This week there’s not much more to talk about other than the 9th annual Belfast City Blues Festival.
With over 50 gigs across 22 venues there’s definitely something for every blues lover out there.
Once again the festival is sponsored by American Holidays and features some of the best local blues artists and some visiting international acts.
So, to give you an idea of what’s happening, here are a few highlights to whet your appetite:
1. A Taste of Rory
The annual tribute to the man who made Belfast his second ‘live’ home, Rory Gallagher, sees the Co. Fermanagh guitar legend Pat McManus appear with his band at the Black Box on Saturday 24th June. Pat’s talent is something to behold – and if you’re really lucky he may give you a few blasts on the fiddle too. Also appearing are the Willie Byrne Band and Blackwood.
Tickets are priced £12 (incl. Booking Fee) are available from www.blackboxbelfast.com.
2. Light – Remembering The Pound Club
In the 1970s Light kept the music alive when Jim Armstrong laid down blistering licks with singer and bassist Albert Mills. In a tribute to Jim’s talent a rejuvenated Light will play the Black Box on the closing night of the festival, June 25th. Renowned local guitarist Ian ‘Speedo’ Wilson will take on Armstrong’s role.
Tickets, priced £10 (incl. Booking Fee) are available from www.blackboxbelfast.com.
3. The Belfast Barge – Friday and Saturday
As part of A Weekend of Legends feature there are two nights at the Belfast Barge at Lanyon Quay. Friday sees The Kenny McDowell Project take the stage, while on Saturday it’s the Ronnie Greer Band, featuring Ken Haddock. The evenings are both ‘bring your own’ and reasonably priced.
Tickets are priced £10 for the Friday and £12 for the Saturday and are available from www.skiddle.com
4. The Steve Payne Trio (SP3)
He’s one of the most talented roots/blues singer songwriters, and Steve Payne’s resume includes sharing stages with Bob Dylan, BB King, Dr John and Loudon Wainwright III. With Paul Hobday sharing guitar duties Northern Ireland’s own Billy Boy Miskimmin on harmonica this is a gem of a show. Just to see Billy Boy is well worth the effort. SP3 play Kelly’s Cellars on Friday afternoon and The Spaniard on Sunday.
Admission for both is free.
5. The Backbone Blues Band
They are one of those unusual entities in terms of UK acts – The Backbone Blues Band are better known in the US of A than in the UK! They play the Northern Whig on Friday, June 23rd.
Admission is free
6. Red Hot Roosters
Playing good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll that harkens back to the era of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Eddie Cochran the Red Hot Roosters will get you set to jive. They play Kelly’s Cellars on Saturday, June 24th from 3pm.
Admission is free
7. Blues on the Boat
There are three blues cruises across the Belfast City Blues Festival that will see you take to the high seas – well around Belfast Lough – for food, drink and, of course, music! The Friday cruise gives you a chance to see the Red Hot Roosters before their Saturday show. Saturday afternoon Rab McCullough & the Rev Doc, while Saturday evening its Lee Hedley & Co.
Tickets are priced £35 and include food provided by Grapevine and complimentary drinks. Visit www.titanicboattours.com
8. The Unholy Gospel Band
It’s one of Belfast’s best kept Sunday secrets in the wonderful Aether & Echo just off Royal Avenue on Lower Garfield Street. Cormac Neeson from The Answer fronts a five-piece that play classic songs that will get you singing along. There’s a good food menu and plenty of craic.
Admission is free.
9. Billy Bob Miskimmin workshop
He’s regarded as Europe’s number one exponent of the harmonica – or as it should be known, the Blues Harp. Billy Boy will be giving a masterclass in a Festival Music Workshop in Dawson’s Music on Royal Avenue on Sunday, June 25th. He has played with The Yardbirds, contributed sessions to Stiff Little Fingers and Marc Almond. Fans include such music luminaries as Alice Cooper, Jimmy Page and Scotty Moore.
Admission is free.
10. St George’s Market
The award winning market hosts three events over the weekend, so you can do a little shopping and dining at the eclectic offering before checking out Ludwig and Co on Friday, David Taylor’s Soul Surfers on Saturday and The Iconettes on Sunday.
Admission is free.
Remember that this is only our choice – go to www.belfastcityblues.com to see the immense range of music on offer. You can also download the 2017 programme from www.tinyurl.com/BCBFprog17. #PossibilitiesUnlimited
By Tina Calder, Excalibur Press
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When it comes to the Northern Ireland music industry there’s a great deal happening and particularly at this time of the year in the blues and roots scene.
With so many events and artists to choose from this new column is certainly going to be a challenge...not to find what to put in but to try and fit it all in.
Last week the 19th International Guinness Blues on the Bay Festival attracted thousands from across the globe and at home to Warrenpoint, Co Down.
With 90 free events it’s hard to pick a favourite but the special concert on Saturday night featuring the original members of Rory Gallagher’s band; Gerry McAvoy and Brendan O’Neil was definitely a highlight. Not just that but Gallagher’s band was joined over the weekend by a number of local artists including Lisburn based jazz, soul, gospel and funk singer Dana Masters who currently supports Van Morrison on tour.
Log onto www.bluesonthebay.com for more info
or connect via Facebook and/or Twitter
Starting tonight (Friday June 2) the Holywood Harmony Festival, sponsored by Garry’s Barber Shop, kicks off with folk act Ulaid and Duke Special and The Emerald Armada. Across this weekend there’s set to be some real musical delights with artists such as Hothouse Flowers, Tyrone blues and Americana artist Ciaran McElhinney (Saturday June 3), singer songwriter Gareth Dunlop and Dana Masters (Sunday June 4).
Log onto www.harmonyfest.co.uk for more info
or connect via Facebook and/or Twitter
The Belfast City Blues Festival, sponsored by American Holidays, launched recently and this year it’s a packed schedule of a whopping 50 gigs across 22 venues from June 23-25.
Now in its 9th year, it’s one of the biggest blues festivals in Ireland and Northern Ireland and is the widest reaching music festival in Belfast.
This year highlights include the annual Rory Gallagher afternoon with artists joining the bill such as The Pat McManus Band, The Willie Byrne Band and Blackwood.
Log onto www.belfastcityblues.com for more info or connect via Facebook
Pictured from left are Lee Hedley (performer), Davy Watson (performer), Karen Sheals-Hoy from American Holidays, the Rev Doc (performer), Deputy Lord Mayor Mary Ellen Crawford, Linda McLaughlin (performer), Stephen Rafferty (performer) and at the front Mervyn Crawford (performer). Photo: Tony Murray.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Considered one of Northern Ireland’s blues and jazz legends Ronnie Greer is a favourite with music fans across the country. An exceptional player who’s known for his passion and fire he’s played up and down the country with some of the very best blues bands.
Popular for his solos and just as comfortable as a frontman as he is on the sidelines Ronnie has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the business from Dr. John, Lowell Fulson and Phil Guy to Johnny Mars and many more.
Ronnie will be playing on June 9 at The Weigh Inn in Omagh (10pm) with special guest Grainne Duffy. He will also be performing on June 11 at Antrim Castle Gardens (3-4.15pm).
Log onto www.ronniegreer.com for more info or connect via Facebook
TRACK OF THE WEEK
with Lee Hedley
When it comes to classic rock, blues and soul the Lee Hedley Band have it down to a fine art. Frontman Lee Hedley is so versatile he’s manage to share the stage and toured with everyone from The Corrs, Westlife and The Commitments to Don Baker and Kerry Katona.
Therefore, when it comes to music Lee has quite an eclectic taste so choosing track of the week wasn’t an easy task.
He said: “It would be probably have to be a good upbeat track. I think Magic Slim's I'm Ready would be a good track if I had to listen to it all week long."
“It's a great Chicago Blues standard groove. And it has a nice upbeat feel to it. I never tire listening to that riff. One of the most infectious blues riffs ever played ! ”
Check out the Lee Hedley band every Saturday afternoon at Stoker’s Halt in Holywood.
Connect with Lee Hedley HERE or via Facebook.
MY MUSICAL INSPIRATION
with Ciaran McElhinney
Singer/songwriter Ciaran McElhinney is best known for his unique style, a blend of blues and rock mixed with Americana and folk.
Having supported everyone from Tom Baxter, Blaze Bayley, Alabama 3 and Horslips as well as Henry McCullough, Bap Kennedy, Pat McManus and Ronnie Greer.
He said: “One of my musical inspirations would be multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Chris Thile. His versatility means he has taken a traditional instrument outside of its perceived boundaries. Chris is well known for being innovative, experimental and intelligent in his music playing, writing and performing.”
Ciaran will support The Hothouse Flowers at the Holywood Harmony Festival tomorrow night (Saturday June 3) and The Fureys at Dalriada Festival on July 15.
Connect with Ciaran on Facebook or Reverbnation.
MY SONGWRITING INSPIRATION
with Adele Ingram
Adele Ingram is just one of the talented women behind the all-female folk and roots group Wookalily. An accomplished songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adele has carved a career not just as a performer and writer but as a promoter and music events organiser.
When it comes to inspiration for her music, Adele could literally find it anywhere.
She said: “I don't go desperately looking for inspiration. If something inspires me then that's a bonus. I generally write about the perceived underdog but lately I've been inspired by events in my own life which is unusual for me. Maybe I'm getting a bit sentimental in my mature years.
“I don't have a notebook, I just write lyrics on my phone when they come into my head, usually in the wee small hours when I can't sleep. During the day I write first and think later. I used to always come up with a riff on guitar then write the lyrics and melody around it, I think because subconsciously I've always fancied myself as a guitarist rather than a songwriter.
“My more recent songs have been quite the reverse. Lyrics first then music. Maybe I've not only become sentimental but ultimately less detached from the song. There's definitely more of me in my new material and the lyrics are a lot darker.
“I love the songwriting styles of Dr John, Chris Smither and Bonnie Prince Billy. Lately I've been listening to Tom Waits, Steam Powered Giraffe and Israel Nash to name a few. What inspires me most are the royalties I could potentially get from songwriting and publishing. It's definitely a revenue stream I'd encourage other musicians to pursue.”
Adele and the ladies of Wookalily will be playing at the Gate to Southwell Festival in Nottinghamshire from June 8-11. Then it will be back home to perform during the day at Mount Stewart, Co Down on June 18.
Log onto www.wookalily.wordpress.com for more information or connect with them via Facebook.