Dana Fuchs – Bliss Avenue

Dana Fuchs – Bliss Avenue – RUF Records – Released 9th July 2013

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The opening and title track is blisteringly good, it is as hot as the summer’s day outside, I was totally absorbed into the power and emotion of ‘Bliss Avenue‘ for just under 3 minutes I was spellbound as Dana weaves her musical magic around me the combination of her voice and the understated but powerful beat of the musicians. The lyrics are powerful, soulful and gut wrenching this is a glorious cocktail mix of influences from the gospel, southern rock/blues with generous measures of soul and roots of the highest calibre mixed in and poured over icy granite rock. My only concern was how could this high-powered opening number be followed, well when an artist of this quality and style with such a wonderful voice combined with the song-writing skills that with her guitarist Jim Diamond she has created an album full of texture, charm, sorrow and gritty determinism as Dana sings about loss, loneliness from her perspective BUT this is never a self-centred introspective collection of songs. The tracks all have merits and the CD engages you throughout the twelve songs and nearly fifty minutes; for me the tracks that stand out are ‘How Did Things Get This Way’ with its gritty rocky beat matches and at the same time contrasts Dana’s vocals; ‘Baby Loves the Life’; a gentler tempo with a hint of country and this makes the lyrics stand out, ‘Long Long Game’ with a nod at the hollering style of a gospel choir mixed with country rock, but still for me the real stand out track is the opening title track – ‘Bliss Avenue’. The band that delivers a beautiful sound for Dana to hang her lyrics are Jon Diamond (Guitar); Jack Daley (Bass); Shawn Pelton (Drums); Glenn Patascha (Keys) they deliver track after track with the tempo, style and rhythm to meld the whole show together. This is life in all its colours delivered on a small gleaming disc, ‘Bliss Avenue” is perfectly formed, there is no doubt that Dana’s vocals are compared with Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and even Patti Smith but the reality is Dana’s style and approach is uniquely her own and a distillation of the road she has travelled since as a twelve-year-old she sung in The First Baptist Church on the outskirts of town until today and the release on the 9th July “Bliss Avenue” on RUF Records. There is no doubt this is an album with loads of confident swagger… so please tour the UK very soon so we can hear you live on stages across the country!

Bluesdoodles gives this CD a doodle rating of

Joe Satriani 12th June 2013 – Colston Hall, Bristol

Matt Schofield opening for Joe Satriani

There was a lot of nervous excitement at Colston Hall as the crowds surged in the doors past the Satriani road tour buses, expectations were high and everyone wanted the music to start.

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Kick starting the celebration of the guitar tonight was the Matt Schofield Trio with the phenomenal Evan Jenkins on drums and the ever-present Johnny Henderson on the Hammond organ. This line-up is my personal favourite there being an understanding, mutual respect and common purpose between all three of the musicians on stage. Matt is without doubt a quality guitarist delivering a purity with a style that has the competing combinations of control and freedom that produces a sound of the blues delivered like no other guitarist on the circuit today. His style is certainly distinctive readily recognisable and is fast becoming to the blues what Joe Satriani is to rock guitarists; thus this line-up makes perfect sense as this pair of consummate guitarist just took different forks in the road of the musical highway! It was a great set by the Matt Schofield Trio opening up the proceedings with favourites ‘Shipwrecked Baby‘; ‘Siftin’ Thru Ashes’ and ‘I Don’t Know What I’d Do’. It was obvious that they were loving playing in a larger venue with a great sound that suited them perfectly, and it was nice to see Matt out not with his faithful old Strat but his new It was not Matt’s old strat, its his new SVL 61 Reserve; it is awesome.

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We had the band that combines vocals and guitar playing now for the main act of the evening Joe Satriani, who has dropped the vocals and delivers an all-instrumental format with his band that includes on the Keys and second guitar Mike Keneally, formerly of Frank Zappa; where he was the renowned ‘stunt guitarist’! also on stage was Bass Player Bryan Beller, and heavy hitting drummer Marco Minnemann on drums. Joe Satriani is definitely a change of genre, now we have rock but let’s not get into this boring pigeon-holing debate – talent is talent and high quality live music is always a pleasure. Joe’s guitar playing on his collection of Ibanez guitars has a clarity and precision which reflects Matt’s playing so we have a great example tonight of two similar techniques producing different sounds, so a win-win event for all. Joe has without any argument a phenomenal technique using the whole of the electric guitar and more as he squeezes every drop of musicality out of the instrument producing a Technicolor aural event. Combining this music fest is the very presence of Joe Satriani’s iconic image, his dark glasses are almost “compound eyes” we really felt as if we were surfing with an alien.

The strobe effect of the video backdrop complimented the urgency of the sound with some wicked foot stomping rhythms; the video footage changed reflecting the mood of the music that was definitely pleasing the crowds and we were being treating to a cosmopolitan listening extravaganza. Tracks included tonight dreamingly from another place, ‘Flying in a Blue Dream’ and the complete opposite with an awesome rendition of a Satriani signature track ‘Satch Boogie’ that is a foot stamping affair that raises the blood level; what ever the number a generous fox of Satriani guitar magic dust was added to the diverse mix this was always going to include tracks from his highly acclaimed current album including an opportunity for harmonisation with Mike on the title track, Unstoppable Momentum demonstrating different guitar styles that blend and weave together.

The most amazing mix for me of video and music was the backdrop of a wide open panorama of an American Highway which drew you in and the music transported you out of Colston Hall and right onto the freeway as a guitar anthem ‘Shine on American Dreams’; it was like living a dream of pure freedom for a few precious musical moments.
I am no guitar geek, and this was the first time I had heard Joe Satriani live, and I was not disappointed and the guitar changes were not just to bring on the technicians they did sound different and matched the tracks being played; so this was no self-indulgent process but like everything else Satriani does it was for the music! I was disappointed that the music wasn’t more avant-garde; it felt like this was delivery of music and guitar techniques honed to perfection and now he had stopped setting himself and the audiences any aural challenges.

Overall, despite the lack of interaction between Joe Satriani and the audience making him seem rather remote, this was a fantastic evening of live music and would recommend anyone who has not experienced Joe Satriani live – go – you will be entertained and see some amazing guitar playing, and instrumental delectation that will be a treat to your senses.

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Federal Charm – debut CD

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Federal Charm – Federal Charm on Mystic Records – Release Date 15th July

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Federal Charm have been getting a lot of attention and that is not surprising with the PR and management support; but never mind the hype – does this début recording live up to the pre-release chatter – Bluesdoodles says yes, with a little ‘y’ – this is a band full of potential who have delivered. Federal Charm are a quartet of skilled musicians comprising: Nick Bowden, lead vocal & guitar; Paul Bowe, lead guitar; L.D. Morawaski, Bass and Danny Rigg, drums, who draw on a veritable list of styles though they are not boxed in by them. They have yet to really stamp their own style that makes them really stand out in the crowded arena of mixed genre bands borrowing licks from the blues and rock riffs from the 1970’s. What this début offering though does offer is a fresh modern sound, they are not retro. This is achieved by 11 self-penned tracks that means the material and sound produced suit the individuality of all four members; yet this is an album that conveys a neat fitting collective sound with a sparkle and fizz that makes the CD such an enjoyable listen. The quality of the production by John Green and the band keeps that raw edgy live sound and the addition extra musicians including keys and slide guitar add another layer to the sound but do not dominate so that it is the quartet that shines throughout.
The sound produced is British through and through and thankfully there is nothing that is faux American. They are reminiscent of many a rock band that borrowed from the blues because it is a genre they understand, enjoying the beat, and riffs but do not want to replicate the blues sound but add the in-your-face honesty of rock.
From the first track this is a band that plays with vim, vigour and vitality they are storming your stereo just as they would storm a stage creating in essence a live sound. The recording process has not misplaced this young band from Manchester their raw, earthy sound from the vocals through to guitar riffs and beyond. The only cover on the album ‘Reconsider’ showcases the guitar skills of Paul tipping his hat at Freddie King, as they rearrange Lowell Fulson’s ‘Reconsider Baby‘ they retain the laid back feel then suddenly for no reason the tempo changes and it should, like a poor re-mix interlude, have ended up on the cutting room floor. ‘Reaction‘; with its bluesy ballad feel is a strong track but what lets it down for me is though the introduction is a full sound leading into the vocals, it is simply too long. This is a common theme throughout and repeated on The Stray which for me is my favourite track; with its swirling guitar and strong vocals and the feeling that this is the real Federal Charm. On the plus side there are no long tedious over played guitar solos, the instruments are allowed to shine through as they blend together creating a sound that with a little more re-fining could provide a truly distinctive hook on which Federal Charm should hang their second CD. Tone down the rock dial and turn up the funky dirty blues that are hinted at throughout the recording. This would ensure that Federal Charm are the sound of 2013 and beyond and with their level of skill they do not need to look over one shoulder to the 1970’s stadia rock groups but a raw live embodiment of the spirit of the age today as they develop the building blocks of the past but not replicating them. This is a great first album and will definitely be one I will listen to and I am looking forward to seeing them live during 2013 when they visit Wales.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD a doodle rating of

Federal Charm Gigs
19th 53 DEGREES – Preston : Opening Michael Schenker
20th ROBIN 2 – Wolverhampton : Opening Michael Schenker

14th HOLMFIRTH PICTURE DROME, Holmfirth : Opening Manfred Mann

6th ROBIN 2 – Wolverhampton

New Generation Blues Tour featuring Mitch Laddie/Laurence Jones Band & Federal Charm
10th THE RITZ, Manchester
16th PATRIOT CLUB, Crumlin
21st BEAVERWOOD, Chilsehurst
22nd BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton
29th LIMELIGHT CLUB, Aylesbury

King King @ The Flowerpot, Derby – 27th April 2013

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The Flowerpot, Derby is a brilliant venue that combines some fantastic real ales with exceptional live music acts that appeal to the crowds that turn up to be entertained. King King, the main act of the evening, were supported by a young band Devlin Blue who hail from Lincoln, and are currently studying music in Guildford. They are a talented trio who delivered mainly self-penned rocky numbers with a hint of blues, but what makes them stand-out from the crowd is the combination of the lead taken by the bass player who had a lovely voice supported by Dave Devlin who played excellent lead guitar, showing the potential skills in this raw but exciting new band.

Then King King raised the temperature and Alan Nimmo was on fire tonight producing the exciting guitar work combined with the great interaction with his band his regular rhythm section Lindsay Coulson (Bass) and Wayne Proctor (Drums); and tonight Bob Fridzema (Keys) together delivering an accomplished mix of the trademark King King heavy blues sound and the venue was buzzing from the off. Kicking off this musical magical mystery ride was the ever popular ‘Don’t You Get The Feeling (You’ve Been Had)’ followed quickly by the first track from their much acclaimed second album, ‘Standing in The Shadows‘, ‘Long History of Love‘. As ever the whole evening was an accomplished performance from a band who can be depended on to deliver, track after track of glorious blues with an edge of jazz and funk; no wonder they are so popular, with the voice, rhythm and great banter making the show inclusive and such fun. It is Alan as the Red kilted Glaswegian that binds the group together and his chatter delights the crowds, as typified by his vocals on Frankie Miller’s ‘Jealousy‘; a quite brilliant rendition of and a fitting tribute to the great man. The crowd responded to the great music commenting “Class Act” and they “Just gets better”

As ever included in the set was one of their signature tracks, ‘Old Love‘ but tonight King King was joined by Dave Devlin; who matched Nimmo at every riff and the crowd watched on spell-bound as they saw this young man shine and Alan so willing to share the limelight of the moment as the sound was taken down to near silence and the chords plucked on the electric guitars; everyone will remember it was at The Flowerpot; courtesy of Raw Promotions that they heard this raw young talent play with Alan Nimmo.

All too soon it was goodnight Derby; then the encore and a great cover version of Heavy Load; during this great version, if you closed your eyes you would be forgiven for thinking that the combination of Paul Rogers and Paul Kosoff were on stage; but no once again it was Alan Nimmo and King King delivering what they do best quality. Like all good acts they left the crowds wanting more and they are assured of another packed house when they return to Derby.

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CD Review Albany Down – ‘Not Over Yet’

Albany Down imageAlbany Down‘s – “Not Over Yet” album – released on 8th April.

“Not Over Yet” is 12 new songs produced by Greg Haver and is second album from this young band demonstrates that they are intent on going places. This is Rock Blues, they are returning to the furrow ploughed by Zeppelin and moving it to Albany Down’s own territory.and is available from Albany Down Store; at gigs they are on tour at moment – dates at bottom of the review or other retail outlets on internet and beyond!

The album is skilfully produced by Greg Haver, who brings all his experience to ensure the riffs, strong melodic lines of music and vocals weave their collective magic in a true Brit Rock fashion with one foot firmly rooted at the crossroads of the Blues as demonstrated on ‘Travelling Blues’. Albany Down have a quartet of musicians who blend their respective talents so that the sum of the whole is definitely greater than they could individually produce. Paul Muir leads from the front with his powerful vocals that deliver the emotion of the lyrics, putting his wide vocal range to excellent use he has a voice that suits rocky blues matching the guitar riffs that play off his voice as in ‘My Lucky Streak’; demonstrating a musical empathy between him and guitarist Paul Turley with its slightly retro sound and the addition of blues harp courtesy of Paul T. The rhythm section is the heartbeat of the band Damien Campbell on drums & bassist Billy Dedman providing the beat for the two Paul’s to build off giving them the confidence and freedom that a grounded rhythm section provides. This approach provides a full sound that is the band’s and not just the ego of the lead; this approach is reflected throughout this 12 track self-penned album. As the band tend to write together, talking about the tempo and feel of a song then it is Paul Turley’s job to develop the guitar parts and Paul Muir adds the lyrics which are generally about relationships. His album is a strong album that has a natural flow throughout the 52 minutes playing time; and the progression of songs makes sense. There is an eastern theme that threads its way through the songs and is redolent of hookah’s, dancing-girls and a generous dollop of hippy rock of flowing kaftans. Each track is an homage to the past greats of rock but more importantly they look forward to a British sound of the 21st century. It is a live sound full of youthful energy, the tracks speak to you with their own swaggering beat with a myriad of musical influences simmering beneath the surface. This is a confident second album, as demonstrated in the title track ‘Not Over Yet’, confirming that they intend to rise to higher heights looking forward to the next album already, this is a talented band whose meteor is definitely rising fast. The closing track of the album ‘The Working Man’ is just over seven minutes and is a rock epic full of strong lyrics and sizzling guitar work and Billy D on bass creates a feeling of apprehension with a guttural bass line that matches the emotion of the track of despair and where is hope when work/life and love is no longer in balance. With the lines line “We gotta fight for the working man” is this the song of protest that will light the pathway to action. This is a thoroughly modern rock blues album and a mighty pleasing listen too; great lyrics, delivered by a group of talent musicians that makes you smile and want to hear more.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD a doodle rating of

Get down and see this awesome band live and pick up a CD…

27th April – BEDFORD – Karma Bar
30th April – LONDON – 100 Club
8th May – FROME+ – Rook Lane Arts
9th May – TAVISTOCK+ – Wharf
10th May – PENZANCE+ – The Acorn
22nd June – CLEETHORPES – Blues Festival
23rd June – DURHAM – Blues Festival

NOTE: + Guests of Chantel McGregor

Henry’s Funeral Shoe @ Odins Rock Club, Ebbw Vale – 5th April 2013

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A packed house at, Odin’s Rock Club was geared up to be entertained once again by four acts, with Henry’s Funeral Shoe as head-liner. The evening started off with an acoustic act, Richard Gardner, the former ‘Circle Of One’ axe man who delivering powerful ballads delivered with an edge a mix of self-penned and surprising acoustic covers including AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’; this was not a soft and gentle set it had a deep down dirty feel to it at times. Richard was followed by two local South Wales Rock Bands. First storming the stage with a full-on sound are local act Dead Shed Jokers, delivered superb riffs and a solid sound, that showed this band were not joking about the delivery of rock that and twists of influences from Sabbath through to Muse that raised the temperature of the crowded venue.

They were quickly followed by another local band, ‘Fireroad‘, featuring Richard Jones as the band’s front-man, who played in his youth with Tragic Love Company the fore-runner of what became the Stereophonics. This band knows how to entertain delivering a class act that musically tilted their hat at the Phonics whilst have an originality that certainly got the crowds dancing to great songs from their album delivered with verve and energy playing great tunes by a band that really enjoyed playing together.

Then the head-line act that with a flourish this energised duo, Henry’s Funeral Shoe, stormed the stage with verve and energy that burned out of them delivering a high-octane mixture of their distinctive sound that defies pigeon-holing. They are definitely delivering spot-on music that is outside of the box whilst true to the roots of the sound they create they deliver song after song that is progressive blues rock with a large spoonful of attitude and a generous shake of punk. The brothers Aled on guitar and vocals and Brennig on Drums create an enormous sound that grows and grows as they shape their instruments to deliver a truly unique sound that pleases their growing following of dedicated fans. This is music that is different at times challenging but still accessible and pleasing to the ear, the pair are not different for the sake of it they are performing blues that is Welsh, edgy, rocky but still true to its original roots. Brennig’s percussive and powerful drumming leads the music on a journey that engages with the audiences with exciting use of sticks which he throws into the air catches and never misses a beat; he is the heartbeat of the band. Whilst Aled at the front displayed slide guitar skills that were simply awesome producing a swampy sound that merges with drum beat and at the same time soars above the rhythm section, which combines well with his gravelly rich voice adding texture and another tonal layer to this complex mix, that definitely does at times tip its hat to the Texan Blues/Southern Rock sound. Henry’s Funeral Shoe produces a full sound generating a quite unique take on the genre and is a band to watch out for and they are destined for success on the blues circuit having performed throughout Europe and USA and delivered two albums to date. These two a true showmen, who have drunk deep at the well of originality and merged this onto a solid backbone of blues that could only have been honed down at the crossroads; wow what more could you ask from a live act – stunning slide guitar and exciting colourful drumming hitting the right tempo every-time; no wonder everyone wanted more…. they could have played on and on and no-one would have complained.

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Abertillery Blues Rock Festival Friday 12th July 2013


This gem of a festival is returning for its ninth year… once again in the majestic setting of Abertillery Park, deep in the valleys of South Wales under the shadow of the Arael Mountain. The now familiar tradition of a big top circus tent and comparing supplied by Bob and Norm from GTFM; famous or is that infamous for their Monday night blues show who last night previewed the line-up for what is going to be a fantastic weekend of music from Friday 12th to Saturday 13th July with TEN confirmed acts and a special mystery band to be announced in May…

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Another great Abertillery Blues Rock Festival line-up and a mystery guest which is all very intriguing and adds to a sense of excitement and anticipation so all very intriguing – the waiting game may be for the final act to be announced BUT that sold not stop you getting your ticket NOW as the line-up is already very exciting with a mix of local, national and international bands already lining up to entertain you. In addition to the bands the beer tent will keep you refreshed and once again Rhymney Brewery will be supplying Festival Ale; in addition to the beer tent will be food and hot beverages available throughout the weekend and camping once again as been laid on very near to the festival grounds. All this for a weekend ticket costing £40 (Friday and Saturday tickets are also available separately) and camping at £10 for the weekend including motor-homes.

The music will be provided by:-

Vincent Flatts Final Drive – The band originated in Birmingham, and from the sound they create you would be forgiven for thinking Birmingham, Alabama – not the West Midlands famous city! They blend together an energetic Southern Rock style with a swirl of ZZ Top all mixed into the blues cocktail shaker with a generous slug of Jack Daniels.

Mick Pini Band – Mick performing live is a genuine real deal he does not use pedals or effects, just plays his rare 54 Strat that strikes every emotion as he makes the guitar sing, squeal, weep and moan, this is smoking blues from a real master.

Jo Harman and Company – Is stoking up a musical storm and her reputation is growing which has been further enhanced by her debut CD Dirt On My Tongue Jo is a comet on the rise and will delight the crowds with her stunning rootsy blues voice and world-class band they will create a perfect storm of music that will have the festival seeing a real star of the future.

Headliner for Friday is the ever popular – Mud Morganfield returning to the festival by popular demand. Bringing to the festival authentic Chicago Blues, Larry “Mud” Morganfield, eldest son of the legendary Muddy Waters, who was naturally drawn to music from a very early age. close your eyes and it is difficult to distinguish between father and son so everyone is going to be treated to a legendary end to the first night of Abertillery Blues Festival.

Jock’s Juke Joint Volume Two – CD Review


Jock’s Juke Joint Volume Two, is a compilation of delight across all eighteen tracks providing the perfect showcasing of the depth of talent in Scotland that sadly for the rest of us in the British Isles we rarely get to see live. Listening to this CD is the best use of seventy minutes I have had for a long time as I was introduced to band after band and left wanting more – this mix would be a top festival line-up for a blues festival that would bring real delight to all. The overall reflection of the CD is quality blues with the harmonica showcased at the highest standard throughout combined with great vocals, guitar playing and the bedrock rhythm section.

Each of the eighteen tracks on the CD is there for a reason and fits in with the preceding and following so there are no harsh juxtapositions, this is not though a bland mix of safety each band is bringing to the party something different so this is a casket of jewels that shine bright with all the colour, glints and shines that each jewel brings to the collection. I never write about every track, but rules in my book are made for breaking so we are going to have a snippet about every track….

Opening with a feel good party song kick starts the event as Blues ‘n’ Trouble get the proceedings under way. The opening lick of The Kennel Wages‘, ‘Fighting Over You’ is infectious combined with the blues harp/vocals provided by Danny Williams; this is quickly followed by Wang Dang Delta‘s, ‘Shutting Out The World’ with the beautiful piano of Alan Sunderland and as the notes fade away we have a change of tempo and up jumps The 4 Al’s, ‘Jam’al’ with this instrumental jump jive dancing number that is just pure energy. Cynthia Gentle And The True Tones, ‘You Just can’t Win’, well I can when listening to a voice like Cynthia’s with natural tones that soar above the instruments and is pure pleasure. We have been treated to such a wide variety and this is only track five!

Next up is a clever slow number, Binsness Bluesboys, ‘Crawdad Hole’ that highlights a marriage made in blues heaven when it is got right, and boy do they get it right! The interplay between the Sax and Harp wow what could follow this! But this being Jock’s Juke box it has the perfect follow-on with Jed Potts and The Hillman Hunters, takes us out of Scotland and to the Mississippi Delta with a match made in heaven between the skilled guitar work and the vocals and immaculate drumming, I really do want to hear a live set from this band. This CD manages to cover all the blues scene with the inclusion of folky-blues from John Alexander followed by swing from Baby Isaac and the second female vocalist (incidentally this is the only band I have heard before having reviewed their CD for Blues Matters, which I thoroughly enjoyed). Yet, there is no feeling off ticking of the various strands of the genre the album flows naturally as it showcases the plethora of talent Scotland has to offer.

Now we are half way through a river flowing with quality blues with a mix of still, turbulent, troubled and murky waters blended to please. The harp playing on track ten by the talented Richard Young a Englishman now living in Scotland shines out ‘Confidence Man’ is stellar and combines with his glorious vocals. Then a complete contrast with The Lynsey Dolan Band, ‘Do Right Man’, with her sultry blues, late night voice that melds in with the music creating a complete package, a real marshmallow moment. Then as you would expect another change of tempo with a big Rock n’ Roll sound that makes you want to dance the night away from The Blueswater with great female backing vocals on ‘Should I Be Good or Bad’. Leah follows with a dirty guitar and silky smooth voice creating an ambience on ‘Lost In Night’ of a nightclub, that is not on the right side of town but definitely worth going to hear this voice. A duo, Hot Tin Roof, that has a great acoustic lay-backed interplay follows with ‘Maybe Baby’ bringing down the tempo so we can all draw breath again.

The home-straight starts with track fifteen and a modern take on the blues but true to the tradition is Earl Gray and The Loose Leaves, with great vocals and a Americana/hill country sound with interesting echoing chorus line, this track certainly made me sit up, listen and enjoy. ‘Dear John’ brought to the proceedings by Dougie Burn is a quiet track with soaring harp playing and a display of even more of the talent that has been the link between the majority of the acts on this clever compilation. The Black Diamond Express, has a percussive feel to the rendition of ‘Never Was a Lass So Fair’, with its folk feel and would be at home in any Ceilidh, definitely bring I dollop of Celtic style blues to the party, very clever. All too soon it is the closing song, the party is drawing to a close, and we are treated to a beautiful bluesy song from Fraser Spiers and Lewis Hamilton, with a combo of harp and sharp guitar playing they collude with each other to bring a sweet harmonious instrumental .
I have never really been a fan of compilations but thanks to Duncan Beattie I am a convert, as I always feel that they promise more than they deliver – not in this case can’t wait to hear volume 3,4…. and will definitely be exploring Scottish blues and adding more of this artists to my CD collection. My further plea is we would love to hear you live in Wales and England – so take the high or low road out of Scotland and share your talent with us.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD a doodle rating of

Chris Farlowe and Norman Beaker Band

Norman and his band started with a R ‘n’ B number, a great version of ‘My Baby’s Got The Blues’; as ever Norman Beaker and his band provided the perfect backdrop for Chris; demonstrating why they are so popular and reflected in the packed house at the Beaufort ballroom where this was a road trip of nostalgia for many, with music from their youth.

The first set was a great mix of blues and Rock n’ Roll including Little Milton’s ‘Ain’t No Big deal On You’; a song penned especially for him by Mike D’Abo’s ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ for many the definitive version! Chris and Norman provided plenty of banter between numbers, engaging the audience and ensuring that this was wall-to-wall entertainment. They slowed the tempo down with great lead breaks from Norman and his guitar that suited this arrangement of ‘It’s Tough on Me, It’s Tough On You’ The band was a tight cohesive unit with their individual sounds shining through, Dave Baldwin on keys, provided a stylish melding into the guitar chords giving a depth of tone, and when released he gave the band, along with the superb saxophonist, Kim Nishikawara, a delightful alternative to guitar lead breaks that with some other artists can on occasions can become tedious and appear to be fillers of time. This is never the case with The Norman Beaker Band who use every moment to prove why Blues, Rock and Rock N’ Roll are timeless and never boring but a mix of tones, tempos and musical textures. The Rhythm section is the strong backbone of this band provided by John Price (Bass) and Steve Gibson (Drums) who may be in the background but they enable everyone else to soar to the heights and create the sound that had everyone’s feet a tapping and singing along with pure enjoyment.

The evening was a master class of what made the music of the sixties so fabulous including Chris Farlowe’s awesome arrangement if John Lee Hooker’s, ‘Stormy Monday Blues’ which wowed the audience as they drew breath collectively; and the audience participation during Small Faces ‘All Or Nothing’ was enjoyed by all and by now Chris had the crowd eating out of his hand with is witty asides, banter and above all his voice. Towards the end of the second set to everyone’s delight ‘Out of Time’ who everyone associates with Chris Farlowe, this was Number 1 in the charts when England won the World Cup in 1966, had everyone singing along creating a great atmosphere that is synonymous with live music of this excellence.

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Popular demand will surely see Chris Farlowe & The Norman Beaker Beaker Band back, as they show no sign of wanting to stop gigging and ‘The Voice’ is as strong as ever to hold the audience spellbound once again with every note, gesture and every song of this very difficult act to follow!
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Robert Cray – St David’s Hall, Cardiff –

Robert Cray – 6th March 2013 – St David’s Hall, Cardiff

Robert Cray - St Davids Hall - 6 March 2013 - _0010l

A packed audience filled the tiers that surround the stage at St David’s Hall, with its beautiful acoustics that swirls the sound around and around. The evening opened with Jon Allen, an acoustic act that played mainly self-penned numbers, this young man opened with an impressive set contrasting with the act to follow, it is no wonder he has had airplay on Radio 2 and Jools Holland has said “One of the most amazing voices I’ve heard this year”, with his wonderful finger picking style and voice that did captivate the audience that was waiting for Robert Cray. Robert started the evening off by interacting with the large audience with a reference to Cardiff and he held the majority of the audience in his hand from the first note in his familiar ‘picking strat’ style. The Hammond B provided the bedrock accompaniment and the rapport between them was excellent with Jim Pugh affectionately known on stage as Pastel Motif; the other band members providing the rhythm section were bare-footed Richard Cousins (Bass) and Les Falconer (drums). Robert played the favourites from his thirty-five year Grammy award-winning career, including ‘Strong Persuader’, ‘I Guess I Showed Her’ and ‘Smoking Gun’; with some great solo’s from Mr Pugh what a great sound he produces on the Hammond B. The one thing you can be certain with Mr Cray he always produces a consistent sound, with the songs delivered professionally and with a style that demonstrates why Robert Cray is so popular and loved throughout the world, where the vocals and guitar work using the minimum of effects is spot on. He is smooth and seductive and the audience listened with pure pleasure as he delivers his mix of rhythm and blues, pop, soul, traditional blues and a twist of rock, his music will never be boring. This was certainly demonstrated in ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ with its times squealing high notes and an emotional guitar solo demonstrating how he shakes various styles, in a cocktail shaker of sound producing his own instantly recognisable style, this will certainly have pleased the Robert Cray fans in the audience.

Overall, I was to be fair in the minority, though I did notice people leaving early but felt rather underwhelmed by the concert which felt a little flat and old-fashioned blues, since I have been spoilt by all the modern exciting acts I have seen throughout the U.K. Robert Cray did receive a standing ovation from the audience at the end of his set and again after the encore so the majority went home delighted to be entertained by a master of the fender whether using the Telecaster or Stratocaster.

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All photographs – copy right Liz Aiken 2013

Catch him at these venues in the U.K.

Tonight – 13 March – Cadogan Hall – London
14 March – The Anvil – Basingstoke
15 March – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Last night UK Tour – 16 March – Sheffield City Hall, Sheffield