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164. TANYA PICHE BLUES BAND’s debut album “Wolf Woman Blues” (2017) A pre-release review.

(Image: TPBB)

A few months ago I was privileged to be asked to sit in on the recording of three songs by the only female-fronted Blues band in Essex, the Tanya Piché Blues Band, at Basildon Recording Studio (see my article #111). The band cut three tracks that day towards their debut album; and I left with the conclusion that it would be a good’n. They have previously recorded a live EP Back at Ya! (see #111); and a couple of singles (see #80 & #116); but this is their first full album.

The clue is in the name with this unit: Tanya Piché Blues Band – they do exactly what their name suggests! But not only that; they play some of the most original and authentic-sounding Blues you are likely to hear from a band this side of the Pond. Formed in May 2015, they consist of the unique Howlin’ Wolf Woman herself, Tanya Piché (Vocals/harp); Nick ‘Smurf’ Sherreard (bass/harp/backing vocals); David Warne (guitar); and James Digings (drums). These are all well-seasoned musos. Tanya herself once spent some time hanging out with the late Robert Lucas of Canned Heat (see my article #65) – not a bad thing to have on her CV!

Blues purists they may be, but there is plenty of scope in their repertoire for originality too. Seeped in the classics of the genre, Tanya and her boys have certainly been doing their homework over a long period of time. When I listen to these recordings I hear the echoes of Waters, Hooker, Dixon, and of course Burnett – the original Howlin’ Wolf himself. In fact the album is dedicated to Burnett and Lucas – Tanya’s mentors. It is earthy, gritty, and authentic stuff – yet far more than a rehash; being fresh and interesting too.

Wolf Woman Blues is a ten track collection of mainly original numbers penned by the band themselves. The three songs I saw being recorded last year were ‘Big Joe’s Place’, ‘I Gotta Leave This Man’ and ‘I Said Please’. (For a description of these see my article #111). ‘Wolfhound Woman’ and ‘London And L.A.’ are a lot of fun; whilst the slow and moody numbers ‘Why’ and ‘I Said Please’ made me smile and nod in appreciation. But most of all I love ‘Clawing At Your Door’ and of course ‘Blues For Chester’. All in all, a good selection of some fine authentic Blues styles. There are a few sound effects included, like wolf howls and police sirens, and a soundbite of Burnett himself, which I think add to the enjoyment of the album.

Quality of musicianship is very high: characteristically unique, gritty vocals from Tanya; impressive guitar from David (especially some lovely slide work); with solid and reliable bass and drums from Nick and James.

At time of writing I do not have a CD copy, but I’m told it comes in a de-luxe tri-fold card case. Tanya is looking sexy, wolfish – and just a bit scary on the cover! I love the band’s logo and the claw marks too! There is plenty of info on the back cover (see image below).

This is a howlin’ good album, and I felt privileged to be present when some of it was recorded last year. It’s a big thumbs up from The Quill. Highly recommended if (like me) you love authentic-sounding Blues. The album launch gig will be at The Mill Beach PH in Maldon, Essex on 14th May. Check the TPBB website for more info. PTMQ

(Image: TPBB)

 

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111. With the TANYA PICHE BLUES BAND in BASILDON RECORDING STUDIO. Saturday 2nd July, 2016.; + a few words about the band’s live EP “Back At Ya!” (2016)

M/s Piche at the controls! (Pic: Tanya P)

Pressing all the right buttons: Tanya at the controls! (Pic: TP)

Preamble: When Blues singer Tanya Piché invited me to hang out with her band in Basildon Studio recently, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. The TPBB were booked for a few hours on Saturday 2nd July for the purpose of recording three new songs that will eventually join some others already recorded, and a few more yet to be cut, that together will make up the band’s debut album due for release around November 2016. As I arrived, the boys of the TPBB were already set up and playing the rhythm track to one of the new numbers. But let’s just leave them jamming there for a minute and talk a little about the studio….

Basildon Recording And Rehearsal Studio is situated in Basildon Business Centre, Essex, and has been run by John Summerton since 2006. The more knowledgeable of my readers will maybe recognise the name, as he was once a member of 70’s boy band Flintlock (in the days when boy bands actually played instruments of course!); and you may remember the hit single ‘Dawn’ (1976); and appearances on TOTP etc. John is still committed to making music, although mostly on the other side of the mixing desk these days. It soon became clear that John is a dab-hand in the recording studio. He uses Logic Pro X software which was very impressive indeed. I also have to say that the hourly rates he charges seem very reasonable to me too. The studio is also associated with Basildon Music Academy for instrument lessons: guitar; drums; strings; vocals; etc.

(Pic by TP)

The boys of The TPBB (Pic by TP)

The TPBB consist of Tanya Piché herself of course (on vocals); Nick ‘Smurf’ Sherreard (bass); David Warne (guitars); and James Digings (drums). These four are all very experienced musos; and listening to them play I couldn’t help being very impressed by their tightness and professional attitude.

Recording the Songs:  The first of the three new songs being recorded was: ‘I Gotta Leave This Man’. This is a boogie-Blues number; ‘LA-style’. Lyrically it is based on an episode from Tanya’s life; and is a message to all women to elbow the wrong man in their life. This is the one the boys were playing as I entered the studio. Its quite a heavy piece with nice slide work from David. Its a good track to hear live; and this recording certainly picked up the vitality of the live vibe. In only a few takes it was done; with Tanya’s vocals to be added later.

(Pic: PTMQ)

‘I Said Please’! ‘(Pic: PTMQ)

‘Big Joe’s Place’ is an upbeat number with an SRV-esque groove to it. Its about Big Joe Turner’s club in Kansas. Its another great new song that will go down well on stage. It is due for release this month (July 2016). Again it was done in only a few takes. It was apparent during this recording and the next, that the band – especially Nick and David – are perfectionist in their respective crafts, and were determined to get it how they wanted it.

‘I Said Please’ is a slow moody, mellow Blues, and I liked it very much indeed. It is due to be released in August. For this number, Dave changed to his Cherry Sunburst Les Paul which had a lovely tone to it. Its a show-case for his lead chops. A lot more work had to be done on this number as regards to David’s lead solo. Personally I thought that the first attempt was a good’n; but the band weren’t happy with it, and it took a few takes before they were satisfied. And I must admit that when John played the finished article back, it was excellent.

His work done, drummer James split then, as he had a gig booked with The Resonators in Wivenhoe that evening. So finally it was Tanya’s turn to do her vocal recording. These are her songs so she knew them well; and she knew how she wanted them. After a couple of takes for each song, the task was done. Tanya has a very distinctive and unique voice. Those deep and sultry vocals seem to resonate through the music – no wonder she is known as ‘Howlin’ Wolf Woman’!  But there is a tenderness in her voice too, which is very apparent on ‘I Said Please’, which shows a softer side to her work.

(Pic: PTMQ)

Flintlock Man: John Summerton  (Pic: PTMQ)

All that was needed to be done was some fine tuning and to add the Blues Harp where necessary. Dave and Nick were due to return to the studio to sort that out the following week. Each of these songs is due to be released in a sequence during the summer – along with another newbie ‘Clawing At Your Door’ (a ‘down ‘n’ dirty Blues’ which I haven’t heard yet) – as tasters for the album in November. These are three great new songs that fans of the band – or fans of the Blues generally – will love for sure.

Back At Ya! review: As we said our goodbyes, Tanya handed me a copy of the TPBB’s new live EP Back At Ya! It contains six tracks – two originals and four classic Blues covers.  The originals are the spooky ‘Good Morning Mr.Postman’  (see my review #80); and ‘Blues Child Woman’ (the song featured on Dave Spark‘s compilation album UK Blues 2day see my review #85). The four classic covers are: Canned Heat‘s ‘Let’s Work Together; The Doors‘ ‘Roadhouse Blues’; Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Howlin’ For My Darlin’; and Rufus Thomas‘ ‘Walkin’ The Dog’. All oft-covered classics, but all with that special TPBB appeal! The EP is a good show-case for the band’s live set.

(Pic: PTMQ)

Tanya howlin’ the Blues! (Pic: PTMQ)

All in all it was a very rewarding afternoon for me; and a great honour to be asked to come along to the session by the band, as I was priviledged to hear and see some great new Blues songs being created. So a big thank you goes out to Tanya; Nick; David; and James of the TPBB; and to John of Basildon Studio for allowing me to sit in. I’m looking forward to seeing the band in action soon; and to hearing the finished songs on the album when its ready. PTMQ

Here is a link to the band’s website

Here is a link to Basildon Studio’s website

Here is a link to my review #65 – Tanya Piché / Robert Lucas: ‘Wang Dang Doodle’

65. TANYA PICHE & ROBERT LUCAS “Wang Dang Doodle”

Tanya on tour in Southern Germany 1990s (Photo: Tanya Piche)

On tour in Southern Germany 1990s (Photo: by kind permission of Tanya)

Back in the ’90s, Blues singer Tanya Piche spent eight years working in Germany; where, at a gig in Heidelberg, she met the late Robert Lucas of legendary Blues band Canned Heat.  The two of them hit it off really well, and he invited her to tour with the band in L.A. So off she went. (Well, you can’t say no to an offer like that!) Once there, they had a great time; and in Orange County, California, they recorded five songs together. Unfortunately the dats of three of them have since gone missing. ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ however, is one of the survivors, and is thankfully now in Tanya’s possession. What better song to release then, as a tribute to Robert (who passed away in 2008), and all other deceased members of Canned Heat?

‘Wang Dang Doodle’ is of course the old Blues classic originally penned by Willie Dixon; with well known covers by Howlin Wolf and by Koko Taylor among many others.  Its one of those old Blues staples that can be reworked time and time again. Tanya and Robert’s version is both traditional and original at once; and that’s what I look for in a cover – a fresh interpretation of the song that inspired it in the first place. Its nice to hear the same old song; but its great to hear it revitalised in this version too.

(Photo by kind permission of Tanya)

Tanya, all revved up for a smokin’ set at Dave Spark’s Rockin’ Blues Night at The Anchor Inn, Benfleet, Essex, in September. (Photo by David Warne; used by kind permission of Tanya)

This take on the song owes a lot to the Howlin’ Wolf version more than any other, I think; and its a fantastic showcase for Tanya’s voice. She has handled it very well indeed. Her vocal is belted out in a gritty, mean and sassy style – no wonder she has earned the nickname ‘The Female Howlin’ Wolf’! Robert’s guitar playing is superb as you’d expect; with great subtly and timing – a joy to listen to; and its wonderful to hear ‘new’ material from him too. Their version of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ has had a few spins on Blues radio shows lately, and is therefore attracting some well merited attention, I’m glad to say.

So, what other projects has Tanya got lined up? Well, she reformed her band just last April, and they’re already getting noticed, and have recently played five BB King tributes. They play original material as well as covers. I haven’t even seen them live yet, but I’ve been told to expect ‘…a high energy, authentic, unique sound and stunning performance’. She told me that the band have a new song out soon, called ‘Good Morning Mr.Postman’ which she said ‘…is dark and spooky for Halloween!’ They will also soon be in the studio to do a live recording of four other original songs. There is also some talk of a semi-acoustic radio session coming up. A busy time ahead then. I’ve got a feeling that we’ll be hearing a lot more of Tanya and her Band in the next few months. She’s sounding optimistic about the future – and she’s sounding good! I’m wondering now, if she’ll be on the shortlists for next year’s BBA’s?

The Tanya Piche Blues Band will be appearing at the next Dave Spark’s Rockin’ Blues Night at The Anchor Inn, Benfleet, Essex, on 4th September 2015. And there will be a special appearance by none other than Tanya’s ‘Blues Sister’, the twice BBA nominated, Katie Bradley too. Support is from Canvey Island’s up and coming R’n’B outfit Bif Bam Pow!  PTMQ

Tanya is also mentioned in my recent article on Malaya Blue (See entry #64) Here is a video of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’

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