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There’s nothing more reassuring than a packed venue and for Skewwhiff’s album launch party, Worcester’s premier music venue was rammed to the rafters from the off.


Before the headliners unleashed their recent wares, the assembled masses were treated to Skewwhiff’s handpicked support act of choice 8-piece original skunk rockers (and longtime Rhythm & Booze favourites), The Cracked Actors, a Birmingham band who mix punk ethics with ska and dub grooves to create an infectious groove-laden, attitude fueled sound that makes you want to strut, skank and holler along.

Right from the opening number Writ In Stone, frontman Fudge and his cohorts held the audience in the palm of their hands, choppy punk riffs collide with vigorous horns to  dazzling effect, whilst the rhythm section locked into a tight groove propelling the band forward. From the band’s opening salvo, they continued with the same rich blend with the likes of Puppet On A String, the dub enriched Naked When I Dance and the effervescent, long term favourite Flowers, with each and every track welcomed like a long lost friend by the dancing fraternity.

The Cracked Actors never fail to deliver, the band have a contagious sound that is nigh on impossible to ignore and once again they left me (and by the audience reaction, a great deal many more) wanting more.

By the time Cracked Actors finished their set the audience were suitably warmed up and primed for the main event, Skewwhiff, took to the stage like conquering heroes, guitarist Mark Hogan cranked up the opening riff and they were off, hurtling through their set of spiky indie new wave anthems led by the sultry tones of lead singer, Hannah Raybould (Beanie).

The crowd responded instantly with a further surge towards the front as the quartet ran unleashed the likes of Gizmo, Ska-Whiff and the hook-laden It girl, whilst Skewwhiff’s rendition of it’s Obvious (originally by the Au Pairs) was delivered with all the attitude and swagger of the original.

Skewwhiff live, much like on CD are all about the hooks, whether that’s an instantly memorable vocal or a fuzzy serrated riff, the band’s set was loaded with hook after hook from start to finish and you can’t really ask for more than that.

When I go to a gig, I want to leave with a smile on my face and exhilarated, with The Cracked Actors and Skewwhiff I felt just that, both bands delivered a “Nice Little Upper” and I look forward to seeing both in the near future.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 9


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Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes @ Artrix 04/04


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


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


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.


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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