Archive for the ‘blues’ Category

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Dave Hole at the Bridge Hotel

2 November 2013

I spent Halloween evening at the Bridge Hotel in Rozelle, Sydney, listening to the blues. This should come as a surprise to no one.

The Bridge is a no-frills place. It’s not sawdust-on-the-floors, but it’s not too far beyond that either. It’s a simple pub on one side and a small room with tables and a stage for music events on the other. The crowd the other night was, in the words of one of the performer, “small but select”. I and the two friends I went with would agree.

The first act was Canadian Charlie A’Court. I didn’t know until I looked him up, just before going into the room, that he’s actually a Nova Scotian like me. From Truro, in fact, so not far at all from where I grew up. Charlie’s got a powerful voice and plays a good acoustic guitar. He sounded great, and performed a good mix of blues, soft folk, and soul tunes.

DH

The main event was Dave Hole, an Australian slide guitarist I’ve been keen to see since I heard him on an Alligator blues collection I picked up in the early ’90s. He hasn’t toured much in recent years, and this mini-tour around Oz is an acoustic one. He came on stage with a Dobro steel guitar; he was later joined by a drummer on snare and high hat, and a bass player, so not the stack of Marshalls he admitted he usually uses.

But no matter what sort of guitar he has in his hands, Dave Hole can play a slide guitar. He coaxes all those emotive slide sounds from his instrument, the wails and shouts, the glissandos of mourning.

And Dave plays from his guts. There’s no artifice about his performance. His singing isn’t polished. He makes an effort, and grimaces and gestures and shouts, but not in a put-on way. He just has the air of someone who’s self-taught, who loves the old roadhouse blues tunes, and who loves playing them.

By the end of the night it was perhaps getting to be a bit too much of the same sliding trills, over and over, for me. But then he ended with his version of “Purple Haze” and left me with a smile. Thanks Dave.

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Sugar Bowl Hokum at the Union Hotel

13 October 2013

The Union Hotel in Newtown is an excellent pub. They have lots of interesting beers, mostly local but with a few from overseas, and even a couple of hand-pumped ales. They have pool tables and a beer garden.  Something for everyone, really.

And this Sunday afternoon they had something that surpassed all of these: Sugar Bowl Hokum, a band that plays blues, jazz, and hokum tunes from the early 20th century. They were sweet and naughty and a lot of fun. I’d definitely catch them again.

Here’s a short clip of them playing Memphis Minnie’s “In My Girlish Days“.

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Lloyd Spiegel at the Camelot Lounge

8 September 2013

I was looking at the upcoming gigs for Camelot Lounge and saw a listing for a blues guitar player named Lloyd Spiegel. That piqued my interest so I dug into it a little more. I found out that Lloyd has been named one of the 50 best Australian guitarists of all time.

Lloyd Spiegel

Lloyd Spiegel

Then I found this video:

Then I bought tickets to see Spiegel.

The gig was Friday night. We were ‘way up in the front so we could get a good view. Spiegel in no way looks like a rock star, though, or even a blues star for that matter. He’s a completely ordinary-looking bloke, the kind of guy you’d know from work or that installs your sink. He was dressed completely ordinarily.

But once he sat on that stool and lifted that acoustic guitar Lloyd let loose with a powerful – almost overpowering – blast of blues music. He can play. The only way to know is to see it live, like in that video above, or this one:

He played standards and his own songs, accompanied by drummer Tim Watkins. It felt free of artifice, and almost overwhelming in guitar proficiency.

Lloyd is a blues shouter, with a full-throated, powerful voice. There were few mellow tunes, though I really liked this one.

For fans of the blues, or acoustic guitar playing, Lloyd is an amazing Australian act.

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Christa Hughes & Ben Fink at Camelot Lounge, plus LazyBones Lounge

13 July 2013

Camelot Lounge is one of the funkiest recent additions to Marrickville. It opened a year or two back, a music club in an old building in the very industrial space close to Sydenham train station, and the legitimate offspring of warehouse party outfit Qirkz. They focus on blues, jazz, folk, and world music in a small eclectic (and camel-centric) space. And it’s very close to where I live.

On Thursday Qirkz were giving away a couple of last-minute free tickets to that night’s show and I managed to snag one. So I grooved on down the road to see Christa Hughes and Ben Fink.

chbf

Christa comes from a musical family and performs a very cabaret-infused style of early blues and jazz. Her full-on burlesque theatricality added pizzazz to alt-rock group Machine Gun Fellatio, but she’s been performing on her own for about 8 years. Ben is a guitarist, composer, and singer who dabbles in several roots styles.

They played a set of songs that drew from early blues, back when there was little difference between that musical form and others like jazz and folk and gospel. Hughes’s powerful theatrical voice and flamboyant stage manner drew your attention, while Fink’s raw, understated playing gave it a rootsy grounding. They played standards like “Midnight Special” and Skip James’ “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” (which, interestingly, morphed into Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song”, which of course references Howlin’ Wolf’s very different “Killing Floor” and Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues”). They also did a great version of Bessie Smith’s double-entendre-filled  “My Kitchen Man“.

That burlesque naughtiness spilled over into some of Christa and Ben’s originals too. “Pig Flu Blues” was a snorting, coughing ode to feeling miserable (and a run-in with the cops). And in a move sure to entertain all the kids whose parents had brought them along for the evening, Hughes bemoaned the emphasis on anal sex in modern adult entertainment with a tune called “Bring Back the Pussy in Porn”.

While I really like early blues the shrill pantomime of Christa’s performance wears thin on me after a while. I ducked out at the intermission, suitably entertained and not wanting to slip over into the point of diminishing returns.

On the way home I stopped into an even newer music venue in Marrickville, just two minutes from my front door, located in what I believe used to be a Vietnamese karaoke bar: LazyBones Lounge. This very cool, large, ultra-loungey upstairs room can only have been open a couple of weeks. Judging by the quality jam band, interesting decor, impressively stocked bar, no cover charge, and already-substantial crowd this place has got some legs. I’m looking forward to chilling out here in the near future.

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Vivid Sydney: Sounds of the South at the Sydney Opera House

3 June 2013

Alan Lomax was a folklorist and collector of American field recordings. Any student of US roots music will know his name: the music and stories he collected in the ’40s and ’50s for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress was a driving force for the popularity of blues and folk music in the ’60s.

A collective of musicians from America (and one from Canada) played two concerts on the weekend as part of the Vivid festival that paid homage to the music that Lomax uncovered for us. That show was called Sounds of the South, and I caught the Sunday afternoon show.

The collective included Megafaun, Matthew E. White, jazz group Fight the Big Bull, Bon Iver frontman and founder Justin Vernon, and former Be Good Tanyas member Frazey Ford.

sots

 

The assembled 13 musicians played a set of songs inspired by the Alan Lomax recordings. Almost none were straight covers; they were, instead, rocked-up, jazzed-up, or psyched-up. Almost all worked really well, resulting in blues-, gospel-, or folk-based tunes that showed how these themes have influenced modern music. They were exciting. There were multi-part harmonies. There were tales of sadness, and sung prayers of joy.

The middle section didn’t work for me. It got a little too free-form and discordant. I was constantly reminded of Spinal Tap’s jazz odyssey.

But most of it was really good. Vernon and Ford’s singing were highlights, as were all three brass players in Fight the Big Bull. They (mostly) found a great balance of homage and reinterpretation. And they encored with The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.

It was the sort of rare event that keeps me coming back to Vivid.

Here’s an excellent video of one of the songs – performed a few years ago – that was one of the highlights the other night; Vernon singing Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “When You Get Home Please Write Me A Few of Your Lines”. It starts as a near-acoustic cover, then morphs into a jazz-rock groove.

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Bonnie Raitt at the Enmore Theatre

4 April 2013

Last night I saw another great artist doing sideshows after Byron Bay: Bonnie Raitt. It was a significant change from The Stooges.

Bonnie

The opening act was a substantial set from R&B legend Mavis Staples. And yes, anyone who started performing as a member of The Staples Singers family in 1950 is a legend. She and her tight band served up a whole bunch of gospel soul. It was polished but heartfelt, a classy old-school set of songs that appealed to pop as much as civil rights protests as much as God. Mavis can still holler. They did a stirring version of The Band’s “The Weight”, and pledged some love to the departed Levon Helm. And Bonnie Raitt even came out early to play “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” with Mavis and the band.

Bonnie was soon out for her own set, though. Most people know of Raitt through her easy-listening blues-pop hits since the early ’90s, though she had been recording – and critically acclaimed, if never commercially successful – for two decades before that. She’s a comfortable songwriter and performer, a competent bottleneck slide guitarist, and has a knack for introducing a variety of musical styles into her songs in a really approachable way.

All of these aspects came out on stage. She never missed a beat, even with some ostensible on-stage confusion as she changed the setlist. Everything just seemed cool and smooth, every guitar lick sounded great. Bonnie herself sounded and looked amazing (for any age, we agreed, not just the 63 years she actually is).

The close proximity to the previous night’s punk antics made some of it a little too smooth for me, maybe. But you can’t hate Raitt, nor chastise her overmuch for being classy and caring about tone. She is the anti-Iggy.

Of course she played “Have a Heart”, “Thing Called Love”, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, and “Something To Talk About”. I was surprised she didn’t do “Love Letter” or “Love Sneakin’ Up On You”, but those are pretty lightweight hits so nothing was lost.

Highlights for me were songs that can serve as near bookends: her 1974 version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” was beautiful, and her 2012 rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles” was spookily intense. You can watch live versions of both of these, from a show last year, below.

Note that “Million Miles” is one of two songs on her last release, Slipstream, that are covers from Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind album (the other being “Standing in the Doorway”). Good taste, Bonnie.

The blues – in one of its many and varied forms – lives on in Bonnie Raitt.

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Australian Blues Music Festival in Goulburn

12 February 2012

I spent the weekend in Goulburn, Australia’s first inland city, and host to what I believe was the 12th Australian Blues Music Festival. I was keen to go for a few reasons: I love the blues, Goulburn is only 2 hours’ drive from Sydney, almost all the acts were Australian, and almost all the shows were free.

I didn’t make the Thursday and Friday night shows, but drove down early Saturday. Gigs were held at several venues in the downtown core, at pubs, parks, and social clubs. It was a really pleasant country-town vibe, and we wound up seeing a lot of the same people and performers over and over again at the different venues.

This festival doesn’t have the big names (and big prices) of the Byron Bay Bluesfest, but here were some really great performers, ones that I feel I was lucky to see for free.

On Saturday I saw several bands.

I started at one crowded pub with The Resonators, a father-and-son act that got a full slot by winning the street busking competition the previous year. They paid blues standards, with solid guitar skills, but the singing was just OK.

A hope to the pub across the street and next up was Leroy Lee, more of a folk singer. He was good, with a looping device and some keen feedback skills that gave his guitar songs lots of mood and texture. But they did start sounding a bit same-y after a while.

Back to the first pub for a band I picked because of the name: Tobasco Tom & Doc White. These guys turned out to be fantastic: steeped in early Americana, with everything from jump blues to Virginia murder ballads. Funny too. I caught one song on video.

Down the road to the Soldiers Club for Diana Wolfe & The Black Sheep. Diana was another winner: very charismatic and fun, and singing very danceable blues and jazz standards.

I left partway through her set to see a trio called Damn Fine Gentlemen in the park next door. They were a heavier rockin’ sound, with some interesting lyrics on some original songs, but the singer’s vocals left me wanting more. So I went back to see the rest of Diana Wolfe’s set.

After a fantastic dinner we stopped into a club with a large house band whose name I didn’t catch, but who were a little too sweaty and full-on for me. We decided to pop over to the Bowling Club to catch Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson. And I’m so glad we did, because they were amazing. Deep delta slide blues, some heavy UK rock-blues influence, and even some Celtic fluting. I got them on video doing a dynamic version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”.

On Sunday some of the singers we’d seen on the previous day – including Diana Wolfe – did a gospel song service in the park that was a pleasant way to start the morning.

After that we caught Halfway to Forth, two brothers from Tasmania – now in Adelaide – who really impressed me with their soulful harmonising, guitar skills, and laid-back blues and reggae tunes.

As I said: to see all these shows for free – and we could have done many more – was absolutely fantastic. There was so much authentic blues, so much Australian talent, and such a good atmosphere around the whole town, that I’d easily return and recommend it to any roots music fan. Way to go, Goulburn.

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Australian Blues Music Festival

29 January 2012

I’ve just booked a hotel in Goulburn, NSW, for the second weekend in February. I’ve done this not because of a deep desire to revisit The Big Merino (yes, I’ve already been once), but because Goulburn hosts the Australian Blues Music Festival then.

I don’t know any of the artists that are playing but most shows are free. I expect pleasant surprises.

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Claude Hay and Matt Andersen live at the Brass Monkey

11 December 2011

We got an early Christmas present from my mom, who tipped us off to the fact that Canadian blues guitar wizard Matt Andersen was touring Australia. So last Thursday we took the train down to Cronulla’s Brass Monkey to see him.

It’s a co-headlining tour of two stringed-instrument masters. First up was Claude Hay. First impressions were of a stereotypical Blue Mountains muso: tattooed, semi-hippy, happy, and multi-instrumentalist.

Second impressions: a fantastic Louisiana-blues-based one-man-band. Hay played a twin guitar (lead and bass) he made himself, and a tricked-out sitar. He utilised a loop machine to lay down his own backing tracks, then jammed over top. His kick-drum and kazoo and bongo rounded things out. I thought he was fantastic.

With only a few moment’s changeover Andersen got on stage. First impressions: my god, that is a huge man.

Second impressions: wow, that guy is an amazing guitarist and singer. He sits and plays his acoustic six-string alone, with no other accompaniment. There are no effects pedals or backing tracks, just his fretwork frenzy and his massive blues howl. The songs are, to be fair, pretty ordinary, both lyrically and melodically. But the power of the voice from the man, who must be 180 kg, and the speed and passion from the fingers on the strings, are pretty damn impressive.

We’re going to go see Hay and Andersen again next weekend when they play at the Beaches Hotel in Thirroul down the coast. Thanks, mom!

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First Aid Kit: It Hurts Me Too

25 May 2011

“It Hurts Me Too” is one of the most-covered blues songs, based on a song originally recorded by Tampa Red. I have versions by Elmore James, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. It’s a great tune.

First Aid Kit are a Swedish folk duo, two young sisters that were one of my favourite bands of last year. They’ve now recorded a country blues version of “It Hurts Me Too” as a single on a label started by none other than Jack Black.

That’s some pedigree.

I really like their version. Listen to it right here.

First Aid Kit

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Sydney Blues Festival

22 September 2010

Looks like I may have found a great way to feed my blues fix. Sydney has a blues festival coming up (although it’s in Windsor, which is quite a ways out, to be fair).

It looks like a great chance to catch lots of local Australian blues talent. I don’t think I recognise any of those names, so it’ll be an exciting weekend of brand new music to me.

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Blues and the Black Cat Bone

13 July 2010

A blog called Boles Blues made the front of wordpress.com today. It was covering a topic I – as a true blues fan – have been interested in for some time: the magic of the black cat bone.

Click through for some smokin’ guitar solos and a gruesome recipe.

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C.W. Stoneking at the Coogee Bay Hotel

11 July 2010

I was surprised in London last year by the old-time blues sound of Australian musician C.W. Stoneking. Earlier this year I bought one of his albums. Now Stoneking’s touring Australia, and I caught his Sydney show last night.

It was at the Coogee Bay Hotel. I’d not been to this pub before, but I’ve since learned it recently distinguished itself as the second most violent pub in New South Wales. Luckily for us the several sprawling rooms of the hotel were peaceful last night; or perhaps we bailed before the fisticuffs kicked off.

The first act was American banjo troubadour Al Duvall. His songs were old, moaning jazz, but telling funny stories. Anyone who throws in a kazoo solo now and then is tops in my book, so I liked Al. Although most of us were still socialising at this early stage there were others who liked what Al was doing too.

C.W. Stoneking brought the same authenticity as when I saw him the first time. He and his Primitive Horn Orchestra ran through all sorts of old swing blues, calypso, jungle music, and country jazz. It’s all played so smartly and so honestly that it never feels like it’s approaching parody. They played “Jungle Lullaby”, “Dodo Blues” (with a dig at the Dutch), the funny “Talkin’ Lion Blues”, “Brave Son of America”, “Jailhouse Blues”, “Goin’ Down the Country”, “Rich Man’s Blues” and more. They wisely kept the upbeat songs until towards the end, which kept the crowd lively.

My highlights were the two songs of his I enjoy most: “Don’t Go Dancin’ Down The Dark Town Strutters’ Ball” and “The Love Me Or Die”.

Stoneking only has one more Australian show at the moment – tonight in Brisbane – then he’s off to the UK and the rest of Europe. It seems he’s becoming something of a name there.

Here’s a video from the performance where I first saw him in London last year, and which contains the two favourite songs I mentioned above.

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My formative music: Stevie Ray Vaughan

1 July 2010

This is the last instalment in my “formative music” series. You can review them all by clicking this link.

It’s been fun for me to recollect and to write them. I could have gone on and on, of course, and included artists like Roy Orbison, Anne Murray, Roger Whitaker, Jim Croce, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Cat Stevens, Waylon Jennings, and ABBA, but then I’d never end. I also could have written a separate entry for Stan Rogers, but thought I’d just link to the post I wrote a couple of years ago. Thanks for reading.

The last music I need to write about is the blues. This is quite different because it happened much later on in my life. All of the other formative music I’ve spoken was commonly played in my house before I was twelve years old. The blues thing didn’t hit until I was nearly twenty. I was already at university, and coming home for summers. My dad bought a record called Texas Flood by a band named Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.

It took a little while for me to warm up to it. But once I warmed, I was scorching hot. The depth of emotion in this music blew me away. Stevie had a combination of soul and speed in every string twang that was special. There’s a reason he’s revered amongst guitarists, and was so long before his death. That album hooked me on the blues.

I recognised that the blues had been there, in other forms, in much of the music I’d grown up with or come to enjoy: CCR, folk, spirituals, Led Zeppelin. I jumped in with both feet. I think it’s pretty fair to say I’m now a blues aficionado. The frequently-repeated strains are hypnotic. The themes of loss are understandable. The rhythms are primal. The emotional content is high. The accessibility is universal.  I believe that the blues is the best form of music there is.

I was lucky enough to see Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble play live before Stevie died in a helicopter crash. The day it happened, I was working on the farm for my dad. He gave me the day off.

Listen:

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Ash Grunwald

1 June 2010

I’ve been looking for the blues since I arrived in Australia. I think I’ve found a big chunk of them in Ash Grunwald. Rockin’, modern, electric blues. He sounds like he’d be awesome live.

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Mississippi Records Tape Series – Blues & Spirituals

12 March 2010

Spotted at Aquarium Drunkard:

Over the past year the RootStrata blog has been sharing the Portland-based Mississippi Records’ ongoing Tape Series in individual installments for those without cassette decks. Shared as zip files, broken into two mp3s (side A and side B) [these are] essential listening for fellow blues enthusiasts: Vol. 18 – How Long Has It Been Since You’ve Been Home? A twenty track compilation of old blues and spirituals.

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Folk America: Hollerers, Stompers & Old Time Ramblers

22 January 2009

There was a time in 1920s and 1930s America when, having cross-fertilised and gestated sufficiently, folk, blues, jazz, gospel and country music saw the light of a bigger day than they had before. Radio and records meant that music started spreading faster and wider than it had previously. But in the early stages there was great overlap between what was blues, what was country, and what was folk (and what was gospel, and what was jazz…).

Last night at the Barbican was the first of two nights that are part of a BBC series called Folk America. The fact that they chose a famous image of folk-blues legend Dock Boggs for their logo was a good sign, I thought.

Last evening’s show was titled Hollerers, Stompers & Old Time Ramblers. It showcased young American artists who still perform and record in old folk styles, with special attention on the ramblin’, rowdy side of the music. The whole event was emceed by slide-blues late-in-life success story Seasick Steve (who I saw a couple of years back).

Seasick Steve

Seasick Steve

Steve had half the stage set up with stuff from his house, making the seated crowd feel like we were set on his back porch. He started the night with a couple of his own songs, then proceeded to say a few words to introduce each new act.

Allison Williams and Chance McCoy are an Appalachian banjo player and fiddler who teamed up with a couple of other friends for a nice set of string band songs (with a little step dance solo that got the crowd cheering). Fun.

Next was CW Stoneking. Okay, this guy is from another time. Steve was right when he said that Stoneking is lost in the ’20s, despite only being 34 years old, the son of American parents, and raised in Australia. He walked out in a pure white suit, with black cowboy hat and bowtie, and some brass players. Speaking, his thick-tongued voice is unmissably Australian, but as soon as he picks up a dobro and starts singing he sounds like he’s in 1920s Louisiana. He played songs about being shipwrecked off the coast of Africa (“Jungle Lullaby”), working in a “hoodoo doctor’s office” (“The Love Me Or Die”) and a failed attempt to get a friend to go through with a wedding (“Darktown Strutters Blues”). Eerily phenomenal. Like stumbling across a New Orleans funeral band being led by a ghost.

Next was Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole. They did some upbeat Cajun/Creole that went down well but was perhaps a bit wasted on a staid, seated British audience. This is country dance music and the best venue for it would be a party, not the Barbican.

After the break came Diana Jones, who sang and played guitar with just a bit of accompaniment. These were slower, more soulful songs. She’s an excellent songwriter with touching stories to tell, but her throaty twang was a bit too much for me at times.

Then were the Wiyos. Why have I not heard of these guys? They’re great: fast, polished ragtime with lots of vaudeville flair. “Dying Crapshooters Blues” was great, and they did easily the best washboard solo I’ve ever seen.

Seasick Steve came back on to play a couple more songs and the stomping and hollering began in earnest. He finished with an epic version of “Chiggers”. You know that half of Steve’s down-home act is put on, but so what: the other half is real, I bet, and all the best bluesmen told tall tales about themselves.

They encored with everyone coming onstage for a couple of Uncle Dave Macon jams, including “Won’t Get Drunk No More”. Cue more hollering and step-dancing.

Roots music may not be selling millions, but it’s alive and well, folks. The songs played last night weren’t homages. They were genuine folk music songs, rough and rowdy ones, but coming from modern perspectives and played by (mostly) young people.

Tonight I’m back at the Barbican for part two, Greenwich Village Revisited.

If you get BBC4, they’re showing the concert on TV at 10pm UK time on Friday 23-Jan-09, with some Seasick Steve performances before it.

EDIT: I was also shockingly remiss in neglecting to mention that I met up with Lea and Dave from UnchainedGuide during the intermission and for a quick drink after.

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Holidays, and revisiting some old posts

1 August 2008

My holiday in Canada is awesome so far, with more fun to come.

A couple of recent comments on the blog have reminded me of some past items:

  • One-man band Ray Stubbs himself commented about my blog on the recent Ealing Blues Festival.
  • The Te Papa Museum in New Zealand has brought back SquidCam: “We’re pulling our squid out of formalyn and moving it to its new display tank. Watch our scientists live on Wednesday 6 August starting 9am NZ time (USA: Tuesday 2pm to 5pm, UK: Tuesday 10pm), for one day only. Check out the full programme on Te Papa’s website.”
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Blue afternoon

27 May 2007

Had a great time at Ain’t Nothin’ But yesterday, at their open mic session. There was a stag party of a dozen guys there, and the groom-to-be got up and played a few tunes on a keyboard they brought with them (while wearing a wig). Funny. The rest of the acts were pretty good, and quite bluesy, too.

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See Seasick Steve

16 May 2007

I’ve just come back from one helluva gig.

I have to thank my friend the Inkystrator. She dropped me a line some time ago, said I should see this guy Seasick Steve when he comes to London, since he plays the blues. I downloaded a couple of free tracks from his website, liked ’em, so I bought a ticket for the gig. It was in Camden’s Electric Ballroom.

The first act was called The Priscillas. I really enjoyed them: they were an all-girl rock band from London that I’d put somewhere between The Ramones and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Girlie outfits with big grins and lots of guitar.

The second act was called The Crimea. They sucked, hard. They thought they were good, and cool, and melodic. In fact they were awfully boring, with cringe-worthy affectations and lyrics. They reminded me of Jack Black’s band in School of Rock after he leaves it, when they become middle-of-the-road. Apparently you can download their entire album for free from their web site. I wouldn’t bother.

But Seasick Steve. Well, he was truly something else. He’s the real blues deal: a hobo for much of his life, who’s only achieved recognition very recently. His guitars are all pieces of shit: one has three strings (its state when he bought it off a friend), and one is a single string on a box with tin cans attached. All have string for straps. He wears overalls and a John Deere hat. He stomps on a wooden box to keep the beat. He tells funny stories about Tennessee and riding trains.

All these wouldn’t mean squat if Steve couldn’t play, but he surely can. He plays guitar on his own country blues songs, and sings in a fashion that touches on soul. He’s energetic and genuine and interesting and deep South (the first thing he said was, “This song is about my dawg”). It was a truly awesome night of singalong, foot-stompin’, gut-bucket blues.

EDIT: review.