It’s always such a joy to go to this Festival it just gets better with age. This year was no exception. The organisation is slick, with a stage crew that defies belief how quickly the work in tandem.

Words & Pictures: Colin Campbell    


This a feature of all members of team, administration, meet and greet, raffle sellers, thank you all. Special mention as always to the main Organiser Nick Westgarth who sadly it would seem has decided to make this his last festival. For this reviewer this remains the best run festival attended, this also a feature of attendee’s feedback some who have never missed a year and really enjoy the differing musical styles and genres offered during this weekend. Hopefully this will run and run in the future. Anyway, onto the music, will try and be as brief as possible with the acts but such was the calibre of acts this is very difficult!



After the introductions and announcements by weekend MC, Gordon Swindlehurst, it was down to business. Difficult spot opening a festival, but Mississippi MacDonald and his band took no time at all in getting the audience fired up with their mix of blues and soul influenced tunes. He certainly looked the part on stage very smart and spangly, the London blues look who knows but the set was amazing, and this four-piece band are a very tight unit. There are hints of Chicago blues on I Was Wrong, soul vibes to Blind Leading The Blind.and the groove on his title track of the new release, Heavy State Loving Blues took the musical experience to a different level, Texan blues followed with the rhythm section keeping the beat. A faultless opening act providing a heady mixture of blues influenced tunes.

Jon Amor Trio next up on stage, comprising Jon on lead vocals and guitar, bass player Jerry Soffe and drummer, Tom Gilkes. Well, what a full on pacy energetic and musically sublime set they put on. Jon mixed older numbers like Cut Through The Graveyard opener, with newer tunes, like Miss James in a pulsating set. This trio just got better with every song and Jon’s guitar work has never been better, mesmerising at some points during Juggernaut and a highlight was She Thought I Was An Eagle, this full of sonic guitar riffs and balanced rhythm, great work by the drummer keeping up with the pace, a true crowd pleaser.

Tombstone Dunnery were up next featuring the legendary lead guitarist and singer Francis Dunnery (Formerly with such bands as It Bites and others). His new project is a seven-piece band including two wonderful backing singers, keyboards, guitars, and drums. This was an unexpected treat for the listening audience. They mixed, soul, blues with passion, musicality, and a lot of humour, what a frontman Francis is, his delivery on the opener Poisoned Woman was something to behold and had authentic John Lee Hooker vibes throughout. It’s hard To Love Another Woman was another well delivered vocal full of passion. Blues Falling Down Like Weather was a highlight, great tones and the band just exuded a joy to be on stage and connecting with an appreciative audience. First of many festivals for this authentic, blues-based band.

Headliners tonight were newly elected UK Blues Challenge winners, The Errol Linton Band and what a performance they put on. This band last played Carlisle fifteen years ago and went down well the. Tonight, they were just on fire, mixing, blues styles with Reggae, solos by all members, just a joy to behold. Ever evolving, Errol must be one of the best harmonica players in the business taking his lead from Little Walter and other stalwarts. He was born to be on the stage his presence and enthusiasm is second to none. The five-piece band is a solid unit and mixes styles and tones, Cry To Me was particularly soulful with a beautiful piano intro. Songs like Hoodoo Man and Mystery Train had the audience dancing to the infectious beat Packing My Bags was peppered with reggae tones and a great drum solo.


After the energy and full-on styles of bands of yesterday it was time for a gentler and laid-back vibe for the first band of a long day ahead. Chris James and Martin Fletcher Band were just the tonic a four-piece band with Chris James lead singer and guitarist, Martin Fletcher on harmonica, Finn McArdle on percussion and Paul White on bass guitar. Angel In The Mirror was a particular favourite, well delivered laid back vibe and a hypnotic beat. Also, St Louis featured wonderful harmonica tones. Easy going tunes from a seasoned band, superb.

Next it was time for The Producers to entertain a rapt audience. This was one of their last performances as a band having formed over twenty-five years ago and producing thirteen albums this was “a best of” selection of songs. Another solid unit who mixed some humour with their delivery of songs. Harry Skinner lead vocals and guitar and Dave Saunders on bass are the only original members and are just consummate professionals. Add in the wonderful organist Ray Drury and drummer Biff Smith and you have the whole package. Some People Say, was the opener this had great piano tones a big band feel. No More Dogging had a New Orleans tinge and then the phenomenal Long Distance Call was greeted with great applause, some wonderful guitar work. Their interpretation of Crossroads was authentic, and they finished with Killing Floor, an amazing set.

To the strains of Benny Hill’s Ernie, The Milkmen were on next, another wonderful set of pure rhythm and blues songs filled the hall with infectious tones. They opened with Shoot Out The Lights in a frenzied and most entertaining way, this band knows how to work a crowd. Adam Norsworthy guitar solos alone were worth the admission price. Add the husky vocal tones of lead singer Jamie Smy, cool bassline of Lloyd Green and drummer Mike Roberts and you get the cream of rocking rhythm. Hungover, is a new tune for future release and is rather catchy. Also, they paced through make Mine A Double. All four came front stage to start Oh Well just a showstopping moment, such charisma in this band. Little Miss Attention had the dancers breathless such is the energy on stage.

Festival favourites, The Stumble came onstage next, adding their own style to a wonderful set, soul, blues upbeat rhythms this band knows how to put a party set together to an avid crowd, certainly one of the best live acts around. A six-piece solid unit of differing levels of musical genius. Even Simon on saxophone does a walk around into the audience, stage presence is everything and The Stumble have that and more. Paul is a superb singer, never better than on the mesmeric My Life, it just gets better with listening. Wasted Love was another highlight amongst many, Bus Stop was full on rhythm. Encore was Bring It On Home, what live music is supposed to be, that connection with the audience is so integral. After a break, it was time for an album launch!

Redfish Blues Band are just improving with every concert. Their sound is authentic blues, and the Hammond organ just lifts the sound they have to sonic levels. Their new album Together Is Better was the theme for the set. Starting with Girls Girls Girls, Christian Sharpe lead vocalist and consummate guitarist led the way, with Rod McKay on bass, Steve Gibson on drums and Steve McGuckin on Hammond organ, a feature of the night’s bands. Something On Your Mind had a jazzier blues feel, adding a laid-back vibe, that Hammond, what a sound. How Blue Can You Get brought another flavour to the pallet. The upbeat, You Don’t Love Me Baby featured guest Ronnie Semple on harmonica, pure bluesy tune delivered well. Money Don’t Make It Right is a song for our times, hauntingly beautiful tune such a good arrangement. Last song was Breakout which has a country blues feel up-tempo, got the audience dancing and just full-on joy in a varied set, catch them when you can, phenomenal band.

The Greg Coulson Band were next, this time as a six-piece including horn section. Greg played Hammond and keyboard and started with the jump joint vibe of What’s New. Then they cranked the volume up on Stitch Me Up, all band getting their solos here, but the Hammond organ strains pitched well against the backbeat. Someone To Be There, had groove and style. Highlight had to be Why Don’t You Do Right, just a polished performance, blending jazz and bluesy tones throughout, a Saturday night work out for the enthusiastic crowd.

Hamilton Loomis was next with another wonderful performance, this time as a trio, he led the vocals and intricate guitar work to a workmanlike rhythm section. Ain’t What It Ain’t started this varied set, that even included reinterpretation of The Doobie Brothers Reelin’ In The Years, stunning. There was funk, blues, everything here, including Hamilton doing a walkabout into the crowd standing on the seats and just enjoying playing to the Gallery, what a performer. A highlight was his tune Prayer, that he wrote for his son, just drenched with emotion and feeling, goosepimple moment of the festival when Hamilton let rip with his guitar at the song’s bridge. Looking Into A Dream brought funk to the party atmosphere. Wonderful set.

Headline act was Kai Strauss and The Electric Blues Allstars from Germany hard to believe because his sound is full on Chicago or Memphis blues, a blend of East meets West cultures and tones in this excellent five-piece band, they put a set of traditional and contemporary blues songs together that jus mesmerised the audience. Starting with the powerful Stand Strong Together, the band gelled and just got better as they played. He played a few numbers from his In My Prime album, Betting My Life On The Blues, Going To London, and the wonderful Guest In The House Of The Blues. A tight band where even the saxophone player played harmonica, a sound rhythm section, they are the real deal, consummate musicians. Kai’s guitar playing had tones of Albert King and vocally, Robert Cray. His cover of Johnny Copeland’s Down On My Bended Knees was a particular highlight. Pulsating, professional and profound. A class act to round Saturday.

A blues jam session went on until the small hours, organised by Christian Sharpe, well attended, and featuring Hamilton Loomis, Kai Strauss Paul Jobson amongst others.


Pablo and The Bluestones opened the last days entertainment. A three-piece band from Wales featuring Steve Pablo Jones on vocals and guitar, another guitarist and cajon player, an interesting and soothing acoustic set. Opening with their own version of Paint It Black, then It’s All Over Now, the highlight was the Celtic folk piece Priodas. A very good trio, and excellent start to a Sunday afternoon.
Guy Tortura brought a four-piece band to Carlisle this year, himself on lead vocals and guitar, bass man, drummer, and organist, playing a set of tunes mostly honed from his new release, Anywhere But Here. He started with Late Starter an autobiographical account of being a musician, laid back groove, bluesy with a bit of Americana. Withered On The Vine is another reflective tune, clear vocals blend with a subtle organ-based backing, a great songwriter, this, and High Tide Deep Water with some fine slide play exhibited fine band interplay. Flower Street was delivered with emotion a slow ballad mixing up a well-received set, it’s all in the lyrics and the feel to these tunes.

Dom Martin Band were next on stage, featuring the brilliant vocals and guitar wizardry of Dom, who is at the top of his game just now. This was the start of his band tour with songs from his new release, Buried In The Hail. His trio includes him, Ben Graham on bass guitar and Aaron McLaughlin on drums, the newest member to the band but you’d think he had been there for a long time such is his musical telepathy with the other members. Suffice to say this was a blues rock masterpiece interspersed with melodic, rootsy powerful and magical tunes that transfixes a rapt audience. Starting with Government from the new release this has so many layers and sung with that guttural emphatic vocal that only Dom can create. Roy’s Blues was next that was sublime blues and exhibiting his mastership of the guitar. Spoonful followed. Dom stating later the lyrics are more relevant these days and the world needs to be kinder. Belfast Blues was given an airing, now the band was heating up. Howlin’ another new song was grungy and bluesy equally, a homage to Howlin’ Wolf. The version of Waylon Jenning’s Crazy is just amazing, he manages to twist it to his own tone and gives new meaning to the tune. It wouldn’t be a festival without some Rory Gallagher, so he did a medley of tunes, to a mesmerised audience, power pace great guitar technique, what a talent.

Layla Zoe was on next and gave a performance that just kept giving. Her vocal range is off the range, sometimes guttural and shamanistic then beautiful and soaring ballads fill the Hall. Her vocals matched to Krissy Matthews guitar style showed such chemistry it was a pleasure to witness such talent at this Festival. Opening with her acapella, Golden Slumber she just owned the stage. This segued into Do It In The Name Of Love. An emotional roller coaster of lyrics delivered so well, and her stagecraft is bewitching. Brother, must be the highlight, resonating backbeat and organ lead the way to a vocal extravaganza such a beautiful song, the flow of the song just conjures up so many images and feelings. Another highlight was the soulful take to Roses And Lavender. The whole band are the sum of the parts, her vocal. Keyboards drums and guitar meld into a symphony of musical joy.

Last band of the night was The Verity Bromham Band, a band who played last year and were such a hit they returned. What a show they put on. Full on classic rock with a side order of just pure joyous entertainment. They had the audience dancing, whooping, and hollering throughout the set. The camaraderie between the two main singers and guitarists is a joy to behold. The rhythm section is pretty good also. They played all the crowd fillers, Hold Your head Up, God Gave Rock And Roll To You, Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo, Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City and a belting version of Rocky Mountain Way. Both John Verity and Del Bronham’s vocals are as strong as ever and the audience participation made this a party. Del also had the stamina later to do a resume of his life in song at the Hotel to a packed Bar bringing the festival to a close. Differing styles of music, clear sound just a superb festival enjoyed by all participants, friendly sociable just the tonic. Here’s to more Carlisle blues in the future.