Blues in Hell 2013 is over and I am already looking forward to next year’s festival. The music, the people, and also the weather have been excellent this year, making the festival one to remember. The organizational side of the event is also very professional and smooth, making it a pleasure to be there. (Picture above: Ronni Le Tekrø)
Kim WIlson from The Fabulous Thunderbirds
The headliner on Saturday were The Fabulous Thunderbirds. But there were also many other names that aren’t as well known as the T-birds, plus some pleasant surprises. Two of the acts I saw the night before played again, giving me an opportunity to listen more closely than the first day.
When you go to several different festival, you can’t avoid noticing some interesting differences. Among the blues festivals in Norway there is the Notodden Blues Festival as the biggest one, while Blues in Hell, Nidaros Blues Festival are one step down, and with several other smaller and more local festivals. To me the differences isn’t necessarily such that the bigger the better. Notodden is a splendid festival, but there are very few of their bigger names that I haven’t seen or heard before, or that everyone know about.
The smaller festivals – and yet quite big – like Blues in Hell have a smaller budget and can’t book artists like Van Morrison, Buddy Guy and so on. But the definite advantage to this is that you get to se artists you don’t know about, you get some interesting combinations that make the experience in many ways just as good or even better than coming home from a festival, telling your friends that you have seen Buddy Guy. This weekend in Hell I have seen many artists I didn’t know, and I have truly enjoyed it, expanding my roster of artists worth listening to. In my opinion, that is maybe more satisfying than once again seeing the big names.
Sugar Pie DeSanto is an example of this. I knew nothing of her music before seeing here at Hell. The first night I didn’t see much of her concert, but yesterday I got to see more. She is first of all a rhythm and blues artist, and the general consensus is that her live show surpasses her recordings. I will still recommend the CD Classic Sugar Pie for those want to hear great 50-60’s rhythm and blues. She will be 78 in a month, and her voice isn’t as good as in the 60’s, but she does some gymnastics on stage that many younger people would have troubles performing. Her band is professional, following her strict instructions. I looks like she learned a lesson from James Brown when she toured with him 54 years ago.
Davina & The Vagabonds
Davina & The Vagabonds is another artist that I didn’t know about before she played at Hell last year. She also played both nights this year, and yesterday I had more time to listen to her. She is a highly professional entertainer and a great pianist. Her band, the Vagabonds are also extremely tight, with both the horn players doubling as singers. She has understood that the audience want a front person that does more than just play. This works great because her and the band’s playing is so good.
Brothers in Blues is another combination that I hadn’t heard before. The guitarist Peer Gynt has up until now been more of a power rock musician, but he has released a CD with more blues oriented music, bringing in his brother on harmonica and Mickey Moody as a guest on guitar. Live it worked well, good playing, good songs and the local audience loved it. It is always a bonus when the artist is from the same district.
Dennis Greaves and Mark Feltham are the backbone of the British band Nine Below Zero, and they performed as an acoustic duo. Many well known songs, but they had the ungrateful task of opening the night in the Magic Mirror, so there were fewer people than they deserved.
The last time I saw The Fabulous Thunderbirds was at Notodden in 2006, or maybe sometime after that at Anton’s in Austin. This version of the band is different, since their guitarist Nick Curran died last year. The new guitarist, Johnny Moeller is a great lead guitarist, but not as much of a lead artist as Curran. On the other hand the whole band sounds fresher and crisper, and Kim Wilson looked happy on stage. So you win some and you loose some, but on the whole I liked this version of the band a lot. All the musicians are excellent players, and they work really well together.
Last year’s Ambassador of Hell, Little Willie Littlefield died this summer, and in the spot that he should have had, there was was a tribute to him. I came in at the end of the show, so I didn’t catch much of it. But everyone told me it was a good show in his spirits.
Nico Duportal & His Rhythm Dudes are a French blues band. They have specialized in early rock ‘n’ roll, blues, rockabilly and the music from the early 50’s. Because of their attitude to the roots, they are a much sought-after backing band for American blues and rhythm and blues artists who tour in Europe.
Nico Portal with his band easily ruled the stage alone last night. A great show for all of us, specially for the lovers of older music, and I specially noticed the young bass player Thibaut Chopin, who did a remarkable slap hand solo on his bass.
I must admit that my favorite last night was the combination of Tim Ledfoot Scott, Ronni Le Tekrø and Dr. Bekken. I can’t imagine three more unlikely collaborators, or, yes I can, but you get my drift. Tim Scott is a bluesy singer songwriter with a definitely interesting visual image. Ronni Le Tekrø is the reclusive former guitarist from TNT who also has collaborated with the Norwegian jazz guitarist Terje Rypdal. Dr Bekken is a boogie woogie pianist who explores the more historical part of the blues piano history, most often together with the excellent harmonica player Richard Gjems.
What did these three guys do? They started out with Tim Scott and Ronni Le Tekrø together, doing three of Tim Scott’s songs. Ten Dr Bekken joined them for two of his songs with all three of them. I had to leave after that, but it was an interesting setup, with signs of magic on the positive side, but also an audible lack of rehearsals on the other hand.
Just to see and hear Ronni Le Tekrø play was great for me, and specially his playing with Tim Scott was a bonus. I wish for these guys and also for the ret of us that they sit down together and make a proper show. It can be a really big attraction for many audiences.
All in all this was one of the best festival in Hell. It looks like the attendences was good enough to guarantee another festival next year. Saturday night was really packed, while there was more room for people on Friday night. The traditional Blues BBQ at the venue on Saturday afternoon was also well attended.
One sour grape from me – I think the locals should be more supportive of the festival. Last year The Blues Brothers played on Friday night, and the place was packed, while fewer people came on Saturday. This year it was the opposite, obviously the T-birds attracted the most people. I just hope the locals take the chance on the lesser known names, too. I can guarantee them that they will get some even better experiences than with the better known names. And that way they get both, they can tell their friends that they saw the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and also that they discovered two really great acts they had never heard of before.
All pictures are © Per Ole hagen and must not be used without written permission.