Monday, March 16, 2020

The Stumble - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 14 March 2020

The Stumble are brilliant.  I don’t mean “I have seen rock’n’roll’s future, and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen” kinda brilliant.  No.  I mean “It’s Saturday night, so grab yourself a beer, warm up your dancing shoes, and have a good time” - that kinda brilliant.
Their primary weapon of choice is R’n’B-orientated, as exemplified by their opening brace of originals from their most recent album The Other Side, the rocking ‘Just Stop’, and the following ‘Be My Slave’ with its tense, stomping opening and easy use of light and shade.  By the time they get through these a couple of things are clear: this six piece powered by
Paul Melville gets a grip on things
two guitars and sax, is a well-oiled rhythm machine that goes through the gears with ease, synched into the tight and unfussy bass and drums of Cam Sweetnam and new boy Luke Paget.  And it’s immediately evident that when they uncork a good groove they damn sure make the most of it – a point they hammer home later with the relentless rolling boogie of ‘360 Degrees Blues’, just in case you’ve forgotten.
They underline their R’n’B credentials with some well-chosen covers, such as ‘You Upset Me Baby’, which is a perfect vehicle for one of Simon Anthony Dixon’s sax solos.  Then they ignite their second set with a soulful take on Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Who’s Been Talkin’’, followed by a pumping version of his ‘Meet Me At The Bottom’, on which Colin Black cuts loose with a shiverin’n’shaking slide solo, topped off with the shuffling party time of Rosco Gordon’s ‘Just A Little Bit’, on which Dixon’s baritone sax playing inspires vocalist Paul Melville to embark on some dodgy twist moves.  Travolta he ain’t.
What he is though, is a helluva singer.  His voice has room-shaking power and depth for starters, but also expressiveness, which is a good combination for the slow blues of ‘All Over Again’, which puts together an excellent from Black, full of feeling, with shifts in pace and a dramatic vocal from Melville.  His voice is even more to the fore on ‘My Life’, which provides a grandstand finish to their first set and eclipses their 2012 studio version.  A statement of intent with a Fifties rock’n’roll ballad vibe, it ramps up the drama to a big finale, then after a lengthy pause they get the crowd bouncing with a foot-stomping, sax honking, borderline ska-inflected coda.
In a similar vein ‘Evening’ is a focal point in their second set, a twilight ballad or perhaps a rock’n’roll torch song, with Black providing a pizzicato passage in his solo before they wind it up several notches, as a prelude to Dixon easing things back down with a subtle sax solo.
Then they’re back into party mode with the likes of ‘Maudie’, a slice of swinging R’n’B that’s
"Hey Colin, can you see the bridge?  I think I've dropped it."
all ringing Chuck Berry chords and squawking sax, and the slower bump’n’grind of ‘Jumping Off The Loving Train’, featuring a couple of crackling guitar solos from Ant Scapens, the first trilling in tone, the second piercing.
They finish with some stonking soul in the form of ‘Bus Stop’, and squeeze in an encore with the dirty, slide-infected ‘The World Is Tuff’, bringing to a close two hours of no messing entertainment.  Colin Black may start the evening looking like he’s entering a Billy Gibbons lookalike contest, next to a proper sharp dressed man in Simon Dixon, and Melville may appear for the second half wearing some terrible tartan trousers tucked into his boots, plus an Artful Dodger-ish top hat, but The Stumble are as down to earth an outfit as you’ll find - like New Orleans by way of The Rover’s Return.  And I mean that as a compliment.
Guitar and drums duo Dixie Fried fill the support slot with a serving of gutbucket Delta blues, all slide and big right thumb from guitarist Craig Lamie, who also supplies raw vocals, while John Murphy’s raucous drumming rounds out the groove with fills of a very North Mississippi hill country persuasion. Over the piece they could do with more variation in tempo, but songs like ‘Saturday Night’ and ‘Dirty Old City’ certainly capture the vibe they’re after.  If you’re a fan of the White Stripes or early Black Keys you may want to lend them an ear.

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