Blues Night 10th, Anniversary at Monroes Cellar Bar
A descent into the darkened cellerage at Monroes For the 10th anniversary of ‘Poor’ Bob’s Blues Nights, has dragged me out from a quite evening at home catching up on a busy week or two. BUT these things have to be done, hell that’s the blues, and it shouldn’t be comfortable, or you wont find them!
Bob Jones holds court alongside Rod Jones, on harp, this could get confusing, for some easy country blues and old standards, from the likes of Robert Johnson, and Son house. Easing us into the evening as the listed performers gathered alongside the ardent supporters.
Dave Bristow took the chair, continuing the country blues style, finger picking guitar and nicely crafted lyrics tell of everyday life. Lazing at home, Meat and Potato pies, vie with disillusioned working mens blues, and waiting for a train that never comes. ‘I don’t want that trouble no more’, nods to the railtrack rhythm of Mississippi blues.
Dead Cat Bone fill the vaulted space, for the harder face of blues, ‘Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land’, was quite an opener, some real passion on display from vocalist, Barry. Some fine guitar work at the hands of Stewart, as the thumping bass notes and drums, from away in the shadows, told of John and Phil laying the foundations for some good gritty songs. Barry’s harp and bullet mic, were brought into play, as Black Cat Bone, mixed some Taj Mahal, with Cab Calloway’s, Minnie The Moocher, and a bit of Ray Charles. An enjoyable mini-set, giving way to men from the hills.
John Denton and Colin Warren, from Malvern, were joined by Rod Jones and Phil, who could not escape from behind the drumset. John is an exceptional vocalist, I did not believe that ‘The Thrill Is Gone’, His lightly smoked tones and heartfelt delivery, tell a different story. Different was the arrangement for that well trodden path to the ‘Crossroads’, John passed on through to find Robert Cray’s ‘Phone Booth’, waiting to send us a message, I must make a point of seeking out John again, it will be well worth the effort.
The hills are alive to the sound of music, as Malvern passes the baton to the ‘Running Man’ and Babajack. Running Man was pipped at the start, by Son House’s ‘Death Letter Blues’, now fully owned by Becky and Trevor, it doesn’t get better than this. A new song ‘Religion’, inspired by Ledbelly, with a hint at a live album to come in the near future. Finishing with a thrashingly good ‘Skin & Bone’, back in their duo form, Babajack are a wonderful example of how a 10 year association with Bob Jones Blues Night can see a band rise to the top in today’s blues scene.
The night was moving quickly on, but I had to leave, so could not see The Players, or ‘Poor’ Bob and his band perform. It had been a fascinating evening, seeing and meeting all the performers that have been nurtured and exposed, under the Bob Jones banner over the ten years to date. Undoubtedly many have become established artists in the area, some have moved on, becoming professional musicians, with rapidly ascending careers.
Barry Scott of Black Cat Bone, put it as ‘organic’, a gathering point on the 3rd Tuesday each month, for the web of blues practitioners in and around Worcester. Long May it run, thanks Bob.
‘We should all start to live before we get too old’, Marilyn Monroe
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Blues band At The Artrix, Bromsgrove 20/09
The Artrix theatre was a sell out for the return of The Blues Band, Paul Jones addressed the fans with an introduction to an old video from 1980, Live At Rockfest,from the bands fledgling days, apparently distributed widely throughout Europe, only Scotland missing out!!!! ‘Come Into My Kitchen’ was an invite to Dave Kelly taking lead and some lovely slide with ‘Talk To My baby’. Son House’s, ‘Death Letter’ follows, as with all Blues Band gigs, the baton is passed around, Paul, Dave, Tom McGuinness, with an occasional song from Gary Fletcher, the bassist. That’s not to overlook the significance of Rob Townsend on drums, silent vocally, but very much heard. Each ‘sample’ their own albums from past and present, its the hard sell; with tongue placed firmly in cheek, a problem for harmonica players perhaps? You also get a potted history of the blues from both Paul and Dave. A very nice ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’, in EC style, then Tom was ‘Heading For A Breakdown’ before a superb ‘Dust My Broom’, from Dave, sighting the time he paid 12’6p to see Howling Wolf and Elmore James on the same bill! Gary Fletcher drops in his one and only, to date, album and growls through ‘I Am The Doctor’, but at last, a Blues Band joint effort, takes us to the break with, ‘Suddenly I Like It’.
Now, what I do appreciate is the band comes straight into the foyer, and yes, they flog their individual CD’s, (whilst their ‘agent’ takes care of the Band recordings); BUT, they also mix and chat to their admiring fans. It does not matter whether you are buying or not, they give you a little time, sadly not all bands remain so grounded, after all, its the fans that create the stage for any performer.
Back to the stage, the band are on full flow, a bit of fun from Mr Kelly, ‘I Can’t Get My Ass In Gear, Too Much Wine And Too Much Beer’, sounds OK to me. BB King’s ‘Stepping Out’, and straight into ‘These Shoes’ with some excellent harp from Paul. A quick step ‘Outside My Head’, from Gary with mandolin, and Paul moves to demonstrate why he rightly has his place in the ‘Hall Of Fame’, launching into ‘Flat Foot Sam’ and a stretched out, superlative solo. Tom has his Fender behind his head, for a bit of shake rattle and roll, as we head toward the end, but not quite yet. The Blues Band gave us ‘Aint Gonna Work On Maggie s Farm No More’, their one and only chart success. It had been an entertaining evening, plenty of chorusing and lively banter, its The Blues Band, you would expect nothing less.
Words and photo Graham Munn
A Blues Blooded Prince Of Wales
Steve Ajao & The Blues Giants 14/09
Giants by name giants by nature, Steve Ajao and bass player Mike Hatton, ducked carefully under the door frame, carefully negotiated the ancient floor timbers threatening their heads. Closely behind, drummer Pete ‘Washboard’ Hammond, looks diminutive, but I see him eye to eye, so maybe not so small, he settles at his midi drumset, completely overshadowed by Mike and Steve.
The band rips into ‘Pride And Joy’, before carefully ‘Barefootin’ to Jimmy Reid’s ‘It Hurts Me Too’. Some thumpingly good base notes from Mike on his monstrous hand built 6 string, that’s not to overlook Pete, hidden behind but beavering away, holding the rhythm and keeping the big men on the straight and narrow.
Out came the slide for Howling Wolf’s ‘Backdoor Man’, Steve is in full flow, and does a stroll around the tightly packed bar and restaurant, whilst playing ‘Red House’, Mike breaks into a finger aching bass solo. Time to see how Pete attained his ‘handle’, thimbles on, washboard close to his chest, he hammers out the blues like the chattering of a machine gun, as the Number 9 rattles past, and Pete is confined back to his drums. There is always a good feel to any Blues Giants gigs, plenty of cheesy humour, and fine classic blues, played with a sparkle in the eye, enjoyable fun sessions are mandatory. Despite the confinement of this ancient inn, a ‘bonding’ within the audience is a certainty, along with Pete’s washboard jig.
We are building towards the end, another gig is awaiting the band, so time is tight, but no release until a few more songs are squeezed out. An ear splittingly good ‘Boogie Chillin’ reverberates around the timber framed walls, few can do this better than Steve Ajao And The Blues Giants, a brilliant session, at this great little institution that is the Prince Of Wales on Sunday afternoons, the best bands, fine ales, and a very appreciative crowd of music lovers. Thanks Les, its the only way to spend a Sunday.
Blues Duo 21/09
Its Sunday again, get the work out of the way, and mid afternoon be ready for, what must be the best damned live music pub in the country. This week its the dynamic duo Tommy Allen and Johnny Hewitt, and one thing is sure, it will be THE party in town. Tommy and Johnny are like two fuel rods, entering the POW reactor, once fusion takes place, they burn on until melt down.
Straight into their seemingly bottomless repertoire of blues, delivered to the tightly packed little pub, this is pure energy. ‘Why Do You Treat Me This Way’, thumps out, Johnny’s harmonica and bullet mike fill the air, ‘Had My Fun’, is called out by Tommy, he’s ‘Going Down Slow’, as Johnny sings ‘Pretty baby’, Tommy breaks his first string, time for a lengthy harp infill. That (or one of the many from the box) harp is put to brilliant use again for ‘Steady Rolling Man’, and so the evening moves on. Tommy has his feet up as Johnny gets into his groove. ‘ Must Be Jelly Baby, Cuz Jam Don’t Shake Like That’, a Blues Duo must, wonderful stuff.
An hour in, and Tommy calls one more before a short break, 30 minutes later, after a seamless stream of heart thumping songs, pumping in to a harmonica rich artery, drinks are taken. The musical maelstrom continues, more broken strings leaving Johnny to select from his harp’ers bazaar and play on, as Tommy gets strung up in the corner. To say the pace is frenetic does not do it justice, you do not pile in to a Blues Duo session, to have a quite sit down and mull over your beer. ‘Everythings Gonna Be Alright’, as the set proceeds to the inevitable conclusion, though it may take some time to get there! Reet Petite is the start point to the rock & roll medley which can spiral out of control, into a time warp, the whole building is moving, there’s dancing in the aisles, Tommy’s foot is pumping the gas, as Johnny switches the ‘blower’ on as he goes into overdrive, ‘Chantilly Lace’, rips away for ‘Johnny B Goode’, accelerating into the third hour, then disaster, twang, Tommy breaks his 3rd string leaving Johnny to blow himself out on the harp. It has been an absolutely full on blast at this royal venue, Prince Of Wales, heir apparent? not so, it rules every Sunday.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Occasionally you come across a band that defy classification, a band that straddle and merge genres to create something new, innovative and beyond description, a band that have to be literally seen to be believed, the mesmeric Arc Iris are one such band, an explosion of glitter, glam, jazz, folk, country, ethereal indie and lots more beside, fronted by the enigmatic multi-instrumentalist Josie Adams (once of personal favourites The Low Anthem), a performer that bewitches and enthralls in equal measure.
Thanks to Tyler Massey (more of whom later), Arc Iris hit Malvern and one of the most spectacular venues in the county, St Peters Church, following on from their triumphant performance at this years Moseley Folk festival, Arc Iris stunned a small yet rapt audience with a gloriously engaging set, that ranged from hushed ethereal folk to an almost jazz swing.
As soon as Josie and her band took to the stage you could tell this wasn’t going to be usual ensemble, the band were adorned in glitter and sparkles, with Josie looking captivating before uttering a word in a stunning all in one catsuit, whilst pianist Zach Tenorio-Miller complimented the look with equally flamboyant attire.
The band soon proved to be a whole lot more than mere clothes horses, with the opening number instantly drawing the listeners attention in, a stunning combination of piano, cello, drums and Josie’s evocative voice seduced the audience instantly, imagine a combination of the beauty of the Cocteau Twins colliding with the other worldly experience of Bjork or Joni Mitchell fronting The Dirty Projectors (if that’s possible) and you’re sort of in the right kind of direction. After the opening number the band proceed to produce a collage of folk, classical and jazz mixed with cabaret and theatrics topped with rich harmonies and infectious melodies.
Arc Iris drew heavily from their recent self titled album with the likes of Honour The Rainbows and the smoky jazz of Powder Train proving to be instant highlights along with Lost On Me, but in truth picking individual highlights seems to be something of a disservice as the entire intoxicated from start to finish.
Supporting Arc Iris was the always impressive duo of Tyler Massey and Vo Fletcher, who set the scene with a glorious set of folky laments and intricate guitar work, playing off one another superbly, with the likes of Pancho & Lefty (originally by Townes Van Zandt), Wheels On Fire (Dylan) and Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key (unrecorded Woody Guthrie song, released by Wilco & Billy Bragg on the Mermaid Sessions) standing out during their hugely enjoyable set.
Tyler and friends have put a few events on at St Peters Church and each one has been more than a little special, if you missed Arc Iris, more fool you, but I do highly recommend you keeping an eye out for the next one, you never know who might be performing next time round.
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.
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.
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.
Do you like good music, yeah, yeah, oh yeah
Words & photos Graham Munn
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