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Tommy Allen & Johnny Hewitt @ Prince Of Wales, Ledbury 30/03/14

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This small historic pub, tucked away in the narrow Church St. of Ledbury, was subject to a severe case of ‘sardines’ as people filled every void to try the beers and be entertained by The Blues Duo. Definitely a case of ‘no room at the inn’, as the sounds of the Chicago street styled blues band filled the warm, thick air of the heaving bar. Little Walter provided the opening with ‘I’ve Had My Fun’, but there wasn’t much breathing space as the pair rattled through some wonderful old blues classics, and a few of their own, Tommy kicking up percussion as he put his Gretsch to work, as Johnny went into hyper drive on the harp. A lovely rendition of William Clarke’s, ‘It Must Be Jelly’, wobbled its way to a short break and Muddy Waters, ‘Baby You Don’t Have To Go’; so we didn’t, there was plenty more to come, as Johnny mopped his brow with a beer towel!

The break was brief, the packed bar, riveted, the only sounds were coming from The Blues Duo, as they called out, ‘Hey Bartender’, it wasn’t a round of drinks, rather an almost endless round of blues. Almost endless was the soulful sounds form Johnny’s harp as Tommy took a break to study a handy dictionary, only A,B,C though, as his breathless partner, gave way for to wind up, Sonny Boy Williamson’s, ‘Nine Below Zero’, a breathtaking marathon.

We edged slowly forward, no hurry, towards a medley of seamless rock & roll, as the boys were really getting into their stride. Reet Petit, Chantilly Lace, Rock This House, Johnny B Goode were stitched end on end, with a rapidly closing, ‘Mystery Train’ close behind. ‘Backdoor Boogie’ belts out, by this time, despite the sardines being very tightly packed, there was not a still pair of feet in the place. The clock was moving on, nobody gave a damn, certainly not the Blues duo, as they launched into ‘Don’t Bite The Hand that Feeds You’, ‘That’s Alright’ and after an ecstatic evening of endless superlative blues, they closed on ‘Give Me One More shot’.

What can I say, 3 hours of of breathless blues, the Blues duo are definitely the real deal. Don’t miss them, but be ready for an enthusiastically driven long session, brilliant. 

 

Words And Photos By Graham Munn

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Fabulous Boogie Boys, with Sarah Warren @ The Hop Pole 22/03

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The red rash of the Fabulous Boogie Boys, squeezed into the tight corner stage of the Hop pole, promised us a colourful evening of jump jive, rock & roll and a good splash of blues. The Hop Pole was filled out with music fans who like to let their hair down and have a bit of fun, which is the hallmark of this hard ‘rockin’ band. Discretely melding into the crowd, 2 giants of the stage, Steve Steinhaus and Mark English were present to see fellow Dr Teeth member, Jay (Moody) Riley, perform on the keyboards.

Swinging straight into ‘Lovin Machine’, the band kicked off, with Cliff Dawe, lips glued, to his ‘Elvis’ birdcage mike, warming to the task. Old favourites like ‘This Old House’ and ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’ are blasted out, Hugh Thomas is given plenty of work on his tenor sax, he does not disappoint. Tightly hemmed in behind, Nick Lynden is wrestling with his double bass. Time for a change in tempo and delivery, as Sarah takes the lead for the Etta James classic, ‘Tough Lover’, with all the passion and grit she could summon. The baton is passed from Cliff to Sarah and back, for ‘Since I Met You Baby’, and again, as they duet through an old 50′s classic, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’. Up the pace again for a bit of ‘Jump Jive and Wail’, before things cool down for the beautiful, yet powerful voice of Sarah Warren, ‘At Last’, there can be few that can match this. The atmosphere in the Hop Pole is electric, not much room for dancing, but that did not seem to stop a few staking a claim to more floor space in the crowded bar, as ‘Rip It Up’, and ‘Chickens’, were rolled out, with a short breather in between as Sarah ‘Just Wanted To Make Love To You’, hot stuff. The floor show from this red army of rockers is frenetic and almost non stop as we head towards the closing session. ‘This Little Light O Mine’, ‘Little Egypt’, ‘Wanna be like you’, and ‘See You Later Alligator’, wind the spring tightly, Cliff giving his all, shadowed at the back, Stu opens ‘Flip Flop Fly’ on his Epiphone guitar, as Richie keeps everyone nicely in check on his drums, heard but almost invisible.

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How can you finish a fast, fun night of rock, rhythm and blues? Well how about turning to Mr. Chuck Berry to show us the way, The Fabulous Boogie Boys presented us with a fabulous and exhausting (as it should be) ‘Jonny be Goode’.

The question is, how did new keyboard player Jay fit into all this mayhem, well he certainly had the right keys to open the door to an entertaining evening of fun at The Hop Pole. Jay, the red jacket fits well, I can only look forward to the next session of the Fabulous Boogie Boys.    

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Stomping All Over the Place Stomp & Holler@Bridgnorth

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Stomp and Holler, the 6 piece New Orleans styled blues and brass band, took stage in the wonderfully intimate, Theatre On The Steps, with a small change to their line up. Small but significant, Abby Brant, having been ‘stolen’ by Jasper Carrot, for his touring show, we were about to see for the first time, Phil Bond. Phil has played with the Steve Gibbons band among many, the marked difference, is stature, he towers over the rest of S&H, and obviously, a bit lower in pitch vocally, than Abby! For those who have not visited Bridgnorth, the theatre is a lovely old chapel dating from the 1830′s, sat halfway down the escarpment that stands over the Severn. Access is via a footpath, but inside is worth the effort a steeply rising balcony overlooks the auditorium and stage.

120 had joined S&H for the evening, and the band did not disappoint, bursting out into ,Crazy Up In Here’, seemed very poignant, it quickly became apparent that bassist Chris Lomas was suffering a little as he croaked and ground his way through, ‘Start It Up’, the band were not going to help him out, as he undermined the ‘Cocker’ grit of Oliver Carpenter. That grit was put to good use in the suitably funereal paced dirge of ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’, paced to last, hence so much more enjoyable. From Cocker to cockney perhaps, asking ‘Why’s It Always Me’, and a change of direction as Phil leaves the keyboard and takes to the accordion, bringing a new dimension to this tongue in cheek song. Martin beats up a rumbling thunderstorm on drums, as he fires up into the bands fabulous take on ‘Webtop Checker’. John Sanderson’s sax coming over as beautifully as ever, along with some lovely guitar riffs of Dave Carroll, not to forget the added brass of Oliver’s trumpet.

A short liquid break, and back to business, and another change from the past as ‘Big Chief’, evolves from an instrumental version, to Phil’s mellow vocals, used to effect as he attacks the keyboards. A quick breeze through New Orleans jazz swing of ‘Umbrella In My Drink’ and ‘Evangeline’, and we are lined up for another explosive song, a bit of rock & roll with ‘Musta Notta Gotta’, hot dog, another excuse for Martin to drive the rhythm hard and fast, no one is left out as Stomp & Holler demonstrate why they are such a popular band. Fine musicianship, a bit of fire, a pinch of passion, a measure of humour, an Orleans cocktail, stirred along by Oliver in his guise as a goatee bearded, blues man. An excellent evenings entertainment.

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Mike Sanchez & The Potions at Robin 2 Dec. 18th

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Mike Sanchez is an R&B institution, he has been everywhere, and played with numerous top bands, in addition to his own line up. He was also responsible for introducing the wonderful Imelda May, who sang with Mike Sanchez’s band for many years. Now here at The Robin, Bilston, playing in his personable style, bringing us the the boogie woogie sounds he has championed. He tells us about his forthcoming biography, Mike Sanchez’ Big Town Playboy, to be published soon, and being written by Mike Maddon. There is no doubt he has led an interesting life, it should make fascinating reading.

Opening in his usual flamboyant style, with ‘Ramblin Boogie’, he mesmerises his audience with his piano and bustling vocals. For this set he was accompanied by Nick Whitfield on double bass, Mark Morgan, drums, and a Buddy Holly styled Tom Bull on guitar, who played with distinction. Mike rattles out the songs, with barely more break than it took to wipe his brow. He blasts out ‘I Get So Hungry’, old favourites like ‘Sapphire’ and ‘Red Hot Mama’, spill easily onto the fans. They are here to be entertained, and Mike puts them to the test, bulging eyes, and wagging fingers, berate the crowd, its show-time start to finish. In amongst all this, Mike introduced his now wife, Sarah Wynne, who took on the vocals for ‘Don’t Freeze On Me’ and bit of R&B by Lil’ Ester Phillips ‘If Its News For You Baby’ very enjoyable. Mike’s music flows seamlessly from his very soul, a medley of wonderful old blues and boogie. ‘Highway 60′, ‘Come Back Baby’, ‘Hurting Inside’ roll forward like endless breakers on the beach. Fats ‘I’m ready’, bits of Slim Harpo, Bo Didley, Chuck Berry are presented from the 50′s and early 60′s. Instructed to ‘Shake your Hips’, we did, and wanted more.

A break from the ‘hot’ keys of the piano, saw Mike pick up his acoustic guitar, and a request from a devotee for ‘Blue Boy’, was granted, a gentler more country style in the mould of Jim Reeves resulted, easing us gently back down from the frenzy that is boogie

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Mike Sanchez has entertained us start to finish, the option was here at the Robin or at seated Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, the following night. Why would anyone want to listen to Mike Sanchez and his band, restricted by the constraints of the pews and chairs that populate that lovely old church? The Robin rocked and thats the way it should be.

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Babajack Christmas party at Re-Con Malvern

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Where better to hold the annual party bash than just up the road in this excellent music venue. They could just meander home after the gig, without the trappings of transport. Becky had been suffering a virus for some days before, which would see her voice fail her late in the evening, but not before closing the set in style. The full band were here, giving both Becky and Trevor more freedom of expression, which Becky now uses to the full, moving around the floor, turning, flicking out those red tresses, before being drawn back to the microphone, cajon and drum. Trevor too is able to add to his playing, plucking, tapping and sliding on his wine box guitars. We are also able to hear more use of his Dannecker harp, no more so than than in the lovely Babajack ‘solo’ ‘Hammer and Tongs’, where the band can take a break as Becky and Trevor give, what is for me, one of the finest songs off their Running Man album. It seems a little more extended, Trevor’s harmonica more memorable, with every nuance eagerly awaited by a partisan audience. I will mention another particular favourite, and that is Son House’s ‘Death Letter Blues’, I cannot think that anyone presents it with more passion, in a stripped back, raw, definitive manner than Babajack does, beautiful blues bared for all to hear.

Running Man has been an undoubted success, and provides much of the evenings music, I have previously reviewed and extolled this CD, there is nothing to dislike, much to praise. Past glories are also reprised from Rooster, the bands previously acclaimed album, ‘Moneys All Gone’, ‘Rooster Blues’ and ‘Gallows Pole’, sit well in the company of the new songs like ‘Rock n’ Roll Star’ and ‘Falling Hard’. For all that, there is only one way that Babajack can close an evening, Becky digs deep into her reserves, finding the last elements of her voice to give all, as she beats her African drum into submission. Trevor attacks his strings as he slides towards exhaustion, there is not an ounce of energy left in reserve. Tosh Murase and Adam Bertenshaw have provided the depth and support throughout, ‘Black Betty’ is the climatic finish with full audience participation, to a great night of roots at ReCon.

 
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Words & Photos Graham Munn

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