Chris High

The volunteer press manager for the North Wales Blues and Soul Festival in Mold on 4-6 August talks about why he got involved and what the blues means to him

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The blues: a melancholic music, of black American folk origin. So reads the definition of the genre of music that most defines my musical taste – a definition that, leaving aside the second clause, can be most heartily argued against.

Melancholy? Really? OK, there are moments when there’s more than a little soul searching going on, but surely this is true of all genres of music. I mean, like jazz, or country or metal or even rap is permanently upbeat and party-party, right?

Brought up on a listening diet of C&W (Dad), show tunes (Mum) and prog (my brother), looking for something definitive became an obsession for me. After all, there’s only so much Tex Ritter, Julie Andrews and Tangerine Dream a young 10 year old living under the largely talentless dirge of punk can stand.

Getting the blues is a misnomer and then some. At the music’s heart is an honesty and integrity that few other classes of rock ‘n’ roll – rock ‘n’ roll included, by the way – can justly get away with.

Yes, it has its roots and pulse set back in the days of Robert Johnson’s hard times soul searching – and soul selling, if legends be true – and beyond. Yet the very essence of the blues is all-encompassing: that need to follow the dream; that desire to pursue happiness; that discovery of fulfilment; that search for the unseekable idyll.

It’s not just me either. Everyone from Beyoncé to Bieber and The Back Street Boys and Brother Beyond have been influenced by the blues, whether they know, like or appreciate it or not. Good grief, even The Beatles and Rolling Stones – together and solo – play blues. AC/DC = blues! Thin Lizzy = blues! Metalica = blues! U2 = blues! Kylie Minogue = blues! Katy Perry = blues! Lady Gaga = blues! Seriously? Melancholoy?

The blues is unbounded joy, bombarding through all of life’s travails like a juggernaut

Take a listen to the greats – Eric Clapton, Freddie, Albert and BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Peter Green, John Mayall, Robin Trower – then tell me their influence isn’t felt world and classification-wide.

For me, the blues is as ingrained in my soul as the heartbeat that wakes me day after day, as indelible as a tattoo visible from Mars. It’s unbounded joy, bombarding through all of life’s travails like a juggernaut. It’s an all-healing, all-sympathising, all-encompassing magic cure-all for all that’s wrong with the world. And let’s face it, there is as much bad with this place as there is good right now.

For me, the love affair truly began on a balmy June day in 1982 via a ticket happened upon through a friend’s family tragedy. This left me with the opportunity to see Queen perform at Elland Road, Leeds – a gig I attended for the support acts much more than the headliners given that Nancy Wilson adorned my bedroom walls back then and Heart were literally in my heart.

Then, with their blistering set complete, the dry ice amassed for the main men to hit the stage – Freddie charging through the fog, with Brian close on his heels, The Hero blasting out of the most enormous sound system in the universe. A nerve-shattering crescendo of pomp and circumstance, yes, but it was the guitar more than the voice – Brian’s slick blues work on songs such as Brighton Rock and Somebody To Love slicing the ether in half – that had me hooked. Within a week I had the band’s back catalogue; within four years I’d seen Brian, Freddie, Roger and John perform 17 more times across the UK and Europe.

Hamilton Loomis carries the torch at this year’s North Wales Blues and Soul Festival

Queen still hold a special, special place in my heart, but it is more the likes of Joe Bonamassa, King King, Dan Patlansky, Glenn Hughes, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Beth Hart and Joanne Shaw Taylor I listen to these days. The music style and delivery changes, evolves and develops but the excitement and adrenaline it offers still builds through studio work.

And, like those days as a naïve 16 year old, the live arena remains the place in which to experience the new masters. Last year it was the likes of Laurence Jones, Tom Attah, Liam Ward and Rebecca Downes who took the stage at the North Wales Blues & Soul Festival in Mold and took the event to a whole new level. This year Hamilton Loomis, Jo Harman, Liam Ward, Greg Coulson and John Verity carry the torch. A more rockin’, rollin’, non-melancholic gathering of brilliance you are unlikely to better at any other festival and it all takes place on 4-6 August at Kendrick’s Field, Mold, Flintshire.

The blues touches everything we hear, live and breathe. The blues is life and the blues records life’s rich tapestry more than any other genre of music, full stop.

The blues: a melancholic music? Really? I and millions of others think not.

For tickets and information about North Wales Blues & Soul Festival, 2017:

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Interact: Responses to Blog: Chris High

  • Lacey's Mum
    03 Aug 2017 12:00
    Live Blues and Soul gets right into my inner core and lifts me to another plane. Thanks Chris for putting my feelings into words. I'm definitely going along to Mold at the weekend.

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