Tag Archives: oli brown

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/

Advertisements

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