THE question wasn’t so much can a white man play the blues, but can a Londoner, two Native Americans, a Tennessean and four Marseillais? The answer here being a resounding yes – and then some.
Singer and harmonica whizz Erroll Linton, of Brixton/Jamaican stock, opened the batting with his five-piece band, displaying all the free-ranging skill and laid-back charm that have taken him from busking on the Tube to Womad and the Tokyo Blues Festival, contrasting sensuous, reggae-tinged balladry with a clamorously evocative, hard-funk ode to city living, aptly named Stressed Out.
Next up in succession were Santee Sioux spoken-word artist John Trudell, with a backing line-up who layered traditional chants and ululations, ringing country-blues guitar, echoing piano and pounding grooves, powerfully framing and underpinning his myth-infused lyrics, and half-Tuscaroran, half-Puerto Rican singer Pura Fé, whose scorching voice blended shades of gospel, soul and calypso into the mix.
Memphis-born Keith B Brown, performing solo with his guitar, was an unannounced addition to the bill – perhaps after organisers realised that the “world” represented by the line-up didn’t actually include any traditional-style bluesmen, a gap he filled in superbly gritty, gnarly style, communing deeply with the Delta muse.
Rounding things off were the Provençal quartet Moussu T e lei Jovents, singing partly in their region’s ancient Occitan language and vibrantly reflecting their home port’s melting-pot culture, past and present, with a brilliantly swaggering blend of Latin, funk, rap, chanson, country and grungy guitar rock.