Jo Harman - Live at the Royal Albert Hall

Jo Harman is quickly becoming a superstar. I said it would happen when I reviewed her studio album, Dirt on my Tongue, and now, signed to V2 in Europe, playing in the Caribbean, and being nominated for awards in countries where you can’t even buy the album, the evidence is undeniable. Her rise has been driven at a grass roots level, built on incessant touring and live performance as much as her glorious album, she has fans that are committed, loyal and eager for anything that she can provide. It’s her fans that she has chosen to reward with a strictly limited edition release of a new, live, album purely on CD and vinyl.

The disc was recorded at last year’s London Blues Fest, at the Albert Hall, by the BBC. It goes without saying that the sound is stellar. It’s shockingly intimate, Jo often sings in a near whisper, but they’ve caught it all, every detail, every nuance of the event is there, from the cough of an attendee to the soft click that marks the attack of a note on the Hammond in Ain’t No Love, it’s as near to being there as possible for the many who couldn’t be there.

Jo’s live performances are a different beast to the crisp polish of her studio release. She deliberately doesn’t rehearse her bands, and regularly changes up the lineup from a pool of talent that reads like a who’s who of current popular music. The result is something looser, something freer, something with the hint of a jam to it. That could, in lesser hands, mean a throw away performance, but not here, it lets songs that many will be familiar with breathe and become something new. Jo throws caution to the wind and tries new things with her voice, she’s not scared of failure, and vastly more often than not what she tries comes off. There are more runs, more filigree, and they aren’t as direct as the album versions, but they don’t lack emotion. Jo has a vibrato that can be chilling which she pulls out only when necessary and a knack of sliding into a note, especially in the slower numbers, that draws gooseflesh and reveals her as a true blues singer.

The material matches the quality of the performance, with all the best songs from Dirt present and correct. Of particular note are the performances of Cold Heart and Sweet Man Moses that revel in delicacy and dynamics that can leave you breathless. There’s also the cover of Bobby Blue Bland’s Ain’t No Love which get’s a treatment that makes it very much Jo’s own song, including a sneaky application of the Layla riff that Clapton stole from Albert King. There is ample chance for her band to share the spotlight, with a particular emphasis on keyboard player Steve Watts, but it’s alway’s clear who’s the star.

I’ve seen Jo live, and it was a mesmeric experience. It’s this release that makes it clear that it isn’t the visual aspect of the show that captures you. Divorced of the visual a live performance from Jo is just as powerful, and I’m not really surprised. This disc, for the lucky few who get hold of one, is something special, a joyously spectacular performance from one of the UK’s finest ever musicians.


Albany Down - Not Over Yet

There are a number of new acts coming to the attention of music fans and being touted as “Heavy Blues”. One such act is Albany Down who’s CD Not Over Yet is a prime example of this newly created sub genre. As far as I’m concerned, none of the acts in this new wave of artists should really be termed blues, but that doesn’t mean they’re without merit.

 

Albany Down wear their influences very much on their sleeves as far as their musical heritage goes, there are obvious nods to Led Zeppelin throughout the record, touches of Pearl Jam and a sprinkling of Rory Gallagher. It is however the Zeppelin thread that’s strongest and therefore, ultimately, defines the band. Songs are heavy and hard hitting, with gritty guitar riffs to the fore, occasional forays into folksy acoustic numbers also turn up, along with ethnically influenced string arrangements. The opening number is typical in this respect, Back Again has the big guitars and warm cellos of a classic Led Zep epic, but sadly lacks the soaring vocal that Plant would have provided, it’s not to say that the singer, Paul Muir, is a slouch vocally, but he hasn’t been blessed with Robert’s instrument and it leaves the song lacking a little something.

 

Throughout the record there are moments where the music has received a bit of a modernizing update. The tones and recording methods are straight from the modern rock playbook and the occasional occurrence of a harmony lead from the guitars gives a nod to fans of modern metal. The thing is, that despite these attempts to bring things up to date I’m still looking for the originality that would lift this talented group out of the category of copyists. There are moments where your ear will prick up to an arresting line in a song or a cracking fill on the drums, but they’re too few and far between to make the record great.

 

It’s a good album, made by talented musicians and I can see it being a great success, there are many people who will lap this up and rightly so, classic hard rock isn’t something you hear a lot of at the moment and that, as far as I can see, is exactly where this band falls. Like their musical forebears the blues is there in the sound, they’re informed by it, but it’s only part of the spectrum that makes up their musical identity. Why this has been labeled as blues I’m still not sure, perhaps the success of the burgeoning blues revival has led the marketing to overemphasize that small part of the band’s makeup, or perhaps they see rock music as to unfashionable and fear being written off as irrelevant. In any case, taken as a whole it’s a solid effort that showcases bags of talent but doesn’t have quite enough of it’s own personality.


Alvin Lee, globally acclaimed rock guitarist, passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning, March 6th  2013. He had been admitted to hospital in Spain, where he lived, for a routine surgical procedure for atrial arrhythmia but died from unforeseen complications. He was 68.
 
Born in Nottingham to Sam and Doris on  December 19th 1944, the youngest of three children,   Alvin Lee began playing guitar aged 13 and two years later had formed the core of the band Ten Years After. Originally influenced by his parent’s collection of jazz and blues records, it was the advent of rock and roll that truly sparked his interest and creativity and guitarists like Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore provided his inspiration. The Jaybirds, as Lee’s early band was called, were popular locally and had success in Hamburg, Germany, following the Beatles there in 1962. But it wasn’t until the band moved to London in 1966 and changed its name to Ten Years After that international success beckoned.
 
The band secured a residency at the Marquee Club and an invitation to the famous Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in 1967 led to their first recording contract. The self titled debut album surprisingly received play on San Francisco’s underground radio stations and was enthusiastically embraced by listeners, including concert promoter Bill Graham who invited the band to tour America for the first time in the summer of 1968.
 
Audiences were taken with Lee’s distinctive, soulful, rapid fire guitar playing and the band’s innovative mix of blues, swing jazz and rock, and an American love affair began. TYA would ultimately tour the USA 28 times in 7 years, more than any other U.K. band. Appearing at the famed Woodstock Festival, Lee’s virtuoso performance was one of the highlights and remains today a standard for many other guitarists. Captured on film in the documentary of the festival, his playing catapulted him into superstardom, and soon the band was playing arenas and stadiums around the globe.
 
Although Lee later lamented that he missed the intimacy of smaller venues, the film made a huge impact in bringing his music to a worldwide audience. TYA had great success, releasing ten albums together, but by 1973 Lee was feeling limited by the band’s style.
 
With American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre and a host of rock talents like George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ron Wood and Mick Fleetwood , he recorded and released On The Road To Freedom, a highly acclaimed album that was at the forefront of country rock.
 
A year later, in response to a dare, Lee formed Alvin Lee & Company to play a show at the Rainbow in London and released it as a double live album, In Flight. An energetic mix of rhythm & blues and rock, with a tribute to Elvis Presley thrown in for good measure, Lee once, in his understated fashion, called this band “a funky little outfit”. They were far more than that and various members of the band continued on with Lee for his next two albums, Pump Iron and Let it Rock.
 
Lee  finished out the 70s with a powerhouse trio he called Ten Years Later who also released two albums, Ride On and Rocket Fuel, and toured extensively throughout Europe and the USA. The 80s brought another change in Lee’s direction, with two albums that were strong collaborations with Rarebird’s Steve Gould and an extensive tour with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor joining his band. Lee’s overall musical output includes more than 20 albums, including 1985’s Detroit Diesel and the back to back 90s collections of Zoom and 1994 (I Hear You Rocking). Guest artists on both albums include George Harrison, whose brilliant slide guitar perfectly complements Lee’s lead. Their duet on 1994’s The Bluest Blues led one reviewer to call it “the most perfect blues song ever recorded.”Alvin Lee in Tennessee, released in 2004, was recorded with rock and roll legends Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. The critically acclaimed album features an upbeat selection of songs that were timely and forward looking, yet borrowed  from Lee’s beloved 50s rock and roll. It was followed in 2007 by Saguitar, a varied collection of songs that flowed from blues to raucous rock to an innovative interpretation of rap. His last CD, Still On The Road To Freedom, took the listener on an musical journey to the past and present and back again.
 
Alvin Lee is survived by his wife Evi, daughter Jasmin and her mother Suzanne (Alvin’s former life partner), also by his two sisters Irma and Janice.
 
Tributes are already coming in from the music world.

Alvin Lee, globally acclaimed rock guitarist, passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning, March 6th  2013. He had been admitted to hospital in Spain, where he lived, for a routine surgical procedure for atrial arrhythmia but died from unforeseen complications. He was 68.

 

Born in Nottingham to Sam and Doris on  December 19th 1944, the youngest of three children,   Alvin Lee began playing guitar aged 13 and two years later had formed the core of the band Ten Years After. Originally influenced by his parent’s collection of jazz and blues records, it was the advent of rock and roll that truly sparked his interest and creativity and guitarists like Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore provided his inspiration. 

The Jaybirds, as Lee’s early band was called, were popular locally and had success in Hamburg, Germany, following the Beatles there in 1962. But it wasn’t until the band moved to London in 1966 and changed its name to Ten Years After that international success beckoned.

 

The band secured a residency at the Marquee Club and an invitation to the famous Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in 1967 led to their first recording contract. The self titled debut album surprisingly received play on San Francisco’s underground radio stations and was enthusiastically embraced by listeners, including concert promoter Bill Graham who invited the band to tour America for the first time in the summer of 1968.

 

Audiences were taken with Lee’s distinctive, soulful, rapid fire guitar playing and the band’s innovative mix of blues, swing jazz and rock, and an American love affair began. TYA would ultimately tour the USA 28 times in 7 years, more than any other U.K. band. 

Appearing at the famed Woodstock Festival, Lee’s virtuoso performance was one of the highlights and remains today a standard for many other guitarists. Captured on film in the documentary of the festival, his playing catapulted him into superstardom, and soon the band was playing arenas and stadiums around the globe.

 

Although Lee later lamented that he missed the intimacy of smaller venues, the film made a huge impact in bringing his music to a worldwide audience. TYA had great success, releasing ten albums together, but by 1973 Lee was feeling limited by the band’s style.

 

With American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre and a host of rock talents like George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ron Wood and Mick Fleetwood , he recorded and released On The Road To Freedom, a highly acclaimed album that was at the forefront of country rock.

 

A year later, in response to a dare, Lee formed Alvin Lee & Company to play a show at the Rainbow in London and released it as a double live album, In Flight. An energetic mix of rhythm & blues and rock, with a tribute to Elvis Presley thrown in for good measure, Lee once, in his understated fashion, called this band “a funky little outfit”. They were far more than that and various members of the band continued on with Lee for his next two albums, Pump Iron and Let it Rock.

 

Lee  finished out the 70s with a powerhouse trio he called Ten Years Later who also released two albums, Ride On and Rocket Fuel, and toured extensively throughout Europe and the USA. 

The 80s brought another change in Lee’s direction, with two albums that were strong collaborations with Rarebird’s Steve Gould and an extensive tour with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor joining his band. 

Lee’s overall musical output includes more than 20 albums, including 1985’s Detroit Diesel and the back to back 90s collections of Zoom and 1994 (I Hear You Rocking). Guest artists on both albums include George Harrison, whose brilliant slide guitar perfectly complements Lee’s lead. Their duet on 1994’s The Bluest Blues led one reviewer to call it “the most perfect blues song ever recorded.”

Alvin Lee in Tennessee, released in 2004, was recorded with rock and roll legends Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. The critically acclaimed album features an upbeat selection of songs that were timely and forward looking, yet borrowed  from Lee’s beloved 50s rock and roll. It was followed in 2007 by Saguitar, a varied collection of songs that flowed from blues to raucous rock to an innovative interpretation of rap. His last CD, Still On The Road To Freedom, took the listener on an musical journey to the past and present and back again.

 

Alvin Lee is survived by his wife Evi, daughter Jasmin and her mother Suzanne (Alvin’s former life partner), also by his two sisters Irma and Janice.

 

Tributes are already coming in from the music world.


youngmansorrow:

The Black Keys

Hear them, and why I think they’re great for the blues as a whole in tonight’s Blues is the Truth on www.ukjazzradio.com

youngmansorrow:

The Black Keys

Hear them, and why I think they’re great for the blues as a whole in tonight’s Blues is the Truth on www.ukjazzradio.com

(via youngmansorrow-deactivated20131)


Henrik Freischlader - A House in the Woods

Henrik Freischlader has had a somewhat meteoric rise to prominence in the blues. From being a relative unknown on the blues stage a few years ago, to supporting Joe Bonamassa in his home country of Germany and releasing a critically acclaimed album he is currently headlining a theatre tour of the UK to promote his latest long player “A House in the Woods”.

 

That record is what’s up for review here, and let me start, in the same way it does, by making a strong statement of intent, this is a record that demands attention. The statement made by Henrik with the first track House in the Woods is, if anything, stronger than mine. Musically it sets the scene for the rest of the album with strong and powerful riffs, soaring powerful leads and a punchy production, and lyrically it makes it abundantly clear that the writer is disaffected with the way the world is going at the moment and it’s time to get back to the things that really matter. What matters to Henrik is made clear through the rest of the album, love honesty and passion are recurring themes, and they’re all dealt with honestly and directly. Take the ballad Breaking My Heart Again, it’s beautifully and delicately performed and delivered from a place that I can certainly identify with.

 

Throughout the record there are dizzying switches of pace between songs, following the aforementioned ballad, there are two hefty, upbeat rockers (Take the Blame and Hear Your Talking) that in less skilled hands could jar against the prior track. Here they don’t, they just become a part of the ups and downs of the journey through the album, a journey that accurately reflects the rollercoaster nature of life. I get the feeling that this is a personal record, a sense reinforced by the commitment that each track is delivered with. That’s something that is unusual in the world of modern music, and it’s something that’s really refreshing.

 

It’s easy to see why Joe chose Henrik as a support act; they tread a similar path, bringing rock sensibilities to the blues. With an emphasis on riffs and hooks the approach in general is nothing new, having begun with the likes of Cream and Hendrix, but Henrik does it in a pleasingly original way, marking him out in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

 

On his last record Henrik did pretty much everything, playing all the instruments from the drums upwards. This was an astounding display of talent, and while the record was good it was, at times, a little sterile, lacking the interplay between musicians. Wisely on A House in the Woods, things are different, with Björn Krüger, Theofilos Fotadis and Moritz Fuhrhop joining the star and giving the record a pleasingly organic feel which is well suited to the material and reflected in the warm production.

 

Blues rock of this type is not really my favorite thing, I think its an overcrowded niche and the majority of the acts tread on each others toes, producing music that can, at times, not be separated from the herd. Henrik goes a long way towards proving me wrong. This is a truly enjoyable disc, streets ahead of the competition in songwriting, performance and delivery and shows there is still plenty of life in the genre. It has originality in spades, delivering throughout on the promise of that first track. I recommend this without reservation.

 


Bart Walker, Waiting On Daylight

I hand’t come across Bart Walker until I received his CD, Waiting on Daylight, in the post. Therefore I had no idea what I was really in for when I first played the disc, the cover suggests I was in for some rather rocky blues, but I’ve learnt in the past not to let the artwork influence me on what to expect from the music. 

In the case the pictures didn’t lie, right from the opener, It’s All Good, Bart sets out his stall as a purveyor of driving, rocking blues and boogie in the vein of folks like George Thorogood and Joe Bonamassa, but with an individual, southern sounding twist that has me in mind of the Allman Brothers. It’s very much a guitar led record with gritty slide lines and riffy arrangements predominant. These combine with a tight and punchy drummer (who’s rock steady, unflashy playing is very enjoyable) and a selection of deep bass lines that drive the music along nicely. The title track furthers the Allman Brothers comparison as Bart’s voice reminds me quite a lot of Greg’s and there’s a beautiful twin guitar line and a solo that Clapton at his most melodic would have been proud of. And then, of course, there is a dynamic and exciting cover of Whipping Post, Bart obviously loves those southern gentlemen, but while the influence is strong, he isn’t copying anything and the material is treated with respect as well as originality

The production of the disc is quite dense on some tracks, especially in the low frequency spectrum, a fact that emphasizes the heft of the music, but can mask some of the subtleties in the vocals and guitar playing, and things are at their best when Bart is at his most direct. It’s a pity that at times I’m not able to fully explore whats going on musically, because what I am hearing carries some real ear grabbing moments that give clues to more excitement that I feel I’m missing out on. Tracks like Happy seem to suffer a little less from this, but there’s still a sense hat things are competing for the same sonic space that could well mean we aren’t hearing everything the artist intended.

Overall there’s not much beyond the occasionally muddied production that is worthy of criticism. This is an album of something reasonably rare these days,simple, good time rocking boogie blues. It’s fun, undemanding and easy, tunes that would be great for a road trip or cranked up in a biker bar in the deep south. He is a stunningly adept guitar player, a great singer and has produced an album that is sure to excite listeners and to garner attention from the public. If you’re looking for a good time Bart is the man to see!


Robin Trower - Roots and Branches

There will be many people very glad to hear that Robin Trower has a new album coming out. I can’t say I’d normally be one of those people, having written him off in the past as a Hendrix impersonator who didn’t quite get it. I’m always willing to be proven wrong and therefore I’m more than willing to give his new album a fair go. Entitled Roots and Branches, it’s Robin’s way of paying tribute to his heroes and the people that inspired him to begin his musical journey. So is it an album of Hendrix covers? No. Might I have been wrong all these years? Quite probably. 

The album opens with a cover of a true classic, Hound Dog, and moves on through the songs of BB King, Albert King, Howling Wolf and others from the heady days of old school rock and roll and Chicago blues. These are songs that many of us will recognize and identify with, but the covers are anything but straight readings, each has been given a fairly radical re-arrangement that bends them to fit squarely in the Trower bag, making for some gritty retellings of stories we all know. Of course, there is plenty of the signature guitar playing, overdriven pentatonic riffs to the fore and the rounded top end that is typical of Robin’s tone, and there is the definite sense of Jimi’s hand in some of the more psychedelic meanderings, but it it isn’t as prevalent as I might have feared. Even when the album does cross paths with Hendrix, as in Hound Dog and Born Under a Bad Sign, both songs covered by Jimi, Robin stays away from taking too directly from his mentor.

It’s with the originals that Robin has included that he gets closest to the direct Hendrix comparison, especially on the album’s last track, See My Life. However, as things have been arranged to fit with the rest of the album it’s not too jarring and serves as a way of Robin paying the same tribute to Jimi as he is to Wolf and Albert without having to take on one of his heroes’ tracks directly.

Throughout the album the songs have quite a funky feel, it’s definitely blues rock, but with a bit more swagger and swing than most. There’s also plenty of space and dynamics separating it from the herd, and this works well with the clear modern production, bass is deep and clear and cymbals really sparkle. The space also means that Robin can stretch out guitar and vocal wise without the flat out nature of many artists working in the same genre. While some fans may feel mellow vibe is less than spectacular, I enjoy it, it lifts it out of sameness and means that when Robin does choose to cut loose, as on Born Under a Bad Sign, it has vastly more impact than it would if it were just one more hard hitting fast lick in an album crowded with them.

So while this record hans’t made me a die hard fan, I do feel re-educated. Robin has never shied away from acknowledging the Hendrix influence, both musically and in interviews, I’m seeing him much more as his own man after hearing and enjoying this album of covers. Sometimes a covers record is a safe thing, something not too taxing for the artist or the listener, and sometimes it’s like this, a chance for an act to stamp their own mark on music that is well known and to assert their own personality. I’m glad this is the latter, Iv’e really enjoyed my time with the album and I’m looking forward to the next one now.


raritsreptarr:

Robert Johnson, King of the Blues Emperor of the guitar

raritsreptarr:

Robert Johnson, King of the Blues Emperor of the guitar


rock-and-roll-will-never—die:

Gary Clark Jr. - Bright Lights 


live @ Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010


rock-and-roll-will-never—die:

Buddy Guy - Damn Right I Got The Blues (Live at Legends)

from his forthcoming new CD


Please Come Home
Gary Clark Jr
Blak & Blu

heartandears:

Please Come Home - Gary Clark Jr.


bluesrockandfolklegends:

Robert Cray - (Won’t Be) Coming Home


The Blind Dead McJones Band - Last Resort Mexico

The Blind Dead McJones band have a sense of humor. It’s important to understand this when you dive into their music. It’s a surreal and slightly deranged sense of humor, but it informs all that the band do, musically, lyrically and even the liner notes. The whole enterprise is wrapped up in the mythical story of an absentee band leader, Mr McJones himself, who rarely, if ever turns up for a gig, and sends instructions from wherever he’s currently holed up. It could be said that this is somewhat of a concept album, but the majority of those are wrapped up in a fog of self importance, something that this record lacks.

It opens up in fine old style, with a swagger that continues throughout the piece. The opener also sets the mood for the eclectic and original arrangements that make up the albums musical personality, with a jungle drum rhythm and dark distorted guitar working well with gritty vocals and a thumping middy bass tone. Things could definitely be called original, like a raw Tom Waits crossbred with George Thoghrogood in a Cream-like power trio, the sound is definitely atypical of the current crop of British blues bands and the songs are as individual as the music. It’s all achieved without the appearance of trying too hard too, the record’s raw, live feel suits the material, giving it all an edge of chaos while enhancing the tight dynamic feel of a band that work well together live.

This isn’t going to be a record that does much for the real blues purists out there, sharing, as it does, more with Cream or Jimi Hendrix than with Muddy or the Wolf, though the influence of the early masters is definitely present, just as it was in the music of the 60’s innovators. From the first songs lyrical exhortations that the legendary Mr McJones is bigger, better, stronger, more than anyone’s parallels with Who Do You Love to deals with the devil over a used up soul, this is a band that know where they come from musically. They also understand that they are in the now, and aren’t stuck in a past, imagined, Shangri-La. After all, it’s not many a blues band that will name check MC Hammer in a song.

It’s not a perfect record, but it is very good, stunning high points like Elephant on a Lead easily outweigh the production that can favor the bass a little too much or the occasional moments where the vocals could do with more polish. It’s a good thing to hear a British band trying something out of the ordinary, especially on a debut, and the passion and fire with which it is delivered are incendiary. I’d recommend that anyone looking for a little something outside of by the book blues rock but still not utterly traditional blues gets their hands on a copy. I’m certain that Blind Dead McJones would agree with me too, wherever he is.


mygodcomplex:

Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones - Live At The Checkerboard Lounge - 1981

So… Just as I was about to call it a night… I stumbled across this concert on PBS down here in GVille… Muddy Waters & The Stones… So I poured myself some scotch, and I am still up… Gonna have to try and track this down… It’s been a good night…

Below is the info on the concert:

On 22 November 1981, in the middle of their mammoth American tour, the Rolling Stones arrived in Chicago prior to playing 3 nights at the Rosemont Horizon. Long influenced by the Chicago blues, the band paid a visit to Buddy Guy’s club the Checkerboard Lounge to see the legendary bluesman perform.http://store.eagle-rock.com/muddywaters It didn’t take long before Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Ian Stewart were joining in on stage and later Buddy Guy and Lefty Dizz also played their part. It was a unique occasion that was fortunately captured on camera. Now, restored from the original footage and with sound mixed and mastered by Bob Clearmountain, this amazing blues night is being made available in an official release for the first time.