WESTERN CENTURIES + Shipcote & Friends - JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY2 NEWCASTLE 05/05/17
Western Centuries are a new ensemble. With three lead vocalists in Cahalen Morrison, Jim Miller (guitars) and Ethan Lawton (drums) the band are extremely well served. Morrison of the old time traditional duo, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West and Miller (Donna the Buffalo, plus recordings with Dirk Powell) are incredible acts. Both play excellent guitar, the former mainly on acoustic. Miller though superb on acoustic, moves up a couple of gears once he gets his hands on an electric guitar.
What a fantastic night. I had been looking forward to hearing this unit for some time, and like all present I did not go home disappointed! These guys are the real deal. They were like a breath of fresh air. Not only through the songs and music played, but the manner they present themselves on stage. Unafraid to make fun of them selves, hence, an easy, approachable manner ensued. As songs from their album plus others set to be included on their next recording were given a twirl. Their song introductions covered a diverse range of subjects, and there was also a little sparring with the audience thrown in at no additional charge
Morrison’s incisive vocals aided by Miller’s incredible energy and the honky tonk based fare from Lawton had the place rocking. Helping them do so were fellow members Travis Stuart on upright bass and the wondrous Leo Grassl on pedal steel; never intrusive, his efforts were flawless. Plucking songs from their album coupled with a healthy selection of tunes set to be on their next record the audience were well and truly spoilt. No matter who stepped up to the microphone the result was the same - as another mighty song was performed.
Morrison dropped into the groove, instantly with album title-track “Weight of The World”, and was matched by Miller on “The Long Game” (inspired by Nashville singer-songwriter, Jim Lauderdale) and the heart-searching ballad “Knocking ‘Em Down”. What a song! As for Lawton’s his great play on words on “Off The Shelf”, a song about how alcohol can ruin a man won him much adulation. He did a new one where he speaks of having his own private honky tonk, and like a few more it benefitted from the stellar guitar of Miller. For Morrison, he’s a natural for this kind of music, his voice finds the spot without any fuss (his song “What Will They Say About Us Know” was as good if not better than anything performed) and with Miller ever adding neat twists they are a killer band.
It was a continual flow of undiluted country. Honest, and often awash in wry humour it was both easy to listen to and entertaining! Staying with entertaining, Shipcote & Friends likewise did their bit, don’t they always. As the combo reflected on life. Old favourites “Care home Blues”, “Mr. Wonderful” and with a wry smile he dedicated “Why Worry” to a certain set of football supporters and of course they had to do “North East Of England”. Simply played and with many of the songs dashed in humour, and sang in a warm relaxed fashion what more could one wish for.
Maurice Hope (review) juan Fitzgerald (pics)
THE LOWEST PAIR + Skylark Song – J’Hot Club @ Studio in Live Theatre 11/05/2017
The template of the last two decades of which overseas Old Timey/Appalachian duo’s have tested their wares is surely Gillian Welch & David Rawlings. We’ve had quite an influx of this type of act & were happy to say The Lowest Pair are up their with the best of those who’ve followed on.
Living off a boat in New York state The Lowest Pair of Palmer T Lee and Kendl Winter must have plenty of time & space to practice their banjos and guitars and close harmonies as they are superb musicians. What they also have in bundles is a unique quirkiness, which I suppose comes down to Kendl’s voice, which is high & lonesome & not unlike the wonderful Anais Mitchell’s. Maybe it’s a NY State air ! Anyway the duo went down a storm at the sold out Studio in Live Theatre. With their almost matching baseball caps & urban clothing, they looked great too. My favourite tracks of the evening were “Rosie " Oh my Rosie wont you come back to me I’ve learnt my lesson wont you come back to me" & “Pear tree “which compares love and sex to the life of a pear tree !
The American duo were ably supported by local’s Alec & Emma - Skylark Song. With hot guitar playing & fiddle and very close harmonies their folk roots songs sounded almost pastoral. Including The Beatles “Norwegian Wood” was rather brave & paid off as they made it their own in a very Simon and Garfunkel way
Yet, Another great night of singer songwriter and roots music at the Jumping Hot Club.
Juan Fitzgerald (review & pic)
MARAH + Sam Gibson - JHot Club @ The Cluny –Tues 2nd May 17
From their entrance with a bagpipe player leading the US team out (& a sarcastic shout from the back “Happy New Year”) we just knew that we where in for an interesting ride, & the return of, after nearly a decade away - Philly’s finest rock band Marah.
The band headed by the two Bielanko brothers Dave & Serge strutted their stuff the whole evening. The music verging between Bruce Springsteen, good, raw & honest roots rock and The Pogues- their half-drunk era . Its not often if ever, you see a madcap bagpipes and flute player in a rock band but in a way, he made perfect sense. This was a one off event & the audience were well up for it. The highlights of many, for me were Dishwashers dream with it inclusion of a rap and harmonica solo and Wilderness with rockin thrash guitars. Most people will remember their finale though, where the boys performed acoustically perched above the barrels at the back of The Cluny .
Able support was supplied by local songwriter Sam Gibson with a fine array of songs such as Watching, Squeeze and Lucky Charm .
Juan Fitzgerald ( words & pics)
& here’s Marah’s take on the night ……
Cluny was full of amazing music fans last night, some of them told me they'd waited 8 and 10 years to finally see us play, some of them came down from Scotland, another guy told me it was his 30th MARAH show, 30 !! be damned....The people stayed with us through every song, on the stage, out in the crowd....Serge and I ended standing on a whiskey barrel way in the back of the Jhotclub, we sang "Leaving" with just an acoustic guitar. It was kind of perfect.
THANK YOU FRIENDS, you guys are badass and it means a ton.
REBECCA PRONSKY + Bridie Jackson JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY2 NEWCASTLE 16/04/17
Brooklyn singer-songwriter Rebecca Pronsky and her husband, electric guitarist, harmony vocalist and fellow recording artist Rich Bennett brought a homely feel to the Cluny theatre stage.
Unpretentious and honest Rebecca Pronsky on this her penultimate date of the tour, was in fine form. That they were about to go home and had the pressure off regards travelling would no doubt have had something to do with the relaxed atmosphere. Their Glasgow gig was the only one left before they flew back home to her favourite city in the whole wide world, New York. That aside, she does posses a genuine love for performing live.
Determined to enjoy the fruits of their labour with all the hard work done, stories were told about life, music and all the quirky things concerning our two different cultures.
Some of which, asRebecca pointed out, work their way into songs and that included one that came from a previous trip here. She is a fine observer and had in Rich Bennett, one of the finest and most cultured and different lead electric guitar players you could ever ask for..
Bennett’s timely and often deft touches when needed( less is more) saw him put in a faultless performance. He would be an asset to any performer, and an inspiration to any one who hears him.
Bridie Jackson opened, and with fine diction and an easy stage manner she won herself plenty of new fans. Bridie even got to perform acappella as she performed Peter Bellamy adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “My Boy Jack”, and it could not have gone down much better. She has a great deal going for her. Not least you have her eye for detail and the feeling that she can adapt well to any audience.
Making themselves and the audience feel immediately at ease Rebecca Pronsky and Rich starred on song such as “Snowing Sideways“ and “A.E” (a song about a recent discovery concerning the pilot Amelia Earhardt), and though of great historic interest it wasn’t my favourite of the evening. On her calling on audience participation on an older original “Big City Lights” this was given additional energy. It had in good company too with the likes of their most political song “Nothing Yet” (Donald Trump is also good for a mention; whether you are for him or not!) and another old favourite “Aberdeen”. Arguably the best song was kept till last as they bid us a fond farewell via the strong & spellbinding “Hard Times”. Born out of the 2008 bank crisis and the political and otherwise set to an uplifting beat the audience were left with plenty of good things to muse over.
It would be safe to say Rebecca Pronsky and Rich Bennett’s music deservedly won a place in many a heart.
Maurice Hope review -Juan Fitzgerald pics
ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CAEDMON HALL GATESHEAD 08/04/17
Acclaimed Americana rock singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo backed by Italian band Sacri Couri and lead electric guitarist Don Antonio had the venue buzzing.
Before Escovedo was to show his worth, the four-piece support opened the show with a largely instrumental driven set. On featuring saxophone (and keyboards), electric bass guitar and drums, plus the aforementioned Don Antonio the rock-based music was relentless, and occasionally innovative as of all things an Italian version of The Twist was performed. Antonio worked the audience well and showed himself and his band to be accomplished enough to front a show. As they have done countless times, but with the man himself more a guitarist than vocalist there were hints that more in the vocal department wouldn’t have come amiss. Excellent players though they all were.
Alejandro Escovedo’s appearance was a greatly anticipated affair. Not least due to his ability to reinvent himself, without ever changing his style too dramatically to jolt the faithful.
Whether he is performing hard core Americana rock, like it was tonight loaded with electric guitars and a pounding rhythm or strings there is a presence, an aura when Escovedo steps on stage. He may not be as young and hungry as he once was but he still has all the guitar licks. His lyrics are honest, and at times biting as he draws on his Mexican heritage and years in New York, California and his more recent home in Austin, Texas and more beside.
Rock, punk, alt-country and the glamour of old-fashioned rock and roll of the 1960s all get to speak in his songs as he covers a number of aspects of life in his work.
He spoke of his father, and though like many of the wildly enthusiastic and hugely supportive audience I had heard some of it before it was still good to hear again. He spoke of how his father on looking for his own father crossed the border into America, plus the track record of his many brothers and niece Sheila E in the world of popular music.
Escovedo’s impassioned and at times pleading tones gave his followers what they wanted. Especially when he cranked it up on “Can’t Make Me Run” and likewise pulled out all to stops on the moving “Sister Lost Soul” and other favourites in the cleverly worded jewels “Castanets” and “Bottom Of The World”.
He would have gladly played on, but since there was a curfew. Hence the rapid exit as he closed with a killer version of the tried and tested “Always A Friend”. It almost brought a reaction to match “Sally Was A Cop”, but it was just a little bit extra special and, had him crank it up higher than any other time during the evening.
Maurice Hope (review) Juan Fitzgerald (pic)
DEVON SPROULE & BAND + Baby Copperhead JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY2 NEWCASTLE 31/03/17
When it comes to alternate Americana performers, Canadian-born and part Virginia-raised, singer-songwriter Devon Sproule and support act banjo visionary North Carolina-based Baby Copperhead (Ben B. Lee) fit the bill perfectly.
Baby Copperhead was up first, and joined by Sproule band member -,bass clarinet player Chris Cundy for a song aided by off-the-wall electronic wizardry. With Cundy despatched to the dressing room, Baby Copperhead went on to perform an innovative mix of clawhammer banjo, and though there was more programmed music added a more even keel (and palatable too) sound was obtained. The show was very much a family event, and with Sproule cradling her baby in her arms she edged up on stage to join him on vocals. Copperhead’s cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” I must add was one of the highlights of the evening, such the creativeness of both his playing and all-round energy. Sproule wasn’t the only ‘guest’ during BC’s segment since electric guitarist Rory Haye likewise got in on the act. All in all he opened the way for the hard working and equally innovative Sproule to place her own quirky stamp on the evening.
A huge favourite, Devon Sproule and her ensemble that included Copperhead worked the audience superbly. There was a bunch of songs from her new album The Gold String coupled with her wonderful version of Leon Russell’s “Superstar” (The Carpenters).With her plaintive lyrics that often focussed on everyday family life she was embraced by the Cluny faithful. To the degree she felt totally at home. If you did not know better you could well have taken Sproule as a hometown girl.
Among the finest offerings pulled from her exciting new album came “Drawing Circles” and “More Together” and “Listen To This” to go with a beautiful version of Leonard Cohen’s “You Got Me Singing” plus “You Can’t Help”. While with Baby Copperhead lending frontline support Sproule dusted down one of her older compositions, “Old Virginia Block” as one stellar performance followed another. By this point Sproule could no wrong in the eyes of the audience and her artful eye for detail on shaping her voice around a lyric I could not argue.
With not one but two encores the night closed on high. First off the Sproule performed an a cappella fashion (she snapped her fingers to keep rhythm), and then as a quartet, traditional song “Willow Tree” was given a welcome run out. Talk about an evening of eclectic taste, this had to be up with the best she has done.
Maurice Hope( review) Juan Fitzgerald (pics)
BILL KIRCHEN AND AUSTIN DE LONE JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ LIVE THEATRE NEWCASTLE 23/03
What a partnership as we had the Titan of Telecaster guitar, Austin-based Bill Kirchen and a man at the core of the emergence of pub rock keyboards genius Austin De Lone. Backed by well-versed acts Malcolm Mills (drums) and the electric bass of Paul Riley the veterans( average age 69 1/2 years old) performed with zest & zeal, material from their new album Transatlanticana. Plus there were a few chestnuts from their respective solo or otherwise careers thrown in as they revisited songs of thirty to forty years ago and more.
While the opening was in part, a bedding in period, they looked much more comfortable on their return on a longer second set. On showing greater freedom and much more crowd pleasing.
With the audience right into the songs, Kirchen’s hunger on guitar and De Lone’s wizardry, especially classy on the slow numbers the stakes were well upped. There was a period when each performance was better than the rest and boy that took some doing!
As for their working of Kirchen’s showpiece, “Hot Rod Lincoln” a song he may not have written but through his additions as he switched styles from the likes of Johnny Cash to Merle Haggard by way of Muddy Waters, Iggy Pop to The Ventures and B. B. King it was greatly enhanced through De Lone’s wonderful piano playing. With the playing styles of Fats Domino, Ray Charles etc replicated in thrilling fashion they could do no wrong. Sure it was a touch of showmanship but there’s few people who could also do justice to banjo great Earl Scruggs on guitar! There were one or two more occasions when a special kind of magic filled the air.
Back to their own work and songs from the album they produced highlights “Wine, Wine, Wine” and with the tempo lifted “All Tore Up” plus of a feel good factor “No Need For Knocking”. Revisiting their days respectively with Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen and Eggs Over Easy they were firing on all cylinders by the time they performed the terrific “Rockabilly Funeral”. Kirchen’s guitar playing peeked around this time.
While I am not a big fan of Bob Dylan’s “The Times Are A-Changin’” Kirchen’s reason behind them covering the song was explained as being a song of two meanings to him; one of great joy when Barrack Obama gained office and one of equal sadness when a certain Donald Trump came to office recently.
They closed the show as their encore with a brilliant version of recently deceased rock’n’roll legend, Chuck Berry’s “Nadine”. It was a good choice from his catalogue, one of many that would have sent the audience home cheerful & happy.
Maurice Hope (review) Juan Fitzgerald(pics)
AMERICAN AQUARIUM AND TIM EASTON JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY2 NEWCASTLE 25/03/17
With guitarist, singer-songwriter Tim Easton the opening act for Raleigh, North Carolina Americana five-piece American Aquarium here was a real treat not to be missed.
Tim Easton usually fronts shows but due to circumstances he was over touring with the above on their first ever trip in the UK. He was the perfect foil in more ways than one since he’s no stranger to the area. Performing on acoustic slide and harmonica he got the show off to a flyer. Highlights of his short set included recent composition “New Old Straitsville Blues”, his songwriting style on the song followed that of Randy Newman in that he views it as another person. With his work on slide guitar never finer, Easton produced the performance of the night!
Make no mistake Tim Easton wasn’t just along for the ride, he was here to show what he could do and improve his fan base. From the look on people’s faces during the break the task was accomplished and more.
American Aquarium included pedal steel to go with bass, acoustic, electric lead guitar and drums, and they were good! The balance between instruments was far better than many bands of their field, & the band were all team players.
Leader BJ. Barham fronted the line well, and a brilliant storyteller too, he also held court when the boys vacated the stage. During which time he played four songs. It was here Barham spoke of how his grandfather served his country in WW2 but on his return could only draw minimum wage for the “American Tobacco Company”, and he only found that job through knowing a friend. Times weren’t easy then or for that matter years later for Barham as the band and him struggled to gain a foothold in the over populated world of music.
Back in 2012 the boys were about to call it a day only for fellow recording act Jason Isbell to come to their rescue, and produce their album Burn. Flicker. Die. Since then fortunes of the band has changed dramatically, and all for the better. As a tribute to Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark, Barham found time to include his version of “She Ain’t Going Nowhere” and though he’s no Guy Clark (or is anyone else for that matter) his version was as honest as it comes.
Among the highlights you had “Man I’m Supposed To Be”, “Tennessee” and from Barham’s solo slot the humour etched “Funny How It All Works Out”. There were also others as in arguably their best song “Old Northern State”. It not only had wonderful lyrics, but some of the tastiest pedal steel playing to go with it.
Burham and the band’s material was in the main, tempered Americana steeped in rock, and though the music towards the end became heavier and lost the cutting edge of their earlier work, no one complained. Then again by this time they had been on stage well over an hour and half & had been excellent value - Maurice Hope (review) Juan F- pic
MARK EITZEL & Band + Fernando @ JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY2 NEWCASTLE 10/03/17
From the opening comments from SF songsmith/ alt crooner Mark Eitzel where he recounts a sad story of a friend's girlfriend who threw all of his records out of the window and said your not listening to this shit again - we just knew that we where were in for an interesting evening !! Mark is like a cross between Nick Cave and Frank Sinatra with a touch of Flamenco emotional delivery & he can easily hold the audience in the palm of his hand with his brutally honest, funny & ironic tales & tunes.
From songs from his old band American Music Club's catalogue like "What Holds The World Together" to others with lines such as " Come dance with me right here in your merciful kitchen" Mark puts his whole heart & soul into every song & delivery
He played lots of tracks too, with his crack UK band from his new release Hey Mr Ferryman. My favourite being "The Answer" & the wonderfully longing lyrics - " Your always on my mind i just cant leave you behind , you make me want to stick around and find if theres an answer" . But my most favourite tune of the whole evening with a rocky dance feel was " I Love You But Your Dead" , the song about going to see a band with a girl singer - " The music was blasting I couldnt hear what she said so she wrote on my poster, I love you, I love you but your dead"....ah what a guy .....
A terrific evening of music was witnessed & Mr Eitzel was well supported by the Argentinian singer songwriter Fernando
Juan Fitzgerald words & pics
THE BLACK LILLIES + Archie Brown quartet @ JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY2 NEWCASTLE 15/02/17
Knoxville six-piece The Black Lillies were the latest act to grace the Jumpin’ Hot Club stage on making their English debut. & on pulling an enthusiastic audience, all was set for a night of fun & more .
It may not have been chalked up on the admittance poster but fun was high on the agenda tonight as The Black Lillies aimed to make a favourable impression. A mixture of traditional barroom room country spiced with incessant urgency had front man Cruz Contreras (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards) lead the line in fine fashion.
They could all play, but with pedal steel, electric guitar, bass, drums and fellow vocalist, sweet voiced Haley Cole at times all fighting for pole positive they did not always make the best of their respective talent. Then again, that could be a matter for debate as their a relatively all new band ( Haley not even a month into her job as co- vocalist)
Support act ... Archie Brown Quartet (accordion, fiddle, upright bass) put all their excellence to great effect, and with Archie Brown’s world weary vocals cushioned, expertly I have rarely heard him in better or more commanding form. Among Archie's best work you had “Lowlife” and “Can’t Get Used To It”, songs that provided violinist Bradley Creswick to explore avenues not usually accustomed for the leader of the Northern Symphonia. One could not have asked for more really, from a set of musicians opening the show.
Leader for the Black Lillies, Cruz Contreras seemed to have been on a mission to perform all songs from their previous albums, and if it wasn’t for a curfew the band may well have done so . When it comes to hard work, the Black Lillies like , the Turnpike Troubadourslast week, give thir fans, great value for their money.
Some of their songs of the greatest merit, enjoyed travel themes and love relationships that took the listener on exciting trips through their home state of Tennessee, North Carolina and on one song spoke of a journey from Louisiana to LA. “Dancin’ with Haley Cole sharing lead vocals was one of their very best, and it was in excellent company with the R&B styled “Mercy” plus the wonderful “Two Hearts Down”. As for one of their most popular country rock songs, “Runaway Freeway Blues” had the place set to erupt - as was the wild applause that was given afterwards. Hot of the heels of “Runaway Freeway Blues” you also had “Smokestack Lady” and the likes of “Desire”, with such evocative lyrics ‘silhouette on a blood red sky I could see fire in your eyes’ the band were picking up new fans at every turn.
With time about to be called Cruz (who’s voice on occasions possessed hints of 1990s country favourite Clint Black) and Haley , of whom I could have heard more, whisked through “Hard To Please”. On switching from his regular acoustic guitar to keyboards Contreras let ‘er rip as the band just kept rocking the joint. In fact they rocked all night long !
Maurice Hope - pics Juan Fitzy
The Mastersons + Anthony D ‘Amato - Jumpin Hot Club @ Caedmon Hall – Sat 11th Feb 17
The Mastersons made a welcome return to The Jumping Hot Club (the stars of Made in T&W TV) and to the first show of the year in a venue, just perfect for their semi acoustic country /americana music - Caedmon Hall, Gateshead. Playing tunes from both their old albums and some from the forthcoming third album “ Transient Lullaby “ their harmonies and musicianship was second to none. Chris Masterson on guitar & his missus Eleanor on fiddle & tenor guitar not only have the chops but their story songs are just so damn good. New song’s such as "Highway 1" which inspired a couple to stay together although “they don’t breathe the same air “and the poppy & eerie "Fight" which celebrated in a funny way , the ups and downs of their seven year marriage with lines such as " I don’t want to fight with anyone else but you" had the crowd clapping along as instructed by the charming Mr Masterson. They had plenty of earlier material too in their 75 min’s set to enjoy like “Cautionary Tale" where a comment on modern technology such as mobile phones & a catchy fiddle arrangement made for one of the best songs of the evening. One of my other favourite’s was the title track from their second album " Good Luck Charm" which showed both a fear of the world at present and of pre Valentines day love " You can hold my hand I sure could use a good luck charm"…it was simply poptastic.
No wonder Steve Earle has them in his backing band on all his major tours, as they are a major league talent.
The Finale highlight was the Bob Dylan cover gem "You Ain't Going Nowhere” accompanied by their support act Anthony D’Amato, for a resounding pre St Valentines day highlight.
Special mention must also go to the support act New York singer songwriter Anthony D'Amato who jumped around the stage with energy & verve playing guitar and harmonica with a Dylanesque quick fire vocal style. His ode “Honey That’s Not All" being outstanding.
Jumping Hot Club just keeps the high standard going & going well into their fourth decade.
Words & pics Juan Fitzgerald
TURNPIKE TROUBADOURS - JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY 2 NEWCASTLE 05/02
Oklahoma-band the Turnpike Troubadours and their fans won’t forget the English debut in quite a while & I certainly won’t either. Such was the energy that filled the air, the band were made to feel right at home immediately as they set foot on stage. It would be fair to say they were taken aback with the instant response from the jam -packed Cluny audience.
Cheered on by an enthusiastic audience including a healthy share of young happy faces (including some who’d travelled over the pond for their tour) the band led by Evan Felker (acoustic guitar, harmonica lead vocals) torn up Sunday night with their head-on brand of Americana. Possessing drive and charisma Evan & the boys (pedal steel, fiddle, bass, lead guitar and drums) ploughed headlong into their best work from their most recent record, Turnpike Troubadours along with fans favourites from earlier recordings.
With little time to draw breath they made full use of their 90minute stage time. It was like they wanted to play all their established fan’s favourites, and at the same time let everyone else know just what they have been missing. I have to put my hand up for till tonight I was of the latter category.It was one of those nights the venue was flooded with discerning fans of a group or artist and were thrilled to bits to get to see their heroes. For a band to posses such a pull they not only have to be good but also have to thrive on hardwork ! Girls with drinks in their hands were lined up at the edge of the stage, some dancing, then others singing the word to every song. One girl in particular was to experience an unforgettable night.
Once she regained her breath on receiving a package containing a red rose delivered by TT leader Evan Felker on her boyfriend’s behalf, and seen her prince charming get down on one knee, propose to her and place a ring on her finger, she was in seventh heaven. Such was the intensity of Turnpikes music and songs “The Bird Hunters”, “Down Here” and “Gin, Smoke, Lies” plus one of their best “Easton & Main” the band in some ways made me think of the first time I saw Scott Miller perform in his own right. Only with a little bit more added as in pedal steel and surges of electric lead and incredible fiddle work of Kylie Nix (he was of another class) pressed all buttons possible to ensure the band’s charismatic Turnpike’s leader enjoyed a platform to work from. But it really wasn’t about one Turnpike player or another.
On the subject of songs there was a bunch I would recommend people to check out such as “Bossier City”, the dynamic “The Mercury”, & the amazing tune “Long Drive Home” that saw them vacate the stage for the last time.
Yes, this was most certainly a special night. Let’s all hope the newly engaged Austin Texas couple Kris Mews and Tori Rolen will savour the occasion for a great many years.
While opening act Liverpool’s Robert Vincent and his band did their reputation no harm at all, it was all about the debut on English soil of one of Oklahoma’s finest and of course, the question we were all asking was - when can we expect to see this exciting band back here.
Maurice Hope + pics Juan Fitzgerald
JAMES McMURTRY- JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ THE CLUNY, NEWCASTLE 03/02/17
Americana singer-songwriter James McMurtry and his band were nicely into their 31 night straight European tour when they took to the Cluny stage. Since the last time McMurtry was here not only had he cut his hair but he’d also shaved off his beard. Apart from looking smarter, visually, it was pretty much as before on the song front.Followed by band members Darren Hess (drums), Cornbread (electric bass), they put to bed a handful of songs before Tim Holt (electric guitar, accordion) joined the party.
McMurtry opened with “Bayou Tortue”, and in no time he was into “Just Us Kids” and firing on all cylinders; with the music keener and hunger rekindled we were in for a killer gig! On listening to his inspired descriptive lyrics it was like he blows the lid off the art. Who but him would come up with ‘all bunched up like pearls on a string’ as he describes the lights of trucks on the horizon on the highway as darkness falls.
McMurtry is one of a kind, his gritty songs are peppered with lyrics powerful enough to make one jolt, and with his electric guitar and a powerful rhythm in support he held court. Stopping every now and again to change guitars, swopping an old electric for a Gibson acoustic and a mouthful of water he dug back into his war chest for one of his biggest songs “Choctaw Bingo” plus “Painting By Numbers”, “Childish Things and “The Buffalo’s Gone’. It was a non-stop procession of treasures from McMurtry as other standards “Red Dress”, “Too Long In The Wasteland” and others decorated the recently refurbished Cluny stage.
His latest record Complicated Game was well represented as one new treasure after another was performed. Songs about real people or at very least inspired by those he’s met or come to know came in“Copper Canteen” “These Things I’ve Come To Know” (just him and an acoustic guitar), and a song written one drunken night in New Orleans “Ain’t Got A Place”. It was a thrill a minute night as McMurtry dipped into his songbook and come up with image prompting new songs “You Got To Me” and a memory from his childhood days when he learnt to fish at “Deaver’s Crossing”. Even after, seemingly all his energy expelled McMurtry still had a couple of aces up his sleeve when it came time to pull the plug from the amp and bid goodnight. “Lights Of Cheyenne” was a great choice to close with. Just him and his guitar he performed the song superbly, but how else would a man who is a genuine American treasure close a gig! Even then there were a pack of more winners still left unheard at The Cluny like “Hurricane Party”, “We Can’t Make It Here” and “Ruby And Carlos”. Songs big enough to make up the core of most other acts performance and I have but only brushed the surface of material synonymous with this remarkable talent.
Prior to which Chicago blues – free jazz trio Alice Drinks The Kool Aid had warmed the stage with some solid work. Lead vocalist brewery owner Tony Magee will go down in history as the man who brought over from the States crates of free beer to be consumed.
Maurice Hope - pix Juan Fitzgerald
PHIL WIGGINS, BEN HUNTER & JOE SEAMONS + CD Wallum - JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ THE LIVE THEATRE, NEWCASTLE 29/01
Blues, 1930s style with the odd addition or two. Phil Wiggins, Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons covered them all; as songs from The Mills Brothers, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong featured alongside early country blues for an amazing evening..
Dressed accordingly, Wiggins (harmonica, vocals) and Hunter (fiddle, mandolin, vocals) and Seamons (banjo, guitar) regaled the audience with their music and tales about some of the greats of the time & more.
The audience were held in awe at the presence of the legendary harmonica player Wiggins, Seamons and the innovative Hunter. Equally at ease on fiddle and mandolin, and arguably at his best on the latter his star shone brightly through out.
Seamons likewise was forever prodding and probing as the trio performed “(In The Evening) When The Sun Goes Down”, “Jones Oh Jones” and with Hunter simultaneously playing fiddle and singing lead, a terrific version of “John Henry”.
Steeped in tradition, and legendry tales of Blind Boy Fuller and Lonnie Johnson the good times flowed. It has been said ‘what Armstrong did for the trumpet Johnson did for blues guitar! & for this ‘trio’ they are championing roots blues in a fashion that would be very hard to beat.
Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures Of Plenty” (taken from a new album of Woody’s songs Roll On Columbia gained a slot, and with current Stateside policies this song has became even more meaningful as it spoke of the plight of the poor immigrant. Seamons lead vocals provided the much-covered song with an ideal texture that again, would be very hard to beat.
Hunter understandably was keen to question his country’s decision to place the restrictions it has; however tradition and parameters are forever changing.
Highlights included, their general playing and their great bond shared on and off the stage, “Stop & Listen Blues” and “Jazz Fiddler” from the famed Mississippi Sheiks were worthy of a mention. . While a song about ‘a date’ and a man named Billy Morgan lifted the mood as if it was needed. As for an encore that came after almost two hoursof playing & they came back on stage with a terrific version of Nina Simone’s “Sinner Man”. By this time, they could do no wrong or approach anything near it. Hunter’s arms were going in all directions as he played spoons with Wiggins and Seamons tagging along;
“Sinner Man” probably alongside the trio’s opener, a stirring a cappella version of “Leave That Liar Alone” and Wiggins’ enthusiastic rendition of “Do You Call That A Buddy” made a special place in my hear on the night, . But, so did a good few others during their long set.
Support came from Leeds-based young blues guitarist/singer, Chris Wallum who also performed more tasteful music of the era. His version of “Rag Mama Rag” coupled with Jimmie Rodgers’ “My Old Pal” and the golden sound from his acoustic guitar ensured he left a favourable impression.
Maurice Hope - pics Juan Fitzzzy
LINDSAY LOU & THE FLATBELLYS / This Little Bird - JUMPIN’ HOT CLUB @ THE LIVE THEATRE NEWCASTLE 26/01/17
Michigan-formed, now East Nashville-based Lindsay Lou and her three-piece band The Flatbellys brought a fine blend of folk, bluegrass, country and some gospel/ soul to the Jumpin Hot Club, previewing songs from their forth-coming album & more.
Wonderfully varied, Their performance was entertaining from their first song to the last. The band all sang and at one time or another played upright bass as instruments were exchanged all through the show.
Accomplished in all areas; Lindsay Lou (guitar, lead vocals) Joshua Rilko (mandolin), PJ George (upright bass) and Mark ‘Huggybear’ Lavengood (dobro) performed music guaranteed to gain an in-road into the heart and soul of fans of the above. Ever keen to keep their music organic driven, even their records are made in old by their standards, locations. With a new set for release this spring they were kind enough to share a sample.
“Hot Hands” featuring some amazing hot licks from mandolin man Josh coupled with “Iron Bell” which was performed solo, by Lindsay Lou on guitar and harmonica were up with the rest.
They opened with a version of “High Sierras” & it soon became very evident that the band’s strengths lie in the ‘to die for’ three-part harmony vocals and playing opposed to Lindsay Lou commandeering the vocal spot - as hers and hers alone.
When the audience weren’t mesmerised by the changing of instruments and, or harmonies they were engrossed in songs like “A Woman Needs A Man”, (the idea from a bumper sticker A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle) “Sugar” (a song about addiction) and PJ lead singing on the superb “The River I Knew” (Minnesota’s many lakes and rivers)
Interspersed was a little banter “The River Jordan”, “The Power” and an audience participated “Shining In The Distance” all these vied for best song of the evening.
On their way home the audience had a good many things to muse over. Of the many virtues of their performance & of how tastefully the music all welded together.
Support from local girl, Seaham singer-songwriter Rebecca Young (This Little Bird) was likewise appreciated as she performed a fine collection of her work. The pick of the litter was a well-written and clever “Anemone”, as her music loosened up to advantageous effect.
Maurice Hope - pics Juan Fitzgerald
THE CACTUS BLOSSOMS/ Howlin Ric & The Rackateers - JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ THE LIVE THEATRE, NEWCASTLE 20/01/17
Minneapolis sibling act, The Cactus Blossoms (Jack Torrey and Page Burkum) accompanied by upright bass (Andy Carroll) and drums (Chris Hepola) attracted a full house on making their North East debut. Walking, casually, on stage with no fanfares or jumped up egos the boys soon made them selves feel at home. I had very much looked forward with great expectation to this show , and wasn’t about to be disappointed.
It was already common knowledge through their Red House album debut You’re Dreaming of their riveting vocal harmonies, but I hadn’t realised just how accomplished, and stylish was the electric guitar (tiny it was too) playing of the ever busy Jack Torrey.
The Cactus Blossoms led the audience through a sound that goes right back to the 1950s and 1960s; one as rich and pure as fruit picked straight from the orchard. Their stash made up of lesser-known gems and quirky appetisers included a totally unexpected cover of the Kinks’ mid-1960s song “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” and 50’s country duo Johnny and Jack’s wacky and older still “Uncle John’s Bongo”.
Hugely entertaining and innovative they did justice to Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line”, and from way back time and fitting like a glove, the classic “Tennessee Border”.
No time was lost between songs as they eased from one song to another. Not least among the other highlights that came thick and fast were the boys own show stoppers “Stoplight Kisses”, “Adios Maria” and heartfelt environmental piece “Change Your Ways Or Die”. Here is a song that will just not go away. Due both to the state of the planet and quality of the lyrics and harmonies & of course the terrific rhythmic bass, percussion and rhythm guitar. This was closely followed by “Powder Blue”, arguably the most potent moment of the evening.
They then eased into Chuck Berry’s “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”, fittingly dedicated to former American president, Barrack Obama the audience showed their appreciation of the sentiment.
It was one of those nights when the standard of entertainment met everyone’s hopes, and wishes and then some; and that includes the rousing performance of opening act, Howlin’ Ric & the Racketeers ! Ric and the bands debut performance demanded a return visit-, the Summertyne Fest would be most fitting. As for on the night, the Leeds five-piece of acoustic guitar, electric lead guitar, slap bass, saxophone and drums ignited the touch paper with their self-penned tunes and dynamic style.
Fans of old-fashioned rock’n’roll and early country were well served and those unfamiliar (if that is possible) were signing-up after the show. They were that good!
Maurice Hope - Pics CJ Holley