John Clifton NIGHTLIFE

john clifton b

John Clifton
Rip Cat Records

Enough Rocking and Rolling R&B to Make Your Heart, Soul and Feet Sizzle.

When I were but a lad there was a vibrant Blues, or more R&B scene in and around Newcastle; mostly promoted by the fledgling Jumpin’ and Hot Club in cellars and back-rooms of public houses. This proved a great starting point for not just me, but a lot of men and women who are my friends now.

It’s pointless naming the bands names; even the ‘big name’ out of towners, but they stamped a life long love of red hot and blistering Rhythm AND Blues into my psyche, and while it has gone out of fashion in the UK it’s evident that there are plenty of such combo’s still treading the boards across the US of A; and some of the finest appear to have a home at the aptly monikered Rip Cat Records (and yes; I would look amazing in one of their XL work-shirts!).

The latest of their releases to hit our desk is from John Clifton; and as I occasionally say……if I had seen this album in a Record Store the sleeve alone would have made me part with Mrs. Magpie’s shopping money.

For half an hour I couldn’t get past opening track, Charlie Musselwhite’s Strange Land! Repeat…repeat and …….repeat! The song absolutely sizzles for the whole three and a half minutes; not just grabbing the listener’s attention but his throat and testicles too!

This is followed by the burning soul of Sad About It; which has my over active imagination picturing Clifton dropping to his knees mid song a’la James Brown as he howls and wails like a man possessed when not secretly confiding his sins to us.

Tucked away in the middle are three self-penned ‘classics’ that take us into the Rock and Roll end of the Blues spectrum; with guitarist Scott Abeyta sounding uncannily like Cliff Gallup on Brand New Way to Walk! Then the crickets at the beginning of Swamp Dump help add a distinct touch of magic to this superbly greasy instrumental, of which the title tells you all you need to know and the third in the trio is another instrumental, but a very clever duet/battle between Clifton on harmonica and Bartek Szopinski on piano and the end result is sensational.

While Clifton covers tracks by artistes I’m well aware of the only song I recognised was Muddy Waters’ Still a Fool; and only then because I have a version on a bootleg by my favourite ever Geordie Blues Band…….the Blues Burglars; of whom this album sounds like they could and should have.

John Clifton certainly knows his history and his Roots as he pays homage to this style of playing; but the way they deliver Nightlife and No Better Time Than Now shows a band who ain’t no ‘one trick ponies’…….these guys are all experienced and intricate players in their own rites; but when playing together they take R&B into a whole new dimension than the one I remember from those drunken and sweaty nights in the Bridge Hotel and Red House, 40 years ago.

Before I announce the winner of the RMHQ Favourite Track Award a word or two about the beautiful lament Every Now and Then which closes the record. At 9 minutes plus, I should normally have got bored half way through; but just like Van Morrison back in the days he played this music; Clifton had me hanging on every single note and word each time I’ve played it.

Then there is Last Clean Shirt; written by Leiber, Stoller and Otis; but (now I’ve researched it!) made famous by T-Bone Walker……..and Walker’s finest……..THE ANIMALS! Hey ho; John Clifton wrings every last ounce of emotion from this amazing song and his band…..well…..suffice to say; they make it (and me) come close to boiling point several times but never add anything that doesn’t need to be here…….the Blues don’t get much better than these 5 minutes kidda… me.

Quite often with albums like this bands struggle to recreate their stage magic in the studio; that is not the case here…..these guys have managed to sprinkle extra Fairy Dust on this bunch of songs to make them perfect for both a sensual night in or a late night lonesome drive along the highways with no particular place to go.

Released May 18th 2018


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