Friday, December 25, 2015

The Blues Enthused Christmas Stocking, Part 2

Welcome back, fellow blues travellers, for some further festive treats!

Sam Fish - nice to see someone enjoying their work!
An album I was really looking forward to in the summer was Samantha Fish’s Wild Heart, which I reviewed in July.  Guided by producer Luther Dickinson, Sam drew inspiration from Hill Country Blues to explore some rootsy avenues, confirming that the girl can’t half sing.  But she still found some time to rock, as on the belting ‘Show Me’.
Sam’s pal and mentor Mike Zito provided another highlight with a terrific show at the Edinburgh Blues Club in November, accompanied by The Wheel.  This European jaunt coincided with the release of their stonkingly good new album Keep Coming Back.  If you haven’t got it yet then put that right asap.  Meantime, here they are performing the album closer, Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Bootleg'.
I still recall catching The Rising Souls supporting Kara Grainger back in May, and thinking that this ‘stripped back soul’ trio were on to something.  That initial impression was confirmed by the excellent songs on their 2014 mini-album, and eventually resulted in me writing a ‘Bluesbreaker’ feature on the band for the December issue of The Blues Magazine.  Here’s their video of ‘Yardbird’, the title track of their new album, which they’re releasing on February 6.
The Rising Souls - new album coming soon
Another bunch of newcomers were the Balkun Brothers, whose debut album ReDrova I reviewed in February after hearing a track on Paul Jones’ Radio 2 show.  The guitar-and-drums toting brothers from Connecticut subsequently released a second, self-titled album in the autumn, and toured Europe supporting Popa Chubby, though sadly not including any UK dates.  A review of the new album should appear in The Blues Magazine in the New Year – meantime you can check out this live rendition of Johnny Winter’s ‘Mean Town Blues’.
At the other end of the spectrum is veteran Louisiana bluesman Lil’ Jimmy Reed, who delivered a rollicking helping of vintage blues in his Edinburgh show in September.  Here’s Jimmy performing the classic ‘Big Boss Man’ (written by the original Jimmy Reed, of course), demonstrating that he’s the real deal.
A similarly great set was delivered by The Jensen Interceptors back in April, capturing the spirit of Chicago R&B in a manner well-deserving of the label “good rockin’ tonite”.  See what you make of this performance of ‘Whisky Headed Woman’.

Enjoy the rest of the festive break folks, and Blues Enthused will be back with you shortly!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Blues Enthused Christmas Stocking, Part 1

Blues Enthused is just over a year old now, and has had nearly 6400 views for its 76 posts in that time – though to be honest, I’m still a bit sceptical about the 850 views from Israel that occurred in the space of one night!
Anyway, with the festive season upon us, I reckoned it would be good to say thanks to all those who’ve taken the time to read the blog, and to all the artists who’ve inspired it.  So here’s the first part of the Blues Enthused Christmas Stocking, where I’ve pulled together some videos of acts who caught my attention one way or another over the last year.  Enjoy!
First up, in more ways than one, is Marcus Malone – who featured in the first ever live review on the blog at the end of November last year, and was then the subject of the blog’s first interview in June.  So here’s a blast of an old track, ‘Blue Radio’, filmed at that gig – with the added extra of a guest appearance by electric cello specialist Calum Ingram.

Crow Black Chicken - Who hid the shaving gel?
One of the more popular album reviews was for Deep South, the live recording released back in June by the Irish power trio Crow Black Chicken.  The album was gutsy, noisy, and even funny.  Here’s the video they’ve put together recently for one of the standout tracks, ‘Priest Hunter’.
Another great album released this year was The RCA Sessions, by Malcolm Holcombe.  It only got a passing mention on the blog in a Listened to lately post back in July, because I’d actually reviewed it for The Blues Magazine, where I gave it 9 stars.  It’s a great example of songwriting and semi-acoustic rootsiness in a Tom Waits/Bob Dylan/Steve Earle vein – see what you make of this solo live performance of the rattling ‘Butcher In Town’.
I caught Ian Siegal playing solo in Glasgow in October – having previously reviewed a band performance in Newcastle, and his live album One Night In Amsterdam, back in March.  Here’s one of the standouts from his solo set, ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’, a song that dates all the way back to the American Civil War - shame about all the chattering gits in the background.  Having seen Siegal performing with American buddy Jimbo Mathus in 2014, I’m looking forward to catching the two of them again when they tour Europe next year – no shows in Scotland, but worth making the journey to see them elsewhere.
An intriguing find this year was an American guy with a wild back story called Fantastic Negrito, whose deluxe EP I reviewed in August – as I put it back then, imagine that Prince woke up from a night dreaming of work songs, and headed straight into the studio to start recording.  Make your own mind up with this stripped back version of ‘Lost In A Crowd’.
Vintage Trouble - dressed to kill
Closer to home, one of the standouts of the year was inevitably King King, and their be-kilted Glaswegian main man Alan Nimmo.  I saw them in Glasgow in March, and Glenrothes in November, as well as reviewing their latest album Reaching For The Light in April.  Next year promises to be a big one for them, and here’s something a wee bit different – a BBC Radio 2 session on the Paul Jones Show.
Also in the 'next big thing' category are Vintage Trouble, who I saw live for the first time at the Barrowlands in Glasgow.  With two sparkling albums and some big support slots behind them, and a dedicated fan following (the ‘Trouble Makers’), they’re now taking their 60s style soul/blues/funk revue stylings to a new level.  Check out this live performance of ‘Run Like A River’.
I’ll be interested to see how things go next year for Kansas City based singer and bassist Danielle Nicole, whose impressive debut album Wolf Den I covered when it came out in October.  The girl can’t half sing, and producer Anders Osborne gave the album a distinctive modern sound.  Little wonder that the outing was featured in the Blues Magazine's Top 50 albums of the year.  Here’s a sample of Danielle getting funky with 'You Only Want Me When You Need Me'.

More highlights to come in the Christmas Stocking Part 2.  Meantime, Merry Christmas folks!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Aynsley Lister - The Caves, Edinburgh, 6 December 2015

I don’t know why I like Aynsley Lister, but I do, yes I do, yes I do.  Which is to say, the guy isn’t easily pigeonholed.  Intuitively I position him in a space somewhere between Hamilton Loomis, King King and Paul Carrack.  Those may be tenuous comparisons – though KK’s Wayne Proctor did play drums on Lister’s latest album – but there’s a common thread of soulfulness about them that’s pertinent.
That latest album features heavily in this set, with the title track ‘Home’ grabbing the attention early, demonstrating his clear guitar tone and also a wonderful sense of control, of a promise of something more itching to break free.  ‘Broke’, meanwhile, isn’t just soulful but funky – in fact downright danceable.
When Lister switches guitars to his Strat he’s evidently bemused by an inability to get it
Aynsley Lister - Play that funky music, white boy!
tuned to his satisfaction.  But I suspect that mainly reflects his yearning for his precision, because I doubt if anyone else could tell the difference.  In any event ‘Hyde 2612’, with its injections of slide and funky chorus, is pleasingly ramped up from the album version, with a big guitar sound, jazzy interplay with Steve Amadeo on bass, and some elegant improvising around the melody in his solo.
‘What’s It All About’, from the 2009 album Equilibrium, has a more epic feel, with big guitar and bass figures, changes of rhythm, and washes of keyboard.  Meanwhile ‘Sugar’, from the latest album, is a boogie-time tale of lust.  Andy Price kicks things off with some lazy honky tonk piano, Lister delivers a wonkily bluesy solo, and the two of them go on to have some call-and-response fun.
As a taster for a new album slated for next year, we get a couple of new songs, ‘Other Part Of Me’ and ‘Stay’, the former particularly notable for Price’s soulful keyboard playing and instances of Lister’s ability to turn an original phrase, as in “we go together like the milk in your tea”.
Freddie King’s ‘I’m Tore Down’ is relaxed but purposeful, a great cover, with Boneto Dryden on drums embroidering to great effect around the shuffling beat.  The set closes with ‘Early Morning Dew’, on which Lister demonstrates his ability to add some country seasoning to his sound, before an encore of ‘Purple Rain’ – a long standing Lister favourite.

The feel good aspect of the whole set is unmistakable.  Aynsley Lister’s vocals may not quite have the richness of Paul Carrack, his soloing may not quite have the fire of Alan Nimmo – but shit, that’s exalted company by way of comparison.  I’ll be seeing him again.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Big Joe Louis - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 4 December 2015

There are a few idiosyncrasies about Big Joe Louis’ performance.  For one thing, this is a trio that features two guitars and drums, but no bass.  Not that it seems to matter, because between them Joe and his guitar-toting sidekick Lewis Fielding seem to conjure up enough bass sounds from their six-strings.  Not surprising perhaps, when they could stick up a sign on stage announcing “Guitar picks strictly prohibited”, given the way both of them flutter their right hand all over the strings throughout.  And just for good measure, Joe wears his guitar “side saddle”, strapped over his right shoulder.
Big Joe Louis - who needs a bass player?
Whatever, there’s plenty twitching and shuffling of feet in time to the rhythm as they launch into something possibly called ‘Black Mare Blues’.  At which point I have to offer an unusual disclaimer – from this point onwards most song titles are merely an approximation, such is Louis’ liking for obscure songs from the blues canon, which he doesn’t always identify clearly.
No matter, he has a booming voice well suited to the Chicago R&B style at the heart of his sound, and it all sounds promising as they settle into the chugging rhythm of ‘Joe Lee’s Rock’, with its refrain of “Find my baby before the sun goes down”, with Joe adding some nicely twanging guitar lines.  There’s also a suitably discordant solo to reflect the lyrics of a Woodrow Adams song of the “my woman done me wrong” variety.
Any self-respecting blues artist should have a “train” song in their locker, and there were two on offer here, as the traditional spiritual ‘I’m Going Home On Train’ segues into the gutsy, enjoyable boogie of Louis’ own ‘Go-Go Train’.
Simon Kennedy struts his stuff
And yet, and yet . . . forty five minutes in, and the set still hadn’t achieved lift off.  There’s some encouragement in the form of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, but while it’s good it lacks urgency, and that’s pretty much how matters progress.  Lewis Fielding’s guitar work in particular is often interesting, but nothing grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go.  On record Big Joe often makes use of piano or harp, and maybe something of that ilk would help to broaden the palette live.  Maybe Peter Greatrix is asked to be ‘Steady Eddie’ too much on drums, instead of kicking them into top gear.  Whatever, there continue to be good
moments, such as the “underwater” guitar tone of Joe’s solo on Charley Booker’s ‘No Ridin’ Blues’, and the spirited reading of ‘Santa’s Messin’ With The Kid’.  But all in all the ‘wow factor’ is in short supply.

The Simon Kennedy Band opened the evening with an enjoyably brisk set, kicking off with Freddie King’s ‘Cannonball Express’ to set the tone.  Another bass-free set-up, featuring guitar, keyboards and drums, they offer some well-structured originals such as well as strong covers.  Kennedy is one of the more enjoyable guitarists I’ve enountered from Support-land, delivering neat, sharp fills and rhythm guitar variety on ‘Lord I Pray’.  There’s good interplay with Mirek Hodun on the likes of ‘Riley B. King’, and Hodun also serves up some interestingly mournful sounds on the gospel song ‘On That Morning’.  And they top things off satisfyingly with a good take on Kirk Fletcher’s ‘El Medio Stomp’, with choppy rhythm guitar from Kennedy and Brian Macleod letting it rip with loose, swinging drums, showing off their ability to mine the Texas/LA blues seam.