Recon Rehearsal Rush
Back from a fantastic session at Bangor, and straight over to Recon at Malvern, barely time for breath. I had been tipped off about a rehearsal with new band line up as for the forthcoming album ‘Running Man’. Yes its Babajack again, and their featuring a drummer alongside the bass guitarist previously aired.
The new sound is certainly more expansive, an extra dimension adding to Trevor’s guitars and harp, with of course, Becky’s African drum and cahon.
Apart from the added drive of the drums, Bec’s has gained more freedom to become more expressive with her already powerful vocals. They are to travel to Germany for the Grolsch Festival, then back for Hay on Wye.
Newcomer is Tosh Murase, based in Telford, and drums with Pre Sleep Monologue. Bass guitarist Adam Bertenshaw, has already established himself with Babajack over the last few months, both feature in the new album scheduled for release in the autumn.
The short playlist included the usual, fiery opener, ‘Moneys All Gone’, from Rooster, new material ‘Coming Home’, ‘Falling Hard’, the previously aired ‘Running Man’ and a song currently nicknamed ‘Elvis’, giving a clue to its content. To close the session ‘Skin & Bone’ was given a thrashing.
As said, the expanded band allows Becky to ‘work the stage’, Trevor to ease off in the engine room, allowing more freedom in his playing. Over the course of the summer and the many music festivals, I think Babajack, already a listed band, will become firmly established head liners in the UK and Europe. They will also continue with gigs in their usual pairing. Help them on the way, don’t forget to add your vote to the British Blues Awards for 2013, either via there web site or direct via
Babjack are up for 5 categories, best album (Rooster); best acoustic; best original song (Rooster Blues); instrumentalist (Becky); and harmonica (Trevor)
Also at Recon’s open mike session and worthy of a special mention, a young soloist was trying out. Jenny Ludlow from Pershore has the soft lilt of the the folk singer, but probably needs to find a bit more presence, when she for the rowdier local venues. She gave voice to interesting versions of ‘London Calling and Labi Siffre’s ‘Must be Love’, ‘English Rose’ amongst others, she may be worth listening out for around local venues over the forthcoming summer.
Photos And Words 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
Artrix May 8th
The Blues Band:
Here once more at the Artrix, who are hosting what has become a regular visit from The Blues Band. What I might ask, can I add to the well documented biography of this mature and skilled gang of Blues practitioners.
Paul Jones, he of the Monday night Radio 2 slot, a near encyclopaedic knowledge of the Blues world. Who’s playing where, and who’s no longer playing at all. All this, and he still finds time to tour, either with this band or parts thereof, a fine harmonica player, singing and playing since the early 60′s. (that means he is actually older than me)
Dave Kelly, one of the finest exponents of the Blues guitar complete with slide. Another man who can dig down to the roots of blues, he has played with the greats, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and John Lee Hooker. The man’s got provenance!
Tom McGuinness, he’s played with Clapton in Eric’s early years, Manfred Mann (as did Paul of course) McGuinness Flint, and later joined Paul to form this band.
Rob Townsend, another man rooted in the 60′s, drummed with Roger Chapman’s ‘Family’, Medicine Head, and has toured with Duane Eddy.
Gary Fletcher, the apparent ‘baby’ of the band, he has been a workman bassist over many years, had played alongside Dave in bands, and was asked along to join The Blues Band.
None of the above need an introduction, they have been around a long time, and not surprisingly, the audience, a sell out, also tend to be of a certain age. They know what to expect, are prepared to pay for it, and they know they will go home with a satisfied grin…………and maybe a few CD’s. They will also be back next time, many grew up through the late 50′s, early 60′s, listening to those same Blues legends as this stalwart band.
Having said all that, I confess to doing much the same (not 50′s). We are all here because these guys can still do the business, well trodden blues songs, some roots, some self penned, all played with enthusiasm and finely honed artistry. Paul, Dave and Tom tell their tales of paths crossed, stages played and the availability of their numerous CD’s, as individuals, or variously formed bands, outside, for sale, in the foyer.
This is a recurring theme between songs, thankfully done with a large dose of banter and humour. Unlike many musicians of their stature, they also are in the foyer, yes to sell, always to sign, and find a bit more time to share a joke and a bit of chat. The queue was long, sales no doubt as good as ever, and a lot of happy people. They were here to see and listen to one of the UK’s most popular Blues bands, maybe to take back a few souvenirs.
A small diversion from the play list as the second set opens, Its a request from a member of the audience. Enter Paul Jones, no accompaniment, he sings ‘Miss Otis Regrets’, the packed auditorium didn’t, regret that is, and he show moved on, all take a turn on vocal leads, with the exception of drummer, Rob.
Plenty of Blues, a bit of gospel, a bit of Rock & Roll in ‘Shake rattle and Roll’, and one I particularly enjoyed, apparently from their ‘Cross Borders’ DVD, ‘Lets Talk It Over. The Blues Band, no doubt will be back, this audience will be back, and so will I.
The Artrix as ever, attract fine bands, who know they will play to full houses, its arguably the outstanding theatre venue in our area, meeting the demand for top performances whatever the show.
Words and Photos By Graham Munn
Re Con Rooster Booster:
Saturday night at this Malvern music magnet, and its local band, Blues Award winners Babajack, but that’s not all; close friend from the cold North, Dave Arcari is sharing the bill. What more could you want, good ale? Well that’s on tap as well. The show is a sell out, and the room is full with an eclectic mix of enthusiastic music lovers. Becs and Trevor have greeted the throng and
Dave Arcari, along with an assortment of guitars and banjo, vocal chords lubricated, is ready to roll. This bearded man in black has a gruff, raw blues style, that is delivered in punk style, right in your face! Dave starts off ‘gentle’ but raw with ‘Cotton on my Back’ and ‘Cherry Wine’, moving swiftly and constantly through the first 20 minutes of stage.
A change of guitar to his beautiful polished steel resonator, twang, and immediately breaks a string. No time to stop, he switches to his electric hard body guitar and this dark irreverent apparition plays on; through to ‘Homesick Blues’, and a change of direction. Trevor (Babajack) steps up harmonica drawn, ready to duel with Dave who has ‘Trouble In Mind’. Brilliant, its an opportunity to appreciate Trev’s harp skills without dividing his albeit wide talent, with the wine box guitars.
Dave steps up a gear, no more pussy footing as he reaches for his matt black National Resonator. The first chords splattered the crowd, dirty, saw toothed, demanding our attention, the atmosphere is electric, so is Dave, he hops around the stage, never still, assaulting our ears with this grunge-laden, punk styled guitar. There’s all sorts of Blues, Hangmans, Red Letter, Good friend, and Blue Train, he Can’t be Satisfied.
The Finale of this non stop set is ‘Walkin Blues’, accompanied by Becky on African drum and Trevor on the harp. Along with Johnny Cash’s ‘Blue train’ its a riveting finish, Dave crashes through the onlookers, circling his victims before closing the noose and hauling us all into his musical mayhem. Unmissable those who were not here on the night are at a loss, we that were, had been truly Arcari’d, and will be scarred for life!!!!
A short break as the stage is reset, and Babajack resume their normal format; plus bass player Alan Birkenshaw, new to the band this year and introducing a new dimension to this award winning band. Did I already say, award winning local band, possibly one of the best live bands in the country. Am I a fan? Too bloody true I am. Yes I have heard their songs before, and watched them perform in many places. I have enjoyed every one. If you have yet to see/hear them, its about time you sought out a gig, they are becoming increasingly more mobile and popular around the UK and Europe, so when they are so close to home why wouldn’t you join them?
Opening with the ‘Money’s All Gone’, they draw heavily on the recent ‘Rooster’ album, delivering the music in their unique style. Son House’s Death Letter Blues, is delivered first class with their tribute to that great delta blues man. I love the way it is sung with such passion along with Trevor’s brilliant slide play.
The eagerly awaited new album, ‘Running Man’ is also aired in part, many devotees listening will have already pre-ordered their copy in support of the band. Again Trevor lowers his guitar and accompanies Becky with his harp as she forms us with ‘Hammer and Tongs’, wonderful stuff.
I have probably said it all before, but this band delivers, consistently, 120%. Their style is their own, as is the music, the few tributes are heartfelt and given a Babajack make over. They are few and indeed with their own material so good, they do not need to perform songs written by other musicians. That is why those few that deserve performing, can be done with real respect and feeling.
A round of happy birthday shakes the walls and rattles the glasses behind the bar; Its the nearing midnight and Trev will hit the the 50 mark.
So we find their grand finale, a real Babajack crowd pleaser, and one of those songs rooted in history, revived by Lead Belly (arguably), ‘Black Betty’. All join in, the atmosphere is intoxicating, Trevor is playing his guitar as a man possessed, Becky holds the crowd in her hands as stretches this old song to a full 10 minutes; nobody would have wavered had she pulled us on for another 10.
Fantastic night at an excellent venue. Dave Arcari and Babajack, a heady mix, yes a partisan audience, but that was the loss of all who have not experienced such music. THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE!
Photos & Words By Graham Munn
Beth Hart @ The Institute, Birmingham
First time at this venue, we had balcony tickets and took a
‘box’ position smack centre, overlooking the floor and stage
areas. All in,an excellent position, in a good medium size
venue. An interesting building, this 2000 audience hall was
built for variety acts in the early 20th century, becoming the
civic hall, and eventually following a £4M restoration, has
become the HMV Institute, now just Institute, following the
demise of the gramophone loving dog.
So what brings us here, and why are you reading this
miserable review, the answer is a major artist in the world
of blues is on tour, the fabulous Beth Hart, complete with
an extremely good tour band.
Beth opened, blasting off with ‘Have Mercy’, a song which
was exactly the one that caught my ear courtesy or Radford
and Marconi in their old R2 slot, I scribbled down the
details and the following day bought the album ‘Don’t
Explain’ with Beth and Joe Bonamassa, brilliant. Oddly
enough at that same radio time, my good lady was on her
way home listening to R&M and made the same mental
note (her memory is better than mine) So here we were, in
heaven, listening to a stunning powerful voice asking for
mercy. This lady dominates the stage, standing over her
band, albeit with 5” heels, she probably does not need them.
Constantly on the move, on her knees in homage to the
drums, beating out those rhythms, strutting round as the
guitars duel. Only the keyboard holds her in place. We are
well into her set, and another gentler favourite, ‘Chocolate
Jesus’! This isn’tt the bitter, gritty, loose wrapped chocolate
of Tom Waits, more a bubbly Aero style Lindt, smooth but
dark & full of flavour, classily packaged, I love both of
Shades of country style and a dash of humour, bring a
descriptive picture of her home in LA, ‘The Ugliest House
On The Block’, switching up a gear into the bouncy ‘Bang
Bang Boom Boom’ released last year, & played live on
Jools show. We were all bouncing along nicely to an
outstanding performance and still plenty to come.
Beth strides and struts across the stage as she thumps out
‘Well Well’, and ends her set with ‘For My Friends’, here
today and gone tomorrow, maybe so, but this is not an
evening we will forget easily. Beth has an unforgettable,
voice, at times, smoked, honeyed with a touch of nicotine,
all the way down to real grit. A truly great blues voice.
She was not going to get away that easily, we all demand
In a much subdued piano solo, Beth delivers ‘Everything
Must Change’ and so it does, as the band rejoin and Beth
explodes into a full rock finish with ‘Monkey Back’, the
lyrics say ‘God save me’, and I sincerely hope he does, as
there are tickets on the way for the forthcoming tour with
Joe Bonamasa, can’t wait for more!
Words And Photos By Graham Munn
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