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Live Review:

Blues: Back to the Source, With Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Otis Taylor and Don Vappie + Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba

Barbican, April 28 2008

Review David Atkinson, Photos Andy Hall

Corey Harris

For The Blues: Back to The Source, Bassekou Kouyate was joined by Otis Taylor and most of his companions from his recent Recapturing the Banjo album.

Bassekou Kuyate & Ngoni Ba had appeared on Jools Holland not long ago but they had not made much of an impression - I was probably just back from the pub - tonight though they did. A charismatic and enthusiastic band leader, Bassekou's buoyant opening numbers set an impossibly high standard. Choosing french over english, the communication with the audience was not always fully understood but it really just let the music work more effectively. The outstanding percussion and very vocal phrasing on the various ngonis were a delight. For the last number they were joined buy Guy Davis - his bluesy high notes on the harmonica sounding like a fife at times. Basekou's talented band, including 'femme' Amy Sacko on vocals, played so well they received a standing ovation before the interval.

Bassekou Kuyate & Ngoni Ba and friends

Corey Harris opened the second part with a spell binding take on Skip James' Special Rider Blues, his guitar banjo and vocal delivery made a great segueway into the ensemble section. He was followed by Alvin Youngblood Hart who performed Deep Blue Sea and his original Prophet's Mission, where he was joined by Don Vappie on Tenor banjo and Guy Davis on harmonica. Hart is such a colossal man that his small bodied guitar looked like a toy, but his deep sonorous voice captivated the hall. He's not exactly an inscrutable chap and seemed to deliberately take a backseat from then on.

Don Vappie's Les Ognon brought a flavour of the Caribbean to the night. He made a great impression and his fluttering right hand stood out whenever he took a solo. His barking and funky sound is due in part to years playing jazz and funk on a variety of instruments. He also uses a kevlar plectrum about half a centimeter thick!

Guy Davis

Guy Davis roused the crowd on Little Liza Jane - one of those songs that 'got around' and is familiar to all. He's an engaging performer and his fine claw-hammer style was one of the numerous highlights.

With Otis Taylor finally on stage, the Recapturing the Banjo line up was complete. Unfortunately the Bo Diddley style jam didn't quite catch on even with him and Guy Davis out in the crowd with their harps. The crowd did respond well to Walk Right In and Live Your Life though.

Compared to the first half, the constant changes of personnel and instruments in the second half meant it did not flow particularly smoothly and some numbers seemed a bit unrehearsed. The delicate sound of the initial songs gave way to less distinct, midrange heavy one, particularly with Taylor's amplified acoustic guitar. The semi-circle of chairs didn't provide much of a focal point either compared to Ngoni Ba's dancing but it didn't matter because the crowd recognised this was more of an event than just another gig. An important night full of great music.

More on Bluesinondon about 'Recapturing The Blues' >