Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ian Siegal - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 21 April 2018

They really should have played ‘In The Mood’ as an entry tape for this performance, because Ian Siegal was well up for for it – and his band weren’t about to be left behind.
This is the third time I’ve seen Siegal play with his band – alias The Rhythm Chiefs when they’re on their own dime – and if the other occasions were good, tonight is something else. It helps of course, that guitarist Dusty Cigaar is restored to the line-up, after being unavailable back in 2016. Cigaar is a guitar-picker who can sprinkle all kinds of stardust over proceedings, and tonight he’s often to be seen grinning wickedly as he ponders his next trick to complement his boss.
"Okay kid, good solo. But watch this!"  "Wow - great E chord boss!"
They open up in cruise control with the sweetly Americana-styled ‘Won’t Be Your Shotgun Rider’, its a capella interlude moving Siegal to proclaim with a grin that “it sounds like the fucking Eagles up here”.  It’s the start of a four-song stretch drawing on new album All The Rage, during which Siegal cranks out some riveting slide on ‘The Sh*t Hit’, while Cigaar gets into characteristically super-twangy mode for the first time on the withering ‘Ain’t It Great’. On the latter, a caustic jeremiad about the state of the States, Siegal’s relish for an acid lyric ensures that the song thuds into the bullseye.
But all this just seems like limbering up when they get into long-standing favourite ‘I Am The Train’. Cigaar chooses this as the moment to really let rip with a cascade of devastating Duane-Eddy-on-speed licks, and when they swoop seamlessly into an interpolation of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ the chemistry between him and Siegal is evident.  Hell, between them they even manage to whip that famously wonky ‘Folsom’ guitar solo into shape.  Not content with that, Cigaar then adds buckets of Hispanic sabor to the Tom Russell classic ‘Gallo Del Cielo’.  I do wish the crazy old chicken would pull through one of these times though.
Siegal then gets another bird in his sights with ‘Eagle-Vulture’, all Biblical imagery over a pattering rhythm from drummer Rafael Schwiddessen, to which Siegal adds tense slide on his Telecaster.  
Siegal skips the stage to give The Rhythm Chiefs the chance to display their versatility with an uptempo jazzy blues instrumental, and when he gets back ventures into North Mississippi hill country with a rendition of Cedell Davis’s ‘She’s Got The Devil In Her’, which featured on Buddy Guy’s 2001 album Sweet Tea. Prowling and menacing, it’s a song with a real juke joint vibe – and Siegal chucks in an effortless falsetto passage just to underline his vocal skills.
‘Sailor Town’, from the new album, is an irresistible funky stroll, with bassist Danny Van’t Hoff digging a groove and Schwiddessen deliciously behind the beat to the extent he might arrive next week.  And then with Siegal referencing Little Milton and Sam Moore they teasingly morph it into the riff from some old Atlantic soul classic – ‘Soul Man’ maybe? It just doesn’t get any better than this.
"Er, how does this one go again?"
Except it does, with another staple of Siegal’s repertoire, the Big George Watt classic ‘Take A Walk In The Wilderness’, a song with a transcendent quality that Van Morrison would be proud of.  Tonight Siegal and co take it to a new level of intensity, with Cigaar pulling out a searing, fiery solo.
They come back for an encore with the yearning ‘Sweet Souvenir’, and then with the curfew shot to hell they haul support act the Dawn Brothers onstage for ‘Don’t Do It’, merrily going to town on The Band’s reading of the Marvin Gaye hit, giving it an Allmans spin, and generally pleasing themselves almost as much as the crowd. And as a last word on Ian Siegal’s ability to cross over genres with style and conviction, that takes some beating. Like I said, he was in the mood.
Support for the tour are the aforementioned Dawn Brothers, also featuring Schwidessen in the drum chair, and they deliver an enjoyable set that’s short and to the point.  Or maybe short and to several points, because they meld genres with freedom.  Kicking off with some sunny soul about getting down the road back to California, that blends in four part harmonies and twanging guitar from Bas van Holt, they subsequently offer a slowie that hints at Vintage Trouble.  Then there’s a country ballad affair that lifts off into more vigorous terrain before a rather ragged segue into an organ solo, followed by a West Coast rock’n’roll affair.  And just for good measure they close with ‘Staying Out Late’, a piece of jazzy funk with more guitar twang to the fore.  Their set is a brief but interesting tour of styles, strong on musicianship and encouraging further acquaintance.
First up on a three-part bill is Stirling-based Reece Hillis, last seen by this correspondent supporting Matt Andersen.  He delivers a similar mix of covers and originals tonight, with his trademark intensity.  Hair screening his face, he gives his 12-string acoustic a rare old seeing-to, while singing in a powerful rasping voice, his forehead practically leaning on the mic.  Hillis ain’t kidding when he delivers ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’, and he provides a rousing opening to the night that puts the early arrivals in the mood for the fireworks to follow.

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