Second albums are always a difficult journey to take. Following on From Quick & Dirty; Blues Engine are on the right Blues Tracks with number two. Tracks definitely consolidates this London-based band Blues credential
Opening with a measured soulfully melodic Drop Dead Ugly, the reverse of what the title may have suggested, definitely gentle rather than dirty blues. As you step on board the eleven musical detours the Blues Engine are taking us on Tracks. The vocals of Katya Chernyakova are full of luscious textures that are reflected back by the considered guitar work of Alex Cooray. The juxta positioning of crisp and soft, sweet and sour are a signature of Blues Engine giving the blues a contemporary edge whilst still full of tradition. The ten originals and a single cover keeps you entertained and engaged as the Tracks widen out with Gunnysack John, harder edge faster tempo and juicy harp from guest Nick Payne. It is the rhythm section that keeps this ditty on the right track curling towards its destination with beat that is sustained and clear the combination of new drummer Hamish Burchell & bassist Alexander K Liutai. The tracks meander with a gentle flow of the blues picking up a Latino vibe on Lonely By Your Side full of warmth, the quartet are having fun exploring the tempos that mix up the blues. Opening with deep rumbling bass Boatman’s Blues takes us down the river with Alex on guitar raising the tone and Katya hitting the mid-range this is a sad song full of blues wistfulness.
Closing out with their version of Jimmy Cox’s Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out; leaving you with blues chiming as the sound fades. Having reached the end one track resonates as the star it is a Peter Green infused, British Blues number Tell Me A Riddle. Slow, thoughtful, melodies that suit the tonal range of Blues Engine.
What stops this album being outstanding is difficult to pinpoint. Every track is true to the sound Blues Engine creates. It is an album you would return to and smile and joy the sharp blues of Tracks that glint like well-cut Sapphire, reflecting out and beyond the scope of electric blues. Missing, it is a cutting edge, the dirty tones of blues and stories that really shout for attention. That said Tracks certainly never goes off the rails under the hands of Blues Engine.
The StoneCoats, young blues-rock band infused with the growing popularity of country/southern rock vibe from Brandon Mississippi debut album is definitely one to explore. The opening track Another Thought For Today, left me with only one thought I want to hear more. The quartet is vocalist who plays guitar Brandon Barnett, Guitarist Carson Bristow, bassist Ashten Frisella and Leighton Bristow combining a rhythm double as bassist and drummer.
The tempo changes with a chugging boogie that hits that tonal zone where music has a driving excitement. The influences from the past sit gentle, yes we can compare to The Doors, Allman Brothers even Grateful Dead. The reality is The StoneCoats are in the process of developing their own sound that is contemporary colliding with the music that has flown up and down Route 61. The title track fails to hit the mark as the standout track, with its gentle swaying melodic lines lacking grit and determination that the title promised. The big keyboard chord and southern guitar leads into Find You, finding the StoneCoats is a pleasure as the debut promises to be the stepping stone for the band to grow. The country vibe takes over for Cheated Heart and we are left with the blues as the album closes with When You Are Down. If there is one track that epitomizes the sound of The StoneCoats it is Cross That Bridge; with vocals that hit the mark and the guitar licks stay with you, a memorable track on a debut album initiating the listener’s memories of The StoneCoats notable musicianship.
Nothing Poor Boy Blues About The StoneCoats; as they blend the tones of today mixing up a recipe of musical success a pinch of Southern Rock, a soupçon of country mixed together with a shot of Blues we have a recipe for music that will be tasty.
Live Albums capture a moment, freezing the live sound into the grooves that you can take home and play. Tedeschi Trucks Band Music Live From Fox Oakland comprises fifteen impeccable tracks across two CDs and does more that capture you in the moment. The album is a total immersion into a world where the blues based Tedeschi Trucks Band takes you to sonic places that enthrall and leave you breathless with joy. The lengths of the tracks vary from short and sweet Within You, Without You, full of Eastern mysticism and crowds whoops as the Beatles number is delivered with a delicacy and passion; through to the other end of the spectrum of nearly fifteen minutes of Tedeschi magic on I Want More complete with a Soul Sacrifice outro; could be self-indulgent time filling. Not under the hands of the jamming, improvisation virtuosity led by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi every track is full of stylish twists and turns a music fairy dust of those special wow moments. The twelve-piece band gives Trucks and Tedeschi the choice of the sound they want to create as the instruments are at times maximized to full tonal depth and volume; or diminished into the powerful simplicity of vocals and keys. Every combination is used as the music played by Tedeschi Trucks Band Music Live From Fox Oakland creates a sonic mural of deep tonal pleasure. The colouring from the broad spectrum palette of jazz, the power hammer of rock, the hit of funk and the roots of the Blues that holds the Tedeschi sound together.
Picking out a few numbers from this magnum opus, is a real challenge. Leonard Cohen’s Bird On The Wire must be one, the combination of Susan Tedeschi’s vocals and Kofi Burbridge keys are a combination that is full of sensitivity, passion and music that sears straight to the heart. Then there is the re-working of I Pity The Fool, dominated by the vocals on this Bobby Blue Bland’s classic; the horns section pulling you deep into the vibe created. We all love a stomp, Sleepy John Estes’ Leavin’ Trunk provides this in buckets changing the tempo and providing a cascade of tones, and textures as horns guitar and vocals deliver a sound that is uncomplicated but full of interest as they explore the depths of the blues.
Into the mix of clever covers add the growing discography of Tedeschi Trucks numbers where they have input into the writing we have a selection of numbers that explores the musical journey that has been the sound track of the last hundred years. As ever Dereck Trucks guitar is majestic. Full of licks and riffs adding a luscious tone to every track as the interplay between the other instruments and Susan’s vocals create a sound board full of delights.
You may ask, do you want another live album with its mix of originals and re-working of classics that you already have numerous variations of and the original? Do you want another Tedeschi Trucks Band Album where half a dozen tracks are from last year’s album Let Me Get By? For me the answer is a resounding YES! Tedeschi Trucks Band Music Live From Fox Oakland, is full of fresh vitality and a pure hedonistic pleasure to sit and listen to from beginning to end time and time again.
Back in the O2 Sheffield for the second year HRH Blues III promised with a deep blues infused line-up to be an Easter full of music. They certainly delivered across the two stages, as ever clashes were at times frustrating, demonstrating the wealth of blues in town this weekend.
HRH Blues once again created an ambience, professional on the outside, inside pure unadulterated fun of listening to live music. The two days had a mix of blues from heavy and raw through to delicate and everything in-between. More people this year stepping on the bright blue HRH Blues Train crammed with live music in Sheffield.
With two stages, we heard a total of twenty-two bands and for some Royalty Passes & Media an extra five acoustic acts early on Sunday morning. The one disappointment for many was the missing act. King King had to pull out at the last-minute – now we know it was due to Alan Nimmo having acute Laryngitis. With the number of King King T-shirts in the audience you could have expected annoyance, but all you heard and saw on social media was empathy, love and get well. The bands that did play filled the gap with extended sets from Simon McBride and Ten Years After and a slightly early Saturday.
Getting the Easter music fest started was Dani Wilde who set the scene with quality opening act it was going to be high quality blues form the first to last note. Highlights in the main stage on Saturday were…
For the vast majority that I spoke to the stand out band of the first day and the festival were Billy Walton Band, they bought fun, blues and music that just gets every one excited. Following on from the band that wowed the audience and were still being talked about as the festival closed. Why? A full on band who really get that good-time vibe flowing the boys from New Jersey bring that East Coast joie-de-vie. Billy and the band want you want to party all night. With a horn section adding texture and tone they are just very entertaining and totally enjoyable. They were ready to party with the festival a fan supplied an array of hats and they were delighted to play with the donated headgear. The atmosphere was now loud, electric with blues flowing through the O2.
Follow that, well this is HRH nothing safe, nothing out-of-bounds as The Graveltones, a duo took to the stage. Heavy, raucous, energetic and loud they divided the room just as Marmite on toast would! The guitar was raw and the drumming hard with splinters of wood being torn from the sticks. Heavy, hard with complex rhythms and bucket loads of feel, delivering a punchy set that re-defines duos and the blues.
All aboard the next station on the blues train journey to Finnish Blues with Erja Lyytinen and her band. For many of her fans the first time we have had the opportunity to listen to the music from her acclaimed album Stolen Hearts. I was definitely excited having given her the full 10-doodle paws. High class set from the renowned queen of the blues slide guitar. In the set is Black Ocean for me a highlight and favourite on the album now a live favourite as prog meets blues under the charms and skills of Erja. We joined her on the rocking Chair, sang along with Stolen hearts. Then the trained steamed up the hill with her interpretation of Tina Turner’s Steamy windows. This was blues that sparkled as Erja smiled, played and won our hearts.
This year with the addition of food stalls and coffee there was no need to leave the arena and miss a single note of blues that was weaving their magic over the audience. Now we had two stages running parallel always a conundrum what to stay and listen too. Quick run upstairs to catch some of Will Wilde, this was the decision of many as the second stage was rammed and Will’s harmonica playing won him many new fans. For some the band of the weekend having never heard him play before. Will delivers more ‘authentic’ blues almost a match for Erja, a shame about the clash of blues titans. Will is one of the best blues-harp players on the UK circuit. Now we had a festival exploding under the glories of blues in full flight.
Back downstairs for Pig Iron returning for the second year. Describing themselves as Blues Metal this was pounding heavy blues that incorporates some delicate harp playing. Upstairs was Troy Redfern, the Welsh slide guitar troubadour. With tracks from his current album Backdoor Hoodoo. His rendition of John The Revelator is always a crowd-pleasing winner as it was tonight in Sheffield. The HRH Blues train was now gathering speed and pulling in a wide variety of acts.
Now back to the main stage for Simon McBride and the headliners returning for the second year Ten Year After. First, a stunning blues rock guitarist Simon McBride. The set saturated with scintillating riffs and licks making Simon’s PRS guitar sing and squeal. An accomplished set strewn with covers to extend the time on stage and numbers from his last two albums. What a set it was a tone the festival wanted to hear that mix of SRV, Hendrix woven together with McBride magic. The dueling between bass and guitar was magnificent. As he played Good Times Roll, following a McBride favourite Down To The Wire we were definitely having a great Easter Saturday as he closed with Deadman Walking we were all alive with festival fever.
After fifty years of touring with Ten Years After Chick Churchill & Ric Lee are now joined by bassist Colin Hodgkinson and the charismatic Marcus Bonfanti. Marcus’ vocals are full of power, tonal texture, his guitar playing sharp and the harp adds another dimension to the Ten Year After sound of 2017. No Ten Year After set is complete without The Hobbit, Ric Lee and his drumming acrobatics. A wonderful set blending old stalwarts and new numbers from the forthcoming album A Sting In The Tale out later this year. The whole set is a perfect platform for showcasing what a great and oft underrated guitarist Marcus is. Wow moments of the festival with Love Like A Man and Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. Ten Years After strong after Fifty-years and the thrill of a new album. What a Saturday now for Sunday’s delights.
Sunday, started with a Smörgåsbord of acoustic showcases, including Chantel McGregor; Big Boy Bloater, Crow Black Chicken and Dan Patlansky who we would be hearing in full amplified glory during the day. The sets were chilled whilst also demonstrating the varied sounds achievable from the acoustic. This was personified by the difference between Big Boy Bloater and Dan Patlansky, same guitar totally different tone and approach. We heard hollers, blues and songs given new shapes a perfect slow wake up call to join the main blues train downstairs on stage one. Into the mix the wonderful vocals and charm of Jack Hutchinson a welcomed addition to any blues gathering, with a new band album, Set Your Heart For The Sun, let’s hope he is back electric in 2018.
What a stunning set once again from the mighty Sean Webster with his new band The Deadlines. Having heard Sean many times he never disappoints, unsurprisingly he was the find of the weekend for many. His rendition of I’d Rather Go Blind moved many to tears with the raw, intense emotion he puts into every word sung and note played. Sean has the winning combination of a superb blues voice and plays the guitar with lightning blue touch. Now living in Netherlands, Sean is the enigma of the British Blues scene never reaching the heights his playing should be taking him. Let’s hope the station stop on HRH Blues Train will be the launch pad for a renaissance of Sean the bluesman. Following on from Sean, in a bright red dress is Chantel McGregor always a firm favourite with her many fans. The set was a mix of favourites and her latest album. Anyone hoping for some new material would be disappointed, though there was a new drummer in the band. The set was safe, definitely rockier than the early days of Chantel. She still smiles with warmth and affection and Freefalling was a guitar blazing delight as were the other guitar improvisations. Her rhythm section gives her a solid platform, bassist Colin Sutton and Ollie Goss on Drums. The mischievous Chantel was ever present with ‘Aving A Giraffe a fun out take celebrating the April the Giraffe giving birth the story that Chantel has been following on Social media. The set overall felt a little flat, come on Chantel lets have some new McGregor gems soon. This is the nuances that makes live music fun a have to be there moment. British Blues celebration continues with Laurence Jones with his new band. Laurence is maturing the new band seems to fit his style and the addition of Bennet Holland on keys certainly adds some textures to the music complementing Laurence’s stinging guitar. We are enjoying this stop on the train. Yes, this is British blues-rock personified; what is great to see Laurence continuing to grow in stature, developing his sound and staying fresh. The longer lead breaks played with growing confidence adds interest and variance in the live sound. Fantastic audience participation during JJ Cale’s Cocaine, conducted with vigour and winning smile from Laurence more Cream and Clapton than Cale. That is no bad thing in a stalwart of the blues circuit who wins fans whenever he picks up his guitar and plays. .
Quick sojourn to Stage 2 for StoneWire a band from the South coast that I had heard about. This is a five-piece led by a big voice. Another great female vocalist out front shaping the StoneWire sound. Whilst on stage one, young gun Aaron Keylock, was completing the very British Blues opening to the day. Solid set as this man’s stage presence grows. He is full of potential and the setlist was a perfect showcasing opportunity for Across The Grain his debut album. The slide guitar was over loud and the vocals slurred but every time you hear him there is improvement, Spin The Bottle a set residence that suits this young man who is truly motivated and shaped by the blues. Not to be missed, if you get the opportunity another HRH Blues festival favourites are definitely Black Crow Chicken. The sound is earthy, dirty blues. Every song has a colourful story as they take the blues train down an Irish lane as roots blues collide with Irish Tradition through the amplifier. The humour is dry and all-encompassing that follows through into the strong lyrics. With Jonestown and a tribute to Pat McManus from Pariah Brothers, the latest album. This is a band I could have listened to for longer. A definite bring back next year request. With Big Boy Bloater following, his acoustic set was superb so we were looking forward to electric Luxury Hobo. The sound was too loud for the small stage area and that meant the music lost its edge. That said what a rendition of bloater blues pushing them to the limits and he knows how to entertain the crowds vital for any set and sometimes missing. The superb track from his album Luxury Hobo, It Came From The Swamp won him many fans another strong contender for stage one 2018.
Now back to Stage 1 for South African, Dan Patlansky who always delivers fireworks from his Strat. Tonight, with a band of session players from Germany we were treated to a stand out set of guitar acrobatics. Old Red is the signatures Strat of Dan, and is off for a refurb after this UK tour. With his latest single from Introvertigo, Sonova Faith given a live airing we hear the clever improvisation that is part of the live show. Never expect to hear the songs the same, chords and lyrics are a constant but the interpretation every time is a certainty. Dan can rock his blues, and then with an application of the blues breaks will slow it right down. Then you listen with care as it is as good as it gets. Dan Patlansky is a showman. He brings Laurence Jones back to play Bright Lights, Big City that sees a guitar dueling that sparked with jaw dropping intensity. Closing the set, instrumental My Chana is a majestic exploration of the every sound a strat can make. As he experiments with feedback, ringing single notes. The audience are spellbound, a collective holding of breath with wonderment. No one wanted the moment to end. Sadly, it did one more act Stan Webbs Chicken Shack and 2017 HRH Blues fell silent.
Easter Sunday, this year more music that chocolate. What a tasty day once again HRH train ride was full of blues hooks, licks and riffs, laughs and friends the perfect festival journey.
HRH Blues III blues train was full of exciting stops along the complex musical map that incorporates The Blues. The festival does not rely on have the same favourite acts returning each year. Weaving into the acts surprises and variance in the sound of blues.
With such an array of blues it is unsurprising, with not a single act announced HRH Blues IV; 14-15th April 2018is already over eighty percent sold. People want to come back, reserving there spot for when the HRH Blues train leaves the station once again in Sheffield 2018. HRH Blues a definite for Blues lovers diaries.
Mick McConnell sophomore album Gets Under My Skin, certainly punches a hefty blues punch. The album out of Dewsbury journeyed through Europe and was polished in Nashville. With Bruce Miller at the helm as producer Under My Skin has ten tracks that combine a winning combo gravel vocals and stinging guitars this is a smokin’ gun of the blues from Mick McConnell.
Mick, says “stick to what I know”; that said there is a flourish and a confidence as the ten tracks take us on a journey that never stays within the constraints of traditional blues. He sets down a deep groove with his six-string and then explores the lyrics adding gloss, brightness and energy as he sings No She Don’t Like Country; we get to know her tastes and she likes Rock n’ Roll!
The guitar is a blues clarion call as Mick takes us Visiting Mr ‘J’; his song that reflects on the legacy of Mr Robert Johnson, he sticks to his approach to the blues not copying or reinterpreting Robert. The middle of the album is rich pickings with Moods On A Rainy Day and Cross The Line. The album is full of peachy songs that grow and underneath the guitar and instrumentation are lyrics with something to say. Mick is his own person, this is his blues that he wants to share with you as he closes out the album with Spell On Me. This is Blues that shimmers piercing through the genre with a vibe that is warm and inviting. As the album title infers Mick does get Under My Skin and anyone who listens to McConnell Blues.
Jack Hutchinson, is a troubadour, he sings with his heart and travels far and wide with guitar electric, unplugged as part of a jam Jack with his infectious blues will be at a festival or gig. Now, the trio has a debut album Set your Heart For The Sun as Jack J Hutchinson’s Boom Boom Brotherhood releases their debut album. Surrounding himself with musicians who rock to the sound Jack has perfected a recollection of the seventies but not so much retro as the music is of the now. Joining Jack are Rick Baxendale who can be found adding bass guitar, piano and keys and percussive depths, Jim Brazendale on drums and Harmonica courtesy of guest Tom Brundage. This is a vintage sound that makes you smile, Jack and the brotherhood have captured music sunshine in an album that is bright and full of optimism. Yes, some of the tracks, fans of Jack will recognise from previously released EPs; some re-worked and work as a definitive collection of tracks defining Jack and The Brotherhood style. Fusing harmonies within a cocoon of vintage blues, roots, southern rock and the special ingredient bravery to be themselves making Set Your Heart For The Sun a standout debut.
Opening with a fuzzy psychedelic opening refrain we are introduced to Jack’s vocals for the first time with Love Is Gonna Bring You Home. A number that would have fitted neatly into Led Zep’s or Peter Green’s discography. The tempo and texture are smoother with Hey Hey Hey; a rootsy number that is beguiling in its strength and simplicity. The piano and guitar work in harmony playing off each other’s chords with a searing intensity. We are pulled back into the heydey of the sixties with a Beatles infused Fight Fire With Fire, the energy is youthful dynamic and we know this is no slavish copy it is the Boom Boom Brotherhood in full flood of celebration. Nothing is dampening this band’s fire in the belly to play the music that inspires them.
Now we have some blues with Tom’s harmonica adding a tonal layer of authenticity on Souled Out, the fluidity of song that builds around the roots core will have every listener tapping their feet with delight. The guitar weeps as we are exploring The Rivers Cries, the harmonica moans and Jack’s voice intones the story as it unfolds a wonderful track that fuses all the elements that make Jack J Hutchinson stand above the crowd. With songs of betrayal unveiled as we meet Jezebel, there is a sting a harder edge to the drumming as the tale is ground out and we see the darker side of love.
Closing the album out with Wake Up; it is a message wake up and get to know Jack J Hutchinson’s Boom Boom Brotherhood, as they meld the essence that is roots that rock with a modern cadence of tone and texture. The originals certainly make you feel the warmth of the bands Blues sunshine.
the story unfolds under Eric Bibb Blues Mastery
When you listen to a new Eric Bibb album you expect extraordinary blues, he is one of the best. Does Migration Blues reach my expectations? Yes, the album surpasses expectations. The reason fo the album name, Migration Blues is the connectivity between now and the past. As Eric said “ Fleeing war & hardship is something people have been doing all over the world for millennia – nothing new … Whether you’re looking at a former sharecropper, hitchhiking from Clarksdale to Chicago in 1923, or an orphan from Aleppo, in a boat full of refugees in 2016 — it’s migration blues.”
On the album, Eric joined by JJ Millaeu with his harmonica and the multi–instrumentalist John Browne on guitar, fiddle and banjo. Also on the album are sympathetic drumming, at times harking back to the pain of slaves forced migration out of Africa from Olle Linder, Big Daddy Wilson and Ulrika Bibb’s backing vocals. It is Eric Bibb that drives the album directing tone and tempo as he emotionally sings the lyrics with strong and at times painful stories to tell. Bibb is the modern man of the blues he is the real deal.
The context of the album is Migration, the impact, hurt and pain of leaving home whether from Aleppo in 2016 or the migration from rural South to industrial North. Scratch the surface and we all have migrants in our ancestry, moving from home is a shared history. The parallels weave through the album from contemporary to historical migration. Shaped and discussed on social media, and news stories, on migration blues the elegant simplicity tells the truth of the pain of migration.
Opening with Refugee Moan, the plucked strings deep and redolent of journeys yet to take and we board the train at the heart of many a blues song. Eric Bibb, implores to be able to ride the train, let me board the ship this is a song of the desperate need for deliverance into the great unknown. Powerful messages pen your minds and take the journey through the vocals and words of Bibb the bluesman for today. With simple arrangements acting as gentle punctuation and soundscapes for the power of the lyrics redolent with meaning and the human condition. Every track is special. Highlights for me are the prayerful intoning of Prayin’ For Shore, as you want to reach a stranger’s land unknowing if help or violence will greet you the harmonica cries in harmony with the lyrics. The deep southern blues of Migration Blues, an instrumental with the depth of his twelve string resonator and the imploring of the harp cries the pain that no words are needed to explain. The stunning cover of Bob Dylan’s Masters of War fits perfectly in the track list of the album, as does Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land. The hope of a better life is there with Brotherly Love and the closing Mornin’ Train. Once more Eric Bibb has captured today in the simplicity of his blues shining and pure. This is an album that makes you think, feel the plight of others and be slower to condemn and quicker to find out the story behind the stranger in a strange land as Eric says Peace and Love.
Kaz Hawkins Brings European Blues Challenge Trophy Back Home
Saturday the 8th April 2017 was a big day for blues in the UK because of events many miles away in Horsens, Denmark, the venue for the 7th European Blues Challenge organised by the European Blues Union (EBU) in conjunction with the BluesKartellet of Horsens, a town described by its mayor, Peter Sorensen, as ’a city of music – with streets of blues’ and a city ‘known throughout Denmark for its concerts with renowned artists, festivals and major events’.
For the first time in the event’s history, the European Blues Challenge was won by the UK with Northern Ireland’s Kaz Hawkins Bandbeating off some stiff competition, particularly from Belgium’s The Bluebones who were placed second. The event saw acts from some 21 European countries competing over two nights at the Forum in Horsens, a venue which, in the past, has played host to many major names including the Rolling Stones, Madonna and Paul McCartney.
In an emotional acceptance of the trophy, Kaz first thanked the UK Blues Federation for making it possible for her and her band to take part in the International Blues Challenge, which took place in Memphis, Tennessee in late January and where the band reached the semi-finals, as well as the European Blues Challenge.
She also expressed her gratitude to the event organisers and to the judges for ‘getting’ her music which is so much a reflection both of her and her life.
In addition to the trophy, the band will also have the opportunity to play at a number of top European Blues Festivals as well as enjoying a considerably raised profile on the European Blues scene.
Kaz’s acceptance speech was full of emotion, warmth and the power of the blues.
Before the results were announced on Saturday night, The European Blues Union announced the winners of the Blues Behind the Scenes Awards for 2017 which saw the Award for Production going to veteran and legendary producer Mike Vernon whose career spans many decades working with many great artists including John Mayall and Eric Clapton on the iconic Beano Album as well as many other major names over the years. Recently he has come out of semi-retirement to produce a number of albums for 21st century blues artists as well as putting together his own band with which he is touring.
Accepting the Award, Mike commented that he was knocked out to receive it but also very proud. He confirmed that he had no intention of stopping yet suggesting that if John Mayall is still touring in his 80s there was no way he (Mike) was going to quit!
Earlier in the day at the General Assembly of the European Blues Union, Dave Raven, award winning blues broadcaster, Chair of the UK’s Independent Blues Broadcasters Association and Treasurer of the UK Blues Federation, was elected to the Board of the EBU, the first time that the UK has been represented on this board and another big step towards blues in the UK being better represented in Europe.
For the UK Blues Federation (UKBlues), Ashwyn Smyth – Chair – said: ‘ We are both thrilled and very grateful that Kaz and her band have done us and blues in the UK so proud. Whilst the winning was down to Kaz and her band, we are so happy that we were able to facilitate them taking part in both Challenges and the win in Denmark is the cherry on top of the cake and can only serve to raise the profile of the blues in and from the UK!”
Bluesdoodles send our congratulations to Kaz Semi-finalists first in Memphis and now the Winner in Europe.
This Is The Life I Choose Says Zoe Schwarz Latest Album
With three studio albums under Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion’s belt the fourth is definitely not running out of steam, it is full throttle blues. The blues are stylish, a mix of pathos and humour, reflections and looking forward, sadness and hints of joy.
With hundreds of gigs notched up on the road, the miles piling up all shows on an album that reflects the lifestyle of the band This Is the Life I Choose, making music that pleases and makes you sit up and listen. Zoe and the band are getting noticed, the blues is distinctive, fresh and modern without gimmicks and bells but some excellent guitar work from Rob Koral, The pairing of Pete and Paul on Hammond and Drums respectively providing the deep grooves that allow Zoe’s vocals to sparkle. The whole album has a fiery energy and the addition of Sax from Ian Ellis and Andy Urquhart on Trumpet on some of the tracks makes those three tracks pop with a burst of brass power.
Zoe opens with Hold On, and yes we will as she and the band are going to take you on a musical high-ride experience blending blues, jazz and soul into an explosive musical experience. The whole album has a relaxed feel of a singer and band in harmony with the music they are playing. The music has a freedom and sense of purpose from the off with the instrumental breaks a listening delight and then the sultry distinctive vocals that are Zoe pulls the track together with lyrics that have something to say.
The second track has a cheeky acoustic beat with lyrics delivered with ironic humour as Zoe sings “high-ho life is sweet because my baby said so” despite being broke, no money to get to a gig, the sax adds to the feeling of desperation of swimming against the tide but we will get there with the support of people we love. The infectious beat and movement through the music continues with People with a dancing/marching beat as the percussion drives the melodic vocals forward with purpose. Every track has a nuanced turn of phrase the fun of delivering the music comes through with the up-lifting I Wanna Get Something Started With You, blues shuffling adds textures and optimistic tones fitting in with the lyrics that ‘Today Is going to be a good day’.
The title track is a reflection of the life of artists, the drive and dedication required to make a success with your own artistry in a corporate environment. Zoe Schwarz Blues Commotion have chosen the blues they want to play, remained true to it and this is an album that delivers. No song is constrained by a set length some are shorter others longer depending on the feel of the music. The feel for me is very very good.
The album has a deep connection with all sides of humanity the eleven originals drawing lyrics from in the main the winning partnership of Zoe Schwarz & Rob Koral with others written by other sources including Pete Feenstra, with his words shaping No Money In My Pocket and Call Of The Night. The mood changes with a harder edge, the riffs are strong raw with anger reflected in Zoe’s snarl as she spits out the lyrics. This number may be surprising for some but as Zoe says “but they shouldn’t be; I was a big Clash and Stranglers fan”… The poetic shaping of the Call Of The Night is reflected in the stripped down acoustic tone. The poem is allowed to be the star as a hypnotic melody pulls you deep into the night. Stunning.
The album closes with two bonus tracks, first Jack Bruce’s We’re Going Wrong and closing with Feeling Good, summing up perfectly how you feel having listened to Zoe Schwarz Blues Commotion. A commotion everyone will enjoy.
Live at Freak Valley blues rocking With
On first listening before the guitar warrior starts, I could sum up the album in a sentence – Caged raw live energy across the eleven tracks as Krissy is the comet of British blues taking us on a sexy and freaky ride.
The album is full of live energy as the band plays before a live audience, recorded May 27th 2016 at Freak Valley Festival, Germany. Every track has that special live ingredient, a mix of adrenaline, raw energy and sweat, it is the real deal with no studio over dubs, and is one-hundred percent as the music was heard that day. The blues rock from the first chord to the last can be no-one but Krissy himself. The rhythm section that surrounds Krissy are high-octane musically driven pairing of drummer Max Maxwell and bassist Sam Weston. Creating a trio that is full of power combining this intensity with subtleties, tasty licks and huge riffs from the guitar driven by Krissy himself.
Opening with Feeling For The Blues, shows that Krissy has inherited the feel for blues without experiencing the life of the early bluesmen. Written when he was fourteen it showed the direction he would take and the lyrics put down a commitment to the inheritance that the blues have to music today. The guitar solo squeals with pain and beauty as the melodic tone of the opening number is defined. The tone and texture changes, the quality of delivery is consistently high as the songs many written before Krissy was a teenager show a maturity far beyond his years. All Night Long has a swing to its step as the guitar sings sweet and Krissy singing the lyrics with his distinctive vocals that seem to float above the music connected but never controlled by the guitar. Krissy, squeals, shouts ensuring the voice is heard loud and clear All Night Long. Everyone who plays the blues will be influenced by BB King, many have stories to tell and Krissy is no different as the tempo slows the blues are sparkling with intent from his six-strings. The Soul Will Never Die is not a tribute it is a young thirteen-year-old reflecting back what he heard and experienced when he had front row seats in Bournemouth. The impact of meeting BB; this is blues with love straight from the heart.
Unsurprisingly, a Hendrix number is in the live set this is Freedom, which made an impact when he heard Steve Lukather play the number then found out it was a Hendrix number from Isle of Wight album. Krissy keeps the essence of the Hendrix tone but makes the number his own.
The final three live tracks are a bonus recorded at Gerd’s Juke Joint in Garmany in April 2016. The signature drum beat a cymbal crash from Max opens The Rock and then the driving bass line from Sam underpinning the energy and zing of Krissy’s live performance. The rock is solid powerful blues track fading into Roadsick Blues about addiction to being on the road. With keys adding a mournful, reflective air to the final track Bobbles And The Seven Phones. Written in memory of a dear friend this is a song of remembrance and the chords are sharp, gentle and considered the tone and tempo are measured. Closing out Live At Freak Valley with love, of friends, music, the guitar and above all The Blues played in Krissy’s indomitable style. This is a live album where Krissy blues demons have been unleashed and ready to swirl with dramatic effect across the valley to your stereo thanks to the record button being pressed.