Robert Cray Band at O2 NEWCASTLE CITY HALL

Robert Cray Band
O2 City Hall
Newcastle
Friday 6th May 2022

Unlike many of my peers; I’m not as enthralled with ‘live music’ these days as I should be … and that’s not just a Post-Covid ‘thing;’ as I felt the same way three or more years ago.
To some degrees it’s a health ‘thing’ as I’m no longer able to stand for three or more hours; so the opportunity to not just see Robert Cray and visit the newly revamped City Hall; which was my ‘go to’ venue as a young man was a night that couldn’t be missed.
We were still looking for our seats when the support act appeared on stage and if my eyes didn’t deceive me; it was Welsh duo …. Zervas & Pepper!
Last seen at the SummerTyne Festival 4 or 5 years ago; they immediately seemed a strange choice as support; but the knowledgeable audience instantly fell in love with their style of Laurel Canyon drenched Americana.
Opening with Living In a Small Town that led into the really rather good Silver To Chrome; which had a punchy Folk Rock edge to it.
Without pointing fingers; I think it’s fair to say that the ‘soundman’ didn’t do them any favours tonight; with Paul Zervas rich voice regularly being pushed down in the mix and Kathryn Pepper’s sounding too ‘toppy’ at times ….. thankfully I could see through this and know what great voices they both have …. and when they harmonise; as they do on Look Out Mountain and The Gift; I defy anyone to not be cast their memories back to the halcyon days of Laurel Canyon in all its pomp.
While I recognised a few songs from their Abstract Heart album; they slid in a new song from an imminent album; and the intense White Flag; with its power chords certainly piqued my attention for its release.
As is our won’t we went to the bar at the intermission; and my Brother decided that it must be his ’round’ and ordered two pints of very average and too cold beer in plastic glasses; and nearly had to take an extra tablet when told they would cost £6.75 each!!!!!
Back in the main hall and standing at the front ready to take photos; the band wandered onto the stage in pitch darkness; then on the drummer’s count slid seamlessly into Nothin’ But Love and the scene was set for a fabulous evening of super smooth Soul infused Blues of the highest order.
The first of several surprises was hearing Phone Booth so early in the set; and my notes say ‘full of horny bass lines’ and ‘CooooLLL’ which I still standby those words today.
I can’t list all 20 songs from the set, obviously but we had a delirious mix of Soul Shuffles, majestically moody Blues Ballads and more than enough searing Bluesy Soft Rockers to satisfy even the tardiest of music fans.
After all these years I’d forgot what a great singing voice Robert Cray has; sliding through a range that belies his age on the heartbreakingly sleazy The Things You Do To Me and You Move Me Baby too.
I think of Robert, first and foremost as a guitarist; yet my brother had never heard of him …. strange you might think; but Robert Cray has always flown under the radar …. and suffice to say, Brother Brian was a convert after only three songs.
Speaking of which; in the grand pantheon of Great Blues Guitarists Cray rarely, if ever gets a mention; yet tonight (and not for the first time either) he made his assortment of Fender Stratocasters’, not just weep and cry but scream at times tonight ….. and as for ‘innovative’ …. man; this guy knows no boundaries.
Again; as Brian pointed out afterwards…. this wasn’t just a showcase for the Star; it actually felt like a total band effort; with Les Falconer on drums and Richard Cousins’ ‘less is more’ style of bass playing certainly held everything together like a copper weld; but the legendary (in my head!) Dover Weinberg on Hammond very nearly ‘stole the show’ such was his fabulous playing and ever present smile.
Highlights?
Just so many ….. but a couple of new songs to me really caught my attention; The Shiver was haunting and really showed what an amazing guitar player Cray is; and the playful Roadhouse Blues of Hot featured some extraordinary guitar playing; yet Cray himself is the opposite of flash!
Oh yes!
Right in the middle of the show You Had My Heart; a great song in itself featured some serious tub-thumping from Les Falconer as well as Cray sounding like he was stabbing at the guitar strings while his voice dropped an octave or two …. you had to be there.
With so much to choose from his own back catalogue Robert even gave us an amazing cover of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s slow and intensely sensitive The Soul of a Man in which every single second was filled to the max.
The set was bookended with Cray’s other ‘hit’ …. Right Next Door, which was a bit ‘heavier’ than I’ve heard before, and somehow ….. all the better for that; then they ‘closed the show’ with a no holds barred You Must Believe In Yourself.
Cray and band mates then thanked the crowd and left the stage ……. Bizarrely; after all these years adults around us were wondering out loud whether they would come back for an encore.
REALLY???
Sure enough, after the obligatory minute in the wings … back they came for two stunning songs ; the darkly smoky Forecast Calls (for Pain) and the sultry Time Makes Two with another playful false ending; then to a deserved standing ovation they were gone into the Spring night.

https://robertcray.com/
https://zervasandpepper.com/


Eliza Neals BADDER TO THE BONE

Eliza Neals
Badder To The Bone
E-H Records

A Challenging Move On Through the Dark Shadows of The Blues That Hits All The Right Spots

There’s an element of guilt attached to this review; as Eliza promoted its release a couple of days ago; for me to make a sarcastic response as I hadn’t received a copy …. to whit she DM’d me immediately stating she’d posted a CD several weeks previously!
Any hoot; a download arrived within the hour so all’s well, that ends well ….. even if was being a bit huffy.
Was my wait worth it?
Hell yes!
Taking a massive leap forward from the BLACK CROW MOAN album, Eliza spreads her talents far and wide; even challenging herself at times across the Blues gamut here; starting with the Diddleyesque United We Stand; which has the hallmarks of a rocking good ‘protest song’ the likes of which most rockers shy away from; but Ms. Neals always wears her heart on her sleeve and damn the consequences.
This is immediately followed by some low down and bittersweet Soulful Blues with the heartwrenching ballad Queen of the Night; which features the subtle touches of Lance Lopez on geetar and Lynard Skynyrd’s Peter Keys on actual ‘keys’ making for an intense love song that comes in just shy of 7 minutes long; but has your attention for every single second.
There’s plenty of power chords and riffs a’plenty throughout; made all the better by Eliza and her co-writer’s strong storytelling; most astutely on King Kong, the Rustic Rocker that is Fuelling Me Up and the emotionally charged and slowed down retake of Queen of The Nile II, which closes the album and like the best gigs; leaves you wanting ‘more… more …. more!’
In between there are some really adventurous moves from Eliza; Lockdown Love is as sexy as it’s sleazy with the lady switching between purrs and growls like a she-cat on heat; leaving the male of the species listening sweating and a little bit scared!
Heathen takes us on yet another left of centre journey as Ms Neals taps into her S.O.U.L on Heathen which finds her hitting notes I had no idea were in her range; but when she hits them; they know they’ve been hit!
As usual I hadn’t read the Press Release or even the tracklisting when I first played this album; so it was probably a minute or so into it that I recognised Can’t Find My Way Home; the Blind Faith missive which has been a personal favourite for 50 years now ….. and while she plays around with the melody and tempo; plus the addition of Lance Lopez’s trademarked dirty geetar licks; makes for a really special version that will impress fans old and new.
This a Blues album; so it’s no surprise to find at least one ‘cheating’ song on it; and here the toe-tapping Hammond melody and guitar riffs camouflage the fear her man should have from ‘this woman done wronged‘ Got a Gun …… which had me going “Oh! Yikes!” the first time I heard the chorus.
For my selection of Favourite Track I initially made a notation next to Fueling Me Up, as it;s a great song with some mighty powerful musicianship all around that keeps you tuned in so as not to miss a note or syllable; but in the last 48 hours I’ve been drawn to the ‘Power Ballad’ Bucket of Tears ….. for no particularly personal reason; just that it’s a ‘grower’ that took my unawares maybe four plays of the album in ….. which impressed me a lot.
Even though her voice is as distinctive as ever; making this a recognisable Eliza Neals album and pleased to tell you it’s a thrilling move on from her last two albums; and hints at some fantastic gigs in the near future.

Released 23rd April 2022
http://elizaneals.com/

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Dan Patlansky BAD SOUL (Single)

Dan Patlansky
Bad Soul (Single)

South African blues rock guitarist Dan Patlansky will release his new single “Bad Soul” and it’s accompanying music video today; Friday March 18th
The single and music video dovetails his upcoming UK tour with his special guest Arielle, which runs from March 31st until April 12th

Tickets available from www.thegigcartel.com 


Southampton, 1865
Thursday 31 March 2022

Norwich, Waterfront Arts
Friday 1 April 2022

Newcastle, The Cluny
Saturday 2 April 2022
 
Glasgow, Òran Mór    
Sunday 3 April 2022

Sheffield, Greystones
Tuesday 5 April 2022
 
Bristol, Exchange
Wednesday 6 April 2022

Leeds, Brudenell
Friday 8 April 2022
 
*Manchester,  Deaf Institute
Saturday 9 April 2022

Leek, Foxlowe Arts
Sunday 10 April 2022
 
London, Garage
Tuesday 12 April 2022 


Kris Barras DEATH VALLEY PARADISE

Kris Barras Band
Death Valley Paradise
Mascot Records

British Blues Rocker Embraces His Unrestrained Darker Anthemic Stompers.

No matter that Death Valley Paradise is a much noisier and heavier weighted soundtrack than I would normally be listening to on an average day, but today this is not one of those days.

From Devon, yet perfectly serving up his own brand of American Blues Rock, Kris Barras has added an extra layer of metal around this, his 4th release.
Knowing that the frontman is an ex MMA/cage fighter was foremost in my mind as the sheer energy unleashed right from the outset knocked me sideways.
This for me conjures up an image of a caged tiger who has been pacing for an eternity and suddenly liberated. It’s a tale of surviving Lockdown frustrations and offloading pent up emotions culminating in this moment, a gigantic invitation for us all to get back out there and simply rock out. I’m in.

It makes perfect sense that this album was inspired by a single song; then broken up into fragments to create the 11 tracks, as this LP deserves to be listened to in the traditional way, from start to finish.
Each song adds a different layer to the web of Kris Barras’s confessional tales of struggles, a procession of individually intense anthems adding a massively darker amplified cloak over his Southern Rock heart.

The opener and first single Dead Horses slaps down this band’s re-invention cards firmly on the table.
It’s taken me just a few listens to fully appreciate what an effective start this is.
The new thundering drums of Billy Hammett launches us into a rush of adrenaline with deeply powerful beefed -up guitar riffs a plenty, vocals defiant and boldly telling the bleakest tale of being imprisoned in a broken relationship.

Right on its tail is Long Gone, picking up the same desperate trail of the doomed relationship. With a raucously pleasing bluesy guitar intro riff marrying perfectly with the trademark fist punching drum beat, I am lost in the drama and as for Kris Barras; there is no holding back the anger inside.

The recent single My Parade effortlessly amplifies the theatrics, the simplicity of the confident, defiantly driven killer chant hook: the drum beat begging to be thrashed out to a large crowd. The message is to choose our battle ground and it’s of little consequence if the forceful lyrics ultimately denies a bit of radio play to a song destined to be a live roof raising smash for years to come.

When we arrive at track #7 there is a half time break in the ring; as it were.
The vulnerable, softer version of the frontman oozes out with Wake Me Up When It’s Over.
This track almost made the top slot for me as it sums up, more than any other, the hell in Death Valley Kris Barras has been livin’ in.
A slower pace but still as striking: heartfelt melancholic vocals, laced with angst but breathtakingly emotional and reeling us in by the time we reach another level of playing with an exceptional and highly charged guitar solo:

Are you stuck in this nightmare
Alone in darkness
And Climbing the walls
Someone wake me up when it’s over
Get me off this rollercoaster
Cause right now it seems my eyes can’t see a better life

As it progresses, we are let into many more rounds of dark secrets throughout this album including the anarchic Who Needs Enemies and the more hopeful Devil You Know which examines how to turn this bleak experience into brave choices at the crossroads of life.

My favourite track purely for today has got to be These Voices.
An exquisitely catchy and manically appealing rock anthem, almost retro in feel and sweeter, more mellow vocals that still have the ability to deliver a cruel blow.
It symbolises the whole band as a unit with Kelpie Mackenzie’s thumping bass and Josiah J. Manning layering the rhythms to create a very polished track with the classic rock n roll abrupt full stop ending that leaves us begging for more. It is also poignant and deeply personal, conveying the inner mental struggles that have been overcome to get to this point.
A true fighter emerging victorious.

Timing can sometimes be everything, perhaps what I like most about this album is that it has the ability to whisk us out of our comfort zone and be transported to that live sweaty mosh pit many have been denied for too long.
They are soon to be let loose on a long-awaited UK wide tour, no stopping their advances but the real power of the Kris Barras Band is that they also enable you to close your eyes and be with them in spirit.

Review Courtesy Anita Joyce
Released 4th March 2022
https://www.krisbarrasband.com/

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Beth Hart A TRIBUTE TO LED ZEPPELIN

Beth Hart
A Tribute to Led Zeppelin
Provogue/Mascot

Blues Rock Queen Pays Homage to Some Groundbreaking Classic Songs

When it comes to choosing albums to review, I keep telling myself not to set myself ‘challenges’ – just choose things I like or at least, will probably like.
Yet, this has been a huge problem for me, as I’m a fan of Beth Hart and pretty much adore all of her albums that I’ve reviewed; but … The Led Zeppelins?
Nah!
Never got them.
I’m old enough to remember their first album being released; which I borrowed from a friend at school as I did with the next three ….. and just didn’t get ‘it;’ of course I appreciate Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as musicians (Bonham was always overrated btw) …. but them as a band?
Nope ….. not for me.
So; what if anything could Beth Hart bring to the party to change my mind?
Things start with a note for note rendition of Whole Lotta Love; with Beth sounding exactly like Mr Plant …… down to the incredible high notes she hits; and they really do get hit!
It must be 40 years or more since I played the original; so can’t remember if the freaky speaker to speaker mix in the middle sounds is new; but it certainly sounds amazing; just like it would have done to teenagers the world over half a century ago.
I instantly recognised the intro to track #2 Kashmir; and was then pleasantly surprised to hear Beth; now using her own distinctive vocals; put a neat twist on the overtly masculine tale; and to me; makes this journey worth the ticket.
As I’m by no means a Zep fan; there are a couple of songs I didn’t know – The Crunge being the first; and although on the Heavy side, fits Beth’s dark side perfectly; although again, the masculine lyrics sung by a woman are bound to raise an eyebrow or two; even in 2022.
The mystical No Quarter Babe, is another song I’m not aux fait with; but it’s inclusion is perfect for Beth; who strangles every note within an inch of its life; then let’s go just as parody is about to come in ….. but never does.
The finale, The Rain Song is another I can’t remember, and sounds nothing like I remember from my school days; trying to understand why my friends thought Robert Plant was the Second Coming. Here Beth makes it a big production that wouldn’t be out of place on one of her ‘own’ recent albums.
Then; there are The Classics.
Obviously recording a whole album of Led Zeppelin songs was always going to be a brave career move; but including Stairway to Heaven is near madness!
Much like Whole Lotta Love; it’s very nearly a note for note copy of the original; but the kicker is Beth mirrors Plants histrionics without ever copying him; and the Folkie intro here, is rather special the way she interacts with the delicate acoustic guitar.
One of the few Zep songs I openly admit to liking is Black Dog; and to say Beth Hart does it justice is a vast understatement ….. and if she was to use this as an encore song, it will definitely bring the metaphorical house down.
Which only leaves two songs; and probably against my better judgement they are where I’m going for a Favourite Track.
There’s the medley Dancing Days/When The Levee Breaks which is as intriguing as it’s memorable with Beth and Producer Rob Cavallo putting something of her own stamp on two songs incessantly linked withy the Rock Gods that are Led Zeppelin.
The other is another straight up version of the original; but with Beth giving it her all, and a case of ‘right place-right time’ mood wise; Good Times Bad Times wins the accolade of Favourite Track; and even at RMHQ bares repeated plays.
While these songs were all cutting edge back in the day; they all still stand out as groundbreaking but have stood the test of time; and could actually point Beth Hart’s younger parts of her fan base into the direction of the original songs, and perhaps some Zep fans in hers.

Released February 25th 2022
https://www.bethhart.com/

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https://uk.mascotlabelgroup.com/collections/beth-hart



John Mayall THE SUN IS SHINING DOWN

John Mayall
The Sun Is Shining Down
Forty Below Records

After Over Half a Century The Grandee of The Blues Can Still Manage To Surprise The Faithful.

John Mayall is very definitely a Living Legend of, not just the British Blues scene; but world wide too; yet apart from ‘The Beano Album’ I kinda guess 99% of Blues fans couldn’t name another album in his 60 year career.
Which is as much a shame as it’s sad.
I’m in the 1%, as I can name two others; apart from this … his umpteenth release; and a doozy right from the off; with the sizzling and Soulful Hungry and Ready ….. which will have your toes a’tappin and head a’noddin right from the first few bars …. and they won’t stop until the fabulously slinky title track, The Sun Is Shining Down closes proceedings in Mayall’s trademarked fashion.
In between covers a couple of fabulous songs I wasn’t aux fais with; Bernard Allison’s stupendous Chill’s n Thrills, Roosevelt Sykes slow and funky Driving Wheel and Bobby Rush’s I’m As Good As Gone, which features some stunningly cool guitar licks from Buddy Miller alongside Mayall’s leathery and world weary vocals.
After spending the best part of half a century living in the USA Mayall’s ‘sound’ now owes a lot more to Chicago and New York than it does the English Home Counties; and that comes across in not just the previously mentioned tracks; but his own Masterworks Can’t Take No More plus the cool ambiance of Deep Blue Sea and especially the former, when his brass section sound like the Memphis Horns on steroids.
I’d not heard of Tinsley Ellis before last week when I reviewed his own latest album; and here Mayall takes his A Quitter Never Wins and turns it into the type of slow and swoonsome Blues we expect from a mash up of Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King and Little Walter.
Then; there is the slick One Special Lady, which even on an album of this quality still stands head and shoulders above the rest with Mayall’s Hammond B3 holding the piece together like Jimmy Smith or Georgie Fame at their combined height; and ‘that’ guitar isn’t actually a guitar ; it’s Jake Shimabukuro playing an electric ukulele; which is a first for me …. but WOW!
Of course there are some Guest Star guitarists here complimenting not just The Grandee himself; but his #1 guitarist, Carolyn Wonderland too; but this isn’t about them … this is a simply and collectively a John Mayall album in all its and his Glory.
Technically and morally it’s wrong on many levels to be surprised by an album when it comes from someone with a pedigree like John Mayall; but we’ve all spent hard earned cash on releases by similar acts over the years and been left hugely disappointed; but trust me here ….. even if this is your first or fortieth album of his; you too will be surprised by the depth and quality on offer from start to finish …. and it will be a Keeper.

Released January 28th 2022
https://www.johnmayall.com/

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Hollis Brown IN THE AFTERMATH

Hollis Brown
In The Aftermath
Cool Green Recordings

British Blues Album From ’66 Re-Imagined as Alt.Americana for 2022.

Hollis Brown is a Queens, New York Alt./Americana band who have been around for a quite a while now, and once released a tribute album to the Velvet Underground’s 1970 album Loaded.
Keeping with that theme, the band decided to this time tackle the Rolling Stones and their first album of all-original songs, Aftermath, from 1966.
I have yet to hear their variant of Loaded, but do plan to real soon.
The Hollis Brown version of the Stones isn’t perfect, but definitely surpasses most bar-band rave-up versions with their clarity and punch.
Recorded in one single 24-hour session, live in the studio, singer-guitarist Mike Montali, lead guitarist Jonathan Bonilla, bassist Chris Urriola, and drummer Andrew Zehnal stayed focused enough to finish up and get out before they screwed anything up with a too-long and unneeded overdub session.
The mix is part 90’s big drum sound, part 21st Century clarity; making it very smooth with just enough angularness to keep it real.
Foregoing the obligatory sitar on Paint it Black, (One of the Stones’ darker songs —How the hell was this ever a hit in the bright and sunny mid-sixties? But it was!) they make do with heavily chorused guitar and a heavier beat which tells the listener right away that this album is going to rock no matter what.
Stupid Girl keeps it simple, while Under My Thumb takes a few chances that work, mostly through Zehnal’s rolling tom fills and consistent snare and Bonilla’s bent-note solo.
Lady Jane didn’t wow me at first, but on second and third listens I discerned some careful phrasing in Montali’s vocal and nice guitar work by Bonilla.
The band does a great job with the bluesier numbers like Doncha Bother Me and High and Dry, without copying the Stones too much.
They make up for lack of a Keef and a Mick by playing to their bar band roots. I Am Waiting finds the band turning the song on its head with some guitar reminiscent of the Allman Brothers.
The pastiche-sixties numbers like Think and Flight 505 are more routine, but It’s Not Easy sounds like it could have been written and recorded by any Americana band worth their weight in cheap booze; and was my choice for best song here until I heard the closer, Goin’ Home.
This one opens up with a softly strummed tremolo guitar before a Lazy Sunday morning beat transports us to a place where only harmonica fills and rollicking pianos and loose tambourines and overdriven geetars can save your soul.
Seven minutes of this could get tiresome from most bands out there (Including several from 1966, when this album was originally recorded.) but Hollis Brown don’t hold back.
This is the one song here where the band shines outstandingly as though they’ve finally realized that, even in the confines of a studio, they can still find a way to take flight and soar.
You know—turn up the amps, wail … and scream a bit!

Review by the legendary Roy Peak
Release date: February 4 2022
https://www.hollisbrown.com/

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ED Brayshaw RANDOM REPEAT

ED Brayshaw
Random Repeat
Mescal Canyon

Gallus Blues That Owes As Much to The South Side of Glasgow than the South Side of Chicago

Although he’s been in around several British music for donkey’s years; ED Brayshaw only came to our attention two years ago via his collaboration with Friend of RMHQ, Wily Bo Walker; but that long wait has been well worth it.
While I’m bored with artists still telling me that they wrote and arranged their 2021 albums during lockdown; I think it’s actually quite prescient as it allowed writers the time to go back over their work in a way that constant touring probably denied them; meaning many songs and arrangements are less rushed and now fuller and often more ‘professionally’ constructed.
That’s certainly not meant as any form of slight against ED Brayshaw’s previous release; which was chock full of energy and passion ….. but here; I get the feeling that this is more the album that he’s always dreamed of releasing under his own name.
RANDOM REPEAT opens with the glorious Storm Warning; which first appeared on a Wily Bo Walker album years ago; but I hardly recognised it in this guise; and there’s something to be said about Brayshaw’s keen observations that this song is even more ‘on the button’ in 2021 as it was 6 years ago.
While Brayshaw’s warm growl singing style is very much his own; but this song and a few more that follow remind me of Graham Parker and his SQUEEZING OUT SPARKS and ANOTHER GREY AREA albums; a heady mix of anger, passion and divine melodies!
#2 Don’t Change The Way I Feel; a slower acoustic led song; that simmers until it eventually nearly boils over when the squealing electric guitars join the fray; may or may not be a metaphor for the yin and yang we all feel about ourselves; or sadly may be a literal tale of a troubled man whose life is leaving him on the edge.
Even when Brayshaw writes a love song; he doesn’t follow the moon/june route as is apparent from Probably Correct and Just a Night; when Brayshaw sings about and even channels his inner Stevie Ray Vaughan; which both owe more to the South Side of Glasgow than the South Side of Chicago in the the band play in the most swaggering gallus fashion.
I especially like the way Brayshaw uses light and shade across his songs in a musically cohesive manner; one minute he’s singing a gorgeous acoustic Country tinged missive like Tennessee Blues, or the soulfully sweet Take It Away then slinking around the bar on the sleazy and funky Fade Away, and making all sound like blood brothers.
Then, it all comes to a close with the bittersweet instrumental Petite Fleur that closes the disc.
Which also brings me to my choice of Favourite Track.
At first it was obviously going to be the BB/Freddie King influenced Probably Correct which features some sublimely sizzling guitar breaks and a song that many of us will actually correct with; but the more I’ve played the album the more I’ve been drawn to After The Storm, which errs on the side of Americana-Folk in the way Brayshaw takes us on a road trip fraught with danger and fear with his tale that nods towards Steinbeck, Guthrie and Kerouac for content while using a heady Leslie Harvey/Gary Moore guitar hybrid that sounds like a coiled spring to add extra pathos to what is already a stunning song.
From even a cursory listen; it’s all to easy to appreciate why ED Brayshaw has been a go-to guitarist ; but I’m really happy to tell you that he’s been hiding his songwriting skills under a bushel over those years and I love his slow and sultry singing style too.

E D Brayshaw on Guitars and Vocals

Philip Brannan on Rhythm Guitar

Nick Bevan on Bass and backing vocals

Paul Baker on Drums

Released 15th October 2021
https://edbrayshaw.com/

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Five Points Gang WANTED

Five Points Gang
Wanted
Lunaria Records

21st Century Progressive Blues Experiment Siphoned Through, London, Texas and Chicago.

As we well know; you can’t please all of the people, all of the time hence our Bluesoligist Extraordinaire Jack Kidd returned this album to base, citing that ‘it was too noisy‘.
I on the other hand pressed ‘play’ one night in the car after a particularly venomous day at work; only to find myself turning the volume to the right three times!
I’ve played it 4 or 5 times now and can certainly see why it might not appeal to Jack; but hey ….. this is the Blues; in fact who or what actually defines what exactly is The Blues anymore?
For me it’s always been a fast moving lava flow adding and subtracting along the way.
Which is where Brit’ trio Five Points Gang come into the equation; they certainly sit in the Blues camp; but on the Heavy; and possibly even what we used to call Progressive Rock (NOT Prog!!!) arena and what they do; they do exceptionally well.
They throw down the metaphorical gauntlet straight away; with How Long; written just after George Floyd was murdered and contains the punchline; ‘How long to equality‘; which sort of takes off from where the legendary Free ended, without ever battering you over the head with any ‘message’ you are left to make your own decisions.
Grizzly yet fluid guitar aligned to drum and bass that are straight out of a British Steel factory and in the exotically monikered singer Joe Pearson; someone who appears to sing as if his very life depends on it.
I’m in for a million!
Apparently they have already released a Live album; but this is their actual debut album; and in my humble opinion they have certainly spent their formative years honing their craft; as all 13 tracks here are fully formed without an ounce of filler anywhere.
I will tell you how good these kids are; as I hadn’t read the Press Release before playing the album I had not a single inkling that they were British; yet when I know that they couldn’t be from anywhere else!
You see they deftly mix up both Chicago and Texas style Blues with ease and dare I say it; grace.
There are slight nods to Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan in All Points Bulletin, Let’s Stay Together and probably The Secret too; but it’;s a homage if anything and certainly not plagiarism, as these songs are purely Five Points Gang deluxe.
Not everything here is of the fire and brimstone ilk; with the band ‘slowing things down and getting funky’ on the rather beautiful All She Said, I See You Now and What Kind of Man which features some of the sweetest Rock guitar licks I’ve heard in a long time; subtle and silvery too.
What I particularly like here is the songwriting; it’s quite mature as it deals with relationships in all their ragged glory (finale I See You Now being a great example); and they still manage to treat their lovers as equals and even betters; thankfully not strutting any kind of macho nonsense we used to hear in Blues Rock; which hasn’t aged well, has it?
The songwriting is imaginative too, using imaginative metaphors to supplement actual memories (I guess and hope) on Love By The Gun and the funky-ass Made Man; which also feature judicious use of a wah-wah pedal ……. Dear Lord that takes me back to my teenage days; getting excited seeing a guitarist fannying about with a series of effects pedals.
As I said earlier Five Points Gang are British to the core; yet are so obviously influenced by America; which sort of brings me around to choosing a Favourite Song here. Like so many albums this decade bands no longer feel the need to write and record a Hit Single; so feel free to just write from the heart and hope someone out there will like the end result; which I obviously do; with two songs that captured my heart and imagination that first fateful night.

Track #2, All in All was the song I turned the dial up to 9 for …… and even if I hadn’t the car would have still been a’ Rockin’ ….. man does this song RAWK! Pearson’s guitar and vocals actually sound as if they are one; and Dinho Barral’s bass playing throughout manages to be both subtle and powerful at the same time; something both Andy Fraser and Jack Bruce would have been proud of; and they are both complemented by drumming from Gaet Allard that is meticulous and ghostly too. Trust me; if you ever hear this track on the radio you will presume it’s a lost Classic from one of your favourite bands; but you can’t remember who.
Even with that great song here; I’m going slightly left of centre for my actual Favourite; starting slow and sleazy then building and building to a crescendo; The Only One; a sad tale of loving, losing and partial redemption (this is a Blues album after all) somehow blends pieces of Free and SRV with Nirvana and Pearl Jam to create a whole new musical experience for this particular listener.
I understand why Jack didn’t like this album; and on a sunny afternoon when I was in a good mood I wouldn’t have either; but I wasn’t and Five Points Gang where just the thing I needed to blast away my own blues and replace them with yer actual Blues of the highest calbre; congratulations all around chaps.

PS I see the band have some gigs and Festivals arranged for October and April; with none being near to me ……. but I see that they are playing the legendary Whistlebinkies and Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on consecutive nights ….. only a cheap train ride away and I can only imagine the sweat running down the walls!

Released September 24th 2021
https://fivepointsgang.com/

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BANDCAMP https://fivepointsgang.bandcamp.com/releases
LUNARIA RECORDS https://lunariarecords.com/five-points-gang/






Rory Gallagher RORY GALLAGHER (50th Anniversary Edition)

Rory Gallagher
RORY GALLAGHER (50th Anniversary Edition)
UMC

Lovingly Revisiting an Album That Not Just Changed Rory’s Life; But Mine Too.

Two things; first of all to Brother Donal and the meticulous way he is keeping Rory’s memory and reputation in such a glorious manner; and secondly …… I can remember the Saturday night my brother Melvyn brought the original LP home; after buying it on the first day of release.
Our elder brother; Brian had been waiting impatiently and the unveiling was akin to the birth of a new baby in the house (seriously). They each handled the LP with meticulous care; poring over every single detail, then ceremoniously playing it on the living room record player (much to the consternation of my father!).
They then sat in complete reverence; playing one side after the other, with no comment, apart from occasional nods and ‘knowing glances’.
Me? I was 13 and sat on the periphery, knowing something important was occuring; but not knowing what.
With 20:20 hindsight, that evening changed my life; as I am now a total Rory Gallagher obsessive and own everything he’s ever released; plus several Live Albums his record companies never knew about *Wink

So; after 50 years where does this album stand in the Irishman’s history?
Very, very high I’d say; Top 3 certainly; with no concert being complete without the inclusion of Laundromat, Sinner Boy, Hands Up and while he went on to a much louder and rocker format towards the end; Just The Smile and Wave Myself Goodbye have never been surpassed by him nor anyone copying him.
Which brings me to this Box Set, celebration ……. which for the first time in recent years, is something of a ‘curates egg’ ….. good in parts; poor in others.
CD 1, the original album is dusted down and given a bit of a polish and still sounds phenomenal in 2021; but as we dive into the other CD’s; which is of course what fans are paying their ‘hard earned’ for ……. CD 2 starts off exceptionally well with the stinging rendition of Muddy Waters’s Gypsy Woman and Otis Rush’s It Takes Time, which were both recorded at the same time as the tracks on the album and previously saw the light of day on a CD re-release; which I somehow missed …… but the wait has been well worth it.
Then; sigh …… we get into ‘Alternate Take’ territory; not always the end of the world as hearing Vincent Crane (from Atomic Rooster) adding piano to Wave Myself Goodbye and I’m Not Surprised, is interesting; but at no stage in the last half century did I ever find myself thinking ……. “do you know what this song needs is some piano” as I’ve been perfectly happy with the versions that have served me; and Rory well in that time.
As regular readers know, we here at RMHQ pride ourselves in actually listening to records several times before putting (metaphorical) pen to paper on your behalf ……. and for the first time ever, listening to Rory Gallagher has proved to be something of a chore ……. does the world really need 4 very similar but ‘Alternative Takes’ on At The Bottom running concurrently and even doubler’s Just The Smile and Wave Myself Goodbye don’t add anything to Rory’s memory.
On CD 3, it’s the same with Hands Up ……. F.I.V.E versions one after the other will test the patience of even the most ardent fan; for God’s Sake …… we aren’t Bob Dylan obsessives forensically dissecting each stanza for the great lost word or note!
Any single ‘Alternate Take’ of a song from the original album could and possibly should have been included on a single album; as a compare and contrast, ‘this is what you could have won’ ….. let’s face it; following the break up of Taste Rory Gallagher was experimenting with music like very few before him and even less afterwards; so I’m not averse to hearing something ‘new’ from this time ….. just not so much with so little or actually, no discernible difference.
Then; of course …… there’s CD 4 ……. and while you may never play those middle two discs ever again; this like the first is very much a ‘keeper’.
It’s actually amusing listening again to In Concert ‘Live Recordings’ from the BBC that I actually listened to as they were broadcast; I say ‘amusing’ and it is; as I would have been lying on my divan bed, with my ear as close to my (monophonic) radio as possible, constantly redialling as the signal came and went ……. then excitedly discussing what I’d heard at school on the following Monday ……..weren’t the 1970’s wonderful?
Today they sound as spectacular as I’d fantasised as a schoolboy; man …….. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; while a phenomenal and inventive guitarist; Rory Gallagher was also a fabulous singer ……. just listen to It Takes Time or Laundromat from the wonderful Sounds of the Seventies; and what a blast it is hearing the ‘posh’ introductions to tracks from the John Peel Sunday Concert series although the announcer actually sounds more like a young Johnnie Walker …… but I could be wrong.
This; obviously is when Rory ‘comes alive;’ and hearing Hands Up, Laundromat and the timeless In Your Town again on these recordings has brought a tear to an old man’s eyes.
Many of us who have been in it for the long haul already know how eclectic Gallagher’s early albums were; and looking back again with that 20:20 hindsight …… I think there’s an argument here for Rory being a forefather of what we know know as AMERICANA!
Discuss?
As always there are numerous formats available, and what I haven’t got is the DVD, which I really must hunt down …. as the idea of seeing as well as hearing Rory perform these songs on a French TV Show will no doubt be a treat I deserve after listening to those interminable ‘Alternate Takes.’
BTW the accompanying book; full of anecdotes and photos is nearly worth the entrance fee alone.

Released September 3rd 2021
https://rorygallagher.com/

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VINYL: https://thesoundofvinyl.com/search.html?term=rory+gallagher+50th&utm_umguk=direct&utm_campaign=RoryGallagher20210610&utm_medium=original&utm_source=Original

CD https://store.udiscovermusic.com/artist.html?a=rory_gallagher&utm_umguk=direct&utm_campaign=RoryGallagher20210610&utm_medium=original&utm_source=Original