Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Evening Session - Edinburgh Blues'N'Rock Festival

Due to other commitments, I was only able to get along to the latter half of this year’s Edinburgh Blues’N’Rock Festival, promoted by the Edinburgh Blues Club.  But it has to be said that the sets delivered by The Rising Souls, Dana Fuchs and Ten Years After were still worth the price of the ticket, and then some.
Walking onstage as her band crank out a big fat soul groove, Dana Fuchs is revealed to be a tall woman – like, seriously tall.  And when she gets going with opening track ‘Ready To Rise’, all flailing ringlets of hair, the American singer quickly becomes a compelling
Dana Fuchs and band - a Stax load of soul
presence.  Rousing the audience after a lengthy interval, she and her 6-piece band soon garner a bigger crowd at the front of the stage.
Her sometimes lengthy song introductions about “all being in the boat of life” may seem corny to a British audience of a more laconic disposition, but as she peppers these monologues with interjections of “Fuck that”, she's still more down to earth than diva.  And there is a point to her chat, because the experience of pain and loss she describes, and her attitude to it, are what make her tick as an artist, and bring meaning to her material.
Drawing heavily on her most recent album Love Lives On, recorded in Memphis, it’s clear that Fuchs has the southern soul sound down pat, epitomised by her cover of Otis Redding’s distinctly blues-rooted ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’.  This turns into a genuine soul-funkathon, on which Fuchs ends up laying back on the monitors in acclamation of Aaron Liddard’s sax solo, while Walter Latupierissa shows off his grooving credentials.  She naturally taps into this kind of
A little bit country
vibe on her own ‘Sittin’ On’, which features a great chorus and hook, and turns into an extended workout with a great trumpet showcase from Simon Finch.  Meanwhile pork pie-hatted guitarist and co-writer Jon Diamond shines on the following ‘Sad Solution’, complementing its rousing, anthemic chorus with great funk guitar and a biting solo, while drummer Piero Perreli gets deep in the pocket.
It’s not just undiluted soul music that they have to offer though.  Both ‘Callin’ Angels’ and ‘Long Long Gone’ show that Fuchs have a handy way with injecting some countrification into the Stax vibe, the latter in particular being a “whiskey song” on which Diamond delivers seriously twangy, jangling guitar, and Latupierissa spanks the hell out of his bass.  And just to underline the point, Fuchs straps on an acoustic herself for the set closer of ‘Ring Of Fire’ – though I’m sure it really lends itself to the singalong she leads.
Generally though, Fuchs is the real deal as both a front woman and a vocalist, whether on the convincing slowie ‘Faithful Sinner’, inspired by her father’s troubles, the hazy, woozy ‘Sedative’, which she delivers crouched at the stage apron, or the upbeat songs she delivers with wit and energy throughout the bulk of her set. It all adds up to an irresistibly entertaining, booty-shaking performance.
Now I’ll be honest, and say that Ten Years After aren’t a band I’ve ever followed closely, having missed their late Sixties/early Seventies heyday.  A passing familiarity with the “best of” is the best I can claim. And I’m always a bit nervous about bands that are soldiering on without a late lamented main man – and strange to say, but I’ve never encountered Alvin Lee's successor as singer/guitarist Marcus Bonfanti live either.  But fair play to ‘em, TYA closed the festival with a set that blew away any doubts.
Right from the off Bonfanti weighs in with a good mid-range rocking vocal, with plenty of attack, and on something that may or may not have been called ‘Down The Road’ he also shows up as 
Marcus Bonfanti - post-Woodstock, ever so slightly
really kinetic guitar player, in addition to getting down to some lock-tight interplay with veteran bass man Colin Hodgkinson.  And by the time they get to the mid-tempo blues groove of ‘Hear Me Calling’ their fierce approach is stimulating some wig-out dancing among some of the audience.
Hodgkinson increasingly becomes a star of the show, underpinning some blues rock riffery with bass playing that’s powerful rather than overpowering.  Then he tops that with a solo bass and vocals rendition of Robert Johnson’s ’32-20 Blues’ that is simply extraordinary, playing both rhythm and lead guitar on bass, and bringing new meaning to the lyric “Gonna shoot my pistol, gonna shoot my Gatling gun”.
They deliver a likeable unplugged segment, comprising ‘Don’t Want You Woman’, ‘Portable People’ and ‘Losing The Dogs’.  The first of these is a delightful, swinging affair, while ‘Losing The Dogs’, with its bright, spangly guitar, bobbing bass and pattering snare drum is eminently danceable.
‘Say Yeah’ offers a jagged, tasty riff, and nice piano runs from Chick Churchill, but I could do without the drum solo-centred ‘The Hobbit’. Ric Lee’s blistering drumming on the following ‘Love Like A Man’ more than makes up for it though, as a patient opening gives way to a memorable riff of ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ proportions, and more guitar and bass interplay.  Indeed Bonfanti and Hodgkinson prove to be quite a pairing, contributing a guitar/bass duet/duel on a stonkingly heavy version of ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ that’s another highlight of their set.
A rip-roaring rendition of ‘I’m Going Home’ incorporates bursts of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Hound Dog’, as well as incendiary guitar from Bonfanti in a display of rock’n’roll fireworks. They encore with the good-time rockin’ boogie of ‘Choo Choo Mama’, bringing the curtain down on a job well and truly done. Ten Years After are no museum piece – with Bonfanti and Hodgkinson out front they’re still a powerful blues proposition.
Earlier, Edinburgh locals The Rising Souls made their second EBRF appearance with a set of 21st century blues-inflected rock.  They’ve come a long way from the stripped back semi-acoustic trio I first encountered a few years ago, and now ally Dave Archibald’s soul-inflected vocals with Led-heavy backing on songs for which their toughened up cover of The Black Keys’ ‘Next Girl’ is a good fit.
They lay down a marker early doors with, er, ‘Lay Me Down’, which partners a bone-crunching riff with big, ker-chunking drums from Reece Braid, who adds a rocketing drum break for good measure.  The short and to the point ‘Set Me Free’ stirs dynamic shifts of volume into the mix,
The Rising Souls - get the Led out
along with an undulating riff and a strong, soulful melody.
This is just an appetiser for ‘Walk On’ though, a song that really suggests what they’re capable of as they crank out a huge, very Zeppelin-like swooping riff as a platform for Archibald in full-on Paul Rodgers mode.  They hold the pressure down in the verse before crashing into the chorus like a juggernaut.  A mid-section of scat duelling between Archibald and the guitar provides a breather, before Braid’s drums accelerate to kick start a brief, breakneck guitar solo. If I have a complaint, it’s that here and elsewhere they need to extend passages like this to round songs out to their full potential.  
They do change things up a bit though.  On ‘I’m Coming’ a bright, Hendrixy riff a la ‘Crosstown Traffic’ stops and starts around Archibald’s rasping vocal, and they break things down into a convincing subdued segment.  More downbeat still is the moody ‘Escape’, for which Archibald dons an acoustic guitar as they essay a modern day Bad Company sound, with Roy ‘Kelso’ Laing’s bass harmonising impressively with shimmering lines from their own, shades-sporting Jimmy on guitar.
What The Rising Souls need to do now, having broken onto the hard rock festival circuit this year, is stop faffing around with EPs and singles, and cut an album that will hammer a stake into the ground.

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