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2 April, 2015

The Blue Road Live @ The Prince Of Wales, Ledbury 29/3/15

Filed under: blues,Live Reviews — Tags: , , — willmunn @ 18:37

 

Taking the ‘The Blue Road’ @ POW Ledbury 29/03

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My usual Sunday haunt, and a new band for me, The Blue Road is guitarist and vocalist Brian Caves, bassist Andy Partridge and Stewart Manley, tucked behind an immaculate set of Premier drums. Brian’s weapons of choice, are not the usual Fender or Gibson, but arguably more exotic, Music man, PRS and some older Godin’s.

They are a blues band, so what better than to start with a classic that BB King made his own, ‘Thrill Has Gone’, a lovely starter, but we are soon thrown off track by some soul, though not as you would recognise it, ‘Can’t Get Next To You’, the heavy riff seems fine as the song becomes born again blues! Brian’s very own ‘What You See Aint What You Get’, is demonstrated, we’re in rock territory here, and Brian puts the PRS to good use. The faithful gathering are in the groove, and the band feed on the applaud.

For me, it was not quite all rosy, The Blue Road turned to a Eurythmics hit, naturally reformed, in this case with tinges of jazz in the blues/rock blend. Sorry boys but, leave ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’, to Annie, she can do no wrong. A quick recovery as Brian’s Texas tainted rock number blows us away, ‘Addicted to You’, restores their standing. Time for a beer.

Aynsley Lister’s ‘Everything I need’, rocks off the restart, and then, a bit of a gem, the band take on Bonamassa’s ‘Mountain Time’, well Joe is Joe, but the band made a nice job of it, no to be fair it was excellent, Brian worked his guitar nicely as the song moved from the meadows and streams, to the soaring heights.

The Blue Road, certainly pick out some lovely songs, not to mention the genre work overs, we are retailed of the films that made this song famous, 9 ½, ‘You Can leave Your Hat On’, Stewart enjoyed thumping this one out. We’re all on a roll, a bit of funk keeps us going, before someone calls for Hendrix, well who wouldn’t. The band oblige, ‘All Along The Watchtower’, blast out.

Time for another Blue Road original, ‘My Kind Of Girl’ fits the bill, rock on. Another genre shift, but I had no problem with this, maybe not royalty, but some very nice, refreshing, ‘Purple Rain’, came pouring down. The evening is rushing by, but nobody is moving away, more is demanded, so thats what we get, Gary Moore, to be precise, the superb, up beat, funky ‘Since I Met You Baby’. The Blue Road, had entertained us well, nobody present had seen or heard them before, coming from the East side of the Midlands, this was new territory. Brian, Andy and Stewart, had brought their own slant on some unexpected songs, as well as a selection of their own music. The Rock and Blues classics had been performed well, lovely guitar riffs, subtle bass and solid drumming produced a satisfying evening at this Ledbury landmark.

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

27 March, 2015

Matt Woosey/White Feather Collective Live @ The Marrs Bar, Worcester 20/3/15

Time For A Marrs Bar, ‘While The Cats Away’

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Matt Woosey launched his latest CD, While The Cats Away at Marrs on this evening, a good crowd had assembled, with a real buzz in the air. Supporting Matt, in full plumage, Malvern band White Feather Collective, also had a distinct, youthful following, present.

This band plays a fascinating form of rock, which seems embedded in an early 70’s groove, having said that, they warmed up with a distinctly Mersey side sounding ‘Fireball’ of an instrumental, thumping drums and bass from Chris and bearded Roo. ‘Crosstown’, takes on a Doors feel, with Josh’s voice ‘stolen’ from Morrison, and I’m not talking supermarkets. The lyrics seem to fit the bill too, we slip back to the Mersey sound for ‘Yearning’, William’s Strat guitar leading strongly, but still that drum and bass coming through. Back into Doors mode for ‘Writing A Novel’, Josh in fine voice, before a more frenetic, ‘Shake It Up’, superb, with Josh filling in with some harmonica, and William, head down, buried in his guitar. When I saw this band 6 months ago, at The Cube, I was impressed, given their recent formation, I remain impressed, they produce an excellent sound, with fine instrumentation and lyrics. There are samples on Bandcamp, but being a bit of a dinosaur, I wait for a recording session and something to take home, switch on, volume up, walls shaking, and relive some great rock years.

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Time for Matt, seated centre stage, guitar in hand, he started with a solo session, switch in some reverb, and a long instrumental feed in to ‘Love Is The Strangest Thing’. Matt looking fully warmed up it was time for a bit of fun, with the influential Rory Gallagher’s ‘Too Much Alcohol’, Matt seems to squeeze one more drop out of the bottle, every time he performs this song. The slide comes out for ‘Little Red Rooster’, before taking 99 and one half days before Matt is joined on stage by The Funksters, with electric guitar, drum and the unmistakeable presence of a Hammond Organ. Alex, Ryan and Simon, slot into the Woosey groove, subtle, but with tangible presence. ‘We Do Exactly As We Please’, brought in some nice organ licks as Matt looked toward Simon for a filling. ‘Hook Line And Sinker’, brought in the effective guitar chords from Alex, with Ryan tinkering on the high hats, as Matt casts out the lines. ‘Same Old Blues’, which Matt terms as a collection of mutterings, was turned into a full on thrash, a lovely heavily fruited, jam from the assembled band. The evening was rolling along nicely, Matt threw the dice and played I’ve Seen The Bottom’, a song he would not normally do solo, but here? The Funksters did not let him down, the bottom was not so lonely tonight, vision may be murky, but the sound was brilliant.

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Now a real first for me, something was happening, that I have never previously witnessed. Matt stood, put aside his guitar, adjusted the microphone, and gave us a soulful old American gospel song, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, some real spiritual blues, laid out in fine style. ‘Wade In The Water’, took us to the edge, as the evening was closing in. It had been outstanding, the air filled to the sound of applause and calls for more, there was more. Matt re-united with his guitar, called for the White Feather boys, it was going to be a new Collective, as the Funksters held their place, 2 drum sets, 2 leads, a Hammond, bass and 2 acoustic guitars, what could go wrong. Absolutely nothing, Matt led them into ‘Bad Moon Rising’, joined by Josh at the microphone. The girls danced around the floor, as the super band played out the night, it had been a fabulously entertaining evening, and Matt’s CD, When The Cats Away was well and truly launched.

Words & Photos Graham Munn

13 February, 2015

Jo Harman/Tom Gee Live @ The Artrix, Bromsgrove 6/2/15

Filed under: blues,Live Reviews,rock,soul — Tags: , , , — willmunn @ 12:53

 

Jo Harman @ The Artrix 06/02

Support Tom Gee

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Jo Harman has been on my ‘must see’ list for a while, voted Best Female Vocalist and runner up for the song writing award in the 2014 British Blues Awards, she is definitely a star in the ascendancy.

But first a few words about her support, Tom Gee, who was in acoustic mode, leaving behind the 7 musicians, that make up the Tom Gee Band. His only accompaniment was his 6 string, and a dry Yorkshire wit, the rapport with the audience, was measurable, and the response warm. ‘Dead In The Morning’, is more about clearing the fog of sleep than a TV vampire diary. Well written and well performed, it features on the full bands album Swapping Stories, a bit of soul with a splash of funk. A bit more banter and a song pointing to past girlfriends, ‘Listen To Yourself’, the genre of the full band is funked up Northern Soul meets contemporary blues, without the brass and percussion, the songs become much more personal. Tom has serious writing credibility, the band perform in festivals across the country, Cheltenham Jazz to Hebden Bridge Blues. Closing the set, again from the album, ‘Thinking About You’, needs no explanation, suffice to say, from interval chatter, Tom’s set was well liked, one commented to say if this had been a stand alone gig, it would have been well worth the ticket purchase.

Now Jo has been ‘claimed’ by the Blues fraternity, and can be found appearing in Blues sessions and festivals everywhere, but, she really sits in that orbiting moon that broke away and produced the great divas of Soul. We are talking from the Jazz and Blues roots of the likes of Billy Holliday through to Nina Simone, along with all the wonderful female singers that emerged throughout the 50’s and early 60’s. Fundamentally Jo has a stunning voice, rich and dark like a Yucatan honey that’s been lightly ‘smoked’, and as if that is not enough, she has also been recognised for her writing talents. Jo opened with a gospel laden soul classic ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’, people have been recording this from way back in Charley Patton’s day, changed to ‘we’ for the civil rights movement, Jo presented it superbly. The tempo was switched up for ‘Heartstring’, sharp edged percussion, gives way to some funky, jazz orientated keys from Steve Watts. Those keys keep Jo solo company for a gentle soulful ‘This Is My Amnesty’, then on to an exceptional ‘Aint No Love In The Heart Of The City, simply memorable.

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A full on hard rock edged, ‘Through The Night’, driven along by the drums of Martin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Jo’s hair fanned over her head as she lost herself to the rhythm. Another of Jo’s songs followed closely behind, ‘Cold Heart’, borrows some lyrics from bygone classics, but the whole is distinctly Jo’s work, slow and heartfelt, lovely. A complete change of direction as the massively popular Pharrell Williams, ‘Happy’, lifted the auditorium, though we were all happy where Jo had taken us, it was a bit of fun and the band obviously enjoyed themselves. Its time for the guitars to be put to work, Dave Ital has his moment to demonstrate his skills, ably supported by some solid funky bass from stand in Yolanda Charles (she has played alongside the likes of Adele, Jagger and Weller, quite an accolade) for ‘Underneath The River’. This is rock blues, a song from Jo’s pen, that allows her to give full range to her voice, and that range is indeed wide, the keyboard kicks in then the guitars take full control. Brilliant.

We are not quite finished yet,

A truly beautiful ‘prayer’ is about to be heard, Jo wrote this in memory of her father, she sings it with all her heart and soul, it would not feel out of place in any house of God.

How do you follow such a song, the show has to close, Jo dips into the classic soul bag, and pulls out, ‘I can’t Stand The Rain’, I can honestly say, I have never heard better, performed live, an absolutely fabulous close to an evening in the company of an exceptional artist.

 

Words & Photos Graham Munn

12 February, 2015

Matt Woosey Live @ Prince Of Wales, Ledbury 8/2/15

Filed under: acoustic,blues,Live Reviews — Tags: , , — willmunn @ 11:53

 

Matt Woosey @ POW Ledbury 08/02/15

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We have been very fortunate over the months, to have seen a stream of top quality blues performers at this cracking little venue tucked away in Ledbury, this day saw the return of highly acclaimed local man, Matt Woosey.

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Confessing to a bit of a hangover, from a party with old Uni pals, Matt struck a chord with ‘Hook Line And Sinker’, a hard hitting song featured on both a recent EP and the subsequent album, Wildest Dreams. Valley floors and soaring heights, charted the Woo powered, ‘Give Me All Your Love’, before revisiting an old favourite, to ‘Walk Away These Blues’, its still late afternoon, and Matt has the appearance of a Jeff Bridges playing Rooster Cockburn, blues with true grit! There is no Dave Small lending a bit of percussion here today, so its provided the heel of Matt’s his hand, slapping into the hollow body, the thin skin around the sound hole is visibly hollowed and in danger of wearing through. The Taylor acoustic has been faithfully at his side for near ten years, I’m not sure it will stand 10 more years of being played with such venom.

A lighter note as he searches for his ‘Elsie May’, precedes a song taken from his inspirational roots, Huddy Ledbetter and later, Rory Gallagher, ‘Out On The Western Plain’, a range riding lament to a bunch of cowboys. Take a look at video footage of Rory, and you will see where Matt takes his guitar playing style from, but I firmly believe, (no doubt be controversially) that Matt brings more gravitas to his vocals. The cowboy song has drifted out to some Led Zepp licks, the night before, has been truly shaken off, time to switch in a bit of reverb. ‘Wildest Dreams’, it signposts the expansive style of music Matt is now producing, beautifully written, and presented this day. A chrome slide is conjured up, for an ever recurring blues dilemma, ‘Woke Up This Morning’, maybe to a ‘Cruel Disposition’. This song is rightly reprised at most of Matt’s gigs, appealing for divine intervention, it also happens to be a hard hitting song, where strings are attacked with malice aforethought, as the lyrics are spat out. Time for a more jovial drinkers song to close the first set, ‘Too Much Alcohol’, this Sonny Boy Williamson song has been reprised by many over the years, Rory included, its a fun bit of blues to close the first set, and find the bar!

‘Nowhere Is Home To Me’, restarts the gig, we are now listening to songs from Wildest Dreams, the deliciously dark, touching on erotic, ‘Don’t You Tell Nobody’ is here, including the missing verse, a murderous threat, followed quickly by the superb ‘I’ve Seen The Bottom’, perhaps an ode to many dedicated performers on the road, trying to earn a living. The guitar, does Exactly As It Pleases, as Matt sheds a string, how did it get this far into the set? A couple of old favourites to finish on, Willie Dixon’s ‘Lil’ Red Rooster’, nothing more needs to be said, and Matt’s storming finale, ‘Black Smoke Rising’. An exceptional evening, spent in the company of an exceptional talent, and a highly appreciative audience, cosily wrapped in the confines of The Prince Wales.

 

Words, Photos And Video Graham Munn

4 February, 2015

Marcus Bonfanti Live @ The Prince Of Wales, Ledbury 1/2/15

Filed under: acoustic,blues,Live Reviews — Tags: , , — willmunn @ 22:10

 

Marcus Bonfanti, Sardine Time In The Prince Of Wales. Feb 1st

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To say it was packed is an understatement, there were of course all the usual faces, they love the venue and the Sunday blues session, added to that already full crowd, were all those Bonfanti devotees within driving range. The atmosphere was electric, Marcus has had a widely acclaimed album ‘Shake The Walls‘, and was also carrying a 6 track acoustic EP, ‘Borrowed Times‘ only available at a gig. Much of what was to be heard came from these two discs, tracks from the full album, would be solo, with a different arrangement.

I will say right up front, I prefer Marcus in acoustic mode, that’s not to decry the full band, how can I argue with the rave reviews, its just my taste, founded in 2012, at an acoustic session at Upton Blues.

Apart from exceptional guitar skills, his voice is outstanding, rich 99% pure chocolate, with fiery ginger grated over the surface, resulting in a raw edged deep, dark, timbre. Ignoring his stringed weapons, Marcus demonstrated that vocal power with harmonica to hand, ‘God Only Knows’, was a stunning start to the evening. The guitar speaks, Marcus asks, ‘Is Your Life better Now I’m Gone’, apparently she said yes, but it gave him the tale to tell. Ripped straight from the EP, his very own ‘Layla’, and his take on that old tale of ‘John Henry’, finger picking into the lyrics we are so familiar with. He’s having a good time, an appreciative audience, the POW had done him proud, fed him, served him fine malt, and as much ale as he needed for the evening, now he was in his element. The gentle ‘Bittersweet’, rooted in a previous acoustic EP, preceded a hard hitting blues ‘Messin Round No More’ to close the first set, an opportunity, if you wanted, to fight your way to the bar. Crowd surfing would have been in order, but for the low ceilings.

‘Honey’, I seem to recall, also featured in that EP a couple of years ago, and had returned in full band mode, on the album, but here we were treated to a full bodied, thick set, acoustic nectar, it certainly had the crowd buzzing.

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Switching to a more traditional blues riff, ‘Jezebel’, an edgy rock blues on the album, retains that punch, stalling half way as Jezebel is called for, before the guitar moves the song on. ‘Baby Don’t Dance’, she doesn’t rock & roll either in Marcus’s song, the bulk of the set come from Marcus’s well crafted pen. There are some fine songs with traditional blues themes, women found, women loved and women lost, death, but you have to add some spirit, and this spirit is ‘Cheap Whiskey’, it tells of the demon drink, and the fall out that comes with it. What made this more memorable, was a guest pulled from the masses in the packed bar, one Trevor Steger, from Babajack, Marcus did not need to pick up his harp again this evening, he was about to pass the baton onto Trevor. Trevor pushed through and stood by Marcus, ‘Cheap Whisky’, was never more tasty, a fine vintage, distilled for the occasion. Next came a particular favourite of mine, a gospel styled, ‘Run Long’, I had heard this back at Upton, the acoustic stage being run by Babajack. Here, that voice seems unbelievably stronger, within the confines of this tight little Inn, Trevor joined in with his precious Danneker harp, watching carefully, the fingers working the frets, I could not resist switching to video, as I had back in the summer of 2012, to record the moment. A fabulous and unforgettable experience.

As the numbers thinned, I took the opportunity to buy the EP, Marcus had delivered a great gig, here for his first time, at the POW, he will return, and I for one will be there.

Words & Visuals Graham Munn

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