Tenby blue festival

From Friday 16th to Sunday 18th November 2018, the 13th annual event of the Tenby Blues Festival and all of its attendants were kicking up one extraordinary time as the end of the Autumn season and the beginning of festivities drawers nearer. Featuring a host of local and international artists, with three ticketed concert venues, a range of workshops, 30 bands participating in the festival along with 20 artists partaking in the Blues Trail, taking place in numerous venues such as cafes, hotels, restaurants, bars, and clubs all over the wonderful seaside town of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

The price of tickets vary from venue to venue, typically starting from £5 and upwards; the Blues Trail performances have no admission fee and are open to all. A number of acts were confirmed before the festival began, those including Paul Cowley, The Eddie Martin Band, Catfish, Dave Arcari, Lightnin’ Willie and the Poorboys, The Kyla Brox Band, and many more. The entire line-up for the Blues Festival and Trail were also made available before the event began, allowing attendants to be informed of which acts were performing at different venues and the times they were taking place.

With this being the 13th annual event of the festival, it has become a cornerstone of both the spirit of Tenby and the local music scene. As previously mentioned both local and international artists participate in the event, allowing musicians to network and socialise amongst many others alike themselves within the confinements of a small town. Another benefit of the Blues Festival experience is that it encourages other music lovers and artist to engage with their local music scene, as well as encouraging venues to hold live music events due to all the attention it attracts and the custom that it brings to Tenby. Who could resist the sublime magnificent delightful sound of blues resounding through a seaside town?

Friday’s Events – The De Valence

Starting off the night at the De Valence at 19:15pm, Lightnin’ Willie and The Poorboys, an American blues band having released eight albums, with their debut EP being issued in the year of 1994. Signed to 145 Records, and having opened sets for renowned artists such as John Mayall, Junior Wells, Robben Ford, the Chicago Blues All-Stars, and most recently Robert Cray. The band itself only consisting of vocals, a guitar, bass, drums, and the harmonica; a traditional blues format. The setup may seem stripped down, but Lightnin’ Willie and The Poorboys produce a deep, rich, and full bodied sound that resonates with their audience on astounding levels. An undeniably great addition to the Blues Festival.

The Paul Garner Band followed Lightnin’ Willie and The Poorboys performance, carrying on the high standard that the festival initially began with. Active from 2005 and based in London, UK, The Paul Garner Band is a progressive roots, guitar/organ blues trio, producing an original and exhilarating sound that can be refereed to as nothing but innovative. The combination of progressive roots and blues, a combination I was yet to hear or come across, pushing blues into a new and unexplored territory whilst remaining connected to the roots and history of both genres. Producing an overall upbeat and positive atmosphere through their sound, with Paul’s voice bringing in some contrasting tones through the edge and well roundedness it can bring (showing the great control he has over his vocal abilities), it is impossible to deny the talent and overall musicianship of the band and its members. Having opened for Jools Holland at the Rhythm on the Thames event in London, in addition to national TV and Radio appearances across New Zealand and Australia, along with numerous festival appearances in the UK, France, Australia, and New Zealand; it is no surprise to see the well-deserved international recognition that they have received for their work.

Dave Arcari, internationally acclaimed Scottish alternative blues artist, was up next in line. Born in 1964, during the era in which it was the prime of blues being mixed in and blended with elements of rock, R&B, and soul, Dave’s influences and musical experiences can be easily recognised through his sound. Having been showcased via ten internationally-acclaimed solo album releases, a finalist the UK Indy Music Awards reaching the top four in his category (best male solo artist), numerous festival appearances and a busy live schedule in the UK, as well as regular shows across various countries internationally, Dave’s commitment to pioneering the alt blues scene remains unstoppable. 

“Dave plays like he got his skin turned inside out and pretty soon my skin was inside out too listening and it was all good. That boy bleeds for you – he a real down deep player and a soul man…” – SEASICK STEVE

The Fourcroft Hotel

Moving over to the Fourcroft Hotel at 12am, Paul Cowley’s performance was about to begin. An English singer, songwriter, acoustic finger-style and slide guitarist, Paul has been involved in the music industry for over a decade. Inspired by country blues, and previously having immersed himself in acoustic and pre-war blues, Paul’s sound is as unique as it gets, years of experience within life and music resounding through the music that he produces. You can feel the love and respect that Paul shares for country blues and the genres he has focused on throughout the duration of his performances, the incredible skill and vocal work that Paul has is an honour to bare witness to.

The De Valence

Starting off at the De Valence, The Reverend Shawn Amos kicks off the night with his soul-deep and uplifting performance, a consistent trait of his. Born in 1967, Shawn Amos is an American blues singer and songwriter, record producer, and digital marketing entrepreneur. The distinctive sound produced being a progressive blend of African American roots music, R&B, and a stripped down version of rock and roll; creating an authentic connection with the audience, performer, and music itself.
 “I derive a lot of satisfaction bringing people joy” – Shawn Amos
Next in line for taking away the very breath of the present audience was The Eddie Martin Band. One of the most versatile artists around, Eddie’s creativity and sheer effort that he puts into his music is undeniable. Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer, the talents of Eddie Martin are seemingly endless. With over 30 years spent touring internationally, Eddie has brought the joy of blues to over 35 different countries; resulting in 17 acclaimed album releases and a number of both national and international awards and nominations, including Best Solo Artist in 2019 European Blues Awards, eventually becoming known as ‘The Ambassador of British Blues’.
The Husky Tones, a rather unique girl/boy punk blues duo, was up for the last performance of the night in the De Valence, and what a way for the night to end. Formed as a duo in August 2016, the band consists of standing singer-drummer Victoria Borne, and guitarist Chris Harper. Already having released two albums, ‘Who Will I Turn to Now?’ and ‘Time for a Change’, as well as having songs played on both national and international radio stations including BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 2 Blue’s Playlist, including their 2017 album ‘Who Will I Turn to Now?’ being album of the week on radio stations across the UK, USA, and Europe; The Husky Tones have built up a reputation for intense live performances, with raw, emotional, and politically charged songs, this is fast-paced, aggressive music, that both moves and soothes your soul.

The Church House

Moving over to the Church House, with the doors opening at 19:15pm, Zoe Schwarz and Rob Koral of the renowned duo ‘Blue Commotion’ were to begin their performance. The duo was formed in January 2012, a culmination of over ten years of musical experience gained together, a partnership that has had a considerable impact on both the national jazz and blues scene. Together as ‘Blue Commotion’, they have accumulated a number of awards, including runner-up for Zoe in the 2014 British Blues Awards, and further nominations in 2015 including Best Band. Their tracks and CD’s have received reviews and airtime on national radio stations, including multiple appearances on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-up, Jazz Record Requests, BBC Radio 2’s The Russell Davis Show, and The Paul Jones Rhythm and Blues Show, as well as a feature broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Great Escape’. They have performed at most of the renowned jazz and blues club venues and festivals across the UK. Their live performances bring forth the true talents of the duo, groovy beats, funky riffs, original songs that sticks to the roots, and a sense of genuine musicianship.
Vintage blues band ‘The Washboard Resonators’, another active duo within the British blues scene, were the second band to continue ramping up the exciting atmosphere of the evening within the Church House. From busking on the streets of Leeds in 2014 to playing major festivals and shows such as The Great British R&B Festival and Upton Jazz Festival, as well as touring the whole of the UK for many times during the seasons of Spring and Winter. They released their first original album ‘Scrub That Thing’ in 2018, in order to maintain an accurate sound based in the era’s that they focus on the entire album was recorded on 1940’s and 50’s microphones, as well as tape machines.
‘This duo of guitar, banjo, and washboard play foot-stomping blues, ragtime, swing, and folk like it was on the street corners of America in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s.’ –
The last performance of the night was that of the great Paul Cowley once again, making it his second main performance of the entire festival.

The Fourcroft Hotel

Starting off in the afternoon at 1pm, Eddie Martin was holding a slide guitar workshop. Renowned for his skills at both slide and standard guitar playing, there was much to learn from his wisdom.
‘Eddie’s skills as a stand-alone guitarist on the slide and standard guitar, both acoustic and electric, are the bed-rock of his charismatic live performances in small bands, and have won him acclaim and awards throughout his career.’ –
 With the doors opening again at 12:00am, The Washboard Resonators were beginning both their second main performance of the evening, and of the entire festival.

Sunday’s Events

 Unfortunately, Sunday marked the last day of the blues festival, with only three main acts left, and a day filled with performances within the Blues Trail, it was time to embrace what was left of the experience. The main acts beginning their performances at 19:00pm at the De Valence.
The Kyla Brox Band was the first to perform, with soul-shaking vocals and an authentic soul and blues experience, this was a performance not to be missed. Born in 1980 in Stockport, Greater Manchester, blues and soul singer Kyla Brox has been involved in the music scene from a very young age. Daughter of blues signer Victor Brox, Kyla’s first performance onstage was with her father at the ‘Band on the Wall’ in Manchester in 1992, joining his regular touring group the following year. The of of The Kyla Brox Band go back to this time. She accompanied her father on an extensive tour of Australia in 2000. Around comes 2001, Kyla and Danny Blomeley formed a duo, occasionally being joined by the previous members of her fathers regular touring group; the line-up finally settling into The Kyla Brox Band, with the founding members being Kyla Brox (vocals, flute), Danny Blomeley (bass), Marshall Gill (guitar), Tony Marshall (saxophone), and Phil Considine (drums). They initially started performing in North West pubs and clubs, a route that had once been regularly explored by the Victor Bronx Blues Train. A performance at the Colnes Blues Festival in 2002 established Kyla’s reputation within the British blues scene. The Kyla Brox Band toured Australia in 2003, 04, and 07, making their US debut in the same year.
 Catfish, another band renowned within the British world of blues, was next in line to perform. Delivering authentic and quality blues from the first to last second of their performance, it is hardly surprising to come to find that they have been the recipients of many awards within the blues scene. Their album, ‘The Broken Man’, was voted album of the year 2017 by the Independent Blues Broadcaster Association; as well as the band being named Blues Act of the Year (England) in this years (2018) UK Blues Awards. They were also nominated as one of only five bands to represent the country in the UK Blues Challenge in September.
‘UK and British Blues Award winners Catfish have carved a reputation for themselves as an excellent live band with a phenomenal front-man in 23 year old guitarist/vocalist Matt Long who plays with a real passion for the blues’ –
Bella Collins and Jodie Marie were the final act of the evening, as well as the entire festival, bringing this years event to a close. Two very talented welsh singer/songwriters, Bella and Jodie have been rocking the welsh music scene vigorously this year, both racking up a respectable number of performances, as well as EP and album releases. Within the realm of blues, jazz, and soul, this newly formed duo delivers a unique performance; both Bella and Jodie share rich and well controlled vocals whilst retaining the individuality that gives them the edge that they bring to the music scene. Bella has attended Tenby Blues Festival for years, and has been active within the music industry professionally for the past five years. Jodie is known well locally, and has also been active professionally within the music industry for a number of years, with her EP ‘Trouble in Mind’ being released in 2015. An exceptional performance undeniably worthy of the standing ovation Bella and Jodie received, and an incredibly bright future to come for both. 

Blues Trail

The Blues Trail is one truly appealing event for many reasons, and to many people. First of all, the admission to these performances is completely free and open to everyone, secondly, performances begin sometime within the early afternoon ending late in the evening, allowing attendees plenty of time to, well, attend. The Blues Trail takes place in a vast number of venues across the town with a huge variety of bands and artists taking part. There is nothing not to love about this aspect of the festival.

As expected, the Tenby Blues Festival was a huge success and an incredible experience for all of those who attended, attracting record numbers of attending visitors to the town. A staple in the local music scene, I’m sure that this event will continue to take place year after year, bringing together musicians and music lovers from across the globe; as well as inspiration to the young and new artists trying to make their way out there.
All of the performing artists have a blatant love for Tenby, the local music scene, and of course the blues genre; bringing their years of musical experiences and their love for music from around the globe.

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