Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Live Music 2012 - Frome Blues Festival

This was always going to prove a tricky proposition for me to review. Firstly I have never been to a whole day of music dedicated to blues before and secondly because just nine days earlier I had seen Joanne Shaw Taylor live at Tavistock Wharf. That was amongst the most astonishing performances that I have seen in any genre this year - and well up in those of all time.
As a result of this I am not going to cover the six acts in order of appearance. I'm going to start with the one I found the most disappointing...
...Stan Webb's Chicken Shack, the headline artists.
A slightly clumsily chosen preamble at the start didn't go down too well with the audience assembled in Frome and I get the feeling that I was not the only one to think that. The impression increasingly became that it was a rattling experience, not least when Mr. Webb forgot the lyric to one song part way through. After that it was, I guess, just a case of getting it all over and done, which actually raised the bar considerably.
One thing that I must say is that he generously praised the foregoing acts, the organisers and crew on sound and stage duties and the audience and rightly so. It has actually crossed my mind that fulsomely could be used here but it seemed quite sincere and the audience greeted it as such.

Now I have another problem: in what order should I review the other acts?  If any other showed signs of nervousness then it was Oli Brown at the start of his set but that evaporated after the first few minutes. The remainder, increasingly confident and beguiling, was pretty much as good as I had imagined that it would be - he is signed to Ruf Records and in my opinion that is a good sign. As I have mentioned a couple of times recently I am much liking the re-emergence of  recording labels that one can rely on - in the sense that artists they choose to release are dependably good.
Oli Brown - Frome Blues Festival 2012.
Once he and his band had got into their stride there was no stopping them. If there was a problem with the audience it was a curious one - that it was too quiet, bordering on the obsequious, while the bands were setting up and sound-checking. Artists at End Of The Road Festival have also commented on this and the fact that it is actually rather unnerving.
Here is Oli Brown and his band in full flow.
Opening proceedings, something that I have always thought must be an unenviable task, was Laurence Jones. If he felt the weight on his shoulders he and his band didn't let it show.
They certainly got proceedings off on solid foundations.
The next act, Jo Harman & Company, was a quite different proposition but as, since Jo is hiding at the far left of this next picture, it is not immediately apparent why.
This is where the fault-lines started to appear.
   This was very much blues-rock, just for starters, but it seemed to go down well.
Eddie Martin isn't exactly prototypical blues either, as it has a rather prominent brass section, and they played next. Actually a six-piece but you can't see the Hammond organ and its player in this photo...

...but in this one you can. They were good --- very, very good indeed.
Therefore I am left with one artist to get a mention and, as I had been led to believe, when she is playing live her d├ębut album 'Like No Other' (2011) offers little clue what to expect...
There comes a point, however, when the game is finally up.
This is about that point.

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