It always gives me an extra frisson when I get the opportunity to listen to and review artists from my homeland. As a County Durham lad, although I was exiled to the South before Mitch was even born, I had numerous, precious experiences of seeing many high-quality bands that played the working men’s clubs, pubs and halls across the North East. I even played in a few myself and know at first hand how playing rock music to an audience waiting for the bingo to start is both soul destroying and yet character building. I also know the area that Mitch grew up in…I bet you never biked up that bank, Mitch? I wonder if he realises that his home has a Robert Johnson story of its own embedded in its history? Okay, it is not that Robert Johnson but, as the spooky story goes, in the early 18th century a local man called Robert Johnson had a bitter argument with his son and swore an oath, saying ‘I hope my right arm will burn off before I give my son a sixpence’. Their differences were forgotten eventually, and in the end he left all his land and property to the son. Not much of a story, until the funeral that is. According to the legend, while the house was full of people paying their last respects, and the body lay in its coffin in the front room, they smelt burning, and traced its source to the coffin. When they opened the lid they found that the promise had come true and saw that Robert Johnson’s arm was burning off! Now, that is my kind of tenuous link to the blues. Anyway, getting a copy of The Mitch Laddie Band’s new album, Another World, is an added bonus. This is their fourth release and, after a period with the redoubtable Mascot Provogue label, they are now self-releasing their work on the MLBP/Steel Town label. His Burning Bridges album set the bar very high, so I was a little worried that this couldn’t match up… I did not need to be concerned. It matches in places and exceeds those previous highs in others.
If you are new to this powerful 3-piece, then Another World is a great introduction to the band’s diverse sound. Do not expect regurgitated blues-rock across every track: this is a full-colour palette of blues, rock, jazz and funk, all delivered in a sparkling, different way. Having a skilful rhythm section like Wilkinson and Connor make this a very powerful sound for just three guys too. You’ll hear hints of Hendrix, SRV, Travers, Trower and Kossoff in the mix, but it is still all Mitch and pays homage to his influences without copying them.
Home kicks it all off and even has that rare thing… a bass solo. Essentially it is a blues-rock workout with more than a hint of Hendrix in the phased guitar solo. Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a jazz-influenced slinky song with horns and female backing singers and has another North Eastern musician, the wonderfully named Johnny ‘Blue Hat’ Davis guesting on sax. The guitar strums seductively in the background, before delivering a neat solo. The Weight is simply sheer genius. A field song structure pervades the simple percussion and the surprisingly expressive acoustic surrounds the pleading vocal. Another surprise awaits with Believer. You will believe Free have been reborn as the sparse guitar evokes Kossoff and the vocal is very Rodgers-like too. Unless my ears are mistaken, it is a Fender, rather than a Les Paul, which Mitch flays on a superb solo, (although Kossoff did use a Strat on Back Street Crawler). We stay firmly in true blues territory with Forget About You. Albert And BB King would appear to be the inspiration for this soul-tinged blues song. Opening with a clever drum pattern it reverts to type, but has a sax solo to differentiate it from similar paced standards. The bass line is also worthy of note. The guitar solo, unsurprisingly, is a treat. Precarious Man has SRV styling over another great performance from Connor and Wilkinson. The solo is very engaging and yet unpredictable and the funkiness throughout really works well. Next up, we get an instrumental: Portfolio is a glorious mix of styles as it opens with energetic jazz runs on guitar over an offbeat drum pattern, before slowing into an eccentric middle section and then going flat out with a countrified edge, to complete a quirky and enjoyable romp. Living Blues has an acoustic slide intro a bit reminiscent of Vigilante Man (the Nazareth version), but resolves into a construction and execution that could have been written in the 1930s but can still resonate (pun intended) today. I love this kind of approach and if you could imagine Son House and Sylvester Weaver playing together, then this is how they would sound. After the quiet of that solo performance, Burning bursts forth with a heavy blues riff punctuated by wah soaked phrases. It sounds a bit Living Colour at first, but it soon becomes a glorious ride through blues guitar playing of the highest order. Closing track Time And Time Again slows the pace, with Matt’s vocals over a simple bass and drum segment before two serene guitar solos make it a standout amongst other soulful blues recordings. This is a classy way to close an exceptional album.
This album is of the kind that does not happen very often: a heady mix of different styles and genres that still sits firmly in blues territory. Expertly played by all three members, all of whom can all move seamlessly from fast to slow, from subtle to heavy and still remain an unshakeable unit.
So, blues lovers of any hue will find a great deal to enjoy in this neat package of ten songs with ten different attitudes and ten different points of view.
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Wrong Place, Wrong Time
- The Weight
- Forget About You
- Precarious Man
- Living Blues
- Time and Time Again
Mitch Laddie: guitar, vocals
Rhian Wilkinson: bass
Matt Connor: drums
Johnny ‘Blue Hat’ Davis: saxophone
Recorded at Steel Town Music in Consett, County Durham.
(This is the place to see Mitch live in Consett!)