Bringing together a formidable array of talent from across the globe, the Ruf Blues Caravan pulls into Teesside for a spectacular show at the Hartlepool Supporters Club.

Featuring three of the hottest blues guitarists on the circuit – Bernard Allison, Mike Zito and Vanja Sky are here to celebrate the life of the legendary Luther Allison. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Allison’s passing. Of course, Luther’s son Bernard features prominently throughout the show.

A world-class rhythm section of Roger Innis, who is armed with his distinctive 6 string bass and Mario Dawson on drums keep things tight whilst accompanying each of the three featured guitarists throughout their 2-hour performance. During the course of their musical marathon, the three-piece frequently switches things up, with each artist taking their moment in the spotlight.

Following a group introductory number, Vanja Sky takes centre stage. This being the Croatian guitarist’s first tour of the UK, and with a new album under her belt via Ruf Records, Vanja takes the opportunity to showcase her latest offering. This includes her slide fuelled rendition of “Crossroads of Life”, the heartfelt and emotive “Married Man” along with her sensational take on the Rory Gallagher classic “Bad Penny”. The latter of which also happens to be the title track of her new record.

Two times 2017 Blues Award nominee – US-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer extraordinaire Mike Zito is getting ready to release his impressive 15th studio album First Class Life via Ruf Records on the 11th May. Tonight the St Louis native whet’s the Teesside crowd’s appetite for his new record by performing key cuts from the album. This includes the title track itself as well as the incredibly funky “Mama Don’t Like No Wah Wah”. Zito co-wrote the aforementioned track with Bernard Allison, who joins Mike onstage to perform the song live tonight. The number recollects Allison’s time performing alongside the legendary Koko Taylor.

Zito wows the Hartlepool crowd with his soulful take on Bobby Blue Bland’s “I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treat Me)”, his up-tempo Texas blues number “Wasted Time” as well as delivering some blistering fretwork during the politically tinged “Make Blues Not War”. Of course, we can all relate to the sentiment of the latter.

Taking to the stage last Bernard Allison also gives the crowd a taste of his new album Let It Go, whilst at the same time paying tribute to his father. Bernard delivers some passionate playing during “You’re Gonna Need Me”; this being a song that his dad had written, and as such he performs this slow blues number his own way. However, it is Bernard’s exhibition of guitar mastery during his unique take on the Hendrix classic “Voodoo Chile” that completely captivates the Hartlepool audience.

The showmanship continues as Bernard is joined onstage by Mike Zito during a cover of Luther Allison’s Motown number “Bad News Is Coming” during which these uber talented blues brothers entertain the crowd with a creative and light-hearted guitar conversation, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

As the show heads to its conclusion Vanja Sky re-joins her esteemed colleagues during a funky performance of “Life Is A Bitch” before the night is brought to a fitting close during an encore airing of one of Luther Allison’s biggest hits “Serious”.

Tonight each of the artists featured in the show respectfully and humbly bring to life the music of the legendary bluesman Luther Allison. It’s fair to say that the blues legacy left behind by the great man himself is in safe hands thanks to this gifted group of musicians.

Bernard Allison
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Mike Zito
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Vanja Sky
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Event Date: 28-April-2018

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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