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Official Receivers at The Artrix 06/09

 

I was looking forward to a night of soulful music from one of the premier bands in the country, who not only play the part, but look the business as well. Not so fast, first we have to give consideration to an excellent support band, whom I would not have minded seeing in their own right. Not soul this time, but plenty of rock and blues, coming from Slowburner.

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They have a 27 year pedigree, and have supported some influential blues and rock bands over that time. Slowburner is fronted by the charismatic vocalist Paul Bridgewater, Mike Bannister, looking serious on a mean guitar, Rob Newell, thumping out those base notes and just for the night, a drumfest performance from Dave Small stand in Denny Connolly. It must be said, Paul has an outstanding voice, purpose built for this style of electric blues, and certainly looks the part, bringing to mind Paul Rogers and Free. From ‘King Bee’ to ‘Bullfrog Blues’, via JJ Cale, Free, and Muddy Waters, this band play a smorgasbord of blues looking back across the last 50 years. That’s not to dismiss many of their own songs squeezed in to the roller-coaster rock show. Thoroughly enjoyable, those soul boys would have to work hard to better this.

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Whilst not at capacity, there was a good crowd awaiting the Receivers, the cheer went up as they entered the arena. Slickly turned out and loaded with brass, the band strike up, front man Lenny enters,the open floor of the Artrix, tense with expectation, breaks into a writhing mass of born again teenagers, as ‘Soul Finger’, melds into ’25 Miles From Home’. Edwin Starr, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Booker T, are pitched at the auditorium. Whether your a Soul Man or not, you can’t help moving to these classics, helpless against the tide of songs washing over us, ‘How sweet It Is’, to be within the magnetic field of this dynamic, highly charged, band. They are a brass driven 8-piece, towering over the tuneful tubes is Chris on Tenor Sax, with Paul on trumpet, and a second Tenor, sitting squarely on Phil. Tucked behind are the building blocks of funk, Dave on bass, and Tony on drums. Only stalling for Lenny to mop his brow, the soul train rides on, ‘Geno’ almost enticed me to risk my well worn back, but I’m a pro, I had a job to do, sod it! ‘Mustang Sally’ caught me unawares, another week on Tramadol! Venturing up into the galleries, I found a similar picture, abandoned seats, floor space at a premium, you cannot sit still to this stuff. Rick gets carried away on a guitar solo, hinting at some serious rock demons, Simon throws in some nifty keyboard moves, Lenny needs an oxygen mask, time to Show A Bit of Tenderness. The evening is winding up, far too many wild eyed, middle-aged teenagers were about to be released into the Bromsgrove night, looking for more action. It had been a fabulous evening, intoxicating stuff, a superb Slowburner put light to the fuse, and the controlled explosion as the Official Receivers, drew us all in and released the force.

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Do you like good music, yeah, yeah, oh yeah

Words & photos Graham Munn

 

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Blues at The Jinney Ring, Hanbury 02/08/14

 

The 6th year of this blues and beer festival held at the picturesque craft centre, The Jinney Ring, near Bromsgrove. Visitors could camp or park up overnight in their VW ‘splittie’ and ex WD tents. Well not quite that any more, but there were plenty of pitches in use, as the day travellers rolled in, and 400+ gathered around the grounds. Plenty of good food, 21 beers and ciders, and 6 bands to entertain all over from early afternoon till late evening.

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Jack Blackman, opened the stage, with his acoustic Mississippi Delta style blues, he is building a strong following for his accomplished finger picking and slide work along with vocals that show a real feel for those blues. Performing country blues, like the frothy ‘Patch Up That Hole’, the lament that is ‘Charley Walton Blues’, through to fast fingering songs like his ‘Police Dog Blues’, 19 year old Jack’s talents were there for all to hear.

Closing with a railroading, fast moving, demo of Delta slide for ‘Hognose Gin’, excellent.

Jack gave way for the light hearted, rootsy Mumbo Jumbo, with Oliver, Chris and, on piano, Fred Skidmore, who added some nice touches of boogie woogie to the set. ‘Three Cool Cats’ seems to sum up this comfortable, laid back, entertaining session. Bass gave way to uke in the hands of Chris, Oliver trumpeting his green credentials on washboard and cajon, with Fred providing the jam filling that glued it all together. A wooden kazoo is produced for ‘Regret It’, ‘Nice Work’, if you can get it!

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Retrovibe, were up next, though mainly guitar based covers, this band performed well, with a personable and powerful vocalist in Rea Lewis. ‘Pride & joy’, ‘Bright Lights’, and a nice side step as Rea sipped the beautiful jazz tinged, ‘Black Coffee’. Some nice harp off Jake Thomas for ‘I’m Ready’, before Rae upped the tempo, for the dancing fans, with, Jailhouse Rock, and ‘Johnny Be Goode’. Rae and Retrovibe had certainly stirred up the action.

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To follow we were treated to the funk and blues of guitar gurning band Brothers Groove. This Birmingham band, has not put a foot wrong since forming, rapidly moving from a support roll to headlining. Their strong following now producing national radio airplay and award nominations.

Guitarist Shaun Hill, is not only a joy to hear, but also to watch, he wears his musical emotion firmly on his expressional face. With Nige Mellor and Deano Bass, the guitar combination is pure class. ‘What’s The Deal’ and ‘Play the Game’ came straight off their album of the same name released last year. The band finished to all round applause and a blues guitar take on Stevie Wonders ‘Superstition’, an exceptional faultless set, for us all to join in that groove. Following swiftly on, we moved from the award nominated Brothers, to a European Blues award winning artist in Franck Ash. Franck has supported such legends as Robert Cray and Taj Mahal and now he had brought his band to Jinney Ring for another faultless guitar led performance. That is not to diminish his vocal presence, he is a full on live performer, with plenty of that funk and soul guaranteed to please this gathering of blues fans. ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘Well Alright’ was certainly alright here.

So how do we follow up this guitar genus that has cut its groove over the evening, well it was time for everyone to get up and move to the world of The fabulous Boogie Boys and Sarah Warren. Sarah returns from last year, we all know what to expect from this powerful singer, but she likes her fun too and this is a fun session from those red coated Boogie Boys. Front man Chris Dawe, poses and struts alongside Sarah, they ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’, throughout the set. Everything is thrown in from ‘Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens’, (plenty of ducks though) through to ‘See You Later Alligator’, this is what the the Fabulous Boogie Boys are made for, giving all a great evening and send off to this established little festival, in the beautiful setting of The Jinney Ring.

Words & Photos By Graham Munn

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Day One

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Last year Upton Blues Festival became, officially the largest completely free blues festival in the UK, the event was heavily supported, by bands and punters alike, the nearby fields were near full of campers, the various stages and pubs were rammed with revellers, the sun beat down throughout and from every corner of the town musicians plied their wares, showcasing the rich variety of the blues genre.

Surely with the threat of storms 2014 wouldn’t be able to compete with the previous year’s event, surely people would stay at home, the atmosphere would suffer, etc…. Well not so, the drive in on the Friday soon relieved any fears, 2000 plus people camping out supporting the festival, a figure that topped even last’s years figure and as we hit the riverside of Upton you could feel that air of excitement and expectation in the air, as the crowds gathered in their masses.

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Of course you need a band that can channel that energy from the off, a band that would grab the crowd by the scruff of their collective necks and set the mood for the weekend. That band would be The Laurence Jones Band, a group that, in the space of a year have gone from playing the pubs of Upton (last year they played the festival in the courtyard of The Plough) to performing across the world with some of the biggest names in blues. Laurence and his band delivered a stunning opening set of blues rock at it’s best, drawing from the recent Temptation album as well as a few choice covers (the likes of All Along The Watchtower, Bullfrog Blues) to rapturous applause as Laurence proved again why he’s one of the most talked about young blues guitarists (and vocalists for that matter) out there.

Soon Upton was ablaze with the sounds of blues of every variety as the various pubs began their weekend’s festivities. We stuck to the Riverside stage for American rootsy blues man Charlie Morris and his Blues Group, as he delivered a glorious set of laidback blues that took in all the important blues subject matters of drinking, women and gambling, as he channeled the ghosts of the likes of Jimmy Reed and the alike during his infectious set, inciting an outbreak of dancing down towards the front, bringing the first evening’s entertainment to a frenzied close.

Day Two

Over night the heavens opened, the rain came down and this fair county was lashed with a tasty storm, threatening the festivals schedule and indeed the attendance. The organisers quickly leapt into action as the rains continued to fall, decided to move the main stage from the rain battered riverside to the Memorial Hall (normally the home of the acoustic stage, which in turn was moved across to one of the accommodating pubs), enabling the show to go on. We took to a rather full and sweaty hall to catch a few numbers by Souled Out To Funk, the hall was awash with flailing limbs as the crowd lapped up a set of Soul (and disco) classics, including the likes of Car Wash, Disco Inferno and oddly enough Get Lucky (Daft Punk).

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Over on the newly relocated acoustic stage nineteen year jack Blackman mesmerized a large gathering with a stunning set of originals, ragtime blues and the odd Robert Johnson cover. A quick return to the Memorial Hall in time for the New Orleans’s inspired, local heroes, Stomp & Holler, who blended sax, keys, guitar, occasional accordion and a groove-laden rhythm section creating a contagious mix of jazzy horn breaks, Latin bursts and a foot tapping, hip shaking take on the blues. The masses welcomed fan favourite renditions of St James Infirmary Blues and Web Top Checker and as the band raised the halls temperature, the weather responded accordingly as the sun made its presence felt.

With the return of the sun the festival returned to it’s scheduled line-up with the various stages returning to their original locations. I took to investigating a few of the pub stages, taking in the likes of Two Dollar Salad and Nice & Sleazy dishing out well received rock covers to over crowded rooms before wandering down to the Sports Field for a little of skiffle from Warren James, followed by a couple of impressive tracks by hot up and comer Mitch Laddie, back on the Riverside, as he nodded to his heroes Johnny Winters, Walter Trout and Stevie Ray Vaughan among others. By now the festivities and drinks were in full flow with every lick of guitar being lapped up by the hungry crowd.

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David Midgen & The Twisted Roots delivered a thrilling genre blending set taking in catchy twisted blues, a touch of a jazz, a thimble of rootsy avant-garde folk and a trumpet assisted jam on something that resembles Mexican borderline Latin rock, their set was enthralling from start to finish with the slide assisted Desert Inside and the blackened lament Rev. Jack Crow proving to be set highlights among others.

The evenings entertainment included inspiring sets by new harmonica king Will Wilde and band (including a glorious rendition of Johnny “Guitar” Watsons’s” 3 Hours Past Midnight), a deft solo acoustic set by Adam Sweet (his solo album is a must buy for fans of rootsy blues), the Gambian Blues fusion of Baku Dan and the upfront, sultry Bradley’s Circus, a Dutch combo that provoked dancing, hollering and bra throwing (after a plea for panties by lead singer Lidewij Veenhuis) with a set of raw and lusty blues rock, bringing the second day to a mesmeric close.

Day Three

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The third and final day of Upton Blues Festival began basked in Sunshine, music poured from every corner with The Hereford Soul Choir opening proceedings on the riverside whilst I headed down to the sports field to take in a somewhat surreal yet vastly entertaining set by Stompin’ Dave, a one man, tap dancing, banjo wielding, piano bashing, guitar strumming maverick who blended bluegrass, country blues, boogie woogie and good time rock n roll to a captivated packed early afternoon crowd. Stompin’ Dave is pure entertainment, a comedic yet musically able frontman that provided tap dancing rhythm’s to the likes of House Of The Rising Sun and Minnie The Moocher, he juggled a violin on Keep My Skillet Good & Greasy and attacked a banjo on a BB King number to provide one of the most entertaining sets of the entire weekend.

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A quick cider on the way back to the riverside and perhaps the most impressive band of the festival, the raw, powerful, garage blues two-piece, Henry’s Funeral Shoe, a feral combo, that combined a ton of attitude primal drums and down-tuned, low and dirty blues riffs. The brothers bashed out three-minute infectious blasts, to two thousand plus, bewitched blues aficionados, all embracing the storm the duo created on the likes of Gimme back My Morphine, Dog Scratched Ear and the edgy Janis The Stripper.

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The Spikedrivers, back over on the sports field mixed a rootsy folk feel with stripped down acoustic blues, kitchen instruments collided with the more standard guitars, bass and drums set up, offering the festival something a little different, at times almost tribal and often haunting as the band proved why they’re one of the must see acoustic blues bands on the circuit right now.

In the memorial hall the likes of The Real Raj, Louise Latham and The Terry White Band plied their trade to a more than appreciative audience and whilst in the various pubs the music and beer kept flowing with the likes of Forty Blues Toes, Gwyn Ashton and Groovy Head provided the soundtrack.

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To finish the weekend off, Zoe Schwarz Blues Commotion offered up a light and airy take on the blues, that ranged from jazzy ballads to a fuller blues rock sound, whilst over on the riverside the wiry Larry Miller pulled no punches as he wrestled with his guitar delivering a mesmeric masterclass of blues rock (in the style of Trout, Hendrix, Bonamassa and Moore) whilst his band ably backing him by forming a tight groove-laden platform.

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As always Upton Blues Festival delivered, the organisers somehow managed to top the previous years line-up and the rising attendance levels attest to just how popular both the festival and the various formats of the blues is right now. I’ll be booking time off work around next year’s event; I highly recommend that you do the same!!!

 

Words Will Munn

Photos Graham Munn

 

 

 

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Davina and The Vagabonds @ Robin 2 16/07/14

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Davina returned to The Robin after 11 months, despite a moderate turn out last year, the delicious Davina left a powerful imprint. She fronts a big, bold and brassy, 5 piece band, who are determined to give everyone a good time. Dan Eikmeier, on trumpet, Ben Link, trombone, Andrew Burns, double bass, and Connor Mcrae Hammergren, beating out the drums. All joust and tease as they try to constrain the gregarious Davina Sowers as she expressively caresses and punishes her piano with a passion.

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Songs were pulled from her ‘Black Cloud’ album, and many that featured on her glorious ‘Live @ The Times 2009′. The Vagabonds are very much a performance band, and the live album reflects that, its a cracker. Whether originals or not, the band put their take on everything. ‘Daydream’, Honey Pie, and ‘Back To Memphis’, are superb, but then you have to deal with the wonderfully wicked, ‘St. Michael Vs The Devil’, Davina toying with Dan’s trumpet, in a vocal duel that highlights the fun element of this bands stage presence. The new album, ‘Sunshine’ was sampled, again its a mix of Davina’s work and some selected songs, like Eddie Miller’s ‘I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water’, superb, standing alongside Davina’s own ‘I Try To Be Good’.

Etta James classic, ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, is given the Davina Sowers treatment, she has that empathy this truly great song deserves. It would be impossible to overlook the closing Joe Primrose song, there are many wonderful versions, this was no exception as Ben Link took to lead vocals for ‘St James Infirmary Blues’, with a roll of drums, the sad lament is retailed, to a chorus of ‘got no pants on’, New Orleans blues, typically heavily accented with jazz and finished in Cab Calloway style, fabulous is not too strong a word. The session has been full of humour, superlative musicianship, and pure entertainment. More fun than a lock in with Girls Aloud and a magnum of Bolly……..probably. A cocktail of 3 parts Orleans, 3parts Blues, 3 parts Jazz 1 part Vaudeville, stirred and mixed, to be taken whenever you need a lift, they will be back, don’t miss out next time.

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Mike Sanchez & Friends @ Kidderminster Town Hall 04/07

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Just one more date on Mike’s tour calender this summer? Not so, Kidderminster Town Hall is his home town gig, a place where the many life long friends and fans were gathered to watch and hear, the smorgasbord of songs presented to them. Three different line ups that have been significant in the career of Mike Sanchez, gathered on the stage over the course of the evening, to take those fans back to the early years.

The Rockets were the first band, a collection of school pals, with Mike on guitar, Ian Jennings on double bass and Mark Morgan on drums. The band were listening and watching the music scene of their era, and decided to step back to earlier years for their inspiration. Songs from, the likes of Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and a version of Jim Reeves, ‘Please Release Me’ on speed, and a quick snatch from ’81 for ‘Tainted Love’, a song rooted in the early 60’s. A mix of R& B and good solid blues, were reprised from those early Rocket years.

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A break and a shuffle of the deck, and we stepped forward into the foundling Big Town Playboys, which brought to stage Ricky Cool, and Andy Sylvester. Mike moved onto the keyboards. Sanchez swings and Ricky rocks, as the band blasted through some great, rhythm & blues and rock & roll songs. Ricky moving from sax to harp for some good old Chicago Blues, with both Mike and Ricky swapping vocal leads. Out of nowhere, comes Guitar Junior’s, ‘The Crawl’, followed by some lovely harmonica, as Ricky takes on Billy Boy Arnold’s, ‘I Wish You Would’, superb. A bit of Ike Turner, and some nice Jimmy Rogers, ‘Walking By Myself’, definitely not alone this evening.

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‘Hip Shake Baby’, preceded another shuffle and the final mix, bringing Mike’s current band to stage, Tom Ford, on guitar, Nick Whitfield, taking double bass, Pete Cook and Nick Payne, swing their saxophones, with Mike Morgan still sat behind the drums. Were all having a ball, the music swings on, ‘Hurting Inside’ no, but as Fat’s sang ‘I’m ready’, the band was willing, and certainly able. The music rattles out non stop, whatever comes to Mike’s mind to play, there is no plan but to see all have a good time. A few suggestions are thrown to the stage, The band oblige, Mike Sanchez is a walking library of R&B. Sarah Wynne, takes up the vocal lead, for some Jesse Mae and Lil Ester Phillips songs, with ‘Don’t Freeze On Me’, and ‘If Its News For You Baby’, followed by the excellent, ‘Each Day’.

Joining for a last jam session, Andy Sylvester and Ricky Cool add to the band, a superb evening in this lovely setting of the Town Hall, a venue with a history of hosting so many great bands of past years. From the earliest years of The Rockets, and playing in the back room of pubs in the area, Mike Sanchez has made music his life, laid out for all to read in the ‘Big Town Playboy’ biography. I’m sure there will be a few more chapters to add in the future.

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

 

 

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