Ben Hunter, Phil Wiggins & Joe Seamons
A BLACK & TAN BALL.
Country Blues That Will Warm The Cockles of Your Heart.
Work commitments meant that I had to miss the Ben Hunter, Phil Wiggins & Joe Seamons concert in Newcastle back in February; and when friends were still texting me three days afterwards to tell me that I’d missed the ‘Best show of the year’ I knew this trio must be something pretty special.
My problem with reviewing the album was always going to be that this type of Authentic, Rootsy Blues music is generally best seen and heard live rather than on disc.
A BLACK & TAN BALL starts off with an exquisitely performed Murder Ballad called Do You Call That a Buddy, which revolves around a rusty voice, molasses thick harmonies and some beautiful harmonica from Phil Wiggins.
These three musicians, know the Blues backwards and treat each song as if it’s a Classical piece of music bringing brand new dimensions to old standards like John Henry (a live version btw) and Leadbelly’s Poor Howard which they turn into another Murder Ballad.
As musical historians the trio have found some amazing songs in the archives and bring a Louis Armstrong Jazz tune Struttin’ With Some BBQ to a whole new audience; and it’s a similar tale when Phil Wiggins sings Do Nothing ‘Til You Here From Me. You’d swear it was something you’d hear in a 30’s Mississippi Juke-Joint; but it’s actually a Duke Ellington ballad; but that’s the beauty of this album; all preconceptions fly out of the window very quickly.
While Ben Hunter, Phil Wiggins & Joe Seamons’ many and various talents are never in doubt it’s on the glorious Guitar Rag and Shanghai Rooster that they really shine; as they did apparently when they played the Jumping Hot Club.
Albums like this make it very difficult to choose a favourite song; as each certainly has its own merits; but make a choice I will.
The title nearly went to Ben Hunter’s raw and authentic version of Bullfrog Blues; which sounds just like it must have done in the 1930’s and nothing at all like Rory Gallagher’s trademark version in 1972.
But the title of ‘Favourite Track’ goes to another re-interpretation of a Country Blues standard that sadly means as much today in 2017 as it first did when first performed in 1935; Lane Hardin’s Hard Time Blues has been twisted and turned many times over the years; but hearing it revert back to a wailing lament with a rudimentary guitar, banjo and harmonica backing is both gut wrenching and tear inducing in equal measures.
As I guessed this album has not been an ‘easy listen’; and nor was it intended to be. The songs are as dark as they are rich and in Ben Hunter, Phil Wiggins & Joe Seamons each one is treat like a special gem and given the respect it deserves.
A BLACK & TAN BALL will not just appeal to Blues aficionados but is a great starting point for anyone wanting to delve into this fascinating area of The Blues.
Released March 27th 2017