A MORPETH musician is a step closer to playing in a major Canadian festival after getting through to the final of a UK-wide contest.
Along with guitarist and singer Chris James from Carlisle, experienced harmonica player Martin Fletcher was recently successful at the North East heat of The New Brunswick Battle of the Blues in Redcar.
The duo first met when booked to play at the same venue and they liked each other’s music. They discussed the possibility of working together in the future and this came to fruition a few months ago.
Calling themselves Street Corner Blues, they took on five other blues acts on Teesside and were chosen by the judges to be part of the final line-up.
The overall winner will get an all-expenses paid trip to the maritime province of New Brunswick in Canada to perform on one of the main stages at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in its capital, Fredericton, this September.
After the heat, the duo said: “It was a brilliant experience to perform live with five other really talented blues acts and now we can’t wait to play in the final.
“We’d like to thank Tourism New Brunswick for providing this great opportunity and for taking us one step closer towards Canada.”
The province has been looking for Britain’s best unsigned blues talent to provide new performers for its world-renowned Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival. The final is taking place at Scala in London on March 26.
Competition organiser Lee George said: “All the acts at Redcar provided a great evening of live entertainment, but there had to be just one overall winner and Street Corner Blues were chosen following a fantastic performance.
“Travelling to the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival will be a life-changing opportunity to perform amongst the very best.”
Mr Fletcher started playing blues harmonica when he was a teenager and after getting heavily involved in the Tyneside blues scene he joined The Blues Burglars, taking the harmonica chair previously filled by Paul Lamb, and began gigging regularly.
He also worked with Hokum Hotshots member Jim Murray in an amplified street-corner blues duo for a number of years.
His Usual Suspects group was a very popular Texas/California-style blues band in the late 1990s, but they shocked their audience by adding a DJ, MC and contemporary R’ n B singer to fuse blues with hip hop well before it became commonplace.
More recently, he and other veteran bluesmen from Northumberland and Newcastle formed the Dukes of Ellington and in 2011 he set up the Morpeth Blues ’n’ Roots Club at La Bodega Tapas Bar in Newgate Street.
Mr Fletcher has played numerous festivals in the UK and Europe, either in a group or by himself.