Rodney Branigan @ The Bedwardine 22/02/13
Back in December, I was fortunate to have been mesmerized by Rod Branigan’s performance, culminating in his ‘duel guitar flip trick’, how could I not return for his Feb. date.
Once set up, he goes straight into ‘Body Language’, taken from his Sketches album, a very good bit of Americana/blues. A quick breath and an interpretation of Ian Moore’s Muddy Jesus, performed with an 8 string uke across his back, acoustic 6 string to the front and the little conga drum, ready to hand. That sort of hints at what to expect, combinations of ever present guitar, uke, conga, and a tambourine under his foot. Rod is not adversed to reworking good music to mix in with his self penned songs. A bit of rap from Kanye West, Outkast’s, ‘Hey ya’, and a truly outstanding demonstration of ‘slap’ and fingering his acoustic feeding in to Lennon’s ‘Come Together’, simply, superb. Rod stopped for a well earned break, but not before a twin guitar bit of schizophrenic musicianship.
‘Creep’, borrowed from Radiohead, is the excellent restart to the evening, we are all spellbound, by Rod’s skills, two brains maybe? and a liberal splash of banter and humour. Requests for guitar songs were invited, back came the shout, Black Sabbath, we’re almost launched full on into an acoustic ‘War Pigs’, but alas no, it looked promising, I think he should go for it.
There are the songs taken from Sketches, a mix of reworks and self written music, along with the more blues orientated set from his Nothing Better ToDo, album. Notables from these tracks are Muddy Waters, ‘Champagne and Reefer’, and his own ‘Buckets’, not about bailing out the floods, though ‘Stop The Rain’, written at Glastonbury, probably is. You can feel the rivulets of water running down your neck! An excellent acoustic version of Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’, far less explosive on the ears, was followed by a beer glass slide with tambourine accompaniment of Rod’s take on the Brady Bunch, which compares very favourably with the rather cheesy 1960′s opening theme from the TV series. A truly stunning evening at the Bedwardine, could only be complete with Rod doing his 2 guitar flip trick, as previously demonstrated in December. For those new to a Branigan gig, it is indeed awesome to behold, as ‘Slot Machine’ and ‘Clean Up’, from Sketches, are combined into a phenomenal display of guitar playing.
I can only say again, this man is unmissable, he returns once more on May 21st, for you to get another chance, this time he is bringing along fiddle player extraodinaire Tim Snider. I have already marked my place, I suggest you all mark your calender.
Words And Photos Graham Munn
Mike Sanchez & The Potions at Robin 2 Dec. 18th
Mike Sanchez is an R&B institution, he has been everywhere, and played with numerous top bands, in addition to his own line up. He was also responsible for introducing the wonderful Imelda May, who sang with Mike Sanchez’s band for many years. Now here at The Robin, Bilston, playing in his personable style, bringing us the the boogie woogie sounds he has championed. He tells us about his forthcoming biography, Mike Sanchez’ Big Town Playboy, to be published soon, and being written by Mike Maddon. There is no doubt he has led an interesting life, it should make fascinating reading.
Opening in his usual flamboyant style, with ‘Ramblin Boogie’, he mesmerises his audience with his piano and bustling vocals. For this set he was accompanied by Nick Whitfield on double bass, Mark Morgan, drums, and a Buddy Holly styled Tom Bull on guitar, who played with distinction. Mike rattles out the songs, with barely more break than it took to wipe his brow. He blasts out ‘I Get So Hungry’, old favourites like ‘Sapphire’ and ‘Red Hot Mama’, spill easily onto the fans. They are here to be entertained, and Mike puts them to the test, bulging eyes, and wagging fingers, berate the crowd, its show-time start to finish. In amongst all this, Mike introduced his now wife, Sarah Wynne, who took on the vocals for ‘Don’t Freeze On Me’ and bit of R&B by Lil’ Ester Phillips ‘If Its News For You Baby’ very enjoyable. Mike’s music flows seamlessly from his very soul, a medley of wonderful old blues and boogie. ‘Highway 60′, ‘Come Back Baby’, ‘Hurting Inside’ roll forward like endless breakers on the beach. Fats ‘I’m ready’, bits of Slim Harpo, Bo Didley, Chuck Berry are presented from the 50′s and early 60′s. Instructed to ‘Shake your Hips’, we did, and wanted more.
A break from the ‘hot’ keys of the piano, saw Mike pick up his acoustic guitar, and a request from a devotee for ‘Blue Boy’, was granted, a gentler more country style in the mould of Jim Reeves resulted, easing us gently back down from the frenzy that is boogie
Mike Sanchez has entertained us start to finish, the option was here at the Robin or at seated Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, the following night. Why would anyone want to listen to Mike Sanchez and his band, restricted by the constraints of the pews and chairs that populate that lovely old church? The Robin rocked and thats the way it should be.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Babajack Christmas party at Re-Con Malvern
Where better to hold the annual party bash than just up the road in this excellent music venue. They could just meander home after the gig, without the trappings of transport. Becky had been suffering a virus for some days before, which would see her voice fail her late in the evening, but not before closing the set in style. The full band were here, giving both Becky and Trevor more freedom of expression, which Becky now uses to the full, moving around the floor, turning, flicking out those red tresses, before being drawn back to the microphone, cajon and drum. Trevor too is able to add to his playing, plucking, tapping and sliding on his wine box guitars. We are also able to hear more use of his Dannecker harp, no more so than than in the lovely Babajack ‘solo’ ‘Hammer and Tongs’, where the band can take a break as Becky and Trevor give, what is for me, one of the finest songs off their Running Man album. It seems a little more extended, Trevor’s harmonica more memorable, with every nuance eagerly awaited by a partisan audience. I will mention another particular favourite, and that is Son House’s ‘Death Letter Blues’, I cannot think that anyone presents it with more passion, in a stripped back, raw, definitive manner than Babajack does, beautiful blues bared for all to hear.
Running Man has been an undoubted success, and provides much of the evenings music, I have previously reviewed and extolled this CD, there is nothing to dislike, much to praise. Past glories are also reprised from Rooster, the bands previously acclaimed album, ‘Moneys All Gone’, ‘Rooster Blues’ and ‘Gallows Pole’, sit well in the company of the new songs like ‘Rock n’ Roll Star’ and ‘Falling Hard’. For all that, there is only one way that Babajack can close an evening, Becky digs deep into her reserves, finding the last elements of her voice to give all, as she beats her African drum into submission. Trevor attacks his strings as he slides towards exhaustion, there is not an ounce of energy left in reserve. Tosh Murase and Adam Bertenshaw have provided the depth and support throughout, ‘Black Betty’ is the climatic finish with full audience participation, to a great night of roots at ReCon.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Rod Branigan @ The Bedwardine, Worcester. Dec. 11th
Where do I start with this talent from Texas, a sort of one man band only better. Rod has an exceptional, seemingly easy ad relaxed style to his excellent acoustic guitar play. Added to that he ‘fingers’ a Conga snare drum, occasionally adding a uke slung over his back, for a bit of infill, underneath his right boot is a tambourine. An interesting timbre is added to the little drum, by the addition of two small mint tins, suitably loaded with mints, and perhaps a few nuts? Now you would think that would all come at the expense of his guitar fingering, but no, busy hands indeed, because he plays beautifully, everything from some superb blues to guitar solos with more ‘Spanish’ roots. Though Rod plays a fair slice of his gig acoustically, he does switch on the vocals, no problem there, delivering some very good strong lyrics. He sort of reminds me of Wille Edwards from Wille And The Bandits, a similar expressive voice, giving us songs questioning our modern world.
I picked up 2 albums, a 2012 ‘Sketches’ and the new release ‘Nothing Better To Do’. Both turn out to be fine albums, ‘Sketches’ is dipped into extensively for his gig, and is a broad range of music that is hard to fault. The later 2013 album is decidedly more blues in its content, though Rod seemed slightly apologetic about this, I found it very easy to play through and like. He played ‘Champagne And Reefer’, a Muddy Waters song, which features in the later album. Putting his empty beer glass to the fret, he gave his self penned ‘Brady Bunch’, great fun. A nice version of Beasty Boys ‘Sabotage’ was slotted in to some more of his own work.
Throughout the session, we were kept entertained with his humour and comfortable rapport with a moderate audience, in what is a new music venue. Moderate but very appreciative that Mr. Brannigan had come to our city to astound us with his abilities. On to the party piece closure, where Rod takes up two guitars, for his ‘flip trick’, and plays them simultaneously. At first stood up with the two acoustics almost double decked, and then the flip to a seated position with one slung across his knee and the other sat vertically to his left; working the fret on the left side as he fingered the guitar across his knee. It was an amazing sight and sound as ‘Slot Machine’ merged into ‘The Clean Up’, both from the completely self penned ‘Sketches’. A brilliant acoustic finish to an extraordinary evening of exceptional musicianship. I hope I have the good fortune to see him perform again in the near future, a first class US import.
Words & photos By Graham Munn
Matt Woosey at ReCon, Malvern Dec 5th
Local blues man Matt was joined by Dave Small on cajon to reprise some of his past songs alongside those from his new EP Hook Line & Sinker.
Matt opened with the title track from that EP, a rattling good song well delivered in cut back form by a man renowned for his acoustic sets. Traditional style blues ‘Woke Up This Morning’ came from On TheWagon, as did the splendidly delivered ‘That’s My Baby’ in typically raw Woosey style. So we bounced between the two discs, hitting the buffers full and hard with ‘Cruel Disposition’, a bitingly sharp behemoth of a blues song. Matt says he does not like playing it, misinformation from Matt maybe, its an absolute cracker as it stalls and soars, brilliant guitar and vocals. We drop away from Matt’s recent releases to another favourite ‘Walking The Blues’, which could just as easily have been penned by the likes of Hooker or Muddy, but its all Matt’s. Not so J.B.Hutto’s, ‘Too Much Alcohol’ a wonderful bit of Chicago Blues, and like all good blues, embellished by Wooz. No stopping him now, Howling Wolf’s ‘Lil’ Red Rooster’ was laid on us (inappropriate word play for a cock) Matt lays his guitar across his knees, dobro style, and slides his way through that farmyard.
Throughout the evening, Dave has provided pulse and rhythm sat astride his cajon, occasional adding to the vocals. There is the air of an easy, comfortable relationship between Matt and Dave, plenty of good humour and audience response. The result is the bare bones blues Matt excels at, powerful heartfelt gritty vocals and masterful acoustic guitar, ‘ Black Smoke Risin’, sinals we are nearing the end of an entertaining evening
Both On The Wagon and the new EP, Hook Line And Sinker are excellent recordings, the former particularly, retaining that raw, edgy, live feel throughout, but, that’s the point, Matt Woosey is all about performance. He tours the UK, and Europe, extensively and has had more recent excursions into the Southern hemisphere, I highly recommend you see and hear him play, and then go home with your CD’s, all the more eager to re-live the gig.
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