Led Zeppelin Classics Mastered by Violins and more
Tonight, was the juxtaposition of classic rock courtesy of Led Zeppelin favourites with the Heart of England Orchestra, renamed for the UK Tour with Zep Boys Black Dog Orchestra. Tonight the Colston Hall stage had the unusual combination of Marshall Stacks with music stands for strings and brass; with the drummer front and left of stage held within a Perspex cage.
Australian Zep Boys have a passion for Zep’s music and have created something more than a tribute band. Does it work for me a mix of yes and maybe? The Colston Hall audience was definitely won over as they got up and danced and cheered the boys from down under. The lightshow was spectacular and the musicianship superb. For me though there was something missing, the orchestration by Nick Buck was good, but something was missing. What was it? Then it dawned on me it was the freedom of improvisation that a live rock show has that makes live music have that element of danger and interest as the rock on stage goes off-piste.
The thirty-Five piece Black Dog Orchestra added a new dimension of strings, brass and woodwind. The trombones overpowered at times, and more cellos would have given a deeper tonal texture. Upfront was the Zep Boys who knew how to rock with Vince Contario leading with vocals that capture the essence of Robert Plant. Joining Vince were Tzan Niko with a phalanx of guitars including the trademark double neck; bassist Warwick Cheatle and in his cage drummer Bradley Polain, who in 2017, thrity-Seven years after the untimely death of John Bonham found the inner Bonzo in the delivery of Moby Dick. The set list was divided in two halves and there is no doubt that some worked better than others in this experimental format.
The opening of the evening with Black Dog Orchestra, was an intriguing overture and insight into the evening as Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven Kashmir and other snippets flowed out over the auditorium.
The first set highlight was The Rain Song, though it did lose the balladic form with the addition of the orchestra. Ending with Rock n’ Roll the audience were left wanting more; there were a lot of happy Zep fans in the house tonight.
Opening the second set with Kashmir, the combination really worked the sound was balanced and the ethereal sound of the orchestra exploded with a wall of lush strings cascading over the guitar. In the set was Stairway to Heaven another outing for the twin-neck from Nico as was Song Remains The Same. Closing the night with Whole Lotta Love, the audience went wild and there was a lot of love on the room for Zep Boys and Black Dog Orchestra.
The combination was a crowd pleasing winner, proving once again the power of Zeppelin’s songs. Rock is a flexible beast and Led Zeppelin discography certainly met the world of classic instruments front on and came out on top. Yes, the combination of Marshalls and violin stands worked most of the time and certainly the first tour to the UK of Zep Boys combining with Black Dog Orchestra is a success in the eyes of the audience last night in Colston Hall.
Spring sunshine warmed the pavements as the crowds gathered on the street outside the O2 Academy Bristol. The draw tonight was a double hitting rocking with energy delight with Biters opening the cavalcade of music, culminating with Blackberry Smoke. The bands are both label mates and friends so the pairing made sense on many levels to the audience it was the music, quality.
There was a rock n’ roll, retro bite as the band kicked off the night it was full steam ahead for music fun and games. The quartet from Georgia, stepped onto the stage with a step back into the past Norman Greenbaum, Spirit In the Sky. This is a band that have both feet in the 1970’s including a number celebrating the golden age of rock 1975. With the task of warming the crowd, they immediately connected with the Bristol tonight, with a shout out for the gigging venue on a boat we all love where they have played. Thekla the venue where we hear first many a band that become firm favourites, demonstrating the importance of a vibrant and varied landscape of venues in a city. Cardiff, please take note; Womanby Street is a cultural asset!
Now, back to the music with influences flowing through the veins of the music but never clogging the artistry with hints of Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzie and a large helping of T-Rex. Biters, have a forthcoming album due out 19th May on EarAche records; The Future Aint’ What It Used To Be. The superb and ear-catching single from the forthcoming album Stone Cold Love full of T-Rex vibe was part of the opening numbers and we certainly were riding a retro rollercoaster of delight. Fitting in with the southern rock/country rocking vibe Georgia and Gypsy Rose fitted the starter menu perfectly. This is music that entertains. Energetic young band the perfect platform of hooks that caught the vocals and licks that made you shout with joy as the drums pulled the rhythm through every number.
The Bristol crowd was excited and ready for more rock in the form of Blackberry Smoke. Back in Bristol, a band they are road warriors getting their distinctive sound majestic Southern Rock, authentic. They are as they describe themselves Too Country for Rock; Too Rock for Country the sound is a collision of two genres into a crescendo of rock that is full of southern warmth and edgy charm. Tonight Like An Arrow Tour rolled into Bristol, the city music fans appreciated this as the venue was packed from top to bottom. Opening with Fire In The Hole we are ready to put reality on hold and be transported into the land of Blackberry Smoke with the setlist full of songs from the discography covering the whole of the twenty-first century. Yes, Blackberry Smoke are a millennium southern rocking explosion. This is good time rocking music with an edge, the sound permeated through the crowd creating an electric party atmosphere. With Waiting For Thunder from current album having the audience singing and this will be a keeper for a live set becoming a classic. The melding of American music is evident in a number that rocks and Charlie Starr, pulling on the tradition of the holler and the lead break from the keyboard under the guidance of Brandon Still is picked up by the guitar. What a number only five songs in and the venue is steaming with this heavy hollering delight. The music flows with an energy as the southern rock credentials pour through the O2, with Pretty Little Lie. The wonderful southern slide sound from Charlie’s Gibson 335 was a joy to behold, and the keys add that extra tonal layer we are all transported to a special place that live music takes you. There has to be the jam moment, tonight A Sleeping Dog, from The Whippoorwill album is segued with Your Time Is Gonna Come as Zeppelin and Allman’s sounds are pulled into the version tonight. This is the moment when time stands still as the audience is collectively transfixed by the music we are a single entity absorbed and re-vitalised by the cleansing sound of guitars washing the dust away.
Tonight, music is a celebration of the sound of Americana with a willing audience participating in Ain’t Got The Blues, no-one in the audience tonight had the blues the music was a celebration of the positive, feeling good was the result. Another number celebrating the sound of the Acoustic guitar was One Horse Town. All to soon time was catching up the encore left us with a trio of delights. We wanted more, tonight Blackberry Smoke were on top of the game. The guitar harmonies flawless, the percussive rhythm full of edge and the vocals poured out across the auditorium. Closing with Ain’t Much Left, the music had said it all. Live Music rocks with Blackberry Smoke and Biters tonight.
Kaz Hawkins Kicking Up A Music Storm At The Tunnels
Outside as the March wind blew through Bristol, we knew that the hot sirocco of a vocals storm was brewing in The Tunnels as Kaz Hawkinsand her band hit the stage. Kaz is riding on a blues fuelled crest of a wave as she embarks on a mini British tour and they were tight and hot across a set that made us laugh, cry and be awash with the emotional power of live music. Fresh from a solo trip to Nashville and the band reaching the semi-finals of the International Blues Challenge with the U.K. having a band showcasing British Blues for the first time at the event.
Tonight, it was as we all expected a rip-roaring performance from the band who grow from strength to strength. The rhythm section brothers bassist Ján and drummer Peťo Uhrin provide more than a solid base. The rhythms were deep and adding another layer of drama into the mix is the fiery fender displays from guitarist Nick McConkey. His tasty licks and hooks are a feature of the Kaz sound providing the perfect accompaniment for the full-on power of Kaz.
The set was full of firm favourites from her debut album Get Ready and her latest Feelin’ Good with numbers that mix up the blues with funk, country, and Celtic soul, every number sung as if for the first time from the heart. Every song is a special moment for everyone who had turned out to The Tunnels on a Thursday night. Those who missed her tonight in Bristol missed a night of live music fireworks. As Kaz sung Believe With Me, we all believed in the music being delivered this is blues with an extra shot of high-octane energy. As Kaz arranged her signature petticoats as she sat behind the keys to sing This Is Me, dedicated to everyone searching for inner strength and a pray for all of us to love ourselves for who we are. Like all of Kaz’s numbers, the emotions are raw, personal and hit your spine with honesty and soulfulness. Kaz’s songwriting is always aspired by real people, I Saw A Man, about a homeless man Kaz met in London, but always dedicated to Belfast man Norman the intensity of the lyrics are added to by the drumming of Peťo using felted drumsticks, the beat is muffled beating out the endless repeating rhythm as if walking the streets as Kaz narrates the tale hitting the high notes with perfect pitch and howling with pain and then the deep colour of her powerful voice adding to the drama.
Tonight was a time for smiling as well as tears with fans flying in from Belfast and an old friend from school days seeing after a long time no wonder Belfast Time was included in the mix. But Kaz is more than the power of her vocals it is her ability to connect with people. As she shares fears and bad times of her life along with celebration of hitting two out of three life goals, making a career in Music, being a non-smoker both ticked off and now she embarks on becoming fit under the supervision of her personal trainer. Kaz laughs with you and at herself, with a wardrobe failure her hair would not behave, first losing the scarf and then escaping the pins. This is Kaz, a real person who wants you to find the power of life through her songs.
A song that always brings a smile and tonight we all enjoyed singing on Hallelujah Happy People a real highlight of her set as is Feelin Good, a great rearrangement of this classic. With a great emotional lead break from Nick as the first half finished we were all feeling good in the presence of Miz Kaz.
Opening, the second set was a Kaz solo with her acoustic guitar a song she recently wrote in the Bluebird Café in Nashville, The River That Sings. Dedicated to Alabama legend Tom Hendrix and the wonderful stone wall, taking over thirty years to complete in memory of the 600 miles his Great, great Grandmother walked. As the notes faded and the applause filled the venue the boys came back on stage.
Her teenage years were difficult and the cleansing power of the emotional Believe in Me and the songs inspired by ex-boyfriends, Drink With The Devil and Can’t Afford Me put them firmly in their place out of Kaz’s life. We had soul with Soul Superstar and a flick of the legendary petticoats and the wide smile that warms The Tunnels. The night closed with Kaz’s re-working of I Just Want To Make Love To You, and then the encore with Shake that allows Kaz to display the full vocal range and colour of her voice. Kaz Hawkins Kicking Up A Music Storm At The Tunnels as she took her turn on the drums, reaffirming this is not an act to miss.
With the love of Kaz’s warm heart and the power of her vocals ringing in our ears we collectively wish her and the band every success as they go off to The European Blues Challenge in Denmark.
Double Bill of Blues Delights, Kirk Fletcher Then
Memories and the music that is the sound portrait of his father. More Blues within the jazz with a double bill of blues delights, Kirk Fletcher followed by Mud Morganfield. Starting the late afternoon helping of the blues, Kirk Fletcher with Jonny Henderson on Hammond and Matt Brown on drums.
The second trio of the afternoon, again like Robben Ford earlier, there is no bass player. Who needs a bass player when you have Jonny Henderson’s left-hand prowess. For anyone who says the blues sounds the same come and listen to Robben Ford followed by Kirk Fletcher, two trios with the guitarist and vocalist the main attraction, both from the USA; inspired by the roots of the blues from the Cottonfields of the Southern states of America. Kirk Fletcher is more intense dripping in blues licks, soul and emotion. Kirk Fletcher recognised by many as an outstanding blues player, having been lead guitarist for four years with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and as part of the Joe Bonamassa sound. Everyone, who loves the blues was saddened to hear the death of blues harmonica maestro James Cotton, it was no surprise that Kirk dedicated a number to him.
As the afternoon morphed into early evening no-one was running out of the hall as Kirk played Run, Run, Run. With a new album in the pipeline joining his four previous albums, a live one and three in the studio; we had a preview with a number dedicated to Stevie Ray Vaughan a stylish instrumental that blended the trio together. The afternoon set consisted of tracks from his repoitoire made alive with the power and energy of a quality jam as Jonny and Matt took up the blues challenge laid down by Kirk’s dynamic guitar playing. If you didn’t know you would have thought they had played together for years, rather than just for the festival as he heads off to Europe for a tour. The good news is he is back in the UK in the autumn and will definitely be back in Bristol at The Tunnels. The set was smooth a cocktail of blues guitar with a new song included with Kirk exploring the eternal question Wish I Had The Answer. This is blues that is full of the whole palette and warmed the hall up for the second helping on the double bill Mud Morganfield.
As the band supporting Mud filled the stage it was the first harmonica, first bass and first grand piano, as we settled to enjoy the reliving of the blues power of Muddy Waters through his son Mud Morganfield brought up in Chicago by his mother and uncles, his father Muddy was an occasional visitor. He did not take up music despite being surrounded by music growing up until after his father’s death in 1983. Following a dream he decided to swap truck driving to being a professional blues singer with his vocals instantly recognisable in the similarity to downtown finger clicking Chicago blues as Mud Morganfield shared memories whilst creating a sound portrait of his father this is so much more than a tribute it is the reenactment, as near to the real deal as is humanly possible. We also had the first slide guitar of the day and it was deliciously sharp as Mud was dancing to the beat much to the delight of Colston Hall this evening.
The blues were hollered up in every shade with lead breaks and play from all the instruments in turn as hooks for Mud’s vocals as he delivered his father’s catalogue of classics. Mud Morganfield is the legacy that keeps the legend live on stages across the world. We definitely got our Mojo Working, as we met the Seventh Son and left with the Backdoor Man. The musicianship was fantastic and we all left with the soul of Muddy’s legacy ringing in our ears as we moved on to the next act at the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival.
Making Wednesday Rock at
The Marble Factory
Wednesday night, midweek low, no one informed the loud, enthusiastic Bristol crowd out to party and have fun with live music. Before the main event the stage and Marble Factory was filled with the German duo of The Picturebooks, Fynn Claus Grabke (Vocals, Guitar) and drummer Philipp Mirtschink. Alternative, primaeval with intense drumming and the acoustic guitar amplified. The rock is hard and heavy and the blues deep with very dark rhythms conjuring the dark history behind the blues. This is music that growls with the heartbeat of the drum booming through the venue. Returning to Bristol unsurprising the set was heavy with tracks from their new album Home is Heartache. The duo creating unique textures and tones that are mesmerising drawing you deep into the tribal grind of a combination for dirty acoustic layered with slide and the drumming that is hard and loud from a drum kit with not a cymbal in sight just a ships bell. The rhythms punch with heavyweight intensity on I Need That Oooh with its infectious chorus. With a metallic grandeur, Cactus filled the venue. The set was intense for everyone with Fynn & Philipp drenched in sweat, they really put themselves deep into the rhythmic groove they create and the audience is hot and excited the venue is now definitely ready for a Monster Truck fest.
Once The Picturebooks’, kit was removed from the stage, friends had time to catch up and then Canadian quartet Monster Truck took to The Marble Factory stage to a roar of delight. Vocalist Jon Harvey, centre-stage with his trademark toolbox to rest his foot on, with no monitor posturing he lets the classic rock do the talking. Completing the Monster Truck sound, fun loving hard rocking good-time music are guitarist, Jeremy Wilderman, on keys Brandon Bliss and drummer Steve Kiely. The set was heavy with tracks from the current album Sittin’ Heavy and the earlier Furiosity what a combination, a guarantee for a fun, energising rip-roaring Wednesday.
Opening the proceedings with Why Are You Not Rocking, the reality was the opposite we were ecstatic in the presence of great rock that had everyone jumping, cheering and empowered by music that hit home deep in your musical soul. Classic rock given a modern twist doesn’t get better than this. This is rock that is uncomplicated and honest delivered by a band whose stage presences is warm and the playing is tight and as Monster Truck are having fun playing it would just be stupid not to join in the party they are having on stage. The set rolled on with favourite following favourite the truck was rolling with charismatic power that was controlled, wild and infectious re-energizing as you connected to the music, hands in the air singing along to the words. With The Enforcer full of steely determination recorded it is superb live it reaches another energy level as the iron fist of the track the chorus line pulls the whole audience we want to be enforced by Monster Truck. One of many highlights on the night was She’s A Witch, as Jon Harvey sung, ‘that girls got a demon in her soul’ we all had the demon that is Monster Truck rock in our souls tonight.
The rock was rolling, the audience sang loud and full of pleasure as Sweet Mountain River, we all wanted to be in the city with the truckers tonight. It may be work on Thursday, but time and reality stood still tonight we all wanted them to play on and on through the night. The sheer quality of the set totally blew me away. No wonder tonight Bristol redefined Wednesdays as the new awesome live music night at the Marble Factory. Once again, words cannot do justice to the musicianship and power of live music, get out and see them for yourself you will not regret listening to the classic rock that is Monster Rock, riffing good fun with a tinge of blue.
With an encore of three wonderful numbers closing the proceedings with The Lion. The lion of rock definitely roared tonight thanks to Monster Truck. Come back soon. Monster Truck Making Wednesday Rock at The Marble Factory
Debut EP of a young rough, ready and raw Stone Theory. The opening track, Gaggin’ For It; is rough not in a punk rock way but with a unpolished feel; fuzzy and loud with vocals have a roughness that is not always pleasing to the ear. The harsh metallic rock defines the album and the blues is hinted at in odd lucid moments. Combining metal and blues is a large leap and perhaps for Stone Theory is a leap of faith too far. Learn the genres first get the standard structures in place, then fuse them.
For me. the vocals groan and grind across the whole album. The fifth and final track is the only cover with an unrecognisable metallic Backdoor Man, this would have been the time to stop shouting and show that you understand the essence of the blues.
Stone Theory, a rock band in theory with potential, Debut EP’s are an opportunity to get used to playing in a studio on recording own material and creating style. Stone Theory is a project being built, the Stones are rough-hewn out of granite face, the quartet have yet to let time and confidence polish the edges to emerge as a coherent band. Yes, a young band that has yet to develop a sound that is what the theory is all about, a rock band that is stepping on the ladder and learning the trade. This debut EP will start the building blocks of a fan base.
Read Why Tonight Glenn Hughes was pure Gold as he Resonated across The Fleece
Glenn Hughes was pure Gold as he resonated across The Fleece. But first, we have the young band that is wowing audiences across the airways and live wherever they play. Yes, Stone Broken hit Bristol tonight with many fans already in the audience. They played to a packed Fleece, full of anticipation for Glenn Hughes. There is no doubt that this loud rock driven band caught our attention and we wanted to hear the music. This was a support that excited, left you wanting more. What makes Stone Broken, the band radios want to play and audience what to go out and see live? Chemistry. Yes, that magical distillation where all the band blend and create a cohesive rock sound combined with commitment. The commitment that they will have fun playing music that gives you pleasure. With Rich Moss on vocals that climb above the drumming of Robyn Haycock so that the lyrics are never lost in the guitar and bass maelstrom from Chris Davis and Kieron Conroy. Every track was nailed to the mast of Stone Broken live, as they head across Europe with Glenn Hughes throughout February. The standout number in the oh too short set was Waiting For You, you may have heard it played on the radio but live it has a raw vibrant energy. New songs that will be on the next album given an airing tonight were Just A Memory which is a heavier sound, and This Is Life. Long may Stone Broken climb reaching new audiences creating solid rock music that entertains.
Short break, we draw breath and Glenn Hughes is on stage to a rip-roaring cheer from the crowd that must have lifted his spirits. Throughout the night, Glenn shared insights into Glenn the person sharing his love for his loyal music friends. We shared his grief, he was playing tonight giving The Fleece audience the music we wanted to hear, despite the emotional pain of his mother passing the night before. The emotions flowed off the stage and back from the audience as we were bathed in the love that is Glenn, and the mutual love for music that rocks from Deep Purple days through to his latest acclaimed album Resonate.
Tonight, Glenn Hughes was pure Gold as he resonated across The Fleece. The band provided the backdrop for his bass and vocals that climbed the octaves with a purity that enchanted us all. Glenn hit the ground running, on form with those clear, powerful vocals. What a voice. And to think it was his fourth instrument of choice graduating from the piano, to guitar, to bass then finding his voice at nineteen. He has been on fire for the whole tour building energy from people that love the rock he brings into our lives; tonight was no exception with raw energy, poignancy and the ability to make each song fresh as if being sung for the first time. Glenn connected personally with everyone in the audience, he was singing for each and every one of us. Let’s not forget his sublime string bending bass playing that resonates its deep chords through every number. With a great tight band behind him, guitarist Soren Andersen powerhouse of a drummer Pontus Engborg completing the trio from Scandinavia tonight on Hammond Organ Jay Doe bringing memories of Jon Lord into The Fleece tonight. Thanks to Glenn and his introductions and praise of the band at the end of the set we also know the height and weight of the monstrous trio that is a platform for Glenn Hughes to leap from.
We heard from Trapeze, with Medusa always a crowd please and sounds so very good, as he recalled that this was his first song written sitting at his mother’s kitchen table aged seventeen The number has longevity, tonight was rejuvenated as Glenn appears to be. The writing and recording of Resonate the catalyst, writing the songs while recovering from double knee operations a mighty album was formed. Deep Purple’s Might Just Save Your Life was awesome, the emotions rippled and we were collectively joined at the hip with Glenn and his band.
What a set list every number was electric. Then the encore first Heavy from Resonate and then Purple’s Burn. Tonight we were burning hot in the hot rock music that defines Glenn Hughes 2017. What a night, live music that adds to memories and brings love to every rocker’s heart.
Walking, Talking Singing Beth Hart Wins Colston Hall Hearts
Colston Hall, sold out always has a fizzing vibe add into to that the expectation of Beth Hart it was before the event like a champagne popping festival.
Before the main act, Canadian Colin James opened the evening joined on stage by band member Chris Cordell. A stunning, crowd-pleasing authentic acoustic blues duo, finger picking, slide showing the dexterity of the fingers as both guitar tones complimented each other. Colin James vocals were strong shaping the lyrics and backing from Chris providing deep tones gave a depth of interest. With the latest album Blue Highway selling well we were treated to Sam Cook and Otis Rush. Colin’s resonator had a great sound that resonated with the audience who were enjoying the music with all the anticipation of Beth bubbling around the auditorium.
The Colston Hall audience were delighted to welcome Beth Hart back to Bristol. As all eyes were on the stage as the band walked on and the opening bars of More Than You’ll Ever filled the hall the vocals of Beth were heard from the back of the auditorium. Dressed in black with stunning red high heels she walked down the stairs stopping to hug, shake hands and smile without missing a beat. Beth took time as she delighted fans by being up close and personal and then she stepped up onto the stage and her band and Beth were reunited. What an entrance, spellbinding, personal and was a hint of how the rest of the evening was going to be.
There is a story behind every number which Beth shared with candour, openness and a few tears with the audience. The hard reality of the lyrics behind the songs were laid bare for the audience to pick over. We saw Beth with microphone, behind the piano and playing guitar, the set list was altered and Colston heard songs not planned but which felt right to Beth tonight. Yes, there were numbers from her current album Fire On the Floor including Coca-Cola and Fat Man. The two songs are so very different one looking back to days on the beach as the teenager and the other, Fat Man, a critic of decadence , and greed a high energy rockier number. But tonight was not about promoting the latest it was about singing the songs that Beth felt she wanted to share with this audience.
Celebrating her home and its quirky uniqueness Beth, accompanied by her acoustic guitar, serenaded The Ugliest House On The Block. It was stage presence and more tonight, Beth engaged with the packed house on so many levels through her songs and sitting staring and looking directly at you. Beth made it feel as she was singing to each of us individually in a small venue, not a packed concert hall.
There were so many spine-tingling tear jerking moments but, A Good Day To Cry was immense in its emotional delivery tonight. We wanted the music to go on but as ever the curfew was winning as Beth asked her husband if she could play one more for him. Thinking about it discarding some songs she decided tonight as the night to sing from Better Than Home, We’re Still Living In The City. Beth and her piano made this such an intimate gig in a large theatre, what talent, what personality as someone shouted, “We love you, Beth!”
The encore again was a change from the script with her wonderful emotive version of I’d Rather Go Blind and then singing A Capella version of the song, because her Manager prefers it that way, As long As I have A Song, tonight was special. Thank you, Beth, as you sang you did Pour a Dream tonight.
Tonight we were enchanted under the spell of Beth’s aural seduction her vocals purred, growled and beseeched as she filled the hall with warmth, sadness and hope.
Beth Hart tonight delivered more than a song, more than a show it was open, heart-rending connecting to us on an individual level. Tonight was music therapy for everyone.
Ol’ Glory, Bands and Music JJ Grey in Conversation
BD: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me after the sound check, which did sound very good outside, and before tonight’s show at The Tunnels on a sunny Sunday in Bristol. JJGrey: No problem, yes it is like a warm day where I live in Jacksonville
BD: Is this your first time in Bristol? JJGrey: I have played here before. It should be my third but the second time I was due to play Bristol the whole plan was de-railed. I was on a train from Paddington to Templemeads, just above the Tunnels and the train broke down around Slough so never got to the gig on time. So glad to be back in Bristol the tour bus outside ensured and looking forward to the show tonight
BD: Over the years your band or Mofro has changed tell us about your current line-up JJGrey: It is a mix of new and established. As usual Denis Marion Trumpet and Todd Smallie Bass,
Craig Barnette on Drums has re-joined played on my second album Lochloosa with Zach Gilbert guitarist and trumpeter Marcus Parsley. The band works around the sound we produces dirty and funky. Mofro changes, and I have played with many fine musicians. Including Greyhounds (Anthony Farrell & Andrew Trube) who have a recording contract and doing their own.
BD: Your lyrics are powerful, they unfurl with a story that has to be told. Where do you get your inspiration for you songwriting? JJGrey: Songwriting, just comes, it just happens. I try not to get too involved with the lyrics. Not to over think them. Writing songs is like a conversation sometimes you struggle to find the perfect word but like talking it normally just flows. Lyrics are for the voice they are the support. The voice then mimics the emotion and tells the story.
I believe everyone can write a song. It is about finding lyrics that express an emotion. BD: Really! I am certain that I do not have the skill to write a song. Example of what I am saying, a friend of the Greyhounds was in a tumultuous relationship and she wrote about it, the result a great number with great lines she captured the moment.
BD: Do you have a track on the album that is personal to you? JJGrey: I love them all. If I had to pick one it would be The Island. The song was written quickly it gives the song a freshness. I wrote the song in the studio and is about where I live, in Jacksonville Florida, near the Florida/Georgia line.
BD: Your Latest Album, Ol Glory,with its dozen new songs is out on CD and Vinyl a growing retro trend – is that important to you? JJGrey: Starting off with vinyl I have always loved vinyl my last album Georgia Warhorse was also released on vinyl. I would have done all my albums on vinyl but back in the eighties it became so thin, and poor quality with thin grooves and the demand fell. Now people want to buy vinyl often in combination with download for the regular playing. Not to play like we did in the day take to parties, leave around and then put nickels and dimes on the arm to reduce the effect of scratches.
BD: You are back in the UK do you find audiences different here compared to US & Europe? JJGrey: The reality is the UK is more like USA there are so many connections we have lots in common including for many relatives we understand each other. Our good comedy’s work in the UK and vice versa.
Across Europe audiences are different Germany for example, are very quiet and then enthusiastic when the show is over. Across the UK there are many different vibes all are good Allow you to be different in your performance, sometimes it is quieter and other times the audience want to party. I modify the set list to fit the mood how I deliver a song and for quieter audience’s ballads fit in perfectly. Everybody is part of the show, I do not see the stage as an imaginary wall where it is us (the Band) and audience. An example of this I saw Blind Boys of Alabama the audience was in-tune with the show and I was moved to tears. Couple week’s later different audience and the set not as good as the audience did not connect. BD: I saw them in Cardiff and they were amazing with the audience joining in and the atmosphere was intense, were as I have been to gigs where the audience just sit and listen more like a classical performance. JJ Grey: Yes, I must play in Wales, BD: That be good some great venues in Cardiff that would appreciate the JJ Grey sound. JJ Grey: A show is like a good conversation there is a flow between stage and the audience. An analogy of what I am trying to say would be – If two people have a conversation and one talks and the other says nothing. The person who hasn’t spoken says well that wasn’t a good conversation. Musicians are the same we need feedback from the audience something beyond the performance and the music then gets its own energy and the conversation between performer and audience flows.
BD: Last night a Chapel tonight in the Tunnels underneath Temple Meads, two very quirky venues. JJGrey: Yes, they are very different to each other with their own challenges. The Chapel was beautiful and had strict Db limits. We are not a loud band but we had to turn down the volume. The sound was good there was a different tone and suited the venue. Tonight I am hoping Bristol is hot, loud and wants to party and you to take the lead in raising the noise, he says with a laugh.
BD: You voice is central to the sound, do you take special care of the eighth instrument in JJ Grey and Mofro? JJGrey: To tell the truth I have been so guilty in the past I have been singing since I was 17 and for thirty years took no notice of my voice. Things have changed, in the last 3-4 years, I have taken more notice of my vocals and look after it. It is now I feel in better shape than ever I can singer lower and higher than when I was 18! Yes, when on tour I suffer from some wear and tear by the end but after a day or two, it recovers. When singing three straight weeks that is not surprising. When I was with Alligator Records I always had the attitude you can’t beat me they nearly did when I had nineteen shows in seventeen shows, plus radio shows when in town. I did say that enough is enough after that tour.
BD If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing? JJGrey: Bass: James Jamerson (he was bassist at Mowtown Records) Drums: Roger Hawkins (Drummer at Muscle Shoals) Guitars: Derek Trucks – Slide
Luther Dickinson Trumpet:Clark Terry Vocals: Donny Hathaway Saxophone: Eddie Harris Keys: Donny Hathaway
And I would fire myself, just have the joy of sitting back and listening every day.
Tonight no camera so could concentrate on the music from the first to the last so one advantage of no photography permission for the show.
The hall was packed, the audience excitable and I wondered how many would try and take mobile phone shots despite being informed on entry NO Photography. Yes, people still did leaving the stewards the impossible task of identifying and re-informing people and this was a distraction from the music I certainly did not want. The staff handled the situation so well, but they should not have had to do this we were told – respect the artist wishes and just sit back and enjoy the show of magical Cornell sound. Then there was the getting up and down… gripes over and on with the glory that was Colston Hall a Garden of Sound with Chris Cornell. With no opening act due to circumstances beyond control, it was straight to the main act we all wanted to hear. Opening with Before We Disappear, from Higher Truth, with Bryan Gibson on keys,the lights illuminated the backdrop and red heart, script and diagrams the show was underway.
The songs flowed and the set list was extensive – twenty-three numbers plus three additional in the encore. The set was interspersed with tracks from his latest album including Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart and Worried Moon, and the Sound Garden tracks Black Hole Sun and Blow Up The Outside World. The re-writing/updating of the Dylan classic re-titled Times Are Changing Back was a highlight showing that this was a set-list that entertained with sighs, laughs and tears.
For over two and half hours Chris Cornell entertained with a smile, witty stories and interaction with a packed house and his music spanning the Sound Garden years and his solo career joined on stage for some of the tracks by multi-instrumentalistBryan Gibson with cello and keys. His tribute to Prince was raw and stripped back so the intensity of every word was savoured and then spread out across the auditorium, yes Prince Nothing Compares to You and a purple stage reflecting back the emotions still tender to touch for so many music fans. In the mix tonight was Josephine, for his wife. The stage had an extra member tonight, mandolin player James from Nottingham who Chris had first met at the Manchester gig who joined Chris on Fell On Black Days after displaying a request placard. Impressed invited back for a repeat performance tonight in Bristol. This is what makes live music so special, always expect the unexpected. Fans shouted out requests that will have been a muffled noise by the time they hit the stage, Chris felt he had caught the words Drunk In the Forest a song title that should have been written, So we had a new experimental ditty from him including the importance of having crumbs (which he did not) in your pocket before wandering and getting lost in a forest! Quick wits and fun exuding from the stage tonight. It was truly A Day In The Life of a musician and a great rendition of this Beatles number from Sgt. Peper’s album, and then closing the set with the words of John Lennon’s Imagine, if only we all could all live as one in harmony.
The music was spellbinding a walk through the music of Chris with Bond, James Bond the theme to Casino Royale You Know My Name and it was received with delight by the audience spellbound by musical narrative unfolding on stage. People were on the edges of their seats as their own special Cornell song was delivered to a Colston Hall that wanted to hear more from the singer of songs on stage tonight.
Ghosts swirled, ebbed and flowed of music past, lovers lost and found and musicians who have passed. The web flowed through Sound Garden and Chris Cornell’s material Dylan to Prince, Michael Jackson to Led Zepplin, Beatles and Metallica and U2 joined together in a Cornell Mash-up we were united as One applauding the power of music, the emotional feast of lyrics. Thank you, Chris Cornell we stood and appreciated as the fading notes of the title song of his current album Higher Truth faded away. The passion of live music lived on long after the lights of Colston Hall were switched off tonight!