Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Blues For Rowan Alba - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 11 December 2016

“At Christmas we buy a £10 present for our service users.  It may be the only present they get, and it may just be £10 for the electricity” - Helen Carlin, CEO of Scottish homelessness charity Rowan Alba.

Edinburgh Blues Club supports Rowan Alba throughout the year, but tonight a gig featuring five local bands provides the opportunity to do a little bit more.  Offering some support for the homeless can still be a fun experience though, right?
Logan's Close do that thing they do
It certainly can, when a band like Logan’s Close are on stage.  At first blush, with their sharp suits, retro guitars and boyish looks, “Beatles tribute band” springs to mind.  Wrong.  This lot aren’t into lazy imitation.  They get gleefully wired into this stuff like they’ve time travelled back to the early Sixties and felt the excitement British kids had for the R’n’B and rock’n’roll sounds coming out of the States.
So right off the bat they come up with an engaging, jagged reading of Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say’, and later they come up with a stonking version of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, before slipping in a cover of something by Lee Dorsey that’s new to me but will have me researching his repertoire pretty damn soon.
This stuff is interspersed with originals that fit like a glove.  ‘Dance In The Dark’ is set to a stomping Latino beat, and brings to mind the knowing affection for the Sixties and joie de vivre of the Tom Hanks movie That Thing You Do. It’s the same with the harp’n’harmonies
The smoky and sophisticated Laurence Murray
fun of ‘Ticket Man’, the Fab Four-meets-Chuck of ‘C’mon Pretty Lady’, and the jungle rhythm of ‘Mine All Mine’.  I know it’s only rock’n’roll, but this ain’t half bad.
Closing proceedings the Laurence Murray Project offer a complete contrast with a laid back but precise sound that suggests – oh, Steely Dan maybe?  Right from the off they’ve got a good sound all round, playing with a nicely smoky feel, and a wonderfully clear tone to Laurence Murray’s guitar.  A song that they liken to an Eagles B-side offers some good riffs and neat shifts in tempo, and the more straight-ahead blues of ‘Things That I Used To Do’ emphasises their polish, as well as the fact that Murray’s voice also has a smoky quality.  His voice works well on a cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ too, without them putting much of a personal stamp on it.  So when a new tune towards the end of the set offers a bit more attack it’s more than welcome – a bit more of that oomph to match their technical proficiency wouldn’t go amiss.
Earlier, Dead Broke And Dirty open up with a take on Alabama 3’s Sopranos theme, ‘Woke Up This Morning’, delivered in a spooky boogie mode.  It’s a prelude to some country folk style stomp on ‘Break Free’, directed at Donald Trump - a seam they mine further on ‘Rattlesnake Roll’, which feels a bit like cowgirl punk a la Lone Justice.  In between, a cover of ‘I Put A Spell On You’ fits the same endearingly ramshackle sound - which you could call rough as a badger’s arse, but in a good way.  And hey, I’ve always got time for a band that are moved to play ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’.
Becky Pilcher gets Celtic
The Becky Pilcher Blues Band deliver some guitar led blues across a range of covers.  Ms P captures a nicely Celtic feel with her fingerpicking on Rory Gallagher’s ‘A Million Miles Away’, to which she adds some effective weeping effects on her solo.  Her rhythm section impress consistently, and compadre Calum Stevenson gets on board to offer some suitably Hendrixy guitar sounds on ‘Voodoo Chile’ to which the two of them add some good vocal harmonies.
Opening the evening, Nobody’s Business take a more vocal orientated approach to some blues classics, covering all the bases from Dr Feelgood to BB King, SRV, Albert King and even the Allman Brothers, on a version of ‘Whipping Post’ that shows off some slinky bass playing as well as characterful vocals.
Ultimately this was a night on which some local bands got the chance to strut their stuff.  But more than that, they managed to pull in a crowd that raised £1130 for a good cause.  Being able to contribute to that, as artist or audience, is a good thing, and we’re lucky to be able to do it.  As Helen Carlin noted, in the course of expressing her appreciation, “it’s massively unlikely you’ll ever need our services”. Sadly though, plenty people do.

For more details of the work done for the homeless by Rowan Alba, visit their website: www.rowanalba.org

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