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 <strongRunning 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


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.