The Black Lillies
Jumping Hot Club at The Cluny
Friday 17th Feb 2017
I first ‘discovered’ the Black Lillies when I reviewed their 100 Miles of Wreckage album in 2010 and I’ve waited (impatiently) for them to come to the UK and with the latest release Hard To Please finally getting a local release they came mob handed to promote it.
The night got off to an ‘interesting’ start with local legend and ‘Friend of the Jumping Hot Club’ Archie Brown; of Young Bucks fame, making a rare appearance in a ‘quartet format’ alongside long time cohort Pat Rafferty on accordion and one of the worlds finest (honestly) classical violinists Bradley Creswick from the Royal Sinfonia Orchestra on…..fiddle!
Many in the fuller than usual audience knew Archie of old; as like me they spent many hedonistic nights in the 70’s bopping along to his band in the local bars and clubs.
They opened their short set with a intense song called Just a Little Weakness; showcasing Brown’s distinctive voice which has matured over the years like a fine whisky.
As 99.99% of those reading this will never get to see Archie Brown; let’s just say he inhabits every word in every song not unlike Joe Cocker; but what was once Blues Rock has evolved into Folk Rock with a Bluegrass heart……Geordiegrass?
Highlight of the 40 minutes? An old favourite of mine from nigh on 40 years ago; the punchy Prisoners from the quirkilly named Bring Me The Head of Jerry Garcia LP.
Even more strangers piled into the basement venue during the interval creating a charged atmosphere for the six piece from Tennessee who packed onto the tiny stage then hit the ground running and by third song in, The Fall the crowd were in the palm of Cruz Contreras’ hand.
While the show predominately revolves around singer and front-man Contreras, the Black Lillies ‘Rhythm and Country sound’ actually revolves around the brilliant playing of Mike Seal on guitar…..this guy really is extraordinary, sounding more like Duane Allman than Chet Atkins yet is content to stand at the back in the shadows.
Very few songs were actually introduced; so you will have to forgive me if I miss some crackers out or get titles wrong……I was too busy enjoying myself!
New co-singer Haley Cole proved to be the perfect foil for Contreras; as she has a gorgeous ‘Country warble’ to her voice, and helped rip my heart to shreds with the couple’s duets more than once.
Of the songs I wrote recognised, the intense and almost Gothic sounding Bound to Roam,the rocking 40 Days and 40 Nights and the instantly recognised Dancin’ were all outstanding and all received rapturous responses from the audience; as well as spontaneous bouts of actual dancing from women AND men!
For me, the two highlights were, You’re Hard to Please with Cruz and Haley performing a ‘call and response’ while he played piano in the style of Jerry Lee!
The other was the title track from that first album I reviewed 100 Miles of Wreckage…..nicely dusted off and gussied up for a Friday night in Newcastle; cue more outbreaks of dancing.
As expected they did the will they/won’t they play an encore charade before Cruz and Haley returned to do a tight and romantic duet before the band returned for a rip-roaring’ cover of Honky Tonk Woman!
What a night…..I had to squeeze past a deliriously happy crowd at the merch desk to get out; which is always a good sign.
It’s nights like this that make me remember why I love music.