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143. LAURENCE JONES BAND (+THE HEATERS) at THE NEW CRAWDADDY BLUES CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Friday, 20th January, 2017.

LJ at the NCBC (Photo: Karen R)

LJ at the NCBC (Photo: Karen R)

My first visit to the New Crawdaddy Blues Club of 2017 was a good one to be sure: it was the superb Laurence Jones Band, with support from house band, The Heaters. I’ve seen LJ a few times before – as an impressive 21 year-old jamming with his mentor Walter Trout (May 2013. Just before I started my website); then supporting Coco Montoya (May 2014. See my review #14); and supporting – and jamming with – Otis Grand (November 2014. See my review #30), He had noticeably improved in ability and confidence each time. So having not seen him for over two years, my son James and I were wondering if we’d notice any changes this time. We were to see….

But first on stage was the club’s house band, The Heaters. I’ve seen them many times before, but they never fail to impress with songs from their vast repertoire of covers – some of which I hadn’t heard them play before. On this occasion they played such favourites as ‘Hideaway’; ‘I’m Tore Down’; ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘All Your Love’. But the highlight of their set was a fine rendition of Greeny’s ‘Fool No More’ featuring lead guitarist Chris Campbell. Excellent.

And so to the headline act. As the LJB climbed on stage, the first noticeable change was that band were completely different yet again. They now consist of Laurence himself of course on guitar and vocals; Phil Wilson on drums; and making his first appearance with the band, bassist Greg Smith. The LJB also now have a keyboard player in the shape of Bennett Holland. No longer being a three-piece opens up a lot more scope musically. This was the band’s first gig of 2017; and it was certainly a good start to the year.

(Photo: Karen R)

(Photo: Karen R)

The band immediately launched into the title track of the new album Take Me High. It was clear from the off that this new line-up were tight and confident together. A variety of Blues/Blues-based numbers followed, all on the Rock edge of the Blues spectrum, and all in LJ’s inimitable style. These were mainly songs from the last two albums, plus a couple from Temptation including ‘Soul Swamp River’; and a fine electric cover of the old Lead Belly tune ‘Good Morning Blues’ – nice use of wah-wah on this one. A good cover of ‘Cocaine’ was played too, with of course plenty of audience participation.

Highlights of the show for me were: the radio friendly single from the new album, ‘I Will’ (which I thought had a bit of a ‘Watchtower’ vibe about it). Also the Rock’n’Roller ‘Stop Moving The House’; and the obligatory slow number ‘Thunder In The Sky’ (apparently the first song that LJ ever wrote) – to which a couple of lovely ladies in black performed a cheeky dance – and why not? (I should have filmed it!) There was also a tasty bit of duelling between LJ and keys man Bennett on ‘You Wind Me Up’ too. Encore was demanded and delivered in the form of ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’ and ‘My Eyes Get In Me Trouble’.

(Photo: Karen R)

(Photo: Karen R)

Laurence and the boys are a fine young band, and I think they have a great deal more to offer over the coming years. The Blues genre needs young bands like this; and I noticed there were some younger people in the audience too – that can only be a good thing. If you like guitar-based Blues on the Rock edge, then you’ll enjoy their live performance if you haven’t seen them already.

Thanks to impresario Paul Dean and all the hard working volunteers at the NCBC who week in, week out, make this regular Friday night Blues club something special. Big thanks to Karen for the great photos too. PTMQ

 Laurence Jones’ website

New Crawdaddy’s website

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31. A REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2014

A couple of my friends have recently asked if I planned to do a review of 2014. I’d like to; but time as always is against me! So I just thought I’d say a few words about the year with respect to my blog. Its been quite a remarkable 11 months since I kicked off with a review of the STRAWBS gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC here in Essex. At first, I thought no one would be interested, but I was glad to see that’s not the case. Right from the off, I had quite a few followers. That first Strawbs review has remained one of the most popular too.

I’ve met a lot of helpful and interesting people during the course of the year – not just musicians; but promoters; writers; photographers; or just knowledgeable music lovers.  Some of those musos I have been a fan of since my teens  – MICKY MOODY and MARTIN TURNER to name but two especially. Its also very flattering when some of these musicians have personally invited me to gigs and sent CDs for me to review as well.

Anyway, here are just a few thoughts and facts on my blog’s year….

MOST POPULAR BLOG was #25, MTWA at Touchline Live Music. Second was The Move at the Boom Boom Club (#15). In third place was MTWA again (blog #5); and fourth. The Micky Moody Band at Coolham (#23). I’m glad to say that these entries are still attracting new readers through search engines too.

BEST ROCK ALBUM must go to VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS for their superb second studio album Army Of Three. It was very flattering to be put on the Guest List by Virgil, and to meet and interview the band before their gig at the Touchline. (Blog #26). Looking forward to seeing what VATA will be up to in the new year.

BEST ROCK GIG for me was a difficult choice. I saw fabulous performances from THE MOVE; VATA;  and the THE STRAWBS. But I’d say MTWA at The Touchline just wins by a whisker (Blog #25). Nice of Martin Turner to agree to an interview beforehand too. This coming year, so far, I plan to see FOCUS and the PINK FAIRIES.

BEST BLUES-ROCK ALBUM. Difficult! Could be LARRY MILLER’s Soldier Of The Line;  BERNIE MARSDEN’s Shine; or  LAURENCE JONES’ Temptation; but I’d choose DEBORAH BONHAM’s Spirit I think. I was hoping for an interview with her too, but she unfortunately had to cancel her gig at the Touchline due to a chest infection.

BEST BLUES ALBUM: I enjoyed JAMES ANTHONY’s Some People Get It, which he sent from Canada for me to review. (Blog #24); and MILTON ‘n’ FARROW’s Skiffleodeon – also given to me by the band to review (Blog #22). RUBY TIGER’s Vistas was excellent as was MATT ANDERSEN’s Coal Mining Blues; but I took a shine to DANA GILLESPIE’s Cat’s Meow the most.

BEST BLUES GIG is another tough choice. Great shows by COCO MONTOYA (Blog #14); MICKY MOODY BAND (Blog #23); and RUBY AND THE REVELATORS (Blog #16); but the best for me, was the very special show put on for the BOOM BOOM CLUB’s 1,000th gig; which included superb performances from OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; LAURENCE JONES and THE VOODOO SHEIKHS among others (Blog #30). In 2015 I’d like to see RED BUTLER and LARRY MILLER if I can.

BEST FOLK GIG  I attended during the year was OXJAM MUSIC FESTIVAL in Exeter. A great selection of West Country folk acts in one afternoon. I was invited by my good friends in DEVONBIRD who played a wonderful little set – as did every artist present. (Blog entry #28).

BEST FOLK ALBUM in my opinion was ANGE HARDY’s The Lament Of The Black Sheep. I’m hoping to review soon (see Blog #32).  Also in 2014, I heard ADRIAN NATION’s second album Fall Or Fly, which is excellent. As for 2015, I’m looking forward to the second DEVONBIRD album which should be released in the spring – they are recording as I write. For info on Devonbird, see Blog #4.

DOWNSIDES. I had a couple of negative comments made to me during the course of the year – one due to a misreading of my blog; and one due to a certain curmudgeonly singer-songwriter who wrote unpleasant and untrue things about me – even after I gave him a good review!  I never intend to cause offence – in fact, I’ve been criticised for liking everything! Well, I do seem to! (I suppose if I didn’t like something, I wouldn’t write about it). Anyway, the vast majority of those I’ve written about; and my readers too, have been very complimentary and supportive indeed; so I didn’t loose any kip over it!

REGRETS: ‘…..I have few, but then again, too few to mention’! These surround missed gigs. I was particularly peeved at missing LARRY MILLER; and TERRY REID because I couldn’t get time off work; and DEBORAH BONHAM’s gig at the Touchline was cancelled (as I said above) due to the fact that the poor lady had a chest infection.  I hope she’s well now and will play there soon.

FUTURE PROJECTS include a review of Ange Hardy’s Black Sheep album; an article on my friend, the song-writer TONY PARTIS; and continuing to go and see as many and as varied gigs as possible. I also plan to get into the studio myself to try to record some of my own songs (for what they’re worth!). And I shall continue to support and promote my friends’ projects too.

A SAD FAREWELL to those musicians who sadly passed away in 2014:  JOHNNY WINTER (See my blog #17); JACK BRUCE; JOE COCKER; PHIL EVERLY; ACKER BILK; PETE SEEGER; BOBBY WOMACK; TOMMY RAMONE; ALVIN STARDUST; and LYNSEY DE PAUL. These luminaries will be sadly missed; but leave us a fine legacy in their work which their fans will cherish for all time. R.I.P. (My apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone).

THANKS to all those who have supported; encouraged; offered constructive criticism; advice; photos; and other pics; and generally taken the time to read my blog. Those people are too numerous to mention but they know who they are; so thank you one and all! Here’s looking forward to more of the same in 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! PTMQ

24 . JAMES ANTHONY “Some People Get It” (Haltone Records, 2014)

JAMES ANTHONY’s “Some People Get It!” (Photo: PTMQ)

Recently I was unexpectedly contacted by Blues guitarist JAMES ANTHONY from Ontario, Canada.  No, I’d never heard of him before either; but after a little research, I soon realised that I was dealing with a very experienced and talented musician and song-writer indeed; and I was impressed with the music that I heard. This was a pleasant surprise for me as I’ve had a long-held interest and fondness for Canadian Rock and Blues guitarists since my teenage years. This is after all, the country that gave us ALEX LIFESON; RIK EMMETT;  FRANK MARINO; PAT TRAVERS; and of course the late, great JEFF HEALEY; to name but a few.

James has already released several albums in Canada to great critical acclaim. Yet is currently virtually unknown in the UK.  On the phone he told me that he’d love to play England but had no contacts over here. And that ironically, Canadian artists have to leave Canada in order to become famous – even in their homeland! Well I’m no music promoter (I’m just a bloke who writes a blog!), but I know two or three promoters who may interested in him and his excellent band, and I promised to mention James to them – which I have done. (Watch this space).  James was so pleased that he sent me a few of his CDs, to review – and thereby spread the word.

So in order to help The James Anthony Band become more known in the UK (or indeed further afield; as my blog is being read the World over now), I told James that I’d start by reviewing the latest album “Some People Get It”. Now, being as I’m not familiar with James’ work; comparisons with other artists that I do know, are inevitable. So if I say it reminds me of “so and so’s” music, that doesn’t mean James has necessarily been influenced by; or indeed, copied that person. I’ll say a few words about each track:

A case in point is the first track, ‘Right Between The Eyes’, because as soon as it started, I thought of COCO MONTOYA. Well, that’s not a bad comparison, because there are similarities between the two guitarists throughout the collection. Lovely guitar tone on this track.

Second song is ‘What About Us’. Its a souly-blues number; very pleasant; and floats along nicely. This is followed by the title track; which starts with a flourish of notes from (what sounds to me like) a Telecaster. ‘ALBERT COLLINS’ I thought!  It has a funky-blues vibe; and is very catchy.

‘Waiting For So Long’ is a beautiful song; and has a lovely harmonised twin lead guitar solo in part. This is followed by ‘Valentine’s Day’; another funky-blues that gets the foot tapping.  ‘Who’s Doing Who?’ follows. Its a bright and chirpy blues number, with cynical lyric that made me smile. Nice Bass and Harp on this one.

I love ‘Me Or That Damn Guitar’. If you like trad-sounding Urban Blues, you’ll love it too. Great Keys, and unusual use of a Wah-Wah. Its for anyone who’s missus is on their case!  ‘Walking My Blues Away’ continues in the same vein; and is another great song.

‘Rockabilly Walk’ is up next. Its inclusion surprised me. Its lyric starts like the traditional English participatory song ‘Hokey-Cokey’. I don’t know if James has developed a dance to go with this, but it’d be a great party song. It makes a change for me to hear a little Rockabilly too.

‘If You Love Me’ is a fine, light-weight Rock’n’Roll piece – think of the classic  ‘Time Is On My Side’. Yet another complete change of style is tried out with the pen-ultimate track: ‘Date With The Blues’. This is a cool Jazzy Blues; mellow, with a beautiful guitar tone. I love it! A further style is manifest in the last offering, ‘Travelling In My Mind’. It is an acoustic Down-Home style Blues. It is a great little song demonstrating James’ skill with the acoustic guitar; accompanied only by the harmonica. Nice bit of Bottleneck slide-work too.

All songs are written by James. They are well constructed and demonstrate his versatility as a writer; encompassing many different Bluesy styles. I like this album a lot. Its bright, classy, and at all times palatable. Its the kind of Blues that could bring a Blues-sceptic to the blues table for a veritable feast! ‘Some People Get It’ says James; I get it….. and if you like a bit of blues, you’ll get it too!

The band consists of: James himself, who plays all guitars; and vocals.  BUCKY BERGER (Drums); and JAMES RASMUSSEN (Bass). Other musos (on Keys and Harp etc) have been brought in as necessary. James also produced and co-engineered the album.

Here is a link to James Anthony’s website:

http://www.jamesanthony.ca/

Here is a vid of The JAB at the Kitchener Blues Fest, Ontario, Canada…

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.