Colne Great British R&B Festival 2003
by Lee Wilkinson
Once again the sun mainly shone on an estimated 60,000 revellers at this East Lancashire Bank Holiday carnival. The first American visitor to grace the International Stage at the Municipal Hall on the Friday evening was young clean cut Sean Costello from Atlanta making his UK debut. He started his set with a sparkling version of Robert Ward’s ‘Your Love Is Amazing’, and a lovely ‘Lonely Lonely Nights’ also featured in between some original material. A polished performer, Costello displays feeling in his cool clear voice and is also a guitarist of some substance, playing confidently without being loud and flashy.
Saturday saw Big Moe and Jolly Jumper from Hell in Norway with the Bootlegger Blues Band sitting and playing in relaxed mode. Moe impressed on guitar while Jumper proved to be an admirable harmonica player on a nice selection of mainly pre-war material. Harmonica was also the forte of Doug Jay whose band the Blue Jays featured a superb lead guitarist on a terrific take of Muddy’s ‘She’s Nineteen Years Old’. The headliner, Sweden’s Sven Zetterberg lived up to his reputation as a blue-eyed soul singer. With superb backing from Knock Out Greg & Blue Weather songs from the likes of James Carr, Tyrone Davis (‘Can I Change My Mind’), Ann Peebles (‘The Handwriting’s On The Wall’) and Albert King (‘Have You Told Me Lately’) rolled seemingly effortlessly off his tongue.
On Sunday I attended a wedding celebration in nearby North Yorkshire, unfortunately missing the Jive Aces who a couple of people I spoke to rated as the best act up to that point. However, I returned to witness the end of Marcus Malone’s high energy act, which was followed by Texas’ Lightnin’ Willie & The Poorboys (who included a harmonica player from Ipswich!). They were in top form, dishing up a solid blend of bluesy Rock’n’Roll including their own ‘Take A Little Walk’ and ‘Looking Out My Window’ plus Muddy’s ‘Long Distance Call’ and ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’. With guitar virtuoso Willie, the harp blower and bass player making a foray into the auditorium they certainly thrilled the crowd. Scotland’s finest Blues And Trouble performed half a dozen numbers in some style before bringing on the indomitable Lazy Lester who continues to frustrate but still entertains in his own inimitable way. Commencing on acoustic guitar accompanied only by B & T’s electric guitarist, the spellbinding ‘Blues Stop Knocking At My Door’ was followed by ‘Your Cheating Heart’! Three 26 further numbers followed with Lester still on guitar, this time with full band backing, including ‘I Made Up My Mind’. Finally he switched to harmonica and blasted his way through Jimmy Rogers’ ‘That’s All Right’ and his own ‘Sugar Coated Love’ and ‘If You Think I’ve Lost You’. Brought back for an encore he reverted to guitar just when he’d got his audience going crazy for more of his wonderful harp blowing.
On the final night Dana Gillespie’s expressive voice wove its spell on ‘St. Louis Blues’ sung at the correct tempo (most bands try to do it too darn fast!). The upbeat ‘Sweet Tooth’ from her latest CD ‘Staying Power’ sounded more than satisfactory, as did the slow ‘Big Daddy Blues’ and an excellent work out on Willie Dixon’s ‘Spoonful’. Her grand band featured Matt Schofield on guitar and Dino Baptiste on keyboard. Nine Below Zero are still a decent British rocking blues outfit led by Denis Greaves and Mark ‘The Harp’ Feltham, and their stint included ‘Ridin’ On The L & N’, Otis Rush’s ‘Homework’, ‘Hit The Road Jack’ and ‘On The Road Again’. Savoy Brown remain fronted by Kim Simmonds on Gibson Flying V. Unfortunately even a sensational solo from pianist Bob Hall on ‘Feelin’ Good’ couldn’t save it from entering heavy metal territory, and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ descended in the same direction. Colne faves King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys wound the whole thing down for another year, starting with ‘I Said It And I’m Glad’, but as it was past midnight by that time I didn’t hang around to hear much more. Away from the main stage, on one of my excursions to the Benedictine Super Roadhouse, I just caught the close of Bad Town Blues’ act. They roared their way through ‘The Blues Had A Baby And They Called It Rock & Roll’ which featured great piano, harmonica and guitar solos, and an up tempo rendition of ‘Everyday I Have The Blues’. Sorry I didn’t see more guys, but I’ll look out for you back here in East London. At the same venue the Uptown Band ran through a selection of soul classics such as ‘Soul Man’, ‘Sweet Soul Music’ and ‘My Girl’ with panache. As always Walter Mitty’s Head went a down storm at the two Roadhouse Sessions I attended. Numbers performed included ‘Heart Attack & Vine’, ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight’, The Bishops’ ‘Some Good Guys Don’t Wear White’, The Meteors’ ‘Shout So Loud’, The Flamin’ Groovies’ ‘Teenage Head’ and their own ‘Can’t Stop’.
Thanks are due to organiser Gary Hood and his crew for yet another rip-roaring Colnefest.