The Berkshire, UK town of Reading is normally thought of, to music lovers at least, as the town near London that is home to the festival of the same name. However, it is also the birthplace of such notables as the creator of Paddington Bear Michael Bond, David Byron of Uriah Heep, John Sykes of Thin Lizzy, Alma Cogan and none other than Oscar Wilde spent time in prison there. (Read his ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’ to see that he was a genius as well as a consumer of absinthe). You can also add to that list the country, folk, blues musician, John Cee Stannard. He is a founder of the folk group, Tudor Lodge, and has been involved in music for over forty years. If that wasn’t enough, he also finds time to be a radio presenter, novelist and actor…I am reliably informed that he has been an extra in “Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire”, “The Da Vinci Code” and “Skyfall” amongst others. The fascinating thing is that he has used this varied career as a source for his music. His albums to date are blues with country and folk, and one a big band experience. His latest album, Moving On, falls into the latter category and should be listened to as moving on from his 2013 release that went by the self-explanatory name of The Doob Doo Album. It isn’t all brass but more of a horn fuelled blues with country sensibilities collection.
As far as I’m aware, there aren’t many songs about Reading…well there are two on this album and the first, Cemetery Junction, opens the album. This is a song about a road junction in his hometown…well, if it’s good enough for Robert Johnson, it’s good enough for me! This is a blues shuffle with horns, B3, piano, backing vocals and some brilliant guitar phrasing and a solo that plays with the melody in a sort of BB way. Do Right To Me has a blues/jazz feel with the sax intro before it falls into a kind of country song over that base. The acoustic guitar and harp interplay and then a sax solo that doesn’t overstay rescue it for me. Price Of Your Sin is a winner though with the B3 swirls leading into a neat blues song…with lyrics I can more than relate to (apart from the leaving bit!) The acoustic backing is great and gives space for solo to enjoy from the B3 and electric guitar. Next up is a blues song of quality from the pen of Ma Bessie, or Julia Titus to giver her real name. A fellow Readingtonian(?) she has supplied a tune of almost funereal New Orleans sounds with the horns conjuring up those steamy streets. The guitar solo is truly inventive and, by the tone, the semi-acoustic, sounds just great. Evenin’ Sun goes back to John’s folk and country roots but with some serious blues infused. The acoustic guitars and slide, coupled with the more pared back sound, make this my favourite and the slide solo is subtle, effective and too short, although the piano nearly compensates. Call of Duty is country blues with a bit of zydeco courtesy of the accordion and bounces along in a way that you can’t help but like. Someone Told Me brings the horns back into play for a slow jazzy blues song that has a brilliant guitar hidden behind everything, but is well worth picking out, before it is revealed in a neat solo. The next song is the second Reading song…Seventeen is about a bus route! It has heritage though, as it has been a tram or train service too and still exists after over a hundred years…it is a guitar led, horny background bluesy track that has a fascinating structure. The best solo of the lot is fitted in even though yes, it is too short. Something That You Do To Me is harp led blues and an infectious beat, and a lovely counterpoint female vocal. A Jimmy Witherspoon cover, Tougher Than Tough, is next and John has kept the essential feel while adding the horns with a countrified guitar solo and great B3, sax and harp solos to make it the same but different. Final track, You Took Me By Surprise, wraps it all up in a country blues fashion with a lovely acoustic slide that backs it nicely and also provides a short and sweet solo.
In summary, then, this is a very enjoyable album that may not be a big departure from many out there but that doesn’t detract from the quality on display. In addition, it does have is a certain, intangible, uniqueness (I was going to say ‘Britishness’) about that means it will be welcome when it appears on my iPod (yes, I still rely on that…streaming and paying not to own music is not my scene, man! and I still buy ridiculous quantities of vinyl and CDs…old, old fashioned and proud!)
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …Track listing:
- Cemetery Junction
- Do Right To Me
- Price of Your Sin
- Someone is Knocking (Julia Titus)
- Evenin’ Sun
- Call of Duty
- Someone Told Me
- Something That You Do To Me
- Tougher Than Tough (Jimmy Witherspoon)
- You Took Me By Surprise
All songs by John Cee Stannard unless noted.
John Cee Stannard: guitar, vocals
Mike Baker: guitar
Howard Birchmore: harmonica
Fifteen other musicians also appear and my apologies to them for the lack of credit but I couldn’t find the full details anywhere.