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Creative Review Music Festivals
A brilliantly sunny summer’s day in Wales, great food, an incredible family atmosphere, a few lovely local beers … and some of the best live Blues & Soul music around. What more could anybody ask from The North Wales Blues & Soul Festival in the historic market town of Mold?
The fabulous Liam Ward Band set about cranking up proceedings with his superb brand of traditional Blues, all underscored by some fantastic work on the harmonica. If this performance is anything to go by, then here’s a young man who will definitely be setting the Blues world alight before too long.
Superb too, with a magnificent brand of laid back, slick guitar riffs and killer lyrics is Alex McKown. I Don’t Want No Trouble and particularly Release Me from his latest album Go With The Flow, on which this track features the legendary Hamilton Loomis, McKown’s brand of subtle, infectious playing punctures the air with power and skill that belies his tender years.
Rebecca Downes is already creating a name for herself with her debut album Back to the Start and her latest, Believe, receiving much critical acclaim. Her live performance is at the highest level too, with Downe’s searing vocals ripping across the packed Kendrick’s field like a buzz saw through butter.
Sweetness is delivered with such pent up emotion being released it should come with a health warning, whereas Basement Of My Heart and Believe both had the crowd up, jumping and baying for more come their close. Rebecca Downes is set to be a phenomenon, aided and abetted by her exceptional band, whose fusion of powerhouse Blues, jazz, funk, rock and soul is sheer dynamite.
Tom Attah & The Mad Man Clan are an out-and-out entertainment machine, combining the raw power of old school Bluesmanship with the exciting edge of new school craft energy, guile and fun. This is a band who clearly love being on the stage and barely a backside was on a seat once the their magnificent set closed with Put On Your Red Dress Baby and the vibrantly wonderful Got My Mojo Workin’ (It Just Ain’t Workin’ On You) are both such an absolute joy.
What more can be said about Connie Lush that hasn’t been said already? When an artist of the calibre of B B King claims her voice made his heart sing, there can’t be a better compliment to be paid to one the finest Blues singers around today. With her latest release Renaissance being nominated for the album of the year at The British Blues Awards, here is a woman clearly with still lots to say and with gusto, passion and emotion that is undiminished.
Blame (It All On Me) and Dog are quite simply sensational, whereas I Don’t Say Goodbye and an immaculate cover of Bobby Bland’s 24 Hour Blues very nearly bring the house down on what is a breathtaking set.
It is a mark of the quality of the acts on show that Connie Lush isn’t the headliner for the evening. That this distinction is given to Laurence Jones says all that it can, really, about a young man whose career is going from strength to strength on the back of his latest album Take Me High – which has made its mark in the national album charts at #33 – and a string of notable guest spots with the likes of King King and Joe Bonamassa earlier in the year. It’s easy to see why he is so revered.
Songs such as the fiery Something’s Changed, a stunning cover of Hendrix’ All Along The Watchtower interspersed with slices of The Stones’ I Miss you and Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven and a magnificent Thunder In The Sky, demonstrate that not only can this man swing that axe of his, but can also pen words that resonate as long as the highest note. Laurence Jones this evening was quite glorious and his band mates in the powerhouse drummer Phil Wilson and the cool, rhythmic and rock steady bass playing supplied by Roger Innes, simply made everything all the more memorable.
In these days of stretched budgets, a reluctance to venture into untried waters and a general apathy towards original live music, organisers Event Sound, Mold County Council and the many, many volunteers who make all events such as these possible all truly deserve one massive round of applause. This is an event that is in its fourth year and, on this evidence, it can only be hope that it will still be around celebrating its fortieth, because it is so very important that music is kept live and that newcomers and old stagers both are given similarly magnificent stages on which to demonstrate their immeasurable talents.
The North Wales Blues & Soul Festival
Kendricks Field, Mold
August 5th, 6th & 7th 2016
Born Healer, Doug Macleod, Liam Ward Band, Alex McKown Band, Rebecca Downes Band. Tom Attah & The Bad Man Clan, Connie Lush, Laurence Jones.
PR Rating: ***** GLORIOUS!