Keeping the blues alive

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Dave Kelly solo @ the Hawth 28/6/17 Blues in Britain August 2017 Issue 188

The evening started with film of innumerable ‘Legends of Country Blues’ featuring Son House, Broonzy, Rev Gary Davis, Mississppi John Hurt and many more. It set the scene by capturing the solo performer and his craft to engage and draw an audience into the whole performance.

Dave Kelly is no stranger to the Hawth having played the theatre many time with the Blues Band and earlier in the year appearing with Paul Jones. However, it is a rare treat to have Dave perform solo, enabling the listener to appreciate his consummate slide playing and heartfelt, blues drenched vocals. There was also the opportunity to enjoy him as a student of the blues and raconteur with stories that immediately had both empathy & rapport the audience into a gig that could have been performed in your own front room.

The show started with a Robert Johnson cover and it was clear from the off that we were going to be treated to a cornucopia of blues across a myriad of styles. His playing on McTell’s classic ‘Statesboro blues’ concluded with a standing ovation such was the intricacy and dynamics of guitar and vocals. It is testimony to this fine performer that such a standard can garner the reaction it got from a knowledgeable audience. Most of us would associate ‘Hard time killing floor’ with Skip James, however Dave in conversation with ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards was informed that this was not the case at a festival they attended in Canada. Honeyboy attributed it to a local musician who never recorded. Dave’s rendition of the number was awesome and laced with superb slide playing, wringing every emotion out of the song. Showing his versatility Dave went into the Nancy Griffith number ‘Two more bottles of wine’ which he had also covered with Maggie Bell. On introducing the number, he mentioned that the promoter of a festival, again in Canada, had booked him to play the blues but did not realise he could also play country. The enticement was to play alongside James Burton & Albert Lee, which he duly accepted. It is a rousing number that rolls along and we could share the experience and clearly the audience were enjoying every minute of the performance. It takes a great deal of courage and panache to play a contemporary standard and change the melody to make it your own. This was achieved with great aplomb on ‘Dock of the bay’, from which Dave entitled an album from the lyric, “Resting my bones”.

Dave’s versatility was truly on show at the gig, which is why I would encourage everyone to seek out a solo performance. There are constraints within a band and to a lesser extent with a duo, which do not exist in a solo event. Someone with the repertoire that he has needs to be appreciated with the full breadth and depth of his musical knowledge.

The sell penned ‘Mr Estes said’ was a biographical reference to Sleepy John, who Dave played with. The lyrics and the true meaning that we should all look at our lives and realise it’s not a rehearsal, both relevant and poignant. Dave played a wonderful instrumental entitled ‘Slide guitar rag’ was taken from the album “Family and Friends”, another delve back into the archives. Initially on the album the friend in question was Bill Boazman aka Sonny Black, a truly stunning guitarist. Dave also played this at the Hawth for the Blues Festival in ’09 with Mike Dowling. However, on this occasion it was Dave on his own with a deft & intricate instrumental. Another number form the Robert Johnson cannon ‘Come on in my kitchen’, which many among us have heard on innumerable occasions, therefore it takes a great deal of insight to make it your own, whilst at the same time showing deference to the original.

Dave closed the show off with ‘San Francisco Bay blues’, a number that he often starts a performance with. It was a fitting end to the evening, which was over altogether too soon. The audience rose to their feet again in support knowing they had witnessed something special. If live music is to continue then we are all responsible in passing the message on that there is no substitute to this type of experience, which is getting rarer to find.


Image Brian O’Connor, Images of Jazz

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Lauren Housley band @ the Hawth 6/7/17 BiB August 2017 Issue 188

This was the first joint venture between Crawley Blues and 22o5 promotions and is captured in the image supplied by Brian O’Connor, Images of Jazz. Interestingly the centre spread of July BiB had a picture of the band, but no write up. I first came across Lauren at the London Blues festival over two years ago and caught up with her again at the Scarborough ‘Top Secret’ festival in March, therefore I feel that her soulful, blues credentials are authentic. In fact, her voice to me is reminiscent to Susan Tedeschi, who I first saw at Bishopstock in ’99.

There is a new album in the offing and the current pressing is called ‘Sweet surrender’. The show started with the upbeat ‘Nice to see ya’, which I felt was a great way to introduce what the four-piece band fronted by Lauren are about. The band members were the immensely talented Chris Hillman on pedal steel, Tom Dibb guitar/vocals, Mark Lewis bass and Chris Hansen drums. ‘The waiting game’ was written by Lauren & Tom, clearly, they have an empathy and rapport, a song about life and that if something is worth waiting for then patience is certainly a virtue. The number had a soulful feel and a country twang from the dobro, which was well received by the audience. Good songs tend to be those that we can relate to in our everyday life as they hold a greater resonance. ‘Sweet surrender’ the title track of the album certainly fits the bill and it has the feel of a number that you are familiar with outstanding vocals by Lauren and beautiful harmonies by the band. I first heard the next track on a recent Tom Jones album “Long lost suitcase” ‘Elvis Presley blues’ which has a haunting atmosphere about it recalling the time that he passed away. The track highlighted the enormous talent and potential of the band, with the seamless melding of the pedal steel backed by a tight rhythm section topped off by bluesy vocals.

The 2nd set got underway with an instrumental intro which belied what was to come and I remember the reaction of the audience, most of whom had heard it in similar surroundings at Scarborough. It is a tour de force of the band the Dolly Parton number ‘Jolene’ and the reaction was similar as the audience appreciated a familiar number with a new twist, barely recognisable from the original. Laurens vocals ebbed and flowed, the cadences left you breathless, in the middle section Tom showed the full breadth of his guitar prowess. In my mind, the gig would have been worth the entrance fee on this track alone, superlatives seem irrelevant. You must hear it to fully appreciate the feeling. Tom got a rapturous round of applause, which was truly justified. The audience were asked to participate on the next number, which they were up for on ‘To love somebody’ which was a fun/soul drenched groove, once gain showing the range of the band. Lauren thanked the soundman and reprised a number that they did in the soundcheck ‘Angel from Montgomery’, which had me thinking of Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi. Lauren sits comfortably alongside these two ladies of the blues. Her rendition was backed by the dobro of Chris, which gave it a refreshing feel, before Tom soloed and took it to another dimension. The track once more showed what a talented outfit the band are and an excitement of what lies ahead. A gig can be judged by the apparent speeding up of time as the show was concluding all too soon. Tom came up to the mic to announce that it was Lauren’s birthday and what made it perfect was that their parents had come down to see the gig. Lauren introduced the penultimate number, ‘The beauty of this life’ and the circumstances by which it came into being. It was a restless night and an early morning rise to look at the Bob Dylan book of song writing which gave inspiration to what was a beautiful piece of lyrical prose, that we can all relate to. The encore was another number that the band have made their own, ‘The weight’, an all-time classic played with a refreshing authenticity and sincerity. In some ways, it helped to sum up the band and the dilemma in music trying to neatly package music into a genre. Pity there is not a genre called ‘great live music, worth listening to’, which would summarise the overall evening’s entertainment. The audience rose to their feet as the last notes drifted away. An appreciate, open minded group of people who know a good thing when they hear it.


Image Brian O’Connor, Images of Jazz

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Giles Hedley & the Aviators, 15/6/17 at the Hawth , BiB August 2017 issue 188, by Graham Hutton

On this occasion, the Aviators were a threesome consisting of Giles on vocals, harp and slide, Richard Sadler on double bass and Sam Kelly on all things percussive.

Giles is an old school bluesman who has a story for every song, often about how he supported the original artist on their UK tour back in the early 70’s.

After over 50 years in the business, Giles has played with and supported some of the most famous of bluesmen.

Most of his audiences are highly dedicated early blues fans so he has no real need to give the name of the song, He also has no set list because after nearly 30 years playing together as the Aviators, Richard and Sam know exactly what he’s going to play from the story before it.

For those, like me, who are not quite as knowledgeable, this did make for some interesting searching on the internet to get the song titles, especially, as we all know, the title, quite often, has nothing whatsoever to do with the lyrics, but that is all part of the fun.

The opener was, I think, ‘Mama,'Tain't Long Fo' Day' by Blind Willie McTell which immediately showed us that Giles is a slide player extraordinaire, using nothing more sophisticated than one inch of cut down glass bottle neck.

Who knew that Jelly Roll Morton was a brothel pianist back in 1917 when he wrote ‘Winin’ Boy Blues’, The first song Giles learnt to play as a schoolboy, and one he still loves playing today.

They played songs about car’s, another of Giles’ passions, ‘Ford Movements In My Hips’ by Clio Gibson and ‘Terraplane Blues’ by Robert Johnson.

We were treated to songs by the Rev Charles A Tindley, Kokomo Arnold ('Milk Cow Blues’, a hit by Elvis), Blind Blake, Jimmy Witherspoon and witnessed Giles playing two harmonica’s at once, one through his nose and one through his mouth, something that needs to be seen and heard to be believed.

As well as being a great guitarist and harp player, Giles’ vocal range is impressive and he is able to change tone, accent and annunciation to suit each song, providing the authenticity of voice that a lot of other ‘roots’ performers only hope to achieve.

The audience loved every minute of the evening, the relaxed atmosphere, the stories, the humour and the songs.

If you like your blues from the roots, acoustic and highly authentic then Giles Hedley and The Aviators are the band to see.  

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