12 September 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

• Mickey McDonnell

MONAGHAN was pulsating with 12-bar boogie throughout the weekend as the Harvest Time Blues festival came of age with its 21st outing, and top-drawer acts from either side of the Atlantic once again served up a feast of head-boppin’ riffs and rhythyms in venues across the town.
Above we see our snapper Rory Geary’s take on Rick Vito & The Lucky Devils in action on the Marquee stage on Saturday night, as the Pennsylvania-based R&B specialist who’s mixed it with everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Dolly Parton delivered his slide and lead peppered ditties to another well-packed auditorium.
With brilliant outfits entertaining the masses at the well-priced hi-decibel shows in the Marquee on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, and smoother listening on the menu in the Market House’s ‘Acoustic Room’ in the afternoons and evenings, the Monaghan Rhythm & Blues Festival proved yet again that small town Ireland can attract big time roots music from across the globe.
Old friends of the Harvest Time like Belfast’s Ronnie Greer and local lass Gráinne Duffy lifted the Marquee while jammin’ with the likes of Frisco’s Mitch Woods and Leo ‘Bud’ Welch, the last of the great Delta bluesmen, who’s been shooting to international fame over the last couple of years.
At the tender age of 84 and counting, Welch is living proof of the better-late-than-never mantra — and definitely wins the ‘guest of honour’ accolade for Monaghan’s 2016 bluesfest.
Following on from Rick Vito, Bobby Mack’s Texas-tinged curtain-closing Saturday night show had all in the house hopping, including this well-contented observer. It was the soul and funk of another Texas outfit, Mingo Fishtrap, that closed the festival on Sunday night after some great blues warbling from Boston’s Sugar Ray Norcia & the Bluetones.
With acts as diverse as Ontario’s Jordan Patterson Band, Sweden’s country blues guitar picker Felicia Nielsen, aka ‘Shoutin’ Red’, NY’s husband and wife duo Piedmont Bluz, Montana fingerpicker Cary Morin and Mississippi R&B and gospel singer Lisa Mills descending on the Market House and marquee venues there’s none can deny that this is one festival that’s keeping the torch lit and reinventing itself year in, year out.

But the meat in the sandwich, as ever, was the great free-of-charge programme of top outfits in the five participating venues, the Shamrock Bar, Squealing Pig, Terry’s, Westenra Arms Hotel and Seamie McKenna’s Anchor and Brewery Bars. There’s no shortage of an international feel here either, where home-bred (north and south) outfits like Rusty Jacks, Bourbon Swing Jazz Band, Clara Rose, Gavin Povey HardChargers and Crowe Black Chicken — from the “deep south” of Tipp and Cork! — were churning out the riffs in between Wisconsin’s Tommy Bentz Band, Glas from south Wales and Newcastle’s Revolutionaires.
We were taking it in and knockin’ it back at the Shamrock on Friday night to the driving, all-original riffs of the Crowe Black Chicken trio that hinted at everything from ZZ Top to Sabbath. That left us with time to catch just the tail end of Mr Welch’s customized delivery in the Brewery. Back in the Shamrock on Saturday evening it was great to see Dez Murphy and the gang leading another open-floor Blues Jam, where a host of guest performers took the chance to strut their stuff, supported all the way by more than a few dodgy-looking dancers — roll on 2017!

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