On Friday at Notodden the music started early. The Union Blues Cup, jam sessions, concerts in the big tent and lots of other places from noon until well after midnight. The town Notodden triples its size during these four days, and there is music everywhere. Notodden Blues Festival was voted the world’s best blues festival in 2010, and it is also a part of the Mississippi Blues Trail. (Photo above: Walter Trout)
My Friday started with a seminar where politicians, music professionals, researchers and representatives from the commerce at Notodden discussed the situation for the festival and the blues in Norway. This is a yearly seminar, but my first time. Therefore my concerts started a bit later. I got to see three early concerts before the night concerts started. First I saw the local heros, Spoonful of Blues with festival boss Jostein Forsberg in front. After them I saw the Humming People at the Folk & Blues Stage before Wee Willie Walker in the tent.
Spoonful of Blues have been around since the 90’s and have released four albums. Their music is southern rock with heavy dose of rock and other influences. They have a hard and tight sound and are always a good show to see.
Humming People was a new band for me. They are five young multi-instrumentalists from Toten, some 100 miles north, north-west of Oslo. They have played together for about 10 years, playing between 100 and 200 concerts a year all around Norway and also in Europe. Their style is Americana, and their 2014 album, City of Lost Men, has Emmylou Harris, Holly Wiliams and Sam Bush playing with them.
Wee Willie Walker was also a new name, although he has been around since the 50’s, having some modest success singing gospel and later rhythm ‘n’ blues. His story is typical of many black artists in the 50’s and 60’s, being cheated of songwriting credits and royalty, and when Curtis Mayfield wanted to record with him, his record company priced his contract so high it fell through. In later years he has got a revival. Wee Willie Walker played with Kid Andersen and a mix of Rick Estrin’s band plus some Norwegian musicians You can listen to his music here.
The first of the Friday night concerts was with Walter Trout. He was scheduled to play the festival in 2014, but got seriously ill and had to cancel all performances. Now he has undergone a liver transplant and is back on track. Walter Trout is a hard and fast blues guitarist, and he has played with John Mayall and Canned Heat besides his own band. I’ve seen him three times during the years, and It was good to see him again in such a good shape as he is now. His band is tight, and his son, Jon – also an outstanding guitarist – joined him on guitar.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds played at the festival the first time in 1995. Since then they have played there several times, with different members, but always with Kim Wilson on vocals and harmonica. Their recent version have guitar bass, keyboard and drums, a departure from the two guitar setup they have used for some time. The band has existed for more than 40 years, but still sound fresh and interesting.
The last band on the tent stage Friday night was the Norwegian country rock band Hillbillies. They are widely popular in Norway and have won two Norwegian Grammies and sold well from their fourteen albums so far. Earlier this year the band’s bassist quit, and Amund Maraud Band’s bassist replaced him. This is probably not the main reason, but the band’s performance is definitely harder and more rock oriented than the last time I saw them. Their performance is always rock solid, and they are one of my favorite live bands.
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.