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Official Receivers at The Artrix 06/09

 

I was looking forward to a night of soulful music from one of the premier bands in the country, who not only play the part, but look the business as well. Not so fast, first we have to give consideration to an excellent support band, whom I would not have minded seeing in their own right. Not soul this time, but plenty of rock and blues, coming from Slowburner.

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They have a 27 year pedigree, and have supported some influential blues and rock bands over that time. Slowburner is fronted by the charismatic vocalist Paul Bridgewater, Mike Bannister, looking serious on a mean guitar, Rob Newell, thumping out those base notes and just for the night, a drumfest performance from Dave Small stand in Denny Connolly. It must be said, Paul has an outstanding voice, purpose built for this style of electric blues, and certainly looks the part, bringing to mind Paul Rogers and Free. From ‘King Bee’ to ‘Bullfrog Blues’, via JJ Cale, Free, and Muddy Waters, this band play a smorgasbord of blues looking back across the last 50 years. That’s not to dismiss many of their own songs squeezed in to the roller-coaster rock show. Thoroughly enjoyable, those soul boys would have to work hard to better this.

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Whilst not at capacity, there was a good crowd awaiting the Receivers, the cheer went up as they entered the arena. Slickly turned out and loaded with brass, the band strike up, front man Lenny enters,the open floor of the Artrix, tense with expectation, breaks into a writhing mass of born again teenagers, as ‘Soul Finger’, melds into ’25 Miles From Home’. Edwin Starr, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Booker T, are pitched at the auditorium. Whether your a Soul Man or not, you can’t help moving to these classics, helpless against the tide of songs washing over us, ‘How sweet It Is’, to be within the magnetic field of this dynamic, highly charged, band. They are a brass driven 8-piece, towering over the tuneful tubes is Chris on Tenor Sax, with Paul on trumpet, and a second Tenor, sitting squarely on Phil. Tucked behind are the building blocks of funk, Dave on bass, and Tony on drums. Only stalling for Lenny to mop his brow, the soul train rides on, ‘Geno’ almost enticed me to risk my well worn back, but I’m a pro, I had a job to do, sod it! ‘Mustang Sally’ caught me unawares, another week on Tramadol! Venturing up into the galleries, I found a similar picture, abandoned seats, floor space at a premium, you cannot sit still to this stuff. Rick gets carried away on a guitar solo, hinting at some serious rock demons, Simon throws in some nifty keyboard moves, Lenny needs an oxygen mask, time to Show A Bit of Tenderness. The evening is winding up, far too many wild eyed, middle-aged teenagers were about to be released into the Bromsgrove night, looking for more action. It had been a fabulous evening, intoxicating stuff, a superb Slowburner put light to the fuse, and the controlled explosion as the Official Receivers, drew us all in and released the force.

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Do you like good music, yeah, yeah, oh yeah

Words & photos Graham Munn

 

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Kent Duchaine at The Fleece, Bretfort0n 29/08

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The 600 year old Inn near Evesham, hosted the young 80 year old Leadbessie, cradled in the arms of Kent Duchaine, who gave his tightly strung ward a damned good thrashing, (not to mention putting a bottle to Leadbessie’s neck too)

This was the start of the inaugural Beer & Blues Festival at the lovely old Fleece Inn, plenty of good ale, cider and blues over 3 days.

We were here to see Kent, a world renowned bluesman with his battered ‘Bessie’, a ’34 National Steel resonator. What I had not realised, was that he is also a raconteur who strings his songs together with tales of long lost friends, life on the road and broken relationships. All told with reverence, and maybe a rascally sparkle in the eye. Many have inspired the music he plays, blending anecdotes and southern blues into his show.

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Many of you who glance through this, will already be familiar with his style, it was the first time I had caught up with him, so humour me! First, ‘Leadbessie’, is a bit of a legend, Kent has travelled with this scarred old warrior for over 37 years. ‘she’ is patched and taped, discoloured and barely recognisable, her proud National emblem, all but disappeared; but, given the acoustics of this old barn, she sounded OK. Kent plays her hard, and the battered body is all his own work.

The songs are tales of travel, eulogies to some of the greats he has met and performed with. Songs about Muddy Waters, Son House and Bukka White’s, ‘Aberdeen’. Robert Johnson’s ‘ Preachin Blues’, and tales spending time fishing and performing with Johnny Shines. Fishing and wives feature a lot in Kent’s stories of home, ‘The Storm’, tells all. A dedication to the late Johnny Winter, and on to a bit of Howling Wolf. It seems Kent Duchaine has met and often played alongside all the blues greats of his time, Willie Dixon helping him along, sharing reefer and champagne with Muddy on the way. Not sure who has the better voice, Kent or Leadbessie, I know which one looks more age weary, but that doesn’t seem to matter much as long as there’s plenty of gaffer tape around to bind the wounds. This is raw, passionate blues, rooted in the Mississippi Delta delivered to the UK by a master of the acoustic guitar. A wonderful version of that well trodden favourite, St. James Infirmary Blues had ended the first set. ‘Sweet Home Chicago’, opened the second, nods to Freddie King and John Lee Hooker, more home tales, a wry smile, Gershwin and ‘Summertime’. We are at the close for a bit of a sing along, a Brit anthem, ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ sung with gusto by all, and quickly on, to marching saints. Its been a brilliant evening in this draughty old barn, the air warm from the press of bodies, here to see the legend that is Kent Duchaine.

We enjoyed it so much, were going back for a second session, only 48 hours later at another historic Inn, The Prince Of Wales at Ledbury, just what Sundays are for.

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

 

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Forty Blues Toes @ Prince Of Wales Ledbury 24/08

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Did not know much about this band, apart from Tony and Stretch the base & drums, used to play with The Bluestribe. They were also performing in The Little Muggery at Upton Blues, where I grabbed a few quick frames by hanging through the window, I could not get through the door for the crowd. So it was time to see them, and it was at the Sunday eve session at The POW, which has become a favourite haunt.

The band were about ready as I arrived and Tony, (the joker in the pack) on cringingly good form. They do not appear to have their own material, but what they ‘cover’ they do very well, good solid blues classics, a bit of rock and a nod to Elvis and Chuck.

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Sharing the space with Tony and Stretch, were Mal on guitar & vocals alongside Sean Griffin on guitar, and what a guitar, an unexpected pleasure. A good thumping bass as ‘Walking By Myself’ opened up, not long before some classic Cream, and teenage memories, with ‘Strange Brew’. Some great tones coming from Sean’s, Patrick Eggle, vintage guitar, T Bone’s ‘Stormy Monday’ led to a bit more Cream, can you have too much? and on to some ‘Beatles’, a superb version of ‘Come Together’, where those Liverpool boys really did get it together, and a chance for Sean to show off with Harrison’s, ‘while My Guitar Gently Weeps’, lovely, played with a true passion. The bullet mike and harp came out for some Canned heat before a bit of a curved ball at the close of the first set. Jean Genie, nothing wrong with that, we all joined in, this was becoming a very enjoyable gig.

A short break at the cask ale bar, and we were standing at the ‘Crossroads’, for another Cream decorated set. Mal was really getting into his stride on vocals, whilst trying to constrain the politically suspect drift of Tony’s one liners. Tony ‘accidentally’ kicking the ‘smoke’ release lever, the space quickly filling, with Stretch disappearing into the thick fog. More opportunity for Sean with ‘Hey Joe’, before finding their way through to an excellent ‘Bad To The Bone’ and a bit bit more harp, which morphed into ‘Stone Fox Chase’ (Old grey Whistle Test) and on into a gritty ‘Down At The Doctors’. Almost time to move on, but not before a serious look down the ‘Wishing Well’, to find a bit of rock and roll with Elvis and Chuck giving way to the final encore of Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’, a brilliant finish to what had been a fabulous afternoons entertainment. Forty Blues Toes may not be high flyers on the circuit, but seek them out, your guaranteed an unforgettable ride. Share the wonderful collection of songs we cannot be without, played with skill, empathy, and a dose of humour. You may even find me hanging through that window next year in Upton.

Starting a with a song I found way back in my teens listening to Cream, Crossroads, good solid stuff, and then Sean took over for his piece, superb, and so it went on, throughout the late afternoon and into the evening. That is not to demean the other band members, it takes a full band to squeeze out the best from any song. Bit more of Cream with ‘Sunshine Of My Love’, and not long before that lovely Patrick Eggle Berlin Pro cried again in ‘Hey Joe’, a distinct sound.

Words And Photos Graham Munn

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Sunjay Brayne at the Gardeners Arms Droitwich 14/08

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19 year old Sunjay is staking his claim well and truly in the folk, country and country blues world, with a style not dissimilar to Ralph Mctell. He is an exceptional finger picker of the acoustic guitar, watching him play at The Gardeners, I would say, faultless.

With a voice that is ideal for folk and country, it probably lacks the grit and fire demanded by many blues songs, but he is able to grab you attention and shake it a bit, which is exactly what he did when he kicked off with Chris Smithers, ‘Love You Like A Man’. Close on its heels was a song made famous by John Lee Hooker, ‘One Scotch One Bourbon One Beer’, not sure Sunjay has tried that experience yet, John Lee’s certainly has a bit more venom, but Sunjay gave it more of a country feel, probably nearer to Amos Milburn’s version. A bit of Elmore James for ‘Dust My Broom’, in Sunjays own finger picking style, followed up with a true country blues favourite, ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’.

A short break, gave time to visit the bar, and to have a chat with Sunjay who was here with his father, mentor and chauffeur, Roger. Sunjay is at Worcester Music festival on the 30th of August, with a string of bookings throughout September and October, across the country at numerous folk clubs and festivals. Roger started Sunjay on guitar at 4 years old, emulating his first love, Buddy Holly. He does not seem to be old enough to play with such maturity, but realising he has played from when he was big enough to hold a guitar, with the natural talent that he had been born with, it sort of makes sense.

Back to the ‘stage’, and a second session, which included, ‘Sleepy’ John Estes ‘Drop Down Mama’, and Bob Seger’s ‘Ain’t Got No Money’. Not far behind was the excellent James Taylor ‘Steamroller Blues’, taylor made for Sunjay’s style. Pretty well at the end of the evening, and an encore is demanded for ‘No Regrets’, which he had reprised earlier in the evening, Sunjay obliged, but I doubt there are many regrets in his 19 years.

Words & Photos By Graham Munn

 

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Blues at The Jinney Ring, Hanbury 02/08/14

 

The 6th year of this blues and beer festival held at the picturesque craft centre, The Jinney Ring, near Bromsgrove. Visitors could camp or park up overnight in their VW ‘splittie’ and ex WD tents. Well not quite that any more, but there were plenty of pitches in use, as the day travellers rolled in, and 400+ gathered around the grounds. Plenty of good food, 21 beers and ciders, and 6 bands to entertain all over from early afternoon till late evening.

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Jack Blackman, opened the stage, with his acoustic Mississippi Delta style blues, he is building a strong following for his accomplished finger picking and slide work along with vocals that show a real feel for those blues. Performing country blues, like the frothy ‘Patch Up That Hole’, the lament that is ‘Charley Walton Blues’, through to fast fingering songs like his ‘Police Dog Blues’, 19 year old Jack’s talents were there for all to hear.

Closing with a railroading, fast moving, demo of Delta slide for ‘Hognose Gin’, excellent.

Jack gave way for the light hearted, rootsy Mumbo Jumbo, with Oliver, Chris and, on piano, Fred Skidmore, who added some nice touches of boogie woogie to the set. ‘Three Cool Cats’ seems to sum up this comfortable, laid back, entertaining session. Bass gave way to uke in the hands of Chris, Oliver trumpeting his green credentials on washboard and cajon, with Fred providing the jam filling that glued it all together. A wooden kazoo is produced for ‘Regret It’, ‘Nice Work’, if you can get it!

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Retrovibe, were up next, though mainly guitar based covers, this band performed well, with a personable and powerful vocalist in Rea Lewis. ‘Pride & joy’, ‘Bright Lights’, and a nice side step as Rea sipped the beautiful jazz tinged, ‘Black Coffee’. Some nice harp off Jake Thomas for ‘I’m Ready’, before Rae upped the tempo, for the dancing fans, with, Jailhouse Rock, and ‘Johnny Be Goode’. Rae and Retrovibe had certainly stirred up the action.

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To follow we were treated to the funk and blues of guitar gurning band Brothers Groove. This Birmingham band, has not put a foot wrong since forming, rapidly moving from a support roll to headlining. Their strong following now producing national radio airplay and award nominations.

Guitarist Shaun Hill, is not only a joy to hear, but also to watch, he wears his musical emotion firmly on his expressional face. With Nige Mellor and Deano Bass, the guitar combination is pure class. ‘What’s The Deal’ and ‘Play the Game’ came straight off their album of the same name released last year. The band finished to all round applause and a blues guitar take on Stevie Wonders ‘Superstition’, an exceptional faultless set, for us all to join in that groove. Following swiftly on, we moved from the award nominated Brothers, to a European Blues award winning artist in Franck Ash. Franck has supported such legends as Robert Cray and Taj Mahal and now he had brought his band to Jinney Ring for another faultless guitar led performance. That is not to diminish his vocal presence, he is a full on live performer, with plenty of that funk and soul guaranteed to please this gathering of blues fans. ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘Well Alright’ was certainly alright here.

So how do we follow up this guitar genus that has cut its groove over the evening, well it was time for everyone to get up and move to the world of The fabulous Boogie Boys and Sarah Warren. Sarah returns from last year, we all know what to expect from this powerful singer, but she likes her fun too and this is a fun session from those red coated Boogie Boys. Front man Chris Dawe, poses and struts alongside Sarah, they ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’, throughout the set. Everything is thrown in from ‘Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens’, (plenty of ducks though) through to ‘See You Later Alligator’, this is what the the Fabulous Boogie Boys are made for, giving all a great evening and send off to this established little festival, in the beautiful setting of The Jinney Ring.

Words & Photos By Graham Munn

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