1st Lincoln Rock & Blues Festival

Drill Hall, Lincoln ~ Fri 15 - Sat 16 October 2004

The first Lincoln Festival of Rock and Blues took place at the Drill Hall in Lincoln last weekend. With a great opening night line up featuring Danny Bryant's RedEyeBand, the Alan Nimmo Band and Connie Lush & Blues Shouter, the festival organisers had hoped to attract a larger audience but those who came along to support what was hoped to be the first of many such festivals in Lincoln were treated to some great blues from three of the UK's top blues acts.

The young Cambridgeshire guitarist Danny Bryant is making a big impact wherever he plays and his first appearance in Lincoln proved no exception to the rule. Following the release of the band's third album 'Covering Their Tracks', their young drummer left the trio, his replacement Dave Raeburn who was the original drummer with The Hoax has added an extra dimension to the band's sound.

The Alan Nimmo Band who followed feature the Scottish guitarist and singer who formerly played alongside his brother Steve in the Nimmo Brothers, and three Lincoln based musicians including ex-Walter Harpman Band members, Lindsey Coulson (bass), Mark Barrett on drums. They played some great blues, with Alan taking the amplification right down on one slow blues guitar solo until just the sound of the plectrum on the strings could be heard. Their set included a powerful version of 'Crosscut Saw' and ended with an encore of 'The House Is Rockin', it certainly was by the end of their set!

Connie Lush & Blues Shouter who have never played in the city or immediate Lincoln area were the headlining act for the electric blues night. Fronted by one of Britain's finest female blues singers, they brought the evening to a rousing close with a set of blues originals and soul edged blues covers.

Many of the blues fans who had attended the previous night reconvened for Saturday afternoon's acoustic blues concert. Russell Coltrane, an unfamiliar name to most in the audience, opened the session with a set of old time country blues performed with both style and a little humour. Originally from Lincoln, Russell now lives in Leeds, with performances like this, he won't be unknown for much longer!

Compere Tony Nightingale introduced American bluesman Kent DuChaine as a performer who never has a bad review, and though suffering from a cold to the extent that he had to tune down his battered steel guitar 'Leadbessie' to D Flat to aid his vocals, he proceeded to deliver an awesome set of blues. During his summer break back in the States, Kent began working on some new numbers, some of these including a Freddie King song and 'Summertime' which was one of his father's favourites were introduced to his many Lincolnshire fans.

Jim Diamond and Snake Davis were the final act of the afternoon, we first saw the duo at the Skegness Rock & Blues Festival, where they have become great favourites with the audience. As they say, they are invited to play at many such festivals, despite the fact they describe themselves as a soul act. Fact is that few can fail to be moved by Diamond's amazingly soulful voice, that oozes passion and Davis's sympathetic sax, flute and pipe playing. Their set featured songs from Ray Charles and Nina Simone, as well as Diamond's number one hit 'I Should Have Known Better' and '635789', for both these popular songs Jim encouraged the audience to sing along. They received a standing ovation at the end of their set.

Saturday night billed as R&B night featured two acts, the Wilko Johnson Band and The Hamsters. The former feature ex-Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko who is noted for his unique playing style. Once unleashed from vocal duties, Johnson is rarely still, with his red guitar lead stretching like a bungee chord across the stage, his chopping action characterised the early Feelgood sound as heard on hits such as 'Back In The Night'. Though the eye catching Johnson is the band's main focal point, there was also time to admire the bass work of Norman Watt-Roy, who like drummer Monti has worked with Ian Dury's Blockheads.

By the time festival headliners The Hamsters took the stage, the auditorium appeared to be nearly full. The 'new' boys from Canvey who are celebrating their 18th anniversary this year are another act who never disappoint. The trio have recently released their latest studio album 'Open All Hours', and their set featured some songs from this CD including 'Burning The Church House Down' and the impressive 'Somebody's Leaving Somebody' with drummer Rev. Otis providing Samba style backing, an interesting diversion from their normal straight ahead blues rock.

For their Lincoln gig they played mainly original songs interspersed with some Hendrix numbers including 'Wind Cries Mary' and 'All Along The Watchtower' as well as the less frequently heard cover of 'Izabella'. They also included 'Sharp Dressed Man' from their ZZ Top set.

All too soon the long awaited festival was over, leaving those who attended with some great memories! It remains to be seen if future festivals are viable, but for festival organiser Tom Rankin this year saw the realisation of a long held dream to bring the blues into the heart of the city!