Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mr Sipp - Spiegeltent, Edinburgh, 18 July 2016

It’s showtime, folks!  It may be a Monday, but in terms of entertainment Mississipian Mr Sipp (aka Castro Coleman) is a veritable Mr Saturday Night, his guitar playing imbued with grinning, duck-walking, strutting, face-pulling enthusiasm.
You want to know what he sounds like?  The second song tonight is ‘Thrill Is Gone’, doffing his cap to BB King, whose jazz-tinged single-note soloing is echoed frequently in the course of the set.  And speaking of jazz inflections, the rhythm section of Jeff Flanagan on bass and Stanley Dixon Jr on drums bring plenty swing to proceedings. Dixon in particular highlights his inventiveness and lightness of touch in the course of a couple of brief solo spots.
Mr Sipp - gettin' jiggy wit it
But BB isn’t the only King that springs to mind, as Sipp shows a liking for the kind of funk groove that Albert King achieved when making Born Under A Bad Sign with the Stax soul gang – and indeed amps it up even further on the likes of ‘Nobody’s Bisness’.  It’s good time music, and with his infectious energy Sipp has no trouble getting the audience to sing and clap along on demand.  But it’s not just the vibe that’s important – his guitar work lives up to those influences with its clarity and variety, notes winging in from odd angles in witty fashion.
“Can I keep it rolling?”, he asks between songs, his gospel background suffusing the performance with an eagerness to engage the audience in the whole experience.  And Sipp acknowledges his twenty plus years as a gospel performer with ‘I’m In Your Care Right Now’, a slower spiritual on which he underlines the quality of his soulful singing as he lets his voice wander in controlled fashion.  He also demonstrates his soul credentials by taking to a  keyboard for a rendition of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ – a better choice, to my mind, than the overly smooth soul outings he’s been known to produce once or twice on album.
The opening of ‘Miss Jones’ is one of the few occasions when Sipp’s playing feels like it’s starting to meander, with an overlong intro and one or two superfluous licks during the opening verse.  But he promptly blows any concerns away with a circumnavigation of the Spiegeltent, during which he shakes hands and puts an arm round punters for selfies, playing away all the time with his left hand, before bringing the song to a driving conclusion.
The set peaks with the following cover of ‘Smokestack Lightnin’’, a breezy rendition so different from the haunting style of the Howlin’ Wolf original that it’s the cue to get the audience up and dancing – including one enthusiastic fella who’s invited up on stage to shake his booty along with Sipp.

By the time he’s done, Mr Sipp has made it clear just why he received a Blues Music Award this year for his album The Mississippi Blues Child – and still clearer why, in a live setting, he won the International Blues Challenge a couple of years back.  The man’s a dynamite blues guitarist, and a natural born entertainer to boot.

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