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39. THE HOLLIES at CLIFFS PAVILION, Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex. Saturday, 7th March, 2015. + a few words about their albums “50 At Fifty”; and “Then, Now, Always”.

The opening number: 'Here I Go Again'  (Photo by PTMQ)

The Hollies: ‘Here They Go Again!’ (Photo by PTMQ)

When I was a kid back in the late 60’s, me dear ol’ Mum could often be found working away in the kitchen listening to the newly created BBC Radio One; and this is where I first became interested in music – listening as I played with toy cars or soldiers at the kitchen table. This was a remarkable period in British pop history – although at the time, of course, I was totally unaware of the phenomenon. I did know however, that there were some very good bands producing some excellent songs – some of which became iconic as the years rolled by. One of the most remarkable bands from that period was THE HOLLIES – by the late 60’s, already a household name. They were one of the earliest pop groups that I remember.  Half a century later and they are still extant, and, I’m glad to say, still gigging. So when I heard they were to play THE CLIFFS PAVILION at Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex; I of course jumped at the chance to see them live.

I also bought their triple album 50 At Fifty (Parlophone, 2014). As the name suggests, this is a collection of 50 of their best known songs – all the hits and more. Listening to it, I can’t help being amazed at the sheer variety of their music. There is no pigeon-hole in which you can easily place this veteran band in regards to style or genre. From the fresh-faced Mancunian boys who knocked out Mersey-beat inspired songs in the early 60s, to the subliminal and unique heights of ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ and ‘The Air That I Breathe’. Or from the CCR-esque ‘Long Cool Woman’, to the beautifully orchestrated folk epic ‘Soldier’s Song’. The gamut of their work is extraordinarily wide. And their entire back-catalogue of hits is demonstrated in 50 At Fifty.  Its a great album. My only complaint with it is that the accompanying booklet has virtually no information about the band, their history, their chart stats, or their music in it at all – just photos really. This is a great shame.  (They should have asked me – I could have written plenty!)

(Photo by PTMQ)

Classy, slick, well-oiled and amusing! (Photo by PTMQ)

The band have apparently been gigging every year, without exception, since 1964. Incredibly enough, in all that time, I’ve never seen them play live! In spite of them often playing fairly local to me, there has always been something that stopped me going – but I’m glad to say that is a situation that has now been put right! As the ‘Trouble and Strife’ and I took our seats, a bloke near me told me that we should expect a great show – he knew because he’d seen them for the last four years at this venue. I believed him!

The Hollies have certainly had their share of personnel changes over years; but their current line-up has been stable for a decade or so.  They currently consist of: 50-year men, TONY HICKS (guitar; banjo; sitar; vocals), and BOBBY ELLIOT (drums); 20-year men, RAY STILES (bass; vocals), and  IAN PARKER (keys; accordion; vocals); and 10-year men, PETER HOWARTH (lead vocal, acoustic guitar, harmonica), and STEVE LAURI (guitar; vocals).

As I predicted, the band played a two-part show with no support. They emerged from the wings to great applause, in matching shirts and trousers – something which I’ve rarely seen in a band since I’ve been attending gigs; but entirely in keeping with a 60s group of course! Appropriately, they began with ‘Here I Go Again’; and without a word went straight into ‘I Can’t Let Go’, and the wonderful ‘Sorry Suzanne’. Frontman Peter spoke for the first time then – introducing ‘On A Carousel’. More old hits followed, interspersed with newer numbers, with instruments changed as necessary. We heard ‘Emotions’; ‘Priceless’; ‘Just One Look’ and ‘Stay’ among others; and ending with the lively rocker ‘Crazy Sam McGee’.  At all times, this first set (of 50 minutes duration) was classy; slick, well-oiled and at times amusing. The distinctive three-part vocal harmonies, for which the band are famed, were very much in evidence.

Don't 'Stop, Stop, stop!' (Photo by PTMQ)

‘Stay!’ don’t ‘Stop, Stop, stop!’ (Photo by PTMQ)

Set Two, saw the lads return to the stage in non-matching attire – more akin to a 70s group, I suppose! There were many more classics to get through. They kicked off with their cover of ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’. and continued with more of their extensive back-catalogue of hits such as: ‘Bus Stop’; ‘Carrie-Anne’; ‘Stop, Stop, Stop’; ‘I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top’; and the Springsteen penned ‘Sandy’. (No, I didn’t know ‘The Boss’ wrote it either!). A couple of good new-ish numbers were thrown in for good measure too.

So far it had been a brilliant gig; but the best was yet to come, as we still hadn’t heard the three greatest Hollies hits.  The show was nearing its end, when singer Peter introduced the song that, more than any other, epitomises The Hollies – the iconic and immortal ‘He Ain’t Heavy’. From the opening harmonica bars, I don’t mind admitting that I had a tear in my eye; for it was a sublime and faultless rendition of one of the most beautiful songs ever written – both musically and lyrically. How can you follow that? With another massive Hollies hit, of course! The equally wonderful ‘The Air That I Breathe’ came next – again executed perfectly with genuine feeling. By now everyone was on their feet. I thought the band would leave and return for encore; but there would be no wait – they stayed put as Tony played the distinctive arpeggiated intro to (yes, it had to be) the bluesy ‘Long Cool Woman’. The place was alive, but that was it, I’m afraid.

After the show, I bought a copy of the band’s album Then, Now, Always (Special souvenir edition, 2009) for a fiver at the merch desk. I played it on the way home, and I must say its a very good collection of work  – eleven excellent, well- constructed songs; full of feeling and good lyrics. I like it a lot.

Well, its been a long winding road for The Hollies, and we don’t know where it will lead; but I can’t see them ever giving it up. They love their audience, and they obviously enjoy their work. Singer peter has apparently recently been seriously ill, yet still he wanted to carry on. I think any other member of this band would be the same. Long may The Hollies carousel keep turning!

PTMQ

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38. MONDAY BLUES at PEGGY SUE’S. 2nd March, 2015. Hosted by MARTIN McNEILL; with special guests STEVE WEST WESTON, and ROB GLAZEBROOK + a few words about the venue.

WESTON and McNEILL: Low down and dirty Blues! (Photo by PTMQ)

WESTON and McNEILL: Low down and dirty Blues! (Photo by PTMQ)

I bumped into MARTIN McNEILL earlier this year when he came along to the excellent MILTON and FARROW gig at the ONAPLATE café, Shenfield, in January just gone. (See my review on this blog #33). He told me that he’s regularly been hosting ‘Monday Blues at Peggy Sue’s’ in Leigh-On-Sea; and did I want to come along some time? Well I couldn’t say no to that! This particular Monday seemed like a good time to go there, as I wasn’t working or doing anything else; and I wanted to see his  special guests of the night who are both very  notable local Bluesmen. My journalist son James accompanied me too, as he’s something of a music fan as well.

PEGGY SUE’S PIANO BAR is in London Road (A13), Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. Its a small but very smart-looking café whose owners, Dave and Lorraine Austin, decided about six months ago, to host themed musical evenings on their premises. Johnny Thorpe was brought in to organise the music; and they now offer Jazz on Sundays; Blues on Mondays; a poetry evening called ‘The Spoken Word’ on Tuesdays (that’s very cultural!); sod-all on Wednesdays (because everyone’s entitled to a night off!); Open Mic on Thursdays; and booked acts on Fridays and Saturdays. Previous artists at the venue include the local country-pop duo, HOLLOWAY ROAD, who are currently flying high.  As I’ve said before on this blog, I very much admire anyone who goes out of their way to promote and support local talent and live music; so, much kudos is due to everyone at Peggy Sue’s. They have a licence; and a menu for the evening, but I can’t comment on that because I didn’t try anything (apart from a pint of Bombardier which went down very nicely!)  I heard that the food is very good though.

ROB GLAZEBROOK: Blues and Rockabilly purist (Photo by PTMQ)

ROB GLAZEBROOK: Blues and Rockabilly purist (Photo by PTMQ)

Martin McNeill is the regular Monday Blues host. He’d brought two semi-acoustics with him; and was setting up as we arrived. He welcomed us warmly and introduced us to the venue’s guv’nor, Dave; and to one of his guests for the evening, ROB GLAZEBROOK. Martin is a great aficionado of slide guitar, and has even named his band BOTTLENECK BLUES. He often plays with them at THE RAILWAY HOTEL, Southend-On-Sea; but he’s equally comfortable playing a small venue like Peggy Sue’s; just with one or two friends.

Rob Glazebrook is an accomplished guitarist too (and also a guitar tutor). He is a left-handed guitarist; and a member of two groups: THE BROADKASTERS, which is a Blues band; and THE HOUSEROCKERS, a 50s Rock’n’Roll / Rockabilly outfit. Rob is something of a purist; and told us that he loves to use vintage kit – guitars, amps and mics – to get the authentic sounds of the original artists that he and his groups admire and emulate – and this is true even when writing his own material too. He brought a Tanglewood acoustic and a ’68 Les Paul Gold Top to the gig – lefties, of course.

Martin’s other guest for the night was the renown  STEVE WEST WESTON – an acknowledged master of the Blues harp. He is an occasional member of Martin’s band, Bottleneck Blues; and often plays as a guest at Peggy Sue’s, and at The Railway Hotel. He’s also recently been head-hunted for a tour with MIKE VERNON & THE MIGHTY COMBO. Looking every inch the coolest of Bluesmen in his dark shades, and clutching his precious case of harps, West was invited by Martin to join him for the first of three sets scheduled for the evening.

Tres hombre - Weston, McNeill and Glazebrook (Photo: PTMQ)

Three Bluesmen – Weston, McNeill and Glazebrook (Photo: PTMQ)

Set 1 had Martin on guitar and vocals; and Steve on harmonica and vocals: Right from the start it was clear that these two fine musicians were very used to playing together. They played an impressive set of up-beat acoustic Delta / Down Home Blues covers; nine songs in all, including the SAM COOKE Blues ballad ‘Bring It On Home To Me’; and old classics like ‘Rolled And Tumbled’; ‘I’m Just Lucky That Way’; and ‘In The Mood’. Martin’s slide-work was superb; and Steve on the harp was faultless throughout.

Set 2 was Rob’s solo guitar slot.  Seated with his Tanglewood; he shouted out ‘All aboard!’ and immediately launched into ‘Mystery Train’ – a JUNIOR PARKER song from ’53. Unfortunately, the nut on his Tanglewood broke during the number, causing the 4th-string to slip up to the 5th-string slot. Very professionally, Rob carried on regardless; tapping his feet and singing while he finger-wrestled the D-string back into place. This  achieved, he continued, but the same problem dogged him throughout his set. He ploughed on though; masterfully playing some good ol’ Blues numbers, including LIGHNING HOPKINS’ ‘Someday Baby’; and ROBERT JOHNSON’s ‘Stop Breakin’ Down’. Excellent.

Set 3 featured all three of our Bluesmen. This time, Rob armed himself with his Les Paul, and the three of them launched into a fine set of eight more Blues classics including PERCY MAYFIELD’s ‘Walkin’ On A Tight-Rope’; and JOHNNY GUITAR WATSON’s ‘3 O’clock In The Morning’. This third set was more lively too; being more towards the Rock’n’Roll end of the spectrum. The evening ended to great applause from the small but enthusiastic crowd.

I very much liked both the gig and the venue; and I’d recommend a visit if you’re into listening to the Blues classics played live in a warm and friendly little venue. Future gigs for ‘Monday Blues at Peggy Sue’s’ include: RAMON GOOSE on 9th March; Milton and Farrow on 23rd; and pianist CHRIS KIBBLE on 30th.

For Martin’s other gigs, here is a link to his website….

http://www.martinmcneill.moonfruit.com/

For info on Peggy Sue’s Piano Bar, here is a link to their Face Book page…..

https://www.facebook.com/peggysuespianobar

My thanks to all who made the evening possible. PTMQ

37. EMILY HOWARD “Where Do I Go?” EP (Random Fish Records, 2013)

I first became aware of EMILY HOWARD last November at the Exeter OXJAM; which I had been invited to by some folk musician friends of mine. (See my bog entry #28). She was one of the many excellent local performers that I witnessed that afternoon; and after the gig I had a brief chat with her.  So when she contacted me asking me to review her debut EP, Where Do I Go? I was only too pleased to do so.

Emily Howard's 'Where Do I Go?' (Photo: PTMQ)

Emily Howard’s ‘Where Do I Go?’ (Photo: PTMQ)

It is a six-track collection  of original works, all penned by Emily herself. After my initial listen, It was immediately clear to me that the lady has many talents: chief of which is her song-writing ability.  They are all well constructed songs, with good, interesting and unusual lyrics inspired by her experiences of life; about which  she seems remarkably, and refreshingly candid. Listening to the EP, I’m subtly reminded of other artists’ work, but I can’t for the life of me put my finger on who! (Although Beverly Craven springs to mind). There’s definately something unique about Emily’s music though; and that’s the important thing here.

I had only previously heard one song from the EP – the title track (which I remember taking a liking to at the Oxjam gig).  It is my personal favourite among the six. It has a nice arpeggiated chord sequence as an intro; enhanced by the bansuri flute, which delivers a mysterious ambience.  Fluttering keys add to this vibe later in the song.  ‘Where do I go from here?’ sings Emily – how many of us have asked ourselves that question in a time of uncertainty, I wonder? The piece ends with a nice little instrumental coda which I like a lot.

Emily has a lovely singing voice and her lead vocals are very good. She also has an ear for well thought-out harmonies to back them too – particularly on ‘Skip This Track’ and ‘Butterfly’; but these are evident on all of her songs. She also plays all guitars. And I must say that her rhythm guitar work is another of her great strengths – most noticable on ‘Journeyman’.  Lead guitar, where it is played, is simpler but effective enough to enhance the songs – especially on ‘Age’, I thought.  She is ably assisted by her band, which consists of: EWAN MacCAULEY on keys; CHRIS JONES on bass; and LUKE DOLMAN on drums. Additional musicians BIPIN JANI on Bansuri; and OLLI WHITE on percussion; were draughted in as necessary too.  

The CD comes in a simple card slip-case with basic info on credites etc; and a very nice (and relevant) guitars, butterflies, and other natural motifs design by Hannah Scully. 

Emily is apparenty currently recording a second collection of songs entitled ‘Keep Us Sane’ (another song that I heard at the Exeter Oxjam). I am, at time of writing, unsure whether this is another EP or a full album; but if the Where Do I Go?  EP is anything to go by, then the future is looking very rosy indeed for this very talented young singer / song-writer. I hope to get down to Devon again soon; and hopefully catch Emily at one of her gigs. Good luck to her with the new project anyway.

 PTMQ

Here is a link to Random Fish Records website:

http://www.randomfishrecords.co.uk/Random_Fish_Records/Home.html

Here is a video of the title track ‘Where Do I Go?’ :

36. BLUESHAKER “Handle With Care” (Blues Company, 2014)

After he had read my review of MARIËLLA TIROTTO’s Live album recently (See my blog entry #34), I was contacted by ARNE GOOSSENS of Dutch Blues-Rock outfit BLUESHAKER, who wondered if I’d like to review the band’s debut album Handle With Care (released last December); sending me a Spotify link so I could listen to their sounds. After briefly putting an ear to it, I certainly wanted to; so he then sent me a CD copy.

The band currently consists of:  Goossens himself (Vocals); plus, PJ JOCHEMS (Guitars); PETER DOPPEN (Drums); and MARK VAN RIEL (Bass/backing vocals) – competent musos, all.  Additional horns have been brought in as required too.  Along with the CD, I was sent a factsheet detailing the biography of the band.  Apparently they had existed as ‘a more traditional Blues-Rock band’ until early 2011, when they split, with only Goossens remaining. But once the current members were recruited, it was clear that ‘something special’ was happening.   They immediately began to experiment with genres outside the norms expected from such a group. It seems they have a desire to merge Blues and Rock with  Funk, Jazz, Fusion – or whatever!  Considering that fact then, the name ‘Blueshaker’ is entirely appropriate – as shaking up the Blues is exactly what this band are about!

The album is a nine-track opus of original material; mostly penned by the band collectively, or by individual members co-writing with others.  Now, I like music that both reminds me of earlier sounds, yet offers me something new and refreshing too. I love Blues, but I’ll admit it can be formulaic and predictable at times. I love Rock too; but, as we all know,  it can become clichéd and tired. So I like this band’s progressive attitude of pushing the boundaries of accepted Blues-Rock norms.  And that is what characterises this album – and, of course, this was the band’s intention from the outset.

'Handle With Care' - this band are shakin' up the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Handle With Care’ – this band are shakin’ up the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

Right from the kick-off – with the instrumental ‘Tailchasin’ – I’m reminded, in some measure, of Led Zep; SRV;  Jimmy V; Jerry Donahue; and even The Rock-A-Teens. (I don’t think I’ve ever said that before!)  But there is an interesting originality, even within this first tune, with its series of ever changing time-signaures. It is a good opener, and immediately demonstrates the unpredictable ethos of the album – and of the band generally.  Its unusual to have an instrumental as an opener too – but then why not?

‘Need A Break’ introduces us to Goossens’ vocals for the first time. His voice, and even his vocal style, remind me a little of Scorpions’ Klaus Meine (and Golden Earing’s Barry Hay to some extent);  yet still he demostrates fine originality and vocal strength – ideally suited to the great variety of styles and vibes contained within the album as a whole.  Its  a good rocker of a song too; with an interesting quieter section mid-way. Lyrically its an observation of modern day living.

‘Only When I’m Drunk’ was a surprise for me. Its a funky number with excellent brassy fills from the horn section – brought in especially.  It is nicely arranged, with the vibe of the song suiting the lyric – and what Jochems is doing with his tremolo arm is quite remarkable! It is followed by ‘Charity’, which is the nearest to a standard Blues song in the collection; yet nonetheless, it has a unique edge to it.  I like this one. Good steady work from the rhythm section and a great solo.

‘Remember’ is a trip down memory lane. It has a catchy arpeggio and a fine lead guitar break. This is followed by ‘Dominant 7’ – according to the factsheet, its for ‘the listeners who are into anthroponomy’.  Its about seven ‘women who like to dominate, like the fifth step in a scale’ – excellent line! Quite a heavy Blues in an 11/8 time signature.

The lyric for the next offering, ‘For Tomorrow’s Day’, was apparently derived from verses written by Dutch poet Hans Andreus.  They are the words of a tortured soul, I think. The band have written dark, desperate (and highly appropriate) music to accompany his words. It is meant as a memorial to the band’s loved ones who have recently passed away. It is masterful in its execution; with great vocals by Goossens.

‘Bride On Sight’ is about the modern internet phenomenon of the ‘mail-order bride’ – available at the touch of a button from anywhere in the world. It starts as a good middle-weight Rock piece, but has interesting Jazzy sections that facilitate the lead guitar solo. Finally, ‘Reminiscence’ ends the album. It is another instrumental – and a fine one too. It is beautiful and bluesy; with something of a Focus-esque vibe to it.

Generally, comparisons with other Dutch bands are inevitable (especially to those of us outside The Netherlands who have not been exposed to too many); and there are snippets of many other influences to be heard in their work (too numerous to mention here – or too subtle to put your finger on); but I think both musically and lyrically, this is very much ground-breaking work. I like it a lot; and if you are not afraid to listen to sounds outside of the normal ring-fences of Blues-Rock, you’ll like it too.

The CD comes in a standard jewel case; and it has lyrics (in English) printed in the accompanying booklet. It has a fine design (by Goossens), with photos and credits etc.  I also received a second factsheet from the band with an explanation of each song, which is very useful – although unfortunately this information is not printed in the booklet – nor is the info on the biography sheet.

Here is a link to band’s music on Spotify….

Geweldige nieuwe muziek! PTMQ

35. DARIA KULESH “ETERNAL CHILD” (Folkstock Records, 2014)

DARIA KULESH: 'Eternal Child' (Photo PTMQ)

DARIA KULESH: ‘Eternal Child’ (Photo PTMQ)

Recently I was unexpectedly contacted by singer-songwriter DARIA KULESH (a friend of ANGE HARDY – see my review on this blog #32), who sent me a link to the FOLKSTOCK RECORDS website which contains songs from her new album Eternal Child; and she wondered if I’d be interested in writing a review. After a quick listen, I certainly was.

The album is a collection of ten songs, all penned by Daria herself; and all based on her life experiences. They are therefore very personal in content – and unique in concept.  Each is lyrically very strong and interesting too. This is all the more remarkable considering that Daria’s first language is Russian; yet her English vocabulary is excellent, and this is manifest in the well penned song lyrics. My personal favourite among this collection, is the haunting ‘Letting Go’; yet all of them are excellent.

She sings them beautifully, too;  her voice, a joy to hear. Her vocal style reminds me – to some extent – of several folk singer-songwriters of the 60s. Although I’m not an expert on this genre, I do hear a little of Baez; Collins; Felix; and Sonja Kristina in there. She has also been compared to Peggy Seeger and Kate Rusby by other writers.  Yet at all times she has her own style that is unique and remarkable; and this is due to her eclectic influences – tangible in both her vocals and her song-writing.

Various musicians have been recruited as necessary by Daria for the project. These are BEN WALKER (Multi-instrumentalist); LAUREN DEAKIN-DAVIES (Guitar & Keys); LUKE JACKSON (Vocals & Guitar); KATE ROUSE (Hammered Dulcimer); and KAITY RAE (Cello). And I must say, they have all done a fine job for her too.

The cover is of the card gate-fold album type – which I prefer. One side contains a leaflet, safely tucked away, with printed lyrics and credits etc.  From this leaflet we learn that each song is personally dedicated to someone in Daria’s life – a lovely touch.  I highly recommend this album if you have a penchant for unique folk songs; thoughtful lyrics; and beautiful female vocal.

Daria is also a member of the folk group KARA; which she described to me as ‘…a quirky band with Russian influences’. She sent me a copy of their debut album Waters So Deep, which is also remarkably good. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to do a full review on this; but I do however recommend it highly as well. If you like Daria’s solo album, then you’ll like this too.

Here is a link to the Folkstock website:

http://folkstockrecords.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-child-daria-kulesh

Here is a link to Daria’s website:   http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

PTMQ

34. MARIELLA TIROTTO & THE BLUES FEDERATION “Live In Concert” (2015)

Recently Dutch Blues singer MARIËLLA TIROTTO contacted me to ask if I would review her band’s latest album: Live In Concert – due to be released in February 2015.  Her aim is to make herself and her band more well known in the UK; and this is something that she and her boys certainly deserve. Of course I agreed, being only too happy to help out if at all possible. So she emailed me a download of the new album with all its associated paperwork. And here is my review of it…

Live In Concert album cover

The album cover (Pic by permission of Mariella)

Blues (in any of its many facets) is a form of music that benefits greatly from the live performance. Seeing and hearing a band play live can be a magical experience. Capturing that magic on record is not too easy when you consider the myriad things that could go wrong; yet such a thing has been achieved by Mariëlla & The Blues Federation, on  their album Live In Concert. It is something that the band’s followers have been craving for some time; and at last it is here.

The album was recorded at the E-Sound Studios in Weesp, near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. A select audience of around 65 loyal fans were invited to the session; ensuring an enthusiastic response and an intimate ambience. The set was played twice; taking the best shot of each song for the finished album.  Minimal mixing was required, and the result is therefore, an honest rendition of the band’s live performance – just what the fans ordered!

The line-up is as follows: Mariëlla, is of course, on vocals;  HEINS GRETEN on Keys;  ARNO HAGEMANS on Bass;  JOHN KAKIAY on Drums; MICHA SPRENGER on Guitar (standing in for their usual axe-man LOEK VAN DER KNAAP who was unfortunately unavailable for the gig); and special guest ONNY TUHUMENA on Percussion. These are all very good experienced musos; each making an impressive contribution to the whole.

Live In Concert is an 11 track collection of songs, both old and new. Some are taken from the band’s previous two albums; and a couple of brand-new ones were even tried out on the fans for the first time! Many of the songs were penned by Mariëlla and her co-writer/husband, Heins Greten – and very good they are too. Most of the vibe is towards the funky side of the Blues spectrum; but there are strong elements of Jazz, Rock and Spiritual Blues in there too  – quite a good cross-section of sub-genre styles. This demonstrates, not only the versatility of the band; but of the Blues genre itself. However, anyone who has already heard this collection, and who knows me well, will be able to guess that my pick of the bunch would be the minor Blues number, ‘Too Blind To See’; (an EELCO GELLING / HARRY MUSKEE penned piece – a video of which I have linked below).

MARIELLA - the star of the show! (Photo by permission of Mariella)

The star of the show! (Photo by permission of Mariella)

Right from the start, Mariëlla’s vocals are the dominant aspect of the show. Her gutsy, emotive voice and vocal style are at the cutting edge of this whole performance. She can sing out the heart-felt emotions with a passion – whether it be necessary to sweetly sing the gentler, pensive passages, or belt out the grittier ones. She is the star; yet around her, orbit the excellent musos that make her performance shine so brightly. Even from the first track, ‘If You’re Goin’ To The City’, we are treated to keyboard, guitar and drum solos, that set the bar high. And further tracks do not disappoint. The rhythm section is tight and comfortable together, providing a reliable foundation for the excellent, fluid guitar and keyboard solos.

The album cover is very good indeed; providing fine live photos; credits; thanks; and lots of other information. My readers will already be aware that I like a lot of background info; and this is also provided on the recording too, by Mariëlla’s spoken preamble before each song is introduced. Most of this is in Dutch of course, but we have the album notes in English to refer to.  Song lyrics are also printed – unusual for a live album – but clearly sung in English anyway.

Recording; production; engineering; mixing, and mastering, are all very good too. Mariëlla and Heins being heavily involved in it all; and thus creating the album that they envisaged. It is a gift to their fans. It is one of the best live albums I’ve heard for ages; and if this is a taste of what the band can do, I’ll do my best to be there when they eventually play the UK. 

Here is a link to Mariëlla’s website:

http://www.tirottoblues.eu/

Here is a video of Mariëlla and her boys playing the excellent ‘Too Blind To See’ …..

Beste wensen aan mijn Nederlandse vrienden!

PTMQ

33. MILTON & FARROW at ONAPLATE, Shenfield, Essex. Friday, 16th January, 2015; and a few words about the venue.

When I saw the notification on Face Book from RICHIE MILTON that he and band-mate BILL FARROW (of the MILTON – FARROW SKIFFLE ‘n’ BLUES BAND) were to play an acoustic duet set at the local café, ONAPLATE in Shenfield, Essex; I was of course very interested. Firstly because I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to see the lads play for some time; and secondly because STEVE WILMOTT and his good lady Sue of Onaplate,  are trying to achieve something very worthwhile at the venue of late which deserves to be known more widely.

MILTON AND FARROW - Acoustic Bluesmen! (Photo by PTMQ)

MILTON AND FARROW – Acoustic Bluesmen! (Photo by PTMQ)

My regular readers will already know that I recently reviewed the latest Milton-Farrow EP – the excellent Skiffleodeon – on an earlier blog (#22). Since then, the pair have been asking me when I would come and see them play live; and this seemed like an ideal time. I confirmed that the gig was indeed going ahead by phoning Bill, and proprietor Steve; and along I went!

Onaplate is a little café in Hutton Road, Shenfield, Essex;  which (to my shame) I must have driven past a hundred times and never even noticed!  Its a charming place that sometimes hosts small art exhibitions for local artists. I deliberately arrived early in order to have a word with Steve. He is a big music fan, and last March, he and his wife Sue hit upon the idea of holding a monthly music night on their premises – and in the future this may be extended to bi-weekly events. The purpose is to promote local musical talent; and this is a project that I think is very worthwhile indeed; and has my full support (for what that is worth!)  Milton and Farrow have played there before; along with local 19 year old singer-songwriter ANNIE MAY ADAMS; and Bluegrass band ONE TREE HILLBILLIES. The appearance of a Mexican Mariachi band is a possibility in the near future too, apparently. A good variety of acts then; and I wish Steve and Sue the best of luck with their project.

As I chatted with Steve and sunk a pint of Spitfire, Richie and Bill turned up with all their gear; and began setting up. I was interested of course, in their guitars. Richie brought his Epiphone semi-acoustic (Joe Pass model); and Bill had a lovely Taylor acoustic with him. Richie also brought along his mandolin; and I tried it out, along with their geetars too. Once set up, I chatted with the lads as they scoffed a tasty looking cheese platter each, provided by Sue. They spoke about their long and varied careers as musicians; and to be honest, there is enough material there for a separate article – they have about a century of experience between them!

Jug-Band Bluesmen, Richie and Bill. (Photo by PTMQ)

Jug-Band Bluesmen, Richie and Bill. (Photo by PTMQ)

Soon it was time for some Blues! I’d asked Bill if there was a set list. He showed me a sheet of paper with about a fifty songs written on it – about half of which I knew. But he told me that he and Richie generally decide what to play as they go along. They decided to kick off with ‘Ain’t It Good’; Bill on vocals. Good start. They followed up with ‘Running Out Of Dreams’ and ‘Believe Me Woman’ – both of which I particularly enjoyed.  Richie’s country-blues song ‘ASAP’ was next – we could have been back in the Delta! The boys then played they’re Jug-Band Blues song ‘You Can’t Blame Me’, with Richie playing his mandolin and singing scat. The mandolin got a further airing for a good cover of the classic ‘Deep Elem Blues’ with Bill singing.

Strapping the Epiphone on again, Richie sang his fine boogie number ‘Everybody Sang The Blues’.  One of my favourite old Blues songs BIG BILL BROONZY’s ‘Glory Of Love’ was covered next – an impressive performance by Bill it was too. He continued with another old classic: ‘Tom Dooley’. Richie’s excellent Delta song ‘T.O.K.Y.O. Blues’ followed – great guitar from Bill on this one, with his capo high on the 7th fret. The charming song: ‘I Get The Blues When It Rains’ soon followed.  ‘Blue Blonde Baby’ from their album Barefoot And Blue included a R’n’R-style solo from Richie which sounded great on his Epiphone. Bill did an fine instrumental next – another Big bill Broonzy number: ‘Hey, Hey’. Finally, the euphemistically titled ‘Keep My Engine Clean’ (one of those Blues songs with a cheeky lyric that would make your old Nan blush!), ended Part One of Richie and Bill’s excellent set.

During the break I chatted again to Bill, who introduced me to MARTIN McNEILL of Essex band BOTTLENECK BLUES, who had also come along especially to see Bill and Richie’s set. Martin and his band play regularly at THE RAILWAY in Southend-On-Sea; and at PEGGY SUE’S PIANO BAR in Leigh-On-Sea.  I intend to visit one or both venues soon. Bill tells me that he’s still playing at least one gig a week these days; but Richie is out every night – often with his own band THE LOWDOWN.

Part Two of the set began with Bill’s upbeat  ‘Pulling All The Boozers Down’, from the Skiffleodeon EP.  The lively vibe was kept up with the great old Rock’n’Roller, ‘Corinna, Corinna’; with another good solo from Richie’s Epiphone.   Bill’s song ‘What Do I Do Now?’ followed. Although originally penned by Bill for a play, it was actually recorded by JACKIE LYNTON first. Another song from Skiffleodeon was up next: Richie’s Rag: ‘Ms. Sippie Brown’ – a great song with a tasty solo from Bill. Then it was back to the mandolin for Richie, to play ‘Big Leg Woman’. This is  an old Country Blues song by LEAD BELLY that was originally entitled ‘Big Fat Woman Blues’; during which the lads had a fit of the giggles! They poured ‘Rain, Lotsa Rain’ on us next; which precipitated a deluge of applause!

Someone called out for ‘Alberta’, then. ‘I bet Bill knows it – he knows all the old songs’ said Richie as he strapped his Epiphone back on. Sure enough, after a little think, Bill was playing it; and Richie soon picked up the vibe too. A nice little song. Next they dedicated one of their own songs to their hosts at Onaplate: ‘BBQ Chicken And wine’. And the chicken theme continued with ‘Chicken In The Yard’ – both songs from the EP. ‘We’ve got a whole album out of chicken songs!’ Richie quipped. But Bill assured us that ‘No chickens were harmed in the writing of these songs!’ The lads shared vocals for ‘Careless Love’; before they drove headlong into ‘Too Many Drivers At The Wheel’ – a boogie with a fine solo from Richie. They gave us ‘Odd Sox Boogie Blues’ from Barefoot & Blue next (which has also been recorded by Mr. Lynton); and followed it with ‘I Wanna Do It All Again’ from New Tracks (Down An Old Road). Their final offering was the excellent ‘Midnight Special’. As they finished, some wag called out ‘Give us another chicken song!’

Well, what a superb little set,  from two very well respected local Bluesmen – in such a lovely place too.  I enjoyed it a lot. Its a shame that there weren’t more punters in; but its early days for this venue, and I’m hoping that Steve and Sue Wilmott can achieve their permitted full capacity in the near future. After a bit more chat, we all said our goodbyes; and I helped the lads load up their kit in Richie’s car. I can recommend Onaplate; its  a charming little venue. There was a modest, but appetising menu laid on for the evening, but I didn’t try anything – it looked good though; and Richie and Bill had no complaints, I know!

Here is a link to Richie Milton’s website for his band’s gigs;  and those he plays with Bill too: http://www.richiemiltonandthelowdown.co.uk/

Here is a link to the Onaplate website which details forthcoming gigs: http://onaplate.net/

Here is a video of the Milton – Farrow Skiffle ‘n’ Blues Band playing their ‘T.O.K.Y.O. Blues’ at The Bull’s Head, Barnes; last December….

PTMQ