Linton Festival. nr Ross-on-Wye. 24-26.6.2016

Not been here before but our festival friends have highly recommended it so we gave it a go.

Friday. The Stumble. Regulars at Skeggy Rock n Blues, they opened proceedings here. They seem to be one of thousands of groups that has sprung up after the Blues Brothers, and the bassist has definitely seen Duck Dunn at length…but has forgotten the pipe.  Singer has a very good voice and ‘New Orleans’ went down well as did their 50s doo-wop number (with more than a hint of Otis Redding). BB King’s ‘You upset me baby’ is a festival staple and they were a good and popular start to the evening.       Mike Vernon and the Mighty Combo. Back in the 60s Mr Vernon was one of the most important people in the burgeoning British Blues scene, via his Blue Horizon label, with Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack being but two of those who owe him a big debt. But I wasn’t aware of his ever being an artiste in his own right…and sadly, Mike, I can see why.  A regulation 12-bar blues set, with the likes of Willie Dixon and Fats Domino featuring heavily. But it gave the overall impression of a bloke getting together a bunch of mates who could play, and singing at his own wedding.  Accomplished backing musicians ( Geraint Watkins definitely wasn’t there) but very , just, okay.  Even a slow ‘original’ was basically ‘Stormy Monday’.       King King.  Regulars on the blues circuit, vocalist/guitarist Alan Nimmo is due to go into hospital but he wanted to play here, apparently.  Opening number seemed reminiscent of the early Whitesnake days (pre pomp and poodle-hair does).   A regulation 12-bar followed, but it got too cold for us so we went and listened to the rest of it in our beds. They are very popular and have many fans, but we both thought that they weren’t quite headliner status.

Saturday.  Trafficker. Tez and Janet recommended last year at Upton that we see them, again it was the ‘graveyard slot’. The pub was packed then, so we missed them.  Today it is a new line-up. Tommy Allen and co went straight into a 12 bar in A, but it was a touch heavier than par. ‘Rock n roll superstar’ was rockier and it wasn’t just standard blues stuff. An instrumental definitely had a Jeff Beck feel to it, with a really off-kilter riff. We got the almost obligatory ‘Voodoo Chile’ and a singalong at the end, but they were the best so far.          Pat McManus Band.   First song had a Gary Moore-ish ‘Parisienne Walkway’ feel, but the next number had a ZZ Top rhythm.  Not long before we were in Rory Gallagher mode with ‘What’s going on’ and the next song was back to ZZ Top with even a hint of early King Crimson at the end?.  Gary Moore raised his head again and we had a ‘look how fast I can play’ number pre-empting an appearance by his fiddle. Sadly, I had got just a bit fed up by the constant references to Mr Gallagher and Mr Moore. He is a good enough musician to have his own identity (must dig my Mama’s Boys 45 out of the cellar) and as I am not a fan of the other two afore-mentioned  Irish guitarists I  lost interest. Then the heavens opened as if too punish me for daring to even consider such heresy!                     Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash. Well that is what it says on my two CDs!  His recent tour has included his new LP in total for the first set (see review from Darlington) with the ‘hits’ in the second set. His festival set has the title track ‘Written in the Stars’ as the opener, then back to the 70s. ‘Warrior’ is great, with Martin getting a great sound from his Gibson. But ‘Throw down the Sword’ is AWFUL! Well , his vocals are. Much as we love Mr T and are firmly in his camp re the last decade’s ‘discussions’, it was painful!  Sorry Mart, but it was.  But ‘Lady Jane’ was much better although Danny had a bit of an iffy moment on guitar.  Never liked ‘The Pilgrim’ but the weather improved, as did the size of the crowd. Laurie Wisefield got a nod via ‘You see Red’ and ‘Living Proof’ with ‘Blind Eye’ squeezed in between.  ‘Blowin’Free’ was an expected crowd-pleaser and ‘Doctor’ was an unexpected addition (again vocals a bit off). ‘The King will Come’ and ”Jailbait’ finished things off, and despite the odd dodgy moment he was still the first act of genuine pedigree.            Moreland and Arbuckle. I had noticed they are on the bill for next year’s decidedly average Skeggy Rock n Blues weekend so had checked them out on Youtube. Three piece, featuring vocalist/harmonica, guitar and drums, and they made a big sound for 3 people.  They played lots of stuff from their latest LP, but a cut above the usual bluesers. Check them out at Skeggy if you have already bought tickets.            Billy Walton. No stranger to Linton, with a big 6-piece Chicago Blues sound. Apparently reminiscent of Hendrix and Clapton?!  Sorry, that one is lost on me.   A mixture of the old Stax/Volt sound and blues, Mr W is very popular and we got a good ‘Green River’. Next song had a feel of Hendrix’s ‘Angel’…so that’s where the ‘reminiscent of…’ comment comes from!   Oldies like ‘Turn on your lovelight’ and ‘Treat her right’ had people dancing but Her Ladyship’s shutters were coming down and I was struggling to maintain interest too.                  Suzi Quatro.        Signed t-shirts for a tenner puts the rest to shame doesn’t it?   As expected , we get most of the hits and we got our second version of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ within a few weeks.  Did what it says on the tin, basically, and it was amusing to watch lots of grizzled old bluesers canning cans, Devilgate driving and 48 crashing.

Sunday. The Mentulls. Trio of lads from North Yorkshire, who started (again!) with some ‘Parisenne Walkway’-ish guitar.  ‘Red House’ involved much grimacing and fret-thrashing and the guitarist doesn’t look old enough to have a baby stopping ANYWHERE, never mind in a bloody red house over yonder!  Self-confessed fans of the late 60s Wishbone Ash music, and I was just getting a hint of Leslie West when they did ‘Theme for an Imaginary Western’ and it was thoroughly decent. Plus a bit of the Yes Album at the end.   Went down well.              Mama Martin Band.   Had a huge intro from the organiser, they had a graduated walk on stage. The guitarist came swaggering on, and held his Strat above his head. You know when you get that ‘I don’t f**king like you!’ thought? Sorry but I got one.   Bass, drums, sax, guitar, female singer.  First ever gig in Great Britain, again another outfit that went down well.           Eugene Hideaway Bridges.   He told us he had been on the road for 50 years.  Seemingly he was born in 1963 but appeared with his father from a very early age so maybe he wasn’t exaggerating.   The big Chicago blues sound has never done much for me, it gets too close to swing and jazz at times.  I prefer a more minimalist blues, even the likes of Son House and Leadbelly.  Mr B has a definite love of BB KIng and is ideal for this type of festival.                Slambovian Circus of Dreams.     Saw them in Pocklington on Wednesday, we think they are great. A big reason why we came.  They started out with ‘Grand Slambovians ‘ and ‘Lost Highway’, again, but followed up with ‘Sunday in the Rain’. Could it have been anything else?! ‘Very happy now’, with a snatch of the Ramones ‘I wanna be sedated’ followed, and their version of ‘Life on Mars’ was as good as on Wednesday. ‘Pushing up Daisies’ is a firm favourite and Dylan’s ‘Just like a woman’ was a surprise addition.  ‘I wish’ got the Who and Johnny Cash treatment as usual and ‘Step out of time’, ‘Very unusual head’ and the heavier ‘Moondog House’ were given another outing. The older ‘Talking to the Buddha’, with its early King Crimson feel, made a welcome return and they finished the main set with ‘TransSlambovian Bi-polar Express’. The old chestnut ‘Alice in Space’ brought back memories and it made me wonder just why this lot aren’t so much more popular, or even known! I reckon it is because they are primarily a ‘festival’ group. Most of the other Slambo fans we know are fest goers. It’s all I can think of, because they are bloody great. They need to be seen, not just heard.                     Geno Washington.     I am sure most of the 60+ year olds will remember those two budget label LPs that came out on the 60s, even if, like me, they didn’t have a record player. Geno has made a career out of covering the likes of Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett and has more recently become a festival regular. Stopped for a couple of numbers then made our way to the pub to beat the rush.

Well worth the long trip. A pretty decent line-up, considering the ticket price, with the accent firmly on the blues (as is the intention). Beer was a good price and quality. Camp site fine, we had more sleep that any other festival.  Very friendly atmosphere, highly recommended.  Take your Rory Gallagher t-shirt, you won’t be Billy NoMates.

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