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Maryport Bitter & Blues Festival 2004

by Courtland Bresner

The sixth Maryport Blues Festival was held over the weekend of Friday 30th July to Sunday 1st August 2004. The festival seems to go from strength to strength with improved line-ups each year. Headliners over the years have included Robben Ford, Lonnie Donnigan, Jools Holland and Elkie Brooks; however, this year the legendary Buddy Guy was the Saturday night headliner.


Local folk duo, John & Wayne, opening the festival whos gentle set of original folk style tunes went down well with the mainly local audience.

The London based Spikedrivers followed and turned in a fine set of mostly original blues songs led by Ben Tyacks (photo) on guitar and vocals ably assisted by Constance Redgrave on bass and washboard and Maurice McElroy on drums. It was good to see a band that had dressed for the occasion.

Liverpool based Connie Lush and Blues Shouter performed to their usual high standards turning in fine renditions of original and classic blues songs. Connie has a great voice, no wonder she has been voted best female vocalist in the Blues in Britain polls.

Texas based Sherman Robertson, who is currently undertaking and extensive UK tour, played an excellent set of original Texas style blues mixed with Louisiana Zydeco. Great fun and an awesome talent.


Dave Ellis opened the Saturday sessions and performed a competent set of delta blues, including songs by Son House and Robert Johnson played on resonator guitars. Dave also featured on number of electric numbers including BB King and an original, played on a Stratocaster, was very Texas shuffle based and reminded one of SRV.

Danny Bryant followed and delivered his usual Walter Trout style performance.

Australian Gwyn Ashton (photo) and his band closed the afternoon sessions and played a set of original blues on his battered early 60s Stratocaster. Gwyn even played an original acoustic blues number on a National Duolian.

Saturday evening opened with the Isle of Wight based acoustic duo JC & Angelina who turned in a fine performance of early blues and roots music, including a number of original songs. JC & Angelina shared vocal duties with both demonstrating fine picking skills.

Next up was Delmark recording artist Steve Freund (photo) backed by Pete Leigh & The Union. Steve demonstrated excellent Chicago style blues guitar skills and an impressive voice. His balance of guitar solos and singing was judged to perfection, demonstrating why he is in much respected and in demand in the USA.

The legendary Buddy Guy (photo) closed the Saturday night and within minutes of arriving on stage had the audience eating out of his hands. Buddy played with a fire that belies his age and performed a range of Chicago and funky blues. His set list included Sweet Home Chicago and Feels Like Rain which had the audience singing along (Sing-Along with Buddy watch out Max Bygraves) together with his famous, and some say infamous, blues impressions including Boom Boom by John Lee Hooker, Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters and Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) by Jimi Hendrix. Of course had to finish his set with the famous walkabout around the marquee. There was no encore but everyone left on a high note with the adrenaline flowing.


Scottish based Lights Out By Nine opened the last session of the festival. This eight-piece band delivered a polished set of rhythm & blues originals and was well received.

Kim Simmonds (photo) of Savoy Brown fame delivered a solid set of original blues mixed with covers of Jimmy Reed, Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters and Arthur Crudup songs. His anecdotes of his time with Savoy Brown amused the crowd.

Jon Amor performed a set of original guitar led rock songs.

Next up were Egypt, whos members once played with the Groundhogs, performed a solid set of blues-rock renditions of Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed songs plus a number of originals.

The final act of the festival was the Big Joe Turner (photo) Memphis Blues Caravan featuring the excellent voice of Lavette Smith (photo below). This girl has got to be a blues diva in the making. The set consisted of mostly blues standards including an audience participation interlude. A great way to finish the festival.

The festival also includes a number of fringe venues which play host to a variety of blues bands over the weekend. We were too busy at the main marquee to attend any of the other venues.

Long may the Maryport blues festival continue!

Text & Photographs Copyright 2004 Courtland Bresner
All Rights Reserved.

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