The line up for Day 3 at Ramblin’ Man, pretty much dictated that we’d be camped out for the day by the Blues Stage. The day itself could quite easily have been subtitled “Girl Power” as interspersed between stage openers, the excellent Sweet Crisis, Ritchie Kotzen and hip hopper Everlast, were three of the most powerful female blues performers out there.
First up after Sweet Crisis was Elles Bailey, possibly, for now anyway, the least known of the three. This was the first time I’d seen Elles who’s spent much of the past two years touring tirelessly across both the UK and Europe, and after hearing some of her recorded material, I was gutted that I’d missed her performing at a wine bar just thirty minutes away back in May.
Elles has a powerful voice (as well as being versatile on the keyboards) with a subtle undertone of gravelliness – which makes it perfect for singing the blues, Many of her songs tell a personal story which powers the emotion with which she sings. And unlike some performers these days, she fully engages with her audience, as she used the full extent of the stage to connect with those out front and make her songs personal to them too. This may have been my first time of seeing Elles however I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. She’ll be touring the UK again in the latter part of the year so catch her if you can.
Up next was someone I have seen before, Yorkshire’s very own Chantel McGregor. Her shy, “girl next door”, off stage persona combined with her soft spoken Yorkshire accent belie the power and energy of her performance on stage. Chantel didn’t become a professional musician by accident.
She’s been performing live gigs since the age of 12, schooled at a music college and achieved a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music. Along with her current band members, Colin Sutton on bass and Thom Gardner on drums, they form an awesome power trio playing an eclectic mix of blues based tunes, composed by Chantel, ranging from traditional blues numbers complimented perfectly by the purity of her singing voice, to a much more raunchy blues rock style.
And boy, can that girl play guitar! With several complicated solos she proved that she can shred with the best of them as her and her guitar became one. I know that there were plenty of people there at the Blues Stage to see Ritchie Kotzen later that day, Chantel included, however I was left completely mesmerised and for me, Chantel was guitarist of the festival.
Finally, and by no means least, closing proceedings on the Blues stage was the multi talented Beth Hart. With a strong powerhouse vocal, since making her breakthrough as a solo artist around twenty years ago, she has inspired luminaries such as Slash, Jeff Beck and Joe Bonamassa to want to collaborate with her.
She arrived on stage dressed to kill in all black, and delivered a ninety minute set comprising a fusion of traditional blues, blues ballads, rock and even hints of jazz. Like Elles Bailey before her, she totally engaged with her audience in what was an emotionally charged set.
With her husband and road manager Scott watching from the sidelines (and keeping her supplied with green tea) she delivered songs inspired amongst other things by her mother, her estranged Father and her now sadly deceased sister, bringing herself and many of the audience, men and women alike, close to tears.
The crowd were totally captivated by her “up close and personal” style as she used every inch of space available to her, sitting at her grand piano, prowling the front of the stage, even kneeling and sitting on the edge of it, delivering songs in a style that would have been equally at home on the festival’s main stage as they would’ve been in a small, smoked filled club, back in the day. It was a performance worthy of top billing and I have no doubt that with the talent she has, Beth Hart will be topping bills and playing headline shows for some years to come.
Review by Tim Marcus
Photography by metalplanetmusic