Blesok no. 49, July-August, 2006
Sound Reviews

Skopje Blues & Soul Festival 2006

Vasja Ivanovski

    Blues fans from Macedonia had a nice chance to enjoy 10th Anniversary of celebrated festival that took place in Skopje on July 3rd and 6th. Participants from USA, Great Britain, France and Serbia gave inspired performances and proved their status on contemporary blues scene. The organizers used the premises of an ancient inn, Kuršumli An for the festival, stage, lightning and sound were first class which was recognized by all artists and public as well.

    Weather was not in the favor of the blues on the opening night, rain stopped only half of hour before the start, so the expected attendance was not fulfilled, but those who came (real blues fans) were in for a treat of great blues!

    “Point Blank” from Serbia, one of the longest playing bands in former Yugoslavia and one of the best, I would say, opened the festivities with their usual set combined with the songs from their latest CD. They are one of the chosen few who set blues roots in this part of Europe. The band plays mostly their original?!) material and years of playing presented the band in full flight. Strong rhythm section was just the right vehicle for their leader, guitarist Dragoljub Crnčević who played with authority, leading the band through energetic set that was greeted by the audience. “Point Blank” promoted their DVD which deserves a mention on its behalf, beside excellent performance by the band, it was recorded live in Serbia’s toughest State Pennitentiary of Sremska Mitrovica in front of the convicts!! As far as I know, nobody in Europe did anything like that; we know what has been done in USA (B.B.King, Johnny Cash, John Lee Hooker, Little Milton…), but nothing like it in the good old Europe until “Point Blank”! This band can really play their blues with rock overtones; they are regulars at many festivals and countless clubs and were good opening act for the main event, Jimmy D.Lane & The Blue Earth”.

    The biggest blues name of this Anniversary festival was undoubtedly Jimmy D.Lane with his backing band “The Blue Earth”. One of the biggest crowd drawers on contemporary blues scene, Jimmy D.Lane is a hard act to follow. His father Jimmy Rogers played guitar for Muddy Waters, all Chicago greats were regular guests at his house, no wonder Jimmy got the blues! He played and recorded with most of today’s hot shots including Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Jeff Healey, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin and many more. So when a bluesman of that calibre comes by, you go and listen! And did Jimmy deliver! He played for two hours and gave one of the best performances we had a chance to witness within all festivals so far! He played with verve and passion that only true bluesman can, only few can touch Jimmy when it comes to blues. His blues is firmly rooted in the past, days of 50’s Chicago blues are evident, but also spirit of Jimmy Hendrix and his close friend Stevie Ray Vaughan. Beside his original material, he played a couple of their songs to delighted audience. He even did excellent renditions of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” and Cream’s “White Room”. Jimmy is obviously a passionate blues singer, songwriter and guitarist with deep respect for all those cats who were there. We can only hope to have Jimmy back in Skopje as soon as possible!

    July 6th was the night of British and French music combination that happened to be a real treat for music fans in Skopje! Contemporary French blues scene is one of the strongest in Europe regarding quality and variety of artists, so it was not surprise that Jean-Jacques Milteau performed a great set of acoustic blues. Leading his trio through some classic blues material, mixed with his original songs, Milteau immediately bonded with audience who delighted with beautiful music. On occasions he showed effectively his virtuosity and command of his instrument which delighted everybody present. Throughout his career J.J.Milteau recorded or shared the stage with people like B.B.King, Mighty Sam McClain, Little Milton and many more which speaks for itself. He can play with different formats with horns, keyboards or small quartet, but in all cases he presents first class blues. He also played few songs from his latest CD “Fragile” where Michelle Shocked performs among other guests. All in all, J.J.Milteau confirmed his status of top French bluesman.

    Icing on the cake of the evening was undoubtedly Dennis Rollins’ Badbone & Co. Dennis is one of the brightest stars of British music scene and he confirmed every bit we read about him and his band prior to this gig in Skopje. He was nominated for the best jazz band in BBC Music Awards recently. Music of the band is based on different song structures which combined did miracles with the crowd! Blues, rock, hip-hop, R&B, funk and soul spiced the rest of the evening! From the very first note everybody was literally dancing around the stage and nobody was willing to go home. Dennis Rollins is an excellent trombone player with range control, ideas and at the same time, showman of highest caliber. His band of youngsters played cohesively behind him and proved their collective talents in every tune they did. Beside their own material, they did a couple of covers of whom Tracey Chapman’s “Fast Car” was excellent. He could have played all night if the audience was asked, but after solid two hours and encores, band had to retire. Excellent ending of the festival which is growing every year and regarding its tight budget, does miracles regarding top names that perform here. We hope that soon, festival would expand to three-four nights at least in the future.

created by