Tag Archives: beaverwood club

92. PHIL THE MUSIC QUILL IS TWO YEARS OLD!

I can’t believe that my website is two years old on 1st February 2016! Just out of interest, here are my ten most popular articles; ordered by the amount of ‘hits’ they’ve had….

TOP TEN ARTICLES FROM THE LAST TWO YEARS:

  1. SON OF MAN at VILLAGE BLUES CLUB, DAGENHAM TRADES HALL. Gig review. Sept. 2015 (Review #69)
  2. MARIELLA TIROTTO & THE BLUES FEDERATION Live In Concert album review (#34)
  3. LARRY MILLER at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. July 2015 (#61)
  4. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at VILLAGE BLUES CLUB, DAGENHAM ROUNDHOUSE. Gig review. May 2015. (#56)
  5. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. October 2014 (#25)
  6. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB. Gig review. April 2015 (#44)
  7. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. Nov 2015 (#83)
  8. MARTIN TURNER Written In The Stars album review (#73)
  9. RED BUTLER at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB. Gig and interview. August 2015 (#66)
  10. MALAYA BLUE at DAVE SPARKS ROCKIN’ BLUES NIGHT, ANCHOR, BENFLEET. Gig and interview. Aug 2015 (#64)

 PTMQ

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83. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hockley, Essex. Friday 13th November, 2015; + and a pre-gig interview with the new look band!

VATA Sound check (Photo: PTMQ)

VATA: Sound check (Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble:  My readers may remember that just over a year ago, my son James and I interviewed the highly talented young Rock band Virgil And The Accelerators at Touchline Live Music’s old venue in Hullbridge, Essex. (See entry #26). That interview preceded a most excellent performance from the band – in fact, one of the best Rock gigs that I had the pleasure of attending during 2014. So when Dave Kitteridge of the Touchline informed me that he’d booked VATA again (this time at the new venue), we were of course, keen to come along to the gig and catch up on what the boys have been doing lately. But a year is a long time in the world of Rock’n’Roll, and a lot can change…

Arriving early at the Touchline’s fine new venue in Hockley; we found that the band were still doing their sound-check. This was apparently due to having spent the best part of five hours stuck on the motorways between their base in Brum, and the venue here in Essex! We got ourselves a pint each and entered the Music Room; and were greeted by Dave, Brian and Trudie of the club – and by Virgil McMahon himself, who recognised us at once, and called out to us from the stage.

Back stage with VATA (Photo: PTMQ)

VATA: Back stage  (Photo: PTMQ)

The VATA interview:  The first of the changes was apparent in Virgil’s new look; with slicked back hair. He invited us back-stage where we reacquainted ourselves with his brother – and VATA’s drummer – Gabriel McMahon; and we were then introduced to the band’s new bassist Joel Wildgoose – another change; on which more anon. But I began by asking the band if they had any new material in the pipeline (ie, a new album planned); and whether we’d be hearing any new stuff that night?

Virgil: ‘We are going to be writing next month. We’ve got one in the set that we’ve been trying out on our Spanish tour, but its still in draft mode, called ‘The Lost”.

PTMQ: ‘Are you continuing more with the Rock, rather than Blues feel?’

(Photo: PTMQ)

VATA: Army Of Three! (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil: ‘Yeah, for sure. Army Of Three was a bit more Classic Rock-esque; but this time I think, something a lot more modern – something that sounds a bit younger’.

This need to attract a younger fan-base is becoming a common theme when James and I interview young Blues / Rock bands…

James:  ‘We interviewed Red Butler recently. (Read the interview #66). They are struggling to get a younger audience too. So have you noticed any trends in that respect in the last year? Is your fan-base getting any younger?’

Virgil:  ‘Yeah. Its a question of finding something that appeals to music lovers. To be honest with you, playing in Spain and continental Europe, you see a younger audience – far younger…’

Gabriel:  ‘Yeah, 85-90% of the audience are much younger – late teens to 30’s’.

(Photo: PTMQ)

The new look Virgil with his Les Paul known as ‘The Preacher’ (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil: ‘…whereas the audiences here are in their 50’s. There’s no problem with that, but at the same time you do want to appeal to a wider scope of people. We want to appeal to people who are ‘music fans’ rather than specifically ‘Rock fans’ or ‘Blues fans’.

It will be interesting then, to see in what direction the brothers – and new boy Joel – take VATA’s music for the third album. So moving on, I then asked about why the previous bassist Jack Alexander Timmis had left the band. This was a difficult subject for Virgil and Gabe to talk about; and I am not qualified (or authorized) to divulge what James and I were told in any detail. Suffice to say that there were issues within the band concerning management; and so another major change within VATA is that their manager is also no longer in the band’s employ. I must stress though, that the brothers told us sincerely, that there had been absolutely no issues between Jack and themselves – nor was the split due to ‘musical differences’ – and that they are still great friends; and he still turns up at gigs. Jack has now gone back to his career as a music tutor; and they are wishing him well in this role. But in spite of all the shenanigans that have been going on; and with a new bass player now on board; VATA now look settled again – and optimistic for the future. So I asked Joel how long he’d been with the band now?

Joel: ‘About two and a half months. First gig was in Spain – Barakaldo’.

New bassist Joel (Photo: PTMQ)

New bassist Joel (Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil:  ‘The cool thing was that we knew Joel from two or three years ago. He’s got his own band called River Chickens – front man and guitar player. We did a couple of gigs with them and we were really blown away by them’.

Gabriel:  ‘Jack told us he was leaving at the start of the year’

Virgil:  ‘So just off the cuff I phoned Joel and said “Look do want to play Bass for us?”, and he did. And he’s done a sterling job’.

Surprisingly, Joel doesn’t consider himself to be a Bassist!  ‘I’m not a proper Bass player!’ he said modestly. ‘I don’t know anything about the Bass… I’m shit!’. Well, thus far we’d only witnessed a little of the sound-check, but he certainly didn’t look shit! He also has a lot of respect for Jack: ‘Big boots to fill, they were!’

James:  ‘What sort of capacity places  were you playing in Spain?’

Virgil:  Music clubs. A couple of them were like little bars – Rock bars’

Gabriel demonstrates his new Natal kit! (Photo: PTMQ)

Gabriel demonstrates his new Natal kit! (Photo: PTMQ)

Gabe:  ‘The smallest ones were like 150 – 250 people, weren’t they?’

Virgil:  ‘Yeah, but the biggest was in Pamplona; a good few hundred in there’.

The lads had enjoyed their time in Spain; and found the locals to be very appreciative of their music – and not afraid to say what they thought either!  They had a lot of fun too. One day after Virgil had given a guitar master class, and before a scheduled jam night with local guitarists, Gabe and Joel went out busking on the streets for a laugh and ‘a few pennies!’

Guitars:  Virgil had brought three geetars with him: His vintage Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty known as ‘The Preacher’ (his main stage axe); his Les Paul Gold Top (Joe Bonamassa signature edition) known as ‘Goldie’; and his battered Fender Strat known as ‘Alice’. The pale blue Gibson Firebird that he’d used at the last Touchline gig, was not in attendance on this occasion.

(Photo: PTMQ)

VATA: Under the lights at the Touchline (Photo: PTMQ)

Drums:  Gabriel, I noticed, had set up on the stage, a brand new signature drum kit; courtesy of Natal Drums. ‘Its a UK company owned by Marshall Amplification’ Gabe explained.  Its a very smart looking acrylic kit with the band’s Army Of Three logo emblazoned on the bass drum. It sounded great during the sound-check, and I was looking forward to hearing it in action.

Bass:   Joel, not being ‘a proper bass player’, didn’t even own a bass guitar when he was recruited to the band!

Gabe: ‘When Joel came on board, Virgil phoned me and said “He doesn’t have a bass!” Well, I’ve got an old Fender Precision Bass, so I said “let Joel play this”. But Virgil said “No, no, no! It has to be a 5-string!”

Joel:  ‘I didn’t have any choice really – the boys said “5-string!” so I thought, “alright, I’ll go and buy one”. That was the only one they had. So it’ll do! Its an Ibanez SDGR.’

(Photo: PTMQ)

Gabe is there somewhere, while Virgil plays a G-shaped A# chord! (Photo: PTMQ)

Another big change for the band is that their live set is now to be very different to the two-hour / nine-song extravaganza that they’d performed at the Touchline a year ago. Due to the advice of a Spanish promoter, the band have decided to shorten their set, but include more songs. Sadly this means less extended solos from Virgil. Personally I don’t mind lengthy numbers with improvised solos; but its true that if the boys want to appeal to a wider audience, then the set has to be tailored to that end. After thanking the band and a few photos, James and I returned to the auditorium which had by then filled up with (mostly) 50-something music fans (like me!) We looked forward to a great show. We were not to be disappointed!

The VATA Set:  Master of Ceremonies for the Touchline, Brian Sangwin, introduced the band, and they climbed on stage unpretentiously. Virgil took up ‘The Preacher’ and thanked the Touchline for having them back once more, before opening the set with a fine rendition of ‘Take Me Higher’ from Army Of Three. But there was precious little time to applaud, as ‘Blow To The Head’ followed – and did exactly that, with its Halen-esque ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’

(Photo: PTMQ)

Virgil with his battered Strat known as ‘Alice’ (Photo: PTMQ)

The boys looked more animated than I remembered from last time, and I guess this is due to the lively on-stage presence of Joel. He threw himself about with great enthusiasm whilst delivering great bass-work. And the rockin’ good show continued with ‘All Night Long’; and this was followed by another from the second album, the remarkable ‘Give It Up’. The moody ’88’; and ‘The Storm’ from the The Radium were performed next. At all times we witnessed superb axemanship from Virgil; and tight reliable drumming and bass from Gabe and Joel respectively. Gabe’s new kit was certainly impressive.

With Virgil changing to his Strat ‘Alice’; the band’s performance of ‘Working Man’ was the nearest we got to the extended solo.  ‘Backstabber’ – my favourite from the first album – followed; with Virgil changing back to ‘The Preacher’. It had evolved slightly from the original recorded version, but was no less enjoyable. The afore-mentioned new one that the boys had tried out on their Spanish fans was up next.  ‘The Lost’ is a slow, heavy number with a menacing vibe to it; a bit Sabbath-like, I thought; and with an unexpected ending. It was the only taste of what we are to expect from the boys in the future. The main set finished with the wonderful ‘Free’. I very much like this song with its melodic chorus and its ‘Southern-Rock’ inspired solo. With that, the lads left the stage to great applause.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Joel takes lead vocal for ‘Rock’n’Roll’ (Photo: PTMQ)

Encore!  But they soon returned for a two-song encore, beginning with a fantastic rendition of their beautiful instrumental ‘Silver Giver’, off the debut album. It was pains-takingly delivered. I was disappointed to find that it had been temporarily dropped from the set when I saw the band last year, but I’m glad to report. that it is now fully reinstated. It too has evolved since it was recorded but was still superb!

Only a good old rocker could end the show; and the boys had decided to play their only cover of the night – a rousing version of Led Zep’s classic ‘Rock’n’Roll’. Joel took lead vocals for this, and did a fine job with it.

It had certainly been a shorter set – 13 songs in less than two hours rather than the previous nine songs in a full two hours. But it was no less of a high octane performance from a very tight and impressive band indeed. Gone were the lengthy abstract improvised solos; but there was still no doubt as to Virgil’s fine fretboard abilities. And Gabe and Joel impressed us very much too.

(Photo: PTMQ)

The stage at the Touchline (Photo: PTMQ)

Farewells:  We had a few words with the band after the show; and Virgil gave us a copy of their Set List printed on the back of some scribbled notes from his recent ‘Guitar master Class’. With our ears ringing, we said our goodbyes and left the club satisfied with another VATA performance – albeit quite different to last time.

VATA are now embarked on a short nine-date UK tour which includes two of my other favourite venues – The Boom Boom Club in Sutton; and The Beaverwood Club in Chiselhurst. So I’m hoping to get along to see the band in action again during this tour.  ‘All we care about is putting on a good show for people. Next year’s going to be good’ predicted Virgil. James and I are wishing the lads the best of luck anyway. Finally, thanks to Dave, Brian, Trudie and Steve the sound man at the Touchline for hosting yet another memorable gig. PTMQ

For info on gigs etc; here is a link to VATA’s website…

http://www.vataband.com/

Here is a link to the Touchlines website…

http://touchlinelivemusic.co.uk/

73. MARTIN TURNER “Written In The Stars” (2015)

Front cover (Pic: MT)

W.I.T.S.: The excellent front cover (Pic: MT)

At last! The long awaited new album from Martin Turner is here! Its been a long while in the making; but my God it was worth waiting for! Personally I think that this is the best thing that MT has put his name to since his classic magnum opus, Argus back in ’72 – and he has certainly given us plenty of good music in between over the years. Yes, I know that is a big call – and I’m not saying its going to attain the almost Holy status of Argus – but I honestly think that this is a truly wonderful album.

The title, Written In The Stars, suggests that it is perhaps a concept album (a description that is often inaccurately said of Argus too). Although many of the tracks on this work do share the common theme of fate and destiny, a few seem to be unconnected; so I suppose its a semi-concept. From my interview with MT last year (See  my article #25), I learnt that he is convinced that the universe is pre-ordained. He is also interested in things as diverse as re-incarnation  and the science of astronomy. These things have undeniably inspired the quite remarkable songs that have emerged from his prolific pen in the past; but it has all come together in the new album, which is a show-case of MT at his best – and in collaboration with his band and others too.

It is a collection of eleven original tracks (three of them instrumentals); and all excellent. Guitarist Danny Willson described it very succinctly (on his Face Book page) as: ‘Its sorta rocky / bluesy / proggy / folky / poppy and very guitary!’ A more accurate description could not be made, I think.   It took a year to record (From July ’14 to July ’15). This is because ‘Martin is a perfectionist’ ex-guitarist Ray Hatfield told me at his last gig with the band (See my review #56). Well MT and his boys have certainly produced something approaching perfection, I must say.

The band on these recordings consist of the man himself on Bass and vocals; Tim Brown (Drums); Danny Willson (Guitars/vocals); and Ray Hatfield (Guitars/vocals). But Ray recently left the band and was replaced by new boy Misha Nikolic, who has also contributed some work during the later stages of recording. Some other musos were also drafted in as necessary; and everyone involved has done a fine job indeed. They work well together on stage; and they’ve worked well together in the studio.

The album begins unusually, with two instrumentals: ‘The Big Bang (Overture)’ is a piece that sets the ambience of mystery and awe, appropriate for most of the collection. And this is followed by ‘The Beauty Of Chaos’. Its an excellent piece; with a Marvin-esque themed riff – ‘the Hanky part’ as Ray described it to me – courtesy of Danny. Some excellent slide; muted harmonics; acrobatics with a tremolo arm; atmospheric backing vocals; and some great rattling bass from MT himself, characterise this impressive instrumental. Tim also demonstrates his skills right from the start.

The title track ‘Written In The Stars’ follows. I was there when this song was first aired at MTWA’s excellent gig at Touchline Live Music in Essex last October  (See my review #25). Lyrically, its this song more than any other that describes MT’s beliefs.  Its a good quality Heavy-Rock number with a Progressive leaning; and contains all that you’d expect from an MT tune; with impressive vocal harmonies, and superb axemanship.

MTWA at Touchline Live Music in October 2014 (Photo by JPC)

MTWA at their Touchline Live Music gig in October 2014 (Photo by JPC)

‘Lovers’ goes off piste as regards the Destiny theme; but seems to fit nicely within the collection all the same. Its a lighter pop-rock love song; again with suitable vocal harmonies.

‘Vapour Trail’ I first witnessed at its debut during MTWA’s excellent gig at the Beaverwood Club last April (See my review #44). This studio version begins with a little flourish on a nylon-strung acoustic which gives way to a fine arpeggiated section and a nice motif riff.  This tune is very reminiscent of Mk 1 or Mk 2 Wishbone Ash material (the classic WA period) – we could be back in the ’70s! It has a very tasty solo section. In true concept album style, the song then merges into…

… ‘The Lonely Star’. Its the third and final instrumental in the collection. Instrumentals can be tricky buggers to get right – they have to remain interesting to keep the listeners attention; and as a listener, you have to listen. This piece does not disappoint.  Lengthy solos from the ‘Harmony Twins’; including impressive wah-wah  work, makes this a satisfying track indeed. Again, fade to ….

… ‘For My Lady’.  It is another tune that was first presented to the fans at the Beaverwood gig (see #44). And again deviates from the main theme. It has a kind of off-beat Reggae-style edge to it in the verse; but has a Folky / Mediæval feel about it in the chorus. This gives way to a beautiful quiet section; followed by a great twin lead guitar part. Of all the tracks on this album, it is the one that could most easily be plucked out and inserted into Argus! Quite a remarkable song in construction really.

‘Pretty Little Girls’ is a great fun rocker. There is an excellent driving beat courtesy of Tim; quality vocal harmonies; nice rhythm guitar; great lead guitar from Misha; and that inimitable rattling bass from Mart! A number that will go down well live methinks!

Then comes my favourite track of all: ‘Falling Sands’. (And this is no easy shout among a collection of such wonderful music). In true Wishbone Ash style, it was penned by all four band members (before Ray left).  It is a marvellous song with a melancholy ambience that starts with a lovely themed riff.  Close your eyes and drift away in the beautiful guitar solo!

The penultimate track is the Ray Hatfield penned ‘Mystify Me’. This an excellent song that first appeared on Ray’s second solo album At The Drop Of A Hat in 2013 (See my review #51). It was another song that I was privileged to hear debuted at the band’s Touchline gig in October ’14. (See my review #25). I think this number is entirely compatible with the feel of the album – and with MTWA material (both old and new) in general. It has a legitimate place on this album. I also think it shows how Ray’s writing was influenced by spending ten good years with MT.

‘Interstellar Rockstar’ finishes the album with an awe-inspiring Prog-Rock masterpiece. The multiple textures on this amazing recording are breath-takingly arranged. There is some beautiful Classical Guitar  from Misha; an ethereal backing choir riding under an other-worldly lead vocal melody; some subtle recorder-work; and a sublime guitar section, beginning with Willson superb on slide; and giving way to Hatfield’s wonderful soaring lead guitar solo.

The album was recorded at Liscombe Park Studios in Buckinghamshire, using some classic, vintage valve-based equipment; and this has had a profound effect on the overall finished sound of the work. MT, who describes himself as a ‘Studio Cat’, is an experienced muso who is adept at creating music; and all his skill and knowledge has been channelled into this new magnum opus. The CD version comes in a standard jewel case with a good booklet containing all credits and production / recording info; plus the lyrics of course. The excellent cover illustration is very apt – very concept album, very Proggy, and very 70s; and I love it!

This is an utterly marvellous piece of work in my opinion, and I recommend it highly if you are a fan of Turner; the original Wishbone Ash; Prog-Rock generally; or just excellent guitar music. Its the nearest we are going to get these days, to the original Mk 1 Wishbone Ash, that’s for sure, so its too good to ignore! I’ve heard some bloody good new music this year, and there are still three months to go, but I’ll stick my neck out and call it my album of the year – no question! Enjoy. PTMQ

 Here is a link to Martin Turner’s website… http://www.martinturnermusic.com/

51. RAY HATFIELD “At The Drop Of A Hat” (2013)

'At The Drop Of A Hat' (Photo: PTMQ)

RAY HATFIELD’s ‘At The Drop Of A Hat’ (Photo: PTMQ)

At the Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash gig at The Beaverwood Club recently (see my review Blog #44), I had a chat to Ray Hatfield – who is, of course, one of MT’s ‘Harmony Twins’. He kindly gave me a copy of his second solo album At The Drop Of A Hat for review. Everyone was telling me that it was a good album – and I must say, they weren’t wrong! I played it on the way home from the gig, and I liked it immediately.

When you hear a solo album from a member of a well-known band, its easy to assume that the music within it will reflect the parent group. I’ve known for many years that this isn’t necessarily the case. Although one of Ray’s songs from this collection (‘Mystify Me’) has been part of the MTWA live set for a few months now (and is scheduled to be included in the forthcoming MTWA album Written In The Stars), the rest of it is quite different from the parent band’s material. This is because Ray’s song-writing has its own influences and originality, and those things have been brought to bear – along with years of experience – in this, his own work.

This is Ray’s second solo album (the first being King Of The West, which, as yet, I haven’t heard). It is a collection of twelve original songs + a bonus track, all written by the man himself (except one penned in collaboration with others). Various family and friends were recruited to help out as necessary: Rob Hewins (drums; rhythm guitar; backing vocals; mixing); Danny Willson  (the other ‘Harmony Twin’ from MTWA – guitar; backing vocals; photos); Keith Buck (pedal steel); Mark Daniels (backing vocals); Holly Hatfield (backing vocals; cover artwork); and Claire Hatfield (photos). Obviously Ray plays most of the guitar parts as well as lead vocals; and as there is no mention of a bassist on the cover, I assume he plays that too. Between them they’ve cooked up something good!

Ray at the MTWA gig at the Beaverwood Club, April 2015. (Photo: PTMQ)

Ray at the MTWA gig at the Beaverwood Club, April 2015. (Photo: PTMQ)

The album kicks off with ‘The Last Star’. Its a good opener, and sets the tone of the whole album really. Its a well constructed song, with nice guitar parts. A good follow up to this is the next track ‘Milky Way’. It continues the same pensive vibe. Again lovely guitar and pedal steel which enhance the Country feel to it.

‘Mystify Me’ is the song to be used by MTWA. It is the closest to the style of the parent band; and therefore highly compatible with their material – both old and new. When I interviewed Martin Turner last October before the band’s gig at Touchline Live Music in Essex (see my Blog #25), he was full of praise and enthusiasm about this song (which was debuted that very evening). Both musically and lyrically he said it was highly suitable for MTWA – and, after all, he should know! So this was the only song that I’d previously heard from the album; having been familiar with the MTWA live version since that Touchline gig last year. It was good to hear Ray’s personal version of it at last.

‘Borderline’ slows things down a bit. Its a thoughtful singer-songwriter type of piece, with a very personal lyric. There is a fantastic solo, full of feeling, on this one too. ‘Devil’s Disguise’ follows. It couldn’t be more different. Its an upbeat song with a funky vibe.

The title track is next. It is a fine, if short, instrumental. I like instrumentals; but they have to be good to keep up the interest – this one certainly does. The next track, ‘The Judgement Of Paris’, is the only one penned in collaboration with others – Willson and Hewins. Its a two-part piece starting with a fine acoustic arpeggiated chord sequence before breaking into the livelier Part Two. (‘Paris’ in this context is the Prince of Troy from Greek Mythology not the French Capital).

‘Wheels’ is a bit of  rocker. Its a damn good motoring song – ‘…I was M1 southward bound…’ sings Ray – with guitar-generated doppler effect police sirens! Next is ‘Here And Now’ – its a nice little song with something of a Soul vibe to it in the verse, and a sweet harmonised guitar solo. ‘Them Pesky McCoys’ is another little instrumental – a quirky Folky / Country thing. In contrast, ‘Three Times Forgiven’ is a mild and thoughtful piece; again with fine harmonised leads –  a la Wishbone Ash!

The last track from the main collection is the beautiful Folk song ‘Corfu Sunset’ – just Ray’s voice and an acoustic guitar.  And finally the bonus track ‘Sinners’, is a strange one. It has a kind of Hip-Hop beat to it accompanied by a folky acoustic guitar and a tasty electric slide.

I was already well aware of Ray’s superb guitar playing, having seen him with MTWA on numerous occasions; but with this album he has demonstrated his song-writing; lyric writing, and vocal skills too. All in all its a fine piece of work indeed – one which I cannot criticise at all. I admire the sheer variety of styles that he covers – and sometimes fuses together – to make a unique and very personal album.

The CD comes in a standard Jewel Case, with basic info and personal thanks; but no lyrics. (Although these are available from Ray’s website – see below). The cover design and photos are good too.

BREAKING NEWS! A few days ago I was surprised to read that Ray would be leaving MTWA shortly. I do not know what his reasons or plans are – I can only assume that he will be forming his own band and hitting the road sometime.  This seems plausible to me, as he is well-known and well thought of in the music business. It is surprising though, as the new MTWA album Written In The Stars is about to be released; and as I have said, Ray has contributed to it; so its a shame he will no longer be involved with it. His last gig with the band will apparently be the Dagenham Roundhouse reunion at the end of May 2015. It is already sold out, but I was lucky enough to get tickets; and I’m looking forward to seeing Ray for the last time with the band (see my Blog for a review shortly after). I’ll wish him good luck when I see him. It will be a great show anyway. I’m looking forward to a third album – and many more – from Ray. PTMQ

Here is a link to Ray’s website…..http://www.rayhatfield.com/

44. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB, Chislehurst, Kent. Thursday, 16th April, 2015

Martin Turner - the old 'Warrior' himself! (Photo by PTMQ)

Martin Turner – the old ‘Warrior’ himself! (Photo: PTMQ)

Arriving at The Beaverwood Club in good time to see Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash; who should we bump into straight away outside, but Ray Hatfield – who is, of course, one of the two exceptional guitarists in the band. I’ve met Ray and the other members of the group several times now – including last October at Touchline Live Music in Essex, where I interviewed Martin Turner himself. (See my blog #25); and its always nice to be remembered by such musicians. Ray is a friendly and modest bloke who always has time for a chat with the punters; and he kindly gave me a CD copy of his second solo album At The Drop Of A Hat, which I shall review as soon as I can. After saying hello to a few other people I knew, we were ready for the show to begin.

Soon the band – consisting of Martin, Ray, Danny Willson, and skin-beater Tim Brown  – climbed on stage to great applause, and immediately launched into the title track of (as MT said) ‘the ever forthcoming album’, Written in The Stars. This is a great song that has been part of the live show for a few months now, and is already a popular favourite. Argus classics ‘Warrior’ and ‘Throw Down The Sword’ followed, in as near as Damn it to the original ’72 versions as you can achieve these days – superb! Then we were privileged to hear the debut of a new tune – ‘Vapour Trail’; again, to be included on the new album. I liked this a lot, and I’m keen to hear the final studio version of it. ‘For My Lady’ followed – another great song with a beautiful gentler section mid-way through, with a fine solo from Ray. Next it was Danny’s turn to shine with a great solo on the classic ‘Persephone’.  ‘Living Proof’ was up next and had the club rockin’; then Part One finished with the ever-present old favourite ‘Blowin’ Free’. It was time for the band to take a short, well-earned break; during which I had a chat with the band’s Darren Wisdom on the Merch desk.

MTWA - 'Living Proof' that they're one of the best live acts around! (Photo: PTMQ)

MTWA – ‘Living Proof’ that they’re the true holders of the torch that keeps the original Wishbone Ash flame burning! (Photo: PTMQ)

The lads returned to the stage for Part Two, and resumed their set with another Argus classic, ‘Sometime World’ – a big favourite of mine. Another tune that has featured in the live set recently, and is also to be included on the new album, is the Ray Hatfield penned ‘Mystify Me’. Its a fine song – very compatible with traditional WA material , and a version of it has already appeared on Ray’s second solo album At The Drop Of A Hat. A very good rendition of ‘Lady Jay’ from There’s The Rub followed. MT then assumed a Texas accent for an amusing preamble to ‘Rock’n’Roll Widow’. With Ray superb on slide, and excellent vocals by Danny, the ‘Widow’ rocked us nicely! A more poignant number, ‘Lifeline’ followed. This is a very personal song for Mart; being about the loss of his Grandmother. Part Two finished with ‘the Bluesy Prog-Rock epic ‘Phoenix’ from the first WA album of 1970 – or ‘1917 or whenever it was!’ quipped MT.

Perhaps encore would be required? Well, what do you think?  The lads returned to the stage for the final time, and began with the traditional ancient English folk song ‘Greensleeves’ which led nicely into the sublime ‘The King Will Come’ – the fifth song from Argus played this evening. And the encore continued with the New England instrumental ‘Outward Bound’. This was followed by ‘Blind Eye’; before the set was finally finished with, of course, the rousing ‘Jailbait’ during which the individual band members were credited. Excellent!

My only disappointments are (1) that I wasn’t able to hang around at the end of the gig to chat with MT and the rest of the band as I would normally do; and (2) that I learnt that the new album won’t be released until late summer / early autumn. (It’ll be worth waiting for though!)  Still it was, as always, a superb performance by MT and his lads; and, again as always, I came away looking forward to the next gig – which for me should be at The Roundhouse, Dagenham in May.

Thanks to Pete Feenstra and his sidekick Eric, and all the hard-working staff at the Beaverwood for hosting the show. PTMQ

Here is a preview of the new MT album Written In The Stars …..

42. THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB, Chislehurst. Tuesday, 31st March, 2015

 

BUDDY WHITTINGTON - The 'Six-String Svengali' (Photo: PTMQ)

BUDDY WHITTINGTON – The ‘Six-String Svengali’ himself, with his ‘Deadwood And Wire’ Gibson Les Paul (Photo: PTMQ)

I’ve seen the big Texan Bluesman, Buddy Whittington a number of  times in the past few years; and he’s never failed to impress me; so I’ll always try to see him play live if I can. My son James came with me too as he’s a big fan, and has seen the big man more times than me. This time, Buddy and his band had just returned from a tour of Europe where they’d all unfortunately picked up a cold bug. This gig at the Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst (another of promoter Pete Feenstra’s excellent venues), was booked at fairly short notice upon their return; but no cold virus was going to stop them playing!

We arrived quite early. Buddy was alone on stage tuning up; and then went off to get changed. At about 9pm, he returned with his band and climbed on stage. They consist of fretless bass maestro Peter Stroud (ex Peter Green’s Splinter Group); and well respected skin-beater Darby Todd – both excellent musicians; and always present as Buddy’s UK and European backing band. Tooled up with a Strat, it was a very relaxed Buddy who casually approached the mic  and asked ‘What would you like to hear first – something kinda easy?’  That set the tone for what was to be a very low-key and friendly show throughout. I think that’s Buddy’s style. His gigs are like having a few mates round for an informal jam – and in a place like the Beaverwood, that is entirely feasible. That’s a vibe that I like.

The band began their two-part set with the mellow instrumental: ‘A-Flat Tyre’ (otherwise known as ‘For Crystal Beach’)  – it certainly was ‘kinda easy’; and it was a kinda superb opener too! We were then treated to a fine show of both Buddy’s own compositions; and old classics – but with a unique Whittington twist. Highlights of this first half were:  ‘I Had To Go See Alice’ (the amusing song about Viagra); ‘Pay The Band’ (during which Buddy’s sore throat failed to stop the high notes); ‘Greenwood’ (another fine instrumental, dedicated to one of Buddy’s heroes – Peter Green); and ‘Deadwood And Wire’ (about an experience whilst buying a guitar). The finale of the first part was a phenomenal cover of the classic Freddie King instrumental ‘Hideaway’. This is often covered, of course, but I was quite amazed by this version. It show-cased Buddy’s incredible skills. He took elements of other Blues classics as well as incorporating amusing licks that imitated everything from a clucking hen to a police siren! And at all times, Pete on bass and Darby on drums were tight and reliable. Brilliant!

Part-Two was, if anything, better than Part-One. We were treated to a mixed-bag of covers; Blues classics; and Buddy’s own compositions. These included a blindin’ cover of  ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Back From Baby’s’; a high-calibre take on  Savoy Brown’s ‘Tell mama’ (haven’t heard this one for yonks); and a rousing version of the Bluesbreakers’ ‘All Your Love’. Some Blues classics sublimely covered were: ‘Maydell’; and ‘Help Me Through The Day’ (both featured on the band’s covers album, A Bag Full Of Blues, 2010). Several of these tunes hark back to Buddy’s days with John Mayall. We were treated to more of his own work too; including ‘Texas Trios’ (in which he name-checks every three-piece Blues band from his home state); the splendid ‘Pay The Band’; and finishing (after shouted requests from the crowd) with the amusing ‘Second Banana’.

THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND - 'Second Banana' to none! (Photo:PTMQ)

THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND – ‘Second Banana’ to none! (Photo:PTMQ)

There are a number of things I like about Buddy Whitt. (1) Firstly, his obvious and phenomenal skills at playing the geetar: He plays with a consummate, confident, and relaxed style that makes guitar-playing look effortless; playing some very complex parts with apparent ease. As a bit of a guitarist myself (albeit not a very good one) I sometimes watch famous axe-men and think to myself ‘Yeah, I know what he’s doing, and I know how he’s doing it’ (but I just can’t do it myself!) In Buddy’s case there were a number of times when I didn’t even know how he did what he did – I suppose that’s why he was on the stage and I’m just sitting here writing about it! (2) Song construction: We all know that Blues has its rules; and that those rules can be stretched by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. But Buddy often pushes the Blues boundaries to new limits; taking in some very inventive fresh ground – yet never becomes wild or weird; and still remains firmly within the realms of the Blues. (3) Lyric writing: In subject his songs are often very deep and highly insightful. His skill with the English language produces tongue-twisting lyrics that are clever, meaningful, and at times amusing. And he never seems to sing these complex lines wrong – whilst simultaneously playing some tasty riffs too! And finally (4) Having met the man on a couple of occasions (including half-time at this gig), I know him to be a thoroughly genuine, approachable bloke who always makes a point of meeting and chatting to his fans, before, during and after his show. Top banana!

Thanks to the ‘Chislehurst Trio’ of Buddy, Peter and Darby for another great show; and to Pete Feenstra for making it happen! PTMQ

Here is a video from the gig by Steve Dulieu of Buddy and his boys playing their instrumental tribute to Peter Green, ‘Greenwood’ ….