Tag Archives: malaya blue

126. TREV TURLEY AND FRIENDS @ NCBC. ‘Emotion & No Commotion: Live 12th August 2016.

trev-turley-cdThose Blues fans among my readers will no doubt remember my review of the excellent ‘one-off’ gig by bassist Trev Turley and Friends at The New Crawdaddy Blues Club, Billericay Essex, recently (See my review #121). Those who were present at the gig may already know that the show was recorded and is now available on CD (No doubt some have already obtained a copy).

There are eleven tracks on the album, which I think covers all the songs played on the night. The recording has come out far better than I thought it would – actually superb! Its always good to relive a gig that that you actually attended (at one of my favourite venues too), so I was very pleased all round with this CD. Sound quality and mixing are very good indeed. Yve’s vocals and all instruments are very clear; and if you needed a demonstration of the quality, tightness and professionalism of this fine group of musicians, then it is here.

The disc comes in a simple card sleeve with all the relevant info printed on it. It is a limited edition of 100 copies (mine is #56). There are apparently a few left, and these will be available from the second ‘one-off’ gig (if that makes sense!) which is booked for The Murderers in Norwich on 15th December. I probably won’t be there, but I can recommend it highly. PTMQ

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121. TREV TURLEY AND FRIENDS (+ special guest MARK ‘BOWEEVIL’ HOWES and support from THE HEATERS) at THE NEW CRAWDADDY BLUES CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Friday 12th August 2016. A review by Ralph Carter.

(Photo: Karen R)

Bass man, Trev Turley (Photo: Karen R)

I spoke to bassist Trev Turley at a gig a few weeks ago; and he told me that he would be putting together a band of friends for a one-off show; and would I be interested in coming along? It sounded interesting so along I went… to The New Crawdaddy Blues Club in Billericay, Essex, to see him and his band-mates in action.

This band of friends consisted of: Trev Turley himself of course (bass); Andrew Walker (guitar); Simon Dring (drums); Andy Cooper (keys); Phil Marshall (sax); and last but by no means least, Norfolk-based Yve Mary Barwood (vocals). The more astute of my readers will have already realised – if they didn’t know beforehand – that these fine musicians were (apart from Yve), Malaya Blue’s erstwhile touring band.

Yve Mary Barwood (Photo: Karen R)

Yve Mary Barwood (Photo: Karen R)

I bumped into Trev outside the venue when I arrived on the evening; but he was keeping shtoom about what the Set List would consist of. I didn’t know what to expect but I like surprises, and this turned out to be a pleasant one… in fact a damn fine show!

First on the bill though was the NCBC’s excellent House Band, The Heaters. They usually – but not always – play support at the club, and I’ve seen them many times before. They play a good variety of covers; and they play them well. As Trev Turley described them: ‘The best band that never ever headlined at The Crawdaddy!’ Always good to see them. On this occasion I particularly liked their renditions of Freddy King’s ‘Hideaway’; and The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’.

(Photo: Karen R)

Sax man: Phil Marshall (Photo: Karen R)

It wasn’t long before Trev and co were climbing on stage. ‘Don’t worry I’m not going to sing!’ Trev reassured us! Right from the start it was clear that the friends were tight and well used to playing together, as they launched into their set. It was also clear from the outset that Yve is a fine vocalist – equally capable of sweetness and passion in her singing. I previously knew nothing about her, but I am now much wiser!

A fine and eclectic set of mainly Blues, and Blues-based covers was played; including: an interesting version of Hardin’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’; a blinding and faithful version of Winwood’s ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’; Johnson’s oft covered classic ‘Dust My Broom’; a wonderfully lengthy rendition of ‘It Hurts Me Too’ (which you can see here); Johnny Taylor’s ‘Who’s Making Love?’; a sweetly sung version of the Blues staple ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’; a stunning cover of Greeny’s ‘I Loved Another Woman’ (sax was superb on this); and a Funked up version of Clapton’s (in his Derek guise) ‘Got To Get Better In A Little While’, which included a fine drum solo from Simon. And that concluded the main set.

But an encore was then of course demanded; and they were joined on stage by special guest Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes. Trev thanked everyone for their support and said that they’d play one more…. a cover of Joe Cocker’s, perhaps appropriately titled, ‘High Time We Went’ – inappropriate I thought, as we could have stood a lot more from this great band! This rendition included a lot of solos and duelling from the members of the group –  and amusing too, as one by one, the members of the band waved goodbye to Trev and left him alone on stage!  It received rousing – and well-deserved applause at the end.

The musicianship throughout the gig was exceptional, and its difficult to pick out anyone, because all of the friends were at the top of their game; but I particularly enjoyed Phil’s superb sax playing. He and Trev were also very entertaining too, which got a few laughs.

As I left the venue I saw Trev and remarked that he should definitely get this outfit together again – even if only for an occasional gig. He smiled but didn’t answer! But as I write this, it has recently been announced that the friends will play a follow up gig at The Murderers in Norwich. I probably won’t be there, but I can predict it’ll be a great show, so best get along there on 15th December and see for yourself what I’ve been on about! All the members are pursuing their own projects now, but I’m sure we’ll being seeing them back together again periodically.

Thanks to Trev and co for wonderful entertainment. Thanks to impresario Paul Dean and his fine team of volunteers, for hosting a great show once again; to Karen R for superb photography; and to Trevor Taylor for the video.

By Ralph Carter.

(photo: Karen R)

Thank you and good night Billericay! The magnificent seven (L – R):  Simon Dring; Andy Cooper; Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes; Phil Marshall; Yve Mary B; Andrew Walker; and the main man himself, Trev Turley. (Photo: Karen R).

96. THE MALAYA BLUE BAND. “Heartsick” album launch at The New Crawdaddy Blues Club, Billericay, Essex. Friday 1st April, 2016

(Photo: PTMQ)

The MMB at the NCBC (Photo: PTMQ)

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 SpectrumRuss 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.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Malaya: ‘I have arrived!’ (Photo: PTMQ)

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.

Dudley plays the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

Dudley plays the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

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 (Photo: PTMQ)

Paul Jobson on Keys (Photo: PTMQ)

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

95. MALAYA BLUE “Heartsick” (2016). A pre-release review.

(Image: Malaya Blue)

(Image: Malaya Blue)

They say the second album is always a difficult one to make. When I spoke to Malaya Blue at a gig last summer (see my article #64), she was very much aware of this; and it is worth quoting the lady once again: ‘There’s a little bit of me that’s anxious about the second album’ she told me. ‘Its always difficult.  Do you do the first album again? Or do you move into something new?  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 opportunity to be better, bolder, brighter –  bring something slightly unexpected.’ Well she had some song titles back in August, and the deadline she gave then, March/April, has been met. She and her boys have been working hard, that’s for sure.

So what, I hear you ask, have the lady and her team come up with this second time? Malaya’s manager Steve Yourglivch sent me a pre-release download of the eleven-track Heartsick for review; and I must say I was immediately impressed by the whole collection. It is certainly not a copy of her first album – the remarkable, and highly acclaimed Bourbon Street. From the opening riffs on the title track; through the heart-rending emotion of ‘Acceptance’; the breath-taking keyboard and guitar solos on ‘Colour Blind’ that made me smile in appreciation; and the chirpy optimism of ‘Share The Love’; to the final unexpected ending of ‘Soul Come Back’;  it is a beautiful journey through Malaya’s musically creative mind.

There was something of the Soul Diva strongly hinted at on Bourbon Street; (even more so on the double A-Side single released last summer); and Malaya’s musical background has certainly been steeped in that genre; but her very successful foray into Jazz-Blues on the debut album has enhanced this first love, and contributed to a well-rounded collection this time, that owes everything to the sum of her vocal/musical experience to date. The result is probably a far more personal album than the debut, I think. There are Soul; Blues; Jazz; Rock; Funk; and Gospel vibes going on in this album. This what Malaya Blue is all about!

On every song, She is dripping honey-voiced emotion over skillfully woven tapestries of layered sounds. She sings from the heart; from the soul… they are mostly her songs and totally her lyrics after all. And they are good lyrics too – interesting, and cleverly worded – demonstrating her considerable skills as a wordsmith too.

A fine band of musicians were assembled for the album. These consist of Malaya’s band: Dudley Ross (Guitars); Paul Jobson (Keys); Stuart Uren (Bass); Andrew McGuiness (Drums/Percs). And in addition to these: Paul Long (Piano); Carl Hudson (Piano); The Westward String Quartet (Strings); and none other than the legendary Blues aficionado Paul Jones (Harp). Strings were arranged by Dudley; Paul Long and Malaya’s husband Graham Pettican. The album was recorded at The Grange, Norfolk; engineered by Dave Williams; and cover artwork is by Chris Pettican.

I can’t comment on the CD version yet because I haven’t seen it. But it apparently comes with an eight-page booklet of lyrics; credits; thanks etc. So its a big thumbs up from the Quill. The album is released on Friday 1st April. PTMQ

Link to Malaya’s website

92. PHIL THE MUSIC QUILL IS TWO YEARS OLD!

I can’t believe that my website is two years old on 1st February 2016! Just out of interest, here are my ten most popular articles; ordered by the amount of ‘hits’ they’ve had….

TOP TEN ARTICLES FROM THE LAST TWO YEARS:

  1. SON OF MAN at VILLAGE BLUES CLUB, DAGENHAM TRADES HALL. Gig review. Sept. 2015 (Review #69)
  2. MARIELLA TIROTTO & THE BLUES FEDERATION Live In Concert album review (#34)
  3. LARRY MILLER at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. July 2015 (#61)
  4. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at VILLAGE BLUES CLUB, DAGENHAM ROUNDHOUSE. Gig review. May 2015. (#56)
  5. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. October 2014 (#25)
  6. MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB. Gig review. April 2015 (#44)
  7. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC. Gig and interview. Nov 2015 (#83)
  8. MARTIN TURNER Written In The Stars album review (#73)
  9. RED BUTLER at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB. Gig and interview. August 2015 (#66)
  10. MALAYA BLUE at DAVE SPARKS ROCKIN’ BLUES NIGHT, ANCHOR, BENFLEET. Gig and interview. Aug 2015 (#64)

 PTMQ

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

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