David Lydiard / Naomi Jeremiah
We had the privilege to attend an exclusive unplugged set at this year’s HRH Blues Festival taking place at the O2 Academy in Sheffield. We rocked up and nabbed a space #downthefront and settled in for 2 hours of acoustic blues action.
Taking to the stage first were Crow Black Chicken, who dazzled us with a half hour set of bourbon soaked, deep Southern blues. Seeing the band in this stripped down setting was a real treat as it allowed us to hear the subtle nuances of the music, and was a fantastic environment to showcase the vocals of frontman Christy O'Hanlon, whose deep, raspy voice was a thrill to behold. Whilst they rock hard when they are plugged in, there was something hauntingly beautiful about Crow Black Chicken when unplugged.
Chantel McGregor was up next playing a couple of tracks off her current album "Lose Control" as well as an intense performance of 'All Along The Watchtower" which brought the house down. Finishing up with a short instrumental titled 'Cat Song' funnily enough written about her cats, Chantel ripped out some pure funk and showed that she is equally adept at playing acoustic as she is playing electric. Her vocal capabilities and guitar prowess are off the scale. Always a joy to watch her perform.
Next on stage was the charismatic Big Boy Bloater. Not knowing what to expect, we were hooked straight away by his personality and the way he engages the crowd, you can't help but smile and warm to him and that then sucks you into the music. The Blues runs through his veins and it's clear to see that he was born to do this. His vocal delivery was superb and his playing flawless as he entertained the crowd with some fantastic songs and banter in between.
After three great sets, it was always going to be difficult to maintain the quality, and unfortunately for us, Dan Patlansky failed to deliver. Whilst there is no doubting his guitar skills, the set felt flat and the songs didn't engage with us in the slightest. He mentioned that this was out of his comfort zone so there may have been an element of nerves perhaps, but regardless of that, it was disappointing as he had been hyped up as someone to see.
Jack J Hutchinson had a short set but he made the most of his fifteen minutes showcasing his skills and songwriting abilities. At first we thought his voice sounded thin, but we had three male vocalists before him that had deeper, fuller tones so that didn't help. Once our ears tuned to his style though, we were totally hooked. His song 'Boom' a standout for sure. A friendly, down to earth performer who gave everything and lost himself to the music.
Closing up the unplugged session were Stonewire who just sounded phenomenal. Sky's vocals are incredible and she has so much power. The band were tight, adding haunting backing vocals here and there and the overall sound had an ethereal quality to it. We felt that we were witness to something special watching them perform.
Overall, the unplugged sets were fantastic and it was a great opportunity to see these acts performing in a completely different environment to their norm. Highly recommend checking everyone out, even Dan Patlanksy, who we suspect may be better in a full band setup and we will certainly check him out further.