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25-28 August 2006

With more than 120 bands, spread over 6 official and countless fringe venues offering everything pertaining to what people of a certain age still knowingly refer to as R&B, the 17th Colne R&B festival promised much, and delivered in full.

And with a bill that included the likes of Ten Years After, Roger Chapman & The Shortlist, (the disappointing) Big Brother The Holding Company, Dave Edmunds, The Pirates, Spencer Davis Group and Carvin Jones Band there were musical echoes of Reading Festivals of the past.

And it is with Phoenix guitar slinger Carvin Jones that we must start. A festival is really all about people's subjective experiences, and Colne offered a wealth of riches but topping the whole caboodle at the stroke of midnight on the International stage on Saturday - 15 minutes after the last bus had departed - was the ultimate show stopper Carvin Jones.

Much has been written about his guitar antics, the speed of his playing, his obvious ode to Hendrix, but what this startling performance proved is that Carvin Jones is the ultimate people person. And given festivals are all about people, Carvin hit bull's eye! Whether taking his guitar frenzy straight into the crowd from the off, or his later unscripted appearance on top of the balcony, the man came, saw and conquered, and climaxed a superb day that also included a raft of classy Chicago blues artists.

John Primer for example unlike many of his Chicago contemporaries is a fine song writer and assured guitarist while impressive harp layer Matthew Skoller brought an unexpected poignancy to the proceedings analysing the causes of the war in the Middle East - 'people fighting a rich people's war'. Carlos Johnson also had a penchant for heading into the crowd, as much as resurrecting Albert King but ultimately it was Carvin whom in the early hours re-energised the room and rocked the house.

The classy John O Leary Band opened the festival on the International Stage on Friday with a superb harp/guitar led funky blues set. A founder member of Savoy Brown all those years ago, John has the musical stature to harness the superb Duane Allman style guitar playing of Jules Fothergill, alongside Roger Innes's funky bass lines, and guest keyboard player Jules Crudgings' telling embellishments. Particularly impressive was the hard hitting funk of 'Back Cat Bone', and the reflective 'Whose Been Talking'

The band's excellence was later matched by Nine Below Zero's classy take on swing led r&b which was led by the brilliant harp playing of Mark Feltham.

Sunday's international stage included the mesmerising slide guitar of Micky Moody who was to make another appearance on Monday with another festival highlight Roger Chapman & The Shortlist. They say age mellows, but Chappo still sings as if delivering his dying breath.

But back to Sunday and the British Stage. Previously known as The Super Roadhouse stage, the British Stage was this year sponsored by Blues Matter magazine, and the succession of up and coming talent was well represented by the underrated guitar machinations of Innes Sibun, the Scottish horn led big band outfit Light Out By Nine and of course the ever present Roadhouse.

Few performers on the festival can boast such an impressive catalogue of songs as guitarist Gary Boner, and it was the closing brace of 'Voodoo Queen' and the Lynyrd Skynyrd inflected 'Preacher Man' that topped a raucous set. The following Boner led jam featured members of young heavy rockers The Brew, Lancashire favourites The Roach Twins and the women singers from Roadhouse - a nice way to mellow out the night.

And so to the final day. Incredibly Animals & Friends opened to a full house at 2pm and deserved their excellent reception while Joe Gooch effortlessly filled Alvin Lee's shoes in Ten Years After. The kid has a great voice, awesome guitar tone and writes killer songs, worthy of the band's name.

A brief mention also for the fringe venues such as The North Valley who featured the Rory Gallagher outfit Raw Gallagher from Rotherham, who proved to be every bit as authentic as Taste who had played the international stage on Friday night.

With over 3000 people in the town, this hospitable Lancashire town should have made enough for a repeat four days of musical oblivion next year.

Special thanks to Eric Harvey, Dave Ardley, Gary Field

Review by Pete Feenstra

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