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Neil Ivison Live @ The Gardeners Arms, Droitwich 12/3/15

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The Gardeners Arms is fast becoming the place to be over in Droitwich, with regular nights of musical merriment being the order of the day. In recent months we’ve seen the likes of Hattie Briggs, Sunjay and Melvin Hancox and continuing the rich pickings, tonight’s entertainment was provided by Neil Ivison (of the Misers).

The pub was moderately populated, but those that did attend were treated to an infectious set lifted from across the hallowed songbooks of rock n roll and beyond, as Neil delivered a set littered with timeless classics, requests and a handful of originals thrown in for good measure.

From the opening rendition of Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down, the sheer enjoyment of just performing was etched on Neil’s face, his gravelly vocals rang out, as he fingered the chords masterfully. The first request came in and Ring Of Fire by Johnny Cash was expertly despatched, Neil’s vocals mirroring those of the country legend perfectly, whilst the patrons around the bar mouthed along contently.

Neil’s set continued with takes on U2 (Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With or Without You), The Beatles (Ticket To Ride), The Boss (Dancing In The Dark), The Eagles and beyond.

As the set continued I found myself humming along to near enough each and every song, a passionate take on Heard it Through The Grapevine and a mass sing-a-long to Don’t Look Back In Anger provided early second set highlights. Before the audience requested a few originals, Bantam Weight, Get Up For Love and a fantastic stripped down (and personal favourite) Lord, Shuffle My Feet were delivered, each of the songs sitting comfortably alongside the well known covers and appreciated in equal measure, proving Neil’s songwriting and delivery credentials.

Neil finished up his second set with a slice of Queen, leaving the audience with a collective grin on their faces and a song in their hearts, having seen a performer at very much the top of his game, whether playing his own or other folks material.

The numerous occasions I’ve seen Neil (and the Misers) I’ve never failed to enjoy the night, if you want a fantastic, fun night out and a good old sing-a-long, I highly recommend catching Mr Ivison, when he hits your local.

Video And Photo Taken @ Prince Of Wales in Ledbury by Graham Munn

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Jo Harman @ The Artrix 06/02

Support Tom Gee

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Jo Harman has been on my ‘must see’ list for a while, voted Best Female Vocalist and runner up for the song writing award in the 2014 British Blues Awards, she is definitely a star in the ascendancy.

But first a few words about her support, Tom Gee, who was in acoustic mode, leaving behind the 7 musicians, that make up the Tom Gee Band. His only accompaniment was his 6 string, and a dry Yorkshire wit, the rapport with the audience, was measurable, and the response warm. ‘Dead In The Morning’, is more about clearing the fog of sleep than a TV vampire diary. Well written and well performed, it features on the full bands album Swapping Stories, a bit of soul with a splash of funk. A bit more banter and a song pointing to past girlfriends, ‘Listen To Yourself’, the genre of the full band is funked up Northern Soul meets contemporary blues, without the brass and percussion, the songs become much more personal. Tom has serious writing credibility, the band perform in festivals across the country, Cheltenham Jazz to Hebden Bridge Blues. Closing the set, again from the album, ‘Thinking About You’, needs no explanation, suffice to say, from interval chatter, Tom’s set was well liked, one commented to say if this had been a stand alone gig, it would have been well worth the ticket purchase.

Now Jo has been ‘claimed’ by the Blues fraternity, and can be found appearing in Blues sessions and festivals everywhere, but, she really sits in that orbiting moon that broke away and produced the great divas of Soul. We are talking from the Jazz and Blues roots of the likes of Billy Holliday through to Nina Simone, along with all the wonderful female singers that emerged throughout the 50’s and early 60’s. Fundamentally Jo has a stunning voice, rich and dark like a Yucatan honey that’s been lightly ‘smoked’, and as if that is not enough, she has also been recognised for her writing talents. Jo opened with a gospel laden soul classic ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’, people have been recording this from way back in Charley Patton’s day, changed to ‘we’ for the civil rights movement, Jo presented it superbly. The tempo was switched up for ‘Heartstring’, sharp edged percussion, gives way to some funky, jazz orientated keys from Steve Watts. Those keys keep Jo solo company for a gentle soulful ‘This Is My Amnesty’, then on to an exceptional ‘Aint No Love In The Heart Of The City, simply memorable.

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A full on hard rock edged, ‘Through The Night’, driven along by the drums of Martin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Jo’s hair fanned over her head as she lost herself to the rhythm. Another of Jo’s songs followed closely behind, ‘Cold Heart’, borrows some lyrics from bygone classics, but the whole is distinctly Jo’s work, slow and heartfelt, lovely. A complete change of direction as the massively popular Pharrell Williams, ‘Happy’, lifted the auditorium, though we were all happy where Jo had taken us, it was a bit of fun and the band obviously enjoyed themselves. Its time for the guitars to be put to work, Dave Ital has his moment to demonstrate his skills, ably supported by some solid funky bass from stand in Yolanda Charles (she has played alongside the likes of Adele, Jagger and Weller, quite an accolade) for ‘Underneath The River’. This is rock blues, a song from Jo’s pen, that allows her to give full range to her voice, and that range is indeed wide, the keyboard kicks in then the guitars take full control. Brilliant.

We are not quite finished yet,

A truly beautiful ‘prayer’ is about to be heard, Jo wrote this in memory of her father, she sings it with all her heart and soul, it would not feel out of place in any house of God.

How do you follow such a song, the show has to close, Jo dips into the classic soul bag, and pulls out, ‘I can’t Stand The Rain’, I can honestly say, I have never heard better, performed live, an absolutely fabulous close to an evening in the company of an exceptional artist.

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Mines A Triple G & T 25/01/15

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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.

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‘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.

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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

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Larry rides The Iron Road @ Evesham 21/1/15

Larry Miller@Iron Road

The Iron road has been very busy lately laying a new track, and its going straight into the heartlands of Blues. The buffers were blown aside by the explosive guitar in the hands of Larry Miller, stalwart electric blues man, with a highly rated new album available, ‘Soldier On The Line‘. He finds his inspiration in great rock blues guitarists, like Hendrix, Gallagher (that’s Rory not Noel!) and Johnny Winter, but he stands in his own right as a truly talented writer and guitarist extraordinare There were fans from as far as Weston here at the Iron Road, their trip was not wasted. The rails were soon rattling to ‘Mad Dog’, as Larry’s Les Paul screamed as us. Not long before Graham Walker demonstrated his drumming heritage, ex Gary Moore’s side man, he was let loose on ‘The Girl that Got Away’, and no mistaking the thrumming bass notes from Derek White as he added to the rhythm.

Out came the White Gibson Firebird, brought back from a distant planet for Larry to play ‘Road Runner’, from his last album, On The Edge. It was back to his latest for the gloriously gritty, bite of blues, and ‘Mississippi Mama’, I’d buy the CD for that alone, superb hard hitting, ear bashing stuff.

Larry Miller@Iron Road

The Iron Road moved with the swell of Larry’s legion of devoted fans, I had last seen him in Upton Blues, but in this atmospheric ‘station’, Larry seemed more at home, plenty of cheeky comment and Del Boy attitude, as we eased into a second set. Taken from the Soldiers Of The Line album, (which is drawn from images of the first world war) ‘One Fine Day’, is a truly beautiful, soulful ballad, here, played in its stripped down form, it seemed even more poignant. A real thumping thrash with ‘Daddy’s Car’, before we listened to another stunning piece of music, Larry’s, stairway to heaven maybe, ‘Calling All The Angels’, is again another slow burner, this time from , Unfinished Business, gob smacking, moody, and marvellously melodic. As we neared the close of the day, Larry threatened, ‘Love Me Tender’, or maybe a bit of Cliff, but no, he decided to take on Voodoo Child, say no more!

This is the first time I’ve ventured over the door of this born again road house, and I have to say, for me, there is a mouthwatering selection on the menu as we move toward spring. The Fabulous Davina and The Vagabonds (just go), Muddy’s son, Mud Morganfield and Mike Zito, to name but few. What’s more, if you fancy a drink and are travelling from Worcester, its one of the few venues where you can actually catch a train home, opposite, and still have time to see the whole set, I for one will be travelling that track, along The Iron Road.

Words And Photos Graham Munn

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Trevor Burton Band @ The Prince Of Wales 18/01/15

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Trevor Burton has been ‘in the business’, for over half a century, surviving the heady days of the 60’s and 70’s, the Move into flower power pop; and brings his love of the blues for us all to enjoy. His band of stalwart musicians are Billy ‘The Brick’ Jefferson on drums, and Pez Connor on bass, and if you like your blues loud and raw, then you were in the right place. ‘Soft Shoulders and Dangerous Curves’, seductive blues portrayed by Trevor’s gruff vocals, ready to take ‘Little Rachel’, ‘Down The road’, taken from his Blue Moon album. Bill and Pez are keeping the rhythm steadily battering our chests, as Trevor switches to a bit of JJ Cale, and an excellent easy going, ‘Crazy Mama’. ‘I’d walk ten miles on my hands and knees’, why? It ain’t ‘Tuf Enuf’, thumped out loudly, a fabulous bluesy version of the Fabulous Thunderbirds song. A few more taken from Trevor’s album, with Dave Edmunds, ‘Down Down Down’, taking us to a break.

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Straight up to speed, and into the next gear, for a superb ‘Ain’t No Brakeman’, Trevor making good use of wah-wwah and some lovely riffs. No slowing down for an equally good, gritty, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, maybe Presley’s song, but its given extra gravitas by the band.

A change of direction, as the base note changes and the drums beat a different rhythm, unmistakably the sound of Jamaica, ‘Does Your Momma Like To Reggae’, hell yeah, its an intoxicating sound, easy to move, filling your mind with Caribbean vibes.

The band engage hyperdrive, Trevor notches up the pace, Hendrix is dusted off, ‘Hey Joe’, where you going with that gun in your hand’. We all want more, Trevor serves another curve ball, but its willingly caught, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, early Beatles in true rock and roll form, performed here by The Trevor Burton Band, and it was great.

Its easy to think of Trevor Burton, along with Bev Bevan, back in the burgeoning days of Birmingham pop, he has played with many of the iconic bands of that era, but he has always had an affinity with blues, he played with Steve Gibbons for many years, Robert Plant, toured with The Who, and generally ‘lived the life’. His biography on http://www.erndor50.co.uk makes fascinating reading. It has been another fine day spent with the Prince Of Wales, and his biscuits aren’t bad!

Words And Photos Graham Munn

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