Mike Sanchez & The Potions at Robin 2 Dec. 18th
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
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
Babajack Christmas party at Re-Con Malvern
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.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Lakefest is only a couple of years old but with it’s idyllic setting, family friendly atmosphere and compelling mixture of musical mayhem it’s already fast becoming a real favourite for festival followers bringing in locals and folk further afield.
This year’s event saw the organizers compile a wonderful line-up from cult favourites (The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Duke Special, et) to festival mainstays (Missing Andy, The Levellers, Ocean Colour Scene, The Beat) via up and coming locals (The Lights, Whipjacks, The Feddens, etc).
The Indigo Kings opened the proceedings with a delightful mix of swing, upbeat pop and sing-a-long harmonies that soon had the assembled masses swaying, nodding and even bopping (bit early for full on dancing!), the likes of Jump Jive Daddy and Holy Woman seduced the masses and proved to be the perfect start for the forthcoming proceedings.
Missing Andy arrived late but quickly stole the stage, packing out the arena with a frenzied combination of upbeat, holler along indie anthems, ska infused dance along s and punchy, fist in the air laments that had the whole tent bouncing in unison. As ever the likes of Young Disciples, Money and Dirty Suzanna incited a mass sing-a-long, with the crowd baying for more after a pummelling finale.
Covers bands aren’t normally my kind of thing, however The Chip Shop Boys are worth a mention for their tight, energetic and fun set taking in everyone from Daft Punk to The Killers via Chic, The Beatles and Queen.
Over on the second stage (Floating Globe Stage) we caught a couple of songs by local punky misfits Skewwhiff and a glorious set of accordion wielding, double bass pumping, pirate punk by local favourites, The Whipjacks.
Back on the mainstage, the suitably lubricated audience wanted to strut, skank and dance so ska legends The Beat provided the perfect soundtrack to get the party started. The band rattled off Rock The Casbah, Big Shot, Tears of A Clown and of course Mirror In The Bathroom to captious applause and frantic bouncing aplenty as The Beat once again delivered a thrilling set of crowd pleasers.
The Lights rocked the Floating Globe with a brilliant set of male/female vocal interplay and infectious indie pop, before Ocean Colour Scene completed the opening nights proceedings with their usual set of Brit-pop anthems and hook-laden indie classics, sending us off into the night in style.
Due to the day job I had to miss the likes of Cosmo Jarvis and Baka Beyond, but thankfully we managed to hit Lakefest as the maverick genius that is Duke Special took to the stage, now it’s almost impossible to describe the sound of the three-piece band, but the combination of piano, sax and the most extensive drum kit you can imagine helps create one of the most intriguing and infectious blend of caberet pop known to man and the likes of Digging An Early Grave and Apple Jack (not to mention a wonderful laidback take on Love Will Tear Us Apart) soon seduced the masses.
Continuing the oft-kilter sound only in a more spaced out psychedelic manner was veteran Arthur Brown and his Crazy World. The band kicked up a witchy brew of synths and riffs whilst the man himself acted as master of ceremonies on a deranged take of Put A Spell On You and the obligatory Fire. Arthur even managed to venture into the audience much to their delight to boogie with the masses at one point during his memorable set.
Local heroes Roving Crows stormed the mainstage with their blend of celtic ska, folk and good old fashioned rock n roll, imagine if you will a mash-up of all that’s good from the likes of The Waterboys, The Levellers, Runrig and The New Model Army, throw in some Dexy’s soul and a dose of ska and you have one of the most potent sounds to have taken to the stage. The crowd lapped up the band’s fantastic and diverse set with Roll On Tomorrow proving to be a particular note worthy highlight from their glorious playlist.
The Levellers concluded the night with a storming set of infectious, driving political folk/punk, delivering all the fan favourites such as Beautiful Day, One Way Of Life and the evergreen anthem Hope Street, each one hollered back by the crowd and received with the plaudits they richly deserve.
Sunday, and some had started journeys home, ready for the toil of Monday morning. There was still plenty of footfall and the camp followers were spread around the grounds of the festival. Wille and The Bandits, were sound checking, and were ready to kick off in a sparsely populated main stage. This was going to be good, it always is from this band. They take essentially blues and classics, restructure them, and perform them in a unique way, alongside their own well crafted songs. Elements of rock steady and ska are present in their music, it is a beautiful sound. The huge canopy starts to fill, drawn in by the magnetic rhythms of Wille & co. ‘Black Magic Woman’ streams out across the grounds, more pack in. Previously uninitiated were transfixed, ‘Angel’, opens with a long lead in from Matt on 6 string bass, superb. They close with a reworked ‘Money For Nothing’, a full 7 minutes & a pleasure to listen to, they have won many new fans here. Wait for the new album to be launched in autumn, followed by a UK tour.
Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun, followed, a local band from Cheltenham. Styled as folk rock, they sort of brought Big Country to mind. The band is never still dipping and shifting back and forth, only the vocal stream pulls them to a microphone, an element of punk maybe. ‘A Song About Death’ and ‘England’s Dead’, seem morbid subjects, but the songs are anthemic with arena filling sound. Worth a listen if that’s you taste, check out some videos on You Tube.
3 Daft Monkeys, is a ‘world’ folk band, and for this outing, 4 turned up, Athene, Tim and Lukas were joined by percussionist Richie using hand drums and cymbals. Athene plays fiddle, Tim a 12 string acoustic and Lucas looks after bass. Athene is like a dancing nymph ably assisted by Lukas, as Tim presents most of the vocal leads. I particularly liked ‘Paranoid Big Brother’, nice fiddle from Athene, quirky lyrics, and changing pace, drive this song along. ‘Under One Sun’, again brings interesting lyrics, lead vocals from Tim again. The band are entertaining to watch and listen to, plenty of interaction and good humour in the songs. Hope to see them again for a forthcoming CD launch tour, including Hare & Hounds in Birmingham. All in, a good, fun band with a different approach to writing and performing, almost befitting a circus setting.
Top of the bill on Sunday, Chas & Dave, 50 years as likeable cockney geezers, ready for a knees up and boogie woogie. I have to be honest, as popular as they appeared to be, I had hoped for a bit more depth, but it was, as it always has been, simple sing along songs. That did not seem to concern the packed main stage, all the remaining festival fanatics crowded in and around the he marquee. The beer and cider flowed, all had a good time. Only a spectacular firework display awaited to close the event.
Photos and Day Three by Graham Munn
The summer months see festival season swing by and locally there’s loads to be excited about from newcomers such as The Malvern Music Festival and Ringmaster to the established Worcester Music Festival and Nozstock, there’s plenty on offer in our fair county for every ardant gig goer and casaul listener alike. But for this aural fanatic there’s one festival that always manages to bewitch and intrigue in equal measure, a festival that seems to grow yearly in statue, not only drawing some of the biggest named blues acts in the country but also see’s attendances topped on a yearly basis and this years Upton Blues Festival again continued the astounding upward trajectory both with the bill and number of punters (just the sheer volume of campers astounded even the most optimistic of organisers!!!)
Now, to truly do justice to such an incredibly organised and professional festival I’d have to write reems, I could wax lyrical on every act I caught and a few I didn’t but the easiest way to write something up is day by day and so without further ado:-
The main stage kicked off proceedings around 7.15 with the passionate, seasoned blues of the David Rapheal Band, the group delivered a stunning set of harp fuelled blues gathering perhaps the biggest opening act audience that I can remember. Whilst on the acoustic stage Clair le Broque delivered an early highlight with her powerful vocals backed with a sparse lonesome guitar, the audience were left spell-bound by a truly jaw-dropping set. Former Robert Plant sideman Innes Sibun (and band) closed the evenings proceedings with a devastating display of guitar grappling, shape throwing fiery blues rock all topped off with a wonderful display of gurning to go with it.
Saturday and the first full day and where do I start, well The Official Receivers appealed to the day’s early revellers with their every likeable set of big soul standards, with horns ablazing, the crowd were on their feet, swaggering, swaying and even dancing. A uick race down to the sports field for a bit of slide guitar genius Steve Morrison via the memorial hall for some acoustic rockabilly in Josie & The Outlaw, before settling down to the pure pleasure that is Sarah Warren & The Fabulous Boogie Boys, a band guarenteed to make you smile, make you sing and at the very least hop on the spot. Sure enough we boogied, we stomped and we hollered along as the band captivated the spirit of the entire festival with a glorious set of rock n roll, blues, soul originals and sing-a-long standards. Back down to the Sports Field for the glorious rock groove of Willy & The Bandits, a band that lock into an inspired, original sound taking in elements of rock, blues, psychedelia, rocksteady and even Carribean rhythms to mesmerise a packed out field (by the way track down their album, it really captivates the group’s unique vision). If that wasn’t already enough the main riversode stage served up a performance that tore the place to pieces, The Revalaor Band delivered a dark, almost feral take on the blues, laced it with with a dose of acidic post-punk attitude and then threw in a side order of Beefheart for a gloriously ramshackle combination of piano, spiky guitar and gruff vocals delivered theatrically by a larger than life swaggering frontman that had to be seen to be truly believed. It might be blues but not as you know it.
It was hard to believe that the second day could be topped for pure entertainment and diversity but you know what day thrill provided more thrills and spills, with the Shout choir opening proceedings with wonderful uplifting choral renditions of The Beatles, Elbow, U2, Take That and an audience assised Moving On Up (Primal Scream), that even saw a couple of dogs hit the stage with Simon Kemp and guys and gals for a rousign rendition. The Swaps were the only band of the entire festival I deliberately caught twice both electric and acoustic as their combination of male/female vocals, lead harmonica (up there with the best up and coming hamonica players out there right now) and drums simply blew me away, a beautiful set of original blues and folk delivered with such passion and drive (hope they book them again and again, having already being promoted from the pubs last year!!!). Duo with most amout of balls award goes to Tommy Allen & Johnny Hewitt, oh my god Tommy played guitar, drums and sang whilst Johnny Hewitt blew up a storm on harmonica, by the nd of their st they were dripping , the audience were dripping, I had melted…primal rock n roll blues at it’s best. Dessert Rock offered up a completely different vibe creating African blues fusion as Ramon Goose and cohorts delivered a glorious percussion heavy set complete with African sing-a-longs (particularly on the track, aptly named track Africa!!!). Which brings me to to the one-two punch of the festival closers, firstly the gravelly, harmony fused rock of WilyBo & The Mescal Canyon Troubadours and the “let’s have a big party finale” stunning Earl Jackson Band, who ended the night with rock n roll of the highest order, seering riffs, behind the head fiddling, duck walking, you name it you got it.
So it just leaves me to say congratulations to the committee, the volunteers, comperes, medical team and everyone that poured blood, sweat and hours into delivering such an inspired and remarkble event, the bands were fantastic each and everyone (sorry I can’t mention you all!!) and the crowd responded in kind, as soon as they announce next years dates book it off and I’ll see you down there, mine’s a cider!!!
Photos By Graham Munn
Babajack Bangor Blast
Buck House Hotel, Bangor On Dee Blues festival 10/11 May Bangor On Dee is a sleepy little village West of Wrexham, it also happens to hold an annual prestigious Blues festival. This is largely due to the effort of Pete Evans and his team of volunteers.
Pete visited Chicago with his local rugby club some years ago, which eventually resulted in the birth of this weekend. Bangor Blues attracts high quality bands from within the UK and from the US, they are warmly welcomed by an appreciative sell out audience.
Friday evening and opening band was programmed for Babajack, now with full national recognition for their style of roots blues. Snag was, they were stuck on the motorway after multiple delays in travelling from Malvern. No matter, it was also a beer festival, so we all grabbed an ale and waited for the show to kick off. An hour later Becky and Trevor unloaded and went straight on stage, a quick sound check and ‘Moneys All Gone’ exploded over the gathered listeners. If they had not seen Babajack before, they would remember them this weekend. ‘Death Letter Blues’ is firmly embedded in their play list, and is always a joy to hear. As is ‘Hammer and Tongs’, a chance to hear Trev giving full attention to his harp. A standing ovation and a final blast with ‘Sticks and Stones’. Nobody would have complained if they had played on, but their was more waiting in the wings, Babajack have a habit of being able to open and immediately wow an audience. They are always a hard act to follow, reflected in their having 5 industry selected nominations for 2013 awards; please visit their website babajack.com and show your appreciation of this fantastic, original Malvern band.
The stage is given over to already a local legend, just to be 21 the following day, Blues Boy Dan. Another award nominee, he first played a gig here, 2 years ago. He has since been taken under the wing of Mick Fleetwood, been to Nashville and played with some of the great and good, jammed with Willie Nelson at his 80th, and appeared on Andrew Marr’s TV show. He is a name to watch, and I feel a bit privilege to be able to see and hear him in these early years. This ‘boy’ plays with incredible maturity, real soul, a mean acoustic guitar and a voice surely honed on swallowing 2 full ashtrays followed by a pack of Hamlet cigars with fiery chilli relish……every day for breakfast. How do you get a voice like that at such an age? Look him up on the tube, there is a nice video of ‘Roll me Up and Smoke Me When I Die’, brilliant, he performed it for us live.
Much of his relaxed appearance and look on stage is akin to a curly headed Bob Dylan,as was his rendition of ‘The Ballad of Hollis Brown’. Before you get to read this (if) Dan will have played Stourbridge and is due at Wychwood. I hope to be there.
Last up for Friday was going to take us in a slightly different direction, all the way from Indiana was the Rev. Peytons Big Damn Band. Full on hillbilly style blues, delivered in a punk fashion, in your face. An extremely entertaining, larger than life band making a return trip to this venue. The good Rev. brings his unique slant on blues and and like to debunk the many myths surrounding the ‘blues guitar’. Playing a variety of unique resonators and a cardboard cigar box 3 string, yes you have to assume its quality cardboard! His special is a resonator made from ‘barn bits’ and inset with ’45 cartridge shells in the fret along with 12 gauge control knobs. ‘Ma Ma’s Fried Potatoes’, is manic, wonderful! Alongside this finger pickin, fret sliding, maelstrom is Breezy, she plays a washboard fingered with red, thimbled gloves. Never still for a moment she is the perfect foil for the heavily bearded woodsman opposite, assisted ably by drummer Aaron. This is a frenetic but skilled and very effective performance; a great show closer for Friday night.
Saturday sees ‘Swampcandy’, bringing Mississippi Delta Blues to the stage. Ruben Dobbs, guitarist and vocalist is partnered by Joey Mitchell on Double Bass and a kick drum. A very effective pairing, delivering many of their own songs in a mainly traditional blues style. Excellent, I hope they return to our shores for a full tour. I recommend looking on the tube for Swampcandy and ‘Drink Whisky With Me’, not truly blues, but very nice and worth a viewing.
Sadly I missed Kent Duchaine, I needed to eat sometime! Next up, Spikedrivers, a colourful lively band, delivering a softer version of blues and gospel and none the worse for that. They opened in vocal harmony with a gospel song ‘Great day’, ‘My lords getting us ready for that great day’, and indeed he had Constance Redgrave played to the crowd with her washboard vest and then Bass guitar, mischievously goading the near rows. Ben Tyzak, guitarist, vocalist and like the other members, songwriter, gave a varied style of blues playing, from Robert Johnson through to Zeppelin. Particularly impressive was his 12 string with slide. Maurice Mcelroy on drums,cahon and a jug, also added to the vocals. All in a good session with; ‘John Henry’, Thats Alright Mama’, Lil Red Rooster and Billies Blues coming to mind, plus many self penned songs. I even bought some CD’s!
How do you follow all this so far? Well try Steve Roux and The Brass Knuckle band. This is a big band by most standards, Sax, trumpet, lead and bass guitars, keyboards and of course drums. Steve’s band is more the Stevie Ray Vaughan style of electric blues, with a big dose of brass. Warming up with ‘Make Time Count’, we were treated to Albert King’s ‘Your Gonna Need Me’, with plenty of sax and trumpet thrown in. Albert Collins Black Cat Bone , and New Orleans style ‘Sick and Tired’ also stood out demonstrating the undoubted qualities of this top draw UK blues band.
Another ‘big’ band, Blues’N'trouble, based in Scotland, they have been touring for many years and certainly know how to please an audience, even one as dedicated to blues as this one. They play a nicely varied set, bits of traditional blues, boogie woogie, jazz and rock and roll. Can’t wait
to see them again, but finding them too far South may be difficult. Tim Elliot is a larger than life frontman, gritty vocals, nice harmonica, and a wicked looking guitar. A really enjoyable performance band, there was dancing in the aisles (albeit beer assisted) Worth looking up their website, there’s plenty of material to view.
Last but not least, all the way from the USA Larry Mccray, Larry is a big bear of man and plays wonderful, electric blues, funk and rock on his Gibson. Accompanied by his brothers on Bass and drums, he is archetypal American electric blues artist. Warming to his task he shows the feel and emotion essential to the blues genre; but, a bass amp/speaker problem stalled the proceedings as equipment was changed.
For me the road was calling, I could not manage another cool sleepless night in the car. The tent I had taken was unpitchable single handed in the 40mph gusts. I headed for home, determined to return to this outstanding festival next year, brilliantly organised, with fantastic line ups, it punches well above its weight.
http://youtu.be/JmyeNlCzRCs try this link, you will see Babajack as never before, with band, rehearsing ‘Running Man’ and then go to there website and follow the vote link; give them your support, they’re worth it!
Words And Photos By Graham Munn
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