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Firing Rockets At The Prince Of Wales 11/1/15

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A shift of tempo from the usual Sunday ‘groove’ at the POW, rockabilly filled the airwaves as The Delray Rockets made a welcome return to the confines of the ‘stage’. No room here for ‘throwing’ the double bass or climbing up its contoured walls. Showmanship had to take second place to musicianship, but that’s fine, the band have plenty of that on offer. Kick Ass Rockabilly, with attitude is the opening line on their website, and I can’t argue with that, so on with the show. An emphatic start, with ‘I’m Ready Willing And Able’, before calling, ‘C’mon Everybody’, to join with them for a ride in ‘A Brand New Cadillac’. The bass notes are being pumped out by Gaz, as Duke Delight keeps the rhythm racing along. Oz is playing his lovely ‘warm’ electro-acoustic Gretsch, it sounds magnificent in the confines of the POW and the grin on his face reflects the moment. There may not be much room for the normal animated antics of the band, but the music is infectious, and the tapping of feet, swinging of bodies, proof of it being an airborne virus. The band drop in a song born of Gaz’s own hand, ‘Rockabilly Fool’ is a frenetically charged, finger picking, rip reminiscent of the rhythm of a Harley Davidson roaring down the street.

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Naturally ‘Johnny B Goode’, is tailor made for the boys, Duke is having fun giving the drums a thrashing, that guitar is conjuring up images of Chuck himself, but there’s more to come before a break. Pulp Fiction is brought to life, as Gaz and Duke lay the frame work for Oz to conjure up an exotic Egyptian girl in ‘Misirlou’, magical stuff.

Time for an ale before, the band returns and ‘Please Don’t Touch’, hurls them straight up to speed. Nobody is leaving, the audience riveted by the rhythms, no real space available to shake rattle & roll, no matter the urge. The band are racing headlong through their set, the temperature comfortably warm, going on hot. ‘Beer’O’Clock Boogie’, seems a good opportunity to top up for some refreshment, before the ‘Mystery Train’ comes along taking us for a ride toward the ‘Stray Cat Strut’, a bit of ‘Burnin Love’ and an excellent ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, a distinct nod to the blues link that connects to Rockabilly, and very fitting for this venue. Van Morrison, of course, may have looked on disapprovingly, but we didn’t care. Somewhere along it slipped into ‘Radar Love’, before returning to close, a nice touch. We couldn’t do without a bit of ‘Teenage Kicks’, though for most present, its a distant memory, no matter, we could still, ‘Rock This Town’.

The end is nearing, the Delray Rockets are rattling through there remaining songs, seamlessly, compressing all into the final throw of the dice. It had been a ripsnorting, railroading, rockabilly ride, of an evening, the boys had one more double to throw, it bounced off the walls, and kicked the jukebox into overload, ‘Born to be Wild’, demanded response, we all did………there was a time……..!

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Notorious Melvin Hancox Goes It Alone @ Gardeners Arms

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I really did not know what to expect when Melvin accepted this gig, which was designated an acoustic, in the compact area of the Gardeners Arms bar. I arrived to find he had brought a few close friends; by the name of Gibson. I have seen, and more importantly, heard him perform both with The Notorious Brothers and Vincent Flatts, where Melvin hands over the vocals to Bertie, and always in the company of his Les Paul Gibson’s, one Black and One Gold, both immaculate.

Here at Droitwich, they were present, but also an acoustic Gibson, and a magnificent Gretsch 12 string electro acoustic, it sounded wonderful. Melvin’s set was truly varied, and naturally, as you would expect, the musicianship, not to mention a bit of showmanship, were there to enjoy. We had to start with some blues, first from Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac days, ‘Showbiz Blues’, and deep from the Delta, Son House’s ‘Preachin Blues’, played on the acoustic with slide. A bit more PG followed soon enough, this time an electrifying ‘Oh Well’, made to measure for a guitarist of Melvin’s quality. A quick move on to Hendrix before a change in direction took us to Dylan and ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, on the fabulous 12 string. A lovely, perhaps song of the moment, ‘Low Budget Man’, borrowed from The Kinks. And so the show went on, a smorgasbord of styles and sources, spread across 4 guitars and 5 decades, the room had filled out, and nobody was complaining, the air was quite literally electric, The Gardeners had never shaken like this before. An absolutely fabulous ‘Sabre Dance’, and a wild foot stomping ‘Cherokee Dance’, dragged up from the mid 50’s, the music only punctuated by ‘peace and love’, and sip of ale. More Dylan on the Gresch, before switching back to Gold, the guitar weeps and soars, the fingers working franticly along the neck, Melvin is a joy to behold, there are many fine guitarists around, but I would argue, none better, the whole house is mesmerised enjoying every chord, every bend and strike.

We are back with Ray Davis, and ‘Days’, neatly followed up with a superlative and fun ‘Lola’.

It had been an absorbing evening, Melvin Hancox, had pretty well ticked every box, there were a lot of smiles on faces, and calls for a return visit. For those who have yet to see him perform in one of his forms, I suggest you seek that opportunity, you will be seeing a master craftsman, working with cherished ‘tools’ of his trade. ‘Sinner Boy’, complemented with a touch of slide, saw us through the second hour, time to think of finishing, but ‘Just Between You And Me’, you can find more gigs he is playing in various forms, here; http://www.radioboss.co.uk

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Vincent Flatts Final Drive @ Prince Of Wales Ledbury 04/01

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Pour in the fuel, wind back that ignition, pull up the exhaust valve, and kick start the worlds first super bike, Vincent Flatts are like that, a snorting uncontrollable beast, and don’t worry too much about brakes, we are not going to stop! This is a band that stretches that chain to the limits, and with Steve ‘Bertie’ Burton up front, gives a true meaning to V power! All very well having a deep throttle, but its no good without the gearbox, and that is never misses a change with Melvin Hancox slipping through the changes in his usual faultless style. The bottom end is well and truly solid, with Tony Bayliss on drums and Richie Skelton on bass. The big motor is turning the ‘note’ is thunderous, but a joy to hear, ‘Honey Hush’ hardly seems right, but Vincent’s are such a sweet sound, slip up a gear, and its ‘Ragtop Automobile’, real petrol-head stuff, and fabulous. The Prince Of Wales is right royally stuffed, of course it could mean we’ve all been overeating this Christmas, but I think not, we are crammed in to see Bertie and Melvin perform, that’s not to ignore Tony & Rich, they are absolutely essential, the very foundations of the sound. Now, I have to say that Bertie can sometimes go off track, meandering around the paddock before getting his directions, but today he is on song, and when he is on song, there are few who can sing the blues better. Of course we had the odd spark of revolutionary spirit, its the fire in his belly, his essence. ‘No More Whisky’? A brief drift into reminiscent early BBC TV with Billy Cotton, Russ Conway and the wonderful Mrs Mills, and quickly on to a fabulously good ‘Roadtested’ which merged into a Crossroads, before driving home. Melvin is performing with passion, his face, snapshots of ‘concentration’, as he makes those strings cry and soar at will, his pint pot handily sits by the mic. ready to take up its roll as slide. Bertie drops a quick acapella, ‘When The Long Road Ends’, as the boys take a break.

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The thing about this venue, on any Sunday, is its packed, full of people who live for music. They come here because they know Les and Russ are going to bring in a consistently high quality of bands, mostly blues, but no-one here is complaining, we all return. We want great live music, and today is not going to disappoint.

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Thirsts quenched, its on with the show, ‘Dixie Fried’, kicks off, and they are back into their groove, punctuated by plenty of asides from Bertie, and banter between all 4, its entertaining. ‘Keep Ya Hands To Y’self’, I’m ‘Workin For A Livin’, glass clasped firmly in hand the songs roll on, we all call for more. Vincent Flatts deliver, but the fuel is getting low, open up and burn it off, ‘Sweet Home Chicago’, leads out ‘Rollin & Tumblin’, with a final drive onto ‘Willin’. Its been an absolute blast, and we’ve all enjoyed the ride, time to shut down the enigmatic Vincent Flatts Final Drive, until the next road test. Castrol R rules!

Words And Photos Graham Munn

 

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King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, at The Artrix 03/01/15

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For many of you out there, there is no need for me to introduce this remarkable band. They have been delivering their signature swing to audiences all over the UK, and Europe for nearly 30 years. They are, dare I suggest, ‘an institution’, forged in and around Birmingham, when ‘Made In Birmingham’ still meant something. King Pleasure himself, along with ‘Big John’, are the powerhouse horn blowers of the outfit, John Battrum, the uncrowned king, on his sax. KP adds to the ‘hot’ air, but his ‘lounge lizard’ crooning, energy, and enthusiasm are the driving forces behind their unique style. Add to that, Bullmoose ‘K’ Shirley on his lovely country style Gibson, Matt Foundling on the ivories, Gary Barber, tucked behind, on ‘skins’, and the unmissable clown prince of Bass, Shark Van Schtoop, producing swing with touches of jazz, some blues and rock & roll, for good measure. So, ‘This Is It’, all adding up to abandoned seats, there is the undeniable urge to get up and move, we just ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Stuff’. The Artrix has the ability to ‘flatten’ half the floor, for times like this. ‘Shake Rattle & Roll, KP is down in the audience, weaving through the movers and groovers, the band ‘jams’ on, Matt strikes up some serious boogie woogie on the keys. The King is back up, ‘I Got A Gal That Lives Upon The Hill’, he reverts quickly to an old favourite ‘Barracuda’, vocalised in his own lounge style. Jackie Wilson is shaken out, a bit more rock & roll. ‘I Ain’t Mad At You, Don’t You Be Mad At Me’, because its blues time with BB Kings, ‘You Upsets Me baby’. Slip in a bit of Ray Charles, why not? before getting back to full on swing.

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The Shark is hiding behind his double bass, fingers still bending those heavy strings, deep in the shadows, Gary may not be seen too well, but he is certainly heard, the two push along that rhythm, ‘Well Alright, OK You Win’, what can I do? another boogie solo off Matt, keeps the momentum going. KP has disappeared for a breather, as the band play an extended ‘Tequila’, all take a turn to lead, the audience is provoked into responding to the calls, its Tequila all round, doubles probably, with ice, as the King returns to close it off.

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‘Bona Serra’, gives hint to nearing the close, a relaxed swing, the pendulum easing down, but the fans are having none of that, and demand more.

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A short breath, Dean Martin would be hard pressed to ‘Sway’, better than this, ‘Party Time’ is over, but not before a boastful ‘I’m the King Of The Swingers’, and who are we to argue. King Pleasure And The Biscuit Boys have royally entertained us, at what is becoming an annual date at The Artrix, roll on next year.

Wods & Photos Graham Munn

 

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Babajack at The Cube, Malvern 22/11

+ The White Feather Collective

This was to have been an evening with Babajack and special guests, Lloyd Grossman’s New Forbidden, however Lloyd was ill so unable to bring his band. Local new boys, The White feather Collective, were duly called up for duty, a band with only 6 months behind them, the big stage awaited. The line up was Josh Lambe on an acoustic guitar and vocals, Will Turner, electric guitar, Roo Macphee on bass, and Chris Reynolds on drums.

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Their style is really planted well and truly in the early raw rock/blues era of the 60’s, and that is reflected in the sound, which is raw and edgy, helped by the use of valve amps and analogue equipment. A nice blues riff going on with ‘Writing A Novel’, with Josh changing his guitar for a harp, before finishing with a restructured and renamed song ‘Keith’, played in the manner of some bloke who used to be in a band called the Stones!

An excellent start, and I’m not sure Lloyd was missed too much, though he may have been peaking through the key hole to see how they managed. One thing is certain, we will be hearing more from this Collective.

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Babajack, have certainly evolved over the years I have been watching them, a duo sometime trio, with their own brand of roots music, has become an established ‘main stage’ band, gaining drums and bass, not to mention a very strong following. They have collected numerous awards on this journey, but retained that unique touch to their form of blues. Tosh Murase’s right fist, smashed down on his Floor Tom, booming out the start of ‘Running Man’, and away they went, Becky in full flow, freed from the roll of sole percussion, Trevor, as ever, testing his wine box guitars to the limit. Slipping in to the group for the evening, Julia Palmer-Price, brings her cello to stage, as she did in the recording studio for the album. Bassist Adam Bertenshaw along with Tosh, lay the foundations for Becky and Trevor to weave their web through to the fabulous ‘Falling Hard’, before the boys take a break. Trevor’s slide and harp are kept busy, as Becky writes her ‘Death Letter’, their take on a song they have made their own, but crafted by Son House. They continued into one of (for me) the choice songs from their ‘Running Man’ album, Trevor on harp, accompanying Becky, as she sings the lovely ‘Hammer And Tongs’, great vocals and superb harp, it does not get better than this.

The band rejoin, and the music rolls on, examining Babajack’s catalogue of songs, slipping in the yet to be recorded, ‘Back Door’. Aired on Paul Jones R2 show, and taken from the live sessions at The Albert Hall recently, now presented to us.

Julia is giving everything on her Cello, enjoying the evening, teasing Trevor as he works his strings, Tosh is hitting those big drums like never before, and Becky is on fire, auburn hair flying, as the evening reaches its crescendo. Gallows Pole, a well used old folk song, is a a portent to the musical explosion that is ‘Skin and Bone’, Trevor resonating like a tuning fork, teetering on the edge of his seat, Becky, slapping her cahon, that hair tossing back and forth. BUT, there is only one way to finish a Babajack gig, the false end, the audience participation, it is of course, ‘Black Betty’, ‘nough said’.

Words And Photos Graham Munn

 

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