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Davina and The Vagabonds @ Robin 2 16/07/14

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Davina returned to The Robin after 11 months, despite a moderate turn out last year, the delicious Davina left a powerful imprint. She fronts a big, bold and brassy, 5 piece band, who are determined to give everyone a good time. Dan Eikmeier, on trumpet, Ben Link, trombone, Andrew Burns, double bass, and Connor Mcrae Hammergren, beating out the drums. All joust and tease as they try to constrain the gregarious Davina Sowers as she expressively caresses and punishes her piano with a passion.

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Songs were pulled from her ‘Black Cloud’ album, and many that featured on her glorious ‘Live @ The Times 2009′. The Vagabonds are very much a performance band, and the live album reflects that, its a cracker. Whether originals or not, the band put their take on everything. ‘Daydream’, Honey Pie, and ‘Back To Memphis’, are superb, but then you have to deal with the wonderfully wicked, ‘St. Michael Vs The Devil’, Davina toying with Dan’s trumpet, in a vocal duel that highlights the fun element of this bands stage presence. The new album, ‘Sunshine’ was sampled, again its a mix of Davina’s work and some selected songs, like Eddie Miller’s ‘I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water’, superb, standing alongside Davina’s own ‘I Try To Be Good’.

Etta James classic, ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, is given the Davina Sowers treatment, she has that empathy this truly great song deserves. It would be impossible to overlook the closing Joe Primrose song, there are many wonderful versions, this was no exception as Ben Link took to lead vocals for ‘St James Infirmary Blues’, with a roll of drums, the sad lament is retailed, to a chorus of ‘got no pants on’, New Orleans blues, typically heavily accented with jazz and finished in Cab Calloway style, fabulous is not too strong a word. The session has been full of humour, superlative musicianship, and pure entertainment. More fun than a lock in with Girls Aloud and a magnum of Bolly……..probably. A cocktail of 3 parts Orleans, 3parts Blues, 3 parts Jazz 1 part Vaudeville, stirred and mixed, to be taken whenever you need a lift, they will be back, don’t miss out next time.

Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Bitterroots @ The Gardeners Arms, Droitwich 10/07

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Back in the lovely garden setting of this Droitwich pub, a warm bright evening, and local band Bitterroots on offer with the excellent food and beers. The band is, as many will know, firmly rooted in the folk genre, but has flavours of Americana and Gaelic stirred in. A mix of instrumentation that includes, dobro, bouzouki, fiddle, double bass, guitars, harp and a button squeeze box, making for an interesting variety of sound to spur along the songs. Now I am not a folk aficionado, and make my excuses for my ignorance of this antiquated (in the real meaning of the word) form of roots music. I do know that ‘Hangman’, had the feel of the great years of early Fairport Convention, no bad thing for me. A tale of life, ‘Sun’s Work’, soon followed by the quick stepping, foot tapping reel that is ‘Angeline the Baker’. Keeping the pace up and the rhythm flowing, ‘St Anne’s Reel’ slipped seamlessly into ‘Reel St Jean’, distinctly demanding a reluctant audience to get up and move. My excuse, can’t strut on carpet, yes, the marquee is fully carpeted, damn my luck. A short break, I was quite enjoying this, though cannot betray my love of blues, to admit it to anyone.

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The following set, went up a gear, and the session really started to move; the excellent ‘Pig’s Foot’, featuring Mark’s squeeze box, hiding in the shadows, and Helen on violin, trotted happily on, as the much darker ‘Caleb Meyer’ took over, an enjoyable traditional tale of demon drink and death, you can’t better that. ‘Go Mauve’, reminded me much of the Roving Crows and ‘White Petticoats’, its a rattling good tune with timely hesitations that add to the whole piece. I should give mention to the other members of the band, the towering figure of Rupert on vocals, harp and guitar, the ‘baby’ of the band Anthony, on a double base, which resembled a polished, tapered, floor joist with strings, and last but far from least, Ali. Ali seems to play pretty well anything and everything, a lovely dobro, bouzouki, and electric guitar.

We reach the witching hour, which is 22.00 at The Gardeners, in the open sided marquee, in respect of the nearby neighbours. Billy O Shea is called for, by those that know about such things, I don’t, so it would be fine for me. Well ‘Billy O’Shea’, is indeed ideal for the crescendo of any party, a good Irish drinking song if ever there was one, time for a Guinness.

Overall it had been a splendid evening, in a lovely location, though lacking a little in numbers, the band received a warm, enthusiastic applause. Next up for The Gardeners in this summer season of acoustic is the talented, award nominated blues artist, Sanjay Brayne, August 14th, be there.

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

 

 

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Mike Sanchez & Friends @ Kidderminster Town Hall 04/07

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Just one more date on Mike’s tour calender this summer? Not so, Kidderminster Town Hall is his home town gig, a place where the many life long friends and fans were gathered to watch and hear, the smorgasbord of songs presented to them. Three different line ups that have been significant in the career of Mike Sanchez, gathered on the stage over the course of the evening, to take those fans back to the early years.

The Rockets were the first band, a collection of school pals, with Mike on guitar, Ian Jennings on double bass and Mark Morgan on drums. The band were listening and watching the music scene of their era, and decided to step back to earlier years for their inspiration. Songs from, the likes of Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and a version of Jim Reeves, ‘Please Release Me’ on speed, and a quick snatch from ’81 for ‘Tainted Love’, a song rooted in the early 60′s. A mix of R& B and good solid blues, were reprised from those early Rocket years.

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A break and a shuffle of the deck, and we stepped forward into the foundling Big Town Playboys, which brought to stage Ricky Cool, and Andy Sylvester. Mike moved onto the keyboards. Sanchez swings and Ricky rocks, as the band blasted through some great, rhythm & blues and rock & roll songs. Ricky moving from sax to harp for some good old Chicago Blues, with both Mike and Ricky swapping vocal leads. Out of nowhere, comes Guitar Junior’s, ‘The Crawl’, followed by some lovely harmonica, as Ricky takes on Billy Boy Arnold’s, ‘I Wish You Would’, superb. A bit of Ike Turner, and some nice Jimmy Rogers, ‘Walking By Myself’, definitely not alone this evening.

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‘Hip Shake Baby’, preceded another shuffle and the final mix, bringing Mike’s current band to stage, Tom Ford, on guitar, Nick Whitfield, taking double bass, Pete Cook and Nick Payne, swing their saxophones, with Mike Morgan still sat behind the drums. Were all having a ball, the music swings on, ‘Hurting Inside’ no, but as Fat’s sang ‘I’m ready’, the band was willing, and certainly able. The music rattles out non stop, whatever comes to Mike’s mind to play, there is no plan but to see all have a good time. A few suggestions are thrown to the stage, The band oblige, Mike Sanchez is a walking library of R&B. Sarah Wynne, takes up the vocal lead, for some Jesse Mae and Lil Ester Phillips songs, with ‘Don’t Freeze On Me’, and ‘If Its News For You Baby’, followed by the excellent, ‘Each Day’.

Joining for a last jam session, Andy Sylvester and Ricky Cool add to the band, a superb evening in this lovely setting of the Town Hall, a venue with a history of hosting so many great bands of past years. From the earliest years of The Rockets, and playing in the back room of pubs in the area, Mike Sanchez has made music his life, laid out for all to read in the ‘Big Town Playboy’ biography. I’m sure there will be a few more chapters to add in the future.

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

 

 

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Blues At The Fold 05/07

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The 6th gathering at The Fold near Worcester, for this great one day festival. Fine ales, good food and some excellent wines were available to accompany the usual high quality line up at this now well established annual event. Steve Morrison had the honour of entertaining a crowd that reached 550. On this warm afternoon, he raised the temperature with some Canned Heat, ‘Lets Work Together’ and ‘Going Up Country’, worked his way through ‘Summertime’, with a sprinkling of engaging banter and good humour. A bit of JJ Kale, and Sonny Boy Williamson, with ‘Bring It On Home To You’, complete with train sounds that Ringo Starr would have been proud of. A brilliant start to proceedings from an engaging Steve Morrison.

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Organiser Oliver Carpenter took to the stage with Mumbo Jumbo, an award nominated, easy listening, country band. With Chris Lomas, base & uke, and Fred Skidmore on keys, they took us gently through the afternoon, with Oliver looking rather green, flipping between trumpet, cahon and kazoo. ‘Riverboat Song’, ‘Three Cool Cats’ and an excellent ‘Cockeresque’, ‘The Letter’, a class rasp guaranteed to produce gravel rash to all in hearing distance. ‘Nice work If You Can Get It’.

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A sultry afternoon was about to get warmer as The Blues Duo, Tommy and Johnny were welcomed to the stage, a few seconds later, the floor space was scattered with welly clad dancers, along with people old enough to know better! The songs rattle out like a long passing goods train, ‘Had My Fun’, ‘Steady Rollin Man’, ‘Must Be Jelly’, and those wagons are still passing through. Tommy put his feet up as Johnny took the scenic line with his blues harp, superb as ever. These boys never short change the audience, a full on, flat out, brilliant, blues blast.

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A ‘Jack Daniels’ fuelled Vincent Flatts Final Drive, took over, with dynamic duo, an easy riding, ‘Bertie’, and marvellous, Melvin, fronting a band named after the handlebars of an iconic (British) motorbike. A few power bugs in the system did not dull the performance. Bertie knows how to deliver a blues, and a ‘flexy faced’ Melvin, loves to demo his Gibson in true ‘guitar hero’ style. ‘Boogie man’ and ‘No More Whiskey’ seemed particularly apt.

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Wily Bo & The Mescal Canyon Troubadours, brought plenty of funk, blues rock and a solid, tight band to stage. A good guitar section of Geoff Slater, with Tommy ‘Le’ Rhodes on bass join Max Saidi on percussion and deliciously dark Karena K on backing vocals and keys. Wily Bo is ‘ringmaster’ and vocalist, and takes on ‘Rattlin Bone’ form complete with top hat and skull cane to finish on the glorious ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’. The band having grooved their way through ‘Chattahooche Cooochee Man’, maybe some lost moments with ‘Did I Forget’, to decide it IS, ‘Time To Forget’, completely unphased by the troublesome power glitches. Maybe they had forgotten to switch on the lights!

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9.45 in a cooling evening and an enthusiastic crowd were up for closing the day in style, they closed around the stage ready to dance away the night to The Official Receivers. Blues? No, but they know how to push everyone’s button when it comes to some fabulous soul classics. The glow of the stage lights point to the fire at the heart of the gyrating bodies, with a big horn section, driving drum, nice guitar and warm vocals we were enticed with songs from Wilson Pickett, Otis Reading, Edwin Starr and James Brown.

‘Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy’ was about the right sentiment, as they tried to ‘Hold Back the Night’. Nobody was going to leave this consistently grand little festival without a swing to there step and a smile on their face. The Fold is an exceptional setting, almost unaffected by weather conditions, a welcoming Café host, where if you really need to, you can go for a few quite moments, and enjoy some of the tasty temptations on offer. On a warm dry day we were able to spread out at our leisure, enjoy the open air refreshments and the fabulous music.

Visit www.bluesatthefold.co.uk for information on next year.

 

Words & photos Graham Munn

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Reverend Peyton & The Big Damn Band @ The Robin 2 02/07

Chris Bevington & Friends, in support

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First a word about Chris Bevington & Friends, there’s a lot of them! The Robin stage apron was full to bursting with 10 performers squeezed into the space left by the good Rev’s gear, which sat waiting. The really big band did not disappoint, a collection of fine blues, ranging from country to Chicago were put to the test before a full floor of fans awaiting the Big Damn Band. Nobody was complaining and the response was genuine, an excellent performance, after a good dosage of Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Walter Trout, and a touch of Robert Johnson, they finishing with the body moving ‘Party Right Here’.

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Enter the Rev, Breezy, and Ben to a roar from the awaiting mass, the air was electric, we were in for a great night of ‘hillbilly blues’. An array of aged and worn, but cherished guitars stood ready, Breezy adorned with her washboard necklace and gloved, thimbled fingers stood menacingly like an extra out of a vampire movie, only her Cheshire cat smile revealing her true spirit. Ben took his place behind the drums, inclusive of an upturned 10 gallon plastic bucket, all set to fire up with ‘Train Song’, trains, a favourite subject of all good blues men. ‘Lets Jump A Train’ and ‘Front Porch Training’? awaited, but not before one of the bands signature songs the wonderful ‘Easy Come Easy Go’. The Reverend’s smoke laden, honeyed, whine of a voice, accompanied some fabulous slide work on his minuscule 3 string cigar box guitar. The band ploughed a different groove, as they uncovered the earthy ‘Dirt’, lovely, a mean old foot stomping sod of a blues song. After a bit of audience participation training, ‘Clap you Hands’, brought a finger picking start, with a rasping washboard and train (again) rhythm, drumming. We all clapped and stomped to the commands, screaming out loud on cue, completely drawn in to the circus that is The Big Damn Band.

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More screaming with ‘Scream At The Night’ preceded, Charley Patton’s classic, ‘Some Of These Days’, performed with a real passion by the good Reverend. A complete change of gear for the manical, frenetic, ‘Mad fried Potatoes’, I’m not certain, if this was the moment, but Breezy’s chattering rumble strips, burst into flame. One thing is certain, had any one hit the alarm, nobody would have budged, a good decision given that the irreverent ‘Devils Look Like Angels’, was hard on the tail of the chip pan fire. A good stomp, underpinning the guitar, as Breezy’s fingers zipped down that domestic millstone of a washboard. We were nearing the end, a bit of Willie Dixon leading out the finale, glory glory, ‘Since I Lay My Burden Down’, in true hoe-down, hillbilly, blues belting fashion. One thing is certain, this evening had been unmissable, a wonderfully entertaining session, rewarding the band with a crush of people wanting CD’s posters and T shirts. Their next tour will be eagerly awaited.

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Words & Photos By Graham Munn

 

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