Its All Sweet At The Café Rene Gloucester 28/01
Back in the autumn of 2014, I was at The Hare & Hound, in Birmingham, to see Wille & The Bandits. Supporting them was a young acoustic blues musician from Exeter, Adam Sweet. He made a good impression on acoustic guitar and a stomp box, performing much of his own material. So a trip down to Gloucester, to the bottle lined vaults of Café Rene for Adam, seemed in order. Its the butt end of January, cold with pockets empty, and the usually bustle of this bar seemed a bit thin, in what is a stretched out cavern of a venue. Adam was set up, a song taken from Free, and subsequently performed by Bonamassa started the ball rolling, ‘Walk In My Shadow’, the deep pulse of the stomp box gives the song gravity, as Adam’s voice accompanies his guitar, a good start to the evening. ‘At Times Like This’, establishes Adam’s taste for the blues, its from his album Small Town Thinking and is a hint at his song-writing ability. ‘Doing Alright’, also from his CD, brings that pulse down a bit, but its just a forestalling of a shift to some rock classics, that re-energize the pace.
Thin Lizzy’s, ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, in acoustic sounds ok to me, Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’, was excellent, and certainly grabbed a bit of attention as more people dropped into the bar. Back to the blues, and if your putting in a few stalwart songs, you could not go wrong with some Robert Johnson, ‘Crossroads’, in its original form, simple story telling at its best. Adam closed the first set with another from his CD, a dark warning of foreign travel and suspicious characters, ‘Santarosa Street’, swings along at a pace, and left all on a high, awaiting a second set.
Adam showcases his influences as we restart, the early years of Fleetwood Mac and Peter Green brought us ‘Oh Well’, stretching out and morphing into ‘Green Manalishi’, I cannot recall hearing that in acoustic form before, but it was pretty good, and that stomp box keeps punching out that beat, drawing us in. ‘Pride And Joy’, from the pen of Stevie Ray Vaughan, kept that tempo moving, all great pieces of music, beautifully reworked on acoustic guitar, as Adam’s voice filled the vault. Back to his own songbook, and an appropriate lyric for a solo performance, ‘I Work Alone’, its a raw, punchy bit of blues, Sweet with a sharp tang. Robben Ford provided the next song, providing plenty for Adam to get stuck into, with ‘Talk To Your Daughter’, nicely done. Nearing time for Adam to think of the long drive back South, but still time for one more, ‘borrowed’ and reformed from Steve Black, this was more country styled, but played hard, as Adam attacked the strings with venom, the box thumping out its base, producing a superbly sharp cutting edge to ‘You Think Your Lonely’, and the close. The weather had not made for an inviting evening out, but it was well worth the trip, not to mention the closed M5 on our return, to see Adam Sweet perform again, he will undoubtedly establish his presence on the UK blues scene, both for his musicianship and his song writing, I look forward to the next session.
Words & Photo Graham Munn
Mines A Triple G & T 25/01/15
Sunday the 25th and it was going to be an interesting day, 3 Gigs and Travel between each, such is the heady life of an unpaid, unemployed reviewer; sadly as I sit behind the wheel, the other G&T has to wait.
On the menu was The Prince Of Wales in Ledbury for Maz Mitrenko, the lovely Chantel McGregor in The Tythe Barn, Bishops Cleeve, and finally, the relaxed atmosphere in the company of Mumbo Jumbo, appearing in the barn at The Fleece Inn, Bretforton.
I new of Maz Mitrenko, but had never caught one of his gigs, the opportunity to join the blues crowd at that mecca of music and bread making, The Prince Of Wales, could not be missed. Maz along with Phil Brittle on skins and Pete Vickers on base, were about ready to start as we eased in. The first chord struck, like a very short fuse to a stick of dynamite, striking up a bit of Freddy King and ‘Going Down’. Straight off, you know you are in for an electric blues set, passionately played by artists of the highest calibre. This is territory, that, had the Mississippi flowed North to the great lakes, and through Chicago, it would have been the perfect marriage. I like and appreciate the roots from the Delta, the extremities of hedonistic rock guitar tugging at the blues, I’m not so sure about. Maz and his band, hit the right note, with songs from Rory Gallagher, and of course, Hendrix. Taking his guitar riffs far enough, but leaving room to appreciate the base rhythm from Pete and the beat of Phil’s timpani to come over. Phil Brittle has been around awhile, a journeyman drummer? No, he’s a bit more than that, a gypsy, dancing across the skins as he tickles and crashes the cymbals, absorbing to watch; the music etched into his facial expression.
‘Hold Onto Your Blues’, seems very appropriate, and its pure Maz, loud and raw, a slice of Rory grit, the sandwich is completed by the slow, beautifully presented, ‘Darkness’……at the heart of the blues, superb guitar, soulful base from Pete, and Phil is lost in that inky blue sky. BBKing’s ‘Thrill Has Gone’, so switche over to more Rory, and another from Maz, with ‘Drifter’. The band close for a break; but not before a stunning ‘Hey Joe’, rarely bettered I suspect.
The show continued, bits of Rory and Hendrix, were again interspersed with songs from Maz himself, then a quick turn up country for a fabulous, ‘Copperhead Road’. Maz continued with his own, ‘Misty Mountain Blue’, dripping with the honeyed notes from his guitar. We neared the end, more stunning stuff, Robin Trowers, ‘Bridge Of Sighs’, and just as I was racing away for Chantel, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, followed me down the street. Without doubt, I will be looking out for Maz again in the near future.
Hit the road, and a race (all at legal speeds!) down the M50, through Tewkesbury and to the lovely setting of The Tythe Barn, a gem, hidden away in Bishops Cleeve. Sweet talking my way through, I found Chantel in her dressing room, not long before the stage would beckon, its true the band and my wife were also there, but what the hell. Chantel was Miss February in my music calendar, and I exchanged a copy for her signature across mine. I would have loved to have stayed for the show, its a truly unique setting and the stage looked great, but duty called, and I had promised to be at The Fleece, so back to the road.
The Fleece Inn is unusual, in that it is owned by The National Trust, but functions as the ancient hostelry of yore. Some great ales and excellent food are part of the package, and their Halloumi and Mushroom Burger, is arguably the best around. So, having grabbed my one allotted ½ pint, a dark porter, and ordered a burger, it was into the cosy barn to find Mumbo Jumbo, already into their stride.
Stride is the wrong word, they sit, at ease, with their set of comfortable ‘folk’ songs, and country blues. Its all a rather cosy, happy go lucky, gig which suits the surroundings admirably. Plenty of humour accompanies songs, mostly taken, from ‘The Life Of Riley’, you could imagine George Formby grabbing his uke and joining in. Stepping through the door, ‘Your Gonna Regret It’, struck up, a portent of things to come? not really. The sound was set nicely, Chris sat with an acoustic bass guitar, across his knees, Oliver, colourfully dressed as ever, sat astride a cajon, trumpet to hand, a wash board at his feet, thimbles and kazoo would not be far away. Phil, is behind his keyboard, looking a little sombre, but you know there’s a smile there somewhere, waiting to come out. Phil’s next on vocals, and a wonderful bit of old Bessie Smith blues, ‘Send Me To The Electric Chair’, a bit grim to be a crowd pleaser, but hell it was good! Oliver at his gritty best, gave us, ‘Those Frail Few’, inspired by the veterans of D Day and launched back on Remembrance Day itself. A break was called, but not before Chris, in cheery mode, started looking for a ‘Bald Spot’, Phil, picked up the ending and echoed it through to a fade out, I wonder why?
Oliver opened after the break, in full ‘Joe Cocker’ (r.i.p.) mode, ‘The Letter’, superbly performed as ever. Another ‘new song slipped in, after a bit of debate, ‘Later Some How’, the consensus was, it worked ok, nobody left the building, ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’! All together for ‘Three Cool Cats’, made to measure, and delightfully delivered, in a cool way of course. Time was moving on, Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘Black Rose’, was heard, but the devil made them do it. The uke was in Chris’s hands, Oliver clutched his kazoo, Phil, still hovered over his keyboard, the result was a glorious, ‘Mary Don’t You Weep’, a rousing, foot stomping, crowd pleasing finish to the evening; but not quite. The ‘Rocket’, song was taken out and dusted off, the boys, threw themselves in and lit the touch paper, which sort of takes me back full circle to Maz striking up.
It has been an interesting evening from the raw electric blues of Maz Mitrenko right round to the soft padded, eclectic cell, of Mumbo Jumbo, they had nicely brought me down, as they rocketed off, for my late drive home,. I have not forgotten Chantel, signed & sealed, thanks.
Words & Photos Graham Munn