Tag Archives: bottleneck blues

53. MARTIN McNEILL “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide” (Bottleneck Blues, 2015)

'Lately I've Let Things Slide' (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Lately I’ve Let Things Slide’ (Photo: PTMQ)

Martin McNeill is a name that my regular readers will know by now. His new album Lately I’ve Let Things Slide, is the second of two excellent new acoustic Blues albums that I’ve been sent for review recently – the other being King Rollo’s Easy Street  (see my previous review #52). In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when Martin said that he had an album on CD to send me, because I didn’t even know he’d been in the studio! Back in January when I spoke to him at a  Milton And Farrow gig (see my review #33), he said that he’d never really been too involved with recording – although he had released an earlier album about fifteen years ago (which I haven’t heard). Well I’m glad to say that his remarkable talents are on record once more with the release of this fine collection.

There are twelve tracks on the album – mostly covers; but every one reworked in Martin’s inimitable style. One song however, is penned by Martin himself. He sings all vocals; and plays all guitars and harmonica. The title is well-chosen, as bottleneck slide is what this opus is all about – Martin being a master of the art.

The title track starts us off. Its a sad, yet somehow amusing, Nick Lowe song that Martin has given a Blues-style make-over, with the bottleneck slide technique for which he is well known. It works well; and prefigures what’s to come.

The second track, the old Blues classic ‘You Gotta Move’, (an old classic made famous by Mississippi Fred McDowell), has coincidentally been included in both Martin’s and Rollo’s new albums. And as I wrote in the previous Blog entry, although many have covered the song, each has done so in their own distinctive way. Certainly, Martin’s version here, can also be added to the long list of fine covers of this old Blues number – but no; I won’t be drawn into which I prefer!

(Photo: PTMQ)

Bottleneck slide maestro Martin McNeill at Peggy Sue’s Music Bar, Essex in April 2015.(Photo: PTMQ)

‘On The Road Again’ is of course the old Floyd Jones song made famous by Canned Heat back in ’67. Martin has reworked it; and its good. And I must say I prefer it to many other versions (including even the Canned Heat one – because I never really liked the vocals!).

Keb Mo (real name: Kevin Moore) is the writer behind the next song ‘Keep It Simple’. I must admit I’m not too familiar with his work; but thanks to Martin I’m now a little wiser!  Lovely  sound on the lead on this one. And another old classic, the RL Burnside song ‘Going Down South’ gets the MM treatment next!

‘Pickin’ The Blues’ is a chirpy little instrumental; again covered by many – including the greatest of all slide guitarists – the legendary Elmore James. But Martin does the old master proud on this one. This is followed by two more oft-covered old staples: ‘Rain Down Tears’; and   ‘Waiting For My Baby’ (another McDowell number).

‘Mad With me’ is the one song in this collection that is penned by McNeill himself; and its the only chance we have of seeing how deeply all this Blues has entered his psyche! And to be honest, if i didn’t know it was a McNeill song, I’d assume it was an oldie that I didn’t know! So he has certainly showed himself to be a good song-writer on the strength of this one. He also demonstrates that he’s a decent Harp player too. It compliments the oldies nicely!

The Gary Nicholson / Guy Clark  penned ‘Leap Of Faith’; and another Keb Mo song ‘I’m On Your Side’ are up next. Both covers are well arranged and satisfying to hear – nice Harmonica again on the latter. Then finally two old songs are cleverly fused together: the haunting instrumental ‘Paris Texas’ by Ry Cooder; and Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ (without the lyric).

Martin’s vocals are unusual. He manages to pull off the most unlikely thing of singing Blues songs with an English accent – but still making it sound right! I don’t know of anyone else who can do this. He has a relaxing voice and easy, clear vocal style too. Quite pleasant to listen to.

The album was recorded by Jon Webber at JWS Studios. The cover is of the card and plastic gate-fold type which I prefer; with photos by Tim Hubbard and The Dim Locator; plus a basic track listing with writer credits.

If you like a bit of acoustic Blues, then you’ll love both this album and King Rollo’s too; and I can highly recommend them both. I’m looking forward to seeing both of these quite remarkable Bluesmen again at gigs ASAP. Martin regularly hosts Monday Blues At Peggy Sue’s Music Bar in Leigh-On-Sea in Essex with a different special guest every week. For all his other gigs (including with his band Bottleneck Blues), see his website…….

 http://www.martinmcneill.co.uk/

 PTMQ

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

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