Day 1 of Bluesfest. Weather perfect. Official artists start time is at four pm. We arrive at 2.30 just in case. There are some first timers in the group so we need to get our bearings.
Some changes to the site from last year. A new, interesting and intimate performance space. New food outlets and considerable site works for better drainage etc.
To the music. – all photos below by Jim Jacob.
I wrote recently that Australian-blues artist Shaun Kirk was a revelation. For an hour, he played like his very life depended on it. A mixture of originals and covers, most of the material was from the recently-reviewed The Wick Sessions and he showcased his foot-stomping, harp-wailing interpretations with a joy and easy stage presence that was a pleasure to witness. “Find Somebody To Love”, Smokestack Lightning”, “Cruisin'” and particularly the closing ” Steamtrain” were highlights for me. When it was done, he left the stage drenched, like he had given his all. But you just had the feeling that his youth and passion would have him back there for a second set in a flash if someone asked him. A brilliant start to the festival.
I’ve also covered Go Jane Go before – singer/songwriter Keiran Kane, his son Lucas and Scottish-born Canadian David Francey. They provided quite a contrast to Kirk. Kane on banjo or acoustic guitar or electric guitar, light percussion from Lucas and Francey specialising in vocals. In their hour set, they performed almost twenty songs, a breadth of imagery and subjects, but all beautifully crafted – “In a Town This Size” (Kane co-wrote this with John Prine), “Blue Heart of Texas”, Solitary Wave”, the Earl and Scruggs’ “My Blue Ridge Mountain Home”. Delightful.
Shawn Colvin up next. (The first three acts were on the one stage and we had a magic spot on the front fence). A ‘new folk’ artist who has an impressive body of work and whose songs avoid the cliches and sometimes predictable structures and topics, her’s was a commanding performance. Two songs from her most recent release All Fall Down – the tile track and “Change Is On The Way” and a Tom Waits’ cover “Hold On” were sublime. Although the crowd was not large, it was an appreciative one, with a good deal of knowledge about her body of work and she seemed to enjoy herself.
Tedeschi Trucks had an extra horn section from their last tour. The opening number “Midnight in Harlem” blew me away. The rise and flow, the Tedeschi voice, the distinctive and effortless guitar of Trucks got the set off on a high. An extended version of “Bound For Glory” hit the spot and a scintillating take on George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity” followed. The band was brilliant and the set was the high point of the day.
Ben Harper’s new project Get Up! is an interesting union between him and blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite. And their set was excellent, providing each artist with an individual and combined outlet to showcase their new material.
Until tomorrow then.