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.

No comments:

Post a Comment