My first trip this year to the New Crawdaddy Blues Club, in Billericay, Essex was a good’n to say the least. It was the well-publicised and eagerly awaited launch gig for the new Malaya Blue album Heartsick. My regular readers will have already seen my pre-release review of this fine new collection in the previous entry (see #95). I arrived early enough to have a good chat with the club’s guv’nor, Blues impresario Paul Dean; plus others, including The MMB’s guitarist Dudley Ross; their manager Steve Yourglivtch; DJ Micky Spectrum; Russ Cottee of the Blues Spiders. and fellow music writer Alan Bates.
You can’t go wrong with the New Crawdaddy… every Friday night there is a band on stage that caters for one or other of the myriad sub-genres found within the Blues spectrum – something for almost everyone, in fact. And with a friendly welcoming vibe; and only a tenner to get in at the door (with some exceptions) its real value for money.
By about 8.30, the band (minus Malaya) took to the stage ready for their first-half set. Then Chris, the NCBC’s Master of Ceremonies, announced the Lady herself; and she climbed on stage looking immaculate in a sequinned LBD – and the set kicked off with the very appropriate ‘I Have Arrived’, off the new album. It was a great start, and set the bar high for the rest of the show.
The two-part set contained a mixture of tracks from both albums. The new Heartsick songs adapted as necessary for the live show; and the older Bourbon Street numbers totally reworked. There were no covers this time, as the band have enough material of their own now, for a two-hour performance. The whole show was slick, professional, and impressive. I particularly enjoyed ‘Bluesville UK’; the reworked ‘Bitter Moon’; and the slide-driven ‘Strand Of Gold’; but its hard to pick favourites from such a high quality selection of songs. The main show finished with the rockin’ title track ‘Heartsick’ and was followed by a well-deserved standing ovation, and a demand for encore. This was duly delivered by the band; and consisted of two numbers: the emotive ‘Dawn’; and ‘Cold-Hearted Man’. And thus ended a fantastic show.
Malaya’s singing and stage persona were confident and enthralling throughout. Often she was unashamedly emotional – and (as I’ve remarked before) Bassey-esque in her vocal intensity; and like-wise expressive with her hand gestures. Frequently her delivery was sassy and lively when the song demanded. But at all times she was uniquely Malaya – and this is important to remember, because she is no copy-cat; and has developed her own style, both vocally and visually. I hadn’t seen her live since August last year (see my review and interview #64); but her singing tonight surpassed even that fine earlier performance. She is obviously still going from strength to strength – and long may that continue. This new album and tour dates will raise her profile even higher, I’m sure.
The MMB is a totally different band to a year ago – the personnel have all changed in recent months, and there was no saxophonist; but the new line up have gelled together nicely as a unit…
I’ve admired Dudley Ross‘ axemanship for a while now – both on record and live. As a bit of a player myself, I often look at guitarists on stage and think ‘Yeah; I know what he’s doing, and how he’s doing it’ – although I often can’t do it myself, of course! But at times watching Dudley’s solos, I wasn’t even sure what he was doing, in terms of technique. I just knew that the sounds emanating from his Marshall head, were very satisfying indeed. There is not much that can divert your eyes from Malaya’s stage presence; but Dudley’s lead breaks certainly can! His solos were inventive and subtly played; and interesting to watch technically. At times he reminded me a little of Albert Collins (especially so on ‘Cold-Hearted Man’); and there’s no doubt that hanging out with Kirkie Fletcher recently, has improved his game; but he most certainly has his own style. This is a guitarist to watch.
Paul Jobson on Keys was as impressive too. This boy knows how to tickle the ivories for sure! Now, I know next to nothing about actually playing keyboards; but I do know when I hear someone who can play! Paul was impressive for his rhythm work; and more so when soloing. He and Dudley took it in turns to wow the punters – and we lapped it up! Apart from his solos, he was also particularly notable on the two songs performed in duet with Malaya at the start of Set Two.
Last – but by no means least – the rhythm section of Stuart Uren on Bass; and Andrew McGuinness on Drums; were individually superb; and as a unit, they were tight and reliable… and just damn fine, really! They enabled Dudley and Paul to do their thing with their solos at will, assured that they could return to the framework of the number after each abstract outing.
Finally, mention must also be made of Paul Dean and his crew at the club for all their hard work in getting this wonderful show up and running. That’s: Chris the Stage Manager; Chris the Soundman; Graham the Lightman; Mike the DJ and last but not least the lovely Karen on the door. Big thanks to the bar staff too. Paul has some great artists lined up for the club over the next few months. (See the link to NCBC website below). If you’re not familiar with the club, there is a more detailed description in an earlier article of mine (Red Butler at the NCBC #66).
Well after some last minute chats and congrats, it was time for my goodbyes; and I left the club feeling like I’d been a minor part of a milestone in the band’s history. If you like a good variety of Bluesy styles within one act, and you haven’t seen the Malaya Blue Band in action yet, then I’d say get along to one of their gigs ASAP – you won’t be disappointed. PTMQ
Here is a link to Malaya’s website
Here is a link to the New Crawdaddy’s website
Here is a link to Micky Spectrum’s website