A MUCH-LOVED Ashburton blues club is busy gearing up for its Christmas extravaganza this month, bringing together a little-known but highly talented community of musicians and music lovers, as they explore the blues and beyond. 

Organiser Mary Caffrey has been a bass player for over 25 years, with bands such as Cat in The Hat, Something About Mary and Gigi and the Grits, among others. 

Having played festivals, pubs and clubs, the idea for a blues club in Ashburton came out of a jam in The Victoria Inn.

‘A jam gives the opportunity to play and be creative with musicians unrehearsed,’ Mary explained, ‘just read the stage cues and fly by the seat of your pants.

‘I started receiving requests for people to bring other band members with them and to do a spot. I conceived the idea of having two bands and a jam.’

(Mary Caffery)

A lifelong lover of rhythm and blues, Mary was adamant that the music should stay front and centre during the club’s events. 

‘Bands often play squashed into small spaces with bad acoustics with an audience who enjoy the music but are there to have a good time with their friends and chat rather than listen.

‘I wanted to create an opportunity for bands to play in a great environment to an audience who were there to really listen.’

So the club, ‘Not only but also the Blues’, was born. The name reflects the wide variety of styles that the blues encompasses from swamp, swing and bluegrass to delta, Chicago and rock blues. 

Living in a hotbed of talent, Mary didn’t have to cast the net far to get world-class musicians onboard. 

She said: ‘We have so many great musicians and bands here, including professional musicians who have played nationally and internationally with well-known performers and ended up living here in the Westcountry.  

‘The love of music and playing brings them out to play with fantastic local bands when not touring professionally.

(Mary Caffrey)

‘Ashburton Arts provided an ideal venue, so I approached Andy Williamson with the idea of a regular event, once a month on a Monday.’

The night now draws audiences from across south Devon as well as visitors on holiday. The events always deliver an unforgettable sample of music, thanks not just to the performers but to the technicians and organisers as well. 

(Mary Caffrey)

With the last event of the year approaching, the Christmas bonanza is sure to impress. 

Mary added: ‘Our next night is Saturday, December 30. It will feature Vince Lee and the Big Combo, with Special guest Russell Sinclair. 

‘Vince is a veteran of the blues circuit and regularly tours in The USA. He plays authentic virtuoso blues. The Big Combo has become almost legendary around the South West. These guys deserve to be listened to and your feet will yearn to dance. Gorgeously crafted, jump, swing, soul, R&B, artfully backed by a rhythm section from Al Wallis and Keith Russell.

‘Russell Sinclair is well known on the Plymouth circuit and for his blues jam night at the Nowhere Inn. He plays a passionate, energetic and evocative interpretation of the blues.

‘Band performances are always followed by a jam, and who knows what will happen there!’

More information about the group and the event as well as tickets can be found here or at the Facebook page.