The summer months in Edinburgh are packed full of exciting cultural events and July’s highlight is always the diverse and interesting Jazz and Blues festival. This was actually the first year I’ve been able to attend and thankfully the programme offered a strong range of interesting women performing across the festival. What’s nice to see with curated festivals like this one is that the level of promotion and marketing ensures good turn outs and enthusiastic crowds.
My first show was ‘Queens of the Blues’, a homage to some of the best women of the genre performed by Edinburgh based Nicole Smit and her band. Despite the early afternoon slot the show was sold out and the packed crowd were eager to hear some blues classics.
Starting a capella with a version of ‘Trouble So Hard’ by Vera Hall showcased the quality of singer Smit, who had the natural charisma and talent to bring these songs back to life. Her excellent band then join her for a variety of energetic and fun songs from the likes of Big Maybelle, Koko Taylor and Blanche Thomas.
Highlights of the show included ‘Get My Mojo Working’, a song first recorded by Ann Cole. Muddy Waters heard her play it and decided to ‘borrow’ her song, making it hugely famous. Women set the trends but remained under appreciated, a problem many female artists sadly still face today.
Another special moment was the band’s great rendition of ‘Jericho’ by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Smit told the audience of Tharpe’s history as the ‘Beyonce of her time’ and the story of her wedding concert (which I wrote about in my review of Tharpe’s biography).
Towards the end of the show the band played a couple of songs from ‘blues shouters’ and Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Ball & Chain’ was a particularly intense and powerful piece. Credit must go to her band for their quality playing and enthusiasm for the material.
Queens of the Blues finished on a showstoppin song from Sugar Pie Desanto, leaving everyone in the sold out crowd whooping in appreciation. The hour flew by and it was wonderful to hear these great songs performed with such passion and gusto.
You can imagine a smaller more intimate venue and evening timeslot would also suit this band and luckily for anyone who missed out on this performance you can catch the highly recommended show at the Edinburgh Fringe the whole month of August.
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