Saturday, 31 July 2010

Stompin' Dave's Electric Band - Mystery Train

Stompin’ Dave Allen is one of the hardest gigging musicians in British blues (if you don’t believe me check out his tour dates) and he never fails to entertain. Now’s no exception as Stompin’ Dave’s Electric Band release their latest album Mystery Train.

As an artist, Stompin’ Dave is hard to define; he sounds perfectly suited to being a solo acoustic performer, but equally so as the front-man for this electrified three-piece. He mostly tours in the UK’s South East but his voice is pure Americana.

The new album is in keeping with that spirit of ambiguity, as Dave shifts from whooping like Jerry-Lee Lewis amid mad piano solos on I’m On Fire to sounding like a 60 year old Detroit bluesman on Mean Sad World. This mix of styles keeps a tight hold on you as the album switches between well known classics and self-penned originals which sound so much like classics that they’ll have you questioning whether or not Stompin’ Dave invented the blues.

Backed by Graham Bundy on drums and Chris Lonergan, playing bass so rhythmically you could set your watch to it, Stompin’ Dave serves up frantic lead guitar and measured, soulful piano with deft skill. The result is an album that not only sounds like it features a host of blues legends, but also sounds as fresh as music did when they were writing it.

Mystery Train is out soon, available from www.stompinstore.com

Thursday, 22 July 2010

How to feel blue, part 1

I’ve had a couple of friends talk to me about getting into the Blues lately and the one thing they all complain about how hard it is. It’s a bizarre contradiction; most Blues fans can talk passionately about their favourite artists and tracks but finding a way into the genre is almost impossible.

It might have something to do with the fact that most music stores lump Blues in with ‘World Music’, ‘Easy Listening’ or, if they’re especially small/apathetic, ‘Other’. It might also have something to do with the glut of middle aged, white Blues-accountants who’ll dismiss you quick as you can say Robert Johnson for not having the latest Scorsese box-set pre-ordered.

But fret no longer new-comers. In my on-going quest to talk about the music I love until a court order is taken out against me, I’ve prepared the following must have intro to the Blues.

Son House – Death Letter

Son House will always hold a place in my heart. Robert Johnson might get the credit for being the quintessential Bluesman but an early recording of this song graced the Library of Congress archives before he was even born. He released 21 albums over the course of his long, strangely clean-lived life. Most of these were recorded live in the traditional Delta Blues style.

The song is a typically Son House mix of Christian soul-searching and emotive, rhythmic slide guitar. It also features that fine Blues staple: the dead true love.

Fleetwood Mac – Coming Home

Rumours might be the best selling album of all time but FM’s earlier, perhaps less well-titled album, The Pious Bird of Good Omen is where the true Blues gems can be found. From the distorted electric slide intro and right through its distorted twelve bar blues Coming Home is 2 minutes, 38 seconds of twenty four carat Blue.

Rory Gallagher – I’m Not Surprised

Rory Gallagher is, in this humble writer’s opinion, the greatest electric guitarist the world has known, in any genre. Having said that, I couldn’t decide between songs for just one to recommend, Bad Penny is great, so are Loan Shark Blues and Tattoo’d Lady. I decided that as his back catalogue was so flawless I’d recommend one of his more unusual songs.

I’m Not Surprised is genuinely tender. It tell the familiar story of a man wronged by his woman to a backing of honky-tonk piano and acoustic guitar. Unlike most of the 1970s Blues, this is something you can put on and relax to... although it is equally at home played on an old jukebox in a smoky bar room.

So that’s it for now. Go, listen, enjoy, then tell your friends about these great songs. I hope I’ve given you a range of styles. These are three of the greatest songs ever written. However, even as I write that another twenty spring to mind, so I dare say there’ll be a part 2. The only question now is what would you have on your list?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

A brand new hit of old fashioned Blues

Every musical genre has its clich├ęs. There are as few heavy metal tracks about unicorns as there are Rap songs about respecting women and learning to appreciate what little you’ve got. Blues certainly isn’t an exception to this rule as armies of middle aged, white Englishmen will attest, taking to the stage at open mic blues nights to sing about “goin’ down to the roadhouse” and how their baby has done gone left them.

All of this makes me very happy that the new Eric Street Band album is soon to be released on Southside Music.

For those unfamiliar with the other E-Street Band, their last album, the Journey, was a masterpiece of dirty bottle-neck slide guitar and lyrical originality. Their soon-to-be released offering, titled the Drifter, ploughs the same whiskey-soaked furrow.

The essence of good ol’ fashioned blues is still there, songs about drinking, dancing and one stands, usually followed by early mornings on the road out of town, are all there. What Eric Street Band does is to own these stories. They aren’t singing about a 1920s black American riding the roads, they’re singing about four old British guys doing it, and that truth makes the image that much stronger.

It helps that the band is fronted by Denis Siggery, a man whose voice is equal parts Rod Stewart, Roger Daltry and a 72 hour bourbon binge, and that he’s supported by three of the most competent Blues musicians in Britain. But that’s no reason why bands with healthy lungs and livers shouldn’t learn a lot from this.

The rest of us, we just get the joy of listening to it.

Tour dates and albums available at www.ericstreetband.com