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BluesRockFest 2015

Saturday 4th July 2015

Leo's Red Lion, Gravesend, Kent

Chris Walker Band

It says a lot about Chris Walker that his band were the first band to be snapped up by one our BluesRockfest set sponsors. And Lemonrock were proved right as this larger than life character in his trademark hat kept the punters entertained on and off the stage despite The Rainbreakers throwing down the gauntlet challenging "follow that!" CWB's set opened with this year's single 'Junior's Blues' with Chris's signature guitar solo showing that the band intended to keep the BluesRockfest momentum pumping!

Another new track this year - 'Snakeman' - reinforced the fact that these guys are a not a one man band - with the driving bass and drumming of Phil Tidy and Terry Garnish respectively, complementing another CW solo. And if the "Snakeman Was Coming" then I suppose 'The Star Spangled Banana' (as Chris wrote on his set list) was inevitable on the 4th of July - as was CW's banter! The guys then immediately launched into my favourite CWB composition - 'Floor It' - still sounding great despite the absence of Mark Silk's keyboards.

And if you've seen the vid for 'Floor It' then it's no surprise that his first cover - the classic 'Crossroads' was chicaned in between 'Automobile' and 'Ferrari'! And talking of covers - what better way to finish a set than Freddie KIng's 'Goin' Down' and ZZ Top's 'Just Got Paid'. CWB stepped up to the plate and delivered - although of course Chris had to have the last word - magnanimously urging the audience to watch out next for the sublime slide skills of Troy Redfern. Needless to say that wasn't the last we saw of Chris (see Richard Dunning's Troy Redfern review) - but if one guy embodied what BluesRockfest is all about then that was Chris Walker.


Little Devils

On a hot summers day in the midst of a line-up featuring guitar driven Rock and Blues sat the name ‘Little Devils’. To some who had not previously seen them they may have appeared the odd one out, but then that’s what Little Devils' are all about. Refusing to be slotted into a genre, yet dragging the Blues kicking and shouting onward they actually appeared today to revel in their difference.

Opener ‘Wounded’ has a chopped guitar riff from Big Ray that immediately grabs you and had heads snapping around to pay attention. It’s a great song to introduce the band as each has space to demonstrate what they are about. And as we move through it we can see the doubters being drawn in by the tightness of Graeme and Sara’s rhythm section and Yokas immediately impressive vocals. To throw in a flute and a guitar solo in the first number laid out the game plan and feet were already moving. ‘Don’t Close The Door’ kept them going with it’s throbbing beat and the intro of Yokas sax and ‘No Love Lost’ just added to it.

By this time it was getting hot in the room so a good time to drop the tempo briefly with ‘Deep Inside’. One of the first released tracks from their current album ‘The Storm Inside’, this builds to a crescendo from that slow burning start and let’s Ray demonstrate just how good a guitarist he is. An epic solo drove the song to it’s peak and then we were into ‘A Long Time Ago’ featuring Graeme stepping to the mic with his deep growling voice and giving space to Yoka to bring out that flute again, beautifully intertwining with Ray’s guitar. Then it was time to really get what were tapping feet moving as the band kicked into ‘Chinese Whispers’. The powerhouse, Sara, driving the song on as the band’s sheer enthusiasm for their craft had the audience smiling and dancing with them. To then launch into the epic ‘The Ghost Of Your Kiss’ might not have worked for some bands but for Little Devils it certainly did. Yoka’s impassioned vocals and sax, Ray’s guitar and, yes, that rhythm section again had everyone there spell bound.

Then Sara’s drum intro to ‘The Waiter’ told us it really was time to dance as the band kicked it up another gear. Then of course ‘Good Times’ kept the dancing going - it’s title describing exactly the feeling it conveys. The perfect song for the setting and one that painted a smile on every face in the room.

A heaving cheering audience called them back to the stage - and they then treated us to the almost cinematic epic that is ‘Orphans Of The Storm’ from their ‘Diamonds and Poison’ album.

And that word ‘epic’ probably is the best description one can make of Little Devils. They shift moods throughout their set - one minute your dancing, the next your emotions are being ripped apart and the next you’re in awe of the brilliance of the musicianship on show. Yoka, Graeme, Ray and Sara are four people who gel into one magnificent force on stage - and long may they carve their own way.

Richard Dunning

Listen to Richard and 'Blues On The Radio' on Croydon Radio here.

Chantel McGregor

After having Larry Miller and Aynsley Lister headline the previous two BluesFests, a shortlist was made as to who we would like to headline the 2015 festival to maintain the high standard set by the previous artists. Chantel McGregor was at the top of that list and we were very excited to secure her services as headliner.

The day was already in full swing on her arrival and she mingled and chatted with other revellers and bands through the day prior to her set. Tonight she is joined by her new bass player Colin Sutton and Andy Mapp sitting in for her usual sticks man Keith Mcpartling. The room is packed and the anticipation is high for Chantel’s set, which is inevitably delayed, due to longer changeovers and slight overruns, not uncommon in any festival, but with no curfew to worry about, no-one was watching the clock.

When people think of Chantel McGregor, they think ‘guitar prodigy’ but in addition she’s a talented songwriter, with a great voice, something so many guitar acts lack.

Tonight Chantel opens her set solo with two acoustic covers stating that she’ll play those before ‘Rocking Out’. The songs chosen are her acoustic take on Metallica’s 'Nothing Else Matters' and Alanis Morrissette’s ‘You Outta Know’, many of the audience singing along to both. Once the acoustic songs were finished, the electric guitar is strapped on and the rock begins.

Chantel is clearly proud of, and wanting to showcase her new songs from the highly anticipated second album entitled ‘Lose Control’ which is due in September, but mixes in fan favourites from the debut album. The new songs included 'Walk On Land', 'Southern Belle', 'Take The Power', have a heavier sound, more mature song writing and catchy riffs and melodies and the audience are clearly loving the new rockier Chantel. Even the songs from the debut album now have a harder, rockier feel to them and fit well alongside the new songs. Included in the show were old favourites from her debut album including 'Like No Other', 'Caught Out', 'Fabulous', and 'I’m No Good For You', inspired by the vampires in TV show True Blood

However, it is McGregor’s superb 19 minute rendition of Robin Trower’s ‘Daydream’ which is the highlight of the set and leaves the audience in total awe. Her passion, tone and intensity is evident in every note. Between songs Chantel is bubbly and chatty, even during some of the songs, she is having fun and laughing with the band, but when the need arises and it’s time for the solo, she’s all business, the eyes are closed, head tilted and clearly loses herself completely in the music, letting it flow through her like only the greats can do.

The set seems to fly by and while time caught up with some of the audience who grudgingly had to leave due to pre-booked taxis and last trains, those of us remaining enjoyed the remainder of the the set, and even at the end, we had no intention of letting Chantel leave without one final song. Chantel was a fitting headliner who brought what was an incredible day to a close and we’re still pinching ourselves that we managed to get her.

Steve Borkowski

Albany Down

A stellar performance from London-based blues-rock band Albany Down at the 2015 BluesRockeFest was witnessed by a packed crowd at the Red Lion in Gravesend in Kent on Saturday 4th July. Charismatic front man Paul Muir on vocals and inspirational Paul Turley on guitars were energetically driven by Donna Peters on drums and Billy Dedman on bass guitar as they performed a crowd-pleasing twelve song set.

Showcasing seven tunes from their most recent second album 'Not Over Yet' (2013), and three tunes from their first album 'Sound Of The City' (2011) they also performed two songs, 'Supersonic Girl' and 'Hangman', that I would expect to see featured on the new third album currently in production. Finishing the set with the title tracks from their first two albums left the BluesRockFest punters craving more from a band that deserves to reach greater heights.

Malcolm Barker

Listen to Malcolm and Jim and their weekly 'The Blues Club' podcast here.

Troy Redfern Band

Out by the old docks in the Gravesend wastelands lies a battered pub by the name of Leo’s Red Lion and it was to this location that we headed for the annual one day BluesRockfest put on by WRC Promotions. Don’t be put off by the location though as, if you were, you’d be missing some great acts, in a very good room with no concerns from local neighbours!

With The Rainbreakers and Chris Walker setting the tone for the day we then saw what many thought was Johnny Depp taking the stage. But as ‘Johnny’ strapped on a Les Paul we knew that this of course was in fact Troy Redfern and his band.

Troy has recently signed a record deal with Blues Boulevard who’ve already released his album ‘Backdoor Hoodoo’ and gig offers have come flying in. So he and his band came to this day of music on a high. The lineup of the trio is Alex Bridge on drums, Stuart McDonald on bass and Troy on guitars and they really know how to rock. Some trios suffer by space appearing when the guitarist slips into a lead break, but not these guys.

From the off with new song ‘Outta Time and Luck’ they told us just what to expect as the tight rhythm pounded out from the stage and they slid from that straight into ‘The Other Side’. Word has obviously spread about their live show and the room filled as they brought the tempo down to introduce a highlight of any set with ‘Salvation’. While the tempo dropped this allowed the audience to appreciate Troy’s assured vocals and a lengthy demonstration of just how to use a slide. Boogie this band do but as Troy’s trademark slide took centre stage the audience knew they were witnessing something a bit special. To see the band then paying homage to their roots with ‘John The Revelator’ got everyone on their side and the call and response spread to the audience - not a baying crowd for sure but on a sultry sunny afternoon it was some achievement to get the crowd singing along.

The chugging riff of ‘Madman Blues’ notified the audience that Troy was readying the finale of this all too short set. The ZZ Topesque boogie overlaid by magnificent scything slide runs segued into ‘Boom Boom Boom’ and everyone was in the room as Troy and the band lifted the day. On a high he could have left the stage then but, no - he’d saved the best to last. Now was the time to really unleash and demonstrate why his guitar playing has been so highly praised (as if he hadn’t already!). Voodoo Chile is always a bit of a crowd pleaser but it perfectly fits Troys style and he attacks it with diving and soaring runs as that slide shoots up and down the fretboard. Many have tried, but not many can really make this song their own - Troy Redfern does just that, and with style.

Saying his goodbyes it was no surprise that the audience called him back and as he returned he showed the generosity of inviting Chris Walker to join him on stage. In ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ we had a show stopping guitar dual that raised the temperature another notch.

The Troy Redfern Band won a lot of hearts on 4th July in Gravesend and they’ll win a lot more in the months ahead.

Richard Dunning

Listen to Richard and 'Blues On The Radio' on Croydon Radio here.

The Rainbreakers

A pre-release copy of The Rainbreakers latest four track EP 'Blood Not Brass' unexpectedly landed on my doormat several weeks ago. Always on the lookout for new music to play on the 'Rock On The Ridge' radio show, it was only a matter of seconds before the headphones were on and The Rainbreakers hit my ears full on.

Having been impressed by the music, I was really looking forward to seeing the band play live.

On the afternoon of BluesRockfest, Leo's Red Lion was basking in the heat of an unusually hot summer's afternoon, and the internal atmosphere was reminiscent of a scene from Jules Verne's 'Journey To The Centre Of The Earth' as the band made their way onto the stage.

First on the bill, there was still the continuing loud buzz of conversation issuing from the assembled gathering as the opening notes of 'Bright Lights, Big City' were played. Although a cover, the band managed to imbue it with their own heavier and grittier sound - adding , if that were possible, more energy and excitement to it's delivery.

The line "you gonna know my name by the end of the night" seemed to spell out the band's mission.

'On My Knees', one of their own compositions swiftly followed, with a great beat, and riding on a catchy guitar riff. Peter (the bassist's) guitar strap broke part of the way through the song, but it was barely noticed as he sat down by the drums, hardly missing a note.

Up next was 'Blood Not Brass', the title track from their EP. Instantly recognisable from the first notes, it's one of those intros' once heard, never forgotten. Harking back to the sound of early Free, and combined with contemporary distorted vocals by Ben, it showcased their excellent musicianship, which was displayed again in the following cover of Gary Clark Jnr.'s 'If You Love Me Like I Say'.

Having informed me earlier down in the Blues Room that they would perform a Free cover, they certainly pulled out all the stops with their rendition of 'Fire and Water'.

Koss was only twenty, and Rogers twenty one when it was first released and, albeit minus a little of the original facial hair, the guys managed to capture the raw essence of the song.

The pace slowed with their self written 'All I Got' with great vocals and a contemporary blues twist, and following a simmering cover of 'When My Train Pulls In', the band left us on a high with another of their own songs 'Ain't Nothing Goin' On'. With a pounding start by Sam on the drums, this rocker perfectly fused the band's early seventies influences with a more contemporary abrasive Bluesy sound.

As the last note played, we made our way through the swollen crowd, hearing around us the collective muttered praise "those boys are good".


Listen to Jules & Bob at Rock On The Ridge every Saturday night at 8pm.

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