Last year saw the first ever Blues and Roots festival in Uckfield.
Despite competing with the Gentlemen of the Road Festival in Lewes (with Mumford & Sons) and also the exceptionally hot weather the festival was regarded as a success, if not for the numbers but then for the quality of the music.
This year the Blues and Roots Festival was held separately from the main Uckfield Festival, starting on Thursday, July 31, and finishing on Sunday, August 3, and attracting some highly acclaimed acts.
The opening night of the festival was an Acoustic Evening at Holy Cross Church, Uckfield, when last year’s headline act, the amazing Jo Harman, was headlining again.
There was even more quality music with Richard Townend opening the show to an enthusiastic audience.
Richard, whose voice resembles Chris Rea’s singing to a degree, swapped guitars seamlessly and displayed some fine finger picking. His version of an old Etta James number and a strong song about Alan Turing were both well put together and he completed an absorbing opening set to a very attentive and appreciative audience.
Seeing Jo Harman for the second part of the evening was a revelation. She holds herself like a star and is quite simply a sensational singer who gets every emotion possible out of a song. Her voice is a fantastic instrument, immensely expressive with a tone that sends shivers down the spine. She really is that good and by the end of the evening she had the audience eating out of her hand.
On Friday evening, at the Civic Centre in Uckfield, the music started again with Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion – surely some of the best blues heard for decades.
Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion have been waiting to pounce for some time and it happened in Uckfield .
Every now and again you stumble over something a little different and Tunbridge Wells-based band David Migden and the Twisted Roots hit the spot.
The Elevators ended Friday evening. They have justly earned their reputation for being one of the most exciting blues bands playing in England today.
On Saturday evening (again at the Civic Centre), the crowd was in for a treat with a singer songwriter from Biggin Hill in Kent, Goldie Reed. Her debut single ‘Bittersweet’ rightly caught the attention of Bob Harris on BBC Radio. She has a compelling voice and her unique mix of blues, roots and New English Folk makes Goldie far from your standard blues act.
Next up was the band most people wanted to see –Red Butler. As we move into the second half of 2014, this young four-piece rock blues band continues to make great progress. The band performs covers and their own material. Their influences include: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Etta James, Joe Bonamassa, Ray Charles, Free, King King, BB King and Carlos Santana, to name but a few.
The evening finished on a high with the Spikedrivers, one of the most original and exciting bands around. They take you on a journey and create a sound that is uniquely their own.
Words and pictures by Ron Hill