Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Blues Afternoon - Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, 22 July 2017

Welcome to Scotland in July.  Here in Edinburgh we’ve got a Saturday afternoon monsoon going down – but the rain is nice and warm.  As the saying goes though, it never rains in the pub, and not in the George Square Spiegelent either.
Main Street Blues do a good job of heating everyone up in any case. They’re not what you’d call an in-yer-face bunch, but in their unassuming way this is a band whose various elements dovetail neatly throughout their selection of originals and covers.
Derek Smith gets tasteful
The opener of Coco Montoya’s ‘Last Dirty Deal’ is a good illustration of their poise, showing off well-balanced sound, Derek Smith’s warm and mellow vocals, and added colour from the keyboards of Iain Hanna.  Meanwhile the rhythm section of David Boyle, depping on drums, and John Hay on 5 string bass, provide plenty of bottom.  A cover of the smoky Bob Geddins slowie ‘Tin Pan Alley’ underlines those qualities.  Featuring a rousing organ solo that suggests Hanna has listened to Jon Lord once or twice, it also suits Smith’s voice and his tasteful lead guitar work with its absence of overplaying.  Alvin Lee’s ‘The Bluest Blues’ grows in intensity, with the guitar and keys perfectly balanced, and some particularly attractive piano glissandos from Hanna.
They’re also well capable on the writing front, as evidenced firstly by ‘Write If You Find Love’, and later by the shuffle of ‘Lost Without You’, which features piano from Hanna and nice dynamics, and also the gutsy riff and surges of organ on ‘Cold Cold Bed’.  It’s an impressive 45 minute set, and I look forward to nabbing a copy of their next album.
Jed Potts goes wang dang doodle
Jed Potts and the Hillman Hunters are up next – and just how many appearances has the Potts fella made in the course of this Festival?  It looks like he’s still enjoying himself at any rate, as he and his trio crack open ‘Days Of Old’, aka ‘Gonna Ball Tonight’.
After a Freddie King instrumental he’s joined for the rest of his set by Memphis harp honcho Brandon Santini, kicking off with ‘Don’t Tell Me’, a slowie on which Santini brews up a forceful harp solo, matched by a note-bending workout from Potts.  Santini takes over on vocals for his own ‘Evil Woman’, pitching in with a booming voice and an easygoing storytelling style to go with some jittery, high pitched harp.
Brandon Santini leans in
They romp through ‘Catfish Blues’ and Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Nine Below Zero’, with Potts and Santini bouncing off each other to great effect.  Along the way, Potts’ inventiveness as a guitarist is frequently evident, firing in licks from unusual angles and coaxing different sounds out of his Telecaster.
Potts introduces ‘Juicy Fruit’ as “a bum wiggler”, and with some justification as it proceeds on its merry, Chuck Berry kinda way.  They close with another take on Freddie King, this time ‘C.C. Baby’, a swinging affair driven along by Charlie Wild’s walking bass, that has all concerned wishing there was time for one or two more.
What’s not to like about Gráinne Duffy?  Quite apart from her Irish charm, she has a voice right out of the top drawer, forms a mean guitar pairing with husband Paul Sherry, and writes some damn fine songs.  All of which assets were in evidence during this set.
Both ‘Each And Every Time’ and ‘Drivin’ Me Crazy’ draw inevitable vocal comparisons with Bonnie Raitt, the former with nice interlinking of guitar parts and a lazy Southern sound, the latter in a similar rocked up country mode to Shania Twain.  Then Sherry contributes sweet, laid back slide to ‘I Don’t Know Why’, into which they also manage to work a reggae break.
Paul Sherry and Gráinne Duffy - a mean guitar pairing
Duffy observes that ‘Good Love Had To Die’ was inspired by Peter Green, and her guitar work certainly nods strongly towards Green’s guitar tone, while Sherry also adds a nice solo.  In a different vein, the funky groove of ‘Voodoo Woman’ heralds bass and drums showcases from Paul McCain and Darren Beckett respectively.
New song ‘Blame It On You’ ushers in a corking vocal performance, but that’s just a warm up for Duffy’s reading of ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’.  If you’re going to tackle the Etta James classic then you’d better do it justice, and Duffy assuredly does that.  Like Dani Wilde, she has an impressive repertoire of vocal tricks at her disposal, but uses them sparingly, peaking with a gravity-defying long note that draws an involuntary sigh of approval from the audience.
Having knocked everyone sideways with that, Duffy and co bring things to a rocking close with ‘Test Of Time’, the title track from her second album.  It’s a suitably upbeat ending to a great afternoon – three bands coming at the blues from different angles, putting a smile on everyone’s face.  Even if the rain had got worse in the meantime.

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