Cornbury Music Festival 2016
Friday 8th July – Sunday 10th July 2016
Great Tew Park, Great Tew, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
If it’s possible to pack more variety into three days’ mainly musical entertainment, I am not sure how you would do it. Once again Cornbury Festival manages to cover a lot of bases and maintain a comfort level well above the average. There is a simple reason that Cornbury always succeeds – it doesn’t try to compete with other festivals, it does its own thing. The latest sensations may not be included, but more enduring acts will be PLUS plenty of new acts will be given a chance to pick up an audience. I used to go to the heyday Bath Festivals, seeing F Mac, Zep, Zappa, Byrds, Jefferson, Dr John, Pink Floyd, Steppenwolf, Mayall et al, but you couldn’t pay me to go to Glastonbury these days. They take your money and announce the acts later !! imagine paying for a meal in a restaurant and having to eat what is then served! Or ordering and paying for a hotel with no details of the accommodation or food!?
Those who fantasise that they’re being more adventurous at other get-togethers may sneer at the ‘Waitrose’ flavour of Cornbury but having a Caffe Nero tent (with extra musical acts) is a blessing. The tents are comfortable, so if it rains you have somewhere to shelter. It’s not a massive trek from one stage to another. The signings at the record tent are a plus. Each year a better range of food is available. If you want a change from music there’s a dedicated comedy tent. The parking seems properly planned. There are adequate stewarding and security staff and in our experience they are cheerful and polite. You can easily find out who is appearing where.
There are subjective downsides – it’s in the middle of nowhere, SOME parents don’t control their offspring very well, the mobile phone signals are patchy. But when you see groups of friends attending all in coloured wigs or hats or loud shirts and obviously having a fine old time, the former niggles fade somewhat. We have ALWAYS manage to see good acts we hadn’t encountered before and end up writing about them.
This time, there were definite highspots for punters. We know this from speaking with many others attending, from all over the UK and beyond. Often we are asked why we’re taking notes at events and this weekend was no exception. Our site details are happily given out so folk can read our pieces at later date. Many were talking about Jamie Cullum, Lucinda Williams, Nashville trio Simo, Booker T – on guitar and organ! – plus Staxs with Beverley Knight, Soul To Soul singing their hearts out and James Morrison.
Friday 8th July 2016
J.D. Simo and his bassist and drummer seem to love playing in the UK, here delivering a relentless set of new and recorded material, taking a slide excursion during Elmore’s Stranger Blues that could have knocked down walls. A savage and inventive guitar player AND a strong vocalist, J D places much on the skills of the bass playing and crisp drumming to enhance the new paths he rolls into at any given point. Really, this is jazz. It is rhythmic but not predictable and it revels in its light and shade. The tempo’s change the band hang back or burst into life..all exciting stuff. By the time Simo crash into a Beatles song version, the audience has grown and grown and covers the field. It’s a great climax to a thrilling tumble through rock, blues and psychedelia. Did I mention the guitar tones?
You can read our full interview with the band here: http://bit.ly/1SHdyxx
You can also read our review of their new album ‘Let Love Show The Way’ here: http://bit.ly/1QEeYTm
The Beat delighted their following by holding a signing in the record tent and their set on the Main Stage was well-received
Lemar had severe traffic problems but bounded on stage to deliver a crisp set of hits and versions. Talking of versions, we got to meet him briefly later in the Press Area and had a chance to congratulate him on his song choice and contribution to the recent album of re-tooled Eighties songs. For more on that head here: http://bit.ly/1sjjv91
Soul II Soul
It’s the richness of the singing that hits you, as this act starts to perform. It floats over the chugging beats churned out by the musicians. Back To Reality sounds so fine, rolling up the hillside as the hips sway and chins nod. Later in the press area, Jazzie B on a photo call chides the hacks for interrupting his egg and chips, his smile giving the lie to this grouse. Festival Gold.
As the sun set thousands of people walked over to The Pleasant Valley Stage for the final music performance of the evening; a festival headline set from the biggest-selling UK jazz artist Jamie Cullum. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him perform in various live music scenarios from Kew Gardens to the London Palladium and every single show is a different musical experience.
Walking onstage in a smart black suit jacket, a white buttoned shirt and some Blues Brothers black sunglasses Jamie went over to his midnight black Yamaha grand piano as his multi-instrumentalist four-piece band took their positions not fully knowing what the next ninety minutes would entail (Jamie Cullum doesn’t have a setlist so every live show is different)
Mixing blues in the form of ‘Love Your Daddy All Night Long’ alongside ‘Small Things’ from Cullum’s album ‘Momentum’ the band really shone with MD/Saxophonist/Keyboardist Tom Richards and trumpet/guitarist Rory Simmons providing the gorgeous horns.
Cullum played snare drums and jumped off his piano on numerous occasions before telling us that it was Tom Richards’s birthday which got a cheer. A highlight was when he mixed Lee Dorcey’s ‘Get Out Of My Life Woman’ with ‘I’m All Over It Now’ from The Pursuit album.
It is rare to hear Roy Ayers and Mike Posner’s ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza in the same sentence but that is what makes Cullum’s sets so musically powerful as he takes you on a magical journey of music that caters to every age group at the festival.
The band’s rhythm section of Brad Webb (Drums) and Loz Garratt (Bass) also get solos but they are fluid and exciting throughout. This band is first class for improvisation.
In conclusion, Jamie Cullum was the perfect headliner for the Friday night as he helped get the audience pumped for the weekend ahead especially during the jumping of closing number ‘Mixtape’
Saturday 9th July 2016
Arriving at the festival on the Saturday, myself and Sargeant Snr wanted to make sure that we visited the Berk’s Nest Comedy Emporium Tent at some point during the festival weekend and it felt like a good chance to have a laugh. Or so we thought. Entering the tent we opted for a seat at the back and waited for our MC for the day Mr Patrick Turpin. The seats filled up a little bit and then he arrived onstage and explained how a lot of the people at Cornbury looked like Angela Leadsom before commenting on the music lineup selections for 2016 (not favorably might I add). His Brexit material was tired whilst his notepad routine didn’t seem worth the paper it was written on (see what I did there?)
As for his ‘Johnny Money’ set at a family festival we realised that the comedy wasn’t really our bag and it wasn’t so much stand-up comedy but walk out comedy. The tumbleweed began to obscure him, so back to the music….
Hidden Charms were rocking the Songbird Stage to a very healthy sized crowd on a Saturday afternoon. This four-piece blues rock band from London were multi-instrumentalists who like Temples have a very sixties sound to their material. It was clear that they were fans of The Doors with the use of slide guitar but I struggled to hear the song titles as I wasn’t sure if one song was entitled ‘Even Love’ or ‘Evil Love’.
As we walked through the festival site The Two Tone All Scas were entertaining the crowd at The Riverside Stage with their guitar riffs which didn’t sound dissimilar to Toots and The Maytals. A fun addition to the weekend lineup I would say but nothing really original. Just classic SKA music played well.
Wanting to rest our feet we went and sat down in the large VIP tent which housed one of the Caffe Nero’s on site. The tent was filled with comfortable chairs, sofas and tables and was also in close proximity to the toilets which is always handy. The lighting was provided by streams of lightbulbs which were effective in generating enough light without giving you a headache. The walls of the tent were covered in Cornbury Music Festival lineup posters from both 2016 and previous years and it was a lovely overall atmosphere.
Excitement was building for the band Turin Brakes on the Songbird Stage as thousands of people packed in to hear both new and classic material from this band originally from Balham, London. Opening with new track ‘96’ from their new album ‘Lost Property’, Turin Brakes showcased both their songwriting skills and live performance ability as the crowd enjoyed the BBC Radio 2 favourite ‘Keep Me Around’. Lead singer Olly Knights voice is very easy on the ear I find and the new album title track was perfect for a hazy summer’s day.
Having reviewed the album here: http://bit.ly/1tlWhiR I’ve come to the conclusion that the new songs are better heard in a live setting rather than the album personally as when I listened to the album it just didn’t really connect with me straight away.
‘I Am The Future Boy’ was a song that they wrote when they were sixteen and the band’s vocal harmonies were silky smooth. This year Turin Brakes have been a firm favourite on the UK festival circuit having wowed crowds at Glastonbury Festival, Isle Of Wight Festival and now Cornbury Festival it is clear why they are a favourite with both the artist bookers and the crowds.
Playing song after song, the crowd sang along with their new single ‘Jumpstart’, ‘Don’t Ask To Many Questions’ and ‘Painkiller’ as Olly asked drummer Rob ‘Is that enough cowbell?’
Overall, it was a well thought out setlist showcasing the new songs whilst accommodating early fans with tracks from their back catalogue. The band reminded Sargeant Snr of Crowded House and New Zealand band The Muttonbirds.
For details on their Autumn UK Tour read our announcement with ticket links here: http://bit.ly/22bZIJ5
After their set Turin Brakes were doing a signing in the merchandise tent so I decided to get my ‘Lost Property’ album signed. It is quite rare at a music festival to be able to a) meet the artists and b) have them sign their CDs for you so as you’d expect the queues for the merchandise tent and pop-up record store (an extremely well organised set-up by the store Rapture in Witney) were huge during the signings throughout the weekend.
Turin Brakes were absolutely lovely and were very accommodating for fans with signatures and photos. A very friendly and talented band that had one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Whilst in the merchandise tent I ran into friend of JLTT and Cornbury Music Festival Director Hugh Philimore who was incredibly welcoming and had a quick chat with me before heading off to another part of the festival.
You can read our interview with Hugh Philimore here: http://bit.ly/1lE3MOf
Tunde (Voice of The Lighthouse Family)
This gentleman has a fine voice and when he opened with ‘Lifted’ the crowd were ecstatic but even though the band were melodic I think it was lost one me really. Also, The Isley Brothers ‘Summer Breeze’ is one of the best songs ever written but I wasn’t overly keen on his version. A decent booking though because The Lighthouse Family material is and always will be radio gold.
You can find our piece on the country rock star’s latest album here: http://bit.ly/1SHonQk Lucinda did read and tweeted it, for which we say thanks. With a band of guitar bass and drums plus her own custom Telecaster chording, this set really smokes with corrosive lyrics and Crazy Horse style guitar fireworks. Her own material in the main plus visits to a Mississippi Fred McDowell tune with vinegar slide guitar and a Neil Young gem that gets the audience singing and stamping. For sheer power, only Wilko and Simo come close to this scorching set. It’s the first time I have seen her and it won’t be the last. No wonder my mate Bob Bonsey has always sung her praises, her music connects and steps on the gas……high voltage and not pretty. but affecting.
One great moment I recall – Lucinda Williams stops dead and stares into the sun. “What are those giant clear ball things ??” She is looking at a playground area in the distance. ” Hell – there are kids in those!! Wow..I’ve never seen that !”
Corinne Bailey Rae
Next to perform on the Pleasant Valley Stage (which was the main stage) was soul artist Corinne Bailey Rae who has returned to the music industry with a brand new album entitled ‘Hearts and Whispers’ which is out now.
Corinne explained to the crowd that she used to work at a jewellery counter and that was what inspired the track ‘Don’t Tell Me You Can’t See’.
With a really funky band to support her, Corinne is one of the finest soul voices to come out of the UK and she proved that with her slowed down reworking of the classic ‘Is This Love That I’m Feeling?’ Interestingly, Corinne told us that she used to also work at a jazz club which explains her musical sound and also why her new album features famous jazz musicians such as Marcus Miller and Esperanza Spalding.
However, like at most festivals it was her first hit single ‘Girl Put Your Records On’ which really had the crowd singing and dancing as when that track was released it was one of the songs of the summer and to be able to hear it as the sun beamed down was quite special.
Wanting to catch up with dad, I walked towards the Caffe Nero tent and recognised one of my dad’s friends; guitarist Bernie Marsden. Bernie suggested we meet up with dad for a coffee so we sat chatting and enjoying our teas and lattes for about forty minutes. Bernie is one of the nicest people I know and his musical is absolutely stunning. His autobiography is being released later this year through PledgeMusic.
The last act to grace the Caffe Nero Stage was Alexandra Jayne who perfort med a solo acoustic set. Opening with Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ it was clear that she gave it a pleasant guitar tone. It was interesting that she opened with a cover but she soon went into the well-engineered original track ‘Troubador’ which had a country-esque beat.
She then introduced us to her new stomp-box called ‘Thumper’ which she had complete control of before performing ‘Home’ which was one of the first songs she wrote when she was seventeen. The lyrics were about wanting to be at home rather than on a bad night out and the room was full of smiles.
In summary, Axexandra Jayne was a welcome addition to the Caffe Nero Stage on the Saturday afternoon.
With a broad smile throughout his set, the immediate respect of the crowd plus their own energy infusing the performances, Booker gives us a relentless masterclass in delivery, throwing in some surprises. At the Hammond and with his son on Gary Clark Jnr style in stinging guitar, the band pumps out 45 rpm hits like Green Onions, Soul Limbo and the moody Summertime. Suddenly, Booker is picking up a tobacco Telecaster and talking about Jimi out at Monterey before launching into a narrative-styled Hey Joe. A nod to Prince follows in the company of his son and his female guest singer who is easily as good as any vocalist we see this weekend and beautiful and charming with it. Even the bass and drum interludes were thoroughly entertaining. The ensemble has the crowd cheering, dancing, singing along and at the end the star thanks them for their attendance and response. His elegance on stage reminds me of Muddy Waters..gently regal and never cocky with top-flight musicians aboard. An ace booking – can we hope for The Family Stand next year?
Sunday 10th July 2016
Dave Hanson Band
Our Northern pal Hanson has a biting guitar , style and distinctive lyrical approach couched in a laidback persona that is really quite deceptive…obviously, I quite approve. Taking the Caffe Nero stage on Sunday morning, the ensemble delivers a nigh-perfect set for that time of day and to a warm reception from those not still zonked out in their tents. His material visits many moods eg the insistent Blind Faith, the foot-tapping Island Sky, driving Joanna and brisk Let It Go. Not to mention a choice Santana version. It is hard to resist the tuneful backing vocals, nimble bass, inventive drumming, weaving keyboard work and the guitar work which runs from funk chording to fluid single-note runs. His new album Almost Horizontal delivers all the above and is at no point indulgent or showy. We think the appropriate word is Class.
One of the first acts on the Songbird Stage was Charlie Cunningham and although I didn’t get to see all of his set it was clear that he had a great rapport with the audience and his closing number ‘Lights Off’ featured classical acoustic guitar and a loop pedal. He really engaged the crowd very well and was great for a Sunday morning. For more information on Charlie Cunningham visit his official website here:
After Charlie Cunningham’s set it was time for Mollie Marriott to take to the stage as the sun slowly reappeared and the crowd size grew. Mollie is the daughter of Steve Marriott (Small Faces/Humble Pie) and she released her debut solo album ‘Truth Is The Wolf’ in late 2015/early 2016.
Opting for an early afternoon acoustic session, Mollie and her three-piece band treated us to album tracks such as ‘A Million Miles’ which was her last single and ‘Transformer’ which has a music video that features actor Danny Dyer in the music video.
Keyboardist Sam Tanner has a real New Orleans sound in his playing especially on ‘A Million Miles’ but a set highlight was ‘Running With The Hounds’ which was a newly written track about her previous record label which Mollie confirmed she was no longer working with. Mollie’s voice is incredibly soulful and her material has real emotion and energy. Acoustic guitarist Johnson-Jay Medwik-Daley had a real Richard Marx-esque approach as well as rhythmic solos. Backing vocalist Izzy Chase-Phillmore really connects with Mollie as both of their voices traveled around the stage.
Mollie admitted to us that she didn’t have a setlist but that didn’t bother anyone as everyone in that band in a consummate performer and Mollie is a passionate artist whose songs are genuine.
You can read our 20 Questions with Mollie Marriott and our reviews of her material here: http://bit.ly/1TD1FYx
If I’m honest it was quite difficult to stray to far away from the Songbird Stage on the Sunday because there were a lot of performers we really wanted to see and after the changeover ex-Noah and The Whale guitarist Fred Abbot walked onstage in a black trilby and his five-piece rocky band. “Hello Cornbury! We’re gonna bring a bit of rock n’ roll to your Sunday afternoon! Abbott explained before starting with ‘Adrenaline Shot’ from his album ‘Serious Poke’. Sargeant Snr commented that he sounded like a fan of John Mellencamp from his guitar playing.
The crowd increased in size during the rock tune ‘Funny How Good It Feels’ as the band’s guitarists weaved in and out seamlessly. ‘Hollywood’ is a well-written song which makes references to Rolls Royce, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton. If you enjoy the music of Tom Petty then give Fred Abbott’s album a listen.
Treating the crowd to a brand new track ‘Friends Of Mine’, I was fascinated by the subject matter of emotions as Abbott sang about anger, sadness and pain to a really funky bassline.
You can read our review of Fred Abbott’s live show at The Forge, Camden in January 2016 here: http://bit.ly/1pRPBrI
I Said Yes
We then decided to check out some other music around the festival and caught a bit of I Said Yes’s set over on the Riverside Stage and as we listened we couldn’t help but notice that the song ‘Are You Comfortable Sitting Down?’ had a similar chord progression to Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’.
Feeling thirsty we went back to the Caffe Nero VIP Tent so that we could get an English Breakfast Tea and a Tiramisu Frappe (an incredibly evil concoction by the way!) We sat down on a sofa and listened to the music on the Pleasant Valley Stage from afar.
Singer songwriter Newton Faulkner from Reigate, Surrey performed tracks from his new studio album ‘Human Love’ which is out now backed by two band members one of which was his brother Toby Faulkner.
‘Step In The Right Direction’ had a real reggae beat because of the drums and Newton kept the energy going with ‘Bit By Bit’ but I must say that I don’t find him as musically exciting as I did when I first saw him as a solo artist with just a guitar. ‘Dream Catch Me’ is quite magical though.
You can read our review of Newton Faulkner’s new album ‘Human Love’ here: http://bit.ly/1ZSpiBu
This veteran band’s latest album is their best. It’s called Still Got The Hunger and I have reviewed it here: http://bit.ly/1q1hpcw By the way, Rod and Jim of the group don’t disagree with me. Colin Blunstone their lead singer has legendary status among conneisseurs of vocals and keys man Argent brought strong jazz sensibility into rock’n’roll BUT what strikes the listener first at this sturdy performance is the harmonies. They sing like gods. The hits are in the set along with the Argent stormer Hold Your Head Up, selections from the Odyssey & Oracle the album championed in the US by Al Kooper. There’s some R&B, some rock. It’s all catchy pop music but so much more and one bit of icing on the cake is a lovely rendition of Say You Don’t Mind, the sweetest song McCartney didn’t write… after this set, though, Blunstone and Argent head for the Caffe Nero tent for a three-song piano & vocal set, which sounds divine. At last they play Cornbury and deservedly so. From a quick word with Rod post-performance, they were having a great day.
STAXS With Beverley Knight
One of the consistent highlights of Cornbury is the Sunday teatime slot of STAXS plus special guest on the Songbird Stage. Having enjoyed the band with Joss Stone in 2015 (you can read our 2015 review here: http://bit.ly/1lCXH4o)
Opening with ‘Higher Ground’ (my favourite Stevie Wonder song), the lush horn section really gave it their all whilst the Hammond organ solo seemed a little quiet. Although the volume increased during the song and it was a killer opening number. ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ saw STAXS make it their own version without compromisng on the song’s original vibe/style – a homage rather than a carbon copy. That’s what STAXS does best.
Kicking into Otis Redding’s ‘Hard To Handle’ it is clear to hear why this song is a popular cover with live musicians such as A Thousand Horses (I would thoroughly recommend this band for Cornbury Festival 2017) because you can do a lot with it musically and it has a lot of space.
We were then treated to ‘She’s Not There’ and although we heard it twice earlier in the day by The Zombies electric guitarist Tony Remy played a groovy solo which blended well with the keys. STAXS were a welcome return to Cornbury and although it rained for a short time, the sun seeped through the clouds during ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’. Quite a moment really.
The real surprise was their their airing of Neil Young’s ‘Down By The River’ and for me, it was what a recording between Neil Young and the late Isaac Hayes would’ve sounded like! At exactly halfway through the set Birmingham vocal powerhouse Beverley Knight arrived onstage to applause to perform a small collection of hits including ‘Take Another Piece of My Heart’ (which she previously recorded), Ann Peebles number ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ (which features on her new studio album ‘Soulsville’ which is out now) and one of her own big hits ‘Keep This Fire Burning’ which had all of the crowd dancing.
Before we knew it their set was done and Beverley was waving goodbye as people walked over to The Pleasant Valley Stage for pop troubadour James Morrison. A funky well thought out set which had the crowd on their feet throughout. I wish this band would tour more as it would be a fantastic night out. Respect to all of the musicians in STAXS who kept maintaining the groove during the set. Bets are already being taken on next year’s special guest – Mica Paris, Ruby Turner, Jamelia? Whoever it is make sure you don’t miss STAXS with special guest in 2017!
The British songwriter from Rugby, James Morrison doesn’t waste time when it comes to a festival set. Giving the crowd what they want with ‘Under The Influence’, the funky ‘Nothing Ever Hurt Like You’ which featured an awesome Hammond organ solo, and ballad ‘I Won’t Let You Go’ no one left that set disappointed.
Morrison’s raspy vocals have set him apart from his male guitarist contemporaries such as Ed Sheeran, Damien Rice etc. I must admit when he explained that ‘Wonderful World’ was from ten years ago I did have to stop in my tracks and go ‘My God was that ten years ago? Where did that go?!
New album track ‘Need You Tonight’ fits in perfectly with Morrison classics ‘Broken Strings’ and ‘Call The Police’ as he has this ability to make the new material sound like songs we’ve all known for years. His live touring band are really tight as well and just take care of business like the professionals they are.
You can read our review of James Morrison’s headline show at The Roundhouse, London here: http://bit.ly/1pUf0kG
The Caffe Nero tent had fine act after another – Hayley McKay sounded as good as she looked, in a breezy set that lifted the spirits. Philip Rambow still impresses with is sterling songbook and expert guitar-fuelled delivery, though Glenn doesn’t believe I saw him in a band called The Winkies….
Kelvin Jones had the penultimate slot on The Songbird Stage before Sunday headliner SEAL and with his debut album ‘Stop The Moment’ out now on Epic Records/Sony Music and an opening slot for James Morrison under his belt the crowd were curious about this rising star.
Backed by a four-piece band of Mike (Guitar), Ben (Keyboards), George (Drums) and Leighton (Bass), the poppy single ‘Closer’ had a twinkly Nord keyboard as he soothed everyone with his easy listening voice. ‘We Are More’ had Jones play some funky wah-wah electric guitar and the song made me think of the beach.
Having been influenced by blues guitarists such as B.B King and John Mayer, Kelvin Jones’s guitar playing is technically flawless whilst the lyrics of ‘All I Know Is I’m Leaving You’ were relate-able. The emotional ‘As You Wake Up’ was written whilst he was in university and the audience loved the ahhh moment when he dedicated ‘Let Me Go’ to his parents as his father watched his set.
He then surprised the crowd with the last-minute addition of Aloe Blacc’s ‘I Need A Dollar’ which was cleverly mashed up with Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘Dani California’. His big song ‘Call You Home’ made the Top Ten in Germany and has received BBC Radio 2 airplay but it was the song ‘Beside You Now’ which was written a month ago. This is a strong contender for song of summer 2016 in my mind.
You can read our interview with Kelvin Jones here: http://bit.ly/1qLPZrN
You can read our review of his debut album ‘Stop The Moment’ here: http://bit.ly/1qhAis3
You can watch the official music video for ‘Closer’ here: http://bit.ly/28ZzOjR
Pete – I liked the book stall, the selection being heavy on music and reasonable on pricing, with cheerful service. Another asset.
Can next year get near this?? We wonder – but we hope Hugh is on the phone to Mayer Hawthorne, Laurence Jones, Steppenwolf and Hall & Oates!
By Pete Sargeant and Glenn Sargeant
All photos credited to Pete Sargeant
(In no particular order, we would like to thank the following people for all of their help and ongoing support with this review and the website:
Hugh Phillimore (Festival Director)
Sacha Taylor-Cox (Impressive PR)
Federica Furlotti (Impressive PR)
Corinna Ingrham (Impressive PR)
Isabella Janquvist (Impressive PR)
Corrine Bailey Rae