Late Night Italian-American Blues From Downtown Chicago.
This has been a major surprise for us here at RMHQ; a pleasant one, but a surprise none the less. Mostly because the stable it came from is more recognised as supplying us with some of the sharpest Rhythm and Blues in the Western Hemisphere; and that sure ain’t the way to describe Italian singer-pianist Luca Kiella at all. That said, he really does play The Blues but it’s that late night, nightclub style that we normally associate with Brother Ray or more recently Mr Jon Cleary or the British star Jamie Cullum; but with an added contemporary edge to his songs. The glorious instrumental Ten O’Clock Blues gets the show on the road in a clever way; nodding to the likes of Monk and Dr. John in the way Kiella tinkles the ivories; but never ever sounding like either on a classy tune that’s just waiting for a TV advert. This is followed by Kiella’s homage to his hero with a reverential rendition of Jon Cleary’s Unnecessarily Mercenary that will get the toes a’tappin and the brain cells working overtime. Choosing to cover Don Gibson’s I Can’t Stop Loving You in this format is a brave and possibly even dangerous choice; but Luca treads that tightrope without a safety net; and gives it everything he has coming out the other end with a rather sexy love song that will make the ladies go weak at the knees, and the men grooving along to the wonderful Jimmy Smith style organ sweeps and Aaron Weistrop’s super cool guitar licks too. This 5 track EP closes with a startling song called So Many Questions, which needs to be played with the lights turned way down low; as our Italian friend tells his story of leaving home to cross an ocean for the love of music; and if his piano playing doesn’t move you…… you don’t have a soul! I normally like to be contrary when it comes to choosing a Favourite Song; but I have to agree with the record company publicist this time; and go for the title track and single, Figure It Out, a really swinging Jazzy Blues tune with an edgy song sung in Luca’s finest Italian-American accent. Winner, winner, winner! For a debut there’s a whole lot to like here; nothing more so than Luca Kiella’s superb keyboard skills and his delightful voice which will get even better the older he gets.
FEATURING RARE AND UNRELEASED RECORDINGS AVAILABLE ON 3CD / 1CD / 2X VINYL LP
In what would have been the 50th year of Rory Gallagher’srecording career, UMC are pleased to announce the release of‘BLUES’ on Friday 31st May 2019. From the vaults of the Gallagher estate’s tape archive comes this collection of rare and unreleased recordings of Rory playing his favourite blues material. Ranging from never heard before tracks to special guest sessions with legendary blues artists (Muddy Waters / Albert King) and lost radio sessions, this album uncovers Rory’s love of the blues throughout his solo career from 1971 right through to 1994.
Formats include a 15 track 1CD / 2LP version, limited edition blue vinyl 2LP and a deluxe 36 track 3CD version showcasing Rory’s virtuoso performances of electric, acoustic and live blues. The Deluxe comprises 90% unreleased material and features performances with musical legends such as Muddy Waters, Albert King, Jack Bruce, Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber. The Deluxe Edition also comes with an extensive booklet comprising previously unseen pictures if Rory plus a new essay by award winning Blues / Rock writer Jas Obrecht.
If ever there was a “musician’s musician” then that accolade surely belongs to Rory Gallagher. Renowned for his blistering live performances and highly respected for his dedication to his craft, he died in 1995, aged just 47, yet his reputation has continued to flourish in the years since. Indeed, some of rock’s most seminal figures, from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton, Queen’s Brian May to The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, have cited him as an influence. Clapton credited Rory with “getting me back into the blues”, while May has unequivocally stated: “I owe Rory Gallagher my sound.”
“The man who changed my musical life was Rory Gallagher, I picked up a guitar because of him.”– Johnny Marr
“’A Million Miles Away’ was the first song I learned on guitar. The story goes that when Jimi Hendrix was asked how it felt to be the greatest guitarist in the world, he answered, “I don’t know. Go ask Rory Gallagher.” – Ed Sheeran
“As soon as I heard Cradle Rock, I was hooked. I thought, ‘This is what I want to be when I grow up.’”– Joe Bonamassa
“Rory didn’t sound like anybody else…He had a very individual, independent kind of tone and approach and everything. He’s always been a big hero to me.” – Slash
From his first album with Taste through his final solo record, Rory Gallagher remained true to his own musical vision. Like the American bluesmen he admired, he created an instantly identifiable sound. His raw, unfettered vocals perfectly suited the blues-worthy themes he sang of, and his guitar style was a force unto itself. Like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, he excelled at playing storytelling solos on electric guitar. Like Muddy Waters, he was a skilled slider. And like Blind Boy Fuller, Lead Belly, and Big Bill Broonzy, he displayed amazing dexterity on the acoustic guitar. But unlike many of his peers in the U.K., especially during the 1960s and 1970s, Gallagher did not specialize in note-perfect copies of other people’s songs. As he explained to an interviewer in 1978, “I never started out to be a strict recreator of the blues or even a modern young bluesman. I wanted to be me.”
3 CD Deluxe Edition
CD 1 – Electric Blues
1. Don’t Start Me Talkin’ (Unreleased track from the Jinx album sessions 1982) 2. Nothin’ But The Devil (Unreleased track from the Against The Grain album sessions 1975) 3. Tore Down (Unreleased track from the Blueprint album sessions 1973) 4. Off The Handle (Unreleased session Paul Jones Show BBC Radio 1986) 5. I Could’ve Had Religion (Unreleased WNCR Cleveland radio session from 1972) 6. As the Crow Flies (Unreleased track from Tattoo album sessions 1973) 7. A Million Miles Away (Unreleased BBC Radio 1 Session 1973) 8. Should’ve Learnt My Lesson (Outtake from Deuce album sessions 1971) 9. Leaving Town Blues (Tribute track from Peter Green ‘Rattlesnake Guitar’ 1994) 10. Drop Down Baby (Rory guest guitar on Lonnie Donegan’s “Puttin’ On The Style” album 1978 11. I’m Ready (Guest guitarist on Muddy Waters ‘London Sessions’ album 1971) 12. Bullfrog Blues (Unreleased WNCR Cleveland radio session from 1972)
CD 2 – Acoustic Blues
1. Who’s That Coming (Acoustic outtake from Tattoo album sessions 1973) 2. Should’ve Learnt My Lesson (Acoustic outtake from Deuce album sessions 1971) 3. Prison Blues (Unreleased track from Blueprint album sessions 1973) 4. Secret Agent (Unreleased acoustic version from RTE Irish TV 1976) 5. Blow Wind Blow (Unreleased WNCR Cleveland radio session from 1972) 6. Bankers Blues (Outtake from the Blueprint album sessions 1973) 7. Whole Lot Of People (Acoustic outtake from Deuce album sessions 1971) 8. Loanshark Blues (Unreleased acoustic version from German TV 1987) 9. Pistol Slapper Blues (Unreleased acoustic version from Irish TV 1976) 10. Can’t Be Satisfied (Unreleased Radio FFN session from 1992) 11. Want Ad Blues (Unreleased RTE Radio Two Dave Fanning session 1988) 12. Walkin’ Blues (Unreleased acoustic version from RTE Irish TV 1987)
CD 3 – Live Blues
1. When My Baby She Left Me (Unreleased track from Glasgow Apollo concert 1982) 2. Nothin’ But The Devil (Unreleased track from Glasgow Apollo concert 1982) 3. What In The World (Unreleased track from Glasgow Apollo concert 1982) 4. I Wonder Who (Unreleased live track from late 1980s) 5. Messin’ With The Kid (Unreleased track from Sheffield City Hall concert 1977) 6. Tore Down (Unreleased track from Newcastle City Hall concert 1977) 7. Garbage Man Blues (Unreleased track from Sheffield City Hall concert 1977) 8. All Around Man (Unreleased track from BBC OGWT Special 1976) 9. Born Under A Bad Sign (Unreleased track from Rockpalast 1991 w/ Jack Bruce) 10. You Upset Me (Unreleased guest performance from Albert King album ‘Live’ 1975) 11. Comin’ Home Baby (Unreleased track from 1989 concert with Chris Barber Band) 12. Rory Talking Blues (Interview track of Rory talking about the blues)
1 CD Version
1. Don’t Start Me Talkin’ (Unreleased track from the Jinx album sessions 1982) 2. Nothin’ But The Devil (Unreleased track from the Against The Grain album sessions 1975) 3. Tore Down (Unreleased track from the Blueprint album sessions 1973) 4. Off The Handle (Unreleased session Paul Jones Show BBC Radio 1986) 5. A Million Miles Away (Unreleased BBC Radio 1 Session 1973) 6. Leaving Town Blues (Tribute track from Peter Green ‘Rattlesnake Guitar’ 1994) 7. As the Crow Flies (Unreleased track from Tattoo album sessions 1973) 8. Secret Agent (Unreleased acoustic version from RTE Irish TV 1976) 9. Should’ve Learnt My Lesson (Acoustic outtake from Deuce album sessions 1971) 10. Prison Blues (Unreleased track from Blueprint album sessions 1973) 11. Who’s That Coming (Acoustic outtake from Tattoo album sessions 1973) 12. I’m Ready (Guest guitarist on Muddy Waters ‘London Sessions’ album 1971) 13. What In The World (Unreleased track from Glasgow Apollo concert 1982) 14. Garbage Man Blues (Unreleased track from Sheffield City Hall concert 1977) 15. Born Under A Bad Sign (Unreleased track from Rockpalast 1991 w/ Jack Bruce)
2 LP / Limited Edition Blue Vinyl 2 LP Version
1. Don’t Start Me Talkin’ (Unreleased track from the Jinx album sessions 1982) 2. Nothin’ But The Devil (Unreleased track from the Against The Grain album sessions 1975) 3. Tore Down (Unreleased track from the Blueprint album sessions 1973) 4. Off The Handle (Unreleased session Paul Jones Show BBC Radio 1986)
1. A Million Miles Away (Unreleased BBC Radio 1 Session 1973) 2. Leaving Town Blues (Tribute track from Peter Green ‘Rattlesnake Guitar’ 1994) 3. I’m Ready (Guest guitarist on Muddy Waters ‘London Sessions’ album 1971) 4. As the Crow Flies (Unreleased track from Tattoo album sessions 1973)
1. Who’s That Coming (Acoustic outtake from Tattoo album sessions 1973) 2. Should’ve Learnt My Lesson (Acoustic outtake from Deuce album sessions 1971) 3. Prison Blues (Unreleased track from Blueprint album sessions 1973) 4. Secret Agent (Unreleased acoustic version from RTE Irish TV 1976)
1. What In The World (Unreleased track from Glasgow Apollo concert 1982) 2. Garbage Man Blues (Unreleased track from Sheffield City Hall concert 1977) 3. Born Under A Bad Sign (Unreleased track from Rockpalast 1991 w/ Jack Bruce)
Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith Drop The Hammer Big Eye Records
Cool Contemporary Blues & Soul With a Hearty Nod to The Past.
Oooohhhheeee! To some degree is all you need to know about this collection of Modern and contemporary Blues songs sung and written by Grammy Award winning drummer Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith. What the Hell’s not to like right from the beginning, as a bottle-neck guitar AND sitar precedes Smith’s ‘tattered velvet’ drawl that is so authentic I swear you can smell the swamps, sweat and sexual tension throughout every single second. For a man whose Father Willie sat at the back of the stage keeping time with the legendary Muddy Waters for 18 years; Kenny Smith certainly has something to say himself; and he has an eclectic way of saying it too; pulling various aspects of the Blues and Soul together into a glorious Gumbo that will have you dancing, smiling, crying and punching the air in equal measure; and one song especially, What In the World ticks each and every one of those boxes btw. Scratchin’ Your Head is a smooth and accessible love song that rolls around a cool Hammond groove and a wailing harmonica; but Smith can get low down and seedy too with the slow sashay of Living Fast, and on No Need Brother Greg Guy really does make his guitar gently weep on a Soul squeezing slice of late night Southside of Chicago Blues Deluxe. Don’t be afraid when I say that these are ‘Modern Blues Songs’, they most certainly are in every aspect; but Smith and The House Bumpers know their musical heritage so, so very well and use that history to great effect on the funklicious Puppet on a String and glorious title track Drop The Hammer, which combines Blues, Soul and a smidgen of Jazz to create something really special indeed. The album closes on a fascinating note; and a Blue Note at that, with the instrumental Moment of Silence which lasts 5 minutes 17 here; but went by in the blink of an eye and has the spine to go on for an hour or more when played live and not a single person would ever complain. I’m actually selecting two very different songs as joint ‘Favourites’ here; the rinky-dinky Second Hand Woman, which is 4 minutes of rolling Blues straight outta some Mississippi Juke Joint; but polished and shined until it’s fit for a concert Hall somewhere uptown; and the other is a first for me, I think. I select Favourite Songs’ for a million different reasons in the course of a year; and I don’t think I’ve ever gone for a song that combines both ‘twee’ and ‘class’ the way Hey Daddy does. Obviously it’s a ‘Love Song’ at heart; but a slick one as Kenny sings not just for, but with his three kids, Mae, Clara and Teddy who provide ace backing vocals on the chorus. Who knew a drummer could be so sensitive, soulful and sensual in not just his singing, but most of all in his songwriting too? Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith, is the real deal and I believe that this album has the ability to whisk him from the shadows and out him permanently in the spotlight.
Still Experimenting and Pushing The Blues Rock Boundaries After 40 Years!
A few days ago I got drawn into a Twitter-Spat about the ‘merits of new music v old music’ …… yes, yes, yes…… I should know better by now; but some days I can’t help myself. While I adore Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters, to name but three Blues Legends in my collection……. where would the world be without musicians like Joe Bonamassa and, in this case Gary Hoey pushing the boundaries of what the genre can do and still keep it commercial? Opening track Under The Rug throws down a marker for what Hoey is still capable of after 20 previous albums; liquid gold guitar breaks from himself and guest Eric Gales make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end; while his voice sounds like a man who has ‘lived a life that would scare the average man’; and the story in the song ain’t too shabby neither. I despair when friends wearing their Jimi Hendrix t-shirts think the Art of playing Rock guitar died in 1979…… check out I Felt Alive or Living The Highlife to hear someone who listened to all those old records too…… but has put his own indelible stamp on the genre on the last 40 odd years of Blues Rock; and in the case of the latter song; listen to the lyrics to hear a Master craftsman at work there too. Me? I refuse to live in the past; as does Gary Hoey, how else can you explain the intricate fretwork on the swinging love song Still Believe In Love? If this was Stevie Ray Vaughan; listeners would be spontaneously combusting with excitement! Speaking of ‘pushing boundaries’ Hoey slides in a few instrumentals here that take what we know as Blues Rock on a bit of a field trip through Jazz AND, DARE i Say it….Classical Territories and with Almost Heaven, and definitely slow and sensuous Waiting on the Sun comes out the other end with something of cinematic scale that transcends musical boundaries. While it is predominantly Gary Hoey doing the magic on the electrical guitar, there are two more Guest Appearances; Lance Lopez manages to make metaphorical spark fly alongside Mr Hoey on Damned If I do; and much to Gary’s fatherly pride his 16 year old son Ian shows that there is something special in the Hoey genetics on the mystical Don’t Come Crying; which was an early contender for Favourite Track status; as was the stunning instrumental title track Neon Highway Blues for a couple of days; but the actual RMHQ Favourite Track accolade goes to……..cue drum roll……..the ; which is as close to a Rock Ballad as I get to enjoy these days; I Felt Alive which overlaps occasional buzz-saw guitar with some crystal cut notes from the sweet end of his guitar on a song of love, hope and aspiration that will be met with pure adoration when played live. Just like me Gary Hoey sure sounds like he still loves and is as passionate about his music today as he was when he first picked up a guitar all of those years ago……. and long may he continue pushing boundaries and creating Blues Rock as exciting as this.
Wily Bo Walker & ED Brayshaw The Roads We Drive Mescal Canyon Records
Salvador Seguí Square, 1 – 9 08001 Barcelona
An Epic Blues Laden Southern Rocking Gothic Film Noir Soundtrack.
While he and I have been around for a 100 years or so; Wily Bo and my paths didn’t cross until he got in touch via a friends recommendation only a couple of years ago; but we’ve made up for lost time with the gruff voiced Scotsmans’ work ethic, which sometimes feels like he releases an album a month! I am going to use a couple of descriptive terms that would normally send me running in the opposite direction of a record labelled ‘concept’ or ‘Rock Opera’; but Wily Bo and his pal ED Brayshaw manage to keep this collection of slightly disparate songs not just very accessible on every level, but on the right narrative road for the story they hope to tell; and the packaging is worth the entrance fee alone, too. The absolutely blistering Storm Warning sets the exciting tone for the epic cinematic tale of ‘three people, two paths and one story’ that will follow; with Wily Bo’s voice possibly never sounding better or more expressive, and Brayshaw’s guitar playing sounds like sparks are flying off the strings! The scene is then set for a collection of sweaty, claustrophobic and occasionally sexy songs based around Louise, Johnny and Harry as their lives criss-cross in a Thelma & Louise meets Bonnie and Clyde fashion, mostly in Dixie Alley; but with threads that spiral off and out of control. I will forget the actual story for a minute or two; and concentrate on the songs; which individually are damn good from start to finish. The obligatory Motel Blues is here and could easily have been the title track, as a lot of the stories start and finish here. Johnny & Louise’s signature tune September Red follows soon after, being sensual, scary and sensitive in equal measures with a drum that sounds like a beating heart and a swirling Hammond organ, the boy telling his girl: “Baby I am just a man when I say I will die for you I hope you will understand Baby, I will be there for you.”
You know there isn’t going to be no happy ending. The first Act closes with Killers on the Run; which sounds like Tom Waits fronting The Doors singing a Velvet Underground song in a Texas Bar; and the thread of fear, lust and menace comes through in every single note, especially the gut wrenching chorus. “Out here we are Twisted Out here we are alone Out here we are…….. Beautiful!” Oddly enough the Second Act starts with an acoustic guitar; but that soon dissolves into a dirty electric with rusty strings for Running Wild; which soon picks up pace like a stolen getaway car with only one station on the radio. When you play this album (albeit 2 x CD’s or LP’s) from start to finish you will find yourself not just enjoying the songs themselves; but the clever way they lead from one to another keeping you engrossed in the thrills and spills of this absorbing Film Noir story line too, which comes to a conclusion with the powerful After The Storm which bleeds (quite literally) into the couple’s epitaph, Ballad of Johnny and Louise and closes with the haunting Country Blues of The Roads We Ride; which then reprises an instrumental Storm Warning; and then….. it’s all over. It’s not fair to say I like the second album more than first; but there are two of Wily Bo Walker’s best ever songs here and both are crucial to the story; but stand up and out as great songs in their own rite! To some degree Tennessee Blues is everything you would expect from a song of that title; but it also unravels and has twists and turns in every verse too. Then, there is Night of The Hunter; and boy does it live up to it’s Classic title…..and more! Searing guitar from Brayshaw lifts it to giddy heights before Walker crawls across the killing floor to deliver the Bluesiest song he’s ever written or I’ve heard this century. Several other songs on the album threaten to be this good; but here the duo deliver a sensory overload that will make your pulse quicken and your chest tighten for a solid 6 minutes, without letting you off the hook for a single second. By the way; this is the RMHQ Favourite Song here, if I hadn’t made that clear. As I said at the beginning, you can either listen to this as a collection of songs and thoroughly enjoy it in that manner; but you will be far get the best from this Album by following the narrative and investing in the well rounded, but ragged characters that inhabit this torrid tale.
Sugaray Rayford Somebody Save Me Forty Below Records
Enough Rhythm, Blues and Soul To Re-Energise Your Heart.
As soon as you hear the opening rumbling bass, on The Revelator you know you are in for a Bluesy flavoured Soulful treat; but when Sugaray Rayford groans “I’m a revelator Come with me I’m a freak of nature I ain’t no honey bee I’m an unknown creature The like’s you’ve never seen Wahoo wahoo wahoo” you just know that this album is about to take you on a ride into the dark streets of Soulville last trod by Teddy Pendergrass, Otis and Barry White….. mmm mmmm mmmm, this is my kinda music. Most people immediately think of Motown or Stax when it comes to Soul Music; but the cognoscenti know that most of the coolest stuff was always on Atlantic, Casablanca and more recently Daptone; and that’s were these earthy, gutsy and….. dare I say it….. often sexy songs belong. A heady mix of Rhythm, Blues and Soul Music can be great ‘party music’ when done right; and Rayford ‘certainly does it right’, but it can also be the perfect music for late at night when you are either feeling very sorry for yourself or in the mood for seduction; and that’s when You & I, I’d Kill For You Honey and especially Dark Night of the Soul will come into their own; and make you feel like a hormonal teenager again. Then, on Sometimes You Get The Bear (Sometime the bear gets you) Rayford reflects fondly on his younger days ‘talking toot’ as part of ‘a bunch of roosters looking for the hens’ but eventually ‘working 9 to five, 7 days a week/anything to kill our buzz’ and before you know it, we’ve all got old and only have our memories…… but what memories they are! As with all of the best Soul/R&B albums, there’s also a thoughtful slice of Social Commentary tucked in behind a great dance beat, Time To Get Movin’ sounds like it’s influenced by a night watching the TV news then listening to Curtis, Marvin and Sharron Jones until the wee small hours and then the words just poured out. *There’s some really sizzling and red hot harmonica solos from Eric Corne who not just produced this album with a golden touch, but wrote all the songs too btw. While I’ve simply adored the fast and funky upbeat songs here; the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Track goes to a really special ballad; which shows what an amazing voice Rayford really has and if this album had been released in February would have been the first track on a Valentines Day CD for Mrs. Magpie. My Cards Are On The Table proves that a love song doesn’t have to be mushy and slushy; but can be thought provoking, heart-string tugging and sentimental too. Woah, woah and thrice woah is this one helluva special song! SOMEBODY SAVE ME is the big man’s fifth album; and on by far the biggest label (Forty Degrees) which suggests that he is about to be catapulted into the Big Leagues, where his powerful, yet skilful singing voice deserves to be.
Founding Father Proves Electric Blues is in Fine Fettle.
For a genuine ‘Living Legend’ John Mayall sure does divide opinion among the cognoscenti I call my peers. On the plus side I have one friend who not only goes to see him every time he visits the North East, but has actually bought two Mayall albums this century. The others, like me cast a wistful eye back to the cusp of the late 60’s and early 70’s when the Blues Maestro had his Bluesbreakers band and was a stepping stone for guitarists Green, Clapton, Taylor (and much later Walter Trout)……. but get them to name an album from his 35 album back catalogue dries up after the Beano Cover (1966) and two mentions for Blues From Laurel Canyon (1968)! Which brings me to this, John Mayall’s 36th Studio album in a career stretching back over half a century, and featuring a host, nay…… a myriad of today’s finest Blues guitarists guesting on each and every track. The distinctive liquid platinum sound of Joe Bonamassa’s guitar playing permeates opening track What Have I Done Wrong; although for me, the biggest and best surprise (after all these years) is how deep and raspy John Mayall’s voice is…….. very BB King in tone, and with the horn section from Conan O’Brien’s house band sounding like their lives depend on hitting those notes….. I’m in for the long haul! While the album does feature a vast array of household names on guitar; none even try to get anywhere near overshadowing Mayall’s amazing voice and whip smart songs. Bonamassa makes a second appearance on the atmospheric Delta Hurricane, which to some degree is the song that proves a cornerstone for what goes before it and subsequently follows here; it’s a personal history of The Blues, as sung by the Founding Father of British Blues; which went on to beget and influence every guitar band that ever existed in the America’s, North and South (discuss?). Of the Guest Stars, Todd Rundgren turns up on That’s What Love Will Do, Larry McCray does his funky stuff on The Hurt Inside and Stevie Van Zandt provides the perfect foil to Mayall on the supercool and sultry It’s So Tough, and the world is probably a better place for their inclusion…… but all of these songs are certainly good enough and strong enough to just stand on their own merits. All I really want to do is talk about the songs and how much I’ve quickly fallen in love with Mayall’s voice; but I keep feeling obliged to mention the guitarists; especially as a couple are new to me. Carolyn Wonderland, from his current ensemble adds her magic sparkle to three tracks; with the Swinging Chicago sound that ripples through Like It Like You Do; being her finest moment and the song a contender for Favourite Track status. The other new name to me is Alex Lifeson, who contributes some searing Mick Taylor like guitar on the dark Evil and Here To Stay which also features some tinkling ‘Orleans style piano and Mayall’s haunting harmonica solo’s and it stood out the first time I played the album and yet again this morning so this is my Favourite Track on a very impressive and comprehensive display of Contemporary Blues Music that leans on the past but shoots for the future. It’s been well over 40 years since I last listened to a John Mayall album (Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton aka The Beano Cover) which was a turning point in my musical heritage; and I’ve listened to a Helluva lot of Blues albums in the intervening years so my final thoughts on NOBODY TOLD ME is that it sounds nothing like my memory of John Mayall at all; and is all the better for that as it’s full of his great modern and post-modern well constructed songs and shows that Electric Blues is in fine fettle and doesn’t need to rely on ‘Rock’ at all.
Cedric Burnside Jumpin’ Hot Club Newcastle Feb 15th 2019
Because of our respective shifts at work I’ve hardly seen Mrs Magpie this week; but still I had to go to see Cedric Burnside at the JHC in the recently re-aligned basement of the Cluny Newcastle. Opening the show where Scott Taylor and Michael Littlefield from The King Bees performing an all too rare acoustic set of Blues standards with a few rarities thrown in for good measure. They opened their set with Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Gravy and closed it with the great man’s Keep It To Yourself; and in between Scott huffed and puffed his way through 7 different sounding harmonicas and Michael gave the guitarists in the packed room a free lesson in sweet….. no, sublime acoustic guitar playing on songs and tunes from Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Magic Sam and Big Bill Broonzy too. They alternated lead vocals, and it’s fair to say Scott has now ‘grown into’ a charmed voice that belies his young age. With no break to speak of, Cedric Burnside too a minute to tune his acoustic guitar and simply nodded for the houselights to be turned down and away he went with Love Her Til I Die. I’m not aux fait with his music so guessed at the titles of songs; so don’t get mad if I get them wrong; but tonight obviously wasn’t just about hearing his songs, it was about taking part in the ‘experience’ of seeing Cedric Burnside live on stage where he makes the Blues exciting again. “Well! Well! Well!” Can this guy play a guitar? His fingers are lightning fast across and along the strings and he looks like he’s having a spasm as he inhabits many of his songs too. This certainly felt like everything I’d heard about his performances from friends; Burnside is not just charismatic on stage but hypnotic too….. you can’t take your eyes off him; even though for the first few acoustic songs he just sits on a chair. With a big smile of thanks and his catchphrase “Well, well, well!” when the appreciative audience went ballistic as each song ended, Burnside hardly spoke all night, save retelling one of his Dad’s favourite jokes. But we weren’t here for chit-chat, we wanted to hear music and oohhee…. did he deliver! His short solo acoustic set ended with the slow and sultry Feel Like Going Home, on which he gave us some sublime bottleneck guitar solos. Side kick Brian Jay appeared from behind a curtain and strapped on a Les Paul for a ghostly rendition of Hard To Stay Cool, from his latest album of the same name. Then Jay got behind the drums and the night took a completely new direction, starting with a Blues Chant of Voodoo ethnicity and followed that with a song full of staccato guitar and pounding drumming, which actually moved the bass drum 6 or 7 inches and (with hindsight) started the disintegration of the bass pedal! From my vantage point I could see Jay doing quick running repairs on the pedal during the next two songs, a mighty shuffle followed by a sexy and seductive version of Give It To You, which was less than subtle in tone. After this one the duo switched instruments with Cedric taking over on drums, much to his fans delight. *My notes say ‘a very technical drummer with a knockout punch’ on Don’t Leave Me Girl; which proved very apt as the bass drum moved forward again and the drummer actually snapped the pedal, much to his and our amusement. As he tried to fix it Brian Jay watched like a hawk, but regaled us with some mesmerising work on his Les Paul. After a few minutes, Michael Littlefield from the support act mysteriously produced a spare drum pedal that he keeps in his bag for such occasions (eh?) just as Venue manager produced a second pedal from a store cupboard above the stage! A quick adjustment from Cedric and just by making eye contact….. WOOMPH! The duo roared into whatever song it was they were meant to play (Ain’t Gonna Take No Mess?) ; and the drummer took out his frustrations in the only way possible…. boom, bang, pow….. but always on time and in tune. This, dear reader is why Live Music is the way forward; you don’t get this on Spotify! I guess they were originally meant to finish the set at the end of that song; but the ‘band just played on’ for well over half an hour, and way past the curfew; and by this stage I had to put my notepad away and just immerse myself in the magic music that this duo were emitting from the stage a couple of feet away from me. I’ve told my regular readers that I lost my ‘mojo’ over a year ago, and had virtually stopped going to gigs; but tonight Cedric Burnside (and the King Bees lads) revived whatever was lying dormant in my Soul. Two amazing Blues duos ripped ‘a new one’ into what can sometimes be a dusty and reverential genre, in a packed and sweaty basement…… plus there was even 10 or 12 people ‘idiot dancing’ at the front by the end of the evening. …….. what’s not to like?
Enough Blood, Sweat and Tears To Make Your Heart Pump and Your Feet Twitch.
Can it really be three whole years since Keith sent me a copy of his band Blacktop Deluxe’s album? Apparently so……where does the time go? Although still with Blacktop Deluxe and after 17 years slogging around the back-roads of Southern England with them and another band called Blue on Black; he’s finally decided to make his first ever Solo Album…. and this is it. The first thing that struck me about the first song Dice Will Roll (The Blues Will Follow) is that it has a much bigger and fuller sound than that prev band album; there’s not just a brass section in tow but sexy sounding female backing singers too, making this cracking attempt at a Chicago Blues tune very special indeed. Howe makes no attempt to adopt an American accent when he sings; but after years on the road he’s evolved a distinctive singing style that belies his Cornish roots; and is perfect for the imagery he creates on Dust Off The Rust and Old Crow Road, which have the romanticism we normally associate with bands from the Southern States as opposed to England’s most Southern county. Sitting here listening again; this very much a classy album in the vein of Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago Transit Authority; but with a modern slant on Blues Will Roll and/or Living With Fragile Things, but I could say that about 90% of the songs here too. I still think it’s brave for guys like Keith Howe to tread their very own path in Rock Music; as it’s all too easy to fall back into the Covers Circuit to make a living; but when you can write songs like the punchy Got It and Gone or Blue Horizons, you really should have the self-confidence to still shoot for the Stars. This album ticks a lot of boxes for me and if Keith Howe came from London or Memphis the national press in both countries would be falling over themselves to praise Put Me In My Place or the slow and dirty All You Millionaires to the high heavens; but Howe comes from the ‘sticks’ in Cornwall so he can’t be any good, can he? HELL YES HE IS! Which brings me to the RMHQ Favourite Song, Ace In The Hole which made me hark back to the glory days when you could see Dire Straits or Graham Parker & The Rumour or for me in Newcastle, White Heat The Eastside Torpedoes or Arthur 2 Stroke in a bar for under a quid and have the time of your life. Quality and Class never go out of date, which is why this album will never age, even if it’s roots are in the 70’s and 80’s it’s perfect for 2019 and beyond……. and I can only imagine the effect these guys will have if they get to play the Festival Circuit this Summer!
Manchester’s Northern Quarter via Beale Street and Orange Street.
This album download arrived with a minimum of fuss and, it’s fair to say…… a minimal approach! Two photos, a link to a YouTube video and a Dropbox of the album…… no press release or any other info. I don’t want anyone else to do it this way; but I was intrigued enough to reply and ask for some more info. He’s from Manchester! That was about it. So; let the music do the talking I suppose. Ye-gads…. opening track Could Have Been is electrifying, and shows where Mat Walkgate is coming from…… a bit of Muddy, a dash of BB, a smidgen of Booker T and a whole dollop of Little Walter the way he tries to blow out the reeds of his harmonica; and the self-penned song ain’t too shabby either. While this all goes under the moniker of singer/harp blower Mat Walklate it’s very apparent guitarist extraordinaire Paolo Fuschi is a key player in proceedings too; supplying some excellent guitar riffs and solos throughout, as well as co-writing most of the good stuff. As per all the greats before him Mat manages to make ‘being miserable’ sound exciting on The Sun Never Shines, which not only showcases Walkgate’s harmonica playing but Tom Attah’s dexterity on the National Steel too and the painfully beautiful So Deep In Trouble, which both sizzle and shimmy just like you need to hear when you are feeling that way too. There’s only one ‘cover’ here and it’s a gloriously raw rendition of Rivers of Jordan that bleeds into People Get Ready which is just Walklate’s rough baritone and wailing harmonica; and even though he and his song were born and bred in Manchester; if you heard it by accident, you’d presume it could easily have been a field recording from a Baptist Church somewhere South of the Mason Dixon Line. For my Favourite Track here; I’m going for an instrumental, with a cheeky title but a track that deserves a much wider audience than it will probably ever receive…… Playing With Myself Boogie, which finds Walklate overdubbing a variety of harmonicas on three minutes of absolute Blues Heaven that just might resurrect the Soul of Little Walter. Now I’ve played this a couple of times, I love the fact that these guys ain’t no Retro/Covers band; they very much tread their very own, but being prepared to bravely turn left, right and proudly marching forward at the crossroads, introducing a a flute on Answer Your Phone, and giving Modest Man and Dubbed & Burning a bit of a Ska meets Egyptian Reggae feel; without ever sounding out of step with Walklate’s Blues and Soul spine.