Tag Archives: dutch blues scene

36. BLUESHAKER “Handle With Care” (Blues Company, 2014)

After he had read my review of MARIËLLA TIROTTO’s Live album recently (See my blog entry #34), I was contacted by ARNE GOOSSENS of Dutch Blues-Rock outfit BLUESHAKER, who wondered if I’d like to review the band’s debut album Handle With Care (released last December); sending me a Spotify link so I could listen to their sounds. After briefly putting an ear to it, I certainly wanted to; so he then sent me a CD copy.

The band currently consists of:  Goossens himself (Vocals); plus, PJ JOCHEMS (Guitars); PETER DOPPEN (Drums); and MARK VAN RIEL (Bass/backing vocals) – competent musos, all.  Additional horns have been brought in as required too.  Along with the CD, I was sent a factsheet detailing the biography of the band.  Apparently they had existed as ‘a more traditional Blues-Rock band’ until early 2011, when they split, with only Goossens remaining. But once the current members were recruited, it was clear that ‘something special’ was happening.   They immediately began to experiment with genres outside the norms expected from such a group. It seems they have a desire to merge Blues and Rock with  Funk, Jazz, Fusion – or whatever!  Considering that fact then, the name ‘Blueshaker’ is entirely appropriate – as shaking up the Blues is exactly what this band are about!

The album is a nine-track opus of original material; mostly penned by the band collectively, or by individual members co-writing with others.  Now, I like music that both reminds me of earlier sounds, yet offers me something new and refreshing too. I love Blues, but I’ll admit it can be formulaic and predictable at times. I love Rock too; but, as we all know,  it can become clichéd and tired. So I like this band’s progressive attitude of pushing the boundaries of accepted Blues-Rock norms.  And that is what characterises this album – and, of course, this was the band’s intention from the outset.

'Handle With Care' - this band are shakin' up the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Handle With Care’ – this band are shakin’ up the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

Right from the kick-off – with the instrumental ‘Tailchasin’ – I’m reminded, in some measure, of Led Zep; SRV;  Jimmy V; Jerry Donahue; and even The Rock-A-Teens. (I don’t think I’ve ever said that before!)  But there is an interesting originality, even within this first tune, with its series of ever changing time-signaures. It is a good opener, and immediately demonstrates the unpredictable ethos of the album – and of the band generally.  Its unusual to have an instrumental as an opener too – but then why not?

‘Need A Break’ introduces us to Goossens’ vocals for the first time. His voice, and even his vocal style, remind me a little of Scorpions’ Klaus Meine (and Golden Earing’s Barry Hay to some extent);  yet still he demostrates fine originality and vocal strength – ideally suited to the great variety of styles and vibes contained within the album as a whole.  Its  a good rocker of a song too; with an interesting quieter section mid-way. Lyrically its an observation of modern day living.

‘Only When I’m Drunk’ was a surprise for me. Its a funky number with excellent brassy fills from the horn section – brought in especially.  It is nicely arranged, with the vibe of the song suiting the lyric – and what Jochems is doing with his tremolo arm is quite remarkable! It is followed by ‘Charity’, which is the nearest to a standard Blues song in the collection; yet nonetheless, it has a unique edge to it.  I like this one. Good steady work from the rhythm section and a great solo.

‘Remember’ is a trip down memory lane. It has a catchy arpeggio and a fine lead guitar break. This is followed by ‘Dominant 7’ – according to the factsheet, its for ‘the listeners who are into anthroponomy’.  Its about seven ‘women who like to dominate, like the fifth step in a scale’ – excellent line! Quite a heavy Blues in an 11/8 time signature.

The lyric for the next offering, ‘For Tomorrow’s Day’, was apparently derived from verses written by Dutch poet Hans Andreus.  They are the words of a tortured soul, I think. The band have written dark, desperate (and highly appropriate) music to accompany his words. It is meant as a memorial to the band’s loved ones who have recently passed away. It is masterful in its execution; with great vocals by Goossens.

‘Bride On Sight’ is about the modern internet phenomenon of the ‘mail-order bride’ – available at the touch of a button from anywhere in the world. It starts as a good middle-weight Rock piece, but has interesting Jazzy sections that facilitate the lead guitar solo. Finally, ‘Reminiscence’ ends the album. It is another instrumental – and a fine one too. It is beautiful and bluesy; with something of a Focus-esque vibe to it.

Generally, comparisons with other Dutch bands are inevitable (especially to those of us outside The Netherlands who have not been exposed to too many); and there are snippets of many other influences to be heard in their work (too numerous to mention here – or too subtle to put your finger on); but I think both musically and lyrically, this is very much ground-breaking work. I like it a lot; and if you are not afraid to listen to sounds outside of the normal ring-fences of Blues-Rock, you’ll like it too.

The CD comes in a standard jewel case; and it has lyrics (in English) printed in the accompanying booklet. It has a fine design (by Goossens), with photos and credits etc.  I also received a second factsheet from the band with an explanation of each song, which is very useful – although unfortunately this information is not printed in the booklet – nor is the info on the biography sheet.

Here is a link to band’s music on Spotify….

Geweldige nieuwe muziek! PTMQ

34. MARIELLA TIROTTO & THE BLUES FEDERATION “Live In Concert” (2015)

Recently Dutch Blues singer MARIËLLA TIROTTO contacted me to ask if I would review her band’s latest album: Live In Concert – due to be released in February 2015.  Her aim is to make herself and her band more well known in the UK; and this is something that she and her boys certainly deserve. Of course I agreed, being only too happy to help out if at all possible. So she emailed me a download of the new album with all its associated paperwork. And here is my review of it…

Live In Concert album cover

The album cover (Pic by permission of Mariella)

Blues (in any of its many facets) is a form of music that benefits greatly from the live performance. Seeing and hearing a band play live can be a magical experience. Capturing that magic on record is not too easy when you consider the myriad things that could go wrong; yet such a thing has been achieved by Mariëlla & The Blues Federation, on  their album Live In Concert. It is something that the band’s followers have been craving for some time; and at last it is here.

The album was recorded at the E-Sound Studios in Weesp, near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. A select audience of around 65 loyal fans were invited to the session; ensuring an enthusiastic response and an intimate ambience. The set was played twice; taking the best shot of each song for the finished album.  Minimal mixing was required, and the result is therefore, an honest rendition of the band’s live performance – just what the fans ordered!

The line-up is as follows: Mariëlla, is of course, on vocals;  HEINS GRETEN on Keys;  ARNO HAGEMANS on Bass;  JOHN KAKIAY on Drums; MICHA SPRENGER on Guitar (standing in for their usual axe-man LOEK VAN DER KNAAP who was unfortunately unavailable for the gig); and special guest ONNY TUHUMENA on Percussion. These are all very good experienced musos; each making an impressive contribution to the whole.

Live In Concert is an 11 track collection of songs, both old and new. Some are taken from the band’s previous two albums; and a couple of brand-new ones were even tried out on the fans for the first time! Many of the songs were penned by Mariëlla and her co-writer/husband, Heins Greten – and very good they are too. Most of the vibe is towards the funky side of the Blues spectrum; but there are strong elements of Jazz, Rock and Spiritual Blues in there too  – quite a good cross-section of sub-genre styles. This demonstrates, not only the versatility of the band; but of the Blues genre itself. However, anyone who has already heard this collection, and who knows me well, will be able to guess that my pick of the bunch would be the minor Blues number, ‘Too Blind To See’; (an EELCO GELLING / HARRY MUSKEE penned piece – a video of which I have linked below).

MARIELLA - the star of the show! (Photo by permission of Mariella)

The star of the show! (Photo by permission of Mariella)

Right from the start, Mariëlla’s vocals are the dominant aspect of the show. Her gutsy, emotive voice and vocal style are at the cutting edge of this whole performance. She can sing out the heart-felt emotions with a passion – whether it be necessary to sweetly sing the gentler, pensive passages, or belt out the grittier ones. She is the star; yet around her, orbit the excellent musos that make her performance shine so brightly. Even from the first track, ‘If You’re Goin’ To The City’, we are treated to keyboard, guitar and drum solos, that set the bar high. And further tracks do not disappoint. The rhythm section is tight and comfortable together, providing a reliable foundation for the excellent, fluid guitar and keyboard solos.

The album cover is very good indeed; providing fine live photos; credits; thanks; and lots of other information. My readers will already be aware that I like a lot of background info; and this is also provided on the recording too, by Mariëlla’s spoken preamble before each song is introduced. Most of this is in Dutch of course, but we have the album notes in English to refer to.  Song lyrics are also printed – unusual for a live album – but clearly sung in English anyway.

Recording; production; engineering; mixing, and mastering, are all very good too. Mariëlla and Heins being heavily involved in it all; and thus creating the album that they envisaged. It is a gift to their fans. It is one of the best live albums I’ve heard for ages; and if this is a taste of what the band can do, I’ll do my best to be there when they eventually play the UK. 

Here is a link to Mariëlla’s website:

http://www.tirottoblues.eu/

Here is a video of Mariëlla and her boys playing the excellent ‘Too Blind To See’ …..

Beste wensen aan mijn Nederlandse vrienden!

PTMQ