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WENTUS BLUES BAND Family Meeting RUF 1134(2008)

Described on the accompanying press kit as 'a milestone in European Blues History' Family Meeting' is an excellent double album by Finland's Wentus Blues band who celebrate their 20th anniversary. They do so by brining together a disparate but always interesting range of guests that cover all aspects of the blues, from Louisiana Red and Lazy Lester to Kim Wilson, Eric Bibb, Eddie Kirkland and even Mick Taylor.

The quality of music on offer is a metaphor for the Wentus Blues band itself, who have for two decades flown the flag for Scandinavian blues.

Indeed one of the most significant things about this musical family gathering is that it highlights the crucial role Scandinavia as a whole has played in keeping the blues alive and vibrant. And while Finland has often been closer to its rock & roll roots than blues (perhaps explaining the explosive presence of Barrence Whitfield) both Norway in particular and Sweden and Denmark in general have long been major stopping off points for many of the artists here.

'Family Meeting' is also the music of a film very much in the vein of Scorcese's 'The Final Waltz', without the drugs!!

There's much to admire here, and perhaps Wentus's biggest success is in establishing their own rootsy blues style in the context of this all star cast.

On 'You Gonna Make Me Cry' Juko Kinaret deliver s a gritty vocal performance and Nico Rippa tears his first solo and later delivers a mix of flighty notes and controlled dynamics in the extended outro. The band is joined by the impressive Clas Yngstrom for a cover of his own 'Hold That Note', all BB King styled notes in a funky arrangement. 'Down the Line' almost sounds like a cross between Kenny Wayne Sheppard and Bonamassa but Wentus just about manage to stamp their own style on proceedings

In fact Wentus Blues band play the role of the perfect host, acting as a foil for all the guests, who manage to conjure up some magical moments. Eric Bibb for example, toughens up his vocal for the emotive 'Hear The Angels Singing' while the vastly underrated Eddie Kirkland teams up with the equally underrated Swede Sven Zetterberg on a gentle funky workout 'Pick Up The Pieces' which is wrought with real emotion

For the rest there's a trademark rock & roll outing from Barrence Whitfield who blows the roof off the place with Class Yngstrom on 'Stop Twisitng My Arm' on which he is far happier than on a later blues outing. Mick Taylor delivers his sumptuous tone on the bonus track, The Stones', 'Can't Hear You Knocking'. Joined by the sinewy sax of Tore Berglund and delicate electric piano of Pekka Grohn it's a jammers delight. Taylor also brings real presence to another show stopper, Dylan's 'Blind Willie McTell' and finally its apt that Kim Wilson and his mighty toned harp should be part of the proceedings as the Fabulous Thunderbirds got their initial foothold in Europe via Scandinavia.

But overall this is a project about conjoining different blues stylings in celebration of the Wentus Blues Band's and if the film proves to be as interesting as the album, we all have a treat in store.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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