Blues At Sea: Stockholm/Sweden, October 17th/18th 2015
July Morning Productions/Viking Line
Text: Iain Patience. Photo’s: Janet Patience
October can be a tricky month to visit Sweden’s capital city with the likelihood of chilly, wet weather always on the cards. This weekend however bucked the trend with sunny days and plenty of boiling blues onboard the Viking Line MS Cinderella spread over two days as she sailed into the Baltic and back with a huge hoard of fans and musicians all intent on having themselves some real fun.
Almost from the off, as the ship slipped its lines to leave the quay the music began as it was to continue with US-born guitarist/harp player Dr Harmonica belting out some fine traditional material mixed with his own compositions in one of the countless bar-rooms. Later that evening, Denmark’s current rising blues star Thorbjorn Risager and the Black Tornado produced an explosive, full-on set a packed crowd crammed into the main stage area. Risager was joined on-stage by Zimbabwean blues-gospel singer Miriam Mandipira, a lady with a huge voice and presence.
From the USA, Memphis outfit the Jeff Jensen Band also turned in a cracking set as a mini-power-trio, with a strong, rocking blues set mostly based around their current, excellent album ‘Morose Elephant’. This band and this album were one of the true discoveries of the trip for me, clearly a band to look out for in future.
Chicago’s Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, originally down as headliners were replaced towards the last minute by Gene ‘Birdlegg’ Pittman, a worthy bluesman from Texas who showed many of the younger performers how to shake it all down with a full-tilt, high energy blast of blues at its best. This guy ‘Birdlegg’ sure knows how to blow a harp, belt out a song and hold a crowd in the palm of his hands. Another fabulous blues discovery who more than made up for Lil’ Ed’s non-appearance. An excellent Swedish Blues Ladies set highlighted and featured Sweden’s 2016 European Blues Challenger Ida Bang paired alongside last year’s challenger, Lisa Lystem, and many others, delivering a powerful, roaring performance full of confidence and conviction.
From Colorado, the always wonderful, fun-fuelled blues-dulcimer player Sofie Reed – a Swede by birth – also rocked the boat with her self-penned material, while another very fine young Swede, Shoutin’ Red , (a personal favourite of mine and one to watch for sure) here perfectly partnered by veteran Swedish harp man Bill Ohrstrom, produced a positively excellent, warm set of traditional country-blues from the 1920s and 30s, strong on deceptively simple picking and Mississippi John Hurt’s back-catalogue..
Overall, this was a quality gig with bags of artists and variety. A positive winner with more than enough music to keep everyone both occupied and satisfied.