Keeping the blues alive

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 Written by Craig Chaligne 11 October, 2018

Brook Williams

The Hawth – Crawley

7th October 2018

Later published BiB Dec '18

Always on tour, always playing, Brooks Williams made his (almost) annual stop at the Crawley Blues Club and for the first time at the venue he was in solo mode. Based on the survey on who had already seen Brooks live (conducted by promoter Tony Molloy before the start of the performance) Brooks would be preaching the converted that evening. Armed with a trio of guitars, his warm manner and great voice (and guitar playing) were the basis of a fantastic night of music. Thirty years of touring and twenty-eight albums can’t be condensed in a two-hour performance but the show certainly proved that our host was the master of many musical styles.

Starting with “Trouble in Mind” (covered by many including Nina Simone who had a hit with the song in 1961), he then moved into a more soulful territory with “Whatever It Takes” (a song that Dan Penn wouldn’t have mind written). Such is the quality of Brooks’ original material that if it wasn’t for his introductions, you’d have been hard pressed guessing what was a cover and what had been written by him. Jumping with ease from a Bessie Smith number (“After You’ve Gone”) to a Delmore Brothers’ track (“Deep River Blues”), our host also took the time to recall how we met one of his musical heroes, Wizz Jones on first trip to the UK as a professional musician before playing “Weeping Willow Blues”. An insight on his song writing process before “Gambling Man” proved very interesting as he explained that the song was written in response to another one (a source of inspiration he has used many time apparently). The simply titled “Georgia” about Brooks’ home state was penned in the standard style that his mum enjoyed while the energetic “Jump That Train” (from his latest LP “Lucky Star”0 proved to be one of the catchiest songs of the evening.

The second set started with the classic “Statesboro Blues”, a song that Brooks can really make his own as contrary to most people who covered it, he’s actually lived in the town !!! Another tune inspired by one of the many places he lived was the groovy “Mama’s Song”, inspired by the community feeling that reigned in Mobile, Alabama during Brooks’ teenage years. Brooks, ever critical, said his shows had sometimes been described as too slick when in fact the impression he gives is one of effortlessness, jumping from Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Rock Me” to the delightfully sarcastic “Save The Bones”. The excellent “Bright Side of the Blues” was followed by what remains one of Brooks’ best tracks, the biographical “Frank Delandry”, which relates the disappearance of a guitar player.

Mark Flanagan 28/9/19 published in Blues In Britain November '19 issue written by Jonathan Brook.

To a few people the name Mark Flanagan might not be recognized ...but his face may by. As for the past 31 years he has been (and continues to be) the guitarist in Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Band.

The amount of "A" list musicians that he has played with is staggering.... BB King Clapton and Gilmour to name but three. When he isn't backing Mr Holland, he is fronting his own 3-piece band or performing solo.

Tonight, was a solo affair, with 2 guitars and Banjo sharing the stage with him ... and an audience hanging on to his every word. The majority of the night’s setlist comprised of tunes from his latest release "Chosen Few" and Down the Wire with fellow Musician Jimmy Bergin. We had stories and songs about Brixton, songs about playing Dominoes with Elvis (written by Jimmy Bergin) and tales reminiscing about his childhood growing up in Liverpool. In between each song this quietly spoken artist shared humorous stories and anecdotes about learning to play guitar in Liverpool at the age of 12 and ending up in Liverpool in 1988 where a neighbour happened to be Jools Holland... and the rest is history ...

"Rico was a song playing tribute to trombonist Rico Rodriguez and Ali From Mali" a respectful nod to multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure . Mark is a virtuoso on both conventional and slide guitar, the final tracks were both slide numbers and the shimmering notes were a joy to behold. Although we were there for the superb music, I for one could of been quite content with listening to Mark's wonderful stories of spending time with George Harrison and playing on his last solo album. Another wonderful night was had by all at Crawley Blues Club.