Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Geoff Achison & The UK Souldiggers, and Redfish - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 21 September 2019

I’m late, I’m late, for a date with a more than interesting support act.
As it turns out though, Redfish are only a song and a half into their set when I arrive at the Voodoo Rooms, in time to hear Martin McDonald serving up a fiery guitar solo and Sandy Sweetman giving the drums a fair old skelping.  And the Carlisle/Dumfries combo maintain that momentum from there till they vacate the stage.
I’ve seen Redfish a couple of times before, and a singular ingredient of their live performances is the fidgety capering of beardy, bunneted keyboard player Fraser Clark, who often looks like he’s delivering tic-tac-toe signals for a racecourse bookie.  I’m bound to say
Redfish keys man Fraser Clark listens closely for the lost chord
Pic by Stuart Stott
that in the past I've found his antics distracting.  But now, well really it seems like an endearingly daft display of enthusiasm.  And more to the point, it doesn’t detract from some entertaining piano prestidigitation on his part, rocking away on ‘Rakehells’, for example, while McDonald contributes some mean slide guitar.
‘For The Love Of A Good Woman’ is a good example of the Sixties British blues angle to their sound, underlined by the John Mayall-like stylings of Brian Harris’s vocals, and with more good guitar/piano interplay into the bargain.
They close their set with Charlie Rich’s ‘Feel Like Going Home’, a pleasingly different and soulful choice of cover, with hints of ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ in Clark’s organ playing.  Awarded an encore, they get funky with ‘Phone Booth’, Sweetman and bassist Rod Mackay laying down a solid groove while Clark goes nuts to the point where his head ends up underneath his keyboard, and McDonald adds a ruff’n’tuff guitar solo to put the lid on proceedings.
Redfish have become an impressively robust outfit over time, showing energy, a real feel for what they’re doing, and some good taste in material.  Watch out for a forthcoming review of their album, Souls.
Geoff Achison finds fresh angles of funk on guitar
Pic by Stuart Stott
If Redfish are rooted in Sixties blues stylings, Geoff Achison pursues a rather more distinctive path.  As the Australian and his UK Souldiggers band kick off their set with ‘Working My Way Back Home’, the vibe is funky and free-flying, with Achison adding a husky vocal and unwrapping great tones on his pretty-as-you-please PRS guitar. They also work in some clever turnarounds, and keyboard player Paul Jobson announces his presence with some jazzy piano, adding up to a sophisticated funk-blues sound.  Their “theme tune” ‘Souldigger’ follows, with lots of witty asides from Achison on guitar, a flurry of bass from Andy Hodge, and a distinctively voiced organ solo from Jobson, en route to a characteristic Achison solo combining slide and wah-wah.
‘Walking Blues’ is a good example of what they do, with Hodge and drummer Sam Kelly laying down a swaggering groove with plenty of swing, a nimble fingered solo from Achison, and then some top notch guitar/organ interplay building up to a major funk workout.  It may be a Robert Johnson song, but as Achison observes with a grin, “We changed it a little!”  Instrumentally they’re a band who join the dots with consummate ease – upfront Achison and Jobson are each constantly alert to the other’s moves, while Hodge’s bass both counterpoints Achison’s guitar and ties it into Kelly’s rhythms.
But it’s far from being all serioso muso stuff – Jobson shakes everything but his tush as he underpins the rolling groove of the catchy ‘High Wire’, while Kelly is often to be seen and
Achison and co get down to some soul digging
Pic by Stuart Stott
heard hooting with pleasure at proceedings.  Meanwhile, with just a wah-wah pedal at his feet, Achison continues to combine it with slide playing, but on ‘Crazy Horse’ also gets into some cooler knob-twiddling and whammy bar flicking to conjure up different sounds.
A second set opens with Achison on acoustic guitar for the rootsy ‘Skeleton Kiss’, with its intriguing lyrics, and the more folkie, fingerpicking ‘Sovereign Town’.  Then with Achison back on his electric horse, ‘I’m Gonna Ride’ is a blues shuffle highlight, with a big open chorus adding a twist, and Jobson delivering a blisteringly good honky tonk piano solo, including some neat improvisations around the chorus melody.  In fact, if Fraser Clark’s keys playing demands acknowledgement, above and beyond his freaky shenanigans, I’d venture to say that Jobson is in another league, bearing in mind the jazzy, discordant and hugely impressive solo he contributes to the Average White Band-like ‘Voodoo’.
They close with a big fat groove on ‘Baby Come Back’, a fun song with a good hook and some tongue twisting vocals from Achison, who also adds some tips of the hat to ‘Alright Now’ and ‘Uptight’ on guitar.  There’s no time for an encore, but they’re coaxed back for one anyway, coming up with Muddy Waters’ ‘Sugar Sweet’ – but not, I’m sure, as Muddy would know it.  Nevertheless, with a brief guitar/bass face-off between Achison and Hodge, it’s a suitable dessert course to end an entertaining night.

Geoff Achison is touring Britain until Sunday 29 September - details available here.

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