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Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes @ Artrix 04/04

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The Artrix played Host to Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes for an evening of blues. Supporting Paul was Jacksboro Highway, an acoustic blues trio from Northampton. The lead and rhythm guitars of Martin Fitzhugh and Steve Smith, joined Kev Buxton on harmonica, for some classic blues standards from the likes of Jimmy Reed, Sony Boy Williamson, and Robert Johnson. They also gave a nod to more recent artists like Taj Mahal, JJ Cale and notably a song by Brian Protheroe. ‘No Snow Blues’, with, apparently, lyrics taken poet Sydney Keyes, the wonderful ‘Pinball’ came to mind. All present seemed very comfortable with the offering, and Jacksboro Highway were applauded warmly.

Paul Lamb, strode onto the centre stage, a solo intro on the harp led to the arrival of The Kingsnakes, guitarist Chad Strentz, bass Rod Demick, percussion Dino Coccia, and ‘new born ‘ Lamb, Ryan also on guitar.

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Straight into Ray Charles ‘Good To Me’, then Johnny Cash is given breath with ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, which seems to fit very nicely into Paul and the bands style of country blues. As you would expect Paul is mesmerising on his harmonicas, played with such subtlety. Chad takes care of most of the vocals, with a few exceptions, Rod and Dino, keeping the whole sound tightly together, without overpowering. Then there is Ryan, who obviously enjoys using the stage, his face reflects the energy of his style, a perfect target for my lens!

Paul takes on the vocals, mixed with his harp, for ‘Ya Ya Blues’ accompanied by Chad, the audience, really got behind this fun bit of music, played with a bit of bite, crocodile shoes tapping out the rhythm.

More superb vocals from Chad, as Paul goes chromatic, and Ryan gets into serious mood with Ray Charles, ‘Black Jack Game’, excellent. Sad to say, there was only a moderate turnout, no matter, the band gave there all and those fortunate to have made the effort were richly rewarded. All joined in for ‘Midnight Special’, as Chad and Ryan, put aside their guitars to share a mike, whilst Rod was joined by Dino at the other, Paul breathed into his harp and led the vocals for this finale. Well not quite, 2 days later, I found my way to the Prince Of Wales at Ledbury, a lovely little pub that is a magnet to some fantastic blues artists. So no surprise to find Paul and Chad galvanising the crowded bar. I joined for Gershwin’s, ‘Summertyne’! played beautifully, as it deserves to be, found a tight spot to sup my Ledbury Dark ale, and enjoy an hour of the harmonica maestro, accompanied by Chad on guitar and vocals. Paul is ‘Hootin & Tootin’, in style, the songs taken from ‘Going Down the Road’, an album release featuring the two in acoustic mode, a perfect fit for this venue. An altogether superbly entertaining few days. 

 

Words And photos Graham Munn

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Thomas Ford @ Café Rene 02/04

 

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The Mississippi Delta found its way to this, bottle lined, barrel bound, vault that is the Café Rene. Thomas Ford is the reincarnation of this traditional style and delivery of blues, played on his beautiful National Resonator, harp and electric guitars. The resonator and slide were put to good use from the off, with Blind Joe Reynolds ‘Outside Womans Blues’, swiftly followed by one of his own songs based on hair raising moments spent in Bucharest, ‘Danger Blues’. Swapping to his electric guitar along with harp slung around his neck, Tom took us back to the days of Little Walter, Blind Willie McTell and Son House, with the traditionally delivered ‘Death Letter’ blues. A bit of country blues ‘Bottle Up And Go’, attributed to one Tommy McClennan, and sung by the likes of Lead Belly and John Lee Hooker, preceded closing for a break with another Hooker classic, ‘Boom Boom Boom’.

 

The second session followed pretty much the same pattern, old classics, like Muddy Waters, ‘Rollin and Tumblin’, later to be re-worked by Cream, interspersed with some from Thomas’s own song book. ‘Lightning Seed’, was one, played on his electric guitar, with vocals breathed through the harp and mike. ‘A Bottle Of Turpentine’ was an ‘uplifting’ bit of old blues folk law, is this why there were so many ‘Blind’ blues men? Perhaps not, but they could have found solace in a ‘Whiskey headed Woman’, another old McClennan song. What the evening has shown, is Thomas Ford’s fine skills as a finger picking, slide slipping, harp player, added to a vocal style that brings fresh breath to traditional delta blues. Performed with a genuine passion for this root music, his self penned songs would not disgrace some of those old blues legends. Look out for a CD release in the making, it will, no doubt, be as well crafted as his live performance at the atmospheric Café Rene in Gloucester.
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Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Tommy Allen & Johnny Hewitt @ Prince Of Wales, Ledbury 30/03/14

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This small historic pub, tucked away in the narrow Church St. of Ledbury, was subject to a severe case of ‘sardines’ as people filled every void to try the beers and be entertained by The Blues Duo. Definitely a case of ‘no room at the inn’, as the sounds of the Chicago street styled blues band filled the warm, thick air of the heaving bar. Little Walter provided the opening with ‘I’ve Had My Fun’, but there wasn’t much breathing space as the pair rattled through some wonderful old blues classics, and a few of their own, Tommy kicking up percussion as he put his Gretsch to work, as Johnny went into hyper drive on the harp. A lovely rendition of William Clarke’s, ‘It Must Be Jelly’, wobbled its way to a short break and Muddy Waters, ‘Baby You Don’t Have To Go’; so we didn’t, there was plenty more to come, as Johnny mopped his brow with a beer towel!

The break was brief, the packed bar, riveted, the only sounds were coming from The Blues Duo, as they called out, ‘Hey Bartender’, it wasn’t a round of drinks, rather an almost endless round of blues. Almost endless was the soulful sounds form Johnny’s harp as Tommy took a break to study a handy dictionary, only A,B,C though, as his breathless partner, gave way for to wind up, Sonny Boy Williamson’s, ‘Nine Below Zero’, a breathtaking marathon.

We edged slowly forward, no hurry, towards a medley of seamless rock & roll, as the boys were really getting into their stride. Reet Petit, Chantilly Lace, Rock This House, Johnny B Goode were stitched end on end, with a rapidly closing, ‘Mystery Train’ close behind. ‘Backdoor Boogie’ belts out, by this time, despite the sardines being very tightly packed, there was not a still pair of feet in the place. The clock was moving on, nobody gave a damn, certainly not the Blues duo, as they launched into ‘Don’t Bite The Hand that Feeds You’, ‘That’s Alright’ and after an ecstatic evening of endless superlative blues, they closed on ‘Give Me One More shot’.

What can I say, 3 hours of of breathless blues, the Blues duo are definitely the real deal. Don’t miss them, but be ready for an enthusiastically driven long session, brilliant. 

 

Words And Photos By Graham Munn

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Fabulous Boogie Boys, with Sarah Warren @ The Hop Pole 22/03

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The red rash of the Fabulous Boogie Boys, squeezed into the tight corner stage of the Hop pole, promised us a colourful evening of jump jive, rock & roll and a good splash of blues. The Hop Pole was filled out with music fans who like to let their hair down and have a bit of fun, which is the hallmark of this hard ‘rockin’ band. Discretely melding into the crowd, 2 giants of the stage, Steve Steinhaus and Mark English were present to see fellow Dr Teeth member, Jay (Moody) Riley, perform on the keyboards.

Swinging straight into ‘Lovin Machine’, the band kicked off, with Cliff Dawe, lips glued, to his ‘Elvis’ birdcage mike, warming to the task. Old favourites like ‘This Old House’ and ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’ are blasted out, Hugh Thomas is given plenty of work on his tenor sax, he does not disappoint. Tightly hemmed in behind, Nick Lynden is wrestling with his double bass. Time for a change in tempo and delivery, as Sarah takes the lead for the Etta James classic, ‘Tough Lover’, with all the passion and grit she could summon. The baton is passed from Cliff to Sarah and back, for ‘Since I Met You Baby’, and again, as they duet through an old 50′s classic, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’. Up the pace again for a bit of ‘Jump Jive and Wail’, before things cool down for the beautiful, yet powerful voice of Sarah Warren, ‘At Last’, there can be few that can match this. The atmosphere in the Hop Pole is electric, not much room for dancing, but that did not seem to stop a few staking a claim to more floor space in the crowded bar, as ‘Rip It Up’, and ‘Chickens’, were rolled out, with a short breather in between as Sarah ‘Just Wanted To Make Love To You’, hot stuff. The floor show from this red army of rockers is frenetic and almost non stop as we head towards the closing session. ‘This Little Light O Mine’, ‘Little Egypt’, ‘Wanna be like you’, and ‘See You Later Alligator’, wind the spring tightly, Cliff giving his all, shadowed at the back, Stu opens ‘Flip Flop Fly’ on his Epiphone guitar, as Richie keeps everyone nicely in check on his drums, heard but almost invisible.

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How can you finish a fast, fun night of rock, rhythm and blues? Well how about turning to Mr. Chuck Berry to show us the way, The Fabulous Boogie Boys presented us with a fabulous and exhausting (as it should be) ‘Jonny be Goode’.

The question is, how did new keyboard player Jay fit into all this mayhem, well he certainly had the right keys to open the door to an entertaining evening of fun at The Hop Pole. Jay, the red jacket fits well, I can only look forward to the next session of the Fabulous Boogie Boys.    

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Stomping All Over the Place Stomp & Holler@Bridgnorth

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Stomp and Holler, the 6 piece New Orleans styled blues and brass band, took stage in the wonderfully intimate, Theatre On The Steps, with a small change to their line up. Small but significant, Abby Brant, having been ‘stolen’ by Jasper Carrot, for his touring show, we were about to see for the first time, Phil Bond. Phil has played with the Steve Gibbons band among many, the marked difference, is stature, he towers over the rest of S&H, and obviously, a bit lower in pitch vocally, than Abby! For those who have not visited Bridgnorth, the theatre is a lovely old chapel dating from the 1830′s, sat halfway down the escarpment that stands over the Severn. Access is via a footpath, but inside is worth the effort a steeply rising balcony overlooks the auditorium and stage.

120 had joined S&H for the evening, and the band did not disappoint, bursting out into ,Crazy Up In Here’, seemed very poignant, it quickly became apparent that bassist Chris Lomas was suffering a little as he croaked and ground his way through, ‘Start It Up’, the band were not going to help him out, as he undermined the ‘Cocker’ grit of Oliver Carpenter. That grit was put to good use in the suitably funereal paced dirge of ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’, paced to last, hence so much more enjoyable. From Cocker to cockney perhaps, asking ‘Why’s It Always Me’, and a change of direction as Phil leaves the keyboard and takes to the accordion, bringing a new dimension to this tongue in cheek song. Martin beats up a rumbling thunderstorm on drums, as he fires up into the bands fabulous take on ‘Webtop Checker’. John Sanderson’s sax coming over as beautifully as ever, along with some lovely guitar riffs of Dave Carroll, not to forget the added brass of Oliver’s trumpet.

A short liquid break, and back to business, and another change from the past as ‘Big Chief’, evolves from an instrumental version, to Phil’s mellow vocals, used to effect as he attacks the keyboards. A quick breeze through New Orleans jazz swing of ‘Umbrella In My Drink’ and ‘Evangeline’, and we are lined up for another explosive song, a bit of rock & roll with ‘Musta Notta Gotta’, hot dog, another excuse for Martin to drive the rhythm hard and fast, no one is left out as Stomp & Holler demonstrate why they are such a popular band. Fine musicianship, a bit of fire, a pinch of passion, a measure of humour, an Orleans cocktail, stirred along by Oliver in his guise as a goatee bearded, blues man. An excellent evenings entertainment.

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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