Nidaros Blues Festival is one of Norway’s many local blues festival, but it is also one of the best organized. I have attended the festival for several years, and I have always liked the festival. It is held at a hotel with four stages, a congress hall, one restaurant, beside the lobby and in the night club downstairs. (Picture above: Nikki Hill) The big headliners this year was Rosanne Cash and Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. I didn’t See Rosanne, but I saw Souhtside Johnny and most of the other bands who played during the weekend. Here is a short recapitulation from the festival. The way the festival has organized the stages, they put the acoustic bands in the lobby area of the hotel. Personally I have always been skeptical to this, since it is difficult to see there, but the bands and the rest of the audience seemed satisfied with the arrangement. I saw a local band early Friday night, Folk Paa Tur, an Irish inspired folk band with good musicians an a more than decent performance. The first positive surprise was Diunna Greenleaf. She is a new artist to me, but she had an excellent performance in a musical landscape between blues and gospel. Diunna Greenleaf is from Houston, Texas, and has been influenced by artists like Koko Taylor, and also her parents who are gospel artists. Her style is personal, and with a distinct Texas touch, and she was well worth seeing. The next band out Friday night was The Paladins. You can read more about them here. Another new artist to me, was Si Cranstoun. He is an artist with a good voice and a good program, where he sings rhythm and blues with a retro feel, much in the tradition of Amy Winehouse, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones. The difference between Cranstoun and the others, is that he is more polished. I really liked his performance, and would definitely like to see him again. In 1997 I saw John Mayall for the first time, at Pumpehuset in Copenhagen. I remember I was amazed by his guitarist, following up the tradition after Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. His name was Buddy Whittington, and he also played at Nidaros Blues Festival with Trond Olsen band. A good performance, and he is still a more than excellent guitarist, but I must admit I prefer his playing with Mayall. On Saturday I started out with the Oyster Band, a band in theBritish folk tradition from the 70’s, like Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Lindisfarne and many others. Personally I have never been a big fan of Oyster Band, but they deliver a good performance, and the audience liked them a lot, joining them in a sing-a-long. Samantha Fish is a 22 year old singer and guitarist from Kansas City. She has an amazing technical proficience on the guitar and it is obvious that she has listened to guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others. Her singing is also good, and she had a great band who followed her all the way. I think Samantha Fish will have a great future as an artist, I just hope she gets a little more loose in her performance and finds her personal style. But, being only 22, she has already reached further than many of her contemporaries. Nikki Hill was next out, and again I must admit that I knew nothing about her, except what I could read in the festival program. I got a pleasant surprise, though. She has a winning personality, a great repertoire and an equally great band. Her style is blues, rhythm and blues, soul, and she leans heavily on her older ideals like Otis Redding and and Etta James. Last out Saturday night were Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. I missed the first half hour, but they played almost two and a half hours, so I got my dose of vital New Jersey rock. Southside Johnny has ben called the poor man’s Bruce Springsteen, but that isn’t fair to John Lyons, which is his real name. He clearly stands on his own, and has a great repertoire with songs from different songwriters, among them Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. After two hours the audience wanted still more, and the band closed the concert with Little Steven’s I’ve Been Working Too Hard. That was also a perfect end of the festival to me. Dave Gonzalez of The Paladins All in all this year’s Nidaros Blues Festival was a good one, with lots of new bands and artists that I have never seen before, but who I definitely will want to see more of. That is the main difference between these smaller and the big festivals. At the big ones you get to see the big and well known names, which is good. You usually know what you get and you get few surprises. At the smaller ones, like Nidaros Blues Festival you get so see many less established bands, and then it depends on how good their booking is. So far I have no complaints about Nidaros. I hope they will keep up their good mix between the bigger names and the more unknown, specially when these are as good as Nikki Hill, Si Cranstoun, Diunna Greenleaf and Samantha Fish. All pictures are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.
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