Monday, October 29, 2018

Lightning Willie and the Poorboys

Good ol’ fashioned rock’n’rollin’ countrification.  Or maybe shakin’, rattlin’ rockabilly.  Or country-style Texas blues boogie.  Whatever label you want to stick on the music of Lightning Willie and the Poorboys, it’s damn fine stuff.
They’ve come all the way from LA for a run of Scottish dates that’s even taken in Orkney, but in no time at all make me feel like I’ve been transported to Robert’s Western Warehouse in Nashville.  Sporting a look that recalls Sam Elliott playing the cowboy in The Big Lebowski, and toting one helluva Gibson ES-5N geetar, Willie leads a band who make playing rock’n’roll look easy as pie.
Lightning Willie - not any old hat, not any old guitar
Kicking off with a rollicking instrumental, they draw heavily on latest album No Black No White Just Blues, getting their mojo working with material like the swinging ‘Can’t Get That Stuff’, which sounds like it could have been recorded in Sun Studios with a young Sam Phillips at the controls, and the simple, strutting ‘Eyes In The Back Of My Head’.   Then they cool things off with the smoky ‘Locked In A Prison’, Willie all soulful vocals while his fellow guitarist Pete Anderson contributes halting, teasing guitar licks, before Willie himself goes on to show that the spaces between the notes can be as telling as the notes themselves.
They cover the bases from something that's essentially a re-tooling of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Who’s Been Talking’, on which Anderson contributes slide guitar, to something with what Willie rightly calls “a butt-shaking rumba feel”, and on to the rueful tale of young love ‘Phone Stopped Ringing’, which is twang central from both Willie and Pete, over brooding drums from the baby of the band, Jeff Sorenson.  Then they close out their first set by really revving it up on ‘Lookin’ Out My Window’, with the two guitars picking away fit to bust over an uptempo shuffle, and Anderson weighing in with a high-speed, countrified solo.
They fire up their second set with ‘Couldn’t Do Nothin’’, which is equal parts Chuck Berry rock’n’roll and Texas blues – Lightning Willie originally hailing from Texas, after all – and follow up with more boogie in the form of ‘Tears Tears Tears’, with a suitably rattling piano solo from Michael Murphy, who’s also responsible for providing the bass work with his left hand on Korg synth.
Pete Anderson - guitarist and Harvey Keitel lookalike
But they also lay back with the loping, droll ‘Crazy’, and the slow blues of ‘I’m So Worried’,
on which Anderson delivers a slide solo that’s both pinging and woozy, while Willie acts out the lyrics persuasively as he delivers them in a voice that brings to mind Louis Armstrong.  In between, they share funny stories about freezing their asses off in Orkney and getting lost in Stirling in the course of the previous few days.
Down the stretch there are more Wolf undertones to the slinky ‘Fuss And Fight’, and a Mexican influence on ‘Tears Falling Down, with accordion-style keys from Murphy, and some sweet, sad guitar from Willie.
They wig out on Elvis’s ‘Little Sister’, which was also a hit for Dwight Yoakam with input from Anderson, who duly runs riot with the twangin’.  And to close they head back down Texas way for the distinctly ZZ Top-flavoured boogie of ‘Shake My Snake’, with rollercoaster slide from Anderson.
What Lightning Willie delivers may seem like simple stuff, but simple ain’t so easy to create, or deliver, with character and panache.  Willie does it though, ably assisted by Pete Anderson, laying on a show that’s full of wit, warmth, and musicianship.  If he’s playing near you then get your dancing shoes on!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Listened to Lately - albums by Tomislav Goluban featuring Toni Staresinic; and Crudelia

Some strange shit comes your way in this line, I can tell you.  Not necessarily bad shit, I should stress.  Shit, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder.  What's he on about now, you ask?  Well let's find out, with a couple of albums from the leftest of left fields.

The relationship between Velvet Space Love and the blues is, shall we say, rather tangential.  On this collection of 12 instrumentals from the hands of Tomislav Goluban featuring Toni Staresinic – eight originals, plus remixes of three of them, and a cover of an Ennio Morricone piece - the blues element is represented primarily by the harp playing of Croatian Tomislav Goluban.  Meanwhile his countryman Toni Staresinic adds layers of ambient music on piano, synthesizer and other keyboards, and an assortment of guest performers add analogue instrumentation to the mix.
Tomislav and Toni - Sonny and Cher they're not
And if none of that sounds very much like the blues, it has to be said that here and there it still works quite well in its own terms, corny titles and all.  ‘Zero Gravity’ kicks things off in suitably weightless fashion, with Goluban’s mournful harmonica played out over slow pulses of rhythm and washes of synth, while ‘Space Drive’ is more upbeat, with minimalist harp interjections over Motorik tick-tock-bleeping.
Among the highlights though, are ‘My Jupiter Mistress’ and ‘Hypersleep Dream’.  The former lays down a clanking rhythm foundation over which Staresinic plays a lovely piano motif that shifts and drifts delicately.  The latter is even better, Goluban’s elegiac harp refrain conjuring up a soundtrack from a John Wayne western as the sun sets over the prairie, enhanced by angelic backing “vocalization” from soprano Josipa Loncar.
‘Till The End Of Space And Time’ dials up the Kraftwerkian electronic rhythms again, this time underpinning some jauntier Zydeco-style harp from Goluban.  Two of the three remixes are tedious fare, overlong and over-reliant on repetitive drum programming, but ‘TSMK Remix’ gives the rather thin original a lift with the aid of dub beats and more focus on the mouth iron.  The Morricone tribute ‘Man With A Harmonica’ is a suitably atmospheric closer though, Goluban’s plangent harp suggesting nothing so much as the theme from The Singing Detective, mashed up with sweeps and bleeps of synth that could come from Twin Peaks.
It ain’t rock’n’roll, not by a long chalk, but if you have a secret fondness for Vangelis then knock yourself out.

And so to Threshold Volume 2, the debut album – and don’t ask me about Volume 1 - from Italian-based Crudelia.  Brace yourselves people, because about thirty seconds in you’re going to encounter the singular vocals of Smokin’ Tiglio.  Sounding like a cross between a croaking Leonard Cohen and an escapee from a Mittel-European death metal band, it will inevitably get your attention.  I dunno what he’s going on about across most of this album, and since by all accounts he doesn’t speak English he probably doesn’t either - but he delivers it authoritatively.
Tiglio’s voice isn’t the be all and end all of this multi-national outfit though, and while they may style themselves as “funk-punk-blues” they tend to alternate in-your-face energy with more reflective material – Exhibit A being opening track ‘Sin Of Innocence’, which is a largely subdued affair, featuring both shimmering guitar strumming and vocal harmonies
Crudelia - yer average laid back experimental weirdos
from Eugenio Suvarov to counterpoint Tiglio’s groaning, all played out over a sparse rhythm section.
It’s a subtle recipe they explore further with the likes of ‘Downtown Mumbai’ and ‘I Pay For It’.  The former is downbeat, but this time in loping fashion, with sweet guitar work from Suvarov, making use of some jangling chords, while the latter is all mellow bluesiness, with measured bass and drums from Vincent Modenesi and Frank Funk ahead of a spiky Suvarov solo.
They do rev it up on other tracks though, like the energetic ‘The Blues’, with its scrabbly guitar over pounding drums, while ‘Gold Tonight’ is pretty much straight-ahead punk, with some quirky “a-ha-ha-ing” vocals thrown into the sort-of-chorus.  The title track has a driving riff over a full-on rhythm section, and some twiddly guitar fills as a prelude to a brief, scratchy solo, and ‘Muddy Waters’ is a jagged slice of twitching funkiness – and a bit repetitive until its stuttering outro.  But the closing track ‘Miriam’ epitomises their low-key side, with a spartan opening that leans heavily on flickering guitar notes and Tiglio’s voice, underpinned by some warped synth sounds courtesy of Modenesi, building towards a discordant, measured guitar solo.
I’ve heard worse albums than Threshold.  I’ve also heard stuff that has more musicality – but is far less interesting. At least Crudelia’s sound has personality.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Jawbone - Jawbone

Good tunes, good tunes. Good words too, for that matter.
If you’re thinking that Jawbone sounds like the monicker of some thrash metal band, you can dispense with that notion pronto.  This four-piece featuring Paddy Milner on keys and vocals, Marcus Bonfanti on guitar and vocals, and Rex Horan and Evan Jenkins on bass and drums respectively, is actually named after a song on the eponymous 1969 album by The Band.  Which makes absolute sense when you listen to the stew of rootsy, bluesy, Sixties rock they’ve cooked up on this debut album.
But there’s a very British sensibility at work here too, so that whatever their influences their sound evokes the likes of Van the Man without the spiritual intensity, Gerry Rafferty without the dense production, and Jackie Leven without the eccentricity.
Jawbone get down and get with it, sitting round the table
Pic by Rob Blackham
And in fact the peak point of the album lies in two songs just after halfway, in ‘Rolling On The Underground’ and ‘Big Old Smoke’, each of which in its own way is a paean to the foursome’s home base of London.  The first has a Kinks-meets-Beatles feel, with stabbing guitar chords over rattling drums on the intro, Milner and Bonfanti sharing the vocals, and the kind of catchy melody that you’ll soon realise is a trademark, especially with it’s descending “Down, down, down, down” chorus.  The second is a rousing, brisk affair, on which Bonfanti does the singing in a typically gruff fashion.  The most booty-shaking grabber on the record, with a slide guitar riff, honky tonk piano and stinging Bonfanti solo, it’s simple but classic rock’n’roll.
Not that these are isolated winners, because there’s plenty of quality and enjoyment to be found either side of them. With Bonfanti and Milner sharing the lead vocal duties, sometimes duetting, and with Horan weighing in on occasional three-part harmonies, there’s variety to the delivery of the melodies, Milner’s sweeter voice contrasting with Bonfanti’s semi-hoarse rasp. They alternate on the opening ‘Leave No Traces’, a piano-led, swinging and spacious arrangement that’s typical of the feel they bring to the material.  There’s a great hook wrapped around the chorus, with the lines “Heaven doesn’t want me, And the Devil doesn’t know who I am” encapsulating lyrical theme.  With a relaxed guitar solo and a clever, round-like vocal bridge – hands up who remembers “rounds” from music in school? – over shuffling drums fromJenkins, it epitomises their ability in constructing a song.
At the other end of the album, ‘The Years Used To Mean So Much’ is probably the most Band-like tune on the album.  With halting piano, sweeps of organ, and the beautiful harmonies on the chorus, it’s a song of nostalgic reflection bathed in a warm glow.  Similar musical and emotional qualities echo through the earlier ‘Sit Round The Table’.
Clever lyrics abound, whether in the sharpness of the gleefully bitter ‘Get What You Deserve’, or the reflective but hopeful ‘Two Billion Heartbeats’, with its notion that each of us arrives with a quota of heartbeats to use wisely, and “Two hundred have gone just singing this song”, to which they add a tasteful piano line, novel percussion twists, and some sparkling guitar on the outro.
I could go on, but I’ll let you discover the delights of the rest of this album yourself.  Ten tracks, forty-five minutes – this is the way records used to be, and it’s an elegant sufficiency.  If what you’re after is a load of crash-bang-wallop – “shoddy rock music”, as Ian Siegal called it during a gig this year – then this isn’t for you.  But if you're the kind of listener for whom it’s all about the songs, then Jawbone is just the job.

Jawbone is released on 9 November.
Jawbone are touring the Czech Republic and Spain during October and November.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Jupiter Blues - The Jupiter Blues EP

Around and around and around we go, as Chuck Berry said and numerous others repeated.  It’s a line that comes to mind listening this debut EP by The Jupiter Blues, a neat and energetic four song outing that’s pretty straightforward in its own terms.  But it still prompts me to reflect a bit on how twists on the blues can overlap, loop around and intermingle.  But we’ll get to that later.
Opening track ‘Stinging’ kicks off with a very Keef-like choppy riff.  Augmented by some bar room piano, and twangy licks from guitarist Chris Mitchell, while singer Dale Orenda weighs in with a decent melody, it conjures up some good ol’ boy Southern rock’n’roll.  Well, a bit, given that this four-piece hail from the North-West of England.  In any event it makes for an enjoyable enough first acquaintance, with an appealing coda that mixes in some vocal
The Jupiter Blues take "Get down!" literally
harmonies and muted handclaps.
They enter the fray from a slightly different angle on ‘Six Foot Bulldog’, with a twiddly, Celtic-sounding riff that brings to mind Rory Gallagher.  Ross Brown’s drum sound could be stronger, but he still makes a busy contribution to an interesting arrangement, while his rhythm section partner Rick Davies (also responsible for the keys) comes to the fore with a gripping set of bass line variations.  Mitchell adds a fiery solo that fits the mood, while Orenda’s vocals take on a raw and rocking tone.  All in all, the bulldog has a big bark.
The pick of this four track bunch though, is ‘While The Sun’.  Opening with another Rory-esque urgent riff anchored by another bout of excellent bass from Davies, it mixes up slow and fast sections to good effect, dropping into a dreamy chorus and a bridge with acoustic strumming rounding out the sound.  I could swear I hear a bow being drawn over a fiddle here and there as well, but as there’s nothing of the kind credited I guess it’s a clever use of either keys or guitar.  With Orenda hollering away to good effect, a rippling, Southern-style solo, and multiple layers of sound beefing up the outro, it’s a well-structured effort that lives up to its ambition.  A bit ragged around the edges maybe, but still impressive.
Closing track ‘Little Moon’ is a bit of acoustic Stonesiness that comes as something of a calm after the storm.  Orenda doesn’t try to ham it up with Jagger’s affected country twang, but he doesn’t quite find his own voice either for this slight but sensitive song.  It still works, but there’s room for improvement.
So what was all that about the twists and turns of blues evolution?  Well, there’s a Black Crowes-ish Southern rock slant to The Jupiter Blues, and it seems to me that Southern rock evolved not just out of Delta blues and R’n’B, but out of the country sounds of the South.  Country music, in turn, originated in large measure from Scotland and Ireland – and bizarrely, melded it with a black instrument, the banjo.  And while for all I know The Jupiter Blues have no interest in Rory Gallagher, Rory inserted Celtic sounds into blues rock – from the source, not second or third hand. And if Southern rock bands copped an earful of the rocked up version of R’n’B created by the Stones, as time went by the Stones also twanged their way into country territory.
And so on, and so on, around and around.  The blues, in its pure form, may be a fairly constrained form.  But it evolves, it mutates, it survives.  None of which, I imagine, occurred to The Jupiter Blues when they recorded this EP.  But they’ve still captured the spirit pretty well.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday Night at the Carlisle Blues Rock Festival, 29 September 2018

Saturday night at the Crown & Mitre Hotel, and it’s time for action again at the Carlisle Blues Rock Festival.
John Bowie and Phil Saunders return to get the ball rolling with a more electrified set than in the afternoon, with a half-hour segue-way of rolling, pulsing blues including ‘Just In Time’ and ‘Roadhouse Blues’.  Bowie is on electric guitar this time, serving up some delicious warm tones, while Saunders lays down a percussive groove, weaves in more guitar, and injects occasional harp to boot.  Then they pick up the pace towards the end, revving
Northsyde - plenty to smile about
everyone up for the rest of the evening.
Northsyde follow, fronted by husband and wife duo Jules and Lorna Fothergill on guitar and vocals and respectively.  It’s the first time I’ve come across them, and the immediate impression generated by Lorna Fothergill’s singing is, basically, holy cow!  The woman has a resonant, rhythmic voice with buckets of oomph to spare.  “Tina Turner”, it says in my notes – which is bizarre, given that we’re talking about a woman whose look is tall, blonde, sinuous and slinky.  Whatever, she puts it out there with style and conviction, while the rest of the band cook up a funky groove, and husband Jules weighs in with a spot-on solo.
They follow that up with ‘Who’s Been Talking?’, on which Fothergill’s vocal gets fathoms-deep – though it soon becomes clear that she can go both low and high with equal facility. The arc of their reading goes from a quiet opening, through some jazzy and smoky moments, towards a well honed dying ending.
They get funky again on ‘Cherry Picking’, lock tight, punctuating the arrangement stylishly, and playing with smiles on their faces – Lorna, is visibly intoit, while Jules watches her moves with a grin on his face and a glint in his eye.  ‘Tuesday’s Flowers’ is a new song with a deeply Stevie Wonder-like bass line, and a solo from Jules that recalls Steely Dan.
Lorna Fothergill - yoga, d'you reckon?
Apparently Northsyde have a penchant for bending and twisting covers, and tonight’s selection is ‘In The Air Tonight’ – yep, the Phil Collins song.  They take it a bit more uptempo, with a ton of reverb on the vocal.  It’s less tense/intense than the original, but still cleverly done, and La Fothergill carries it off in the mode of an old-fashioned rock chick in a smart black dress.  This is nothing though, compared to the following ‘Travelling Shoes’, which starts with a spartan beat over which Fothergill delivers a bravura, gospel-style vocal – growling, soaring, with skilful melisma, the woman is stupendous. Not to be outdone, Jules produces a great solo, buzzing, halting, diving and dashing, as a prelude to another beautifully controlled quiet ending.  
That’s the highlight of a set that then shifts through a version of ‘Today I Sing The Blues’ that could be a bit more down to earth, with a less jazzy guitar solo, to the Allman Brothers’ ‘Whipping Post’ on which they deliver an all out instrumental section, and finally a mash-up of ‘Smokestack Lightning’ and ‘Spoonful’ on which they give it large.  Northsyde may not quite have a stand-out, signature sound of their own, but they’re not run of the mill either, and in Lorna Fothergill they sure have a knock-your-socks-off singer.
Thorbjørn Risager - suited and bunneted
Having seen Mike Vernon and the Mighty Combo at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, we decide to retire to the bar for a while, because in my book they ain’t really that mighty.  Which gives us the chance to regroup in readiness for the night’s headliners, Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado.
And their headline status is justified, because Denmark's finest are a very good band. I mean, really good.  From the first bars of ‘If You Wanna Leave’, with its crunking, Quo-like, two-guitar riff, the space between the stage and the front row of seats is immediately filled with dancing punters, and by the time Hans Nybo rips out a wild sax solo the blue touch paper is well and truly lit.  They follow that up with the stomping, Stonesy groove of ‘Maybe It’s Alright’, with its big soulful melody, swirling keys, and sizzling solo from Peter Skjerning.
You know what?  A few years ago I was in a pub when a covers band started knocking out hits by the Stones, the Who, Bad Company et al, and the clientele, of a similar vintage to me, couldn’t help but get up and dance.  Thorbjørn and chums have exactly that effect – and with fresh, original material that absolutely stands comparison with those classics.
As they go on to prove by knocking out the funkier ‘Paradise’, before cooling things off with ‘I Used To Love You’, a beautifully constructed song that’s restrained but has all the right parts in place, and features a lovely solo from Risager as the icing on the cake. And these songs slot into their
Maybe It's Alright?  Hell yeah.
set alongside cyclonic (geddit?) reworkings of blues standards like ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ and ‘Let The Good Times Roll’.
An injection of piano boogie from Emil Balsgaard gradually leads into the rock’n’roll of ‘The Straight And Narrow Line’, with more honking sax from Nybo, before they find room for a new song in the form of ‘Over The Hill’, which does absolutely nothing to diminish the appetite for dancing down the front, and has room for a singalong that succeeds at the first time of hearing.
They slow things down again with the cinematic ‘China Gate’ – well, it does come from an old film, after all – which again underlines their ability to deliver something different.  But from there on its pretty much party time, with the likes of the aforesaid covers, ‘Train’ with its imaginative percussion from Martin Seidelin, the growling ‘All I Want’ with Risager’s gravelly voice to the fore and its teasing false ending, and the suitably titled ‘Rock’n’Roll Ride’.
You think I was taking copious notes amidst all these fun and games?  To hell with that.  I was up dancing with my other half, having a ball like the rest of the Carlisle audience.  Which sums up the irresistible charms of Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado.  When this lot are onstage the good times do indeed roll.

You can find a review of the Friday night session here.
The Saturday afternoon session is reviewed here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Saturday Afternoon at the Carlisle Blues Rock Festival, 29 September 2018

It’s the afternoon after the morning after the night before.  Saturday afternoon that is, around about lunchtime, and the Carlisle Blues Rock Festival is getting under way again.  It’s a gentle warm-up in the semi-acoustic hands of John Bowie and Phil Saunders, with the former delivering some hypnotic acoustic picking, and slide on a resonator, while Saunders plays an assortment of oddball guitars, a box with a foot pedal, and harp on a rack.  Their relaxed set includes Dylan’s ‘Crash On The Levee’, the rhythmic, pulsing ‘Stranger Blues’, and a highly effective folky reworking of ‘Johnny B. Goode’, featuring fluid interweaving of picked guitars to conjure up an elegiac mood.
Deke McGee gets aboard the Gravy Train
Then we get a sideways step from folk blues to post-war jump blues’n’jive in the hands of the Deke McGee Band, led by the sharp-suited cool dude Mr McGee on sax and vocals.  Right from the off, with the honking ‘Gravy Train’, it’s toe-tapping, hand-jiving stuff.  There’s a slower groove to Eddie Vincent’s ‘Kidney Stew’, with jazzy, brittle-toned guitar from Conor Smith, who later produces a great solo on the uptempo dance number ‘Jumpin’ Jesus Holy Cow’, from Deke’s 2016 album All Night Long.  Along the way Tim Brough garnishes ‘Mr Cornbread’ with excellent honky tonk piano to go with David Stone’s bouncing drums, and also adds the woogie to ‘Swanee River Boogie’.  Hank Williams’ ‘Jambalaya’ is a delightfully swinging affair, with great stand-up bass from guest Al Gare.  It’s all a bit incongruous at half one in the afternoon, but with McGee’s sax playing at its core it’s a quality display of what “small big band” vintage R’n’B is all about.
A bit of time travel is needed after that to get in synch with the sound of Rainbreakers.  On opener ‘Need Your Love’ the Shrewsbury four-piece meld funky, driven riffing with soulful but gutsy vocals from rhythm guitarist Ben Edwards and a balls-out solo from lead guitarist Charlie Richards.  It’s the start of an impressive set drawing heavily on their debut album Face To Face.  ‘Got Me Where She Wants’, with its stop-start riff, features some very Hendrixy guitar and a big bass motif from Peter Adams, but they’re also capable of more laid-back sounding funk on ‘Set Yourself Free’, and blissed-out soul-blues on ‘Lost With You’ - introduced as “totally a love song” and displaying good variation as well as some novel guitar-vocal harmonising that could have been extended.
Rainbreakers - blissed out soulful funky Hendrix-esque blues rock
The slow and suspenseful ‘On My Knees’ is just one example of their strong songwriting, with a quavering vocal from Edwards and a tough bridge.  And there’s more variety in the form of ‘Waiting On You/Moving On’, with its shimmering wah-wah and cymbal intro, and delicate strumming a la ‘Rain Song’, and an impressively soulful vocal at its heart.  It’s different, and also bravely sparse, whereas the following ‘I’ll Be Ready Now’ explodes into life with a big riff and crashing drums. Mid-tempo but weighty, it showcases a howling solo from Richards ahead of a powerful finish, and garners a big round of applause from the crowd.
Edwards makes a frank admission of his connection to the issues of mental health that inspired set closer ‘Heavy Soul’, and the honesty is done justice with effective use of distorted chords over a heavy drum beat, a rattling riff courtesy of both guitars, and some audience participation over wailing guitar notes.  Job done, Rainbreakers appeared to be shifting a bundle of CDs to new fans at their merch stall, and justifiably so.  They’re a sophisticated band, worthy of continuing attention.
Closing the afternoon session, The Stumble are everything I hoped they would be on my first encounter with them live.  They let loose with three salvos from their rollicking 2016 album The Other Side, with opener ‘Just Stop’ inspiring an immediate outbreak of dancing in the corner of the room.
From the git go, singer Paul Melville simply owns the room, blending powerful vocals with
The Stumble - Lancashire's answer to ZZ Top?
teeth-clenching passion and wry schtick as they crank out hugely entertaining songs from the pen of drummer Boyd Tonner.  They’ve been at it a long time these guys, and know exactly what they’re about.  Tonner, along with bassist Cameron Sweetnam and guitarist Ant Scapens, dig out deep foundations over which Melville leads from the front, ably supported by sax man Simon Anthony Dixon and lead guitarist Colin Black, who rocks a Billy Gibbons look resplendent in long coat, long beard, and big hat, and delivers a great slide solo on ‘New Orleans’.
Frankly I’m having too much fun for systematic notes, but ‘My Life’ is a ballad with heartfelt vocals from Melville and a defiant uptempo coda, ‘C’mon Pretty Baby’ is rock’n’rollin’ R’n’B that brings to mind Bob Seger, and ‘Bus Stop’ (I think) is Stax-like soul featuring squealing sax from Dixon.
A new song called ‘Walk In The Park’ (maybe) has a restrained verse and tough, staccato chorus, building to a wild guitar/sax collision and a ballistic finish, before a big bluesy ballad dedicated to BB King.  But these are details.  The Stumble are a band built to entertain, and they do it with a bluesy rock’n’roll brew that’s all their own.  Catch ‘em if you can.

You can find a review of the Friday night session here.
And the Saturday night session is reviewed here.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Proven Ones - Wild Again

That’s Proven Ones in the sense of a proven track record – drummer Jimi Bott and guitarist Kid Ramos are both former Fabulous Thunderbirds, and other band members have a host of awards and other credits to their name. And on this 10-track outing, half and half originals and covers, they live up to their credentials big time.
A surge of B3 from Anthony Geraci heralds the opening R’n’B blast of ‘Cheap Thrills’, augmented by crunching guitar chords from Ramos, and a rock solid bottom end from Bott and bassist Willie J. Campbell, while Brian Templeton weighs in with gutsy vocals.  And that’s just the start.
The cream of the crop is the penultimate track, a cover of Fenton Robinson’s 1967 slow
The Proven Ones - they're a blues band, okay?
blues ‘Loan Me A Dime’.  I’m not one for tracks that outstay their welcome, but here, over the course of 11 minutes of stunning intensity, washes of sombre organ underpin guitar from Ramos that shifts from fluidity to attack, while Templeton adds to the dynamics with emotional, soulful vocals.
Along the way they funk it up on ‘City Dump’, featuring a wailing sax solo from Renato Coranto, before Templeton brings some James Brown-style pleading to an amped-up version of Fats Domino’s ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ on which Ramos’s guitar practically talks.  Fleetwood Mac’s ‘If You Be My Baby’ features reverb-heavy, pinging guitar over woozy barrelhouse piano, while both Geraci’s ‘Why Baby Why’ and the Kim Wilson co-write ‘Right Track Now’ venture into Southern soul meets R’n’B territory, with horns adding to the big sound.
‘Road Of Love’ starts haltingly, builds with a rolling riff and tough horns and organ, and allows Ramos to show off his slide chops, before Templeton’s muscular vocal, reminiscent of our own Stevie Nimmo, competes with fuzzed-up guitar on the mid-paced title track.  The curtain falls with a bright but dreamy reading of the Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ - with tripping drums from Bott, it gets increasingly blissed out as Ramos layers sparkling guitar fills on top of each other.
The whole shebang benefits from top-notch recording and mixing courtesy of Bott, not least in the form of a whopping drum sound.  Wild Again is the real deal – proof positive.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Friday Session - Carlisle Blues Rock Festival, 28 September 2018

It’s Friday, it’s 5 to 7, and it’s standing room only in the ballroom of the Crown & Mitre Hotel as we arrive for our first visit to the Carlisle Blues Rock Festival.  But it turns out to be well worth standing for the duration to see the four acts on offer.
First up are local favourites Redfish, and they turn in a much stronger performance than when I last saw them, in a support slot in Edinburgh. They deliver a solid set of old school R’n’B, with warm vocals and relaxed patter from bunnet-wearing front man Stumblin’ Harris.
Redfish - Bunnets Are Us
There are funky undercurrents on the likes of Bill Withers’ ‘Use Me Up’, with nimble bass from Rod Mackay and some neat drumming diversions as a bonus.
Their own material fits in well alongside a punchy version of ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ and Magic Sam’s ‘Every Night And Every Day’, with measured solos from guitarist Martin McDonald and boogieing piano from all action keys man Fraser Clark.  It all adds up to an entertaining set that has me acquiring their new EP at the interval.
The Chris Bevington Organisation have produced one of the albums of the year so far with Cut And Run, so I was looking forward to seeing them live, and they didn’t disappoint. With a nine-piece line-up it’s no wonder that other commitments mean there are stand-ins depping for two of three of the usual band, and sadly this includes guitarist and core contributor Jim Kirkpatrick.  I suspect the loss of his interaction with co-conspirator and vocalist/guitarist Scott Ralph dilutes the dynamic of this ensemble affair a bit, but Jordan
The Chris Bevington Organisation get cookin'
Swann does a good job of filling in.  He contributes a sizzling lead guitar intro on ‘Coming Down With The Blues’, eloquent playing on ‘Tin Pan Alley’, and a squealing solo on the excellent ‘Got To Know’. The last of these also features pumping bass from Chris Bevington, gutsy rhythm playing from Ralph, and strong punctuation all round.
‘Better Start Cookin’’ features a trumpet solo and call and response organ and guitar, underlining the variety they can bring to bear.  Ralph fronts operations with brio, and by the time they get to ‘Ain’t Got Nobody To Love’ his Cheshire Cat grin sums up the enjoyment both on and off the stage. They close their 50 minute set with the totally danceable ‘Rollin’’, closing a live show that emulates the vibrancy of their latest album.
Elles Bailey unshackled 
Elles Bailey is a more soulful proposition, but gets the ball rolling with a couple of familiar barn-burners in the form of ‘Let Me Hear You Scream’ and ‘Same Flame’ from her album Wildfire, before offering us something new in the form of the soulful ‘What’s The Matter’.  A cover of Levon Helm’s ‘When I Go Away’ suits her nicely, with some very Stax-like keys from stand-in ivory tinkler James Graham, and some good vocal interplay to boot. Depping drummer Craig Connett also shows up well, with good cymbal work to rev up the intensity on the Muscle Shoals tribute ‘Perfect Storm’, with its strong melody, while another newie in the form of ‘Medicine Man’ is offbeat, driving and dynamic, with appealing slide from Joe Wilkins.  
‘Shackles Of Love’ continues to be my favourite among her material though – a song with a great hook that wouldn’t be out of place on a Bonnie Raitt album.
She tells us that another new song, the thumping, train-like ‘The Road I Call Home’ will be the title track to her new album in the spring, before returning to familiar territory with the emotive ‘Girl Who Owned The Blues’, with its stomping conclusion, and ‘Wildfire’ with its moody slide solo from Wilkins.
Elles Bailey’s amiably daft and self-deprecating chat always makes for an engaging performance.  But more to the point she has a great voice, strong original material, and bags of potential still to be explored.
Guitar totin' Siegal and Cigaar
Topping the bill for the night is Ian Siegal, who has gone way past the point of being described in terms of potential.  Still, I do believe that he’s found another gear this year with the release of his latest album All The Rage.  Coming on wearing a headband, with his festival lanyard flapping around his knees, he eases in with the characteristic, immediately sing-able melody of ‘Shotgun Rider’.  He and the band raise the temperature with the clacking favourite ‘I Am The Train’, with inimitable guitarist Dusty Cigaar being – well, inimitably Dusty.  But they really hit the bullseye with ‘The Shit Hit’, on which a wild slide solo from Siegal is a prelude to a bout of finger wagging, electrifying truth telling.  On an entirely different note, the classic blues of ‘John The Revelator’ interpolates ‘Back Door Man’ in rowdy fashion, and leads to an outbreak of dancing from some of the ladies.  Then it’s back to Siegal at his most withering with ‘Eagle-Vulture’, its spiky guitar line embellished by wafting notes from Cigaar.
A different kind of highlight comes with the North Mississippi Hill Country blues of CeDell Davies’s ‘She’s Got The Devil In Her’.  It’s followed by ‘Gallo Del Cielo’, which apparently a patron begged for tonight, and on which the poor damn chicken inevitably meets a sticky end once again, before Siegal closes out the night with the lovely ‘Sweet Souvenir’.
The clock strikes twelve and it’s time to head for bed.  Will twelve hours be enough to let us rest up for the next day’s fun and games?

You can find a review of the Saturday afternoon session at Carlisle here.
And the Saturday night session is reviewed here.