Tag Archives: blues

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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30. AN EVENING FOR WALTER TROUT. Featuring OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; SONJA KRISTINA; LAURENCE JONES; and THE VOODOO SHEIKS. The 1,000th gig at the BOOM BOOM CLUB. Friday, 28th November, 2014

PETE FEENSTRA: Promoter and Master of Ceremonies at the Boom Boom Club (Photo by CGM)

PETE FEENSTRA: Promoter and Master of Ceremonies at the Boom Boom Club (Photo by CGM)

 

This gig was originally billed as AN EVENING FOR WALTER TROUT – with  The Walter Trout Band (without Walter, of course as he is still recovering from illness), but featuring his son, JON TROUT; LAURENCE JONES; ANDREW ELT; and MITCH LADDIE. And many people (including myself) were very much looking forward to it. However, just a few days before the show, we heard that the plug had been pulled on the whole WTB tour – and to be honest, I don’t fully understand why. This was disappointing enough, but left PETE FEENSTRA of the BOOM BOOM CLUB with a double sticky wicket, as not only did he need a gig for the Friday night, but it was also to be a celebration of 1,000 gigs at the venue – a very special milestone in the history of the club indeed! Drastic action was required, sharpish!

Thankfully, ‘The future of British Blues’ Laurence Jones agreed to play anyway (a big plus as he is very well liked at the club); and Pete managed to get together some other very good musicians for the line-up at short notice. As well as LJ; he roped in OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; SONJA KRISTINA (of CURVED AIR); and THE VOODOO SHEIKS. Backing musicians too (of whom, more later) had to be shackled together ASAP.

Now, I like the Boom Boom Club, although its a fair trot from where I live. But if something special at the venue is going down, I’ll drive over and stay with cousin Charlie who is a big music fan and lives locally. This means I can sink a few pints as well! Charlie is also a keen photographer, and often comes along to take photos for me; and this he agreed to do tonight, of course. My son James came too as he’s a great fan of some of the very talented young Blues and Rock guitarists (like Jones)  that seem to have emerged lately (I’m glad to say); and sometimes accompanies me to gigs.

We tres hombres arrived early at the venue to have a chat with a few people I wanted to speak to – not to mention  to take advantage of the free drink that had been offered to the first 100 punters! So, gratis pint of Bombardier in hand, I spoke to the guv’nor Pete Feenstra about a couple of things; and I was also keen to have a word or two with fellow music writer NIGEL FOSTER (who had got an excellent review of this gig on line within a few hours).

VOODOO SHEIKS: A white-knuckle Blues ride! (Photo by CGM)

VOODOO SHEIKS: A white-knuckle Blues ride! (Photo by CGM)

Before long, Pete (in his role as master Of Ceremonies) was on stage welcoming we punters and explaining that all the proceeds from the gig were to go towards Walter Trout’s on-going medical treatment. Then he announced the first act:  the Sussex-based Voodoo Sheiks. I’d heard the name and was keen to see them live. They are a four-piece R’n’B outfit consisting of ‘SLOW-BLOW DAVE’ MAGSON (Vocals & Harp); ADRIAN THOMAS (Guitar & Backing Vocals); ANDY PULLIN (Bass); and JOHN COOMBES (Drums).

There is no messing about with this band: right from the off – with a song called ‘The Thrill Ain’t Gone’ – you know that you’re in for a white-knuckle ride of Blues at the R’n’R end of the spectrum. Before we had time to take a breath, they followed up with ‘Automatic’ featuring ‘Slow-Blow Dave’ on Harmonica. Then they gave us a good new song called ‘Have A Heart’ (from their forthcoming album) – great use of the Wah-Wah from Adrian on this one. Next they covered JOHN LEE HOOKER’s classic ‘Boom Boom’ – and what more appropriate song could be played at this club for this gig?  Excellent.

The band slowed things down a lot then, playing ‘Exit Wound’ – a slow, mellow 12-Bar. I loved it. Nice solo from Adrian.  This was followed by the lively ‘Spirit’ –  an original composition from their Borrowed And New album. ‘Can’t Keep A Good Man Down’ kept us up and rockin’; and their final offering was another from their Borrowed… album, ‘I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog That Way’.

This was a good little set from a very good band indeed. The rhythm section were impressively tight and competent; ‘Sow-Blow’ was great on vocals and harp (and entertainingly animated as a front-man!) But I was most impressed by Adrian’s playing; and guitar sound.  I spoke to him briefly after their set. He played an  ERNIE BALL MUSICMAN SILHOUETTE SPECIAL through a BLACK STAR amp. I must say, this gave a very impressive sound throughout; for both rhythm and lead work.

LAURENCE JONES: Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club! (Photo by CGM)

LAURENCE JONES: Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club! (Photo by CGM)

Next on the Bill was the Golden Boy of the Boom Boom Club – the young and very talented Laurence Jones. He was accompanied by his usual Bassist, the incomparable ROGER INNIS; but his drummer MIRI MIETTINEN unfortunately couldn’t make it, and so had to be replaced by IAN PALMER for the night. (Who, incidentally, is the nephew of legendary Prog-Rock drummer, CARL PALMER).

Gold Top in hand, LJ’s set opened with ‘Can’t Keep Living Like This’ from his latest album Temptation.  It was a rousing start; LJ immediately impressing with guitar and vocals. After thanking the fans for their avid applause, he posed the question: ‘Are you ready to hear some Blues?’ Oh yes! And the lively ‘You Wind Me Up’ continued the Heavy Blues vibe. Changing to a Strat, he gave us his moody ‘Southern Breeze’ next; and followed it with his song inspired by his confrontation with a huge ‘dirty rat in my bed’ in Louisiana:  ‘Soul Swamp River’. Standing at the front of the stage he sang confidently without mic for part of the song.

One of LJ’s favourite songs is the iconic, ‘All Along The Watchtower’.  He has made this his own to some extent, and it has become a regular part of his set – and a firm favourite of his fans too. Again standing front of stage, he played a blinding solo right in front of our little party; and we were treated to a master-class in lead guitar at close range. ‘Foolin’ Me’ (the opener from Temptation), followed. Its a great rocker. There was only time for one more number: ‘Fall From The Sky’ finished the set. This a well-constructed melodic rock song; during which we were encouraged to sing along.  All in all, very enjoyable little set.

This was the third time I’d seen LJ live – all three times at the Boom Boom Club – and the third time I’ve been impressed with his performance. (see my blog entry #14). He has noticeably improved yet again in only the six months since I saw him last. He is more confidant; more relaxed; more skilful – and with stubble on his  face, he doesn’t look like a boy any more either! Roger was outstanding with his monstrous 6-string Bass as usual; and there is a good on-stage interaction between the two; both musically and personally. Stand-in drummer Ian Palmer did a very fine job too. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t hear ‘Move On’; but with so much to get through, set-time was obviously limited.

SONJA KRISTINA: Acid-Folk diva! (Photo by CGM)

SONJA KRISTINA: Respected Acid-Folk diva! (Photo by CGM)

It was time for a significant change of pace then, as SONJA KRISTINA (of Progressive Folk-Rock veterans CURVED AIR), took to the stage with only her keyboard player ROBERT NORTON – and a  very distinctive Washburn acoustic in hand. Unannounced, she began her set with the hauntingly beautiful ‘Citadel’ (from her Songs From The Acid Folk album). This was followed by ‘Colder Than A Rose In Snow’, which is from the same collection; and also on Curved Air’s new North Star album. It has the same vibe about it too. She gave us her ‘Melinda More Or Less’ (from Phantsmagoria) next – a classic originally penned in 1967.  She followed this with her cover of Lennon and McCartney’s song ‘Across The Universe’ – a nice version of an old classic. Sonja then said she’d do one more. ‘Back Street Luv’?  I asked from the audience. ‘Yeah’ she replied ‘….a kind of acidy-folky ‘Back Street Luv”. I love the original of this song, and I loved this ‘acidy-folky’ version too. It was nice for me to see it performed live after all this time as well.

I thought it was a good little set. There were a couple of  people around me  who voiced an opinion that perhaps this wasn’t a suitable set for the Bluesy vibe of the evening, but I couldn’t agree – I thought it made for an interesting change of pace in the proceedings; and introduced a little variety.  Having said that, I think I’d rather have listened to it in the laid-back comfort of a sleepy Folk club, but I enjoyed it very much nonetheless. Sonja was in good voice throughout, and Mr.Norton was impressive on the keys.

Could have ben in Chicago - Grand, Jones and Darby (Photo by CGM)

We could have ben in Chicago! Grand, Jones and Darby (Photo by CGM)

The headliners for the night were then introduced by Pete: veteran guitarists  OTIS GRAND and ALAN DARBY; backed by GLYNN EVANS (Bass); MUNCH MOORE (Keys); and Ian Palmer once again (Drums). This was a band hastily coupled together at short notice, and most of them had never played together before. So what we were about to witness was  testament to their professionalism, experience and skill.  As soon as we heard the first few licks, we felt that we’d been spiritually transported to a Blues club in Downtown Chicago! And that vibe stayed put right through the set; as what was to follow was a demonstration of pure Urban Electric Blues at its best.

Darby (tooled up  with beautiful looking Firebird); and Grand (armed with a red Strat sprayed gold – and wearing a remarkable Mexican Mariachi suit) immediately  launched into ‘A Man Like Me’ – the suit entirely appropriate for the Latin-Blues vibe of the number!  Sharing vocals and swapping solos, our two lead guitarists led us into a classy Blues wonderland.  It was an impressive start from a group of musos not at all used to playing together as a unit. And if anything,  the next offering was even better; as they then hit us with a sublime version of ‘There’s Gotta Be Changes Made’ – a laid-back Chicago Blues to close your eyes and drift away to. The two of them duelled solos for a good eleven minutes  – and I loved it!

Welcomed back on stage then was Laurence Jones. He’d already proved that he can hold his own with the old masters – I’d seen him jam impressively with Walter Trout on this very stage 18 months before. This time with a Telecaster, LJ immediately took to the mic for ‘Easy Baby’ – he and the other two, with faces contorted in ecstasy,  jammed in turns; improvising from the heart for another lengthy demonstration of their art. There then followed an up-tempo untitled instrumental shuffle; again show-casing their collective skills.

Feenstra retuned to the stage once again then; introducing the formidable rhythm section of Evans, Moore and Palmer, and emphasising that they’d only met this afternoon and had been ‘…working their socks off here tonight!’. There was time for one more he said. It was ‘Looking Good’ – in both title and performance. Grand and Darby traded licks superlatively; and when they finished, the applause was deafening. Fantastic!

After the gig Otis soon appeared at the bar, and I tackled him. I asked if he remembered the JOHNNY WINTER  gig back in ’92  where the Blues expert RAY TOPPING and myself met him backstage. (See my blog entry #17). He said that he did, so I told him Ray had since passed away; and we spoke of Ray’s famous vinyl collection (God knows what happened to that after he died). Then someone asked about the Mariachi suit. Otis said he bought it from a Mexican who happened to be the same size!  After a couple of photos, and a bit more chat, we left Otis to speak to some others.

At the merch desk we spoke to Laurence Jones, and congratulated him on a fine performance. We spoke of his nomination for the UK Blues Challenge (‘The Battle For Brussels’), which is to be held at the Boom Boom Club on 11th December (which sadly  I cannot now attend).   Unfortunately I didn’t see Alan Darby, or Sonja Kristina; I’d like to have had a word with them too. And I missed the opportunity to speak to the two bassists, Glynn Evans and Roger Inniss. But I did have a little chat with Pete and Nigel again.

Kudos to to Pete, Eric, and all the staff at the Boom Boom Club (including the hard-working ladies behind the bar) for their marvellous efforts in getting this milestone show up and running; and to all the very talented musicians who made this a most memorable experience. Thanks to Charlie for the excellent photos; and Phil Honley for the video.  Looking forward to the next 1,000 gigs at the club! PTMQ

Here’s a Phil Honley video of Grand and Darby playing ‘There’s Gotta Be Changes Made’ . Other videos from Phil from the same show are also on You Tube……

24 . JAMES ANTHONY “Some People Get It” (Haltone Records, 2014)

JAMES ANTHONY’s “Some People Get It!” (Photo: PTMQ)

Recently I was unexpectedly contacted by Blues guitarist JAMES ANTHONY from Ontario, Canada.  No, I’d never heard of him before either; but after a little research, I soon realised that I was dealing with a very experienced and talented musician and song-writer indeed; and I was impressed with the music that I heard. This was a pleasant surprise for me as I’ve had a long-held interest and fondness for Canadian Rock and Blues guitarists since my teenage years. This is after all, the country that gave us ALEX LIFESON; RIK EMMETT;  FRANK MARINO; PAT TRAVERS; and of course the late, great JEFF HEALEY; to name but a few.

James has already released several albums in Canada to great critical acclaim. Yet is currently virtually unknown in the UK.  On the phone he told me that he’d love to play England but had no contacts over here. And that ironically, Canadian artists have to leave Canada in order to become famous – even in their homeland! Well I’m no music promoter (I’m just a bloke who writes a blog!), but I know two or three promoters who may interested in him and his excellent band, and I promised to mention James to them – which I have done. (Watch this space).  James was so pleased that he sent me a few of his CDs, to review – and thereby spread the word.

So in order to help The James Anthony Band become more known in the UK (or indeed further afield; as my blog is being read the World over now), I told James that I’d start by reviewing the latest album “Some People Get It”. Now, being as I’m not familiar with James’ work; comparisons with other artists that I do know, are inevitable. So if I say it reminds me of “so and so’s” music, that doesn’t mean James has necessarily been influenced by; or indeed, copied that person. I’ll say a few words about each track:

A case in point is the first track, ‘Right Between The Eyes’, because as soon as it started, I thought of COCO MONTOYA. Well, that’s not a bad comparison, because there are similarities between the two guitarists throughout the collection. Lovely guitar tone on this track.

Second song is ‘What About Us’. Its a souly-blues number; very pleasant; and floats along nicely. This is followed by the title track; which starts with a flourish of notes from (what sounds to me like) a Telecaster. ‘ALBERT COLLINS’ I thought!  It has a funky-blues vibe; and is very catchy.

‘Waiting For So Long’ is a beautiful song; and has a lovely harmonised twin lead guitar solo in part. This is followed by ‘Valentine’s Day’; another funky-blues that gets the foot tapping.  ‘Who’s Doing Who?’ follows. Its a bright and chirpy blues number, with cynical lyric that made me smile. Nice Bass and Harp on this one.

I love ‘Me Or That Damn Guitar’. If you like trad-sounding Urban Blues, you’ll love it too. Great Keys, and unusual use of a Wah-Wah. Its for anyone who’s missus is on their case!  ‘Walking My Blues Away’ continues in the same vein; and is another great song.

‘Rockabilly Walk’ is up next. Its inclusion surprised me. Its lyric starts like the traditional English participatory song ‘Hokey-Cokey’. I don’t know if James has developed a dance to go with this, but it’d be a great party song. It makes a change for me to hear a little Rockabilly too.

‘If You Love Me’ is a fine, light-weight Rock’n’Roll piece – think of the classic  ‘Time Is On My Side’. Yet another complete change of style is tried out with the pen-ultimate track: ‘Date With The Blues’. This is a cool Jazzy Blues; mellow, with a beautiful guitar tone. I love it! A further style is manifest in the last offering, ‘Travelling In My Mind’. It is an acoustic Down-Home style Blues. It is a great little song demonstrating James’ skill with the acoustic guitar; accompanied only by the harmonica. Nice bit of Bottleneck slide-work too.

All songs are written by James. They are well constructed and demonstrate his versatility as a writer; encompassing many different Bluesy styles. I like this album a lot. Its bright, classy, and at all times palatable. Its the kind of Blues that could bring a Blues-sceptic to the blues table for a veritable feast! ‘Some People Get It’ says James; I get it….. and if you like a bit of blues, you’ll get it too!

The band consists of: James himself, who plays all guitars; and vocals.  BUCKY BERGER (Drums); and JAMES RASMUSSEN (Bass). Other musos (on Keys and Harp etc) have been brought in as necessary. James also produced and co-engineered the album.

Here is a link to James Anthony’s website:

http://www.jamesanthony.ca/

Here is a vid of The JAB at the Kitchener Blues Fest, Ontario, Canada…

PTMQ

22. MILTON-FARROW SKIFFLE ‘n’ BLUES BAND “Skiffleodeon” (Right Track Records, 2014) + a few words on their PHOENIX FM radio session, 9th October 2014.

MILTON - FARROW's "Skiffleodeon" (Photo: PTMQ)

MILTON – FARROW’s “Skiffleodeon” (Photo: PTMQ)

I’ve been quite familiar with the music of BILL FARROW for 20 years or more now. In fact since our mutual friend, ROB WHEATON (a one-time member of Bill’s BONNEVILLE TWINS, and currently the guitarist in folk band DEVONBIRD) lent me some of Bill’s CDs (including the quirkily named “The French Can’t Make Mangles Like We Can”); plus a recording of a Radio Essex session that he’d done in the early ’90s.

So I was pleased when Bill popped round to my place recently, along with his current collaborator RICHIE MILTON, en route to do another radio session (this time at PHOENIX FM, in Brentwood, Essex), and handed over a copy of their latest EP entitled “Skiffleodeon” (Right Track Records, 2014. RTR-S 08014).  I was honoured when Bill asked me to review it on my blog. ‘Be kind’ he asked – well, I’ll be honest, Bill!

Well, once they’d gone, I tuned into Phoenix FM and listened to the session. Their appearance was linked to another article running that day about the scandal of so many English pubs closing down lately. Farrow’s song ‘Pulling All The Boozers Down’ (from the new EP) was then, very appropriate. They’re performance was very good; demonstrating plenty of experience of playing live. Some amusing banter ensued; and later they played another track from the new EP: Milton’s ‘BBQ Chicken And Wine’. A good little session. I enjoyed it.

Later I played the EP. It is a collection of six new songs: three from Milton; and three from Farrow. Well I said I’d be honest; so here it is….. To be fair it was pretty much what I expected (but that’s not a criticism) – I think its a great little collection of original material. Anyone who knows me, knows that I like skilful guitar playing (regardless of genre), and interesting, clever, and/or amusing lyrics. I got all that with this EP, so I wasn’t disappointed.

The opening track ‘That Rock Island Line’ (penned by Farrow) is a kind of potted history of Skiffle; based on the oft-covered classic ‘Rock Island Line’. The lyric cleverly mentions many a famous British musician who cut his teeth as a Skiffle man in the ’50s and ’60s. Its a foot tapper – a good start. The same vibe continues on the second offering; ‘Chicken In The Yard’ (also by Farrow). It must be a tough ol’ life down on the farm in Dagenham, Bill! Its another good song with effective guitar work.

The next two songs are Milton’s: ‘Don’t Know Where I’m Going’  has some fine acoustic guitar; and Masters’ bass is very good. A great song.  And ‘Ms.Sippie Brown’ is a lively little rag. I haven’t heard a rag for ages, so it made a nice change for me to hear. Its a good’un too; made me smile in appreciation. Once again lovely acoustic geetar!

Feeling a little peckish? I recommend some ‘BBQ Chicken And Wine’. This is one of Milton’s too. This is another enjoyable song. I particularly liked Cotton on the  ‘Jo-anna’; the ‘cluckin’ guitar; and the retorted backing vocals.

Finally, the highlight of the disc for me is ‘Pulling All The Boozers Down’, by Farrow. It actually covers a very serious subject (as I stated above): the decline of the good ol’ English ‘watering hole’.  But its actually a lot of fun, with a simple but effective sing-a-long chorus –  the sort of song that is at its best, played live in a pub (assuming you can still find one open!); and the more real-ale you quaff, the more you’ll enjoy it!

The Milton-Farrow Skiffle’n’Blues Band consists of: Richie Milton (Guitar and vocals); Bill Farrow (Guitar and vocals); Alan Glen (Harmonica); Eddie Masters (Upright bass); Graham Hollingworth (Drums); and Roger Cotton (keyboards). Competent musicians all. Production and recordings (at Roundel Studios, Kent) are very good too. It has a simple sleeve with good basic info. I’m recommending this EP to anyone who has a broad interest in Skiffle’n’Blues. Best get down the pub now, before last orders!

Now, where did I leave me ol’ Mum’s washboard? PTMQ

Richie Milton’s website is here…… http://www.richiemilton.co.uk

Here’s a vid of the band in the studio playing ‘Pulling All The Boozers Down’…….

20. STEVE HOWE: A solo acoustic gig at STRATFORD CIRCUS, East London. Wednesday, 17th September, 2014

'We love you, Steve!'

‘We love you, Steve!’ (Photo by PTMQ)

When my friend, GLYN PROTHEROE asked me if I fancied seeing the remarkably talented ex-YES guitarist STEVE HOWE, play a solo acoustic gig at STRATFORD CIRCUS in East London, I of course jumped at the chance. I’d never been to this venue before; but I immediately liked it. It is a small theatre – the stage being almost as big as the auditorium! There can’t have been more than 150 people present. This made for a very intimate; almost personal performance. As we entered, we saw that Steve’s guitars and associated gear were clustered mid-stage awaiting the maestro’s presence. There was no support act, and Mr.Howe was to perform the show in two-parts. Glyn had procured seats for us in the centre of Row F; and this afforded an excellent view of the proceedings; which as guitarists ourselves, we required for close observation of the Yes-man’s considerable skills.

At 8PM, Steve unceremoniously, and unpretentiously emerged from the stage’s wings to great applause. Without any ado, he picked up one of the two Spanish guitars available to him, and began to play ‘Pyramidology’; closely followed by ‘Classical Gas’ and ‘The Ancient’ (From the 1973 Yes album ‘Tales Of Topographic Oceans’). His style of playing is a joy to see – effortless and faultless. Changing to the only steel-strung acoustic present, he then played ‘Ram’; and a beautiful instrumental cover of THE HOLLIES’ ‘He Ain’t Heavy’. ‘Solitaire’; and ‘To Be Over’ (From the 1974 Yes album ‘Relayer’) followed. Part One finished with the clever and amusing instrumental ‘Second Initial’ (written for one of his children). It was amusing to see performed, as well as heard. How can a piece of music be amusing? Howe can make it so! Cheers rang out as our host exited the stage for a short break.

Part Two began, again with great applause – plus, a loud ‘We love you, Steve!’ from a particularly adoring fan behind us somewhere. Our man began again with more instrumentals: ‘Masquerade’; ‘Corkscrew’; ‘J’s Theme’ (for his wife); ‘Little galliard’; and ‘Mood For A Day’. He was more chatty in this half describing the influences and writing of the songs.

He then spoke about his three chosen guitars for this gig – all custom-made to his specifications. His first nylon-strung Spanish instrument was a MARTIN MC 38 ‘Steve Howe Edition’. The other Spanish was a specially made KOHNO guitar from Japan. Finally he described his steel-string MARTIN MC 28. A beautiful trio of guitars in sight as well as sound.

It is a well-known fact that Steve Howe has myriad musical influences. Not least of which was the legendary CHET ATKINS. He spoke about how he was, as a boy, first exposed to this very talented guitarist; and as a tribute to the great man, he played the classic ‘Trambone’. He followed this with ‘Valley Of The Rocks’ which is named after a beauty-spot in Devon.

Another big influence on the young Master Howe, was BIG BILL BROONZY. His tribute to this great bluesman was by way of a superb cover of ‘Glory Of Love’; effortlessly merging with ‘Goin Down This Road’. Steve is not a singer (more a guitarist who sings occasionally), but he did sing these old blues classics quite well, I must say. He also penned his own song for Broonzy: ‘Intersection Blues’; which like everything else on this evening was played immaculately.

As Steve is due to tour ‘Down-under’ shortly (and visit his brother whilst there), he deemed it appropriate to play ‘Bound For Australia’. This was followed by ‘laughing With Larry’; ‘All In The Course Of A Day’; and ‘Sketches In The Sun’.

During the interval, members of the audience were invited to write questions down that they’d like Steve to answer. This led to interesting and amusing anecdotes about QUEEN (for whom he asked for a round of applause); LOU REED; and THE BYRDS. Glyn had asked if it was true about RICK WAKEMAN infamously eating curry on-stage with YES at a gig in the 70s – it was!

Encore was demanded! Inevitably this was the quintessential Steve Howe piece, ‘The Clap’. It was played superlatively; just as it was all those years ago on ‘The Yes Album’ in 1971. He left the stage to a standing ovation.

After the gig, Glyn and I waited by the ‘merch desk’ hoping for our acoustic hero to have a few words with us. He duly arrived and signed autographs; posed for photos; and spoke to those of us that had stayed behind. I don’t think he wanted to hang around long, but spoke a little to us about his guitars.

I’d recommend anyone who loves guitar music of any kind to go and see Steve Howe whenever possible. His eclectic repertoire means there will be something for almost everyone. His playing is a beautiful to watch as well as listen to. It is inspirational and sublime.

PTMQ

16. RUBY AND THE REVELATORS (+PACE COOPER) at the CHICHESTER INN, West Sussex. Sunday 6th July, 2014

RUBY AND THE REVELATORS - Classy blues!  (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

RUBY AND THE REVELATORS – Classy blues! (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

I was surprised and flattered when the singer RUBY TIGER contacted me out of the blue (or should that be ‘out of the blues?’) after having read my blog; to invite me to write a review of her debut EP launch gig at the CHICHESTER INN, West Sussex. I’d heard her name crop up from time to time, but I’d never met her before, nor heard her sing; so I immediately got onto YouTube for some research. What I saw and heard was impressive enough for me to book a motel room near the venue, pronto!

I made the 100-mile drive to Chichester from my base in Essex in two hours. I arrived early enough to sit in on a little of the sound-check; which enabled me to meet the band, and their friends and associates. Ruby (aka Olivia Stevens) is an instantly likable lady; chirpy and fun; confident; full of life; and full of character – just the kind of personality you need to cut-it as a successful singer. She apparently took her stage-name from the beautiful Ruby Tiger moth; and it seems to suit her. She cut her teeth as a singer in a funk band called FUNKY JUNCTION in which she did well; but she became drawn to the blues, and now she seems so comfortable in this genre, that you’d swear she’d spent her entire life on stage belting out blues classics!

Ruby’s excellent band, THE REVELATORS, consist of: KING ROLLO on guitar and occasional bass (another name that I’ve been hearing for a while, but again, never seen); LOUISE MAGGS on bass and occasional guitar (an experienced jazz guitarist and guitar tutor); and the highly capable PAUL WRIGHT on drums. These superb musicians were supplemented by blues-harp player DARREN WALLER (of CLAPTON WALLER RECORDS who had recorded the EP). The appearance of a sax player had also been planned for one song, but he was unfortunately ill. Undaunted, Ruby confidently decided that she’d sing scat over the missing sax solo.

Sound-check completed, Ruby announced that we should all temporarily decamp to the curry house next door for an Indian meal – a ‘Ruby Murray’ with Ruby Tiger! By the time we arrived back at the Chichester Inn, the music room was filling up nicely. Many of the audience seemed to be friends of Ruby and the band, which made for a very warm and friendly atmosphere. Many copies of the EP ‘VISTAS’ had already been sold, and Ruby got to work signing them. Before long it was time for the show to begin.

PACE COOPER - Pretty covers with fine harmonies (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

PACE COOPER – Pretty covers with fine harmonies (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

First up was the support act PACE COOPER. This is a local boy-girl duo, step-siblings CLOE BARRETT (vocals) and TOM LAWSON-BAKER (acoustic guitar) who played a few fine contemporary covers, beginning with Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Put Your Records On’. Now I feel I should apologise to Cloe and Tom for not giving their set my full attention as I am afraid I was at the back of the pub chatting away with the Revelators and their friends, but what I heard was very good – especially their version of the old blues classic ‘Cry Me A River’, which was soulfully sung by Cloe with competent guitar and harmonies from Tom. (I managed to see and hear all of that number!) Anyway, they were warmly received by the audience, and thoroughly deserved the applause. Good luck to them both.

After a short break it was the moment we had all been waiting for. Ruby and the band took to the stage to great applause before they’d even played a note. She announced that it would be a two-part set with a short interval. And that they’d start proceedings with the Esther Phillips classic, ‘Aged And Mellow’. I’d heard an earlier Ruby / Rollo duet version of this number, which was excellent, but with the full band it was exceptional; and a great opener. ‘You Gotta Move’ followed with Rollo impressing with his Elmore James-style bottleneck slide technique. Bluesy classics both old and new followed: ‘Lingers’; ‘You Know I’m No Good’; Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’; and Etta James’ ‘Damn Your Eyes’ (which is on the EP).

RUBY TIGER (photo by Sarah Reeve)

RUBY TIGER ‘With these blues I just can’t lose!’ (photo by Sarah Reeve)

Next up was one of Ruby’s own songs (again from the EP): ‘Me And My Tears’. For this jazz number, bassist Louise played guitar; and Rollo, bass. It is a well penned, interesting piece with changing time signatures. Ruby sang beautifully, and Louise’s superb jazz chops were well demonstrated. Rollo did a fine job on bass too. The sax player’s solo was barely missed with Ruby’s improvised scat singing, which proved her versatility on vocals. I spoke to Lou and Rollo at the interval about their role reversal. Lou explained a bit about the chords (but jazz guitar is something of a dark art to me!); and Rollo quipped that as a bluesman ‘if its got more than three chords I want payin’ extra!’

Peter Green’s iconic, laid-back ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ followed. This is often covered of course, but although still an unmistakable Greeny tribute, it was no slavish copy – Ruby and Rollo making it as much theirs as his. Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Love Me Like A Man’ livened the place up again; before they ended Part One on a high, with the fun Sugar Pie De Santo number: ‘Soulful Dress’.

Part Two began with just Ruby and Rollo (as a duet as they had played together many times). So the first few songs of this second part were like a charming cameo – a gig within a gig. Although Darren joined them on harmonica, the musical on-stage chemistry between Ruby and Rollo is obvious – genuine and deep. They began with another Elmore James song: ‘It Hurts Me Too’ with Rollo playing blinding slide again. ‘Georgia On My Mind’ followed before Lou returned to play another good original piece: ‘Payin My Dues’; and the classic ‘St.Louis Blues’. Then it was time for another of Ruby’s own songs from the EP: ‘Best Friend’. Its about her friendship with Rollo and is full of heart and soul. Great applause ensued.

The cameo completed, the full band let rip with the old 1928 Ma Rainey song ‘Big Feeling Blues’ (from the EP). Rollo shared vocals on this too, and played a great solo. Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘Ain’t No Love (In The Heart Of The City)’ followed. I haven’t heard a cover of this for ages – great song, good choice! Next it was time for another Etta James classic: ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’. This show-cased Ruby’s vocals, and whilst some may say that it wasn’t the Beth Hart / Joe Bonamassa version, I can honestly say that it was a close second!

Things were heating up in the audience now. ‘Real Man’ got lots of people up dancing. It was barely ended before the band finished with the lively ‘Shattered Not Broken’. This is the third of Ruby’s own excellent songs to feature on the EP. It went down a storm, and an encore was demanded! Perhaps another iconic song would do the trick? Jimmy Reid’s ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do?’ hit us like a sledgehammer! To paraphrase the song, Ruby had us doin’ what she wanted us to do! The finale was a fun medley that saw a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.

RUBY (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

RUBY had us doin’ what she wanted us to do! (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

Ruby and her band’s repertoire consists of a good selection of carefully chosen bluesy styles – from the jazzy, through the R’n’B, to the rock ends of the blues spectrum, both old and new – reflecting both the depth of the blues genre; and her ability to sing anything within it. At times her voice was mellow; sometimes gutsy; or sweet and soulful as needs be; but at all times palatable; beautiful; controlled; and above all, classy! Another thing I liked was that Ruby has a lovely speaking voice, and has a great rapport with the audience. She speaks to the crowd between songs, explaining them where necessary, and telling anecdotes. So what do I hear when I listen to Ruby? I hear Etta James; a little Janis Joplin; maybe Dinah Washington? But most of what I hear is Ruby’s own unique voice and style – she is creating her own niche as a singer. She has also proved that she can write good original material too. She’s quite a lady!

Now I wonder what the future holds for this blues diva? With performances like this; the excellent debut EP ‘Vistas’; and exposure to a wider audience courtesy of a great article by IAN McHUGH in BLUES IN BRITAIN magazine; the stars are indeed looking very auspicious for Ruby and the Revelators. Hopefully she will get some larger venues to play; and further afield too (having only been as far as High Wycombe); and I’d like to see her as a support act for more big names like the veteran GENO WASHINGTON who she supported recently. Personally, I think she’d go down a storm supporting JOOLS HOLLAND (Hootenanny, next year perhaps?)

Anyway, I think the lady has reached a genuine ‘take-off point’ – this is where an artist ticks over doing OK for X-amount of time and then something triggers a significant boost to their career. Now I don’t know how high this particular Ruby Tiger will fly, but I do know that the cocoon phase is over – the time has come for this beautiful blues butterfly to spread her wings and soar! Someone at the gig asked me if it had been worth driving the 100 miles to see Ruby and co; I quipped that I’d have driven thousand!

If you fancy seeing Ruby And The Revelators live, (and I highly recommend it) they’ll be playing at the Uckfield Blues Festival on Sunday 4th August at 6pm. Link below….

http://uckfieldbluesandroots.co.uk/

If you’d like to buy a copy of Ruby’s 5-track EP, here is a link….

http://rubytiger.bandcamp.com/

Here is a video of Ruby And The Revelators playing her own jazz composition ‘Me And My Tears’ at the gig….

Phil The Music Quill.

14. COCO MONTOYA (+ LAURENCE JONES) at THE BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton, Surrey. Friday, 23rd May 2014

'LAURENCE JONES - The future of British blues-rock' (Photo by PTMQ)

‘The future of British blues-rock’ Laurence Jones (Photo by PTMQ)

I hadn’t been to The Boom Boom Club for a few months. Although I like it there, I don’t live that close, so it has to be an exceptional artist that brings me along! So when I heard that promoter PETE FEENSTRA had booked the great bluesman COCO MONTOYA (who I’d never seen live before), I had no hesitation in getting a place booked (via cousin Charlie who lives nearby). To add icing to the cake LAURENCE JONES was to be the support act – had to be a winner of a gig!

Charlie and I arrived early and found ourselves a place at the front of the stage; eagerly awaiting the show. Support act Laurence Jones was soon climbing unpretentiously on stage, and launched into ‘Can’t Keep Living Like This’ from his new album “Temptation”. It was a whirlwind start to a breath-taking set of exceptionally good music from a young guitarist, who music writer NIGEL FOSTER describes as ‘the future of British blues-rock’, and I think that’s a fair comment. Its quite a compliment considering he’s up against the likes of: DAVY KNOWLES; OLI BROWN; and VIRGIL McMAHON.

Now I last saw Jones at this same venue almost exactly a year ago, supporting the veteran bluesman WALTER TROUT (who as I write is unfortunately seriously ill back in the USA – and no doubt all blues fans are praying for him). I remember being impressed at the time by this young lad; but what a difference that year has made! He is noticeably far more confident than he was last May; and his chops are greatly improved – his Strat’s fret-board was his, to be used as gently or as roughly as he saw fit – with equal precision. It was a nice touch when he dedicated the title track ‘Temptation’ to Trout, his hero, who guests on the new album; and I must say, he did the old master proud. Another highlight for me was his version of Hendrix’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’. This is often covered, of course, but Jones didn’t slavishly stick to the Hendrix format; rather making it his own, with a lengthy but interesting solo that show-cased his considerable skills. And a bloody good job he made of it too! I also liked ‘Fall From The Sky’ a lot; and ‘Soul Swamp River’ which he sang (partly) without a mic at the front of the stage.

Mention must be made of Jones’ excellent band too. I think these are a different bassist and drummer to those I remember from a year ago. Finnish drummer MIRI MIETTINEN was a reliable powerhouse at the back of the stage; and ROGER INNISS was exceptional with his monstrous 6-string bass, the size of a scaffold-board! But, Christ, could he play it!

I spoke briefly to LJ after the show, and found him to be a very nice bloke – modest and affable. Now that the tour with Montoya is finished, he tells me he’s off to the RORY GALLAGHER FESTIVAL in Ballyshannon, Ireland; along with another old veteran favourite of mine, BERNIE MARSDEN. With the company he keeps this boy is going far! I notice he’s back for a gig at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB here in Essex in June – that’s one for the diary. (Just realised, its only a couple of weeks away!) Anyway, good luck to you, LJ!

Half-time was unusual: normally the intervals at gigs are filled with beer and music blah blah (and fair enough too!); but after Pete Feenstra had finished plugging the next two gigs over this Bank Holiday weekend, Nigel Foster got up on stage to present him with a special award for all the hard work he’d done in promoting all sorts of music acts over the years. It was well deserved, and Nigel summed it up excellently with some very well-chosen words. Charlie and I also got talking to the photographer JENNIFER NOBLE of BLUES MATTERS magazine and her husband. She is a big blues fan; very knowledgeable; and quite a character.

Coco Montoya -  now that's what I call the blues! (Photo by PTMQ)

Coco Montoya – ‘now THAT’S the blues!’ (Photo by PTMQ)

Now for the main event. I’d been waiting a long time to see Coco. In my mind I always lump Montoya, Trout and BUDDY WHITTINGTON together – all big American bluesmen from the prolific JOHN MAYALL’S BLUESBREAKERS stable. I’ve seen Trout and Whittington several times (and my son James and I have had the honour of meeting them both too. Unfortunately James couldn’t make it tonight), but I’ve been waiting for Montoya for years; having never seen him live. Tonight was to complete the trinity.

Coco Montoya and his band; consisting of Nate Brown on bass; Brant Leeper on keyboards; and Rene Beevers on drums; took to the stage to great applause. Brandishing a brilliant blue left-handed Strat, fitted with a right-handed neck; the big bluesman kicked off his set with ‘Wish I Could Be that Strong’. It was a great opener, and was quickly followed by ‘Hey Seniorita’, with its latin feel. Various favourites followed, including: ‘Too Much Water Under The Bridge’; the funky ‘Don’t Go Makin’ Plans’; and finishing with ‘Three Sides To Every Story’.

Coco’s repertoire is a blend of various well-known bluesy vibes – both traditional and modern in style; yet all of it with Coco’s personal stamp of genius at its core. The influence of his original mentor, the late great ALBERT COLLINS, is manifest; and the tutorship of JOHN MAYALL is apparent; but his feeling and understanding of the blues obviously comes from deep down inside. Jennifer Noble summed it up succinctly to me half-way through the set: ‘Now THAT’S the blues!’ she said.

I met Coco after the show and had a brief chat with him. We talked about his blue lefty Strat; and about flying back to the USA next day. He is like many great musicians: modest and approachable; and has a genuine love of, and gratitude towards his fans. He told me he’s not going to leave it so long this time before returning to the UK for another tour – let’s hope he means it as I think everyone there would be up for another Coco gig ASAP! Thanks Coco – it was a fantastic night!

A final word should also be said about the hard-working bar staff at the Boom Boom Club – you never have to wait long for a pint, and you are always served with a pretty smile – A BIG THANK YOU LADIES!

Here is a vid of Coco in action at this very gig…..

May the Blues be with you! Phil The Music Quill