Young Artists

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The Blue Front encourages performances from young artists - here are some of the up-and-coming performers who have impressed our hardened audience:

Abie Budgen       July 2004 & Oct 2007

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One day, in 2002, Abie went along to a song-writing workshop as part of the Gloucester Blues Festival, where she met Washington D.C. born musician and director of the European Blues Association, Michael Roach. Identifying Abie’s talent and enthusiasm for country blues he invited her, as a recipient of the John Jackson Youth Scholarship, to the EBA’s annual residential tutorial programme ‘Blues Week’. She had the opportunity to learn first hand from expert musicians, scholars and real ‘old timers’.

This experience led to a lasting friendship between Abie and Michael, and with his support and encouragement she released an album of original songs, ‘How Chakori found the moon & other stories’ in 2005.  Massimo Ferro, an Italian writer and radio presenter described the album as “…a strong debut from a young but gifted artist.”  

‘Chakori’ showcases her imaginative songwriting, from enchanting lyrical stories to witty ragtime satire and wild fiery delta harmonies. The album includes a reworking of an old blues tune by Skip James with Dan Wilkins accompanying on West African kora, and some truly inspiring harmonica playing by Johnny Mars, as well as a talented band of musicians who help to bring Abie’s arrangements alive. The band has performed at events such as Wychwood Festival (2006), although you are more likely to catch Abie armed with just her guitar, and maybe a kazoo…..

Abie’s most recent project is an album of traditional country blues produced by Michael Roach, with Michael and Johnny Mars joining in on guitar and harmonica. All but one of the songs were recorded in a single afternoon to capture the spirit of the old recordings, and include tracks by Broonzy, John Hurt, Memphis Minnie and lesser known musicians like Geeshie Wiley. 

Meanwhile Abie’s passion for world music has seen her learning Gamelan music at University, kora from Moussa Kouyate, and making a field trip to Rajasthan to study Indian folk music.

It also led to the meeting of kora player and multi-instrumentalist Dan Wilkins who often performs with Abie and lends an eclectic ethnic twist to her songs. The two also perform traditional African music as a kora-guitar duo, and Abie has appeared with Dan’s group Se Tin Saba at WOMAD festival.

Dan Wilkins      Oct 2007

Dan is an accomplished musician of eclectic tastes and one of few people in the country to play the traditional harp of the Mande` peoples of West Africa, the kora. He is studying traditional kora music which belongs to the caste of musicians known as Jalis or Griots, but also performs in many cross-cultural settings. Dan has studied jazz at Leeds College of Music, ‘world music’ at the Birmingham Conservatoire, and continues to learn kora with Jali Seikou Susso from the Gambia. Dan’s primary influences come from Jazz, West African, North Indian and popular musical genres, although he is interested in many other forms of music, and works as a guitarist, percussionist, kora player, composer and teacher.

       Gareth Pearson       November 2004, Feb 2005

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Gareth who has just turned 17, has been playing guitar for only 20 months, and already has many seasoned pro's gasping, Wizz Jones and Dylan Fowler amongst them. Playing in the style of his heroes, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed and the great Tommy Emmanuel, Gareth has already supported some great names such as John Renbourn, Southside Johnny and The Ashbury Dukes, Johnny Dickinson and Tommy Emmanuel.

It was while supporting Tommy at The Point in Cardiff  that in front of a stunned audience Tommy invited Gareth to the 2005 CAAS (Chet Atkins Appreciation Society) at Nashville. Tommy mentioned that he could well be the first Welsh Guitarist to his knowledge to play there! He has already been asked to perform at The Gower Guitar Festival next year and The Guitar Workshop at The Tredegar House Folk Festival in Newport.