Two o’clock, tick tock. It’s curtain up for the second edition Edinburgh Blues’N’Rock Festival, and this time around it’s local boys Black Cat Bone doing the opening act honours, with their distinctive brand of “alt blues rock’n’roll”.
And what that means right now is that their take on the much-covered Slim Harpo choon ‘Shake Your Hips’ (aka ‘Hip Shake Baby’), is a chugging, head-on collision between the
grungy hard rock and old fashioned R’n’B,
overlaid with the growling vocals and howling harp of front man Ross Craig.
|Black Cat Bone - not what you'd call pretty in pink|
Their mix of new songs and tracks taken from their 2015 album Growl exploits a deliciously big, greasy, dirty groove laid down by the two guitars of Luis Del Castillo and Charlie Wild, and the bass and drums of Jonny Voodoo and Kai Wallace. They need to take care though that the groove doesn’t turn into a rut in which everything sounds the same.
Highlights include ‘Remiss’, on which a bluesy slow guitar intro gives way to a stomp’n’grind that begins to suggest the Doors inhabiting a very dark place. ‘Punks Not Pushers’ manages to roll to a different rhythm as well.
They get brisker in places, but ‘Lost’ reinforces the impression of Jim Morrison piloting an especially doomy version of ‘Roadhouse Blues’, and they conjure up a big finish on ‘Love My Baby’. Good on ‘em.
Glasgow’s Deke McGee Band are in a rather more traditional vein. With McGee’s sax to the fore, they’re a throwback to the “small big bands” of the late 40s and early 50s, devoted to the jump blues and rockabilly that were key ingredients in the recipe for rock’n’roll.
A veteran of work with many a big name from the blues and beyond, McGee assuredly knows what he’s about, and they duly set about putting the boogie in the woogie. Naturally they can lay back and swing as well though, with McGee demonstrating the liquid he can bring to his vocals on ‘Here Comes Trouble’, which encourages a couple of very talented swing dancers onto the floor to strut their stuff.
|Deke McGee - good rockin' at three in the afternoon|
They could possibly do with a fuller sound for venue the size of the Corn Exchange – there’s a sense that this stuff would really come alive in some cramped, sweaty joint where the dance floor is irresistible. But no matter, new song ‘House Rent Party’ rocks away nicely, while Floyd Dixon’s ‘Hey Bartender’ is given an outing with plenty of pizzazz but lacking the kind of raucous backing vox that could make it really take off.
Connor Smith carries off some sparkly, jazzy rockabilly guitar on ‘Blind Blind Blind’, followed by a stand-up bass solo from Simon Gray as a prelude to a neat sax and guitar duet passage. They finish up by giving it some welly on Big Joe Turner’s ‘Hide And Seek’, featuring a hammering slab of piano work from Tim Brough. The frequent return visits of those dancers, and some others, is testament to the fact that Deke and co know have got the requisite swing.
Emmy-nominated American duo Mirror Speaks The Truth describe their music as ‘Gothicana Soul’, but in truth it doesn’t seem to me to be much that’s Gothic about it, Southern or otherwise. Comprising singer Glenda Benevides and guitarist/vocalist Gene Williams, they’re certainly confident performers, delivering a blend of soul that’s underpinned by Williams’ acoustic guitar and layers of electronic beats, backing vocals and other instruments. The sound is then garnished with lyrics that have a decidedly American pop-psychology turn that doesn’t really convince.
Benevides is a strong vocalist, and on the likes of ‘Hold On’ they deploy some modern rhythms, but the longer they go on the clearer it becomes that they’re not setting the heather on fire. In the end it’s a relief that they restrict themselves to just a thirty minute set.