Colne Great British R&B Festival 2005
by Lee Wilkinson
Well, my annual visit to those old cotton mills back home commenced on the Friday evening with a brief look at Mississippi born Kent Duchaine who got the weekend off to a flying start. Singing and displaying a fine technique on the dobro, a heartfelt version of ‘St James’ Infirmary’ was a highlight of his set. I have seen Nine Below Zero several times before but this was probably the best of them all. Their chunky driving rhythm was in evidence on ‘Talk To My Baby’, ‘One Way Street’, ‘Ridin’ On The L & N’ and ‘Packed Fair And Square’. A delicate instrumental working of ‘Amazing Grace’ featured the keen keyboard style of Pete Wingfield prominently. The Hamsters followed with a typical set of heavy rocking blues which included an extended version of Jimmy McCracklin’s ‘The Walk’. Guitarist with George Thorogood & The Destroyers. Jim Suhler and his own band Monkey Beat finally made it to the stage at 12.45am and opened up with a rousing ‘Are You Experienced?’ Shortly afterwards your shaky correspondent sloped off to slumber.
On the Saturday I took a look at my nephew Jason’s band Half A Day in the Conservative Club. He played lead guitar and sang ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, ‘The Train Kept A Rollin’, ‘Hi Heel Sneakers’, ‘Roadrunner’ and an almost word perfect ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ plus a few original numbers. Moving on to the main auditorium at the Muni the Eddie Martin big band were in their usual grand form with ‘Reelin’ And Rockin’ being particularly memorable, before the British Blues All Stars took to the stage. Gathered together by veteran boogie-woogie pianist Bob Hall they featured guitarist Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown) and Mick Clarke, bassist Gary Fletcher (Blues band), drummer Clive Allen and expressive vocalist Maggie Brown. Their individual attributes combined well to create a varied set with the material ranging from ‘Down The Road Apiece’ to ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’.
The following day I checked out the Jive Aces decked out in their bright yellow zoot suits who put on a display designed to please the dancers. Perennial local favourites Walter Mitty’s Head rocked along in their usual formidable fashion with vibrant versions of ‘Somethin’ Else’ and ‘Killing Floor’. Lightnin’ Willie and the Poor Boys showed they can still play a mean ‘Looking Out My Window’, which was the opening track on their first CD release over here back in ’93. Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes were on top of their game with the lengthy impassioned ‘Adopted Child’ and the clever tribute song ‘Mr R C Robinson’ being the pick of their sterling set. The line-up of Lamb on harmonica, Chad Strentz (guitar & vocals), lead guitarist Raul de Pedro Marinero, Rod Demick on bass and drummer Sonny Below were augmented by the twin sax attack of Nick Lunt (baritone) and Lee Badau (tenor) on several numbers. The wonderfully named San Franciscan guitarist and vocalist Carlos Guitarlos proved to have a most melodic approach. Backed only by bass and drums he was well worth watching despite his late slot.
So to the final day when Ocean’s Seven delighted the crowd with renditions of ‘Just A Little Bit’, ‘Big Mamou’, Little Willie Littlefield’s ‘Happy Pay Day’, James Brown’s ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ and Professor Longhair’s ‘She Walks Right In’. Texan Hamilton Loomis revealed a more modern feel for the blues with some funky guitar picking and pleasant vocals, and performed some of the tracks from his latest CD on Blind Pig Records. The festival’s final act, and indeed the finest of the weekend saw Little Charlie & The Nightcats in inspired form on this rare UK outing. Charlie Baty supplied some clear resounding guitar licks and Rick Estrin blew his high fidelity harmonica to excellent effect. They were a real treat to witness on self-penned numbers such as ‘Dump That Chump’, ‘Don’t Do It’ and ‘My Next Ex-Wife’, to send the revellers home in a happy mood.