Tag Archives: gary moore

66. RED BUTLER at the NEW CRAWDADDY BLUES CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Friday, 21st August, 2015. + An interview with the band; and a few words about the club and the venue.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Sound-check completed; the stage awaits (Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble  Not surprisingly there has been a lot of lively blah blah about the British Blues Awards (BBA) lately. In some categories I made up my mind very quickly; but in others its been a lot harder to decide. So at the time of writing I still haven’t voted. (31st August 2015 is the deadline BTW). Recently I interviewed Malaya Blue and Dudley Ross at a gig (see entry #64), but I thought that a little more BBA research wouldn’t hurt at all!

I was pleased, then, to find that another band nominated for two awards (Young Artist; and Emerging Artist), was to play near me at The New Crawdaddy Blues Club in Billericay, Essex. This was of course, the young Sussex-based Blues-Rock outfit Red Butler. I’d heard a lot about this band from friends and acquaintances over the last 18 months or so, but I’d never seen them live. I’d heard the impressive debut EP and their excellent album Freedom Bound; and I’d seen the vids; but it was high time I decided for myself. So after a couple of messages between yours truly and the band’s founder member Alex Butler; and a phone call to Paul Dean of the club, an interview with the band was soon arranged.

Come on Yer Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

Come on Yer Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

The New Crawdaddy Blues Club  is in Blunts Wall Road, Billericay; and uses the Function Room of ‘New Lodge’, Billericay Town FC’s ground. (A team appropriately nick-named ‘The Blues’). The New Crawdaddy has had a couple of previous homes in Essex over the last 15 years or so, but has been at this venue for 18 months or more, and seems settled there. Its a good sized Function Room, with a capacity of 200-odd, and is nicely done up. The large brick pillar to the left of the stage obscures the view a little if you are over that side; but its holding up the roof so we shouldn’t complain!

The club is run on a non-profit making basis by guv’nor Paul Dean; ably assisted by a crew of volunteers: Chris the Soundman; Chris the Stage Manager; Graham the Lights; Mike the DJ; and the two lovely ladies on the merch desk: Lesley and Karen. They were all very friendly and welcoming. In fact, the club has a motto that sums up their ethos: ‘Customer and band-friendly’ – and there is no doubting that!

Who put that pillar in the way? (Photo: PTMQ)

Who put that pillar in the way? (Photo: PTMQ)

Almost every Friday night you’ll find a well known Blues band headlining at the club. The original intention was to promote local bands; but the club soon attracted international names who made a point of including the club in their UK tour. In the past they’ve hosted the mighty Buddy Whittington Band; and Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack among many others. And recently, the four times BBA nominated Malaya Blue performed there. There is also normally a House Band, The Heaters, acting as a support; but this particular week they weren’t due to play, so the headliner would do a two-part set in stead. In fact Paul Dean (who plays keys in the Heaters), was off playing a gig in Kent as part of a duet – The M25s – with guitarist Jeff Chapman, so he wasn’t there this particular evening anyway.

The Red Butler Interview:  Although Paul had said we would be welcome at the club at anytime during the afternoon, my son James and I couldn’t get there till 7pm; just as the sound check was being completed. We had a chat with the Crawdaddy staff; and met some of the band individually at the bar. They went off for a bite to eat, leaving James and I to admire Alex’s axe-rack; and read the set list conveniently left on the stage.  When they were ready, Alex came and found us and led us outside to where the band were having a pre-show chill-out, sitting on the terraces of ‘The Blues’ East Stand; overlooking the football pitch in the Essex sunset!

Alex's guitars for the evening (Photo: PTMQ)

Alex’s guitars for the evening (Photo: PTMQ)

Red Butler currently consist of founder member Alex Butler (Guitars); Jane Pearce (Vocals); Charlie Simpson (Drums); and Mikey Topp (Bass). This line-up has been together now for a 18 months or so. I began by congratulating them on their BBA nominations: the whole band for ‘Emerging Artist’; and Alex himself for ‘Young Artist’. It is of course a great achievement just to be nominated, but the band are well aware that they’re up against some of the biggest names on the British Blues scene.

James asked ‘How did you first start the band?’

Alex: ‘I met this guy a long time ago called Will Johns. He basically said to me “You should start a band”. Me and Charlie played in bands since we were about eleven, but we decided we wanted to take it more seriously and have a bit more of a career out of it. So we started this [Red Butler] about three years ago’.

So how did Jane get involved with the boys, I wondered?

Jane: ‘I’m not the original singer. I saw an advert in the music press. I remember having a really Hellish journey to Eastbourne for the audition. There was something wrong with the trains and I almost didn’t get there’. ‘Did the lads give you a hard time?’ I asked.  ‘They probably did – nothing’s changed!’ she laughed.

Alex with Les Paul (Photo: PTMQ)

Alex ‘Moving On’ with his Les Paul (Photo: PTMQ)

Only Alex is an original member. Charlie: ‘It was only going about two months before Jane came in, and then I came in about a week after that’. Mikey isn’t the original bassist, and not on any of the band’s recordings as yet. Alex: ‘We have yet to unleash his full potential!’ ‘Mike came along when all the hard work had been done!’ added Jane laughing. But he is often mistaken for the band’s original Bassist because he joined just as the album was released.

James and I had noticed the great variety of Bluesy styles within the first album; so wondered in what direction they’d take their second? Were they in fact working on it currently?

Alex: ‘Oh yes. Its very much a similar kind of thing that we’ve done. Its going to be trying to stay within the fan-base that we have at the moment, but then trying to bring in young people as well; because if no one does that, in ten or fifteen years time there isn’t going to be a Blues scene!  Its quite a difficult one because one of the things we really want to do is get young people involved, because at gigs there aren’t ever any there. That’s a big problem. We’re trying to find a way of enhancing our sound; because all of our friends like our music, but its the brand “Blues” that kills it for them’.

Charlie: ‘If you were a young person and you didn’t know beforehand that we were classed as a Blues band, and you came along and saw us; there are a few numbers that you could say were definitely Blues, but a lot of it is quite a grey area’.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Jane belting out some Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

This is a problem that I’m well aware of. James and I had a similar conversation with Virgil And The Accelerators when we interviewed them last year (see entry #26). And I think Laurence Jones and Oli Brown are experiencing the same thing too. As James pointed out ‘There are a lot of young Blues artists out there’. So the next obvious question was: how did this young band get into Blues in the first place then?

Jane: ‘Just being brought up with it, I suppose: Ten Years After and Free. The music that you grew up listening to and love; and you have a passion for; you want to carry on the legacy of it. And its a goal of yours to not let it die and keep it going’.

Alex: ‘The Blues has become such a big thing again now. And its a funny thing because Charlie’s cousin is in a band, and they are at a fairly similar level to us….’  Charlie: ‘Yeah. They’re a kind of Indi-Rock band called Black Honey and they’re rising up at the moment. In terms of the work they’ve put in, and how long they’ve been going, and social [media] stuff; they’re pretty much level. But they’ll play to huge audiences. When we do a Blues festival, it’ll pull in a good few hundred people, but their equivalent is that they’ll play a small stage at Reading to 5,000 people. Its just a different scene’.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Fine reliable drumming from Charlie (Photo: PTMQ)

All this is very disappointing for the band. They want to play Blues, but its so frustrating for them (and all Blues fans) that they don’t get the more widespread recognition that they deserve. Yet they all obviously love the genre and are determined to stick to their guns, and continue playing their music. Hopefully if they win an award or two at the BBA this year, they’ll get a lot more attention. But even Blues Awards are not that high profile, unfortunately…

Alex: ‘Its funny how you get the Country Awards, that are massive. Its a big deal – almost like a red carpet do. Everyone knows who is nominated. Its funny because [Blues] is a niche market in the name, but style-wise its not at all! You can go and watch one guy with an acoustic; or you can be on tour with a six-piece band with a brass section like Billy Walton’.

Charlie: ‘Its very closed in to the circuit. Everyone on the circuit knows everyone. So you get the big artists in UK Blues – everyone knows them. But then if you took the biggest artist on the UK Blues scene and took that to a household, and said “Do you know this person?”; nine times out of ten they won’t’.

This is true enough. Recently I interviewed Larry Miller (see entry #61), a phenomenal guitarist with nine albums to his name; but is virtually unheard of outside the UK Blues scene. Mikey: ‘Well, when we played with Larry a few months ago in Durham; the crowd loved him. He’s got a big audience, but its very niche. It was a really good show and the crowd were loving it’. [Incidentally, whilst writing this article, I heard that Larry had just suffered a stroke. I’m sure all music fans would join me in hoping that it is not too severe; and wish him well].

(Photo: PTMQ)

Master of the Fender Jazz Bass, Mikey (Photo: PTMQ)

Speaking personally, I’m really glad to see these young Blues / Blues-Rock bands emerging again. And I too wish they’d get the kudos that they deserve. The popularity of Blues comes and goes of course, but at the moment its resurging again, I’m glad to say. Alex: Well here’s a question for you – What’s it like seeing it come back?’

PTMQ: ‘Brilliant! I’ve seen it come and go a few times. But its been around since before I can remember. Hendrix died when I was ten; and Cream split when I was eight – and it wasn’t new then! No doubt there’ll be blokes here tonight who can remember its first appearance over here in the early ’60s. I remember a great resurgence about 1990 with Gary Moore famously going back to the Blues; Walter Trout came over for the first time; and Jeff Healey emerged due to the film Roadhouse‘. It died down a bit, but now its getting popular again; and its great to see all these young bands’.

Alex: ‘I think people are getting into live music again, too. I heard on the radio that there was a poll done on why people are travelling around the country this summer. And quite a high percentage was to go to a festival. Whether its Glastonbury, Reading, or a little Blues festival, its the same thing – people going out to see music’.

A good point was brought up by Jane: ‘I think a lot of it is also due to really good marketing’… Alex: ‘Yeah. We have other people we work with who help us with tours and booking; and we’re trying to get better at social media. Jane does a lot of it. I think maybe the next thing we’ll look at is doing a social marketing course to gain an insight into how it all works. Especially if we want young people involved, because they don’t read flyers – they’re always on the phone.’

One of the things that I noticed about this band is that they are really committed to gaining success, and are full of ideas about how to achieve it. Apart from being very talented musically, they are really on the ball in terms of promoting themselves. Its great to see.

(Photo: PTMQ

(Photo: PTMQ

Axe Chat:  Earlier I’d noticed that Alex had three geetars in the rack: a Gibson Les Paul; a Hofner semi-acoustic; and one unknown to me. Alex: ‘Its a called a Feline. A custom thing made in East Croydon. They’re great guitars. I had that made when I had an inheritance from a member of my family that passed away; so I thought I’d rather spend it on something that’s going to last. Its a beautiful guitar – one of those guitars that’s almost too nice! I get it out, and I think “Oh, I don’t want to chip it or anything!” I’m lucky to have a choice of guitars. I used to play a Strat a lot but the Hofner’s taken over. The Hofner cost me £300 – new they’re only about £450. Not that expensive! Its by far the nicest guitar for me – one of the best that I’ve ever played. When you consider that the guitar I had made for me cost well into four figures; but I far prefer the Hofner’. Jane joked: ‘You’d better get a refund – and buy loads of Hofners!’ Alex: ‘I love that red guitar [the Feline], but I find the Hofner ideal for the particular thing that we’re doing – suits it down to a tee. Whereas if I was in a heavier Rock band, I’d use the Feline all the time’.

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

Amp Talk:  Alex: I’ve actually got an endorsement with a company called Jack The Hat Amps; custom made in Alderney in the Channel Islands. Its made out of an old Marshall with 60s parts in it. I used to use Black Star. The thing that threw people for a long time was the head that I played with didn’t have a cab; so I was playing an unmarked head through a Black Star cab’.

Bass Blah Blah:  Mikey uses a Fender Jazz Bass. Mikey:  ‘I went to buy a Fender Precision because I was convinced I wanted it. I picked the one I wanted and was playing it in the shop, and I was just not feeling it. So my friend who was with me at the time said “Why don’t you try the Jazz?”  I said “I don’t want a Jazz, I want a Precision!” and he said “Well just try it!” Then I had like an epiphany! I think the main thing was the neck – a bit slimmer. I was moving about more comfortably. Its reliable; comfortable; not too heavy’.

We had a few more questions for the band; but at this point they were called in to go and get changed; so we had to terminate the interview. We did have time for a few photos though. James and I enjoyed talking to Red Butler. Like most musos they were friendly and keen to chat about their music etc. I found them all to be determined, knowledgeable, and optimistic. With young bands like these, the future of Blues is in safe hands indeed – as long as they can start pulling in a younger audience. All that was necessary then, was for us to see them in action – and we didn’t have to wait long…

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

The Red Butler Set (First Half): At about 8.45, Chris the Stage Manager announced the band. It was their eagerly awaited debut at this club (in fact they’ve rarely played Essex so far), and they climbed on stage to great applause. Alex armed himself with his Les Paul, and the band opened with Gary Moore’s ‘Movin’ On’. Immediately they impressed – nice slide work from Alex; and the whole band musically tight. Very animated they were too; entertaining to see. Pausing only while Alex changed to the Hofner, they then gave us ‘On The Road’. I thought Jane’s vocals particularly impressed on this number.

From their album, they then gave us the rockin’ Blues of ‘Young And Free’; with Jane demanding audience participation! A great solo from Alex too. This went down very well indeed. Also from the album they played their unique take on the classic ‘Shakin’ All Over’; with everyone singing along. The lively vibe continued with ‘The Blues Is My Business’ – and the Red Butler business was certainly sounding and looking good! Again Jane included the punters in the song.

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

The pace was slowed then for ‘Last Page Of The Blues’. ‘This song is very special to us’ explained Jane. Its a moody number that’s a great vehicle for Alex’s axemanship, with the Feline. Its also a good demonstration of Charlie’s drumming and Mikey’s bass working smoothly together as a rhythm unit. ‘Have we got any Gary Moore fans in here?’ asked Alex. After affirmative shouts from the crowd he added ‘…that makes me nervous!’ Then the band launched into a cover of ‘Oh Pretty Woman’. This cover obviously owed more to GM’s famous version rather than the Albert King original; but it was a fine and interesting take on the old classic; and there was no need to worry Alex! ‘We’re gonna do what we call a “Scottish Blues” now’ said Alex ‘… that means a Sandi Thom song – let’s do “The Belly Of The Blues”. Again, an interesting cover. Its a brooding song in which Jane squeezed out every drop of emotion; and Alex played from the heart.

Next came the old Percy Mayfield song ‘Hit The Road Jack’, made famous by Ray Charles. It was another song that demanded audience participation; and went down well. Alex and Jane did a little guitar / scat-vocal duelling during this one. Then to finish the first half, they played the Eric Clapton / Robert Cray song ‘Old Love’. Again this was a chance for the whole band to shine: beautifully subtle chops from Alex; intensely emotional vocals from Jane; and very fine and reliable bass and drums from Mikey and Charlie. It was a good twelve minutes long; slowly but inexorably moving to its climactic end.

Half Time:  As soon as the first half was over, Alex came over to us and asked what we thought of it so far. I was of course very impressed and told him so; particularly congratulating him on his performance of ‘Belly Of The Blues’ and ‘Old Love’. Guitarist Russ Cottee of The Blues Spiders also introduced himself during half time, and we had a brief chat. I also spoke to Harp player Nick Garner of The Roots Collective who was knocking about too. (More on Nick in a minute).

(Photo: PTMQ)

Alex comes down into the auditorium during the final number of the 2nd set.  (Photo: PTMQ)

The Red Butler Set (Second Half):  This began with a cover of Nina Simone’s classic ‘Feeling Good’ – Red Butler style!  It was an inventive cover of a old staple. They gave us the opener from their album ‘Jaywalker’ next. Its got a bit of an SRV vibe to it. I like it a lot; and it was played well. The funky groove of ‘Give Me My Blues’ rang out next. Alex got a great sound from his Feline on the solo for this one. ‘Pension Blues’ off the album, followed. Its a great Blues song with stomping vibe and an amusing lyric. Great slide again from Alex on his Les Paul. Again from their album, they played ‘River Of Smoke’  – another good slow one, where Alex displayed his subtlety of style once again, that rendered his solo delicate; almost inaudible at times, but always tasteful.

Tempo was upped then, for ‘Bringing Out The Devil’ from their debut EP. This was the first song they ever wrote together. Its a lively rocker – full of raw energy. Next the band performed a medley of classic Blues-Rock served in a musical sandwich which consisted of a good helping of ‘Purple Haze’; and ‘Cocaine’ between two slices of ‘Goin’ Down’ – very palatable, I must say! ‘Danger Zone’ quickly followed. Its another good rocker from the album; and demonstrated once more, the song-writing skills of this great young band. The last offering in this second half was ‘Show Me The Money’; which was a good lively number to finish on; and during which Alex and Jane got down off the stage and danced around the auditorium.

Extra Time:   Chris returned to the mic to raise some more applause for an encore. The band returned to stage then, for one more number; and this time they were joined by the renown Essex Blues-Harp player, Nick Garner. The song chosen to finish with was the SRV classic ‘Pride And Joy’. And a rousing cover it was too. I don’t think I’ve heard it sung with a female vocal before; and Jane did a fantastic job with it, changing the lyric as necessary.

Nick Garner joins the band for encore! (Photo: PTMQ)

Nick Garner joins the band for encore! (Photo: PTMQ)

Show over, it was time to have a quick chat with a few people and congratulate the band on their performance and say our goodbyes. It had been a great gig and I’d gathered a lot of info for this article. Red Butler showed themselves to be a great live act; perfectly capable of handling several of the sub-genres of Blues / Blues-Rock with ease; and very satisfying to see and hear. I’m guessing that they’ll start to play more of their own material and drop some of the covers as time goes by. Finally, I’d just like to wish them the best of luck for the BBA.  PTMQ.

Links

Red Butlers website… http://www.redbutlermusic.co.uk/

British Blues Awards website… http://www.britishbluesawards.com/home/4581355856

New Crawdaddy Blues Club… http://www.heaters.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/default.htm

Advertisements

61. LARRY MILLER BAND at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hockley, Essex. Friday, 17th July, 2015. + a pre-gig interview with Larry; and a few words about the club’s new venue.

When I bumped into Dave and Brian of Touchline Live Music, in Peggy Sue’s Music Bar back in April (see my Blog entry #47), they told me that they had Larry Miller booked for July, and would I be interested in coming along? I was of course keen to do so, as I knew I should be available that night; and there  was the chance of an interview with the renown Blues-Rocker in the offing too. Also, I was keen to see the Touchline’s new home at Hockley Community Centre – or ‘The Commy’ as its known locally.

Sound-check completed, the stage awaits (Photo: PTMQ)

Sound-check completed, the Touchline stage awaits…(Photo: PTMQ)

The shennanigans that went on over the loss of the club’s last venue in Hullbridge, I’m not qualified to speculate on. The important thing is that the club has had a new home in Hockley, Essex, for the last six months. I have been unable to visit ‘The Commy’ since the Touchline moved in there, so I was keen to see what Dave, Brian and co  had achieved so far. My first impression was good – the car park alone is a vast improvement on the old place! And as I walked in, I was continually impressed by everything that I saw. The whole place is very smart; and the function room is excellent. (The stage is at one end, and was looking good – set up with Marshall and Warwick amps and speakers). To be honest, I liked the other place  – it was fine; but this venue is definitely superior.

I arrived early, and after being greeted by Trudie, Dave and Brian (and also having got myself a beer), I was introduced to the club’s guest star for the night, Larry Miller; who had kindly agreed to an interview with the Quill! I’d never met him before, but he is an instantly likable bloke with a genuinely warm handshake; and turned out to be quite a character – off-stage as well as on. Trudie suggested that we should chat outside on the patio; so that’s where we went.

We began by talking about Larry’s last opus: the excellent Soldier Of The Line, released late last year. Apart from the fact that this is arguably his best work so far, I was particularly interested in the story of Larry’s Grandad, a violin player who served in the Great War, which inspired the title track. This is because my Grandad also served in that hideous conflict, and played violin too. (I won’t go into that now, but there is more to say about it, so it may be the subject of a future Blog entry). At this point, my mate Rambo turned up and after introductions, joined us.

(Photo: Rambo)

Mr.Miller and myself engaged in a pre-gig conflab! (Photo: taken by Rambo)

I asked Larry if the superb title track (which I describe as a kind of Progressive-Folk lament), was to be part of a new direction for him: ie, experimenting with genres outside the Blues-Rock field of which he is a recognised master – bearing in mind that there is also an interesting and unexpected brassy, Jazzy ending to the opening track on the album, ‘One Fine Day’. Our man pointed out that we are all influenced by multiple genres – even those who claim to be purists in a particular field: ‘People always think that if you play one type of music, that’s what you’ve been listening to all your life….we all listened to the same things if you grew up in this country – The Beatles; The Stones; Abba; Mud; Sweet – what was playing in the charts. I can write most forms of music really’ he said ‘…but if you’re making a living (from music), you’ve got a fan-base; and you know what your fan-base want to hear. Some of them go to that (pointing to his new album that I’d put on the table) and think “Oh this isn’t Larry!” One bloke said he threw it away! Then he went back to one of my old records and thought “Oh I’ll give it another go”; and then of course he hasn’t stopped playing it since! Its a fine balancing act: you’ve got to move forward, but at the same time keep the guys who pay your bills happy!’ (Surely no one is unhappy with Larry’s last album, are they?)

‘Unless of course you are like Richie Blackmore’ I digressed, ‘…who never gave a toss about his fans anyway, and totally gave up Rock for Folk music without batting an eyelid – much to the chagrin of his fans!’ (Just for the record, I like some of RB’s Folky stuff). We then laughed about Blackmore’s infamous tantrums with Purple and Rainbow (I witnessed one of these for myself at Wembley back in ’79, – but that’s for another blog). Larry quipped that he was ‘…probably suffering from pre-minstrel tension!’

Back to the subject in hand, Rambo observed that: ‘Surely you’ve got to go where your heart takes you?’  Larry agreed: ‘Yeah, if you’ve got an ounce of creativity about you – you are an artist. I never did music so that I’d become rich – it would be nice though! Its like any artist, like Picasso. He never painted pictures to make a lot of money – that would be soulless’ . Its quite clear then that Larry wouldn’t do anything he didn’t want to do. And quite right too.

Larry with '57 Gold Top (Photo: PTMQ)

Larry with his main guitar: a Gibson Les Paul ’57 Gold Top Reissue (Photo: PTMQ)

So I asked what Larry had in the pipeline? ‘I’m working on a double album right now’ he replied, ‘…The Sinner And The Saint. I’ve got about sixteen tracks on it. I consider it my best ever.’ ‘So when is this Magnum Opus due out?’ I asked. Larry couldn’t say yet. Nor would he be drawn too much on it other than saying ‘Its got my normal Blues-Rock content’, and that there’s ‘a mandolin track’ on it. Then he told us ‘I’m a Christian; so its going to be a spiritual one as well’. Larry had anticipated my next question here, as I’d planned to ask about the religious subjects / references that I’d noticed in some of his earlier songs – ‘Bathsheba’ for example. ‘American bands sing quite happily about these subjects but English bands don’t’ he said. That’s probably true enough; apart from The Strawbs, I can’t think, off-hand, of a British band that have handled religion (not including Occult obsessed HM bands!) ‘Everything I write comes from within’ he explained. Anyway, that’s an album I personally can’t wait to hear!

The subject of the young Blues-Rock guitarists came up then – again Larry anticipated the question, as I was going to ask what he thought about young guns like Virgil McMahon; Laurence Jones; and Oli Brown. ‘I know ’em – all nice guys’ he said. ‘Its great that they’re playing it, but I wish their mates would get into it. Its weird … they’re playing to all these old guys!’ I agreed. There aren’t a lot of young Blues fans; and this came up when I interviewed Virgil last October (see my Blog #26). Funny enough, I’m glad to report that my son James and a couple of his mates do love Blues-Rock, and he would  have been there with me that night if he hadn’t been lured away to a cricket match in Chelmsford!

I asked Larry about his forthcoming gig at the Forum in London, supporting Walter Trout for his I’m Back Tour. He is very much looking forward to it as you would expect. Larry didn’t know if Walter had specifically head-hunted him for the gig, but apparently someone close to Walter did say that Larry reminds Walter of himself as a young player – not that Larry is that young of course! But its quite a complement coming from an international giant of the genre like WT.

Mad Dogs! The Larry Miller Band at the Touchline (Photo: PTMQ)

Mad Dogs! The Larry Miller Band at the Touchline (Photo: PTMQ)

Next I asked about his guitars. ‘Ahh!’ he exclaimed seeming to relish the chance of some axe-chat! ‘I take it you’ll be playing a Les Paul tonight?’ I enquired.   ‘Yeah. Well, I’d always been a Strat man’ he said. ‘Because of Gallagher?’ I asked (Larry being a well known fan). ‘I guess so …but they just looked so awesome! I’ve had loads of Strats, but you see lots of Strat players with a slightly thin toppy, grainy sound. I liked Stevie Ray Vaughan’s sound, but …then I saw Bon Jovi at Wembley Stadium. He had all these guitars; and this one guitar sounded really lovely, and it was a Gibson Les Paul ’59 – it was obviously the best sounding guitar there. So I bought a Les Paul in 2002, but I could play a Strat faster, so it took me a while (to get used to it). Then people started to say “Oh you’ve got a great guitar tone”; well they never say that if you’re playing a Strat. But with the Les Paul its a brilliant thick, creamy sound. And if you back off the volume, then it cleans up like a Strat anyway. So now I’m a bona fide Les Paul Player!’ Larry now has three Les Pauls – one of which, a Gold Top ’57 Reissue is his main gigging axe. ‘Its absolutely wonderful’ he enthused.

What about acoustics? He said he used a 1931 National for slide work on the forthcoming album; and he’d be playing ‘just a crummy old thing’ later that night for ‘Soldier Of The Line’ (it actually turned out to be a good-looking, and great sounding Yamaha acoustic tuned to DADGAD). I said I’d be watching closely so that I could try to learn the song. ‘Its bloomin’ hard!’ he warned; then added laughing ‘…well I think so!’ Well if he finds it hard, and its his song, I don’t know what chance I’ve got at playing it!

Finally I asked Larry to sign my CD copy of Soldier Of The Line. He stared at the cover for a while deep in thought; then smiled and wrote ‘To Phil The Music Quill, from Larry The Music Mill’! As well as everything else, Larry has a great sense of humour! He went back stage then and Rambo and I took our seats, reserved for us by Trudie, on Table 1 – right in front of Larry’s monitors. And there we waited….

Soldier of the line - Larry Miler (Photo: PTMQ)

Soldier of the line – Larry Miller with his Yamaha acoustic  (Photo: PTMQ)

At about 9pm Master Of Ceremonies Brian Sangwin climbed on stage  and introduced the band. Larry casually strapped on his Gold Top and plugged in, and after a little banter with the audience launched into the rabid rhythm riffs of ‘Mad Dog’. Like a Rottweiler suddenly released from a cage, he hit us with a full-on display of axemanship and growling vocals! It was a howling success; and that set the pace and tone for the entire gig really.

From the very beginning, you can’t take your eyes off Larry – he is like a presence on stage. Not just because of his consummate fret-board dexterity, which left me open-mouthed at times; or for his powerful vocal style; but also for his on-stage antics: throwing himself about like a man half his age – even running around in the audience at one point! And he kept it up throughout the whole show too! He still has the enthusiasm he had as a fifteen year old – and its infectious! We, the audience, were lapping up everything he did. Clearly he is a man who loves what he does. Quite how he keeps it up night after night, I don’t know.

‘Our Time Is Coming’ was up next – again a power-packed rendition with breath-taking solos – and to paraphrase the lyric, ‘there was nothing we could do about it’! Great applause ensued, and Larry said ‘Really cookin’ isn’t it?’ Then the intro of ‘The Power You Have’ had us clapping along, before the distinctive rhythm riff burst full scale upon us. Another winner.

At this point, Larry introduced the rest of the band. The other members tend to be somewhat overlooked in comparison to the presence and antics of the main man. But they were there alright – and a superb performance they both gave too. On Bass was Derek White; Larry’s long-term gigging bassist. And on Drums, Graham Walker; ex-Gary Moore Band. These two proved themselves to be more than capable as a rhythm section; tight and reliable, and always there to provide the back-bone to the songs, and enable Larry to venture into lengthy abstract solos at will.

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

Things slowed down a bit then for the beautifully arpeggiated intro to ‘Calling All The Angels’. The angst-ridden lyric he sang with genuine passion; and the lead solo came from deep down in his soul. It was dripping with emotion!  After some more banter he said he’d do his ‘Rory tune’ – a Gallagher-esque Blues-Rocker that would have had his late, great Irish hero nodding with approval.  And thus ended the first set. Only five songs long; but as he explained ‘I can’t help doing solos that are 400 hours long!’ Time for a beer methinks!

The second half began as promised with ‘Soldier Of The Line’. Larry donned his Yamaha acoustic (the ‘crummy old thing’ mentioned earlier), tuned to DADGAD, and after doodling a little, began the very distinctive and beautiful intro to the song. And I must say, it did look difficult to play! But what a faultless performance it was; musically perfect, and sung with genuine emotion.

With his beloved Gold Top back in hand, ‘One Fine Day’ followed. This is the opener from the Soldier…  album; and one of the tracks that make that collection his best yet in my opinion. This live version did not disappoint either. No brass was possible for the outro, of course, so Larry just improvised a nice lead to finish. Only another good rocker from the same album could follow this. ‘Mississippi Mama’ hit us like a hurricane running amok through the Bible Belt! It went down a storm.

He gave us the pure Blues of ‘Missy Mango’ next. Its a simple but effective number that is a perfect vehicle for Larry to improvise over. Another excellent Blues tune followed this; and again Larry showed off his remarkable skills. ‘I Fight Myself’ ended the second half to rapturous applause and a standing ovation. It was well deserved.

During this part of the show, he had been quite brutal with his Les Paul. Volume and tone pots were roughly handled; the pick-up switch was singled out for a fair amount of abuse; but the low-E string was particularly brutalised when he used it to hold the unfortunate guitar aloft and shake it roughly! This all produced the most amazing sounds, and he was remarkably adept at it! In fact, given Larry’s normal string-bending technique – that often rendered at least two semi-tones – he had to frequently retune the thing throughout the gig.

The whole place was on its feet. Encore! was demanded – and duly delivered. Returning to the stage, the boys delivered more of what we desired, in the form of the SRV-esque ‘Rebekah’. Finally, the unmistakable opening riff to ‘Parisienne Walkways’ sounded out from Larry’s Marshall speakers. Teasing us with that searing sustained note made famous by another of his heroes, Gary Moore, Larry gave us a final flourish of his sublime axemanship. Phew!

Thanks to Larry and the lads for a superb demonstration of Blues-Rock at its highest level. I think this is definitely a contender for my Best Blues-Rock gig of 2015. Its difficult to guess who could possibly top it!  Finally, a great big thank you to Dave Kitteridge for arranging the interview; plus Trudie; Brian, and Steve the sound man; and all at the club and the venue for helping to make it a very memorable night indeed.  PTMQ.

Here is a link to Larry’s website… http://www.larrymiller.co.uk/index.htm

Here is a link to Touchline Live Music’s page… http://touchlinelivemusic.co.uk/

23. THE MICKY MOODY BAND (featuring ALI MAAS) at COOLHAM VILLAGE HALL. Sunday, 12th October, 2014; and a few words about TAME PROMOTIONS and the Sussex Blues scene.

An empty stage at Coolham Village Hall; awaiting The Micky Moody Band (Photo CGM)

In recent months I’ve become aware that there is a good healthy Blues scene going down in Sussex. (For those of my readers who are not too familiar with the geography of England; Sussex is a picturesque county of beautiful hills and quaint old towns on the south coast of England; only an hour or so drive from South London; and well worth a visit).   Now I hadn’t visited Sussex for some years, so I was totally ignorant of this burgeoning phenomenon, until I was kindly invited by Blues singer RUBY TIGER to one of her excellent gigs (in Chichester) back in July (See my blog entry #16), and was pleasantly surprised at how popular the genre has become down there.

A lot of credit for promoting Blues in the area should be attributed to the non-profit making TAME PROMOTIONS of Coolham.  GRAEME TAME – ably assisted by friends SARAH REEVE and RICHARD DONNELLY – have quite recently started booking Blues acts in the local village hall; and are starting to attract some big names.  In just their first few months they’ve already hosted: BEN WATERS; JO HARMAN; PAPA GEORGE; SAM KELLY; LARRY MILLER; RON SAYER; THE ALI MAAS BAND; and the brilliant BUDDY WHITTINGTON. Waiting in the wings for an appearance soon are: EDDIE BLUE LESTER; AYNSLEY LISTER; WILL WILDE; KATIE BRADLEY; and the remarkable LAURENCE JONES, among others.

So, a couple of months ago when Sarah Reeve alerted me to the fact that the formidable veteran Blues-Rock man, MICKY MOODY was to play Coolham with his band, I of course, immediately contacted Graeme Tame to reserve some tickets. This is a big name for Tame Promotions to get on-board; and is a measure of their current standing within the music business.

Mr.Moody sporting Flying Finn with thumb-pick and bottle neck (Photo: CGM)

Mr.Moody sporting Flying Finn with thumb-pick and bottle neck (Photo: CGM)

I’ve been a fan of Micky Moody for well over 35 years, now. He first came to my attention as a founding member of DAVID COVERDALE’s post-DEEP PURPLE band WHITESNAKE, back in ’78. Before that, he had, of course, been the JUICY LUCY axe-man.  Since leaving Whitesnake, he’s been a member of many a Rock and Blues band: THE YOUNG AND MOODY BAND; THE MOODY-MARSDEN BAND; 3M; THE SNAKES; COMPANY OF SNAKES; WILLY FINLAYSON AND THE HURTERS; to name but a few; and is currently part of the Rock group SNAKECHARMER who are currently flying high.  He has also worked with just about everyone of note in the music industry over the years – too numerous to mention here. Suffice to say that he is one of the most hard-working, consistent, and ubiquitous guitarists currently working in the UK – he knows his way up and down a fret-board just a bit too!

But his presence in Coolham this afternoon was with his own Blues outfit, THE MICKY MOODY BAND. He’d already played a gig at this venue the night before (along with support act, local band CATFISH – who wouldn’t be present for the Sunday show), which unfortunately I was unable to attend, but which apparently was a resounding success.

The band currently consists of some very experienced musicians indeed. As well as Mr. Moody himself on guitar; there is, ALI MAAS on vocals (who with her own band is making quite a name for herself on the local Blues scene); PETE REES on bass (From the late, great GARY MOORE’s band); and TOM COMPTON on drums (14 years with the recently deceased Blues leviathan, JOHNNY WINTER – see my blog entry #17).

I arrived at Coolham’s local pub ‘THE SELSEY ARMS’ (where the band were staying) with cousin Chas and my Missus in tow. Charlie is a bit of a photographer as well as a big music lover, and was more than happy to take photos as required. We had a meal booked for One O’Clock, with the band due on-stage at 4pm.  I’d arranged to meet Graeme there, and after a Sunday lunch of humongous proportions, we decamped to the village hall.

The Micky Moody Band in full flight (Photo: CGM)

The Micky Moody Band in full flight (Photo: CGM)

Coolham Village Hall is a lovely little place; which apparently can only accommodate less than 100 people. That makes for a very cozy, intimate venue – not the sort of place you would naturally expect to find someone of the calibre of Micky Moody to play. (I saw him with Whitesnake at the READING ROCK FESTIVAL, 1980, in front of 30,000 punters!). But the fact that he and his band agreed to do so, is a measure of the respect they hold for their fans – whether they be present in large, or small quantities!  By all accounts, the night before had been a rockin’ success; but the place was far from full on the Sunday. Still, everyone there was keen to see the show.

As the band had played at the same venue the night before, there was only a little setting up and tuning up to be done. (during which Micky played the ‘Dad’s Army’ theme – and why not?) We had a little chat with the singer, Ali Maas; and then the band went back-stage to get changed. Micky had 3 guitars sitting, waiting on the stage; and I resolved to have a chat with him about them, later if I could. The band emerged after a good introduction from Graeme Tame to great applause.

Micky, armed with a blue Hagstrom guitar, bottleneck, and thumb-pick; immediately started proceedings by launching the band into a good rendition of ‘Same Blues’; with Ali in fine voice. Changing his three guitars (Les Paul; Hagstrom; and Flying Finn) frequently, Micky’s first-half set continued with various well-rendered covers: MAVIS STAPLES’ ‘Mississippi’; and  MUDDY WATERS’ ‘Brand On You’; ‘Taste Of Bourbon’ (which Micky sung);  and ‘Soon Forgotten’.  ‘Retail Therapy’, a newly penned song, followed; and it incorporated a few bars of ‘Day Tripper’. A nice version of The Stones’  ‘Gimme Shelter’ finished off Part One. It included a vignette of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ (well, if you’re covering KEITH RICHARDS’ slide-work in Open-G, you may as well, I suppose!) before reverting to ‘Gimme Shelter’ to the end. Excellent!

Moody and me: Half-time chat (Photo: CGM)

Moody and me: Half-time chat (Photo: CGM)

At half-time, I collared Micky for a chat. I’ve never met him before, but I wasn’t surprised to find that he is a very approachable and down-to-earth kind of bloke, who has the time to talk to his fans. He told me about the three guitars that he’d brought with him for the Coolham gigs: a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top (standard tuning); a lovely blue Hagstrom (Open-D tuning); and a beautiful Flying Finn ‘Micky Moody Signature’ (in Open-G). And why those particular three from his large collection of instruments, I hear you ask? ‘They were nearest the door when I left home!’ he quipped. He had them plugged into an Orange amp, and out to a standard 2 x 12 Marshall speaker; with the required FX (including wah-wah). We also talked about the British Blues scene. We agreed that it is currently in fine fettle; with young guitarists like LAURENCE JONES and OLI BROWN currently making a name for themselves. He also invited me to THE RED LION in Isleworth to see him play with PAPA GEORGE – now that’s an offer you can’t refuse!

Part Two kicked off with EDDIE BURNS’  ‘When I Get Drunk’. This was followed by an original Moody piece – written, he said ‘…in my Victor Meldrew mode!’  Its title: ‘Get Off My Back’; and he took the lead vocal while Ali did backing. It was more to the Rock end of the Blues spectrum than anything else played at the gig; and featured a superb wah-wah solo.

Two ETTA JAMES’ songs were up next: ‘Cry Like A Rainy Day’, which Ali sang beautifully, demonstrating her remarkable vocal skills; and ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ for which Micky used the Les Paul again with capo on the 3rd fret. This cleverly incorporated the old Whitesnake song ‘Lovehunter’ (co-written with ex-band-mates DAVID COVERDALE and BERNIE MARSDEN back in ’79); and featured another excellent wah-wah solo before returning to ‘Serve Somebody’.

Ali Maas: remarkable vocal skills (Photo: CGM)

Ali Maas: remarkable vocal skills (Photo: CGM)

MEMPHIS MINNIE’s ‘Girlish Days’ followed, during which Ali confidently sang (in part) unaccompanied. Great slide again from MM on the blue Hagstrom. Another old Whitesnake favourite followed: ‘Slow’n’Easy’ from the “Slide It In” album of ’84; again co-written with DC. Some audience participation was required for this one. Then It was time for another Muddy Waters song –  the oft-covered ‘Rollin’n’Tumblin’, which MM sang and show-cased his slide guitar skills. This was followed by  ‘BIG MAMA’ THORNTON’s ubiquitous ‘Hound Dog’ which finished Part Two to great applause.

Graeme Tame took to the stage again then; but the audience needed little encouragement to get the band back for encore.  They played the staple ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You’. Ali gave it her all, like she really meant it; and when Micky’s Les Paul made love to the Orange-headed Marshall, a suitably dirty-sounding solo ensued! Our lust for good quality Blues satisfied, we applauded for the final time, as these superb musicians left the stage.

Ali soon returned to the auditorium. We had a nice little chat; and Charlie took some final photos. Graeme invited us to further gigs; so I hope we can get down to Coolham again soon. The drive back to Essex was a two-hour nightmare in the pitch-dark and pouring rain (I could have written a Blues song about it – I was in the mood after all!) It was a fantastic little gig though, and well worth the trip to Sussex. Thanks to the band, and Graeme Tame and his associates for providing us with a great afternoon. Cheers, all!

PTMQ

17. JOHNNY WINTER 1944 – 2014: A personal remembrance and tribute.

I was saddened to hear this morning that the albino blues guitar legend JOHNNY WINTER had passed away yesterday (16th July), at the age of 70. He had been dogged by health problems for years (the details of which I am not qualified to discuss; and are outside the scope of this article). I first became aware of him back in the ’70s when a mate of mine called Mark (wonder what ever happened to him?) lent me the ‘Johnny Winter And’ (1970) album. It was blues the likes of which I’d never heard before – it was wild, aggressive, progressive, and loud! At the time I wasn’t a massive blues fan, although I always acknowledged it as the progenitor of the heavy rock / prog rock genres – my sole musical interests in those narrow-minded days!

Years later I moved home, and found myself living next door to the well-known blues expert RAY TOPPING (now also sadly deceased) of ACE RECORDS. Ray was a personal friend of Johnny’s and had been to his home in Texas on numerous occasions. (Ray counted many famous people including BB KING; ZZ TOP; and JOHN MAYALL among his friends). He lent me Johnny’s first album ‘The Progressive Blues Experiment’ (1968), and I got really into it. At the time, blues and blues-orientated rock was experiencing a great resurgence with the likes of JEFF HEALEY and WALTER TROUT making headlines; and GARY MOORE famously going back to the blues. So I went out and bought Johnny’s latest album ‘Let Me In’ (1991), and I was hooked!

Then soon after that, Ray told me that Johnny had been in touch with him and had invited him to a gig he was due to play in London at the TOWN AND COUNTRY CLUB in August ’92; and did I want to tag along? (Mmmm, let me think about it for a while – OK then!). We arrived at the stage door of the T & C nice and early, but found our names missing from the guest list (even though Ray + one had been invited). Johnny’s manager was called down by the doorman, but he wasn’t the most helpful or accommodating of people, and he didn’t know Ray. Ray persuaded him that we had indeed been invited by Johnny, but the manager said we would only be allowed into the gig, gratis; but not back-stage. Ray (never the calmest of men) was incensed by this; but no power on Earth (including Ray’s shouting and swearing) could persuade the manager and doorman to let us in. Personally I was content just to get into the gig for nothing! So there we were in the mosh-pit with the rest of the punters, when Ray saw a bouncer come out through a door to the right of the stage. ‘Come on!’ he said as the door slowly closed. We went through and found ourselves back-stage, unchallenged!

Ray was determined to find Johnny and sort it out. But the first person we bumped into was the support act OTIS GRAND another friend of Ray’s! He invited us into the ‘Green Room’ where Ray was warmly received by all present due to his reputation as a blues expert. Otis told us that Johnny wasn’t feeling too good and wasn’t receiving visitors at that time. But soon Otis was due onstage, and he invited us to watch his band from behind the mixing desk, stage-right. Otis played a grand set. Seeing a larger sized gig from the side of the stage was an eye-opener for me – especially as the soundman let us play with the desk controls a little.

At the interval we spoke to various music industry bods, some of whom Ray knew. Then it was time for Johnny himself to go on. Still placed by the mixing desk, we saw the great man come down the stairs from his changing room clutching his headless ERLEWINE LAZER guitar that seemed to be no more than a fret-board with pick-ups! He certainly didn’t look well – frail, and not quite with it. Ray was shocked by his appearance. At the bottom of the stairs He took a wrong turn away from the stage and had to be ushered back on course; and this reminded us of the famous scene from SPINAL TAP where the dozy band can’t find their way to the stage!

Well Johnny may not have been feeling too well, but he was a professional; and as soon as they plugged him in, his demeanour changed completely – he became the blues axe-hero that was expected of him. He played a fantastic set of old favourites, covers, and material from his latest album ‘Hey, Where’s Your Brother?’ (1992). I seem to remember two well deserved encores. Then he was led back off stage. On the way he spied Ray and they greeted each other warmly. I was introduced, and we were both (+ some others) invited to join him in his room.

In spite of being ill, Johnny was a very warm and friendly; quietly spoken and knowledgeable; although obviously out of sorts. He was underweight and covered in tattoos (including a map of Texas on his right shoulder that he referred to often). We spoke for ages about guitars and the Texas blues scene. He let me play the Erlewine which he had tuned to Open-E for slide-work of which he was of course, a recognised maestro. But my attempts were embarrassingly pathetic – and no better now, I must say! He joked that he’d teach me if he had the time!

Well after a while, JW said he was very tired; so he and his entourage suddenly decamped for his hotel. Before we left, Ray and I went to the toilet; but when we came out the place was in darkness. Now it was our turn to be Spinal Tap looking for the exit! Just when we thought we’d never get out, we bumped into the same doorman who’d refused us entry earlier. ‘Well you two are persistent!’ he remarked, before showing us the door.

I never met Johnny again; but I’m very glad I did that once. I was even inspired enough for a while to borrow Ray’s Dobro guitar and practice some slide-work. (I often wonder what happened to that Dobro after Ray died). Unfortunately there were no photos taken that night of our meeting; but I got him to autograph a CD for me.

They say that Johnny Winter was the only white man who ever really understood the blues. That may be so, but he also took it to new places and heights. We lament the passing of one of the greatest bluesmen – there must be one humdinger of a blues jam going on up there right now! RIP Johnny.

Here’s a taste of Johnny’s ‘Medicine Man’ from the ‘Let Me In’ album (1991):-

Phil The Music Quill.