Monday, December 24, 2018

The Blues Enthused Christmas Stocking 2018 - Part 1

“When I was 56 . . . it was a very good year,” Frank Sinatra didn’t sing.  All the same,  I reckon 2018 has been a damn good year for music.  
Blues Enthused doesn’t really go in for baubles and charts, rankings and ratings.  Some albums will resonate with you forever, some gigs will blow your mind.  But other musical moments give you just the pleasure you’re looking for on a particular day, in a particular place.  Like a butterfly, they may not last, but they’re still the sound that captures your attention, right there and then. How do you put a number on that?
Still and all, it’s nice to reflect on a few things that stand out, as we approach the end of the
year. So here are a few highlights of mine – what were yours?
Ian Siegal in everyday lounge wear
The most singular blues roots album of the year, to my mind, came from that incorrigibly engaging curmudgeon Ian Siegal, with All The Rage.  As stiletto-sharp lyrically as ever, he skewered the Trumpian zeitgeist in a number of songs, including opening track ‘Eagle-Vulture’.  But the album also had songs of a warmer, less edgy nature, like the funky ‘Sailor Town’, with its curious yet uplifting refrain, “Everybody skate backwards”.   And if that wasn’t enough, on his Spring tour promoting the album I caught him delivering a barnstorming performance in Edinburgh.
All the same, that wasn’t the most soul-shaking live show of my year.  That honour goes to Little Steven and The Disciples Of Soul in Whitley Bay back in July.  You can see good gigs by bands you love, but now and then there are nights when they hit the ball out of the park, and this was one of them.  As I said at the time, if you didn’t come out of this gig punch drunk from smiling, what do you want from life?  Steve and the gang have Blue-Ray product from the Soulfire tour coming out in the New Year, but in the meantime here they are doing ‘Bitter Fruit’ in Liverpool.
An honourable mention in the live stakes goes to King King, also in Whitley Bay back in May.  But in all honesty Alan Nimmo’s crew were transcended this year by the unexpected autumn revival of the Nimmo Brothers with – well, with his brother Stevie.  On home turf in Glasgow, they could have played the Take That songbook and gone down a storm.  Well, maybe not, but in any event they didn’t take any chances and delivered a stonking set of twin guitar blues-rock.  Here they are showing their more sensitive side though, with 'Waiting For My Heart To Fall'.
The Nimmo Brothers - "Hey Stevie! Did we leave the oven on?"
Also on the podium in both the album and live show stakes are The Temperance Movement.  An idiosyncratic bunch, they can conjure up The Faces and The Black Crowes, but most of all they’re themselves.  And their uniqueness is captured most of all in the madcap form of front man Phil Campbell, a jumping jack of a live performer who combines the energy of Jagger with the rasping rock’n’soul vocal chords of Rod Stewart.  And that mixture of the original and the familiar extends to their 2018 album A Deeper Cut, which is right up there with the best of the year in my book.  They conquered the bizarre snowstorms of March as well, with a belter of a show at the Barrowlands in Glasgow.  I’ll be catching them again in February, supporting the mighty Blue Oyster Cult, who I haven’t seen since the Seventies.  Can’t wait!  Meantime, here they are doing 'Built-In Forgetter' in the relatively tame environment of a TV studio.
Now, Ian Siegal may be inclined to compliment his audience on having good taste rather than settling for “shoddy rock music”, as he did in Edinburgh.  But I grew up listening to straight up hard rock, and I’m still partial to someone who can rock a power chord.  Which brings me to Wayward Sons, who sure as hell rock, but aren’t at all shoddy.  Seeing the creation of one time Little Angels main man Toby Jepson, their show in a small but packed club in Edinburgh back in April was electrifying.  They could be the road not taken by Def Leppard after their second album High’n’Dry - an adventure in high voltage melodic rock with the feel of an uncut diamond.  Check out this wacky video of 'Until The End', and you'll see that they're also tremendous fun. More to come from them in 2019, I'm thinking.
So there’s a few things for you to chew on after your turkey.  Better than watching the Queen's Speech, I reckon.  There’ll be more from Blues Enthused before the New Year, but in the meantime, Merry Christmas one and all!

You can find Part 2 of the Blues Enthused Christmas Stocking here.

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