Friday, August 5, 2016

The Afternoon Sessions - Edinburgh Blues'N'Rock Festival, 30 July 2016

A confession.  Although Safehouse have been mainstays of the Edinburgh music scene for a loooong time, I have never actually seen them before.  Well, my loss evidently, judging by the way they stormed the citadel with this performance.
Actually, I say they’re from Edinburgh, but from their opening number ‘Hey Grandma’ it sounds like Edinburgh by way of Macon, Georgia.  Amid blasting guitar from John Bruce and a sandpaper vocal from the hyperactive Chris Peebles, the immediate impression is of Southern rock á la the Allman Brothers or maybe the Black Crowes.
Chris Peebles stands still for a mo
They keep up the good work with the Big George Watt classic ‘Take A Walk In The Wilderness’, this time featuring on-the-money piano from Ali Petrie in addition to a gritty, rolling guitar solo from Bruce as they give the tune a Strolling Bones feel.
There’s even more grit in Bruce’s rhythm guitar as they belt through some rousing Southern fried boogie, executing some welcome shifts in tempo along the way to vary the pace.
There’s a Jim Morrison feel to Peebles' vocals on what I’m guessing is ‘Travellin’ Light’, a strutting, funky effort with an insistent bass pattern, with Petrie and Bruce doubling up again to deliver boogie woogie piano and howling guitar.
They close by rocking the joint with ‘One Way Out’, joined by Gary Martin to lend some harp authenticity to Sonny Boy Williamson’s song even as they serve it up in Allmans fashion.  All in all a banging set, bringing a bit of rock to the roll for the first time in the afternoon.
They’re followed on to the stage by The Rising Souls, who since the launch of their Yardbird album early in the year have metamorphosed from a semi-acoustic three-piece playing bass, guitar and cajón to a full-on four-piece, with Joe Catterson on electric guitar and Reece Braid on drums.
Right from the off Catterson’s influence is apparent, as he brings fuzzy guitar tones to ‘I’m
Joe Catterson and Dave Archibald feel so alive
Feeling So Down’, which features satisfying use of dynamics.  Another new song finds singer Dave Archibald strapping on his acoustic once again to augment the shimmering electric sound Catterson produces, big on whammy bar.  It also has a sweet melody of the kind Rod Stewart might well appreciate.
‘I Feel So Alive’ has a pulsing start and a heavy chorus, with Archibald getting into his best Paul Rodgers vocal mode, before indulging in a burst of scat singing as a bridge to a scuzzy solo from Catterson.  After another haunting new song, ‘Feeling Like I’m Falling Down’, they wheel out ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’, from their self-titled mini-album, its field holler opening over bass drum now supplemented by jangling guitar chords, while Archibald gets into some serious testifyin’ at the conclusion.
Hearing ‘I Need You’ for the first time, with its echoes of ‘Roadhouse Blues’, restrained verses and big chorus, it seems that Catterson’s electric guitar has given the Souls a whole new weapon.  What’s more, he himself has come out of his shell big time since first appearing with them for a couple of songs at the Yardbird launch.
Neil Warden bends some Weissenborn notes
The Souls have a new EP scheduled to come out in November, and it’ll be interesting to see if they’ve managed to bottle their bigger sound in the studio.  Hopefully though, they can also manage to adapt some of the gripping songs from their early repertoire to the four-piece format – it’d be a shame to lose them.
The afternoon opened with the subtler strains of Gary Martin/Neil Warden – Blues and Beyond.  And I’ll say it again guys, get a snappier monicker, will ya?  Joking apart though, they bring a slinky, jazzy vibe to the post-lunch kick-off.  The Peggy Lee feel of ‘You Don’t Have To Hang Round Here No More’, with some great harp from Martin, is underlined by their smoky, offbeat take on Ray Charles’ ‘Ain’t That Fine’.
Sandwiched between these two songs is Tam White’s ‘Stonemason’s Blues’, delivered with conviction by two former Tam White alumni.  And they close with a spare version of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready' – an unfamiliar arrangement for sure, but one that is soulful and full of feeling, with Warden putting his Weissenborn guitar to terrific use with both a bending slide intro, and later a beautiful, chiming solo.
The Al Brown Band follow, opening with an instrumental that shows off Brown’s warm and bright guitar tones.  They swing nicely, and there’s good interplay between organ and
Al Brown has a natural ball
Brown’s rhythm guitar.  There are shades of both BB and Freddie King, and Brown makes good use of tension and release.
It may be indoors on a warm summer’s afternoon, but they do a good job with ‘Early In The Morning’, with a relaxed, Latin feel and some funky bass, while the following James Harmon song ‘Lock Doctor’ evokes the third blues King, Albert.
Things can get too smooth at times though, even if Brown is always capable of producing some fiery, angular licks.  A slow blues finds Gary Martin jamming on some squawking, moaning harp – the man gets everywhere – while Brown digs into a biting solo.
Brown encourages the audience to make more use of the dance floor, which to these ears and feet would feel more natural if he introduced a bit more oomph into the equation.  But to be fair a number of couples do get up and shake their hips to a neat reading of Albert King’s ‘Let’s Have A Natural Ball’.

Al Brown’s set is just one of several sides to a multi-faceted line-up that makes for a stimulating inaugural Edinburgh Blues’N’Rock Festival though.  So who’s up for next year?

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