Saturday, January 21, 2017

Toronzo Cannon - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 19 January 2017

Are you ready for the Chicago Way?  You’d better be, because Toronzo Cannon is here to demonstrate that the citadel of electric blues can still produce a contender.  And then some.
On this first night of a lightning quick first trip to the UK, Cannon and his band the Cannonball Express fired up a packed audience that included blues nuts from all points of the compass, put smiles on their faces, and left them wanting more.  Leaning heavily on material from last year’s album The Chicago Way, Cannon showed off scintillating guitar work, a rich and soulful voice perfectly suited to the blues, and a range of fresh and convincing original songs, kicking off with the bright shuffle of ‘Mrs From Mississippi’.
Toronzo Cannon makes himself at home in Scotland
‘Midlife Crisis’ is a perfect example of Cannon’s penchant for tongue in cheek wordplay, accompanied by a solo in which he shows his readiness to go off piste in search of unexpected notes.  There’s more humorous storytelling on ‘Bad Contract’, by which time two more things have become clear:  Cannon has charisma to match his chops, and the Cannonball Express don’t half swing, punctuating and syncopating with ease.
The slow blues of ‘When Will You Tell Him About Me?’ confirms how tight they are, like a perfectly fitting jigsaw, with drummer Pookie Styx key to holding it together.  I know jackshit about drumming, but the way that Pookie sets the rhythm but also knows exactly where Cannon is going and how to enhance it is a joy to watch.
By the time they get to ‘Fine Seasoned Woman’ Cannon’s bonhomie and effortlessly pleasing guitar work have everyone in a good mood, as he engineers a singalong with some relaxed patter.
After a break they open a second set with ‘She’s Too Much’, which comes across more or less like a more laid back, funkier version of ‘Mrs From Mississippi’, with Sonny Edwards’ keys offering
Cannon feels the rhythm from Pookie Styx
subtle and complementary colour behind Cannon.  They get heavier on the opening of ‘Chickens Comin’ Home To Roost’, with a playful solo from Cannon to follow, and synchro-meshed dynamics as they drop the volume.  Cool hand Luke baseman Dave Forte furnishes a classic rolling
bass line on ‘Strength To Survive’ to complement funky, chiming guitar chords from Cannon on a song about the pressures of everyday living.
And then they really get down to business.  With ‘John The Conquer Root’, the brooding, hoodoo voodoo seduction tale that’s the title track of Cannon’s 2013 album, he cranks things into overdrive and gets all Hendrix on our collective asses.  It’s full of depth and attack, with Pookie well and truly in the pocket, driving things along while Cannon gets down to some serious guitar wailing, before casually fishing a whammy bar out of his gig bag and fitting it to his Strat for acrunching finish.  They dig in again for a slice of boogie as a finale, Cannon never overplaying but getting his thumb working to beef up the bottom end, before they close with a rocking coda that echoes ‘You Really Got Me’.

Toronzo Cannon is continuing a great tradition, but he’s also an original.  He writes his own stuff, it’s fresh and modern, and he and his band more than do it justice.  It was a coup for the Edinburgh Blues Club to get him here, and here's hoping we see him here again soon.

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