Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Evening Session - Edinburgh Blues'N'Rock Festival, 29 July 2017

It’s 5pm at the Corn Exchange, and the Edinburgh Blues’N’Rock Festival gets down to serious business, as Gerry Jablonski And The Electric Band take the stage.
This, I have to say, turns out to be the most enjoyable set I’ve seen to date from GJ and co, despite – or maybe because of – the fact that it only runs to 50 minutes or so. Leaning heavily on material from Trouble With The Blues and a forthcoming EP, it maintains the balance throughout between Jablonski’s guitar and Pieter Narojczyk’s harp that is their trademark, without lapsing into spells of AOR as they're sometimes prone to do.
Jablonski and Narojczyk - slaves to the rhythm
They’ve always been capable of turning out strong material, and that’s certainly evident tonight, from the opening new song ‘Heavy Water’ to the closing favourite of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’.  Jablonski himself is on fine guitar soloing form too, cranking out a couple of scorchers on ‘Two Time Lover’ and ‘Soul Sister’, and contributing an intro to ‘Dancing With The Angel Of Love’ that draws on ‘Nessum Dorma’ in a style redolent of Gary Moore.
As usual, Narojczyk is a force of nature.  Prowling the stage with an in-yer-face intensity isn’t enough for him on ‘Hard To Make A Living’, and as Lewis Fraser drives it forward with rampaging, booming drums he leaps off the stage to get closer to the audience.  On ‘Two Time Lover’ he repeats the trick, before climbing on a table in the midst of a group to deliver his solo.  It’s typical of the bristling energy he brings to the show from start to finish.
As a counterpoint Jablonski has a tendency to indulge in a bit too much goofing around, hopping about during solos in a manner that doesn’t quite fit with the weapons-grade harp-blowing of his partner.  But he does bring a strong vocal to the party, and is capable of ripping into a muscular riff on the likes of ‘Fork Fed Dog’, while Grigor Leslie also delivers a squelchy, funky bass showcase on ‘Trouble With The Blues’.  So it’s a big thumbs up to the whole crew for this outing, and I look forward to hearing that new EP.
Next up, Miracle Glass Company turn out to be the surprise package of the day.  Coming on to a squall of feedback, the Edinburgh trio turn in a thumpingly impressive performance running through songs from their 2016 debut album MGC1.  Mining a psychedelic seam,
Miracle Glass Company go all cycle-dealer
their material is shot through with echoes of everyone from CS&N to late period Beatles to the Eagles to the Byrds – hell, I’ve even got notes about the Monkees and the Stone Roses.
A constant throughout all of this is the quality of their vocals.  Each of them – William Douglas on bass, Austen George on guitar and Andy Duncan on drums – contributes lead vocals at some point.  But collectively they also grab the ear with a succession of classy three-part harmonies.
The material and the playing have a similar impact, and variety with it.  So ‘T.R.O.U.B.L.E’ delivers a Beatle-ish melody garnished with rumbling drums, prickly guitar followed by a hazy solo, and manages to sound both forceful and imaginative.  Douglas contributes both heavy bass and a Macca-like vocal turn on the sunlit Sixties style pop of ‘Big Beat’.  ‘Miss Rain’ has a spacy, Hendrix-ike intro before turning into mellower Byrds territory, with a great middle eight feature more of those marvellous harmonies, followed by a suitably country-style guitar solo from George.  ‘Little Country Thing’ is neatly structured, with a tripping beat and lovely little guitar fills.
The closing ‘Turnaround’ takes it all to the max, with a thudding beat and quirky passages leading up to a wig-out mid-section where they dip their toes into jam band waters amid a storm of drums and guitar.  This was my first encounter with Miracle Glass Company, but it sure won’t be the last.
If Miracle Glass Company don’t have a whole lot to say for themselves in the course of their set, when the Stevie Nimmo Trio come on stage the main man immediately begins to engage with the audience, enquiring if any of them are going to get their arses out of their seats without him badgering them.  And as the riff of ‘Roll The Dice’ ring out, people do start to filter onto the dance floor, in time to witness Nimmo crank a fierce guitar solo.
Stevie Nimmo - out of the black and into the blues
If the audience eases into proceedings in response to Nimmo’s banter, it’s evident that the band are also in relaxed form and enjoying themselves.  Nimmo in particular seems to be in the zone, unfurling a gut-wrenching solo on the gritty ‘Still Hungry’, and then yet another belter on the hypnotic ‘Running Back To You’, where propelled by Craig Bacon’s drums they whip up a storm of a crescendo.
‘Change’ cools things off and lets everyone take a breath before they interrupt the stream of songs from Sky Won’t Fall with the semi-countrified cover of Storyville’s ‘Good Day For The Blues’, from Stevie’s earlier semi-acoustic album The Wynds Of Life.
‘Chains Of Hope’ dirties things up again over bubbling bass from Mat Beable, before the good time tour de force that is ‘Lovin’ Might Do Us Good’.  Starting off in a light funk mode, it morphs into a cavorting Southern rock jam that has smiles on the faces of the band as well as the audience, even before the now traditional injection of a snippet of the Allmans’ ‘Jessica’.
Just to put the tin lid on it, they wheel out ‘Going Down’, with what seems like an extra funked up intro.  Nimmo does justice to the weight of the riff, and gets the crowd on board for a chorus or two before they put the pedal to the metal at the end, the three of them leaning their collective big feet on the gas.
A few couples even attempt to swing dance to the muscular likes of ‘Still Hungry’ and ‘Chains Of Hope’.  That, I imagine, isn’t something they’ve seen much before.  But it’s testament to the finesse of Nimmo and his boys, delivering loud blues rock with a light touch, and once again producing a good day for the blues.


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