Tag Archives: dave spark

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’

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89. HUSKY TONES “Time For A Change” (2015)

(Pic: Husky Tones)

(Pic: Husky Tones)

After reading my review of Dave Spark’s excellent various artists compilation album UK Blues 2Day (see my review #85), I was contacted by Chris Harper of Husky Tones – one of the featured bands on the album. He sent me a copy of the band’s debut album Time For A Change on CD for review. The album has been available for a few months now, and has had some good reviews already, but I just want to say a few words about it anyway because its very good.

The band consists of: Chris Harper himself (Guitar); Victoria Bourne (Vocals / Drums); Matthew Richards (Bass); and Liam Ward (Harmonica). All experienced and competent musos; which is certainly demonstrated by their music; and there are distinctive vocals from Victoria.

Time For A Change is a ten track album with all songs written by Bourne and Harper. It contains a variety of Bluesy styles; and its clear that the band know their Blues inside out. It obviously gives a respectful nod to the classics of the genre; yet its no rehash of earlier music. It has a fresh feel about it that rejuvenates the Blues and brings it right up to date.

I particularly liked ‘I Dare You’, which has an unexpected middle section with a great SRV-esque guitar part. And the laid-back ‘Its A Bitter Love…’ with its superb harp and guitar.  There is a fine instrumental too, in the form of ‘Daybreak’. Lyrics on all songs are good – especially on ‘Fortune Seeker’, I thought.  ‘Uncle Walter’ (the track chosen for the UK Blues 2day album), covers an historical subject; whilst a lot of the rest covers the traditional love-angst typical of Blues (but that’s not a criticism!)

It was apparently recorded as live as possible in the studio, and required a minimum of overdubs to keep the sound as near as possible to the band’s live performance. This is a good thing because, as I said in my previous article and elsewhere, Blues is primarily about the live performance.

The CD comes in a standard Jewel Case with a cover featuring Victoria: and plenty of info and lyrics printed in the booklet. A very good album that’s worth buying. The band have just embarked on a UK tour to promote the album.  PTMQ

 Click here for the Husky Tones website

85. “UK BLUES 2DAY” (Vols 1 & 2): Dave Spark Music Compilation Albums (2015)

(Photo: Dave Spark)

Volume 1 cover. Volume 2 is similar (Photo: Dave Spark)

Not too long ago, Essex Blues aficionado Dave Spark contacted me to say that he was compiling an album to promote new British Blues artists; and wondered if I could recommend some bands and review it for him when ready. It sounded like an interesting and worthwhile project – one that I was fully in favour of and only too pleased to help out with if possible. I suggested a few names and I’m glad to see that a couple of them are included. Dave has done an impressive job of it too. He in fact had enough material for two albums, and released them simultaneously. He also got it done pretty sharpish too! The collections are entitled UK Blues 2Day (Volumes 1 & 2); and they each contain 14 exceptionally good tracks.

I received the downloads from Dave recently, and I must say, I was very impressed with the sheer range of Blues styles that he’d managed to squeeze into the 28 tracks of the two volumes; giving a good selection of what British Blues artists are all about these days.

The whole gamut of the Blues spectrum is represented – from the traditional sounding ‘Uncle Walter’ by  Husky Tones; to the Rock end of the genre, courtesy of  Ali Clinton’s ‘The Lie 24-96’. There is the dulcet voice of Zoe Schwarz on ‘Beatitudes’; contrasting with the gravelly vocals of T Belly’s ‘Respectable Man’. We have the R’n’B of Rev. Ferriday’s ‘Red Painted Lips’; compared to the Country influenced vibe of Mat Walklate’s ‘So Long’. Several artists, such as The Della Grants; and The Blue Horizon, have a song on both volumes. And there is a lot more besides: Dave is keen to especially point out ‘Layla’ by FutureBlues: ‘…it is a strange bed-fellow with the other tracks…’ he told me ‘… but with a new twist on the modern side. I felt it deserved a place on the album’.

(Photo: Dave Spark)

(Photo: Dave Spark)

But being a big fan of female vocal, I was especially pleased to see that tracks by several ladies that I have been very impressed with lately have been included; ie: Ruby Tiger’s ‘Best Friend’; Tanya Piche’s ‘Blues Child Woman’; and Angela Lewis Brown’s ‘Ice Cold Tears’. Ruby and Angela were my recommendations; but Tanya was already known to Dave. (I have reviewed music by all three of these very talented ladies quite recently – see my List of Contents). In spite of the fact that there is lot of female vocal on these two albums (I’m glad to say); there is also some talk of a separate Women In Blues album too; so that sounds promising as well.

I’m recommending both volumes to long-term Blues fans; as well as those who are interested to find out what the UK Blues scene is all about. These albums are good samples of the genre as a whole. At the moment they are only available as MP3 downloads, but there is the possibility of a CD version of each in the future too. Downloads are available from Amazon.

(Photo: Dave Spark)

(Photo: Dave Spark)

Dave has also been busy compiling two similar collections entitled UK Ska 2Day (Also on Amazon). He asked me to review these too, but unfortunately I don’t feel qualified to do this. I’m sure he’s done a damn fine job on them too though. Dave has been promoting British Blues bands at gigs lately too; including the wonderful Malaya Blue gig that I attended a few months ago (see my review #64); and The Tanya Piche Blues Band have also appeared at one of Dave’s promotions recently.

Dave seems to have his finger on the pulse of the UK Blues scene, and is working tirelessly to promote some of the very promising artists currently emerging in the UK. So I’m wishing him the best of luck in all of his very admirable projects. PTMQ

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’

64. THE MALAYA BLUE BAND (+ SNAKEOIL) at the Grand Opening of DAVE SPARK’S ROCKIN’ BLUES NIGHT, at THE ANCHOR INN, Benfleet, Essex. Friday, 7th August, 2015. + Interviews with MALAYA BLUE and DUDLEY ROSS; and a few words about the club, the venue, and the BBA.

**

(Pic: Dave Spark)

Preamble: I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that Dave Spark was to start a monthly Blues club at The Anchor Inn in Benfleet, Essex. To add to that, he had managed to secure the appearance of one of the best of the many up and coming Blues artists in England at the moment, the remarkably talented singer Malaya Blue and her band, for the Grand Opening Night. And for me it got a whole lot better, as he kindly put me on the Guest List. The opportunity then presented itself for an interview with the lady herself.  So after a couple of messages between Malaya and myself; and her manager Steve Yourglivch, it was soon set up.

I arrived early enough, and as I parked up, I bumped into guitarist Dudley Ross in the car park, who was unloading his guitars and kit from his car. So I gave him a hand lugging it in. Once inside the Function Room, I met Malaya and manager Steve. Soon she was ready for the interview, so we stepped outside onto the patio where her husband Graham joined us. But we’ll leave them sitting out there just for a minute…

Sound-check (Photo: PTMQ)

Sound-check – sounding good. (Photo: PTMQ)

The Essex Blues Scene  I’m glad to say, is in fine fettle these days. We have several very good venues that either cater exclusively for Blues acts; and some that book a Blues band occasionally; plus numerous pubs that have a Blues or Blues-Rock band on at weekends; or a mid-week Jam Night. Yet such is the popularity of the genre in our neck of the woods, that there is still room for more!

Dave Spark’s Rockin’ Blues Night:  Dave is a local man (from Canvey Island). He is a long-term Bluesman and has played in local bands, so he knows a lot of musos, and more than a thing or two about music. He’s run Blues Nights before (on Canvey), but has now reinstated the project over the Causeway in Benfleet, at The Anchor Inn. Having made a lot of contacts in the business over the years, Dave had managed to secure a class act for the Grand Opening Night. With her name on everyone’s lips at the moment Malaya Blue was great choice as headliner – and with an entrance fee of only a fiver too!

Lady sings the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

Lady sings the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

The Venue itself is the charming and historic, 600 year old Anchor Inn on Essex Way, Benfleet. Dave had booked the Function Room at the back of the pub, seperated from the original old buiding by the lovely patio area. The Function Room itself is a bit on the small side, but as it turned out, not a vast amount of people turned up, so it didn’t get overcrowded.  But I think once these Blues Nights get established, it may be a bit squashed in there! Among those who were present however, were a good number of local musos who’d turned out to support both Dave and Malaya (More on them later). There’s no stage in the venue as such, just a performance area at one end; and a bar the other. It served its purpose anyway.

Last Minute Personnel Changes: Due to some clerical error, some of Malaya’s band (guitarist, saxophonist and drummer) were unable to attend the gig. So manager Steve had to call upon the services of some last minute replacements. Such are his connections though, that he manged to secure the services of some very fine musicians indeed, at short notice. None other than guitarist, Dudley Ross (currently nominated for two awards at the BBA); well-respected drummer Geoff Cooper; and the veteran saxophonist, composer, and arranger John Altman. (who, of course, has worked with innumerable high profile musicians over many years). The other two members of the band remained unchanged: Trev Turley on bass; and Andy Cooper on keys.

Lady talks the Blues! (Photo taken by GP)

Lady talks the Blues – with The Quill! (Photo taken by GP)

The Malaya Blue interview: Malaya is an affable lady; well-spoken, and easy to chat to. I began by congratulating her on her (unprecedented, I think) four nominations at the British Blues Awards (BBA).  ‘Yes, What happened?’ she replied, laughing with a genuine modesty. ‘I guess you’ll win at least a couple’ I observed.

‘Well I don’t know’ she said, ‘its a bit of a double-edged sword really because its great to be nominated so early on, but of course the flip side of that is that I haven’t been around for a very long time, and I’m still heavily into building the profile and the numbers’.

‘Assuming you do win a couple or more awards; your career is going to sky-rocket’. I observed. ‘That means you’ll be gigging much further afield; so how does that fit with your family life?’

‘It fits’ she replied. ‘It was one of the things that we had to consider before we even started this, to be honest. I spoke to the kids and to Graham. And Steve (Youglivch) said “This is what I think you need to be doing”. And we thought “will it logistically work with the family and everything?”. Everyone’s 100% behind it though.  The kids think “Mum’s cool!” But I do need their support. When Graham and I wrote ‘Hope’ (the new single) together, my son loved it. He plays the piano as well, and learnt it; and kept asking: “Mum, can you sing it?” That’s brilliant. There’s not much more of an acolade you can get. A lot of my children’s friends are big fans too.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Malaya: ‘…smoulders with a voice of pure gold!’ (Photo: PTMQ)

Malaya mentioning ‘Hope’ had anticipated my next question. I’d noticed that the single and ‘Let’s Reinvent Love’ (its B-side – to use the old vinyl terminology!), are both very Soul influenced; and I wondered if this was the direction that Malaya intended to take her Blues – bearing in mind that the Bourbon Street album has quite a wide range of Bluesy styles within it – ie, in which direction will she take the second album?

‘Yes it is intended. I think because I really came from a Soul background, and then I moved into the Blues – which is great. I don’t want to move too far away, for sure. Before I wrote ‘Hope’ and ‘Lets Reinvent Love’, I had various meetings with different producers with very different ideas; and somebody said to me (and this was only one person’s opinion, but it was quite poignant, I thought); he said “Boubon Street is a lovely album, but its quite safe, and I think you need to move outside of your comfort zone a little bit”. And I really internalised that and thought “What does that mean?” So with ‘Hope’ and ‘Let’s Reinvent Love’, I just wanted to do something a bit bolder. There’s a little bit of me that’s anxious about the second album. Its always difficult.  Do you do the first album again? Or do you move into something new? What happens then to your fan base? So the double-single was really a bit of a test-bed. We wanted to stretch ourselves musically. Wanted to record something with the band (who were not on Bourbon Street). Wanted to go into a recording studio and record the whole band in one go; which was all very new to me. So it seemed safe to have a couple of new songs to give the fan base something new to listen to. I just want to be a little more experimental, but there is the danger of people buying the second album, and the first thing they do is compare it to the first. But I have the oportunity to be better, bolder, brighter – bring something slightly unexpected.’

(Photo: PTMQ)

‘Sights and those sounds you just won’t find anywhere!’ (Photo: PTMQ)

Malaya is apparently half way through writing the second album. She has all the song titles but not the name of the album yet, and it should be ready for March/April next year. ‘We were in rehearsals last Sunday and we tried out three of the new songs; with the boys putting their own ideas in. But we’re not doing anything off the new album tonight. We are still peddling Bourbon Street !’ It looks as though the double-single will appear on the new album, but she hasn’t made a final decision on that yet.

Given that she came from a ‘Soul background’ then, how did she get into Blues?

‘I was introduced to the Blues by my lecturer when I was doing my music degree. We all had to do a module on an aspect of music that we hadn’t really discovered or had much to do with – because I’d had a long Soul background. So I got into Ma Rainey. I looked into it. It was old; Rootsy; Bluesy. I thought “This is great!” It was really earthy.’

Next I asked Malaya about her name – which of course is a stage-name. Her real one is kept largely under wraps! ‘Where’s the divaship and the mystique if I told you?’ she laughed. ‘I like having a stage-name!’ So how did she come by such an exotic name?

‘Several years ago I was sat at my desk searching for words. I found a word: Malaya, which meant moth. Because I always song-write in the early hours, I thought it would be a good stage name for me. Alas. I can no longer find the reference and sometimes wonder if I actually have my facts right! But that’s it as I remember it! A lot of fine wine has been consumed in the interim! We added Blue because Malaya pulls up Malaysia in a Google search, and so Malaya Blue arrived!’

(Photo: PTMQ)

‘There’s a sense of adventure, watch it come alive!…’ (Photo: PTMQ)

I’d heard that Malaya is a workoholic…

‘I do try! I take everything I do very seriously; and I know that the bit that everybody sees is 10% of the effort and 10% of the work that’s involved. Steve works incredibly hard; and I do. Its something that we learnt about each other very early on; and I think that’s why, so far, things are working out; and we’re making good healthy progress; because we are at it 24 hours. There are very few hours that go by when we are not working towards what we need to be focused on.’

Malaya and the band have been gigging ever further afield from their Norwich home-base lately: up to Brum and down to Southampton. If she wins any of the awards at the BBA of course, she’ll be much more in demand; and Europe will beckon…

‘Yes, Steve is very heavily connected; he knows a lot of people who are very current at the festivals etc… he is already talking to some people out in Europe; so hopefully we’ll get to go out there at some point. I hear a lot of people drawing very strong comparisons between the UK Blues circuit and the European Blues circuit. I think if we could do a mutual swap (where you go out with another band’s promoter, and they send their band over here to your manager), that’s something Steve and I are hoping to do’

Her career really got off the ground when she was doing session vocals for producer Andy Littlewood

‘He came to me and asked me to do a song for somebody else’s album: the track ‘Lady Sings The Blues’; and I recorded it. Then it went crazy! Everyone was saying “Who is this girl? We love her voice!” So Andy said “Let’s write an album in a similar Jazz-Blues genre.” So we did; and Bourbon Street was the end result. The collaboration was over 9 -10 months. So he certainly started this pathway.’

Interview concluded, I thanked Malaya; and she and Graham went off for the sound-check, leaving me to scribble down a few notes. She had been very forth-coming, but careful not to give away anything that was still under wraps – and fair enough too! I enjoyed meeting and talking to her. She is friendly, modest, and chatty; yet very focused, and determined to take her career as high as it will fly. I think she’s on the cusp of a major breakthrough; and good luck to her.

Dudley Ross playing the note that told a thousand tales! (Photo: PTMQ)

Dudley with his Vigier Expert Texas Special (Photo: PTMQ)

The Dudley Ross interview: I hadn’t planned to interview Dudley; purely because I didn’t know he’d  be at the gig until a couple of days before – and I don’t think he knew either! But once the sound-check was completed, I saw the opportunity; and asked if we could have a chat. He was only to pleased to oblige. Like Malaya, and most musicians, he is an amiable person who is keen to talk about his work; or just chat about music in general.

I asked about his current project: an EP in collaboration with Noel McCalla. He is very enthusiastic about it. Its a five track opus and is nearing completion. It should be ready by the final night of Dudley’s forthcoming tour with Kirk Fletcher at The Borderline in London at the end of September.

Would Dudley be Kirk’s duelling partner on the tour, I wondered? ‘Well, I don’t know about that!’ he laughed; adding modestly ‘I’ll be his bag boy basically! (Now that is modesty coming from a man who has deservedly been nominated for ‘Best Guitarist’ at this year’s BBA!). ‘I learnt a lot from Kirk last year. It was great fun last time; and its going to be better this time, because we had the first year to get used to each other, so the bar’s going to be raised’.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Dudley playing the note that told a thousand tales! (Photo: PTMQ)

But there was a problem with the Kirk Fletcher tour last year – money. ‘If they (the promoters) don’t know you, they won’t pay the money. This is what we had with Kirk last year.  He’s amazing; phenomenal; but I lost about £3,500 because no one knew him. It was a three year plan. I had to do the first one and be prepared to take a knock. But this year we’ve been approached by venues, and they’ve said they’ll pay X-amount as a fee; so the risk has been taken out. But I’m still paying off the debt from last year!’

I asked about his work with Katie Bradley too. (With whom he is joint-nominated as ‘Best Songwriter’ at the BBA).

‘I’ve had a good year with Katie. We had the Anchor Baby Sessions album out which did quite well. Me and Katie are good mates, and we’re doing a new album in the new year. She’s in France at the moment. We’re meeting in Germany on Thursday. The European scene is where its at, at the moment; it really is. We’ve only got two or three gigs over there, but its a good start. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, more will come of it becase they love the Blues out there.’

Dudley talked about his love of song-writing, and thought it would be more satisfying to win that award than the ‘Best Guitarist’.  ‘Me and Katie got the runner-up award two years ago for I Hear The River, So its nice to be recognised as a song-writer, because that’s what I love.’

And we talked about Dudley’s previous albums…

‘I’ve done loads of stuff for people, but I’ve only released one in my own name; that’s the only one that I sell. I’ve done another one but I withdrew it because I was unhappy with it. It was an instrumental album – Progressive Rock. I never really felt it was good enough. But it is online, so you can listen to it. Its called Even Rock Stars Have To Wash Up. Its got some great musicians on it; but it was mainly the production – I thought it was rushed.

I thanked Dudley for his time; and he kindly gave me a copy of his album The Note That Told A Thousand Tales.

John Altman (Photo: PTMQ)

John Altman: Sax maestro (Photo: PTMQ)

Blues Blah Blah!:  The patio at The Anchor was full of Essex Blues people! I had a good long chat with Nick Garner; harp player and generally considered as something of a Blues guru. Nick knows a lot of things and a lot of people from many years back, so he’s a very interesting bloke to talk  to. I enjoyed speaking to guitarist Jamie Williams of The Roots Collective, too. Photographer Steve Dulieu was there – resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt as usual, and there to do a little video work. Tanya Piche (‘The Female Howlin’ Wolf’) was there too, but I didn’t get a chance to chat, unfortunately.

But most interesting for me was when I got a chance to speak to the renown saxophonist and composer John Altman. This is the man who has played with everyone who is anyone since the 60s; from Hendrix to Winehouse, and is very well respected in the music business. Probably the biggest name present. He told me he was in the middle of writing a score for a recently renovated silent film, Shooting Stars, from the 1920s. Apparently he doesn’t use any instrument to compose; he just writes straight from his mind onto the stave. Among other things, we got round to talking about one of my heroes, who John knew personally – Peter Green. We talked about his genius and his decline. He dispelled or confirmed some of the  stories and rumours that I’d heard surrounding Greeny. Fascinating stuff, but unfortunately outside the scope of this piece.

Snakeoil (Photo: PTMQ)

Support band, Snakeoil (Photo: PTMQ)

The Snakeoil Set:  Snakeoil (confusingly one of many bands with the same or similar names) are a Southend based five-piece band (two guitars; bass; drums; and harp), who ‘…play an eclectic mix of Country, Punk-Skiffle, Rock’n’Roll, and a bit of Jump-Jive’. They played a lively set of what I describe as good ol’ British R’n’B. I didn’t see all of their set because I was too busy chatting outside (My apologies to the band), but I saw their last few songs, and I liked them. They looked a bit squashed in the limited space of the performance area with The MBB’s gear taking up most of the space, of course, but they got on with it nonetheless. I heard a few good tunes, including: ‘Big 10-inch’; ‘I Don’t Mind’; ‘Catfish Blues’; and a good cover of Dr. Feelgood’s ‘Down At The Doctors’. Plenty of harp and some bottleneck. A good set, but I didn’t get a chance to chat unfortunately.

The Malaya Blue Band Set: Malaya looked stunningly immaculate in her LBD as she took up the mic for the opening number: ‘Guilty’. Singers are always the focal point in a band; but female vocalists even more so. The visual impact is important, and the lady does not disappoint. But she immediately demonstrated that she was there to sing, and we were in no doubt about that right from the off. A great opening number it was too.

The Malaya Blue Band in action (Photo: PTMQ)

The Malaya Blue Band in action (Photo: PTMQ)

A lovely little flurry from Dudley on his Vigier, heralded the start of the album’s title track ‘Bourbon Street’. Its interesting how this band’s interpretation differs from the recorded version, but it was at least equal, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Malaya’s vocals were superb; and there was some tasty sax from Mr. Altman too.

The laid back ‘Forgiveness’ was sung especially well. And if you were not already aware of the tightness of the band, this track would have certainly demonstrated it for you. Lovely keys indeed from Andy; sax was sublime again; and Dudley was remarkable too. We could have been in Downtown Chicago! I love this song on the album, and I loved this live version too. (But wait! No cheeky whispered ending, Malaya?)

Another favourite of mine from the album, the Soulful ‘Cold Light Of Day’, followed. I like this song because of its unusual vocal melody – it didn’t go where I thought it would when I first heard it, which left me pleasantly surprised. This live version was good too. Again, a great solo from Dudley. ‘Promised Land’ was up next, and also did not disappoint. And nor did the rockin’ Blues of ‘Bluesville UK’, with more fine solos, courtesy of Messrs Cooper, Ross, and Altman; and its classic Blues-song finale!

(Photo: PTMQ)

Andy Cooper: Keyboard maestro. (Photo: PTMQ)

At this point Malaya introduced the band; and each received a well deserved round of applause. Manager Steve appeared at my side then, and asked ‘Enjoying it?’ ‘Brilliant…’ I replied ‘…absolutely brilliant!’

Next was the song that started it all off for Malaya; and one of my personal favourites from the album: ‘Lady Sings The Blues’. This was indeed ‘…a beautiful rendition of the sweetest melody’. Sleepy and mellow, It was ‘…amazing when the lady sang the Blues’.

We were then treated to a cover of the Etta James classic ‘At Last’. Now, everyone who knows me, knows that I like a good cover – as long as its not a meaningless carbon-copy of the original. I was very happy with this version, and found myself nodding along to it. Malaya made it her own to some extent. JA played a blinding sax solo too. The song fitted the MBB set very nicely I must say.

‘This is a song about you naughty boys that break our hearts, and treat us girls badly!’ said Malaya as she introduced the song that had been nominated as ‘Best Song’ at the BBA – ‘Bitter Moon’. (No Malaya! Its you girls that break our hearts – as countless Bluesmen would testify!) It certainly is a great song; and one of my five favourites from the album. To be honest, any of those five could have been nominated as far as I’m concerned. It was well sung; with nice lead guitar from DR.

Trev Turley: Bass Ace! (Photo: PTMQ)

Trev Turley: Bass Ace! (Photo: PTMQ)

The lively vibe of ‘Cold-Hearted Man’ with its fine Hammond intro came next. Dudley’s Vigier produced a fine sounding solo; but John and Andy not to be out-done played their part well too. The Ska groove of ‘Lost Girl’ followed smartly; with its muted staccato guitar rhythm; swirling Hammond; and tasty sax.

It was time to air one of the new songs: ‘Let’s Reinvent Love’. It was sung with a Soulful passion; and only marred by certain people in the audience chattering throughout. (A pet hate of mine). Malaya and her boys were professional enough not to be fazed by it though. The other newly penned song from the double-single followed: ‘Hope’. Again a passionate rendition; and with a lovely guitar solo.

The main set finished with ‘How Did You Do This?’ Its another winner and used as a vehicle for a drum solo from Geoff. All night he and Trev on bass had been tight and consistently reliable as a rhythm section, and shouldn’t be overlooked. ‘Do we want some more?’ asked Dave Spark. Of course we did…

The final offering was ‘Dawn’ – a kind of Jazz-Blues ballad; and perhaps an unusual choice as a finishing number. But it was sung with an anguished, Bassey-esque intensity that was very impressive indeed; and left us with no doubt that we’d just witnessed a magnificent show, by a wonderful performer; backed by an excellent band playing a fine set of songs.

Drummer Geoff Cooper (Photo: PTMQ)

Drummer Geoff Cooper (Photo: PTMQ)

It was congratulations all round as soon as the show finished; and well deserved too. It was a classy act that any reasonable person would find impossible to criticise. Quite possibly the best Blues gig I’ve attended so far this year; for a number of reasons. I managed to have a little chat with Malaya, Steve and John (and Dudley about his Vigier guitar) before congratulating them all and saying my goodbyes.

In conclusion, I think that the whole Malaya Blue Band package (The lady herself for her vocals, song-writing, and stage presence; the band for their talent and professionalism; and the guidance of manager Steve), is currently poised for a  take-off to the stars.  All it needs now is for some one to light the touch-paper and the whole show is going cosmic! The countdown has begun! Very impressive indeed.

The British Blues Awards: If any of the punters present had any doubt about who to vote for in the BBA, their doubts would surely have been allayed after watching Malaya’s performance at this gig. Personally I think she’ll walk away with three  – maybe all four – of her nominations. She’s up for ‘Best Album’; ‘Best Song’; ‘Female Vocal’ and ‘Emerging Artist’. Its a tough choice, but if you haven’t voted yet, you may want to consider this exceptional artiste.

Likewise, if anyone had been unsure of Dudley’s prowess as a guitarist, they would surely be in no doubt as to his abilities after witnessing his performance at this gig. His skill as a song-writer (nominated for his collaborations with Katie Bradley), was not on display tonight of course, but its well-known anyway. Its quite possible that he’ll win both of his nominations too.

Several people have been asking me who I’m going to vote for in this category or that. I don’t mind them asking; but I’m not saying – I prefer to stay neutral (officially), and there are a few nominations in which I genuinely haven’t made up my mind yet, to be honest. We still have until the end of August anyway. All I’ll say is, that there were two artists at this gig who have six nominations between them; and I’m writing this piece all about them!

(Photo by kind permission of Tanya)

Dave Spark, Tanya Piche, and Malaya Blue. (Photo by kind permission of Tanya)

Future Gigs  The next Rockin’ Blues Night at The Anchor is on 4th September 2015; and features The Tanya Piche Blues Band supported by Bif Bam Pow! Unfortunately I probably won’t be there as I’ve just realised I will be at another gig that night.  (Why do good gigs always pop up on the same night!!) But if you’re from Essex and love the Blues, then it’ll be worth getting down there for the next night. I’m interested to see who Dave will book for future Rockin’ Blues Nights – there are a couple of names that I’ve put his way that I think would go down well; but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Stop Press! Just before putting this article on line, I received an email from Tanya Piche with the exciting news that she will be now be joined by none other than the remarkable Katie Bradley for her gig at this venue next month. Katie is her ‘Blues-Sister’; and a lady also nominated for two awards at the BBA. I may be writing a piece on Tanya soon.

Thanks to all involved: performers; club and pub staff; Kelly on the door; and especially Dave Spark for putting on a wonderful evening. PTMQ

Links:

Malaya’s website…   http://malayablue.com/

Dave Spark’s Facebook page…

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dave-Sparks-Rockin-Blues-Club/1420281558265293?fref=ts

The Anchor’s website…  https://sites.google.com/site/anchorbenfleet/home

British Blues Awards site. (You’ve got till the end of August!)

http://www.britishbluesawards.com/home/4581355856