CD Review: Babajack LIVE

BabaJack Live Cover banner fbBabajack LIVE
Recorded before audience at The Cube, Malvern 10th May 2015

Release Date 10th October 2015

Babajack incorporates elements of music gathered in from Africa, Blues, Folk, Rock and beyond and then blends and distills with artful precision to create a unique sound that excites the audience as they are swept up into the whirlwind of emotions unfolding through the words and music. This is the album that capturing the very essence of the band, Babajack Live the full band plus the atmospheric cello courtesy of Julia Palmer-Price and the skillful live recording and production from Paul Long you have a live sound captured forever.
The track list is a mix of songs from previous albums, the must have tracks in a Babajack set and some glimpses of future work and the promise of another studio album. Opening with Money’s All Gone, the first sound is Trevor Steger’s harp playing so distinctive and the scene set as the guitar picks up, Becky’s percussion and the audience applaud this definitely a fun ride, this is a song that has a driving rhythm and tells a tale that is essential for this acoustic sound full with its electric force field of energy’ the extended live version gives the band time to explore and develop the melodies and Becky’s vocals ensure that we understand the money is gone!

We hear the intro’s from Becky and now with the djembe beat we have a love song she wrote Falling Hard with the harp once again painting a picture of hope and despair in the pure simplicity of the opening is what makes Babajack special. This is no heart and flowers love song it is about falling hard and the beat of the drums by Tosh Murase underline the drama of the whole track. Sunday Afternoon was perfect for this recording on a late Sunday afternoon and the intro was spellbinding combined with the anticipation of Becky’s vocals were reward as she joined in with the band harmonizing behind her and Trevor’s distorted backing vocals’ the moment captured. Then a new number Back Door, that has an acoustic simplicity and that driving Babajack bluesy folk riff recognisable as one of their songs so much more than sitting at a back door. With Breathe, one of the shorter tracks, the cello makes the music almost stand still its simple beauty the silence was deep it was as if the audience were collectively holding their breath so as not to interfere with the waves the music was weaving. A gentle track where vocal and cello merges and sends a shiver down the spine. Phew! We can breathe again; and the tempo changes with the title track from their last studio album Running Man full of storytelling tradition through song is unveiled, the listening picks up the fear of the unknown, running but cannot escape; the applause was huge no wonder what a rendition. This is followed by a mainstay of their set list Gallows Pole, from English Folk, over to the USA and Leadbelly then back as a rock anthem and now this, what is becoming an iconic version. The whole band had fun playing this Adam Bertenshaw as on all the tracks provides a bass line that allows the music to develop from and have a safe haven to return to so whatever path they choose the shape and form stays. Finishing the album with Skin & Bone the audience joined in with percussive clapping and Tosh’s drumming is immense, cello full of groaning emotion and then Becky and Trevor the heartstone of the band creating a song that lingers long after the last note dies away and the applause stops.
Babajack LIVE, works superbly as an album there is the tension and even hints of vulnerability of exposing a live performance to the recording process; the result is an emotionally drenched performance of the eleven tracks. The album could be reviewed in a sentence – Babajack LIVE has frozen the essence of Babajack, the energy and tension of a live performance frozen in time we can all enjoy this golden album again and again and get as much pleasure as the audience did.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD TEN pawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN ….

Babajack – Babajack LIVE – Independent

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Babajack & Marcus Bonfanti entertain Malvern

Babajack- The Cube Malvern - July 2015_0055lTonight The Cube in Malvern had not one but two reasons to get out and listen to live music, each of the double headliners Babajack and Marcus Bonfanti play acoustic music with energy and combine the music with some great stories.

We had a cut down version of Babajack, the set was a combination of the original duo Becky Tate and Trevor Steger, joined on many of the songs by bassist Adam Bertenshaw and sound man for tonight, normally seen as part of the rhythm section with Tosh on drums when Babajack are a foursome.  This changes the texture and tone of the music but never the energy and quality of every song performed by Babajack.  The set was full of the songs fans associate with the band opening with Running Man the title track of their last studio album, made the evening of music hit the ground running could it get better. This was as ever entertainment that is blues with emotion drilling deep into the roots of the genre and taking us back through the cotton fields and across to Africa with Becky’s percussionist skills on her Djembe the west African drum, traditionally only played by men Babajack flies once again in the face of tradition. The drum’s name according to the Bambarra people is everyone gather around  in peace and we certainly did tonight as the magic of the beat produced flowed through the hall in Malvern. The Cube’s hall has great acoustics and performing on the floor rather than the stage with sitting around created an intimate session in the round and the wonderful local Malvern Ale was enjoyed as the perfect accompaniment to live music on a Saturday night.  The bass line from Adam on When I’m Gone had a funkier edge this time and worked well with the trio format.   We also heard some numbers not performed often these days including Jelly Love along with firm favourites no Babajack gig would be complete without Gallows Pole and Skin and Bones.  It was confirmed that the long awaited live album, recorded early in 2015 at The Cube in front of an invited audience can be pre-ordered and you will get a signed copy early September. Hurry because this is a limited early release, miss out on this exciting opportunity and you will have to be patient and wait for Babajack Live, Summer 2015 general release date 10th October 2015.  We had a preview of the next project a studio album with two tracks that may be included Religion & Backdoor; tonight Trevor weaved his harmonica notes through the narrative like perfect punctuation making the narrative of the lyrics sung by Becky have more power and deeper emotions. The wine box guitars add a tone that creates the sound frame that is both stripped back and full of musical grit.

A short break, a chance to re-fill our glasses catch up with friends and then co-headliner Marcus Bonfanti stepped on stage, with his Gibson Hummingbird and added his voice of the blues into the mix with Devil Girl.  We had a selection from past albums from Marcus, which unfortunately are no longer available and those from his latest EP & DVD Borrowed Time and his British Blues Award winning number The Bittersweet for his immaculate songwriting skills. The guitar solo was stunning on Now I’m Gone; underscoring that his skills on the Gibson are really underrated as he shaped the notes so they told their own take so much more than a collection of high speed, licks, riffs and twiddle bits. Marcus makes the guitar be an integral part of the shape of the story of the lyrics. Marcus is often described by the power of his melodic baritone vocals, this is only half of what makes him such a popular powerhouse on the circuit his guitar playing is superb as he manipulates the six-strings too shape a full acoustic sound the perfect backdrop for his voice and accentuating the mood of the lyrical narrative.

In between the numbers he informed, engaged and most importantly made the audience laugh most often at his own expense as he shared some of the gritty life experiences. We had ballads, sad, reflective, fast and slow songs; his contribution to the world of ballads was John Henry Blues, a work song that tells the story of John Henry who challenged a machine won then died!  From the new album we had Layla, no not that semi-famous track but a song full of longing and All She Ever Wants with the added lyrics and percussive guitar all about lost love.  Every Marcus set list has to include the song Cheap Whiskey as a salutary lesson to us all, and tonight was no different, he won some new fans by his charming stage presence and above all his music that entertains.

 

The third segment was a combined encore with Babajack joining him on stage for a closing jam that included a rousing rendition of Leadbelly’s Midnight Special. What a night of high energy and inspired acoustic blues that has a sting of delight in its tail looking forward to the next Babajack and friends event at The Cube.

 

Babajack Live at The Flowerpot, Derby

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The warm up act tonight at The Flowerpot thanks to Raw Promo were , Rita Payne are singer songwriters from Doncaster this duo describe themselves as ”Acoustic Foot-Stompers” the name they have chosen to perform under is eclectic and different just like the act and has no relevance to their actual names, Rhiannon Scutt (Acoustic Guitar, stomp Box suitcase and backing vocals) and Pete Sowerby (Vocals and Tambourine). They delivered a wide range of music from self-penned through to the Beatles and a very fine version of ‘Billy Jean‘ given the folksy treatment making the song stand out from the crowd with this intuitive re-arrangement. The set they delivered was very entertaining, Pete had warm personality that ensured the audience related to their approach to traditional music dragged into the 21st Century with a twist of modernity. There own ‘Patchwork Song‘ about a previous and disastrous relationship was delivered with confidence – this is an entertaining act that is definitely worth seeing live. Rhiannon has a deft touch on the guitar making it sing which complemented her powerful and tuneful voice and when combined with Pete’s clear tenor vocals make a duet in harmony and they work well together communicating where they are taking the music. This is an act with a clear vision of the sound they want to produce and delight the audience with.
This warm up act was definitely slightly off-the-wall but with their charismatic stage presence, augmenting their musical skills, Rita Payne are just what you need in a warm up act they made you wanting more and left you in the mood for the main act of the evening; they were the perfect act to combine with Babajack’s unique approach to the blues.

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Tonight was Babajack the band, not a four piece as unfortunately Tosh (drummer) was unwell so Becky had the responsibility of providing percussion all night a task she was delighted to fulfill, so tonight at The Flowerpot it was a trio with Adam Birtenshaw providing a solid bass line to give a solid foundation as Becky and Trevor took their songs on a walk. At times it was free-form, as the music took them on a journey with no beginning or end and then they pulled it back to the original plan and the song came to a celebratory end. This energised the audience who had come to see Babajack in full flight.
Becky was on sparkling form her chatter between tracks continued to be energetic interspersed with her melodic laughter, with Trevor’s self-made guitar boxes being introduced, firstly Joanna – made using resources from a variety of sources including the dog bones and pieces from an old piano hence her name. Later in the set we were introduced to Graham, made from a port box and had a ‘fruitier, stronger tone and flavour… goes well with strong cheese…” the story ended with a bubbling laughter from Becky it was true this guitar had that depth of range delivered to your ears in much the same way a good Port delivers to your palette.

This was a confident performance, delivered with passion and the sheer delight of performing music that is loved by the performers and the very essence of the beat understood and shared with the audience. Babajack delivered the beat with every note creating a verve and energy in the audience so that an electric frisson of live music magic swept across the audience. The set was a walk through their back catalogue, a seductive delivery of tracks from their latest album ‘Running Man; with a fantastic live rendition of the title track where Becky, Trevor and Adam created the illusion through timing and vocal delivery the feeling of running from something fearful, that you do not understand. The set was a balanced musical walk through the colours textures and emotions of the Babajack discography and the airing of a new track Religion, which has a different feel about the tone with an undercurrent of country/Americana and as ever has strong vocals, harmonica and percussive force, the song definitely excited and whetted the appetite that an anticipated fifth Babajack album will be a fixture on our decks very soon. The set as ever included Babajack audience’s favourites including Gallows Pole, Death Letter Blues and Black Betty with enthusiastic crowd participation, this had the performers working themselves up into a dervish whirl… with Trevor falling off his stool, this did not stop the show they just played on as he regained his breath with only his pride hurt! The Babajack sound is like coming home to a security blanket, you are rooted and sustained as a giant oak that spreads its branches across the land and drives its roots into the heart of the soil. There is no doubt about it a deep wisdom in each song sung and beat delivered by this award winning band that has the mighty Trevor as its engine and the twirling, swirling Becky as the wind that whispers and cajoles the inner meaning from every song so that you are drawn into and totally captured.

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Review of the Five Paws Album of 2013 Babajack’s – Running Man

CD Review – Babajack – Running Man

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Babajack – Running Man – Running Rooster Records

“Running Man” is the Babajack sound encapsulated into 10 tracks that ebb and flow pulling you into the Babajack sphere so that you are entwined in modern music that is so firmly rooted in the early blues and the drumming have the echoes of distant African shores. Once again a beautiful, musical album, full of autumnal mellow fruitfulness, whilst inside the lyrics and the phrasing of the vocals and instruments is a harder edge. The album introduces a new venture for the duo of Becky and Trevor that is the heart and soul of Babajack they are joined by Tosh Murase (Drums) & Adam Bertenshaw (bass) for half of the tracks, this format works as well in the studio as it does live; they give Becky a freedom to explore the vocals without the ties of providing the percussive sounds. The opening and title track sets a scene as a story telling tradition through song is unveiled, the listen picks up the fear of the unknown, running but cannot escape reflecting the original inspiration for the song where Becky and her son were running from an angry-looking storm cloud when out in the French countryside which was always going to drench it was inevitable that there was not escape. Excitingly on the studio album Julia Palmer-Price (Cello) adds some glorious chords that send a chill up the spine and reach deep into your musical lexicon of sounds, the cello works especially well on ‘Coming Home’. The main component of the other tracks is that glorious sound of Becky’s vocals and percussive skills, with Trevor weaving into the mix his effortless guitar and sharp harmonica playing as demonstrated so well on ‘Death Letter’; a favourite live and a studio classic. The new format has given Babajack a release of fresh energy, this is a modern blues sound that retains the integrity of traditional blues telling a story with strong earthy rhythms, as seen on ‘Every Day the Same’ with the line the “Money Man Comes” which Becky brings to the vocals a sense of fear we have all felt; this is a track in which Trevor’s harmonica combined with the cello reinforces the despair and frantic feeling of the lyrics. This is a strong album made possible by the support of the phalanx of Babajack fans – if I was going to change something the last track of the ten would have been ‘Hammer and Tongs’ as the mix of vocals and harp are simply delicious the memory of this would last long after the last notes fade. This is the definitive Babajack album, why Running Man manages to capture the energy of a live concert there is an inherent energy captured in the CD case that is released every-time the music starts up whatever the track.. and definitely on of the top 2013 albums.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD out of five doodle paws a doodle rating of
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Babjack meets Dave Arcari @ Re-con Club, Malvern on 20th April 2013

Dave Arcari -  Malvern April 2013_0160l Dave Arcari arrived with an impressive array of string instruments Banjo, his solid electric is a National Resolectric Junior, a shiny Silver National Style O and the one I describe as the black beast which is more precisely a National Delphi; both of these have been custom-made for Dave by National so they produce that Arcari sound the trade-mark of artist who in his own words delivers ‘Fucked Up alt. Blues! Delivering some exciting tracks from his excellent new album “Whisky In My Blood” including the fantastic track ‘Cherry Wine‘ showing a gentler side of Mr Arcari well know for his hell raising guitar playing and stage presence. Included in this opening set of an evening celebrating Trevor Steger’s 50th birthday in Babajack’s hometown, was some of Dave’s classics including Blind Lemon Jefferson, ‘Hangman’s Blues’ and ‘Stagolee‘.

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As ever Dave played like a lightning storm heating up the Re-Con so the temperature was definitely tropical rather than a mild British spring evening and the crowds were loving it. What made tonight’s performance was Trevor and Becky joining Dave with a fantastic performance of Johnny Cash’s ‘Blue Train‘ As the video demonstrates that this was a collaboration that produced a stellar performance and everyone was delighted, excited and entertained, this is a live music moment that though captured on camera you really needed to be there to get the full on effect of the energy and good-time vibe they produced.

Now for Babajack’s showtime tonight a new addition forming a trio with the addition to the line-up; electric bass player – Adam Bertenshaw; storming the stage as on home turf they were at their confident best full of energy, vim and vitality. The crowds were enthralled and delighted as Becky delivered heart stoppingly beautiful vocals whilst providing the trade mark out of Africa percussive rhythms courtesy of the stomp box, African drum and the cahon combined with the 2013 British Blues Awards nominated harmonica player, who also plays acoustic guitar and wine box guitar which he makes himself and provides great vocals Trevor and providing a layer underneath this was the bass addition provided by Adam. It is no wonder that Babajack is so popular where ever they play. No Babajack set is complete without their trademark songs from previous albums including ‘Money’s All Gone; Death Letter’s Blues’ and ‘Gallows Pole’; this is not a band trapped in the rut of tradition every rendition is given the Babajack treatment giving the songs a modern and exciting edge whilst remaining true to the very soul of early blues music; understanding what made the likes of Leadbelly so very special. Trevor’s vocals are always a delight and tonight there was a roughness perhaps picking up the gravel tones of Dave Arcari, and demonstrating why there is such a great synergy between these talented artists; this was especially apparent on ‘Burn All The Bridges‘ and definitely added another tier of emotion to this powerful song.

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Not only has Trevor been nominated for the British Blues Awards; but the title track of their last album ‘Rooster Blues‘ has been included in the final voting round of the Kevin Thorpe’s 2013 Award for Original Song – so Babajack will be celebrating long after Trevor’s 50th birthday is a distant memory. as well as old favourites interspersed throughout the set was tracks from their much-anticipated new album “Running Man”; this was an opportunity for Becky to thank all the contributors to making the album possible, this was received with a cheer as so many supporters were standing enthralled by the music at this sell-out show. A work song, ‘Hammers and Tongs’ was a duet with Becky on vocals and Trevor on harp, not a guitar in sight using a chain gang style, was effective and was for me the highlight of a wonderful set. Another new song from forthcoming album “Running Man”, ‘Falling Hard‘; followed by a dramatic rendition of ‘Skin and Bones‘. What an evening of full-on entertainment which included a rousing birthday song to Trevor; an end to a fantastic evening of music at The Re-Con in Malvern but  I am positive Babajack will be celebrating throughout 2013…

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