Singing the Blues in Tenby.

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. 

For full details of the festival, visit www.tenbyblues.co.uk. For more information on Gina Sicilia, visit www.ginasicilia.com.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley is a journalist who recently retired from working at The Oldie magazine. A Fleet Street veteran, he held staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for twenty 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.