I had the honour of seeing Geraint Watkins (or Geraint Meurig Vaughan Watkins, to give him his full name) perform at the Buxton Opera House where he shared the stage with Micky Moody, Jon Lord, Bernie Marsden, Ian Paice and Miller Anderson to name a few…this was the 2001 Tony Ashton Memorial Concert that I was privileged to witness and it should give you a measure of the man that he was part of such a stellar line up to pay tribute to Tony. His mastery of the piano and accordion that night was mesmerising and he has such a great sense of humour, you can’t help but love the guy. Even if you don’t know him, you know him…he has played with everyone from Bob Dylan, Clapton, McCartney, Knopfler through to Tom Jones and has been ‘pounding the ivories’ for over forty years. Now we have a new solo album called Rush Of Blood which is ten tracks of roots influenced music in his inimitable style but also with a modern edge and the odd pop references courtesy of producer and occasional co-writer, Simon Ratcliffe. I admit I know very little about Simon as he is in Basement Jaxx who I have heard of but, for obvious reasons, haven’t impinged on my musical consciousness. It matters not however, as he has done a sterling job on this album and helped Geraint put together a very strong and diverse album that will appeal across many genres.
Opening track, Rush Of Blood, is the first surprise as we get an insanely catchy song that will have you singing ‘Yippe-Kay-Yay’ (and stopping there!) It is actually a much more complex and thoughtful track on further listening, especially with a kind of rockabilly guitar section.
More familiar territory from Geraint next as Hold Back is quite simply superb mix of blues in the wonderful intro and then doo-wop backing vocals with a harp solo that is excellent…add in some great bass and percussion with a catchy vocal melody and you have a song that shouldn’t sound so good but does. Heart Of Stone is country twanging on pedal steel with insects joining in before a carefully crafted piece of guitar played only on the lower strings and frets that is so simple it is brilliant…another one I shouldn’t like but find it irresistible. Middle Of The Night is a fast-paced return to the Western idiom…sort of Johnny Cash but with Clint Eastwood looking on. At last, we get to hear Geraint’s skill on the piano as the ukelele gives way to his ivories on Heaven Only Knows. This is yet another example of how he can take any genre and twist it into something uniquely attractive as he even fits in a clarinet solo that works and doesn’t jar as these incongruities often can, due in the main to his piano playing in the backing. On My Mind is subtle piano with echoing percussion and a guitar that sounds like it could be a cigar box type as its tone is so different. It ends up as an entrancing song with GW on fine form vocally. On My Mind has a similar feel, except the percussion sounds like it was done on furniture and the bass was a tea chest…the song develops into a gospel-tinged treat with the harp and superb pedal steel adding texture, colour and humour. I Got The Blues is self-explanatory…a piano-led blues with a soulful touch that has a lilt and lacks only a piano solo to show how good he really is…we do get neat guitar phrases throughout and a sax solo though.
Reason To Live is rock’n’roll via Cajun country as GW uses his accordion to inject that rhythm so effectively. The guitar solo is another measured, carefully crafted and inventive interlude that should have lasted a bit longer. The final track, Another Day Over, keeps the surprises going as he moves into the lounge with an electric piano that has a warmth and feel when played properly; as it is here. This almost Sinatra styled ballad isn’t my scene (man) but the keyboard skills are formidable…if only he’d inserted a solo to show even more how effective he and that piano can be.
This then is not a blues album, indeed it is not any single genre…it’s an ingenious melding of many and, although far from my usual fare, it is full of some wonderful and moving music as well as significant musicianship from whoever the players are. It isn’t a regular go-to sort of thing for me, but it is still a very worthwhile and rewarding listen.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Rush Of Blood
- Hold Back
- Heart Of Stone
- Middle Of The Night
- Heaven Only Knows
- On The Inside
- On My Mind
- I Got The Blues
- Reason To Live
- Another Day Over
Geraint Watkins: vocals, keyboards, accordion
Sara Jory: vocals
Little George Sueref: backing vocalsI have been unable to identify the other musicians and I apologise to them and to you for that, but the web was unforthcoming and the PR blurb just said “aided by some master musicians”. (I missed the first track and instead hit the on above in my iTiunes and was treated to another artist I forgot was on there…some superb acoustic blues recorded in 1933 by the wonderful Georgia Boyd.)