A Town Full of Blues

Jimmy Mac’s Band

We recently reviewed the main acts at 2019’s highly successful Tenby Blues Festival.

But for those unfamiliar with this annual event, we thought we’d give a mention to many of the other great, mostly Welsh, musicians who played in the pubs, clubs, cafés and streets of the town throughout the festival weekend.

It’s no exaggeration to say that some of these performers were as good as the big acts appearing at the De Valence Pavilion.

One guitar-slinging busker with only a sheepskin coat and a huge umbrella to shield him from the weather played electrifying blues and rock numbers for a solid two days. “He’s better than some of them playing in the pubs,” one passerby said to me. And I couldn’t disagree.

Jodie Marie

At the packed Tenby United Rugby Club, Jodie Marie, from Narberth, played a couple of stunning solo sets, mostly of her own emotionally charged songs. There has to be something special about a voice that can bring complete and respectful silence to a rugby club full of beer drinkers.

Wales’s Big Joe Bone did something similar at Top Joe’s restaurant – but more due to the fact that no one would attempt to make themselves heard once he was in full flight with his super gruff vocals, banjo, harmonica and foot-thump drum; he certainly creates a glorious and irresistible noise.

Bella Collins and Gareth Evans

On the quieter side, but no less enjoyable were Cardiff’s brilliant singer Bella Collins alongside Gareth Evans at the Qube; Ged Wilson at Blueberry’s; and Old Strafford (Robert Strafford, Phil Andrew and David Jones), three multi-instrumentalists and singers of a certain age, who brought lovely old-time gospel, blues and folk to The Cove.

Electric and electrifying were the Chris James Band at the Giltar Hotel, a collective of exemplary musicians playing funky soul/blues who really deserved to be on a bigger stage.

Likewise the Welsh veterans of Jimmy Mac’s Band at the Clarence Hotel, who belied their many, many years on the road by playing fresh versions of blues classics with the enthusiasm of men 50 years younger.

And then there were the Worried Men doing their frantic power-trio thing at the Bowling Club. Leader Jamie Thyer’s vocals may be on the rough side, but his guitar work is off the planet. Wherever he is, he seems to play as if he’s in a stadium, and his no-holds-barred, punk-ish approach to the blues left a few of us wondering about our collective sanity. Was this mayhem really happening in a modest club room in Tenby?

Indeed, it – and a multitude of tremendous performances – were taking place at small, crowded-out venues all over the town.

Mark Allen in Tenby

The next Tenby Blues Festival takes place 13th-15th November 2020.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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