Watching Savoy Brown play live provides multi-faceted blues experience. For chunks of their show you can just lay back and let them transfix you with entrancing grooves that you can sink deep, deep inside. But there are times when you need to buckle up for some butt-shaking boogie. And there are also connections to blues originals like Memphis Slim and Muddy Waters, as well as the weight of early blues-rock.
|Kim Simmonds lights up the blues|
They open their set in the groove mode, with ‘Why Did You Hoodoo Me’, from their last album Witchy Feelin’, which is all hypnotic, steady-as-she-goes grittiness, underpinned by metronomic drums from Garnet Grimm and supple, muscular bass from Pat DeSalvo. They follow up in a similar but tougher vein, with ‘Walking On Hot Stones’, from their imminent new album City Night. It features a dirty great slab of a riff, with DeSalvo swaying backwards and forwards like a slave to the rhythm, while Simmonds cuts loose with slide guitar, conjuring up a huge, fuzzy sound.
From there they head back in time to 1970, and the staccato riff of ‘Poor Girl’, with Simmonds taking his customary couple of steps away from the microphone to centre stage, to deliver a classy extended solo, eyes closed as ever, full of variation and with a particularly neat Allmans-like segment. It’s a good warm-up for the ensuing instrumental of ‘Cobra’, on which they hit the gas pedal and cut loose with the boogie.
Simmonds demonstrates his understanding of the blues roots with Memphis Slim’s ‘I’ll Keep On Playing The Blues’, a slowie on which his solo demonstrates superb feel, and excellent use of tension and release. He also fishes around in his jacket to produce a harmonica, on which he adds extra garnish with a sweet little solo, to considerable acclaim from the crowd, who are lapping up this direct line to the British Blues boom. On which note, ‘Needle And Spoon’ sounds like a very Sixties British product, even if it was released in 1970. Written by Simmonds’ then compadre Chris Youlden, it adds more variety to the set, with a jazzy solo over a swinging rhythm.
The rocked-up Muddy Waters affair ‘Louisiana Blues’ takes a ‘Rollin’ An’ Tumblin’ vibe and
|Savoy Brown create a blues stramash|
They close the set with the rollicking, slide-infused boogie of ‘Tell Mama’. Simmonds dials it down for a few minutes to deliver a monologue about how he acquired his first guitar, in his typically amiable gent fashion, before they crank it up to a big finish. It goes down a storm, and leads inevitably to an encore. ‘Savoy Brown Boogie’ picks up the baton admirably, dedicated to Simmonds’ brother and also to former SB member Paul Raymond, who sadly had died just a few days earlier. It’s a big rocker of a tune, and when they interpolate ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’, they ain’t kidding.
Over 50 years of Savoy Brown Kim Simmonds has had enough band-mates to compete with Mark E. Smith and The Fall. But this three-piece incarnation has been together for 10 years now, and it shows in their easy, flowing tightness. If you want to immerse yourself in a master class of the blues-rock genre, they’re the real deal.
City Night is released by Quarto Valley Records on 7 June.
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