Monday, 28 September 2015

Let it roll, baby, roll

I have been to the inaugural Ilkley Blues Festival, which was ten hours of excellence and, towards the end, endurance. The performers ranged from solo guitarists, through power trios to larger bands and they performed in a similarly broad range of styles. Indeed they drew the boundaries of what might be considered blues rather flexibly. The last song played on the day was 'Johnny B. Goode', but it was preceded by a cover of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' and even more unexpected was the very first number of the day, a Captain Beefheart song. I am tempted to list all the bands, or indeed all of the tracks, as I do with boardgames played, but even I'm not that anal.

One of things I admire about musicians is the ability to cover the same song in different ways and make it unique and one's own. This was much in evidence on the day with a couple of versions of 'Smokestack Lightning', a couple more of 'Hoochie Coochie Man' and so on. Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters were probably the sources most referenced overall, although the record for one individual song fittingly went to a Robert Johnson piece, 'Sweet Home Chicago' with three separate acts giving it a go. As always with the blues multiple artists are associated with some songs and 'Walking Blues' is often seen as a Johnson song although originally written by Son House.

"Well some people tell me that the worried blues ain't bad
Worst old feelin' I most ever had,"

 I certainly recognise that sentiment, as at least one of my readers can testify. Another Son House song, 'John the Revelator', saw the audience demonstrate that blues lovers are as prone to white man clapping as any other music fans.

This being the blues, there was much reference to Gypsy women (hooray) and bad luck (boo). Infidelity loomed large as a topic and my personal favourite lyric came in the old Irma Thomas song "You can have my husband, but please don't mess with my man".

Of those that I hadn't seen before the one that impressed most was the Dan Hudson Band, who played some fine Chicago blues. Mr Hudson also caught the eye of one of my companions (I was surrounded by the usual coterie of women of a certain age) although she attempted to explain it away by claiming that she was merely admiring his stage presence. Such reticence was not for one of the others who, having taken a shine to the lead guitarist of Thieving Lloyd Cole, importuned him for a hug and a kiss; indeed she even got to finger his instrument during an extended workout of the Doors 'Roadhouse Blues'. It was like being on a hen night.

The whole thing was broadcast live on Wharfe Valley Radio, an outfit of which I had never heard despite having lived here for the best part of twenty years. It does occur to me that given the position of Ilkley as a great wargaming centre perhaps the radio station should be approached to see if they want to cover one of our games. One can just imagine the hushed tones of the commentator as he murmurs quietly so as not to break the players concentration. "And Jackson's rolled a one" he might say; or "Roach has banged his head again; he should really know that shelf is there by now"; or possibly "And that's a stroke of tactical genius by Hill, which he's neatly explained with a witty, amusing and interesting aside".  You get the picture.

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