Once again Bishopstock held it's annual festival this time it was the 4th in the series. Bishopstock is held every year at Bishop's Court Palace, near Exeter. The Palace is a magnificent backdrop to the festival and the 36 acres of Parklands and fields make this festival something special. The line-up was mostly blues with some soul and other music.
Despite the rain on the first day and the unfortunate drop out of some of the star names, the weekend proved to be a great success over the Spring Bank Holiday Saturday 27th May until Monday 28th May.
Saturday 27th May 2000 Line-up:
Deborah Coleman, Otis Grand, Clarence "Tex" Walker, John Hammond
Michael Hill's Blues Mob, Mitch Woods & Nawfel, Mavis Staples, Steve Earl.
Deborah Coleman opened this festival up 12.00, and proceeded with a Blues/Rock
set which was well received by the audience. Deborah plays a tough guitar and
with her guitarist Billy Crawford they showed us what was in store for us over the
weekend with some good guitar work.
Otis Grand was next and with his singer Roy Oakley gave us a good show, with
Mitch Woods coming on to lend a hand.
Clarence "Tex" Walker a late replacement for some of the missing acts was up next.
Clarence claims to be a one time Drifter for 30 years also he did a spell in The Coasters.
Clarence did a couple of Drifters numbers including "Up on the Roof" but I'm afraid
Clarence's final song "Mustang Sally" was really a no no.
John Hammond came on next and gave us a solo set of Delta Blues which went down
well with the crowd.
Michael Hill was next up and I must say that although Michael played this festival last year he seemed to be even better this year. "Why We Play the Blues", "Papa Was A
Rolling Stone" were a couple of the numbers he did, but he ended with a Hendrix/ Led
Zepplin medley leaving the audience seriously wanting more.
Booker T. Jones and Johnny Lang were due to play today but neither turned up and
we had a young 14 year old child guitar prodigy from Tunisia called Nawfel accompanied
with keyboard player Mitch Woods who gave us a short set.
Mavis Staples was up next and Mavis also played this festival last year and as usual
Mavis turned in a great set doing all the favorites "Respect Yourself", "I'll Take You
There". Mavis also paid tribute to Mahalia Jackson with singing "Nobody Knows the
Trouble I've Seen". Mavis did a long set but the only negative thing was the over
extended solo's on some of the numbers.
Steve Earl & The Dukes ended the first day with a mix of country, bluegrass & rock.
Steve seemed to be in top form with a full 90 minute set, which the audience enjoyed
despite pouring rain all the way through his set. Steve showcased some of the material
from his new album Transcendental Blues including "Until the Day I Died" and even
doing old favorites like "Copperhead Road".
Sunday 28th May 2000 Line-up:
Corey Harris, Shemekia Copeland, Blind Boys of Alabama,
Koko Taylor & Her Blues Machine, The Fabulous Thunderbirds,
Charlie Musselwhite, Taj Mahal and Van Morrison
Corey Harris got the second day off with a set of Delta blues and Afro Caribbean
music which seemed to soothe the crowd. Shemekia Copeland came on next with one of the best sets of this festival, starting with "My Kind of Guy" and proceeded to tell us all that she was in love and did a passionate version of "One More Time". Shemekia was another of the artists who performed last year, but this year she was more confident and relaxed. "Turn Up the Heat" and "Ghetto Child" dedicated to late father Johnny Copeland were first class. The Blind Boys of Alabama were next and they did their usual good set and a good version of Brook Benton's "Lookin' Back".
Koko Taylor was the next up and despite her 65 years did a very good set with her
cracking band giving good support on "Beer Barrell Boogie" and "I Got Something,
I Can't Let Go". Koko also spoke of how pleased she was to see Shemekia Copeland
doing so well, which was a nice touch as Shemekia was studying her mentor. Koko
ended on a high with her biggest song "Wang Dang Doddle".
The Fabulous Thunderbirds were next up and I've seen them numerous times and I must say this is one of the best performances I've ever seen them do. Kid Ramos on guitar was stunning and Kim Wilson was sheer class on harmonica. On a weekend where there was so many great guitarists, it was a joy to see Kid Ramos playing with great depth and style. Kim Wilson joined Charlie Musselwhite on his short set that followed.
Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band played a enjoyable set of blues, pop and soul.
"Mr. Pitiful" & "Senior Blues" being a couple of the songs they did. Shemekia Copeland
also did a duet on "I Need Your Loving" with Taj. Jon Cleary from England, though some think he's from New Orleans, was excellent on keyboards throughout Taj's set.
Van Morrison was the guy to finish off the second day with a good set of songs including
"Moondance", "Move to the Outskirts of Town". Van also did Sonny Boy Williamson's
"Help Me" during which Charlie Musselwhite came on and played harp with Van also
playing harp. Van also did "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl", a good end to the second
Monday 29th May 2000 Line-up:
Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, Susan Tedeschi,
Joe Louis Walker, Eric Bibb, Jimmie Vaughan, Jools Holland.
The final day and we started with a bang with the UK's premier blues band, Paul Lamb
& The Kingsnakes. Paul's harp playing is superb and Johnny Whitehill's guitar playing
was spot on, it's hard to believe he's from England with his superb West Coast playing.
"Sweet Sweet Woman", "She's Crazy" were a couple of their great songs performed
to high standard. Earl Green on vocals deserves a special mention as Earl has been
a long time favorite of mine and his treatment of "Reconsider Baby" was excellent.
Magic Slim & The Teardrops were next up and this set was yet another highlight of
the festival. Magic Slim has been called the last of the real Chicago Blues Bands by
many people. Magic Slim with his brother Nick Holt on Bass and Michael Dotson on
guitar with Allen Kirk on drums are the perfect foil to Slim with his no prisoners approach to playing. Stand out numbers were "Before You Accuse Me", "Move to the Country". Slim and the band even did "The Blues is Alright", it's a pity they only had an hour because the mood they were in they could have played for three hours.
Susan Tedeschi was next up doing a soft rock/blues set, which although I didn't like it,
the audience did but who am I to argue with that. Susan did "Voodoo Woman", "Just
Won't Burn" in her set of well received songs.
Joe Louis Walker & The Boss Talkers featuring Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne on keyboards played an enjoyable set with Otis Grand coming on to play as well. Joe kicked off his set with a superb version of "Rocket 88" and played things like "Rock me Baby"
and "Still got the Blues" Eric Bibb was next and Eric's mix of Gospel, Folk and Acoustic Blues was a good inclusion at this point as it broke up the day well and with numbers like "Good Stuff"
and "A Good Man" gave the audience a lot to cheer about. Eric ended his set with
the crowd joining in on "Needed Time"
Jimmy Vaughn was in great form, Jimmy managed to get the biggest cheer of
day when he did "Texas Flood" in memory of his brother Stevie Ray. Jimmy brought
on a surprise guest, Lou Ann Baritone who then proceeded to sing "Sugar Coated Love".
Lou Ann stayed on singing for the rest of the set, Charlie Musselwhite also came on
and joined Jimmy for a couple of numbers.
Jools Holland was the final act on the bill, Jools began with "Let the Good Times Roll",
then carried on doing mostly R&B with his Orchestra. Half way through we had a break
so that we at Bishopstock could sing "Perfect Day" along with 17 other places around
England for BBC Television. The Cameras captured the various places singing along
and pieced together the song from the various places. I must say that looking back
on it on TV, the Bishopstock segment was defiantly the best bit of the song. After that
Jools came back on stage and was joined by some of the other artists, Otis Grand,
Charlie Musselwhite, Nawfel and Jimmy Vaughn all jamming together to bring to a
close this year's Bishopstock.
I would like to thank Helen Myers, Jane Thompson and all the staff who helped to
put on yet another great festival this year, Here's to the 5th Bishopstock next year.
Bishopstock has probably more American Artists than any other Blues Festival in
Europe and next year it would be nice to have some Soul/Blues artists like Little Milton,
Mighty Sam McClain, Willie Clayton and Lattimore.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dave Thomas, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.