Sunday, August 12, 2018

Little Boys Blue with Kid Memphis - Hard Blue Space

For an R’n’B band led by a harp player, Little Boys Blue have a remarkably mellow sound – don’t expect to hear JD Taylor start blowing up a typhoon anywhere on this album.  From Jackson, Tennessee, they have a soulful, understated style, at times lightly funky in the manner of Albert King’s ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, and on early listens I wondered if they would ever find top gear.  But with repeated spins I began to appreciate that there’s some subtlety at work here.
These ten tracks, all originals, begin to resonate for their unhurried musicality, for Taylor’s
I know that bar - Little Boys Blue groovin' in Beale St
rich voice and phrasing, and especially for the guitar playing on display throughout.  Sometimes playful, sometimes Peter-Green-fluid, I’m guessing the fretwork is largely the work of special guest John Holiday, aka Kid Memphis, though there are also guitar credits for Alex Taylor and Andrew White.
Right from the start, on ‘Six Foot Down’, the control is evident in the steady back beat, Taylor’s soulful singing, and the way they slowly build a mounting pressure.  There’s a hint of ‘Green Onions’ in the B3 of Dave Thomas on ‘Loving Kind’, and they show the ability to deliver something slower and more contemplative on ‘Blues Bug’, then a cool, measured strut on the edgier title track, with its neat, rolling guitar riff and warm piano.
They get more uptempo on ‘Morning Train’, with its subliminal air of ‘It’s Your Voodoo Working’, before toughening up on ‘Cold Inside’, with Dave Mallard’s swinging bass bumping along to good effect.  ‘Might As Well’ serves up a jump blues vibe – and I do like a bit of decent jump blues - with barrelhouse piano from Thomas and a call and response chorus from Taylor and the band, while ‘Got A Mind Of Your Own’ dials up the funk.  ‘If The Blues Start Calling’ is a slow shuffling groove, with gritty harp from Taylor and some tasty slide into the bargain, and the closing ‘Going Back To Memphis’ is a more rootsy, chugging affair.
Hard Blue Space may not give you an adrenaline rush, but if you fancy the idea of an R’n’B band laying back and leaving each other lots of space to participate in bluesy musical conversation, then Little Boys Blue may be your bag.  Personally I’d like a pint of Mississippi moonshine added to the mix, mind you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Too Slim And The Taildraggers - High Desert Heat

Too Slim And The Taildraggers may be based in Nashville, but they sure as hell don’t sound like no country music.  High Desert Heat is gritty blues rock with an occasional southern twist - no frills stuff that deserves to be played loud while cruising along in a pick up truck, down an arrow-straight highway that’s shimmering in the high noon sun.
Tim 'Too Slim' Langford - psychedelic, maan!
Opening track 'Time Has Come Today' sets out their stall with a meaty riff and jangly turnaround from Tim ‘Too Slim’ Langford, to go with his gravelly vocal.  Here and there the vibe drifts towards Texas, as on ‘One Step At A Time’ and ‘Run Away’, with their ZZ Top-like riffs and Langford’s voice channelling Billy Gibbons.  The former has a moody, downbeat opening, though it would benefit from more drive, while the latter builds some satisfying tension between the guitar and Jeff ‘Shakey’ Fowlkes’ drums, ahead of a heavyweight crescendo in the middle and a closing wah-wah solo from Langford.  Both songs feel overlong, but not as a result of indulgent noodling, so the lack of pruning is forgivable.
Elsewhere the material ranges from traditional R’n’B on the loping ‘Trouble’, with its rock steady rhythm and chugging harp from guest Sheldon Ziro, to the more modern ‘Lay Down The Gun’, where the melody tugs at the rhythm and the semi-rapped vocal recalls the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Sonically they’re in the sweet spot throughout, typified by the chunky rhythm guitar sound on the beefy ‘Broken White Line’.  ‘A Little More Time’ has Skynyrd-ish undertones, and the closing title track is an atmospheric instrumental with twanging guitar spaced out over rattlesnake-shaking percussion.
But they’re probably at their best on songs like the straight-up ‘What You Said’.  Locked into a crisp, pounding beat, it would surely have Angus Young at least nodding his head to the simple, ringing riff as Langford bounces licks off it.  High Desert Heat is the thirteenth studio album from Too Slim and the Taildraggers, would you believe, and the experience shows in a well-honed, blue-collar sound worthy of a roadhouse jukebox.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Mike Vernon & The Mighty Combo - Beyond The Blue Horizon

Legendary blues producer Mike Vernon styles his Mighty Combo as an R’n’B outfit, but don’t stick this album on expecting something down and dirty of the Chicago variety.  To begin with at least, the vibe is more “small big band”, jump blues and early rock’n’roll – Louis Jordan and Fats Domino are declared influences.  Which is fine in principle, but on the first few songs here the results aren’t especially convincing, for a couple of reasons.
The energy levels aren’t high enough for one thing – they can declare on the opening track that ‘We’re Gonna Rock The Joint’, but they really don’t.  And for another thing, Vernon may have been a vocalist with the likes of Rocky Sharpe & The Replays back in the day, but for
Mike Vernon gets his groove on
Pic courtesy of Tommy Slack
several songs here his limited range and power are evident.  His phrasing is good though, so that he at least invests the material with some personality.
Which is just as well, because in the wrong hands this kind of urban blues-derived material could easily end up sounding like twee music hall.  As it is, Clarence Henry’s early Sixties hit ‘(I Don’t Why I Love You) But I Do’ comes across as something from a guest on a comfy BBC light entertainment show of yesteryear, while the arrangement on ‘I Can Fix It’ sounds corny with its repeated musical stings.  It’s all competent enough, but I get the feeling that someone like Georgie Fame would elevate material like this to a whole other level.
And then suddenly, about halfway in, things start to click.  Mose Allison’s ‘Your Mind Is On Vacation’ could easily be a candidate for yet more jazzy quirkiness, but against all odds it does actually sound like R’n’B.  Laid back and mellow R’n’B to be sure, but tasteful, with smoky sax from Paul Tasker and satisfying guitar licks from Kid Carlos.
They follow that with the even more impressive slow blues of ‘Old Man Dreams’, on which Carlos really shows his mettle, while Vernon sounds more relaxed and at home.  Maybe he’s in a more comfortable key, maybe the material comes more naturally, but throughout the second half of the album his delivery is much more effective.
‘Red Letter Day’ swings along pleasingly to Mike Hellier’s shuffling rhythm, and Carlos produces another nifty, twanging, varied solo – though the song, like some others, goes on longer than necessary.  ‘A Love Affair With The Blues’ is a dreamy Fats Domino derivative, delivered with feeling and some tasteful harp to augment more twinkling guitar from Carlos, before ‘Hate To Leave (Hate To Say Goodbye)’ rounds things off with some bouncing rock’n’roll.
I caught Vernon and the Combo playing live a couple of weeks back, and the main man certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, which I rather suspect is more than half the point of this venture.  Fair enough. But I’d have thought that someone with Mike Vernon’s track record would have managed to deliver a bit more a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop than is the case on Beyond The Blue Horizon.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Chris Bevington Organisation - Cut And Run

Feeling a bit blue, chum?  In need of a pick-me-up?  Never fear, Dr Cameron has just the tonic.  Get your ears around Cut And Run, the latest outing by the Chris Bevington Organisation – positively one of the most upbeat, good time albums so far this year.
Bassist Chris Bevington may have his name on the tin, but in terms of musical direction he’s got some top quality accomplices in the shape of multi-instrumentalist, producer and hit songwriter Scott Ralph, working in tandem with FM honcho Jim Kirkpatrick.  Between them this pair have not only turned out twelve indecently enjoyable original songs, they’ve also collaborated on production and mixing to give them a vibrant, knock your socks off sound.
"Look lively, there's a snapper!"
Regardless of the Ralph/Kirkpatrick axis though, this is an ensemble affair in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  You want reference points?  Now and then the sound puts me in mind of a YouTube clip I saw of Clapton doing Freddie King’s ‘Tore Down’ with a big band.  Other times – bearing in mind that Jim Kirkpatrick is a frequent collaborator with Bernie Marsden – it suggests nothing so much as early Whitesnake blues-rock with horns.
The Clapton reference is relevant right from the off, as ‘It’s My Life’, with its rattling rhythm and harmonised guitar riffing, recalls one of my favourite Clapton recordings, ‘Motherless Children’.  And there are several more tracks to make you shake yer booty thereafter, starting with ‘Got To Know’, a tale of a “one time woman with a one track mind” on which Adrian Gibson’s trumpet and Mike Yorke’s sax really take flight for the first time. Later, ‘Rollin’’ features a grabbing, spiky riff and a knuckle-dusting guitar solo.  Best of all in the party mode though, is ‘Coming Down With The Blues’, a rollicking effort with a squawking trumpet solo from Gibson, injections of sax, and sassy backing vocals from Sarah Miller and Kate Robertson – the ladies’ contribution being as polished as you might expect from alumni of the Steely Dan tribute outfit Nearly Dan.
The Chris Bevington Organisation have more strings to their bow though, evidenced by the ballad ‘Won’t Daydream No More’, with its exquisite melody initially underpinned by sensitive backing vocals and Dave Edwards’ organ. And there’s more variety in the likes of ‘Sing Myself To Sleep’, which swings as woozily as the title suggests, and also the title track, which opens somewhere down the Mississippi with a megaphone-style vocal before rousing itself into something more raunchy, with some nifty slide playing from Kirkpatrick.  Meanwhile the engine room of Bevington on bass and Neil McCallum are especially to the fore with the lurching, offbeat rhythm of ‘Had Enough’, and the tub-thumping ‘Ain’t Got Nobody To Love’ with its urgent, stabbing horns.
Cut And Run is an album packed with good tunes, all delivered with energy, brio, and what you will, courtesy of some great playing and singing from all concerned.  It has variety, but it’s still tied together beautifully, courtesy of the arrangements and production.  I’m even impressed by the different-from-the-rest cover art – no geezers with guitars pics, but instead a continuation of the sequence of run-down building photos from the earlier albums.
If you want to listen to some ground-breaking piece of innovative music-making then forget it.  But if what you’re after is something to loosen your limbs at the end of the daily grind, then get in line – this is what fun sounds like, folks!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Southern Avenue - Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, 15 July 2018

Southern Avenue’s self-titled debut album from 2017 may be a good introduction to their bluesy, gospel-tinged soul oeuvre, but this performance demonstrates that onstage they spring to life in vivid Technicolor.
Signed to the modern version of Stax Records, Southern Avenue have the goods to refresh the Sixties soul aesthetic in a similar fashion to Vintage Trouble.  Ori Naftaly’s guitar often adds a new slant to the basic soul template, drummer Tikyra Jackson and touring bassist Gage Markey inject bouts of serious syncopation, and Jeremy Powell throws an adrenaline rush of organ into the mix.
Tierinii Jackson - tiny but towering
And then there’s Tierinii Jackson.  Right from their opening number, the uptempo R’n’B of ’80 Miles From Memphis’, Southern Avenue’s lead singer is an elphin bundle of positive energy and charisma who shows the potential to propel the band to another level.  She’s got vocal power to burn - goodness where it comes from, as she’s tiny. She also hints at some jazzy capabilities now and then, but more to the point she has the kind of church background that enables her to do justice to the gospel inflections of their sound with ease, and also the sensitivity to do justice to the dreamy soul of ‘It’s Gonna Be Alright’ – with added harmonies from sister Tikyra.  Add to that a winning smile, and a readiness to dance like the music demands it, and you have one helluva magnetic performer.
From the debut album, ‘What Did I Do’ is built on a guitar lick that strongly recalls Corner Shop’s ‘Brimful Of Asha’, of all things, and Naftaly serves up some serious twang. ‘Peace Will Come’ is a slice of gospel for the 21stCentury, sounding like a mash-up between ‘Wade In The Water’ and Tommy Castro’s ‘Common Ground’.  They demonstrate good dynamics, starting off slow and steady before funking it up with chunky guitar and keys riffs, while Naftaly shows off his penchant for rockabilly-tinged guitar soloing – not for the first or last time. Ann Peebles’ ‘Slipped, Tripped, Fell In Love’ meanwhile, the only cover on the album, is simply a spot-on blast.
They rouse the audience with a few other nifty cover versions too, like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, slowed and sultry in a Stax-like stew, a suitably strutting stab at ‘Come
Southern Avenue strut their soulful stuff
Together’, and a relaxed, loose reading of Etta James’ ‘Blues Is My Business’.
They close the set proper with the anthemic gospel soul of ‘Don’t Give Up’, on which the audience are recruited into a call and response routine for the duration of the song, while Powell gets stuck into an organ wig-out, and Jackson goes into towering mode with her vocals.  Then they put an unexpected cherry on top with a whirl through ‘Superstition’, with Laftaly conjuring up some interesting wah-wah – except, y’know, who cares about details like guitar tones by that stage, with the crowd getting to their feet to dish out a warm ovation?
Southern Avenue still have some growing to do, to be sure.  I had the impression they slotted in some new songs along the way tonight, without identifying any titles, and if so they were all well up to the mark. But they could still do with a few more to help them cut down on the number of covers.  And now and then it felt like they needed to find another gear, to give it all a bit more dig.  These things will come, but in the meantime they won a bundle more fans with this show.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Little Steven and The Disciples Of Soul - Whitley Bay Playhouse, 2 July 2018

The curtain parts, a rumble of drums and burst of chords heralds the appearance of the Disciples Of Soul, and before Steve Van Zandt can even shuffle his way to the front of stage, the audience are on their feet.  The Whitley Bay Playhouse may be a compact but bijou venue, but as Little Steven kicks off with Arthur Conley’s ‘Sweet Soul Music’ the night is made for dancing.
What follows is a two and a half hour show that’s equal parts Stax Soul Revue,  grand tour of rock’n’roll history, and – as the main man himself puts it – spiritual nourishment through live music.
Steve Van Zandt preaches spiritual nourishment
And that’s not a grand claim.  Just a few songs in they serve up Etta James’ ‘Blues Is My Business’, which not only features a 100% grabber of a hook, but is a platform for no less than six – count ‘em, six – different instrumental breaks kicking off with Andy Burton’s organ, and taking in guitars, piano, sax, and all action trombone from Clark Gayne. But here’s the thing, every one of these solos serves the song, and they’re all fun rather than exhibitions of self-indulgence.  After a sublime key change they could almost pack in right there and it would still be worth the ticket.
Except of course they don’t stop there.  It’s all so intense at one stage the backing singers JaQuita May, Sara Devine and Tania Jones take advantage of a solo to cool themselves off in front of fans next to the keyboards.  The ladies are dancing queens of a wholly different stripe from the usual repetitive groovers, though they’ve evidently been developing more co-ordinated moves since last autumn.  Not sure I approve of that mind you – I like ‘em best at their most non-conformist. Still, they add bucketfuls of snap, crackle and pop to the show, and Ms May is still “hotter’n a fox in a forest fire”, as another musical Van Zandt might have put it.
Hotter'n a fox in a forest fire in Whitley Bay
‘Until The Good Is Gone’ is a tribute to the great radio days of Van Zandt’s youth, featuring wonderfully gospellated call and response vocals between him and the girls.  ‘Under The Gun’ takes a very different road, with an Arabic intro worthy of Robert Plant leading into a pounding affair in which Steve and his guitar buddy Marc Ribler exchange ringing guitar chords a la Lizzy’s version of ‘Rosalie’, before a wild ending in which drummer Rich Mercurio goes certifiably nuts.
In between there’s ‘Angel Eyes’, which like the later ‘I Saw The Light’ seems almost like a throwaway at first, before turning into something immense.  Moments like these almost sum up the paradox of great pop music, that it can seem ephemeral on the one hand and timeless on the other.
Along the way there are so many different ingredients added to spice up the menu, from the sublime Motown-esque melody on ‘Some Things Just Don’t Change’ to the signature terrific horn riff on ‘St Valentine’s Day’ (on which Mercurio again shows that a drummer doesn’t need a solo to take the biscuit), from Morricone-style trumpet and guitar duet on ‘Standing In The Line Of Fire’ to the spot-on doo-wop arrangement of ‘The City Weeps Tonight’, and even the hard rocking of ‘Salvation’, on which the girls go wild.
There’s a slight dip in intensity with James Brown’s funk film theme ‘Down And Out In New York City’, as all five of the horn players take solo turns – all of which are fine in themselves, but which detract from the tension the song generates.  That done, they take a breather for the subdued mandolin-and-accordion of ‘Princess Of Little Italy’.
Disciples Of Soul - born to be wild
From there on though, it’s like a bobsleigh ride of thrills and spills, starting with the great hook of the floor-shaking ‘Ride The Night Away’, and continuing with the Latino vibe of ‘Bitter Fruit’, on which Van Zandt cries “Mambo!” to usher in a percussion showcase from Anthony Almonte as a song of defiance turns into a celebration. ‘Forever’ ends the set proper, but although they take a bow they go straight into the encores, and then they bring the house down when they “try something” with a stab of stop-time R’n’B which some of the Geordie locals go nuts immediately recognise as a hit by local Sixties heroes The Animals.
‘I Don’t Wanna Go Home’ triggers a forest of hands in the air to greet the aspirational lines “I know we have to try, to reach up and touch the sky”.  Most bands would struggle to top that, but Van Zandt still has ‘Out Of The Darkness’ up his sleeve.  It’s an air-punching anthem for our times, and sums up perfectly Van Zandt’s philosophy of musical and social togetherness.
I love live music, but there are some shows that reach up to another level altogether, and this was one of them.  If you were at this gig, and didn’t come out punch-drunk with enjoyment, and your face tired from smiling, then what the hell do you want from life?

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Waterboys - Playhouse, Edinburgh, 29 June 2018

Long, long time ago, I can still remember – playing The Waterboys’ ‘Big Music’ as my rallying call before going out to do my final university exams.  They weren’t a band I particularly followed at the time – I was primarily a hard rock kid back then – and my acquaintance with Mike Scott’s oeuvre has been haphazard since.  I loved Fisherman’s Blues, and there was then a long hiatus until somehow I picked up on the blindingly good Modern Blues a couple of years back.
So now here we are again at the Edinburgh Playhouse, scene of many a great gig in days of yore, but now largely given over to musicals.  Which probably explains the numerous signs insisting that the place is a seated venue, and “would patrons please co-operate in ensuring everyone can see”.  In other words, sit yer ass doon!
The Waterboys - first class jiggery-pokery
Which is a pity, because there’s plenty of danceable stuff in the Waterboys’ set, and it’s clear that some of the audience are itching to shake their booty on some of the jiggery-pokery stuff like ‘When Ye Go Away’ and the spankingly rumbustious ‘The Raggle-Taggle Gypsy’.
Fortunately Mike Scott has a trick up his sleeve to allow us at least a vicarious dance sensation, in the form of hip chick backing swingers Zeenie Summers and Jess Kav, who get on down in exuberant, loosely co-ordinated fashion throughout.  They also provide spot on vocals, with Kav especially impressive and versatile, ranging from soulful to scat-singing to well-nigh classic soprano at times.
By contrast Steve Wickham, looking like your favourite absent-minded professor with his waistcoat and stuck-up hair, often looks rather bemused by proceedings, when not actually playing, swaying gently while holding his fiddle in both hands.  But then he chucks in his trademark pirouette as they roll back the years with ‘A Girl Called Johnny’, and when he rips into that scudding riff on ‘We Will Not Be Lovers’ you know exactly what he brings to the party.
There are a few tunes from the latest album Out Of All This Blue.  It may have been a bit of an erratic outing, but Scott still pulls out some strong songs with the likes of ‘If The Answer Is Yeah’ and the country-style tribute to keyboard player Brother Paul Brown, ‘Nashville, Tennessee’.  Personally I reckon the tag-line of the latter would be better reversed to “My ass may be in Nashville, but my heart is in Memphis, Tennessee”, but that might have required a whole different lyric.  I’d also have preferred to hear something upbeat like ‘The Connemara Fox’ or ‘The Hammerhead Bar’, rather than the more mellow ‘Man, What A Woman’, but hey, I’ll give Mike Scott a pass on that.
In any event there’s enough from Modern Blues to keep me happy. In addition to being a sublime lyricist, Scott is an excellent raconteur, and cleverly uses a bit of guitar tuning as a catalyst for a story that neatly lines up the muscular ‘Still A Freak’.  Then after the interval he neatly bends the premise of ‘Nearest Thing To Hip’ to turn it into a nostalgia trip for lost Edinburgh record shops from the heyday of vinyl.  There’s no need for storytelling with the rattling set-closer ‘Long Strange Golden Road’ though.  ‘Anthemic’ is a word that could have been invented for Mike Scott’s songwriting, and this is a beat poet visionary call to (peaceful) arms.  It’s also one of several songs on which Brother Paul goes to town on his Hammond organ, apparently wrenching soul from the very guts of it.  His addition to the Waterboys ranks a few years ago was a signal moment.
They encore with ‘The Whole Of The Moon’, and inevitably the audience rise en masse to acclaim the archetypal example of Scott’s “Big Music”, singing along merrily as they’re conducted by Summers and Kav.  They stay on their feet for ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, the first blast of Scott’s delving into folk traditions, on which Scott and the girls join in with Wickham to twirl through the classic fiddle riff, summing up the collective spirit of the evening.
Mike Scott is blessed with the ability to create a multi-faceted repertoire.  As The Waterboys’ Facebook page puts it, “The Waterboys belong to no movement, genre, school or fashion. We play Waterboys music.  We follow the twists and trails of the music wherever it leads, wherever the adventure unfolds. Come with us.”  Yeah, it may sound a bit corny.  But Mike Scott is still a freak, and a bloody good one at that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jed Potts and the Hillman Hunters - Jed Potts and the Hillman Hinters

Must admit I’m feeling a bit guilty about having taken so long to get round to reviewing this first album by Jed Potts and the Hillman Hunters, since they released it a couple of months back.  But hey, it took Jed Potts ages to get the damn thing out, so I’ll cut myself a little slack.
Potts is a prominent fixture on the Edinburgh blues/funk/jazz music scene, showing off his guitar skills in a variety of different bands.  His own trio, as this debut recording featuring ten covers and three originals demonstrates, focuses on good time rock’n’rollin’ blues.  I’d have liked to hear another of his originals, the entertaining ‘Ain’t It Rough (When Your Baby’s In The Huff)’, but sadly that will have to wait for another day.
Jed Potts - Is this man a gangster of love?
Two of the three Kings are to the fore, kicking off with BB King’s ‘Days Of Old’, which sets the tone with lots of energy and sparkling guitar from Potts, notes bending and snapping hither and yon.  His voice is on the light side, without the depth or rasp of yer real deal blues singer, but he compensates for that with good phrasing, injecting songs with the necessary personality.  The sound is also a bit on the thin side, lacking a bit of bottom to properly bring out Jonny Christie’s kick drum and Charlie Wild’s bass, which is a pity because they’re a swinging rhythm section, but after cranking the volume up a bit I gradually got used to it.
And speaking of swinging, Freddie King’s ‘Sen-Sa-Shun’ is the first of a few instrumentals on which Potts throws off sparks with his guitar as he skates around in numerous directions – and even if the drum sound is a bit tinny, Christie’s contribution still gives the tune the requisite fizz.  The self-penned instrumental ‘Puttin’ It Aboot’, meanwhile, is even more rapid-fire, with racing bass and drums and Potts’ fingers well and truly nimble over the top of a jazzy beat that hints at Sean Costello – an influence that’s even more apparent on the later ‘Draughts’, with its lazy sense of swing, and casual strumming of bright chords interspersed with licks fired in from unexpected angles.
There’s a sense of fun abroad throughout, whether in the simplicity of an old-fashioned rock’n’roll such as Elvis’s ‘Tryin’ To Get To You’, on which they capture the vibe perfectly, or BB King’s ‘Fishin’ After Me’ – ‘Catfish Blues’ by any other name – with its skipping rhythm and Potts combining rhythm and lead playing to great effect.  Meanwhile Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s ‘Gangster Of Love’, with its stop-time riff a la Muddy, is delivered with the wit it deserves.
Taking things down a notch the original ‘Four Leaf Clover’ is a major key but sounding-kinda-minor slow blues that’s mellow, with a well-honed arrangement, subtle dynamics, and plenty of variation in style, and while ‘Down In The Alley’, by the rather obscure Nappy Brown, doesn’t manage the level of angstiness someone like Sean Costello might bring to it, Potts still coaxes surprising accents of a non-pedal variety from his guitar.
Either side of the latter, Rudy Greene’s uptempo ‘Juicy Fruit’ is all buzzing, rattling guitar, and Freddie King’s ‘Sidetracked’ brings the curtain down in suitably effervescent and relaxed fashion.
Jed Potts ain’t no shredding blues rock guitar slinger.  He’s an old school electric blues player, and an inventive one at that. His brand of music is really a live thing, for people to shake their collective booty.  But meantime, anyone fancy a party?  Okay then - let’s grab a few beers and it’s all back to Jed’s!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Rob Tognoni - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 22 June 2018

I’m just getting myself a beer in the bar when Rob Tognoni comes onstage, but still manage to latch onto his modus operandi pretty damn quickly, as he and his trio crash into a spiky riff, soon accompanied by a catalogue of sparky guitar licks, leading up to a high-powered wah wah solo.  Oh yeah, there are some vocals in there too, delivered in a kinda tuneful, enthusiastic bark, and the overall package is enough to get the crowd on side from the git go.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know Rob Tognoni’s canon backwards.  The Australian has been on the go for a long time, and has a catalogue of albums stretching back to the mid-90s, but I only came across him for the first time last year.  So I vaguely recognise ‘Birra For Lira’, the title track from his 2015 album, which features another squawking solo, but for much of the set all bets are off.
Rob Tognoni and Gaz Rackham - lean on me
Never mind, by the time he gets stuck into another stomper from his 1995 album Headstrong, it’s clear that with his impish grin that this is a guy who enjoys his work.  Given his Australian provenance it’s easy to say that there’s an air of old-fashioned hard rock a la AC/DC to his sound, but ‘Bad Girl’ does fit that bill, with its sledgehammer riff and drummer Mike Hellier doing his best impression of Phil Rudd on-the-money timekeeping.  And while Tognoni – aka the Tasmanian Devil – doesn’t don fancy dress, he’s still a showman, of the arm-flourishing, lip-pursing, hip-wiggling (yes, hip-wiggling), machine gun soloing variety.
Bassist Gaz Rackham – who could be cast as the cousin of Eric Stoltz in Pulp Fiction – seems permanently amused by his gaffer’s antics, whether of the shape-throwing or the plank-spanking variety.  But with his 5 string bass he and Hellier make up a rock solid but supple boiler room on the likes of ‘Drink Jack Boogie’, a Johnny Winter-ish affair that’s one of the highlights of the night, with a decidedly bluesy intro from Tognoni, and the more subtle title track from his Tognoni’s latest album Brave, with its offbeat rhythm.
They close the first of two sets with a jam on ‘Dark Angel’, building from a slow bass’n’drums intro to feature crunching riffs and fluid licks, and some impressive pickless soloing from the Tog, even if his nod to ‘Toccata and Fugue’ is a bit naff.
The second half kicks in interesting fashion, as some slow funky blues develops into something that may or may not be called ‘One More Hit’, and which feels like the Stones taking a walk on the wild side with Lou Reed, semi-spoken vocal and all, but with Tognoni then getting excited enough to be play with his teeth, get down on his knees, and embark on some windmill armed, toreador-like guitar heroism.
It’s all a bit endearingly daft, but he does demonstrating good taste by then covering Rory Gallagher’s ‘Shadow Play’.  It’s a great tune of course, and though RT isn’t Rory he doesn’t let the side down. In fact by now I’m forcibly reminded of Larry Miller, another meat-and-potatoes hard blues-rockin’ geezer and Rory fan who is great fun.
The R’n’B groove of ‘Mr John Lee’ (as in Hooker), is swingingly good to the point that plenty of asses are being shook in the audience, and a reading of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ is like a Tour de France descent in top gear, with suitably brisk drum and bass solos and ‘Let There Be Rock’ style dynamics.
Andrew Robert Eustace - rollin' down down the Delta
They close with ‘Hey Joe’, which features some unsatisfyingly noodling guitar to these ears, though the Togster does conjure up some decent low volume weeping guitar effects, followed by more energetic guitar wrangling, and a sturdy rocker of an encore sends the crowd away happy.
In the support slot Glasgow’s Andrew Robert Eustace and his band deliver an entertaining set of Delta orientated electric blues.  Eustace is a tall and genial sorta guy, effectively gruff line on the vocal front and satisfyingly useful in the guitar department.  ‘Can’t Wait To See That’ is a decent Mississippi stomp, with two guitars rollin’ an’ tumblin’ around the riff and a scrabbling solo.  But the following ‘Broke Down And Beat’ is a highlight, a chunky shuffle with an appealing groove topped off with a good hook in the chorus.  ‘Bad Weather Blues’ is a strutting, upbeat 12 bar, with a fiery solo from Eustace as the band stoke the engines for a crescendo that should really develop into something bigger.
Things get a bit samey as the set progresses, even though they relax a bit as the songs go by, and the lyrics of ‘Running Man’, confessing to killing a man, feel a bit inauthentic.  ‘Crooked Old Dog’ rattles along nicely though, with its semi-Celtic guitar riff and a hint of stop-time rhythm, and ‘Had Enough’ slithers down the Delta nicely on a jittery riff.  They could do with developing a bit more rhythmic variety – a Bo Diddley beat might be a useful avenue to explore – but Eustace and chums seem to have a clear sense of the sound they’re after, and the man himself injects some personality both vocally and on guitar. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Paul Rodgers - Free Spirit: Celebrating The Music Of Free

I was too young to ever see Free play live in their heyday.  So my eyes lit up at the announcement of Paul Rodgers’ Free Spirit tour last year – but sadly I couldn’t make it to any of the shows.  Judging by this 16 song recording of the Royal Albert Hall gig, I missed out big time.
Apart from anything else, this set has been impeccably recorded.  Whether the acoustics of the Albert Hall contribute to that at all I don’t know, but right from the bright opening number ‘Little Bit Of Love’ the drum sound is crisp, and the guitar and piano are mingled effectively.  Paul Rodgers’ voice is also clear as a bell, and by the following ‘Ride A Pony’ it’s evident –
Paul Rodgers - the spirit is willing, and the flesh is able
as if there were any doubt – that his pipes are still in excellent condition.  Where some of his vocal contemporaries are struggling in their later years, Rodgers is still a powerhouse whose reach is undiminished.  What’s more, as they get down to business on the gritty ‘Woman’ it’s apparent that he’s still the master of melisma, stretching syllables over several notes, and of wordless, “whoa-oh” articulation of soul.  In fact in this mode the influence of soul giants like Otis Redding is so obvious that the labelling of Free as a blues rock outfit seems a bit lazy - soul rock would be more accurate.
Rodgers is backed here by Deborah Bonham’s band, and if living up to the reputations of Paul Kossoff, Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser is a big challenge they seem to relish it. Guitarist Pete Bullick delivers a piercing solo on ‘Be My Friend’ that captures the depth of feeling well – and evidently pleases the crowd – and as the song progresses Gerard ‘G’ Louis’s piano backing emerges nicely.
They ease off with ‘My Brother Jake’, although revving it up a bit towards the end as Bullick’s guitar fizzes and sparks, and continue in a lighter vein with the roomy simplicity of ‘Love You So’, with Rodgers colouring in the margins around the melody. ‘Travellin’ In Style’ is a sunny affair, with the audience warming up their tonsils for subsequent exertions, before ‘Magic Ship’ marks a shift in terrain with its mystical feel, the piano intro carrying some Celtic undertones before the rhythm section kicks in.
Thereafter they get into the more muscular kind of groove that really does suggest blues rock.  ‘Mr Big’ has a tense play-off between the guitar and Rich Newman’s drums, before Ian Rowley is showcased on bass, evoking Andy Fraser’s rubber band sound.  ‘The Stealer’ has a mean strut, and another good solo from Bullick, while ‘Fire And Water’ has a soulful, rock steady straightforwardness. ‘The Hunter’ is brisk, and down and dirty, and then it’s party time on ‘Alright Now’, where Newman appears to dial up the beats per minute a fraction, giving it a fresh, zippier feel as the crowd sing themselves hoars.
Then they crunch into ‘Wishing Well’ and that classic descending riff, again powered along nicely by Newman’s drumming towards those wonderful lines, “Put up a fight you believe to be right / And someday the sun will shine through”.  The audience can still be heard singing along in the background, and I suspect there were smiles galore as they bathed in the warm glow of a trip down memory lane.
For me the album peaks there, with the following ‘Walk In My Shadow’ and ‘Catch A Train’ exhalations to end the night, even though both are tough enough, the former with its big riff and some squealing feedback, while Bullick essays some very Koss-like guitar on the latter – a song never actually played live by Free.
The album is titled Free Spirit: Celebrating The Music Of Free, and there’s certainly an air of celebration about it – even of a nostalgic love-in.  And why not?  It’s a strong body of work to celebrate, to say the least, and with Paul Rodgers’ voice well to the fore the spirit is alive and well.

Free Spirit is released by Quarto Valley Records on 22 June 2018, in various formats including 2 disc CD/DVD including tour booklet.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Big Boy Bloater & The LiMiTs - Pills

If you’re in the market for a blast of aggressive but witty R’n’B, then look no further.  As English as cod and chips, Big Boy Bloater majors on the kind of collision between Chicago R’n’B and Chuck Berry rock’n’roll evident in both early Stones and the Feelgoods.  His 2016 outing Luxury Hobo showed him throwing his own twists into that mix, and Pills repeats the trick.
The title track, with its ascending guitar figure, rocking bass from Steven Oates, and Bloater’s typical gargled-with-broken-glass-this-morning vocals, kicks off a hat-trick of tracks in this vein.  ‘Friday Night’s Alright For Drinking’ may be a bit vin ordinaire in places, but the chorus has plenty of fizz, and in addition to Big Boy’s pinging slide licks it benefits from
Big Boy Bloater - naturally charming
some classy female harmonies that provide extra oomph.  ‘The Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle’ is the real winner though.  A ‘Ballroom Blitz’-like drum rhythm from Matt Cowley sets the tempo, matched by fast-striding bass from Oates, over which the Bloat lays an urgent guitar riff, and a spiky solo.  And while he may not carry the air of menace that Lee’n’Wilko conjured up, he does offer a wry line in observational lyrics.
Pub rock, we’re often reminded by those who were there, wasn’t a sound or a scene, it was just rock music being played in a bunch of London pubs by a variety of different bands. It’s striking though, that when Bloater departs from the forceful R’n’B template, he’s liable to come up with the bobbing Anglo-Country that is ‘Stop Stringing Me Along’, a tale of relationship failure with acoustic strumming and ooh-oohing female backing vocals, that recalls another pub rocker, Nick Lowe.
‘Oops Sorry’ is a bit of lightweight rock’n’roll that’s also in Lowe territory, both musically and lyrically.  A whimsical tale of heartbreak that extols the merits of Gaffa tape and super glue, it features chiming piano and a Latino guitar solo.  And just to round out the pub rock comparisons, ‘Slacker’s Paradise’ is a skipping effort initially redolent of Graham Parker, and a witty vision of consummate idleness with perfectly matched laid back accompaniment.
The back end of the album may contain some efforts that don’t quite hit the bullseye, like the ultimately inconsequential ‘Mouse Organ’, with its inflections of European jazziness, or the closing ‘A Life Full Of Debt’, a melancholy tale of consumerism based on ukulele strumming.  And while ‘The Digital Number Of The Beast’ is a humorous take on “the rise of the machines”, pinging out some musical binary code, it lacks the focus on display elsewhere.
But hey, there’s still room for the quintessentially Bloaterist ‘Unnaturally Charming’, a spooky B-Movie yarn about a young man whose easy charm masks a dangerous misfit, with swirls of fairground organ in the background, jagged guitar counterpointed by more female backing vox, and closing out with a repeated, Dan Auerbach-like guitar lick.
Big Boy Bloater ain’t no teenage guitar hero.  He’s not trying to make some clever crossover into another market.  His act is founded on down to earth elements of rock’n’rollin’ directness, delivered with wit and imagination.  He takes some basic R’n’B virtues, and turns them into something as fresh as a mug of whelks.  Go get a fork and dig in.

Pills is released by Mascot Label Group on 15 June.
Big Boy Bloater tours Britain in September and October - details here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Future Juke preview - A Festival of 21st Century Blues

There’s this Future Juke Festival coming up at a handful of venues in London in the next week, in case you hadn’t noticed.  So I thought I’d pitch in with some thoughts on a few of the acts I’ve tripped over previously.  Well why not?

Eli “Paperboy” Reed could well be one of the highlights of the week at the 100 Club on 4 June, judging by the urgent, sometimes gospel-inflected, Sixties-style soul of his 2016 album My Way Home.  If Samantha Fish took Detroit R’n’B mini-epics of love and rejection, and re-tooled them for the 21stcentury on her album Chills & Fever, Reed’s style is a
Eli "Paperboy" Reed up close and personal
throwback to the old days, with a reverb-drenched production where you can practically hear scratches on 45rpm vinyl.
The energy levels are intense on the likes of ‘Cut Ya Down’, but he also pulls off sweetly Sam Cooke-ish soul on both ‘Tomorrow’s Not Promised’ and the title track, with its gospel choir like backing vocals.  It’s worth bearing in mind that in addition to spending a year or so imbibing the blues in Clarksdale, Bostonian Reed played organ and piano in a Chicago church alongside noted soul singer Mitty Collier, so he knows his onions, and it’s apparent here.
‘The Strangest Thing’ is a rock’n’rollin’ affair, while ‘A Few More Days’ has a dash of funk with its cocky guitar riffing.  And throughout it all Reed delivers vocals that are raw and convincing, with controlled melisma – and it’s not all boy/girl, moon/June soul subject matter by the way.
There are people who rave about the soul of our own James Hunter Six, but frankly they’re smooth operaters compared to Reed’s fervent reawakening of the Sixties.

One of the other main events is the outing at Dingwall’s on 1 June by Californian Grammy Award winner Fantastic Negrito, and you can find a review of his upcoming third record Please Don’t Be Dead here – with links to coverage of his two previous efforts.  But he’s also supported by British trio Miraculous Mule, so what are they all about?
Well, I’m not yet acquainted with their latest album Two Tonne Testimony.  But back in 2015 I came across their back-to-basics reading of ‘In My Time Of Dying’ on a covermount tribute CD to Physical Graffiti produced by Mojo magazine. On the strength of that I got hold of a couple of their albums, Blues Uzi and Deep Fried, which showed them offering a few
Miraculous Mule get spiritual
different modes of bluesiness.
First and foremost perhaps, they have a penchant for traditional spirituals and folk songs of the kind you might expect from Blind Boys Of Alabama, but often with a British sensibility that’s sometimes modern and edgy, sometimes dead straight. So they do a delightful version of ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ that sounds like it’s straight out of the British Blues Boom by someone like The Animals.
Or there’s their minimalist take on the 19thcentury hymn ‘I Know I’ve Been Changed’ – also recorded by Aaron Neville – where the lead vocal is backed by little more than low key guitar and choral backing voices, with sporadic handclaps – a template they exploit more than a little.  But they might also produce something like ‘Satisfied’, with its guitar buzzing like a jarful of wasps behind the favoured device of a hypnotically repetitive, work song-like vocal refrain.
Then again, stuff like ‘Highway Song’ offers a blissed-out wah-wah trip that’s all Swinging Sixties London, whether in the hands of envelope-pushing Brits or Hendrix, who’s also echoed in the ‘Crosstown Traffic’ style riffing they bring to the gospel of ‘I’m A Soldier’ (aka 'Soldier For Jesus', a song often played to great effect by electric blues icon Joe Louis Walker). Or in another vein altogether you might get some country blues with clanking percussion a la Lincoln Durham, as on ‘Blues Uzi’.

On 31 May Brighton’s Mudlow are part of a three-part bill at The Islington. Their retrospective collection Waiting For The Tide To Rise opens with ‘Down In The Snow’, which features a guttural, ‘Peter Gunn’ style riff accompanied by swelling horns, gruff barked
vocals and a down to earth guitar solo from Tobias Mudlow, and a tasteful trumpet break.  But for the most part it’s a three-piece affair, with a few interjections of harp and horns.
Sometimes this means down to earth grunginess on the likes of ‘Drunken Turkey’, with the howling vocals sounding like a herniated Screaming Jay Hawkins, or a North Mississippi vibe on ‘So Long Lee’ with its rolling guitar line.  Often is dark, contemplative Americana, maybe haunting as on ‘The Jester’ with its twanging, spaced out guitar notes and tickled piano. Some of this, to be honest, can start to seem a bit earnest and sombre, though Tobias does turn his hand to a good Tom Waits-like vocal along the way.
Personally I like them best on the likes of ‘Stubb’s Yard’, which has a jaunty Delta simplicity to it that’s redolent of Frank Frost and Sam Carr.  Or on ‘Codename: Toad’, which has an air of Feelgood but more primitive – although they take their foot off the pedal a bit, rather than ramming it home in the way Wilko, Lee and co would have done.  Hopefully they’ll give stuff like this a bit more welly live.

But what do I know? There are other acts out there during Future Juke, billed as a Festival of 21stCentury blues.  Go see, go hear!



Monday, May 28, 2018

Rev. Sekou featuring Luther and Cody Dickinson - In Times Like These

The cover of In Times Like These, by Rev. Sekou, tells you a lot. A sharp dressed black dude wearing a three-piece whistle and a trilby with the brim pulled down over his eyes is walking along between two railway tracks, an acoustic guitar grasped in his mitt by the neck.  That’ll be the Reverend, I’m thinking.  And underneath the title it says ‘Feat. Luther And Cody Dickinson’.  Now, contributions by the North Mississippi Allstar brothers may not be a guarantee of quality, but they’re a pretty good recommendation.
And when it gets going with opening track ‘Resist’, it sounds like they’re onto a good one.  A
Like I said, whipping up a storm live.
civil rights sermon-style call to arms gives way to a hot-gospelling slice of soul, with organ, piano and horns, underpins an anthemic chorus of ‘We want freedom and we want it now’, with Luther Dickinson adding a few fills along the way.  You get the picture?
The way the title track barrels along is a reminder that Ray Charles built his soul sound on church music, with the Rev hollering away in fine fashion about the need for a miracle, but reflecting that ‘Ain’t nobody gonna save us, we’re the ones we’re waiting for’.
I imagine that the Reverend Osaguefo Uhuru Sekou can whip up quite a storm performing this stuff live, and there’s plenty of passion on display as the album progresses.  But he’s articulate with it too, with his liner notes about ‘The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters’ underlining the urgency of the lyrics.
The playing is top quality too, as you might expect with the Dickinsons on board.  I might have suggested that Luther Dickinson was doing sterling work on slide, but evidently he has some serious competition here from lap steel whizz AJ Ghent.  In any event there’s sublime playing decorating the likes of ‘Muddy And Rough’ and the jazzed-up gospel evident in the second half of ‘The Devil Finds Work’, with more rousing horns and Hammond B3 from former Al Green sideman Rev. Charles Hodges.
Things flag a little towards the end, with a couple of songs like the ‘Problems’ that melodically are more R Kelly than Ray Charles, but that’s enlivened by the rootsy playing, and in particular by some zinging guitar which I suspect is Dickinson’s handiwork.
Rev. Sekou is a guy with blues in his veins, but more than that he has a message, and boy does he want to get it across.

Rev. Sekou plays at the Black Deer Festival in Sussex on 23 June.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Here Comes The Sun - Blues Enthused meets Austin Gold

It's not so much an interview as a conversational concoction, really.   Austin Gold are a band who've been getting some attention in the 'New Wave of Classic Rock' space that's opening up, since the release of their debut album Before Dark Clouds last year. It’s the morning after the night before, when they delivered a set supporting King King at the Whitley Bay Playhouse that drew a roar of approval from a full house, and now the band members gradually assemble for a chat after scoffing their fry-up breakfasts in the Beefeater on the seafront.
Rhythm guitarist Jack Cable is first to turn up and park himself across the table, and gets the ball rolling by explaining how the band originated in two separate outfits back in 2014, playing at a blues night in the North Street Bar in their hometown of Peterborough.
Austin Gold - no getting away from Dave Smith's Beatles influences
“Dave put together a band,” he says, referring to lead guitarist and singer Dave Smith, “and another friend of ours Dan Collins put together a band.  Chris Ogden, our drummer, and myself were in Dan Collins’ band – I was playing bass, and Dan Collins was on guitar.  And in Dave’s band there was Dave and our keyboard player Russ Hill, along with another couple of musicians, and they were called Red Wine Blues. Dave decided that he was really enjoying it, but he wanted an extra guitar – so he asked me.  So I was in both bands, playing bass in one and guitar in the other. Then Dan decided he didn’t want to do it any more, but Dave was really getting into it.  He said, ‘I think I could write some tunes for this, I think it could really work.’  Then our drummer left, and the obvious choice was Chris.  Eventually our bass player left as well, and we knew of Lee Churchill from things he’d done before with groups of friends.  And then we’ve just kind of gone on from there, with Dave writing some songs and us doing more and more of our own stuff.
 “It’s kind of the natural progression that everyone goes through,” he says of their development, “where you start feathering in the odd original, around blues covers.  And then the blues covers seem to fade away a little bit, and the covers become a little more choice.  So some of our favourite things to play now are Wings, like ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, and we do Python Lee Jackson’s ‘In A Broken Dream’ – that, I think, is my favourite cover to do.”
Along the way, he adds, their current monicker came into being.
“The name came about because we felt we had out grown our original name which was Red Wine Blues. Obviously we aren't really doing blues covers anymore. Dave has an old Rocktron guitar pedal called Austin Gold and we thought the name suited us quite well so we went with it.”

Now the interesting thing for me is that this evolution away from blues covers has resulted in a distinctive, more melodic sound.  So where has that come from, I wonder.
“Well, Dave’s the songwriter,” Cable says. “Dave will come in with what we call the nucleus of a song, so anything to do with lyrics or melody lines is all Dave.  That’s him all day long.  So he’ll bring a song to the band, and we’ll play through it, and within a couple of hours we’ll have all written our own parts around what Dave’s doing.
Austin Gold go for a monochrome look
“But the influences are stretched quite far and wide,” he goes on, “because every member of the band has a different musical background.  In age there’s quite a broad spectrum there as well.  Our drummer Chris is 25, and our keyboard player Russ is 50.  Just 50,” he emphasises.  “So there’s quite a gap. Russ is a huge Marillion fan, and Deep Purple and things like that.  And Dave was born in the 70s, and his dad really pushed him down the Beatles, Eagles, David Bowie road, that kind of stuff.  Lee, our bass player, is much more hard rock based.  The previous band he was in was called The More I See, which was heavier – the original guitarist was in The Prodigy, so you can imagine it was quite heavy stuff.  And then I actually come from a producer’s background so I’m listening more for interesting sounds than I am for killer guitar licks.  Which is maybe why mine and Dave’s guitar playing works so well together.”
It’s a point well made, I think, by a couple of trilling guitar lines Cable delivers on ‘Roadside’ and ‘See The Light’ that counterpoint the main riff.  Before seeing them live I’d been convinced I was hearing a synthesizer, but it turns out to be the way Cable conjures an unusual tone with the aid of a fuzz box.  But sometimes a key contribution is not to play something, it seems. 
“Part of the ethos of the band has always been space, give each other space.  Because there’s five of us, it’s hard to all be heard unless you give each other space.  So that’s the kind of players we all want to be, is humble in our approach.  So if Dave’s playing something that’s full on, and got lots of movement, lots of playing, then I don’t need to.  There are even big parts in songs that we have where I’m not playing at all!  Do I care? No, why would I?  It’s serving the song.  It’s a bit of a clichéd thing to say, but it’s true.”
Serving the song is a sentiment that’s music to my ears, as it were.  I wish that more people did it.  Cable reckons in their case it’s a function of Dave Smith’s writing style.
“I think because of the way Dave writes melody lines, not just vocally but also for solos, he’s sort of putting himself in a situation where he has to play the solo pretty much how it is on the record, because the guitar solos are almost as memorable as the chorus lines.  And Dave loves a big hook, and that’s what it’s all about. He likes a big chorus.”
The end result is a sound that doesn’t make for simple comparisons.  Listening to their album Before Dark Clouds I’ve often asked myself who they remind me of, and not found easy answers.  Luke Morley of Thunder’s ‘other band’ The Union sometimes springs to mind, and going backaways even the likes of UFO.  But the band that Austin Gold sound most like is – well, Austin Gold. And they don’t fit the typical blues rock template.
“No,” Cable agrees. “It’s hard to put a label on what we actually are!
“Melodic hard rock?” I suggest.
“There you go – I like that.”

As the rest of the band roll in and join us, the conversation turns to the previous night, and the surprise they got coming onstage to be greeted by a full house, when they were expecting to find about 50 people in their seats.
“Well when I’ve been to gigs it’s been like that,” says Dave Smith.  “Everyone stays in the
Dave Smith - Seventies rock revivalist
bar, and then when the main act come on they come in.”
“I came out to check about 15 minutes before we went on,” says drummer Chris Ogden, “and it was deadly silent in there.  But yeah it was great, really good.”
So was supporting King King a learning experience?
“I think we’ve learnt loads just in the last day alone,” says Ogden.  “They’re much further on than we are, and seeing how they work, how their show works, is great.”
“One interesting thing,” says Cable, “is that we do gigs down in London, where you have no idea who else is on the bill, and a lot of the time who’s on the bill has nothing to do with what you’re playing, so there’s no inspiration from them. Whereas when you get to do a show with a band like King King, it inspires you to bring your A-game a bit more. I personally thought last night we were on our game, and that was mostly because we felt inspired to go out and do the best we could.”
“And there’s the style of music,” Dave Smith adds.  “We knew we were playing to a type of audience where - we’re not dissimilar to what they do – kind of under the umbrella genre of blues rock, but we knew they’d be at least receptive.”
Cable laughs.
“Except we’re not blues rock any more – we’re melodic hard rock!”
“We’ll have that!” Smith nods.
“That’s what I said,” says Cable.
“But I thought it really worked last night,” says Smith, “and afterwards the boys were really supportive.”
“Yeah they’re great guys,” agrees bassist Lee Churchill.  “They said they really appreciated the show, and were just very normal, down to earth, friendly guys.”
“They were really happy to chat,” adds Ogden, “and take any questions we had.”
“There was a lovely moment when we were all standing at the side of the stage watching their show,” recalls Smith, “and me and Lee were standing there and at some point Alan Nimmo came over to get a drink, and he shook our hands and said ‘Great show lads’” – said with a Nimmo-esque thumbs up and wink – “in the middle of them playing. He’s like ‘Everything alright?’”
“It was funny when we were unloading the van,” says Russ Hill.  “There’s like a big ramp you have to get up.  And Alan obviously looked at me and thought, ‘He’ll need a hand.’  So he pulled me up, like woof – he’s a dead strong fella!”
“He’d obviously seen your advanced age,” says Cable, chancing his arm
“Yeah that’s what I thought,” Hill laughs.  “He thought ‘Here’s the old boy.’”

Since Dave Smith is now in the company, it seems like time to get his take on the band’s sound, given that he’s the main writer.  So what’s inspired him?
“Well, how long have we got?”
“Not long – you’ve got another gig to get to.”
“Okay, to summarise – massive Beatles nut from a kid, ELO, Bowie, Gerry Rafferty –so although we’re more guitar-based, it’s the chord structures I love in that stuff.  We’re really into Bonamassa – we like heavy stuff like the Foos, Audioslave and that.  So it’s a mixture.  We’re getting a tag at the moment of 70s rock revival-ish, and that’s cool – Bad Company, massive Pink Floyd fans as well, and there are some moments where what we do comes over a bit Floyd.  And then we like Tom Petty as well.”
“Cheers!” says Cable, presumably the leading Tom Petty fan in the band.
“Thank you,” nods Smith in acknowledgement.  “So a mixture really, and in terms of the writing it tends to be the music first – sit down with the guitar.  And then that dictates where
Cable and Smith - almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Skynyrd
the lyrics go.  It’s an open-ended question really, I could go on and on!”
“I think one of the best things,” says Ogden, “is we’ve never sat down and had a chat about what genre we want to do.  We just write the song and it goes where it goes.  And then since the album came out we’ve been put in so many different genres.”
“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword that,” Smith suggests.  “Because sometimes it’s like ‘Well what are you?’  People are ambivalent about not knowing the genre. But then, that’s not how we work. There’s a track ‘Home Ain’t Home’, where it’s quite dark, and a Beatles workout, or we do something straight like ‘See The Light’, which is just a straightforward four to the floor – “
“- Americana,” says Cable.
Eh?  Now, of all the styles I might ascribe to Austin Gold, Americana is not one of them.  It turns out what they mean is a hint of Southern rock, suggested by the impressively intertwined guitar face-off Cable and Smith go for on set closer ‘See The Light’.
“Yeah, which isn’t on the album,” says Cable.  “It’s something that at one show in particular I thought – that would be a perfect moment for a little Skynyrd-type guitar thing.  So we talked about it at one rehearsal, and then it’s been in ever since.”
The comparison still tickles me though, because as Skynyrd impersonators I reckon they’d make a very good Wishbone Ash.  Austin Gold are a band whose sound seems to me as British as the North Sea backdrop to the photographs we do before parting company.  In a good way, I should stress.
We finish up with some chat about them recording a new album later in the year, for release in 2019, and forthcoming gigs and festival appearances they have scheduled.  But as Cable says, their immediate future is to get some more support slots like this one with King King, to build their audience on the strength of the current album.  Here’s hoping they get them – they’re a band that deserve to be heard.