Tenby’s got the blues again – for the fourteenth time. Tenby Blues Festival hits town from Friday to Sunday (8-10 November) with more than 20 venues and a host of musicians.
You’ll need to buy tickets for the main shows – taking place at the De Valence Pavilion, Church House and the Giltar Hotel – but lots of gigs at smaller venues around Tenby are free.
Headliners, appearing at the De Valence, are the Malone-Sibun Band (Friday) Sugaray Rayford (Saturday) and Gina Sicilia (Sunday).
The biggest treat of the weekend is likely to be this UK festival debut of Gina Sicilia, a tremendous singer who combines the blues with a host of influences, including soul, country, rock and pop.
Speaking to Pembrokeshire Online from Nashville, Gina said: “I’ve been singing since I was two years old. And, yes, my influences are a lot of things all together. But my main blues influence was hearing Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland when I was 14.”
That was 20 years ago and since then she has produced a string of albums, each one another step on her musical journey, and all of them infused with integrity and real feeling.
She laughs when I tell her that, in a strange way, her singing reminds me of Elvis Presley – it’s not just her rich voice, somehow she seems to get right inside the words and give them extra meaning.
“I do love Elvis,” she admits. “But I also love doo-wop and Italian pop music. In the end, I just love music. I have such a passion for it – it’s the language that I understand best.”
Her latest single is a testament to her ability to take a song and make it something remarkable. Her version of the classic “I Want To Know What Love Is” is a stripped-down, raw take featuring just her emotional voice and the sparse guitar of Paul Trudeau. They recorded it impromptu at a Christmas party last year, not knowing that it would ever be released.
Gina said she hopes Tenby will be a stepping stone to more gigs in the UK and in Europe. Her music certainly deserves a wider audience.
Turning to the other major acts at the festival… Malone-Sibun are led by US bluesman Marcus Malone and have married his traditional electric blues style to the more Rory Gallagher-esque guitar heroics of unsung but highly-rated British player Innes Sibun. And Sugaray Rayford is an impressive soul/blues singer with a funky presence and distinct shades of Albert King and BB King.
All the main acts will perform at the De Valence; acoustic acts will play at the Church House; and late-night sessions will take place at the Giltar.
Many cafés, bars, restaurants and hotels around the town will be staging a multitude of free gigs over the weekend.