review by Nicolette Johns, photos by Jose Gallois
After just 3 hours of travelling from Amsterdam Airport by Boeing 737, shuttle-bus and train we find ourselves in Newark-on-Trent to do a special report on the British Blues Awards Ceremony. The awards-ceremony 2011 was, once again, held at the Newark Blues Festival . This is an annual 3-day festival, initiated by BBA’s chairman Barry Middleton, a combination of live music hosted by the town’s pubs and venues (free of charge) and the outdoor festival (ticket@ £10.00) was held in the Castle’s grounds. The main acts performed on Saturday and were seen on the main stage which was set up in Newark Castle’s grounds, which was a beautiful setting especially when darkness fell and the castle was lit up. This year’s main acts were; Fat Chicken Blues Band, Jon Amor Blues Group, Hokie Joint and the Ian Siegal Band. Sunday afternoon was chosen for the presentation of the British Blues Awards 2011 accompanied by 3 different live acts; the Cliff Brown Band, Jenna Hooson Band and The Idle Hands Blues Band. Due to our itinerary we were too late to see the Fat Chicken Blues Band perform and we arrived 15 minutes into the set of the Jon Amor Blues Group.
Well honestly, does Jon Amor need an introduction to you readers? We’ve all seen him perform with ‘the Hoax’ at least once and maybe some of us have seen them even more frequently. Besides performing with ‘the Hoax’ Jon Amor is also not recording and touring solo but also with his own band. Jon is accompanied by 3 very talented young men, Simon Small on drums, Chris Doherty on bass and Chris’ brother Dave Doherty on guitar. Listening to the band’s first album released September 2011 called simply ‘Jon Amor blues Group’ has a new feel to it but yet again it’s like putting on your favourite boots or leather jacket…..it fits like a glove!! Tracks from this album like ‘Holy Water’, ‘Repeat Offender’ and ‘You Know It’s Only Love’ are some of the songs Jon presents to us on this Saturday. Their live performance in Newark was a class performance as one would expect from an experienced musician like Jon Amor and he grants each of his fellow band-members a solo. All and all a good set taking into consideration that the audience stayed seated in their folding chairs which was hard work for the band.
Second band of the day is ‘Hokie Joint‘, this band generated today, as usual, a lot of youngsters in the audience simply due to the fact that the frontman/singer Jojo Burgess and guitarist Joel Fisk are still in their twenties. These two young men are accompanied by Giles King on blues-harp, Fergie Fulton on bass and ‘Keith Richards look-alike’ Stephen ‘Cupsey’ Cutmore on drums. Hokie Joint has been touring Europe extensively for the past 3 years, has 2 albums released with the Dutch record label ‘Cool Buzz’ in 2008 the album ‘The Way It Goes…..Sometimes’ and in 2011 the album ‘The Music Starts To Play’ which both are very successful. Especially at the end of live gigs the band tend to sell a lot of copies. We’ve been treated to ‘Back Where We Are Going’, ‘Force of Habit’ and ‘Apologise’. Once again their set was very powerful, energetic and entertaining partly due to Giles King leaving the stage to play his blues-harp amongst the audience. This band got the crowd roaring and made even ‘the seated-section’ stand up and move.
Last but not least the Ian Siegal Band was about to perform and funnily enough ‘the seated section’ never returned to their folding chairs. Suddenly it was buzzing with rumours of a custom made guitar about to be presented to Ian. Whilst the band was announced by MC Tim Aves (he was in on the plot) Tim presented Ian a custom made ‘Mark Riley R & B Ian Siegal Model’ guitar. Apparently Ian ordered a specially manufactured ‘steel Jason Lollar pick-up’ in order to obtain a certain sound he wants to achieve with one of his guitars. Mark Riley who used to be in Ian Siegal’s backing band whilst he was touring the Pacific North West in 2006, used to have his own guitar factory and is a friend of Jason Lollar. Along the way, Mark Riley and Dennis Dudley (Ian’s road manager in PNW-2006) picked up on the idea to build him the whole (slide) guitar because as Mark stated, “we like him and his artwork (music performance and song writing) so much”, “I think very highly of him as a musician and performer. I know he’ll put his “signature” guitar to very good use”.
After we all, audience ánd Ian, have recovered from the gigantic surprise the band finally gives the Newark Blues Festival visitors the set they’ve all been waiting for. Ian has hardly performed in the UK after the release of the, in North Mississippi recorded, album ‘the Skinny’ , if I recall correctly only once the evening prior to the BRBF in Peer Belgium.
Ian is not only accompanied by his always loyal bass-player Andy Graham (who’s also with the Matt Taylor Band nowadays) but also by Nikolaj Bjerre who we, on the continent, had to miss for quite a few gigs (we couln’t make it to Drijf-in-Blues Giethoorn)! Always a joy to see these guys having fun on stage.
Tracks from ‘Broadside’ like ‘Hard-pressed’ with a sidestep to Prince’s ‘Sign O the Times’ and tracks from the lastest album ‘The Skinny’ like ‘Hound Dog in the Manger’ are winners as far as the crowd is concerned. Three quarters into the band’s set the weather is having a dramatic change, it’s raining cats and dogs and the photographer of us two has run in order to seek shelter for his camera! From the shelter we’re witnessing the responce of the crowd to Ian’s cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ and ‘I Can’t Stand Up From Falling Down’ by Banks & Jones (released by Sam & Dave and Elvis Costello) and can conclude these go down very well with this audience too. Ian Siegal, covers or own material, solo or with this fantastic band, he’s in a class of his own.
Photogallery of our TheBluesAlone photogapher José Gallois: