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Live Review:

The Bottleneckers and The Five Aces

Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues, 10th April 2008

Review Sharnalee Foster. Photo Mary McDonald & Alison Goby.


The Bottleneckers received a noisy welcome when, at midnight, they took to the cramped stage at Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues. By now, this popular club night, with its well-established tradition of presenting respected bands, was already grooving sweatily to the beat of early ska and R’n’B. The band, having just endured a gruelling 9-hour journey from their hometown of Glasgow, consisted of Richard W. Rinn doing vocals and harmonica, Duncan Kennedy and Jon Paul McMillan on guitar, Mark Ferrie on double bass, Iain McClean on keyboards and Ross Wilson on drums. They launched earnestly into a fine rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Talking About You” and proceeded through an upbeat selection of blues standards dating largely from the early ‘50s, including familiar classics like “Honey Hush”, “Lovey Dovey”, “I’m a Lover Not a Fighter”, Jimmy Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby” and “Hound Dog”. The Bottleneckers successfully recreated the evocative sound and immediacy of the originals with their skilful playing and Richard’s strong vocals. The audience continued to dance enthusiastically, singing along in many cases. Other, more understated, blues numbers, like “Chevrolet” and Washboard Sam’s “Easy Ridin’ Mama”, were also delivered with an impressive fullness of sound. Such was their authenticity, you’d be hard-pressed to spot the odd self-penned tune, thrown in for good measure, such as the humorous “She’s Alright”.

At the end of a packed set, the band left for a brief period of recovery, before re-emerging in their alternative guise as The Five Aces. The line-up was virtually identical, with Mark taking on bass guitar and the notable absence of Jon Paul. The band’s neat attire perfectly fitted the sound of The Five Aces; the later beat sound of the early ‘60s. Whereas Jon Paul’s adept guitar-picking and Richard’s manipulation of the harp gave The Bottleneckers their distinctive bluesy sound, Iain’s working of the Hammond organ is what really gives The Five Aces their beat vibe. You couldn’t fail to move to the strong, driving rhythms of such classics as Richie Barrett’s “Some Other Guy”, Jimmy McCracklin’s “Get Back”, the party favourite, “Woolly Bully” and Ray Charles’ ever-popular “What’d I Say”, and throughout the night the floor continued to throb with gyrating bodies. The band seemed to visibly relax during the course of this set and dealt well with the antics of some of the more exuberant members of the audience who insisted on taking their turn at the mike. Richard continued to belt out these classics with soulful gusto and Duncan and Mark gave enthusiastic backing on their shared mike.

As well as playing some wonderful covers, The Five Aces also treated us to some of their excellent originals, largely penned by singer Richard. Such originals included the ironic “Kick the Bucket”, now available as a vinyl 7”, “New Blues-Loving Number”, and my personal favourite, the irresistible dance track, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Twist”. Also impressive with its smooth seduction is the band’s adaptation of Fats Washington’s “I’m Gonna Do It By Myself”. While they can deliver standards with ease and authenticity, they are more than capable of creating their own sound, often with a very 21st century sense of humour. For example, on one level, “Kick the Bucket” is a wonderful song to dance to, but listen more carefully and could it be that we’re being laughed at? But these boys seem so unassuming and amenable, we won’t hold it against them. Most of the band has been together in some form or another since 2001 and are popular on the pub and club circuit in Scotland and further afield. Their style has developed as their collective taste has gradually changed direction, resulting in a slick, tight sound. Mark Lamarr, radio presenter, has been impressed by the band, featuring them on his Radio 2 show and writing the liner notes on their latest CD, “Shout and Shimmy”. It is easy so see why.

The Five Aces received enthusiastic and well-deserved applause at the end of their relentlessly grooving set and rewarded us with a much-appreciated encore. It could be said that the audience was an easy one to please, appearing to consist largely of London’s Bright Young Things, determined to enjoy themselves no matter what, but judging by the enthusiastic feedback from some of these and also from the more mature gig-going types amongst us, the quality of the bands’ musicianship and their energy and drive were far from unappreciated. It may not have been a typical gig for them, in terms of audience and the fact that they were attempting to showcase both bands, but each set had a distinct flavour and was great fun to experience. Tonight, these guys proved their versatility, without losing any of their integrity. They obviously love the music they perform, which harks back to a time when producing music was less complicated, and it was strong writing and an ability to perform that counted. Thankfully, in both The Bottleneckers and The Five Aces, REAL Rhythm and Blues is still alive and kicking.