Colne Great British R&B Festival 2010
by Lee Wilkinson
Very much a truncated report this year as although I was in the area for the whole bank holiday weekend I only attended the International Stage, where the main acts were appearing, on the final day.
It was good to see the indefatigable Larry Garner again, performing his funky homespun brand of Louisiana blues with the experienced Norman Beaker Band. Looking sharp in his colourful garb, Larry took us along the Road of Life from his late nineties Baton Rouge CD and introduced us to a little Champagne and Reefer.
Influential guitarist and Fleetwood Mac founder member Peter Green had to pull out of his scheduled Sunday appearance due to ill-health, so with a bit of a re-shuffle Dublin born diva Imelda May was a welcome addition to the bill, taking over the 7.30 Monday evening slot. Formerly a familiar sight singing with Mike Sanchez’s band and Al Nicholl’s Blue Harlem, Imelda has deservedly moved into mainstream circles performing with the likes of Jeff Beck and appearing on BBC radio.
With her terrific band – Gretsch guitar guru Darrel Higham, bassman Al Gare, local star drummer Steve Rushton and trumpeter Dave Priseman – Imelda stole East Lancashire hearts with an incendiary show. Highlights included a menacing version of Howlin’ Wolf’s Poor Boy and a rip-roaring take on Train Kept A Rollin’, which was driven along by Higham’s gleeful guitar. She also sang some selfpenned numbers from her excellent Love Tattoo CD including the title track, Big Bad Handsome Man, Watcha Gonna Do and the wonderful Johnny Got A Boom Boom.
By the time you read this her new Decca album, Mayhem, should be available and she sang some songs from this too, such as the title song, a rockabilly style Tainted Love and Darrel Higham’s composition Eternity. Imelda also found time to dedicate a sincere heartfelt ballad – Too Soon To Cry – to a member of the Extraordinaires who had passed away recently. The only song that didn’t work for me was My Babe where I felt that trumpet replacing harmonica didn’t fit the bill. But, overall this was a concert of such magnitude that it was virtually impossible to follow.
Georgie Fame did his best, opening with some Ray Charles tunes, but I found his more jazzy leanings away from the blues not too much to my taste. Most of the crowd seemed to enjoy his set though.
The night ended with the Flamingo Blues All Stars, of which I only caught a little. Norman Beaker and his band held the whole thing together behind guest vocalists such as Herbie Goins and Chris Farlowe. I hadn’t come across Goins before but apparently he is an ex-American GI who, together with his band the Nightimers, had a few singles issued in the sixties including Number One In Your Heat which is a northern soul favourite. Anyway I thought he was excellent singing the soulful Feels Like Rain, whilst Farlowe can still sing the blues better than most Englishmen and always puts on a good show.
This was the 21st festival in Colne – roll on number twenty-two.
Away from the main stage free gigs abound, and I caught Ben Ruth & The Convulsions at the Royal British Legion club. The eccentric Ruth resembles a cross between Dr Who and Tom Waits, but boy does he play a mean blues harp. Besides a few original numbers, Ruth and his fine sounding band entertained an accommodating crowd with the likes of Messin’ With The Kid, Slim Harpo’s Baby Scratch My Back and Killing Floor. If you like edgy blues in yer face with some furious harmonica check these cats out.
At the Queens, the pub with the best beer garden in town, a new young local bunch of musicians – Emmott & The Folkestra – put on something different, and a wee bit special. With a line-up boasting dual male vocalists, guitars, drums, banjo and mandolin, they served up a folky alternative side to the blues. Along with a Levellers song and Men At Work’s 1983 number one Down Under, a working class lament which seemed to be called Thatcher Fucked The Kids appealed to the subversives in attendance. They finished off with a grand go at Bad Moon Rising. Incidentally the banjo player was Dean Roberts who travelled on two of Major Ken’s great US trips a few years ago.
I also attended a couple of gigs from Pendle stalwarts Walter Mitty’s Head who dished out their usual sweaty style of full-on ninety miles per hour punky rock ‘n’ rolly R&B.
Together with their own Out Of My Head and Shakin’ they blasted their way through The Clash’s Janie Jones, The Sonics’ Strychnine, The Meteors’ Shout So Loud, The Fall’s Mr Pharmacist, Tom Waits’ Going Out West and Micky Jupp’s Cheque Book. Not to mention the Linkster’s Jack The Ripper, Bill Allen’s Please Give Me Something and the Diddley pair I Can Tell and You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover. Phew!