Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Grainne Duffy - Stramash, Edinburgh, 8 November 2018

Grainne Duffy is a songbird. That’s not the be all and end all of what she has to offer – we’ll get to the rest in a minute.  But as a vocalist the girl from Co Monaghan in Northern Ireland demonstrates tremendous range and control, with enough power to fill the room too.  She really should be mentioned in the same breath as some bigger names in the female singer bracket as a matter of course.
Grainne Duffy gets laid back, sorta
Pic courtesy of Stuart Stott
That appeal is evident right from the opening track of this show, ‘My Love’, taken from her Where I Belong.  With its whooping chorus, interwoven guitars between Duffy and the slide playing of husband Paul Sherry, and some skelping drums from Darren Beckett, it makes for a dynamic start.
Duffy then delves back into her first album for the relaxed groove of ‘Each And Every Time’, the country rock audience participation of ‘Driving Me Crazy’, over strutting bass from Phil Donnelly, and the ballad ‘I Don’t Know Why’, on which she delivers soulful singing and also an emotional solo on her Les Paul Gold Top.
She picks an imaginative cover in the funky form of Koko Taylor’s ‘Voodoo Woman’.  Anyone less like a voodoo woman than the charmingly girl-next-door Duffy would be hard to imagine, but it’s still great fun as she shows her ability as a genial front woman, dancing cheerfully and contributing a wah-wah solo as a precursor to a bass showcase from Donnelly and a wailing outro from Sherry.
There’s a bit of a lull in the set before a classic gritty blues riff heralds Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Love Me Like A Man’.  Vocally this is right in Duffy’s wheelhouse, and collectively they do it justice as the whole band turn it up a notch or two.  In fact it seems to me that for the latter part of the show they benefit from the sound being cranked up generally, giving extra bounce to the reggae rhythm of ‘Sweet Sweet Baby’, with its fun, scrabbling solo from Sherry, and plenty of oomph to the crunching riff of ‘Bad To Worse’, with its bump’n’grind second half and “Whoah-oh-oh” singalong.
Then, would you believe it, just as they kick off Duffy’s trademark reading of Etta James’ ‘I Would Rather Go Blind’, a bunch of extra-curricular punters take up residence in the balcony area and obliviously start a loud conversation.  Credit to Grainne Duffy, she doesn’t allow it to phase her, and overpowers their prattle with a spine-tingling crescendo.
There’s just time for the rousing title track of her second album Test Of Time, including a nod to the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’, and a final encore of ‘The Shape I’m In’, all ringing chords and harmonies, and with a curiously banjo-like solo from Sherry – how’d he do that?.
Personally I’d have liked to hear more of the upbeat material from Test Of Time, which is well suited to her – and Sherry’s – capabilities in a Bonnie Raitt/Tedeschi Trucks oeuvre.  But in a venue that can all too easily suck the energy out of a performance Grainne Duffy and co still deliver a warm and entertaining set to dispel the chills of an autumn night.
Liz Jones dares to be different
Pic courtesy of Stuart Stott
Edinburgh’s Broken Windows offer a refreshing change from the usual blues support band
fare.  Led by singer and songwriter Liz Jones, with her husky vocals, their opener ‘Strum’ incorporates a Latin groove courtesy of percussionist Suzy Cargill, and with the addition of breezy guitar from John Bruce takes on an air of Laurel Canyon-ish West Coast rock.  ‘Dangerous Game’, meanwhile, is a low cut and slinky slowie featuring Parisian-sounding organ chords from Andy Barbour.  There are different dynamics elsewhere, on something I took to be called ‘Well Being’, on which a slow tempo charges into an uptempo phase with Latin-sounding guitar from Bruce accompanied by ample hair tossing from Jones and a rasping vocal.
The Stones’ ‘Play With Fire’ is a good benchmark for their sound too – swinging, chugging boogie, slightly held in check, and coloured by rippling piano from Barbour. ‘Broken Windows’ itself has subtle guitar shadings, a big middle eight, and a tasteful solo from Bruce, while new song ‘Angel’ is ringing, happy-go-lucky, and an out and out winner.  Combining fresh songsmithery from Jones with musicianship from stalwart Edinburgh musos like Bruce, bassist Rod Kennard and drummer Gary Davidson, in addition to Cargill and Barbour, Broken Windows dare to be a bit different, and do a good job of it to boot.

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