Rob Berry Doesn’t need to be Waitin’ On Good Luck

Rob Berry set out on his musical journey at the age of 7 when he took up classical piano, although this soon changed to the guitar. Living in Bermuda gave him the opportunity to begin a career as a recording engineer in the famed Bermuda Sound Studios. After moving to London in the 90s, he continued his engineering work in some of the capital’s top studios and worked on numerous top artists recordings. This didn’t quench his thirst for playing the blues and so he began session work where his guitar graced albums by Tom Robinson, Chris White and others. He has also worked as a demonstrator for Jackson and Encore Guitars, all the while gigging around London and the South East. He then returned to Bermuda and began playing the tourist resorts: during this time he got to jam with some great blues players such as Poppa Chubby. He stayed there for over 10 years just “having fun”, before family reasons led to his return to the UK in 2007. Since then he has recorded (counting the latest) eight albums, which he sold very successfully through his concerts and street performances. (His last album is reviewed here on Bluesdoodles too Blues N Boxes). His latest release, Waitin’ On Good Luck is again a mixture of originals and cover versions. The covers he chooses shows bravery as he doesn’t shy away from ‘revered’ songs and takes on Zeppelin, SRV, Dylan (twice) and the old blues master, Sonny Boy Williamson II. These choices are obviously grounded in his influences and as Rob says, “You are what you listen to”. Well listening to this album I hear the Wolf, Bonamassa, Beck and even Blackmore on the slide flourishes (listen to Ritchie covering the Shadows Apache to hear what I mean).
I have banged on many times before that cover versions need to be different yet recognisable while paying due respect to the artists’ vision. This is complicated here by the choice of All Along the Watchtower…written by Bob Dylan but forever identified with Jimi Hendrix and Like A Rolling Stone has been covered by loads of people including the brilliant Johnnie Winter version. To whom do you show that respect? Well, for me Dylan is a brilliant songwriter, but his compositions always sound better when covered by someone else. (Controversial, I know, but Watchtower, Stone, Ballad Of Hollis Brown by Nazareth, Bonnet’s It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, The Byrds’ Mr Tambourine Man etc etc are all, in my humble, way better than the originals). It is to Hendrix that Rob tips his hat on this version of All Along The Watchtower and, although it starts relatively slowly it curiously reveals where Knopfler took his cues. Rob sings it in an interesting Jimi/Bob hybrid voice, and the guitar breaks are very Hendrix based. In saying that, I love the way he has taken such well-known phrases and made them his own. This is a damn good version, all the better for the familiar difference! Another Day is a Berry composition and shows his slide prowess: acoustic backing to the electric slide can make it seem a little ponderous on first listen, but the slide pieces lift it way up with the emotion he puts into it. Damnation is all Rob again and embraces blues-rock in a sort of Govt Mule way. The song isn’t about dogs by the way! It is graced by another imaginative solo. Freedom isn’t the Jimi one, but one of Rob’s which starts all southern swampy and has a great beat with slide evoking the mists of said swamp and is quite hypnotic as it swirls with the wonderful sounding slide and a solid bass line with drums that sound right, rather a bit tinny as they do on some of the tracks. This is my favourite of a great bunch…at the moment. The Sonny Boy Williamson II song, Help Me, was actually written by Williamson, Willie Dixon and Ralph Bass and based on Green Onions by Booker T. Rob gives it serious ‘oomph’ by using slide and harmonica it tandem to convey the feel of the original, while giving it a new lease of life. He sings in a perfect tribute style to Sonny too which makes it authentic and it maintains the Green Onion beat behind it all…a brilliant take on a classic. Hey Bad Luck is out and out rock which brings with it a fantastic image of Nazareth if they had replaced Manny Charlton with SRV, although Rob doesn’t have the McCafferty gravel, it’s not far off on this one. Speaking of Stevie Ray Vaughan, bravery steps out again as Rob takes on Pride And Joy. This is a little way from expectations as it really does reinterpret this classic and wraps it up in yet more superb slide. Purists will frown, whereas it makes me smile as the well known becomes that little bit different. Now take a Zeppelin number revered by so many, add blues harp and slide, ignore the lack of a Plant and what do you get? Well, to these ears (apart from the lyrics) I hear the songs from the past, which influenced the original, and thanks to that brilliant steam train harp, it works quite well. Banjo introduces the second Dylan cover and is then joined by slide as Rob’s Dylanesque vocals come in. Like A Rolling Stone is, initially, a disappointment but on repeated listens, once I picked up on the meticulous backing from the banjo in particular, it became something so much more and has a lovely guitar solo in the middle too. Clever! It all wraps up with the slow blues of When I Think of You, which makes me think of Micky Moody in the sound and execution of the picked sections of guitar on this lovely, sad song.
In summary, then, this is a very, very good album: with brave covers which, in the main, work very well and proves that Rob can write as well as interpret. The only downside for me is that the drums sound so hollow. Researching for this review failed to turn up any list of musicians (apologies to Rob if I’m wrong), so I am guessing that he did a damn good job on pro-tools or similar, but it can never replace a real drummer. That also suggests he played the other instruments too…smartarse!! Jealousy aside, this is the work of a skilled musician who can compose as well as he plays; can breathe life into classics without any cringes and has provided a solid, enjoyable album I will return to again and again.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. All Along The Watchtower
  2. Another Day
  3. Damnation
  4. Freedom
  5. Help Me
  6. Hey Bad Luck
  7. Pride & Joy
  8. Rock N Roll
  9. Like a Rolling Stone
  10. When I Think of You

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