Broom Hill Blues
Cooling temperatures and the hint of rain in the air, we are entering the final throws of a brilliant festival summer. Embedded deep in the rural back-roads of Oxfordshire, Broom Hill is the result of collaboration between local promoter Tim Porter and musician/promoter Oliver Carpenter. Campers are up, the pig is roasted, sausages sizzle and some tasty ales are on tap. Teas, coffee and cake are there for us drivers, were all ready for the show.
First up, local lad, now a session musician in London, Oliver Darling, gives us an easy country blues start, moving on into classics like Malted Milk’, ‘Going Down To Brownsville’ and ‘Little Red Rooster’. Well crafted acoustic blues, giving us a comfortable intro into the days music.
Next, a bit of a surprise, its a local covers band Hot Wired, notable is Mark Jervis on drums and vocals, whose land it is that we are all gathered on; and very grateful we are. They played everything from Stevie Wonder to Led Zep, Beatles to Paul Simon. Nodding heads.
Late afternoon and 24 Pesos are set, emerging from London, influenced by the likes of Ray Charles and Howlin Wolf. A spot of light rain, the crowd gathers under the covers, altogether more atmospheric, reflecting this bands quality. Julian Burdock on guitar, slide and harp, provides plenty of attitude, Silas, some good bass funk, Moz Gamble’s Hamond,fills the air and Mike Connelly hammers in the boundary posts with his drums, an altogether top-notch blues band.
Self penned ‘Maxwell Street’, mixes it with Muddy waters ‘Standing at The Station’. Plenty of that funk for ‘Night Train’, continuing the rail theme into a self penned finale with ‘Waiting At The Station’, Julian on harp opening a modern blues classic. Brilliant band, worth looking out for, see them live, buy the album, ‘Busted Broken And Blue’ is excellent.
L.R Phoenix waits, stage set is minimal, he is an old school blues man par excellence! This is the man who has dragged me here from my armchair? Back home. I saw him at Upton Blues last year, 14 months is far too long to reprise that performance. A fine guitarist, with his tarnished resonator, but its his voice that truly stands out, deep dark honeyed tones, an absolute pleasure to listen to. ‘Red Cross’ is a reference to to the destitute days of dust-bowl America. Howlin Wolf’s ‘Smokestack Lightning’ follows; just your eyes and be carried to that Mississippi Delta. LR plays slide with his dinner knife for ‘Jack Of Diamonds’. Dropping the guitar onto his knees hobro style to get to work with his fork for ‘Spoonful’, a whole set of cutlery set to alternative use! ‘Going Down South’, is a hard forceful, expressionate, blues dirge, which brings me to that other minor detail, L R Phoenix is a wonderful feast of facial expression; stick in the earplugs, you will still be spellbound. ‘Por Boy’ and the superb ‘Skinny Woman Blues’ finish an exceptionally entertaining session. Come on Upton, bring him back. Living in Finland, you have to be prepared to seek out L R Phoenix when he returns for UK sessions, mostly festivals, just do it, absolutely unmissable and unforgettable.
Follow that; well Honeyboy Hickling ups the tempo, adds a large dose of humour and gives us those Chicago Blues. Where LR had us riveted to our seats, Simon calls us to get up and move, and so the darkened, tented ‘auditorium’ is alive with dancing souls and squirming bodies. Simon, a larger than life frontman, has been playing blues for 30 years, and certainly ‘Been Around The World’, the band has seen the ‘Bright Lights Big City’ and been ‘Going Up Country’ for quite a while. The Honeyboy Hickling Band kept everyone on their feet, finishing with Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land’; leading nicely to the closing session, The Earl Jackson Band.
Earl Jackson, plays good old rock ‘n’ roll, and is prone to a bit of Chuck Berry music and stage showmanship. They closed Upton Blues this year, with the whole town literally dancing in the streets; this little festival was no different, and why would it be. The music is infectious, as is Earl, a marvellous jumping, jiving, performance. ‘Black Diamond’, ‘Back In The USA’ and ‘Howlin For My Baby’, rolled out across the fields.
I don’t know if Broom Hill Blues is a one off, there were probably 300 revellers who would eagerly return. It certainly was well organised, with all facilities assembled on site. Weather held out, though a chilly evening, and everyone had a smile on their face by end of play. Outstanding for me, LR Phoenix, with a voice that starts at the souls of his boots, and finds its way up into his throat to mesmerize us all with ‘John The Revelator’; stunningly good.
Photos And Words By Graham Munn