Eric Slim Zahl & The South West Swingers went all the way to the top in the European Blues Challenge in Italy on April 9. They won in competition with 20 other bands from all over Europe.
The sixth edition of the European Blues Challenge and the annual meeting for the European Blues family was this year held in Torrita Di Siena in Italy, and for the second time a Norwegian band won the competition. The Stavanger-based Eric "Slim" Zahl & The South West Swingers really impressed both the audience and the jury. Phil Bee's Freedom from Netherlands and Well Band from Germany came on 2nd and 3rd place. There were many visitors from Norway present, and Norway also got attention as Blues in Hell in Trøndelag was selected as the organizer of the event in 2018 and that Jostein Forsberg from Notodden was re-elected on the board of the European Blues Union.
European Blues Union has 30 member countries. 21 of them were represented in the band competition, and nearly as many on the Blues Market and the formal General Assembly, which also took place this weekend.
The Challenge was held at an indoor sports stadium in the small town, and went as always over two evenings. The 21 bands had 20 minutes of playing time each. The jury which had the difficult task of selecting the top three bands consisted of persons from different businesses within the European blues.
Also this year many different styles within the Blues was represented, both traditional blues from one-man bands, duos and blues combos, but also bands that musically was closer to rock and roll, jazz or soul.
People behind European Blues Scene was also honored. The Blues Behind The Scenes Awards were handed out to three enthusiasts: In the category "Promotion" to Miika Porkka, Puistoblues in Finland, Andrzej Matysik Twój Blues Magazine (Poland) in the category "Media" and Hannes Anrig, Blue House Productions/Vallemaggia Magic Blues Festival (Switzerland) in the category "Production".
The Blues Market is usually a highlight this weekend, and also this year there were exhibitors from many countries. Norway was as usual well represented, this year with Notodden Blues Festival, Blues in Hell, Norwegian Blues Union, Blue News, Europe's Blues Center and Blues Music Club Notodden.
Next year’s European Blues Challenge will take place in Horsens in Denmark.
Text: Rune Endal - Photo: Frank Nielsen
Norwegian exhibitors at the Blues Market: From left Jostein Forsberg (Notodden BF), Espen Fjelle (Europas Blues Senter), Jon Uthus and Kjell Inge Brovoll (Blues in Hell), Anlaug Landsverk (Notodden BF) and Nina Hegna (Blues Music Club Notodden ). (Photo: Rune Endal).