Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ian Siegal - La Belle Angele, Edinburgh, 18 November 2016

Welcome back my friends to a tour of the house of blues - with your expert guide and conductor Ian Siegal.
Ian Siegal is the kind of blues artist who travels down both the highways and byways of the form, making connections to related genres as he does so.  So relying entirely on his own material for this tour celebrating 25 years on the road doesn’t stop him referencing other people’s songs along the way.
'I'm not the station, I'm not the tracks, I am the train'
He kicks off with the rumbling bass groove of ‘The Skinny’, before swiftly branching out with the North Mississippi hill country influenced ‘Better Than Myself’, featuring twangy guitar and the first reminder of his top-drawer quality as a wordsmith.  ‘I Am The Train’ is an early audience favourite, a slice of chugging country that sounds like Johnny Cash playing the blues.
‘This Mortal Coil’ is more traditional blues, seriously slowed down, restrained and teasing.  A series of songs from Meat And Potatoes get more upbeat, and explore a variety of rooms in the house of blues.  Siegal’s trademark rasping squeal is let out to play on ‘Brandy Balloon’, its funk inclinations underlined by a positively James Brown-ish conclusion, while  ‘Butterside Up’ sounds like downbeat, late period Stax.  And if ‘Bloodshot’ is essentially R&B out of Chicago, Siegal suddenly steers it to the Thames Delta with a teasing nod to ‘My Generation’ as he slots in half a phrase of ‘people try to put us down’ and catches the audience reflexively completing the line.  “Gets ‘em every time,” he grins.
On ‘Hard Pressed’ drummer Raphael Schwiddessen and bassist Danny Van’t Hoff lay down a groove that treads the path from blues to funk, and then Siegal deepens the groove further by taking a diversion into Prince’s ‘Sign O’ The Times’ and ‘Get Off’.  It’s also a song that demonstrates nicely Siegal’s penchant for paradoxical wordplay.  ‘Sugar Rush’ maintains the vibe, ultimately adding a soul connection by folding in Sam Cooke’s ‘You Send Me’.
All of this is knitted together by Siegal’s gravelly voice, like a Hampshire Howlin’ Wolf.  But as his slide playing on the apocalyptic blues of ‘Revelator’ illustrates, he’s no mean guitar player either.  In fact with regular guitarist Dusty Cigaar replaced for this leg of the tour by
Jed Potts gets into the groove
Joel Fisk, Siegal takes on more lead guitar responsibility than usual, and has the feel to make a great fist of it.
He closes with ‘Falling On Down Again’, another song from Meat And Potatoes – I’d have loved to hear more from Swagger – and I sense that it takes its inspiration from Big George Watt’s ‘Take A Walk In The Wilderness’, which is so often a staple of Siegal’s set.
Let's not ignore the fact that the crowd are well warmed up for the main event by Jed Potts and the Hillman Hunters, accompanied for the occasion by the excellent Husky Horns.  Potts, like Siegal, has a well crafted ability to braid together the threads of roots music, and he and his compadres deliver an accomplished, swinging, good time trip down the Mississippi, incorporating Chuck Berry’s ‘Back To Memphis’, the Dixie Cups’ ‘Iko Iko’, Hank Williams’ ‘Jambalaya’ (yes, The Carpenters had an ear for a classic), and Gary US Bonds’ ‘New Orleans’.  And they round off their set with one of Potts’ own songs, ‘Ain’t It Rough When Your Baby’s In The Huff’, which features some tongue-twisting versifying to underpin its rock solid R’n’B credentials.  More please!

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