Layla HallSeeing as the line-up for the 2014 Hebden Bridge Blues Festival is announced tomorrow, thought I'd revive what I wrote for Blues in Britain in response to the 1913 version. In short, it was excellent! If 2014 can be half as good it will certainly be worth the price of a ticket. View/download a pdf of the review as it appeared in Blues in Britain (with a little added interactivity!).

See more of ickledot's pictures from the festival here … and here's the review:

Hebden Bridge Blues Festival

Hope Baptist Church and other venues, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire 24-26.05.2013

How to maintain and improve an award-winning festival? This conundrum faced principal organisers Jason Elliott and Paddy McGuire when planning their third festival. As Paddy told me, factors included: passionate acts, a blend of youth and experience and a good dollop of ‘what ain’t broke, don’t fix’. They certainly fixed the weather; 2012’s downpours were replaced by bright sunshine and blue skies throughout.

This year saw new venues with Electric and Acoustic Stages being in a Salem Street community building and the Main Stage in the Hope Baptist Church. The latter was an inspired choice, giving added atmosphere and great sound.

The Trevor Sewell Band have gained recognition both here and in the US and one can understand why. Particularly noteworthy were ‘No Future Round Here’ and ‘Hate Me For A Reason’, both from Trevor’s Calling Your Name album.

Bit of an upstairs-downstairs (or University Challenge?) thing at the Salem Street stages, one being directly above the other, separated only by two flights of stairs. As Trevor’s band departed, Mississippi MacDonald took to the stage beneath! As the name suggests, ‘Mississippi’ is steeped in Delta blues. His take on Robert Johnson’s ‘Last Fair Deal Gone Down’ was especially enjoyable. Meanwhile, the festival was busy honouring its commitment to youth, as a number of younger bands were being showcased on the Main Stage.

A highlight of the entire event was the appearance of Paul Lamb and the Detroit Breakdown (not to be confused with PL of the King Snakes variety). This tight-knit trio consists of Paul himself on guitar and vocals, Layla Hall on drums and Joey Spina on bass. There’s real light and shade here in the largely autobiographical material, from the hard rocking ‘Detroit Is On Fire’ to the gentle poignancy of ‘Gunshot Lullaby’, which documents the determination of Paul and his sister to escape the hard surroundings of their youth. Layla and Joey ensured the avoidance of a personnel crisis by slotting seamlessly into the Alex McKown Band on Sunday afternoon, playing their part in a memorable performance from the young guitarist.

Main Stage headliners Jo Harman and Company opened with ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’; a wise selection, given the surroundings, and an early indication of the strength and soulfulness within Jo’s voice. ‘Heartstring’ and ‘Sweet Man Moses’ followed, also taken from the acclaimed debut album, Dirt On My Tongue. There was new material too, along with standards including the Bobby Bland classic ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ and Anne Peebles’ ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’.

Through a clever use of ‘loops’, Sunday opener Richard Townend produces all manner of rhythms to accompany his fine guitar skills. His songs are thoughtful and wide-ranging. There was one about Engima code-breaking hero, Alan Turin, ‘My Best Friend’ (about his guitar) and ‘RAS’, an instrumental entitled by Richard’s daughter: ‘Really Annoying Song’.

A return visit for Lucy Zirins highlighted a growing maturity in her performance and material. She now has a fine album, Chasing Clocks, under her belt and a stage presence which is light and funny, yet well able to respond to audience ‘banter’. Opening with ‘Wayfarin’ Stranger’, other highlights were her own ‘One Day Soon’ and ‘Hours To Waste’, Tom Waits’ ‘Fumbling With The Blues’ and Muddy Waters’ ‘I Feel Like Going Home’.

Opening the evening session on the Main Stage, Kyla Brox was in fine full band form. Beginning with her own beautiful ‘Grey Sky Blue’, she moved through a set which included her sumptuous version of Etta James’ ‘At Last’.

No better duo to ensure a rousing crescendo than Paddy Milner and Marcus Bonfanti. Highlights included ‘Down The Road‘, ‘Devil Girl’ from Marcus’ What Good Am I To You album and ‘Jezebel’ from his forthcoming Shake The Walls. Paddy featured on ‘Rolling and Tumblin’’ and ‘Unsquare Dance‘ from his own Walking On Eggshells.  Also enjoyed were Little Feat’s ‘On Your Way Down’.

Midnight approached and yet there were still two hours of high energy jamming, orchestrated by Paddy McGuire, ensuring a breathless finale to a brilliant festival.

Great performances also from Aynsley Lister, Tim Aves, LR Pheonix, Northsyde and others too numerous to describe in detail here. There were DJ’s too! And a constant stream of comments, pictures and videos on Facebook and other social networks. Go see for yourself!