In my book, music is all about enjoyment - either from listening or performing - so I was delighted by the reaction to my message to Birmingham singer Rebecca Downes.

I had just told her that her performance on the Introducing Stage on the opening night of the festival had come top of the public vote - and she and her band would be performing on the main stage next year.

"I can't stop crying," she admitted. And after seeing Rebecca perform, I know the 2016 festival will be in for a real treat.

In her Skegness set, Rebecca eased herself in with Rock Me Baby and I'd Rather Go Blind, the intensity of her vocal performance making those around me sit up and take notice.Her four piece band were as tight as a drum as they moved onto tracks from the debut album " Name required" - Basement of My Heart was sharp and catchy, All Messed Up and Another Piece of My Heart followed.

Each song characterised Rebecca's powerful vocals- crisp but with a real earthy edge. A new song - Sweetness and Funk - from the forthcoming new album was followed by the thoughtful Walking In The Shadows and Baby Get It On, with a great guitar solo.The set was emphatically wrapped up with a storming version of With A Little Help From My Friends. On this evidence Rebecca Downes is going to win lots of friends.

Earlier I had listened briefly to the Jack J Hutchinson band and Ged Wilson on the Introducing Stage as I settled in for a weekend of wall to wall music. The Great British Rock and Blues Festival is now a fixture on the music calendar - attracting around 3000 people to this seaside corner of Lincolnshire in the middle of January.

Organisers were hit when one of the main headliners, Nazareth, had to pull out due to illness, with Jon Coglan's Quo taking their place.

The music was organised over four distinct venues on the Butlin's park. The Centre Stage became the Blues Venue, The Reds arena became the Rock Stage, the Jaks bar became the Blues Matter Stage, and The Skyline was where the Introducing Stage was situated.

The Festival appeared to go without a hitch with attentive staff and low key security. Many of the festival goers were returning to Skegness as they had many times before.

With so much music on offer. I was spoilt for choice. The funky blues of Kyla Brox drew me to the Blues stage, where I heard saxman Tony Marshall play a blinder on Grey Sky Blue.Dodging the bitterly cold rain, I moved over to Jaks Bar to catch the Split Whiskers Band run through their Chicago Blues-based set which included Mean Old Frisco, Catfish Blues and I've Got My Mojo Working as well as some original material. They had the joint jumpin' with their lively approach.

Next it was Slim Chance, playing their folk rock, in the Rock Stage followed by Canterbury band Caravan, who rolled back the years with an intriguing set full of the pomp of keyboard rock. Their ethereal music may be a thing of the past but they played well and provided the night's musical highlights with a solo on the electric spoons and a beautiful plucked violin solo.

Next stop was the Blues Stage where I caught the last few songs from the Steve Gibbons Band. Now Steve has shared stages with many of the rock and roll greats and in Skegness he paid tribute to his mentor, Chuck Berry as his band rocked and rolled, earning them an encore from the appreciative audience.

After seeing Girls With Guitars take the stage and listening to a couple of poor numbers I, like several around me, voted with our feet and went see The Martin Barre Band next door.

The former guitarist with Jethro Tull was simply majestic. His guitar playing was on another level from the erstwhile Girls with great singing solos in Smokestack Lightning and Rock Me Baby.And then onto a lovely Gibson mandolin for a sublime version of Robert Johnson's Crossroads. His band were great and there were some neat interplay between bass and guitar. It was quality performance and the crowd who were in raptures demanded an encore. Martin stepped back onto stage playing some blistering guitar... straight into Locomotive Breath. A fitting end to a great first night in Skegness.

One of the great things about festivals is the opportunity to hear new people who may have slipped under your radar.

The Chrissy Mathews Band were a case in point. With guitarist Chrissy resplendent in a white suit. He was surely riding for a fall. But fear not, his silky guitar playing in their opening number soon dispelled any doubts. They were joined by Pete Brown. Now for years I have wondered who the Pete Brown was who co-wrote lots of the great Cream numbers with Jack Bruce. And he was standing in front of me. He explained his normal band were out of action so had enlisted the help of Chrissy and his band.

What followed was sheer musical bliss. Peter Brown explaining about some of the Cream songs he helped to write such Politician - about the Profumo Affair - and Theme From An Imaginary Western - about Sixties bands such as the Graham Bond Organisation, who were described a group of "pioneers and scoundrels". The youthful exuberance of the Chrissy Matthews Band combined brilliantly with Pete Brown's sage advice. A storming White Room followed by Sunshine Of Your Love to bring their set to a high energy conclusion, which was lapped up by an appreciative crowd. Great stuff.

Even a sanguine bloke like me, was excited about seeing Laurence Jones - one of the hottest prospects on the British blues scene.

I was not disappointed. The 22-year-old's mastery of the guitar had me drooling in what was one of the many highlights of the Skegness Festival. The only shame was his start time of 1.30pm. His three piece band were on fire from the off. As they launched into Need No Reason it was easy see why this young man has been described by Walter Trout as a "cross between Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy". His Les Paul was in fire and just sung out.The one that stuck me was how relaxed Laurence was on stage. No fears at all. He switched to a Strat for Southern Breeze and then revealed his next tune - Soul Swamp River was dedicated to rat that found itself in his hotel room in Louisiana! A marvellous All Along the Watchtower followed with excellent six-string bass playing , naturally there was an enthusiastic response from the large crowd.It was also noticeable how strong his vocals were, especially on Thunder In The Sky - a slow blues which allowed his sublime guitar skills to shine.

A beautiful Whisper in the Wind with an amazing bass guitar solo followed a wailing guitar solo was one of the highlights of the set. Laurence revealed he will have a new album out in March and he played a track from the album. Evil was an up-beat shuffle with some seriously good guitar. Fall From The Sky was the last song and then he was gone. A brilliant set.

Continued

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Rebecca Downes - Basement Of My Heart


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