Thursday, 26 June 2008

Buddy Guy Review: Shepherd's Bush Empire, 24/6/08

At 70 years old, Buddy Guy remains an electrifying and extraordinary musician and performer, capable of terrifying audiences and guitar slingers therein with explosive, wild solos and licks, and a voice that can roar like a southern soul train in full steam, or can whisper falsetto that the great Reverend himself would be proud of. His shows can be both an incredible, or an unsatisfying, fragmented experience, but on Tuesday at 'ShBuE', the citizens of this great city so often starved of this music were treated to a performance from a master at the top of his game.

Guy's band were tight, well drilled, and schooled in Chicago Blues, able to whip up a storm, nail a back beat, or slide into a smooth soul groove at a seconds notice. The second song, Muddy Water's Hoochie Coochie Man started so quietly you could hear a pin drop, but exploded like a neutron bomb at each chorus. Guy, dressed in white slacks, non matching shoes and a classic showbiz shirt was beaming from ear to ear, and interacting with the crowd who were cheering every moment. A string of sublime Buddy Guy blues followed - but the piece de resistance was a cover of the O V Wright classic, "Drowning on Dry Land", during which Guy went into the crowd and nearly blew the 104 year old roof off the premises.

As is the case with the pleasurable, the sublime, the illicit or the incredible, the curfew fell at 10:30, but not until after Guy had closed the show with a little John Lee Hooker, a grateful appreciation for the UK for popularising the blues again in America following the 1960s - for which Guy "..woke up everyday, prayed and gave thanks.." , and an affecting and moving song "Skin Deep" from his new album, due out 22nd July. This evening was a revelatory and intense experience, and a demonstration of the deep joy and emotion of this precious music.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Guarding a Musical Legacy

With the passing of Bo Diddley, another link to the rich tapestry of American rhythm and blues heritage fades. Whilst we celebrate the lives of long passed classical musicians, writers and performers on stage and screen, who will mount the Blue Plaques for the Blues? Does a legacy stop at a few youtube postings, a myspace cyber existence and a repackaged "Hits of...."?

Two projects, each different in their aims, are being undertaken that seek to preserve this legacy. The first is led by Red Kelly, author of a superb blog on American music, and is raising money to purchase a stone to mark the grave of seminal southern soul giant OV Wright, who to this day 28 years after his untimely death, lies in an unmarked grave in southern Memphis, TN. Red and the guys also did the same for James Carr.

The second project is a film, Where Lightnin' Strikes, a collaboration between film companies to produce a feature length documentary about the life and times of Houston, TX based blues singer Sam Lightnin' Hopkins.

You can donate to each of these projects, through Paypal donations at the OV Wright memorial pages, or by buying a T-Shirt for the film project from the project site ($35 + P&P outside the US, which is about £22).

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Lucky 13 Lounge a(Franco)-Flame

And so, last night, to the Lucky 13 Lounge at the Istanbul Meze, Cleveland Street, London, our fortnightly acoustic music night. 5 acts, 30 people, some cold beers and a mild sore head on the way to work the following morning.

First up was Niccie Simpson with Danny Shaw on guitar, both students at the Royal Academy of Music's jazz course. A fantastic set, with some jazz standards, and Al Green's "Lets Stay Together" as an opener. Niccie's fantastic voice had just the right amount of stardust, and gelled perfectly with Danny's Gibson ES135.

Next was 2 numbers from the great Phil Lunn, a Lucky 13 Lounge stalwart, with Madeleine on cello, followed by Edmund MacGowan, who had recently survived a rock and roll skirmish at the Phoenix Arms. After Edmund, for the first time at the Lounge was the intense and dark brooding songsmithery of Aaron McMullan, a Christy Moore for the modern age.

Finally, to close the show, was the original churning urn of burning funk, Franco Flame, accompanied in part by the Shames on percussion. Like a 1950s American gas attendant on acid and former cellmate of Johnny Cash, he blazed his way through 30 minutes of, twanging a handmade 1970s Italian guitar that appeared to be fashioned by the blackest of all Stradivarius' sheep descendants.

Artists tracks are posted at the Lucky 13 Lounge myspace, and we'll be back with the Quiet Loner, Benjamin Shaw and Phil Lunn on Tuesday July 1st.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Al Green - Lay It Down

More often than not, the long awaited "new album" from an established artist or band is, frankly, a damp squib - note Buddy Guy, "The Real Deal", with GE Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band, or BB King "Dueces Wild" - both tired supper club albums.

However, The Very Reverend Al Green, of the Full Gospel Tabernacle , Memphis TN, has pulled something really special out of the bag - a secular album that is the logical successor to his great 70s sides for Willie Mitchell's Hi Records. Each and ever track is an absolute stunner, and Green is back on familiar form, but with a modern R and B tinge to some of the arrangements. Lyrically, the album is not strong, but the great man's voice reigns supreme - if the duets with "modern artists" serve any purpose, it is to demonstrate the wonderful gift of Green's voice, phrasing and emotive capability.

Man, you just have to hear this record.....soul dynamite!

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Originator Passes

Welcome to the first in an occasional blog series related to the project. We're a small musical collective based in London, and exist to promote sould, blues, americana and folk music artists in the UK. This blog will chart some of our general musical meanderings and going-s on.

First though, a word about Ellas Otha Bates, or Bo Diddley (see above), who passed away aged 79 today. He was a carpenter, a mechanic, a bandleader, a songwriter, a bluesman, a great man, a rock and roll hall of famer and the father of the hambone beat - "shave and a hair cut, two bits".

Second, just a word about We're up and running as a web project and a focal point for some of the great unsigned artists in the UK, and we're hoping to expand just as fast as we can and bring you all some top tunes and artist info. We're doing ok for traffic, and we've had some weird things so far - the guestbook has turned up a couple of requests for strange Malian music (the Orchestre de Kayes), an ofer of a couple of free subscriptions, and the threat of a lawsuit from Australia, relating to this apparently famous "Orchestre de Kayes".....

Its taken a while to figure out, but it turns out there is a Mississippi Records in Portland, Oregon, who are specialists in world music! We will post their number up soon, but we've made clear on the landing page that we are UK based. Good luck then to those Portland 'ssipi boys, who have a keen cult following, and it appears a couple of hellhounds on their trail.......(!)