Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Blues Enthused Christmas Stocking 2017 - Part 1

So this is Christmas, and what have we done?  Another year over – and it’s been a pretty good one on the blues’n’roots’rock’n’rollin’ front.  It’s been a year of discoveries too.  Not necessarily all new artists by any means, and not all written about here either, but people I’ve tripped over the first time. Let’s unwrap some of the new finds Blues Enthused made in the course of the year, shall we?
Simon Campbell unwraps some 60s British blues - 21st century style
Just to prove the point that there are old timers out there you can still get acquainted with, I had fun reviewing the latest album by Washington DC’s The Nighthawks for Blues Matters magazine.  All You Gotta Do is a pretty damn enjoyable collection of old-fashioned R’n’B from a gang who’ve been around for god knows how long.  Check out this footage of ‘Livin’ The Blues’, from their earlier album 444.
Simon Campbell has also been kicking around for a looong time.  But in the company of his missus Suzy Starlite, he put together new outfit the Starlite Campbell Band to release one of my favourite albums of the year, Blueberry Pie.  It’s a crackling modern take on Sixties British blues, with strong songs, great guitar work, and sharp lyrics.  Lend an ear to these snippets of tracks from the album, and see what you think.
Just to complete a trio of oldsters, while I was on Blues Matters reviewing duty I also encountered James Litherland, once upon a time guitarist and vocalist in Colosseum.  His latest album Back'N'Blue is a classy collection of tunes showing the songsmithery of an old pro.  Often cool and funky, with clear, looping guitar lines snaking around your ears, he also weaves in some other styles with ease, and whenever I give the album a spin it's a treat.  Here he is wandering around the music shops of Soho, and going for a pint in the Angel pub - good choice by the way - to the strains of his single 'Can't Live Without You'.  Oh yeah, and there's Les Binks, once of Judas Priest, on drums!
I’ve also been introduced to a couple of truly solo performers, of the one-man band variety.  Latterly there’s been Canadian Steve Hill, who manages to get all Zep-tastic with guitar, cymbals and kick drum, all on his ownsome.  Here he is giving it big licks on ‘Dangerous’, from his album Solo Recordings: Volume 3.  And earlier in the year I reviewed High Dollar Gospel, the latest album by a fella from Virginia called Eli Cook, for Blues Rock Review.  In
Sean Webster - naturally soulful
the review I wondered why I hadn't heard of him before.  But bizarrely,
 I think I may have caught a bit of Cook playing live a few years back, late night in a bar in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I gather he does play with a band on occasion, but he was on his own that time, and he’s on his own here with this version of ‘Catfish Blues/Gasoline’.
Nearer to home, I reckon the newcomer making the most impact on record this year was Ash Wilson, with his album Broken Machine.  Wilson didn’t just announce himself with some bloody good soulful blues, served straight up, he chucked in a few twists of Josh Homme-like stylings for good measure.  You can also read here about how a rather iffy synth gave an edge to the title track of the album.  Wilson has ended the year taking over from Innes Sibun as guitar honcho for Sari Schorr, but here he is playing his own haunting tune ‘The Hitcher’ in London back in August.  And yes, those are indeed Bob Fridzema, Roger Inniss and Wayne Proctor making up his band.
Ash Wilson also described how he’d played previously with Netherlands-based Sean Webster, and spoke enviously of Webster’s aptitude with an emotional, soulful vocal.  By complete coincidence, it turned out Webster was the support act to King King on a jaunt I took to the Netherlands back in February, so I swiftly had the chance to catch him live
Elles Bailey - the kid shows promise
before reviewing his impressive new album Leave Your Heart AtThe Door.  Here he is performing one of my favourites from the album, ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’, with guest vocalist Pennyleen Krebbers, who also featured on the album version.
And it wouldn’t do to end this instalment without a contribution from the fairer sex – in this case the up and coming Elles Bailey.  The husky voiced Bristolian’s album Wildfire showed real promise, and she and her band lived up to that promise live too, straddling roots genres to good effect.  Here she is with a stripped back take on one of her best songs, the Janis Joplin-inspired ‘The Girl Who OwnedThe Blues’, from a Whispering Bob Harris session.

That little lot should keep you entertained for a while when the rest of the family decide to watch some rubbish Christmas telly.  Look out for Part 2 before the leftover turkey is finished!

Don't miss out on Part 2 of the Christmas Stocking.  Check it out here.

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