe, a Cumbrian band led by
singer/guitarist, Christian Sharp.
final day of the 2009 Carlisle Festival, a relatively unknown young man from
London wowed the unsuspecting audience with a terrific set of acoustic blues.
That man was Marcus Bonfanti. On the strength of that revelation, he was
invited back this year to perform with his excellent rhythm section of Scott
Wiber on bass guitar and Alex Reeves on drums. Once again his incredible vocals
and brilliant guitar playing were greeted with open-mouthed appreciation.
wonderful show continued with a marvellous set from Florida-based one-man-band,
Ben Prestage, who delighted the audience with his tremendous versatility
on an array of guitars, bass drum, hi-hat cymbal and harmonica. His humorous
asides were also well-received, not least when he introduced ‘his band’,
instrument by instrument. It was a highly skilled and thoroughly inventive
As MC, Mark
Singleton, declared, it seems inconceivable that there would be a Carlisle Blues
Festival without the inclusion of the hugely popular Ian Siegal. On this
occasion, Ian played solo and produced a superlative acoustic set. Particularly
outstanding among the many gems were his renditions of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”
and the guaranteed crowd favourite “Gallo Del Cielo”, which was greeted with
rapturous applause. Siegal is quite simply one of the very brightest stars in
the UK’s blues firmament.
unenviable task of following the magic that had graced the stage all afternoon
and to draw the weekend to its climax fell to Never The Bride. It is very
much to their credit that they met that challenge with exemplary panache.
Fronted by the forceful vocals and engaging personality of Nikki Lamborn, they
blasted out a stirring set that reinforced the deeply felt euphoria that the
fabulous weekend had established. It is plain to see why the band has developed
an international reputation for their energetic performances with songwriter,
Catherine Feeney, on keyboards, Murray Gold on guitar and a fine rhythm section complementing
of praise can fully acknowledge the incredible effort, organisational skills and
eye for detail provided by Nick Westgarth and his tireless team. The fact that
the festival was completely sold out is a very appropriate testament to the
quality of their programme and their dedication. November 2011 is already on the
big thank you to Lionel for the review
Alan White, Earlyblues.com
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