Babajack Album Launch
‘Running Man’ launched from the blocks tonight at the lovely Grove in Malvern. Home to Julia Parker-Price, who plays cello on the album. Assembled in the auditorium were many invited guests, most of whom had pledged the support required to make this new release come to fruition.
The full band of Becky, Trevor, Tosh on drums, Adam on bass and Julia, gave the album its first, full, live performance to the gathered followers.
Notable pledges were acknowledged as the evening proceeded, with the help of some fine refreshments sourced from suppliers, who had also given support.
Though a partisan audience, the band, as ever, gave everything, a scintillating show from the bare, soulful, ‘Hammer and Tongs’, and ‘I’m Done’, through to the full on ‘Rock n’ Roll Star’ and ‘Some People’. The only additions were from previous album Rooster, appropriately,‘The Moneys All Gone’, ‘Gallows Pole’, along with the frenetic show closer, ‘Black Betty’. All in a wonderful evening, delivered in appreciation of the bands many adherents.
Sept. 24th sees the first ‘open house’ show at the iconic 100 Club in Oxford St. followed by Redditch palace Theatre on the 27th.
Words and Photos Graham Munn
Davina And The Vagabonds
Robin 2 Sept. 9th
Where to start, I am selective in the bands I see and review, too much hard work if your not likely to enjoy the music. I have seen some excellent bands and fine performances, rarely disappointed, but occasionally, you just have to revise your reference points.
Davina and The Vagabonds have defrag’d my hard drive, and written a new sector. They are just stupendously, bloody good. Its cream cake day, time to open that 50 year malt, words may fail me.
Davina sparkles with mischief on the piano, everything from beautifully soulful blues to full on barrel house, is at her fingertips. In her voice I hear elements of Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Paloma Faith, in a fusion of Jazz and Blues.
The Vagabonds dovetail with Davina perfectly, superlative trumpet and trombone, from Dan and Ben, who both add to the vocals. Underpinned with double bass and drums from Andy and Alec.
The play is a mixture of New Orleans blues, Dixie, a bit of Rock & Roll, and large doses of jazz and blues. BUT, everything is delivered in their own style, whether its Fats, ‘Ain’t That A Shame’, Etta’s, ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ (superb) or Chuck’s ‘Nadine’. They are not a covers band, these songs receive original interpretation, and then some! Some lovely Trombone and trumpet work from Ben and Dan places ‘Nadine’ on a different level.
Self penned compositions liberally sprinkle the session, the deeply soulful ‘Blues Got A Hold Of Me’ contrasts with the tango rhythms of a cheeky ‘I Really Try To Be Good’, Eartha Kitt could not have done it better. ‘Lipstick And Chrome’ is a rollicking full on, swinging, Dixie band start, leading into Davina’s energetic boogie on the piano, ‘River’, runs deep into the blues waters.
Hold it there; its not just about the fabulous musical performance conjured up by this band, there is a huge bucket-load of humour and banter mixed in, the audience is drawn in to the fun. Davina vocally jousts with the sounds Dan can squeeze out of that horn. Have a look on You Tube for ‘St Michael Vs the Devil’, and you will get the idea and feel of Davina and co. ‘St James Infirmary Blues’ is to die for!!!
The whole evening seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, I wanted more, much more. The tour in the UK is brief, following an extensive time in Europe. I hope they all return soon, but don’t tell anyone else, I may not get through the door. Blues with a difference, indescribably wonderful.
Words And Photos By Graham Munn
Broom Hill Blues
Cooling temperatures and the hint of rain in the air, we are entering the final throws of a brilliant festival summer. Embedded deep in the rural back-roads of Oxfordshire, Broom Hill is the result of collaboration between local promoter Tim Porter and musician/promoter Oliver Carpenter. Campers are up, the pig is roasted, sausages sizzle and some tasty ales are on tap. Teas, coffee and cake are there for us drivers, were all ready for the show.
First up, local lad, now a session musician in London, Oliver Darling, gives us an easy country blues start, moving on into classics like Malted Milk’, ‘Going Down To Brownsville’ and ‘Little Red Rooster’. Well crafted acoustic blues, giving us a comfortable intro into the days music.
Next, a bit of a surprise, its a local covers band Hot Wired, notable is Mark Jervis on drums and vocals, whose land it is that we are all gathered on; and very grateful we are. They played everything from Stevie Wonder to Led Zep, Beatles to Paul Simon. Nodding heads.
Late afternoon and 24 Pesos are set, emerging from London, influenced by the likes of Ray Charles and Howlin Wolf. A spot of light rain, the crowd gathers under the covers, altogether more atmospheric, reflecting this bands quality. Julian Burdock on guitar, slide and harp, provides plenty of attitude, Silas, some good bass funk, Moz Gamble’s Hamond,fills the air and Mike Connelly hammers in the boundary posts with his drums, an altogether top-notch blues band.
Self penned ‘Maxwell Street’, mixes it with Muddy waters ‘Standing at The Station’. Plenty of that funk for ‘Night Train’, continuing the rail theme into a self penned finale with ‘Waiting At The Station’, Julian on harp opening a modern blues classic. Brilliant band, worth looking out for, see them live, buy the album, ‘Busted Broken And Blue’ is excellent.
L.R Phoenix waits, stage set is minimal, he is an old school blues man par excellence! This is the man who has dragged me here from my armchair? Back home. I saw him at Upton Blues last year, 14 months is far too long to reprise that performance. A fine guitarist, with his tarnished resonator, but its his voice that truly stands out, deep dark honeyed tones, an absolute pleasure to listen to. ‘Red Cross’ is a reference to to the destitute days of dust-bowl America. Howlin Wolf’s ‘Smokestack Lightning’ follows; just your eyes and be carried to that Mississippi Delta. LR plays slide with his dinner knife for ‘Jack Of Diamonds’. Dropping the guitar onto his knees hobro style to get to work with his fork for ‘Spoonful’, a whole set of cutlery set to alternative use! ‘Going Down South’, is a hard forceful, expressionate, blues dirge, which brings me to that other minor detail, L R Phoenix is a wonderful feast of facial expression; stick in the earplugs, you will still be spellbound. ‘Por Boy’ and the superb ‘Skinny Woman Blues’ finish an exceptionally entertaining session. Come on Upton, bring him back. Living in Finland, you have to be prepared to seek out L R Phoenix when he returns for UK sessions, mostly festivals, just do it, absolutely unmissable and unforgettable.
Follow that; well Honeyboy Hickling ups the tempo, adds a large dose of humour and gives us those Chicago Blues. Where LR had us riveted to our seats, Simon calls us to get up and move, and so the darkened, tented ‘auditorium’ is alive with dancing souls and squirming bodies. Simon, a larger than life frontman, has been playing blues for 30 years, and certainly ‘Been Around The World’, the band has seen the ‘Bright Lights Big City’ and been ‘Going Up Country’ for quite a while. The Honeyboy Hickling Band kept everyone on their feet, finishing with Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land'; leading nicely to the closing session, The Earl Jackson Band.
Earl Jackson, plays good old rock ‘n’ roll, and is prone to a bit of Chuck Berry music and stage showmanship. They closed Upton Blues this year, with the whole town literally dancing in the streets; this little festival was no different, and why would it be. The music is infectious, as is Earl, a marvellous jumping, jiving, performance. ‘Black Diamond’, ‘Back In The USA’ and ‘Howlin For My Baby’, rolled out across the fields.
I don’t know if Broom Hill Blues is a one off, there were probably 300 revellers who would eagerly return. It certainly was well organised, with all facilities assembled on site. Weather held out, though a chilly evening, and everyone had a smile on their face by end of play. Outstanding for me, LR Phoenix, with a voice that starts at the souls of his boots, and finds its way up into his throat to mesmerize us all with ‘John The Revelator'; stunningly good.
Photos And Words By Graham Munn
The summer months see festival season swing by and locally there’s loads to be excited about from newcomers such as The Malvern Music Festival and Ringmaster to the established Worcester Music Festival and Nozstock, there’s plenty on offer in our fair county for every ardant gig goer and casaul listener alike. But for this aural fanatic there’s one festival that always manages to bewitch and intrigue in equal measure, a festival that seems to grow yearly in statue, not only drawing some of the biggest named blues acts in the country but also see’s attendances topped on a yearly basis and this years Upton Blues Festival again continued the astounding upward trajectory both with the bill and number of punters (just the sheer volume of campers astounded even the most optimistic of organisers!!!)
Now, to truly do justice to such an incredibly organised and professional festival I’d have to write reems, I could wax lyrical on every act I caught and a few I didn’t but the easiest way to write something up is day by day and so without further ado:-
The main stage kicked off proceedings around 7.15 with the passionate, seasoned blues of the David Rapheal Band, the group delivered a stunning set of harp fuelled blues gathering perhaps the biggest opening act audience that I can remember. Whilst on the acoustic stage Clair le Broque delivered an early highlight with her powerful vocals backed with a sparse lonesome guitar, the audience were left spell-bound by a truly jaw-dropping set. Former Robert Plant sideman Innes Sibun (and band) closed the evenings proceedings with a devastating display of guitar grappling, shape throwing fiery blues rock all topped off with a wonderful display of gurning to go with it.
Saturday and the first full day and where do I start, well The Official Receivers appealed to the day’s early revellers with their every likeable set of big soul standards, with horns ablazing, the crowd were on their feet, swaggering, swaying and even dancing. A uick race down to the sports field for a bit of slide guitar genius Steve Morrison via the memorial hall for some acoustic rockabilly in Josie & The Outlaw, before settling down to the pure pleasure that is Sarah Warren & The Fabulous Boogie Boys, a band guarenteed to make you smile, make you sing and at the very least hop on the spot. Sure enough we boogied, we stomped and we hollered along as the band captivated the spirit of the entire festival with a glorious set of rock n roll, blues, soul originals and sing-a-long standards. Back down to the Sports Field for the glorious rock groove of Willy & The Bandits, a band that lock into an inspired, original sound taking in elements of rock, blues, psychedelia, rocksteady and even Carribean rhythms to mesmerise a packed out field (by the way track down their album, it really captivates the group’s unique vision). If that wasn’t already enough the main riversode stage served up a performance that tore the place to pieces, The Revalaor Band delivered a dark, almost feral take on the blues, laced it with with a dose of acidic post-punk attitude and then threw in a side order of Beefheart for a gloriously ramshackle combination of piano, spiky guitar and gruff vocals delivered theatrically by a larger than life swaggering frontman that had to be seen to be truly believed. It might be blues but not as you know it.
It was hard to believe that the second day could be topped for pure entertainment and diversity but you know what day thrill provided more thrills and spills, with the Shout choir opening proceedings with wonderful uplifting choral renditions of The Beatles, Elbow, U2, Take That and an audience assised Moving On Up (Primal Scream), that even saw a couple of dogs hit the stage with Simon Kemp and guys and gals for a rousign rendition. The Swaps were the only band of the entire festival I deliberately caught twice both electric and acoustic as their combination of male/female vocals, lead harmonica (up there with the best up and coming hamonica players out there right now) and drums simply blew me away, a beautiful set of original blues and folk delivered with such passion and drive (hope they book them again and again, having already being promoted from the pubs last year!!!). Duo with most amout of balls award goes to Tommy Allen & Johnny Hewitt, oh my god Tommy played guitar, drums and sang whilst Johnny Hewitt blew up a storm on harmonica, by the nd of their st they were dripping , the audience were dripping, I had melted…primal rock n roll blues at it’s best. Dessert Rock offered up a completely different vibe creating African blues fusion as Ramon Goose and cohorts delivered a glorious percussion heavy set complete with African sing-a-longs (particularly on the track, aptly named track Africa!!!). Which brings me to to the one-two punch of the festival closers, firstly the gravelly, harmony fused rock of WilyBo & The Mescal Canyon Troubadours and the “let’s have a big party finale” stunning Earl Jackson Band, who ended the night with rock n roll of the highest order, seering riffs, behind the head fiddling, duck walking, you name it you got it.
So it just leaves me to say congratulations to the committee, the volunteers, comperes, medical team and everyone that poured blood, sweat and hours into delivering such an inspired and remarkble event, the bands were fantastic each and everyone (sorry I can’t mention you all!!) and the crowd responded in kind, as soon as they announce next years dates book it off and I’ll see you down there, mine’s a cider!!!
Photos By Graham Munn
Here’s a pic of the wonderful Chantel McGregor in full flow live @ The Robin 2, Bilston
Photo By Graham Munn