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I didn't know much about Mike Dowling before I visited the Green Note last week (such a great venue! Good food, small room, listening audience, good sound!). I know my way around blues pickers though, and expected the best. Brooks Blues Bar put the show on and they never disappoint - with good quality music, friendly and warm hosting, plus Tony!
At first sight, Mike is an unassuming college professor type, Midwestern accent and politesse to match, who is cursed with lugging three guitars around. Quietly taking the stage (on time! how rare nowadays), his face split by the widest and most charming smile, he preceded to beat my expectations, switching constantly from two finger Merle Travis picking, through Chet Atkins style bounce to some smooth full chordal jazzy instrumental complications.
He ran though some blues standards (I remember Browns Ferry Blues bouncing round the room), some old time ragtime songs and then he got the steel guitar out and produced some gentle subtle soulful sounds that took us right back to Clarkesville Mississippi 1929.
The thing that stayed with me after he had played his heart out and returned for more at the insistent request of the audience, (who he held in the palm of his hand whilst also managing that plectrum picking thing), is that he never indulged in showing off his outstanding technique, concentrating instead on giving the song its full space to come alive. He is an extraordinarily unselfish musician of the highest calibre, playing his only London Gig. If Tony and Anne at Brook's can pull that off, we should raise our hats to them and support their continuing venture every Friday at The Telegraph in Putney.