The Pleasure’s All Mine
Last Music Co.

Pioneering Guitar Legend Oozes Pure Unadulterated Class.

Four times Grammy winner Jimmie Vaughan isn’t just a guitarist from Texas and he isn’t just regarded by many as one of the purest, finest blues players to grace this earth.
Here’s what I think he is; an absolute pioneering guitar legend who can pick a song from almost any genre and then effortlessly convert that song into a rootsy blues song.
So there!

After releasing “Do You Get the Blues” in 2001, there was a 9 year gap in him making another solo studio album. However, in 2010 those astute people at London based Proper Records mutually initiated a return to recording, which resulted in “Blues, Ballads and Favourites”.
This stunning album, covering what could be regarded as The Great American Blues Songbook, featured some guest vocalists, including long-time collaborator, the sassy and soulful Lou Ann Barton.
Then in 2011 the concept and formula was replicated with the same musicians going back into the same studio for “More Blues, Ballads and Favourites”.

So to celebrate those twin pivotal experiences of a decade (or so) ago and to also satisfy the in-vogue U-Turn trend by the music buying public of returning to 12” vinyl, The Last Music Co. (a division of Proper Music) will release a special 3 LP collection, covering both those albums, entitled The Pleasure’s All Mine.
There’s also a 2 CD version for those (like me) who prefer to continue to purchase their music and maintain their collection, having the best of both worlds, a CD on the shelves plus a digital version for the MP3 player of your choice. If you missed them first time around, then now is the time for rectification.

Both albums were recorded, similar to the originals, “Live in the studio” and in “mono” too, fitting together like the proverbial glove.
The superb horn section of Greg Piccolo and Doug James (both ex Roomful of Blues) are prominent throughout, whilst the rhythm section (George Rains on Drums and Ronnie James on Bass) are granite solid.
From the first album you also have the bonus of ex-King Records house band organist, the legendary Bill Willis, who gets to croon lead vocals on “Funny How Time Slips Away”.

You can easily imagine Jimmie and his brother growing up in Dallas, listening to the various Border Radio Stations blasting out such classic, vintage material and being subsequently, heavily influenced by each and every song they heard.
I remember reading somewhere that Jimmie could never differentiate between the musical genres of country, pop and blues, which is testimony to what you hear on The Pleasure’s All Mine.
Whilst there are a few obscurities, the 31 songs range from the catalogues of Willie Nelson, Gene Autry and Mel Tillis of Country, to the Swampy Pop of Lloyd Price and Bobby Charles, on to the Rock’n Roll of Little Richard then to the Rhythm & Blues of Nappy Brown and Ray Charles as well as, of course, the straight Blues from the likes of Jimmy Reed, Guitar Junior and Roy Milton.

What is most impressive though is that once you hear the renowned tone and timing of his guitar playing, coupled with the expressive, laid back vocals, then you realise that the music patently oozes pure unadulterated class.
Thereby, ensuring that it’s you, the lucky listener, who receives all of the pleasure.

Jack Kidd: “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released 30th October. 2020


Jeff Fetterman Band SOUTHERN SON

Jeff Fetterman Band
Southern Son

Sizzling, Soulful and Southern Blues Straight Outta Pennsylvania.

As regular readers know we desperately try to be as up to date as possible with our reviews at RMHQ; but a new supplier of amazing Blues Music in America keeps sending us albums from his 2020 back pages; and some are just too hot to ignore ……. so let’s welcome Jeff Fetterman into our crazy little world.
The accompanying bio is limited; so apart from this probably being the Bands 4th album and they hail from the Rock and Roll capital of Pennsylvania ….. Bradford!
It’s all about the music.
The opening drums/keyboard intro to I Don’t Want To was already more than enough to capture my attention; but when a tight and funky horn section kicked in to introduce Fetterman’s husky and ‘lived in’ voice; my SPIDEY-SENSES already deduced that this was going to be a rather special song ……. and it is.
A crippling story of heartbreak after capturing his lover in another man’s bed ……… but the the cruel twist in the tail is that he still loves her; all told over a red hot rocking Blues melody full of Fetterman’s signature liquid guitar playing.
What’s not to like kids?
Who said start with an explosion and then build the tension? Well; that’s what we get here.
There’s a whole lotta Soul in Fetterman’s songs but the band and he are Rhythm and Blues Rock personified on Ain’t Got You and extra spicy 49/61 which has a sting in the tail that has to be heard to be believed.
The horn section sit out a few songs; and bizarrely aren’t even missed on Tell Me Baby and the sublime and sultry Living With the Blues which are exemplary examples of why The Blues can be as sad can be, yet still sound truly beautiful too.
Blues instrumentals can often be a bit ‘light’ but here; Blues For Charlie comes over like a velvety mix of Booker T with Buddy Guy or Robert Cray on soul affirming geetar.
There’s a cover version here that took me three plays to recognise; as I thought it was some kind of nod to Curtis Mayfield; but who would ever have expected a Funk rendition of All Along The Watchtower to be this damn good? Not me, that’s for sure; but it is.
On my copy there are two bonus tracks; Voodoo Funk, which is exactly what it says on the tin and will be a floor-filler at the Hoockie Coochie Club in Newcastle if Warren ever hears it and the other couldn’t be more apposite – Southside Blues, which features some phenomenal electric keyboard playing.
Which brings me back to choosing a Favourite Song; which is sort of easy; but also highlights the incredible diversity that Jeff Fetterman shows in not just his playing but the way he chooses his songs to suit the music.
Going Down to Nashville just stands out from the crop; full stop. Twang guitar that’s worthy of Chet Atkins but a melody and a dynamic taken straight from the Chuck Berry play-book makes this sizzle, shake and shimmy like the girl Fetterman is singing about and it works for me.
Jeff Fetterman has been around a long time; playing every club withing a 300 mile radius of his home town and sharing stages with just about every household name Rock or Blues guitarist to venture into that part of America; but this album is far too good to stay in Pennsylvania …… it deserves a much wider audience; and Europe is gonna love it!

Released May 2020

Wily Bo Walker and Danny Flam AIN’T NO MAN A GOOD MAN (Deluxe Edition)

Wily Bo Walker and Danny Flam
AIN’T NO MAN A GOOD MAN (Deluxe Edition)

Taking British R&B to a Whole New Swampy and Rapscallion Level.

I can’t keep up date with Wily Bo Walker’s musical releases. Sometimes they are brand new songs and others remixes and AIN’T NO MAN A GOOD MAN (Deluxe Edition) is a wonderful hybrid of the two; with album #1 being all new songs featuring Wily Bo and the Danny Flam Big Band while album #2 is full of yet more re-mixes of Mr Walkers recent songs put through the veritable musical mixer.
So, let’s start with the new stuff; which is why you will be parting with your hard earned pocket money.
The title track Ain’t No Man a Good Man storms out of the speakers and not just grabs you by the throat; but shakes you to the core and hardly leaving you able to breathe.
Walker’s expressive and rasping vocals are marched perfectly by Danny Flam’s Big Band and perhaps it takes such a big sound to bring out the best in not just his words, but Walker’s vocal enthusings too ……. as he ain’t sounded much better than this!
The themes here are not just very cinematic but timeless and full of raw energy, none more so than the swinging R&B of Velvet Windows (Treme Trippin’) which fair rattled the office window when turned up to 9.
When you hear songs like Fool For You (2020 Hindsight) and Ain’t Hungry No More you will wonder why the grave voiced Wily Bo and the majestic Danny Flam Big Band don’t have their own Saturday night TV Show; but sometimes we like to keep some things a secret, don’t we?
It’s far too obvious to compare this album to Dr. John’s output; but there certainly is plenty of Gris Gris in Did I Forget (to tell you I love you?) and Time to Forget You; but to these ears, there’s more than a smidgen of Georgie Fame and Zoot Money in their too; making this British R&B on steroids!
If you even vaguely like Van Morrison’s Big Band excursions, you will simply love Wily Bo’s sultry and storming version of St. James’ Infirmary Blues to death!
Album #1 closes with an amazing reinvention of Build My Gallows (Ain’t No Return) and on any other album this dark and brooding five minutes would easily be my Favourite Track, but …….. there’s the enigmatic Night of The Hunter which is most obviously thematically linked to the film of the same name; and certainly lives up to its Film Noir credentials too.
Historically I’m not re-disposed to re-mixes of songs; but here I can’t urge you strongly enough to buy the Deluxe Version or else you will miss out on hearing I Want To Know (NY Funk Mix) and When the Angels Call Your Name (Bourbon Street Mix) as both sizzle like a bloody steak on a red hot BBQ.
Drive (Two Lane Blacktop Mix) and Walk In Chinese Footsteps both deserve a courteous mention too; with the latter making me hunt out my old Was Not Was 12″ singles for the first time in years.
I’ve always loved Bo Diddley; but never imagined someone could re-imagine Who Do You Love? in the way Wily Bo does with his NYC Chiller Mix; but it’s truly amazing ……… think of it as a Michael Jackson/Tom Waits mash-up featuring Miles Davis and the Meters then mixed by Aaron Neville!
Then; last but not least there is the majestic For The Children which I don’t believe I’ve heard before in any guise; but have fallen head over heals in love with.
There you have it, Wily Bo Walker (and friends) have come right out of left field to deliver not just one; but two stunning new albums that I can’t recommend highly enough.

Released 31st July 2020

Hurricane Ruth GOOD LIFE

Hurricane Ruth LaMaster
Good Life

Phwoah! Sizzling, Slinky and Impassioned Blues With a Soulful Slant.

Some weeks I feel I’m part of a Rhythm & Blues Secret Society as I keep receiving amazing albums from bands and singers that neither I nor anyone I know has ever heard of; but are always World Class!
This is Hurricane Ruth LaMaster’s fifth album and has not just blown my Lockdown cobwebs away …. but blown my mind too.
The opening track Like Wildfire certainly lives up to its title ……. Ms. LaMaster comes at you like a wild cat on hormones as the guitars sound like they were recorded during the St Valentine’s Day massacre and the rhythm section powered by the Springfield nuclear reactor; and is that Jerry Lee Lewis on piano? I doubt it; but hear this song and you will easily understand my query.
Phew …… first time I heard this song I felt like I needed a lie down in a darkened room straight afterwards; but Ruth ain’t taking any prisoners, so the next song; Dirty Blues may not be quite as fiery but it sizzles and slinks in a way that will make a maiden Aunt blush.
After only two tracks I knew I was in for the long haul; and said a silent prayer to the God of the Blues that this band will tour the UK in the very near future.
As her CV suggests, Ruth LaMaster sure isn’t no one trick pony; she simply scorches your senses on She’s Golden and Late Night Red Wine, while she can break your heart in two with the sad and soulful Good Life which features some truly mournful Hammond organ too.
The songs are in general quite suburb, mixing Classic Blues themes with contemporary edginess and all channeled through Ruth’s vocals which can be dynamic one moment and truly melancholic the next yet always sounding engaging to the listener.
As usual I’ve played this album in the car and the RMHQ office too; and it’s slotted into all kinds of moods …… both good and bad tempered!
Choosing a Favourite Track hasn’t been particularly easy; as 4 or 5 have jumped out at different times (see my notes about my mood swings) but I’ve narrowed it down to three Black Sheep, Who I Am and I’ve Got Your back. All are completely disparate and sum up the album in their beautiful differences; with I’ve Got Your Back being a slow Soulful groove and lyrics that will bring a lump to your throat; and with the way things have been recently, the punchy, potent and powerful Black Sheep has become something of a theme tune whizzing around inside my head. Then, there’s Who I Am ….. phwoah ………the Hendrix meets Prince in a roadhouse melody does it no harm at all and Ruth’s intensely passionate and feverish delivery sent not just shivers, but tingles too down my back! The song certainly sounds like it’s meant to be autobiographical but as with all the best written songs through the ages; a lot of listeners will think “that is about me!” Therefore it is the official RMHQ Favourite Song on what will become one of our Favourite Albums of 2020.
While the themes here may not be of the happiest of varieties; I’m a grown up so GOOD LIFE has been a joy from start to finish; and several times in the last month has been played 3 or 4 times on rotation, which is quite some feet in my office.

Released July 10th 2020

Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne GO, JUST DO IT

KENNY “Blues Boss” WAYNE
Go, Just Do It
Stony Plain Records

Boogie-Woogie Maestro Delivering All Killers and No Fillers

American born, raised by his Preacher-man father and now a resident of Canada, 75 year old Kenneth Wayne Spruell has been a working keyboard musician for 6 decades and releasing albums of his own since the mid 1990’s.
Indeed, “Go, Just Do It” is his 11th. studio album and many of the previous releases have featured a host of impressive A-Listers from the Blues field, indicating his prominent standing within that genres community.
It’s no wonder that “Blues Boss” is a Boogie-Woogie Hall of Famer, plus a winner of a Juno Award and also of multi-Maple Blues Awards as he clearly demonstrates his considerable keyboard & vocal skills on this cracking classic, but surprisingly contemporary blues album. Ten of the tracks are originals with 3 covers, which are a brace of Percy Mayfield songs plus a well worn and well loved JJ Cale classic.
There’s a solid horn section from Jerry Cook and Vince Mai, plus harmonica parts from Sherman Doucette. Guest vocals are provided by Grammy Winner, Diane Schuur plus 2 other Canadian award winners in Dawn Tyler Watson & Julie Masi and an added bonus with rapper SeQual bringing things into the 21st. Centuary on one track.
All in all it’s an absolute joy and goes against the grain of blues music’s reputation of being down and depressing. Oh yes indeed, this is fun and uplifting and deserves to have a much wider circulation. Kicking off with the title track, “Blues Boss” delivers a cool organ vibe with a punchy brass backing and Dawn Tyler Watson sharing the vocals, as she also does on the funky “Sorry Ain’t Good Enough”, once again with the horns earning their keep.
Diane Schuur shares the vocals and adds classy, jazzy intonations on Percy Mayfields “You’re in For a Big Surprise” and then it’s rapper SeQual who adds the modern twist on the other Mayfield track “Don’t Want to Be the President”.
Julie Masi makes her vocal contribution on the piano led “You Did a Number on Me” whilst there are 2 terrific instrumentals in “Bumpin’ Down the Highway” and the albums boogie-woogie closer “Let the Rock Roll”.
I’m not too sure I can elevate any one track to be my favourite, as I particularly like the uptempo, Okie shuffle cover of “They Call Me the Breeze”, whilst the “T&P Train” really chugs along.
Then again the gumbo flavoured Allen Toussaint sounding “Lost & Found” just about gets the nod over the jump blues of “Motor Mouth Woman”.
I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow, and you know what, that’s not a bad thing, simply, that’s how it goes with special albums that deliver all killers and no fillers. Special it is and I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself, you will not be disappointed.

Released in 12th. June 2020

Review by Jack Kidd “Messin’ with the Kidd” on http://www.lionheartradio.com  

Chickenbone Slim SLEEPER

Chickenbone Slim
Lo Fi Mob Records

If The Fonz Had a Son, And That Son Had a Band ……

Chickenbone Slim is/was the nom de plume for Larry Tevez who’s 2017 album The Big Beat made it into the RMHQ Albums of 2017; but now appears to be the actual Band Name; which is no hardship at all.
As I’ve listened to that previous album over the last couple of years and again with SLEEPER, I’ve decided that Chickenbone Slim is the actual definitive Americana ‘sound’ we all stretch to describe.
How’s that? You may ask.
Well; Tevez and his bandmates sound like the type of crew who play most nights of the week in everything from Dive bars through Honky Tonks and County Fairs; whenever anyone will book them; meaning they can play the Blues one night, Country the next and full on Western Swing on Saturday; all with pretty much the same set-list; and make it all sound seamlessly authentic.
You just have to be a fan of great music to love opening track Vampire Baby, which sounds like a cross between Elvis at his sleaziest and Stray Cats ballad; with the outcome being a humdinger!
The tempo gets cranked up on the next song Tougher Than That; but the mood stays sleazy and ‘ornery; with plenty of sizzling geetar and howlin’ harmonica too.
As I alluded to earlier this sounds much more like a road-hardened band effort than the last album; with Andrew Crane on bass and Marty Dodson’s drumming often reminding me of the military precision of the Tennessee Two; especially on Ride and The Ballad of Dick; but it’s fair to say they are the spine of this fabulous disc from start to finish.
I’m out of touch with what my Rockabilly friends are into these days; but because they like Wayne the Train Hancock and JD McPherson I’m pretty sure they will love Chickenbone Slim too when he unleashes the sultry My Bad Luck and These Things Happen as well as the eminently danceable Dignity too; plus all three and a few more are well worth listening too on headphones too as Teves is quite the articulate and thoughtful songwriter too.
It’s not often I consider an instrumental as my Favourite Track, but if it wasn’t for the amazing Little Victory and ‘that’ thumping Bass line; Strolling With Chickenbone could easily have been the winner; but I can’t stop myself putting Little Victory and it’s deep lyrics actually being the Official RMHQ Favourite Song on a nigh perfect album.
There’s a little bit of something here for everyone and if you have en the tiniest ‘open mind’ ……. this album will knock your socks off.

Released March 2nd 2020


Bill Blue
King of Crazy Town
Conch Town Records

Hot, Sweaty and Sultry Blues From the Florida Keys.

Who among us wouldn’t be tempted to pick up an album in the Blues section, called KING OF CRAZY TOWN?
Then I defy you to get more than a minute into opening track Do What I Say, Don’t Do What I Do before thrusting your hard earned cash towards the Sales Person!
Man oh Man …… this is a hot and sweaty kind of Blues that I haven’t heard in a long, long time.
The first three songs come thick and fast, hardly leaving you time to get your breath back, with I Want It All swinging and grooving like the ban’s lives depend on you dancin’ your ass off , and Blue’s sleazy voice is seduction personified!
You do get the opportunity to catch your breath when Bill slows things down on track #4 the sadder than sad Everybody’s Leaving Town; which is just Bill and Resonator guitar alongside Matt Backer on harmonica. recreating the Field Songs he grew up listening too.
As Bill himself says in the intro to Hunker Down; this is his ‘Hurricane’ song; and he somehow manages to recreate the ‘electric tension’ such a thing creates in a four minute song …… which is well worth hearing.
Perhaps it’s because of the gap between releases; but Bill Blue has a lot to say; and say it he does in Enough Blues to Give You The Blues and the slow and sultry Closing Time.
The title track from that last album, Mojolation gets another run out here; and it’s certainly funky enough to make me hunt out the original album.
Selecting a Favourite Track was difficult until I realised that perhaps two can become one, as the sizzling title Track King of Crazy Town leads or perhaps bleeds into Bill Blue’s tribute to the real King of the Blues; BB King with the stifling and passionate Indianola; during which I swear Bill Blue’s voice takes a tearful warble at one point.
But then again, there’s You Ain’t Fun Anymore with it’s wailing harmonica, dazzling piano and guitar interplay and of course Bill Blue replying to his long suffering wife’s accusation that he Ain’t Fun Anymore! Which is the song that really is my Favourite Track here.
And another thing; if you judge albums by the cover …….. then what you see is what you get!
Bill Blue was originally guitarist to Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Cruddup, then formed his own ensemble that toured the world until he had ‘had enough’ and needed a break; which lasted 25 years!
Thankfully he’s back …….. and following up his 2013 Comeback album 7 short years later with The King of Crazy Town ….. which he just may be.

Released March 6th 2020

Sister Lucille ALIVE

Sister Lucille
Endless Blue Records

Sassy, Sleazy and Even Sensitive Blues Songs for Purists and Clubbers Alike.

Without spoiling any surprises; this disc has been welded in the car stereo for three days now and may remain there until next Saturday!
Yer Blues come in many shapes and forms from basic six string Country Blues through to Stadium Fillers that can ‘noodle’ for England; but my favourites are usually Club Bands who create amazing music, best heard in an intimate setting and that’s were this quartet sit very, very comfortably indeed.
Opening track Won’t Give It is as tight as a Mash barrel, with singer Kimberley Dill taking no prisoners with both her delivery and powerful message to any possible suitors; you want her ‘love’ then you are gonna have to work for it.
This is followed by the title track Alive; with its funky guitar intro and Ms. Dill’s passionate rendition of a personal song about being re-born; which could be a metaphor …… but was actually written by her, after a year of health problems.
We hear you, Sister!
The guy who supplies all of the awe-inspiring, yet understated guitar Jamie Holdren gets his turn at the mic on See My Baby when he also plays some eye-popping slide cigar-box guitar too!
Between them and alongside an industrial strength backing from Kevin Lyons and Eric Guinn; Dill and Holdren tap into the R&B that made Tina and Van the Man famous in the 60’s, with barnstormers like 99 Pounds, Fussin’ and Fightin’ and the sizzling duet Think About You (which actually has some delightful Country undertones to it too).
Tucked away in the middle is a real sleazy Blues belter of the highest order; when Kimberley warns ‘her man’ to get his act in order or else ‘the back-door man’ will come a’ knockin’ …… Respect Your Woman, with the blistering harmonica of Eric Hughes duelling with Jamie’s guitar is a synonym for the song itself!
I’m sure when they play live Sister Lucille will slip in a few Classic Blues tunes to supplement their own articulate offerings; and here Kimberley gets to give Etta’s W.O.M.A.N a new lease of life with added sassy shimmer and sizzle.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any other of these songs; two songs stand out like diamonds in a coal mine.
As I write this the new James Bond theme song is taking all of the headlines; but IMHO they’ve missed a trick; because Kimberley’s sultry Devil’s Eyes, with its Bossa Nova tempo, and Holdren’s sweet Blue Note style guitar offering is worthy of such a soundtrack….
Then, from the opposite end of the musical spectrum is the dark and deeply moving final song, Lost which just about shades it as the RMHQ Favourite Song.
This finds Holdren singing from the pits of his heart on a very contemporary song about the broken world we find ourselves in today. Give it a ‘proper listen’ and you will realise that the Blues can still move you in a way no other genre can.

Released October 15th 2019

James Hunter Six NICK OF TIME

The James Hunter Six
Nick of Time
Daptone Records

More Fabulous UnAmerican R&B Activities From Britain’s Finest Purveyor.

You don’t really need all of the fingers on one hand to count the number of British Rhythm & Blues artists who command world-wide respect, especially when it turns to universal acclaim and musical success.
James Hunter is one of the very few exceptions. He’s the *Essex boy who commenced his career over 30 years ago, originally as “Howlin’ Wilf and the Veejays;” and eventually reinventing himself as The James Hunter Six to take his ‘coals to Newcastle’ and making it big in the USA …… and beyond.
Nick of Time is his new album, the third on the renowned Daptone Record label, and contains 13 brand new self-penned songs; and once again production is by Grammy winning Bosco Mann (aka Gabe Roth) recorded in his Riverside Studios in California.
Overall it’s less frantic and much smoother than previous offerings, oozing with self-confidence, consistency and maturity. James is now backed by an ace band of top New York musicians, who are just as ‘sympathetic’ to James’ ‘groove’ as the original members; but it’s his unique smoky voice that has always drawn comparisons with legends of the genre, evolving nowadays into something that is something very special indeed.
Lead track “I Can Change Your Mind” kicks off in mid-tempo and sets the tone for what is to follow, then “Brother or Lover” provides a different take on an old conundrum whilst the super-smooth acoustic guitar and piano ballad “Paradise for One” shows James’ musical dexterity as it recalls the era that was dominated by the likes of Nat King Cole.
“Till I Hear it From You” is one of two numbers where we even get to hear James on harmonica, which is a special treat for fans of old; like myself and The Rocking Magpie.
Although lurve is the main subject matter, there are other options such as “Ain’t Going Up in One of Those Things” being a tongue in cheek take on the fear of flying.
However, the lyrics that made me smile most come from “Can’t Help Myself” where you’ll hear :-

If monkeys rule the planet, by 2902,
Will they have written Hamlet
Before I’ve gotten over you

Choosing a favourite wasn’t easy, as there’s not a dud track on the album, but if pushed I’ll suggest that “Missing in Action” with all it’s military type metaphors in the clever lyrics wins my vote, but on another day just about everything else will be a Favourite at one time or another.
All in all I see no reason why “Nick of Time” shouldn’t reach No. 1 spot on the USA Blues Charts, just like The James Hunter Six’s previous 2 albums.

Released March 6th 2020

Review by Jack Kidd (Radio DJ, Bon Vivant and part-time golf bandit).
*Essex; James is very proud of hailing from Colchester in this charming and quaint part of Southern England.

Mike Farris at Jumpin’ Hot Club, Newcastle

Mike Farris
Jumpin’ Hot Club
Live Theatre
Thursday 16th January 2020

For a variety of reasons; (both work and health) my Gig Going Mojo left me in late 2017; meaning I’ve only been to a handful in those last two years.
This made tonight a ‘big deal’; as even though I implicitly trust promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club, I’d never heard a note from Mike Farris until Thursday morning when I checked him out on You Tube.
Plus; the gig; in the larger theatre room at Live Theatre had completely Sold Out two weeks previously and there was a waiting list for ‘returns’ …… so an expedition was in order.
The support act was being introduced as I chatted to some friends and my ears immediatly pricked up; did they just say ‘Martin Fletcher’? Oh yes Shipcote did!
FYI many years ago Martin was the harmonica player in a local band called the Blues Burglars who were as good a live band as I’ve ever seen; and I’ve seen some megastars!
Tonight Martin was accompanied by singer-songwriter Chris James and the duo regaled us with 40 minutes of ‘Bastardised Blues Classics’ plus a couple of Chris’s own compositions.
The first of these own compositions, was the duo’s ‘Internet Hit’ (147,000 views and counting on FB) Simple Man, which was from the Folkier side of the Blues and I easily realised why so many people would like it; even though Chris forgot the words halfway through!
The set flew by; with Fletcher sounding every bit as brilliant as I’d remembered, with his assortment of harmonicas plus he even got to sing a rather racy Charlie Musselwhite song; but the night really belonged to the languid Chris James and his intricate guitar picking and super-smooth vocals.

Well; I said the ‘night belonged to Chris James’ ……. that was before I saw Mike Farris!
There was a genuine air of excitement in the hall as the band filtered on stage and ‘got a groove going’ and I ain’t heard a roar like it at a gig for years; when Farris made his appearance!
Looking every inch the Rock Star with his jet-black quiff; shades, split knee jeans, biker boots and a sporty leather jacket, he immediatly strapped on a big ole black *Gibson with an obligatory Bigsby and blasted into **When Mavis Sings, which his adoring fans instantly recognised.
On the next song he dispensed with the geetar and stalked the stage dragging the mic stand behind him, like many of the Great Soul singers that have obviously influenced him over the years.
The influences didn’t stop there; as while Mike Farris can write a cracking song, certainly has a fabulously distinctive voice and singing style; his choice of covers at the end of the gig were outstanding; a Tom Petty song then Jimmie Rodgers T for Texas and Mary Gauthier’s A Little Mercy Now bringing the house down; and the encore of Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain being not just a surprise but a highlight too.
In between Farris and band rocked the joint like it was their birth-rite; using the ubiquitous ‘call and response’ several times, much to the delight of the hordes of people who had made their way South from the quaint ***fishing village of Ashington in Northumberland; who had seen him play locally the year before and seemed very excited and excitable all evening; especially when Mike mentioned the difference in local dialects. (Cos they talk right funny up there!)
I was won over very early on; but during his acoustic set in the middle realised I was watching a very clever and professional act that could adapt at will.
One of the joys of Live Music is seeing something no one else will ever see, as every gig is different. Tonight; one of the highlights was when Mike told a story of playing a Charity Gig in Guildford, Southern England earlier in the week and seeing and meeting one of his childhood heroes, Rod Argent and discovering the delights of Andy Fairweather-Low ……… I love the fact that Farris can still get excited about discovering new music at this stage of his own career.
If there was one of his songs that stood out for me, it was Tennessee Girl, a genuine love song written for and about hid delightful wife who was standing at the back watching her husband perform; with a smile on her face all night long.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, for a boy from Tennessee; but this was a clever and very impressive mix of Blues, Gospel, Soul, Country and a hefty dose of Southern Rock that combined to create Mike Farris’s very own, and very enjoyable ‘style’.
Now to find a couple of his albums.

*According to one sharp eyed fan …. it was a Silvertone
**When Mavis Sings? As I didn’t actually know any of the songs I just picked up on the main lines of the choruses!
***An ‘obvious joke’ I thought; but has illicited strange responses ……. Ashington is not actually a ‘fishing village’ but once a mining village and famously home to footballers Jackie Milburn and the Charlton Brothers.

**** Some days I wonder why I bother