Tag Archives: sarah reeve

70. ANGELA LEWIS BROWN “Set Me Free” (2015)

The album cover (Pic: ALB)

The album cover (Pic: ALB)

Well first, I think I’d better start by saying: ‘Wow, what a voice!’ And second, I’m asking myself why I hadn’t heard of this remarkably talented singer before now? It was Blues aficionado Sarah Reeve that first suggested that I listen to the music of singer Angela Lewis Brown. I heard a few samples on Soundcloud and was very impressed, I must say. Contacting the lady, I learnt that she was finalising an album for release in early October; and she kindly sent me a download of the completed album when it was ready; plus a CD copy for review too. I’ve heard some quite breath-taking female Blues singers in the last couple of years (as a brief look at the contents list on my site will testify); and Angela certainly fits that description without a doubt.

Set Me Free is a collection of ten great, original Blues songs, penned by the lady herself; and mostly at the Soul end of the Blues spectrum. Fellow music writer Nigel Foster, recently compared her to such greats as Dana Fuchs and Beth Hart. I totally agree; but I’d add Anastacia, Duffy, and even Taylor Dayne to the list of divas that she reminds me of.  Yet for all that, she is no copy-cat; having an undeniable singularity that enables her vocals to be brutally gritty, or beautifully tender as is necessary for each song. There are nuances in her vocal style too, that are unique and delightful to pick out.

Her song-writing is superb too: ‘Blues Blues Lovin’ is the fine opening track; and right from the start there is no doubt that we are listening to a lady who sings full-throttle, and with genuine passion. That vibe continues with the title track ‘Set Me Free’. Again impressive vocals and some great musicianship from the band.

‘Summer Nights’ slows things down a lot. It could be a moody Paul Rodgers song – musically and lyrically, as well as vocally. Simple in construction, yet effectively passionate; its a cathartic release for the angst-ridden soul.

‘I’m Feeling Good About Me’ is a fun song that I particularly like. The vocal melody during the bridge and chorus didn’t go where I expected it to go, leaving me pleasantly surprised; and marking it out for me as one of many highlights of the album. Its catchiness could possibly make it a hit single.

This is followed by ‘Hopeless’. Its another great soul-laid-bare number. Nice sympathetic guitar; and I must say I particularly liked the backing vocals on this one, which seemed entirely appropriate for the emotion within the song.

‘Better Man’ lyrically shows Angela empowered as a no-nonsense woman; ridiculing a disappointing ex-lover. Great guitar and harp on this one. Vocally it appropriately conveys the anger that she feels. I wouldn’t want to upset this lady! The song with the shortest title ever, ‘I’, comes next. It follows the same theme of the unashamedly independent woman – ‘You ain’t talkin’ to me like that’ she sings!  It has a great funky groove to it.

Once more we are then taken in to the world of emotional pain in the haunting ‘Ice Cold Tears’. Again its simple but effective in its construction; but would strike a heart-rending chord with anyone experiencing the confusion felt in some love crisis. Lovely lead guitar fills here.

The penultimate track ‘That’s You’ is a fun, funky number that would go down well live; and finally ‘I’ll Be There’ ends the collection. It is a beautiful Soul song, and I could also see it being a hit single. It is perhaps a surprising choice as a final offering; yet provides an understated, uplifting and above all, satisfying finish to a quite remarkable debut album.

On all tracks, the vocals, backing vocals and instrumentation are appropriately and impressively arranged. And consistently throughout the album, it is clear that Angela’s vocals are sung from the heart. The same can be said about her lyrics too.

Angela has delved into various MOBO-based genres in the past; but seems to have found a comfortable niche for herself within the Blues – it seems to suit her; and vice versa. She was apparently first turned on to the Blues after hearing Koko Taylor‘s earthy classic, ‘Ernestine’; and this opened a whole new world of music for her.

The CD comes in a standard Jewel Case. It has a simple, yet distinctive cover; with a little interesting info; photos; credits and thanks etc on the inner; but no lyrics. It was recorded, mixed and mastered at Bluebird Recording Studios, Lytham St. Anne’s, Lancs – and a good job they’ve done too.

Some fine musicians were invloved in the recording of the album: the multi-instrumentalist Chris Carter; Alisdair Pickering (on Guitar); Zanny Lee (Backing vocals); Ashley Hurst and Dunbar Delmar (both on harmonica). Bassist Steve Underwood (of Shakatak) is apparently now also in Angela’s band too. These musicians have all done a fine job. The guitar-work is especially good; but although the guitar enhances the songs, this is certainly not a guitar-based album – it is a vocal album; the whole collection being a  vehicle for Angela’s remarkable natural talent.

I’ve not seen Angela perform live yet, but based on what I’ve heard on this album, I can see a great future for the lady for sure. If she is not included as a nominee for ‘Female Vocal’ and maybe ‘Song-Writer’ at the British Blues Awards next year, I’ll be amazed! If you like female vocal and high quality Blues with a Soul vibe, and sung with a passion, then I recommend Set Me Free – you’ll love it! PTMQ

The album will be released on 2nd October 2015; and will be available from Angela’s website…

http://www.angelalewisbrown.com/

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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

16. RUBY AND THE REVELATORS (+PACE COOPER) at the CHICHESTER INN, West Sussex. Sunday 6th July, 2014

RUBY AND THE REVELATORS - Classy blues!  (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

RUBY AND THE REVELATORS – Classy blues! (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

I was surprised and flattered when the singer RUBY TIGER contacted me out of the blue (or should that be ‘out of the blues?’) after having read my blog; to invite me to write a review of her debut EP launch gig at the CHICHESTER INN, West Sussex. I’d heard her name crop up from time to time, but I’d never met her before, nor heard her sing; so I immediately got onto YouTube for some research. What I saw and heard was impressive enough for me to book a motel room near the venue, pronto!

I made the 100-mile drive to Chichester from my base in Essex in two hours. I arrived early enough to sit in on a little of the sound-check; which enabled me to meet the band, and their friends and associates. Ruby (aka Olivia Stevens) is an instantly likable lady; chirpy and fun; confident; full of life; and full of character – just the kind of personality you need to cut-it as a successful singer. She apparently took her stage-name from the beautiful Ruby Tiger moth; and it seems to suit her. She cut her teeth as a singer in a funk band called FUNKY JUNCTION in which she did well; but she became drawn to the blues, and now she seems so comfortable in this genre, that you’d swear she’d spent her entire life on stage belting out blues classics!

Ruby’s excellent band, THE REVELATORS, consist of: KING ROLLO on guitar and occasional bass (another name that I’ve been hearing for a while, but again, never seen); LOUISE MAGGS on bass and occasional guitar (an experienced jazz guitarist and guitar tutor); and the highly capable PAUL WRIGHT on drums. These superb musicians were supplemented by blues-harp player DARREN WALLER (of CLAPTON WALLER RECORDS who had recorded the EP). The appearance of a sax player had also been planned for one song, but he was unfortunately ill. Undaunted, Ruby confidently decided that she’d sing scat over the missing sax solo.

Sound-check completed, Ruby announced that we should all temporarily decamp to the curry house next door for an Indian meal – a ‘Ruby Murray’ with Ruby Tiger! By the time we arrived back at the Chichester Inn, the music room was filling up nicely. Many of the audience seemed to be friends of Ruby and the band, which made for a very warm and friendly atmosphere. Many copies of the EP ‘VISTAS’ had already been sold, and Ruby got to work signing them. Before long it was time for the show to begin.

PACE COOPER - Pretty covers with fine harmonies (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

PACE COOPER – Pretty covers with fine harmonies (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

First up was the support act PACE COOPER. This is a local boy-girl duo, step-siblings CLOE BARRETT (vocals) and TOM LAWSON-BAKER (acoustic guitar) who played a few fine contemporary covers, beginning with Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Put Your Records On’. Now I feel I should apologise to Cloe and Tom for not giving their set my full attention as I am afraid I was at the back of the pub chatting away with the Revelators and their friends, but what I heard was very good – especially their version of the old blues classic ‘Cry Me A River’, which was soulfully sung by Cloe with competent guitar and harmonies from Tom. (I managed to see and hear all of that number!) Anyway, they were warmly received by the audience, and thoroughly deserved the applause. Good luck to them both.

After a short break it was the moment we had all been waiting for. Ruby and the band took to the stage to great applause before they’d even played a note. She announced that it would be a two-part set with a short interval. And that they’d start proceedings with the Esther Phillips classic, ‘Aged And Mellow’. I’d heard an earlier Ruby / Rollo duet version of this number, which was excellent, but with the full band it was exceptional; and a great opener. ‘You Gotta Move’ followed with Rollo impressing with his Elmore James-style bottleneck slide technique. Bluesy classics both old and new followed: ‘Lingers’; ‘You Know I’m No Good’; Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’; and Etta James’ ‘Damn Your Eyes’ (which is on the EP).

RUBY TIGER (photo by Sarah Reeve)

RUBY TIGER ‘With these blues I just can’t lose!’ (photo by Sarah Reeve)

Next up was one of Ruby’s own songs (again from the EP): ‘Me And My Tears’. For this jazz number, bassist Louise played guitar; and Rollo, bass. It is a well penned, interesting piece with changing time signatures. Ruby sang beautifully, and Louise’s superb jazz chops were well demonstrated. Rollo did a fine job on bass too. The sax player’s solo was barely missed with Ruby’s improvised scat singing, which proved her versatility on vocals. I spoke to Lou and Rollo at the interval about their role reversal. Lou explained a bit about the chords (but jazz guitar is something of a dark art to me!); and Rollo quipped that as a bluesman ‘if its got more than three chords I want payin’ extra!’

Peter Green’s iconic, laid-back ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ followed. This is often covered of course, but although still an unmistakable Greeny tribute, it was no slavish copy – Ruby and Rollo making it as much theirs as his. Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Love Me Like A Man’ livened the place up again; before they ended Part One on a high, with the fun Sugar Pie De Santo number: ‘Soulful Dress’.

Part Two began with just Ruby and Rollo (as a duet as they had played together many times). So the first few songs of this second part were like a charming cameo – a gig within a gig. Although Darren joined them on harmonica, the musical on-stage chemistry between Ruby and Rollo is obvious – genuine and deep. They began with another Elmore James song: ‘It Hurts Me Too’ with Rollo playing blinding slide again. ‘Georgia On My Mind’ followed before Lou returned to play another good original piece: ‘Payin My Dues’; and the classic ‘St.Louis Blues’. Then it was time for another of Ruby’s own songs from the EP: ‘Best Friend’. Its about her friendship with Rollo and is full of heart and soul. Great applause ensued.

The cameo completed, the full band let rip with the old 1928 Ma Rainey song ‘Big Feeling Blues’ (from the EP). Rollo shared vocals on this too, and played a great solo. Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘Ain’t No Love (In The Heart Of The City)’ followed. I haven’t heard a cover of this for ages – great song, good choice! Next it was time for another Etta James classic: ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’. This show-cased Ruby’s vocals, and whilst some may say that it wasn’t the Beth Hart / Joe Bonamassa version, I can honestly say that it was a close second!

Things were heating up in the audience now. ‘Real Man’ got lots of people up dancing. It was barely ended before the band finished with the lively ‘Shattered Not Broken’. This is the third of Ruby’s own excellent songs to feature on the EP. It went down a storm, and an encore was demanded! Perhaps another iconic song would do the trick? Jimmy Reid’s ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do?’ hit us like a sledgehammer! To paraphrase the song, Ruby had us doin’ what she wanted us to do! The finale was a fun medley that saw a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.

RUBY (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

RUBY had us doin’ what she wanted us to do! (Photo by Sarah Reeve)

Ruby and her band’s repertoire consists of a good selection of carefully chosen bluesy styles – from the jazzy, through the R’n’B, to the rock ends of the blues spectrum, both old and new – reflecting both the depth of the blues genre; and her ability to sing anything within it. At times her voice was mellow; sometimes gutsy; or sweet and soulful as needs be; but at all times palatable; beautiful; controlled; and above all, classy! Another thing I liked was that Ruby has a lovely speaking voice, and has a great rapport with the audience. She speaks to the crowd between songs, explaining them where necessary, and telling anecdotes. So what do I hear when I listen to Ruby? I hear Etta James; a little Janis Joplin; maybe Dinah Washington? But most of what I hear is Ruby’s own unique voice and style – she is creating her own niche as a singer. She has also proved that she can write good original material too. She’s quite a lady!

Now I wonder what the future holds for this blues diva? With performances like this; the excellent debut EP ‘Vistas’; and exposure to a wider audience courtesy of a great article by IAN McHUGH in BLUES IN BRITAIN magazine; the stars are indeed looking very auspicious for Ruby and the Revelators. Hopefully she will get some larger venues to play; and further afield too (having only been as far as High Wycombe); and I’d like to see her as a support act for more big names like the veteran GENO WASHINGTON who she supported recently. Personally, I think she’d go down a storm supporting JOOLS HOLLAND (Hootenanny, next year perhaps?)

Anyway, I think the lady has reached a genuine ‘take-off point’ – this is where an artist ticks over doing OK for X-amount of time and then something triggers a significant boost to their career. Now I don’t know how high this particular Ruby Tiger will fly, but I do know that the cocoon phase is over – the time has come for this beautiful blues butterfly to spread her wings and soar! Someone at the gig asked me if it had been worth driving the 100 miles to see Ruby and co; I quipped that I’d have driven thousand!

If you fancy seeing Ruby And The Revelators live, (and I highly recommend it) they’ll be playing at the Uckfield Blues Festival on Sunday 4th August at 6pm. Link below….

http://uckfieldbluesandroots.co.uk/

If you’d like to buy a copy of Ruby’s 5-track EP, here is a link….

http://rubytiger.bandcamp.com/

Here is a video of Ruby And The Revelators playing her own jazz composition ‘Me And My Tears’ at the gig….

Phil The Music Quill.