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Maryport Blues Festival 2009
Friday 24th to Sunday 26th July 2009
Review from Courtland Bresner

The main festival event took place again in the marquee at the Netherhall Rugby Ground over the weekend of the 24th to 26th July.  

The festival was opened with the customary address by the mayor.  

As is traditional with Maryport the opening act were the winners of the Maryport Battle of the Bands contest which this year was won by Nine Lives. The set consisted mainly of covers, such as, Tush (ZZ Top), Oh Pretty Woman (Albert King via Gary Moore), Roadhouse Blues (The Doors) and Out In The Fields (Gary Moore). A few originals were performed including the self titled Nine Lives.  

Next on stage were Laura and The Tears fronted by singer songwriter Laura Welsh supported by guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. This non blues act performed a set of mainly original material from their Radio 2 play listed EP “Love Live On” including See You Later, Stone and Undone. One surprise in the set was the inclusion of Savoy Brown’s Train to Nowhere. Musicianship was good however I felt that Laura’s singing voice was weak but probably more suited to smaller venues and the announcements almost inaudible.  

Ian Anderson © Copyright 2009 Courtland Bresner. All Rights Reserved.Headliners for Friday night were the legendary Jethro Tull fronted by Ian Anderson on flute, guitar and harmonica. Unfortunately regular guitarist Martin Barre was not available for this gig but his deputy Florian did a marvellous job. Jethro Tull performed a range of material from their forty plus year history from the early days through to more recent material. Songs included within the set were Serenade the Earth, Farm on the Freeway (dedicated to the Maryport fishermen who had tragically died earlier in the week), The Heavy Horses, Mother Goose, Dharma for One and an excerpt from the prog rock album Thick As A Brick. Also included was a number from Tull’s blues band days Someday the Sun Won’t Shine For You with Ian Anderson on harmonica and Florian on guitar. An excellent overall performance from Jethro Tull, with Ian Anderson satisfying the audience with his trademark one legged flute playing and prowling around the stage to great effect.  

Closing the Friday night was King King fronted by Alan Nimmo on guitar and vocals resplendent in a kilt. Included within the set were It’s Six In The Morning, Heart Without A Soul, Gravy Train, Feels Like Rain and Mr Highway Man.  The introduction of keyboards into the line up (Bennett Holland) seems to add a new dynamic to the arrangements.  

Saturday was opened by three piece (guitar, bass and drums) The W T Feaster Band from Indianapolis USA. The band played on the trail last year and made a hugely successful appearance that they were invited onto the main stage for 2009. The band led by Travis Feaster on vocals and a metallic blue Fender Stratocaster produced a fine performance of blues-rock mixing originals from their current CD Long Overdue, with covers, Included today were Born Under A Bad Sign, Back For More, The Devils Daughter, Tired Of Being Mistreated (slow blues with a tasty guitar solo), Mr Pitiful and Hey Joe which brought the biggest cheer of the set. Travis Feaster is a good guitarist who generally plays in the modern Texas blues style.  

Deborah Bonham © Copyright 2009 Courtland Bresner. All Rights Reserved.Next to perform, making her first appearance at the festival, was the Deborah Bonham Band. Deborah, sister of the late John Bonham, supported by guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums, entertained with a seventies rock chick performance including a mixture of original material and covers. The set opened with Black Coffee and progressed through a number of songs from her current album Duchess, including If You Haven’t The Love, Jack Past Eight, Love Lies, The Duchess, Angel and The Devil in New Orleans. The Old Hide introduced with stories of John, herself and family was dedicated to the Maryport fishermen who had died in tragic circumstances recently. Her set finished with Stay With Me Baby.

Closing the Saturday afternoon session was the Ulster bluesman Rab McCullough with cap on head and Fender Stratocaster in hand supported by bass, drums and harmonica.  His set included mostly covers of classic blues including Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (Sonny Boy Williamson), Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell), Going Down Slow (St Louis Jimmy). The obligatory Hendrix number Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) was included with Rab playing his guitar behind his head and with his teeth, a la Jimi; this resulted in the greatest applause of the day. The set closed with a high energy Bullfrog Blues in true Rory Gallagher fashion with Rab playing slide. Although a harmonica player was in the band his contribution was almost inaudible in the mix.  

Saturday night was kicked off by Brighton based guitarist and singer Dani Wilde supported by her band consisting of guitar, bass, drums and harmonica. The set consisted of material from her CD Heal My Blues and included Little By Little (with audience participation which almost failed to spark any interest), Bring Your Loving Home To Me and Abandoned Child. A new song Some Kind Of Crazy which has yet of be recorded was aired. Will “Harmonica” Wilde, younger brother of Dani, performed a funky Blues Is My First Love, You Come Second Babe which featured some tasty harmonica.

The Blues Band who have been together for about thirty years took to the stage next and performed a set of mostly covers of blues, R&B and rock and roll standards. The lead was shared between Paul Jones (vocals and harmonica), Dave Kelly (vocals and slide guitar) and Tom McGuiness (vocals, guitar and mandolin). Numbers included within the set included Before You Accuse Me, Laura Lee, Slipping and Sliding, You’ve Got To Move (with Tom McGuiness on mandolin), I Can’t Be Satisfied, Fine Brown Frame, Statesboro Blues, Flat Foot Sam (with Paul hinting at the Old Grey Whistle Test theme during the harmonica solo) and Talk To Me Baby. Guitar histrionics were contagious during the weekend as even Tom McGuiness played guitar behind his head.  

John Mayall © Copyright 2009 Courtland Bresner. All Rights Reserved.Headlining Saturday night was the “Godfather of British Blues” – John Mayall. Although the Bluesbreakers have been officially disbanded this line up carries on their tradition of featuring an excellent guitarist and, true to form, Rocky Athas did not disappoint. John Mayall (keyboards and harmonica) guided the band through a tour of John’s forty plus years recording history featuring Chicago Line from his first album John Mayall Plays John Mayall, three numbers from the Beano album Hideaway, Parchman Farm and the encore All Your Love and others from key stages in his career including Another Man Dome Gone, Talk To Your Daughter, Help Me, Blues For The Lost Days, Congo Square, A Dream About The Blues and a new song Moving Out & Moving On. The set closed with the harmonica showcase Room To Move featuring skat singing from John. The bass player, who was having trouble with his amplifier all night, played a great solo in Room To Move. This was a well constructed set, played by fine musicians featuring the guitar of Rocky Athas. I hope that I have as much energy as John Mayall does when I reach the age of 75.  

Sunday, the last day of the festival, was opened by Ryan Shaw from Georgia USA. This gospel and soul influenced singer backed by guitar, bass and drums was a fitting start to the day. Ryan is generally unknown in the UK but he featured songs from his current CD This Is Ryan Shaw, including Many Rivers To Cross, I’m Looking For Love, Nobody But Me, Morning Noon & Night (this was very Sam Cooke influenced) and Let It Be. The bass guitarist played a wonderful solo during the set which was almost like classical guitar in its structure. During the set Ryan expressed that his main influence was Michael Jackson – he seemed quite shocked when there was little enthusiasm from the audience in praising Michael Jackson. Ryan then went on to perform Man In The Mirror.  

Next was a marathon set by Nottingham based Sean Webster and his band plus assorted guests. Sean toting a black Fender Telecaster and his band kicked things off with a few numbers from his current album including You’re Gonna Make It Rain. John Amor joined on guitar for Get Myself Together and What You Do To Me. Giles King one of the best UK harmonica players joined proceedings and started with a harmonica led instrumental with Giles going walk about through the marquee. Also performed with Giles taking solos were She Automatic and Mr Highway Man. Stuart Dixon was next to join the stage with the following numbers featuring guitar solos from all the guitarists and harp from Giles Guess What Johnny Did, Losing My Mind (Texas shuffle) and Shotgun Blues. Next up were Dave Dougherty and Joel Fisk and on guitars who featured on Have You Ever Loved a Woman. Finally James Anthony on guitar joined the amassed guitars with the set coming to a close on It Feels Like Rain. Two and a half hours of guitar overdose.  

A mark of respect was held at six o’clock with a minutes silence in honour of the local fishermen who had tragically lost their lives days before the festival.    

Eric Burdon © Copyright 2009 Courtland Bresner. All Rights Reserved.The final session of the weekend started late with Eric Burdon and his band having difficulties at customs and immigration. Eric delivered a set based upon a mix of songs from his solo years and his time with the Animals. The set opened with The Night Was Young which was plagued with technical difficulties at the end of the song. Other songs included in the set were Don’t Bring Me Down, Warm San Franciscan Night, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (with Reggae inflections), I Believe, Boom Boom which merged into Whole Lotta Shakin, The Devils Slide, Forty Four Blues, Paint It Black and Its My Life. During the show one number of instrumental music from Crete was played on a traditional instrument much like an upside down violin with the tuning heads held under the players chin.

The encore featured Got To Get Out Of This Place and House Of The Rising Sun.  

Closing the show was Ruby Turner who was featured as part of the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra in 2008. Ruby, on fine form, backed by a band consisting of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums delivered a mix of gospel, soul and blues. Songs included Restless, Not That Easy (very funky), Something On Your Mind (slow blues), So Amazing, Nobody But You, Get Away To Jordan, Oh Mary Don’t You Weep. Tributes to her favourite singers were included in the set, such as, This Train by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta James. The deserved encore was Do You Feel Ready. The set was cut short due to the delay caused by Eric Burdon’s late start.  

Attendance at this year’s festival was down on last year with the Friday night being the best attended session. Again the lack of seating was a problem for the majority of the audience who are mainly over 45 with the Saturday and Sunday sessions being the main concern for standing for a long period of time.  

We did not attend any of the trail venues however we received some excellent reports about Hokie Joint.

Many thanks to Courtland Bresner for the review.
Alan White, earlyblues.com


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