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Reviews - June 2007
Duke Garwood - Emerald Palace
Review by Andy Hall
More Dada than Delta? We first saw Duke Garwood play
back one wintry night in November (one of the Blues in London
nights - Ed). He had
a heavy cold, but fueled by Lemsip, cigarettes and armed only with a battered £5
charity shop guitar, he managed to lay waste to the room with his wonkily
individual take on the blues.
We caught up with him more recently, opening
for Robert Belfour at the Spitz
Festival of Blues back in April. This time
with the added element of electricity and a vibe pedal, he held the audience
rapt with his strange, atmospheric guitar-scapes. Somehow he deftly managed
to keep his guitar teetering on the brink of atonal feedback chaos, or
at least that's how it seemed anyway. Plus, he de-tunes and re-tunes
his guitar throughout, after almost every song! Yet he had captured the
audience so totally, we were more than happy to endure the short pauses.
Emerald Palace, his latest recording, is acoustic in nature, and this
time Duke is aided by ex-Verve and Good, Bad & the Queen guitar player,
Simon Tong, and percussionist Paul May. When I first put the disc into
my laptop, iTunes decided the genre was 'unclassified', now either that's
intentional, or the classification robots just went "what the f**k!" when
they heard it...
Either way, somehow that 'unclassified' tag is a kind of compliment,
because Duke is a truly original artist who defies easy pigeon-holing.
Which in turn makes this review really hard to write... yes, there's
spastic country blues in there, but also free jazz, atonal droney type
horns, Waits-esque clanking percussion, and beautifully minimalist abstract
If any of those sound like your thing, and you're not put off
by a blues record review that mentions free jazz or the bloody Verves,
then Duke Garwood just might be your man. If you're not convinced, get
out and see him live. It obviously comes from somewhere deep within,
but Garwood delivers very charged, almost trance-like performances which
are quite mesmerising.
Just in case I haven't made myself quite clear enough, this is a great
record. Totally wonky, abstract and weird, but great. Go and buy it immediately.
Matt Schofield – Ear To The Ground
Review by James Whitehead
Schofield’s finest work so far, bursting with flair
and groove. The second studio album from the trio has followed
quite a buzz that's been building up around the Manchester born guitarist,
and his bass-less trio. Featured in Guitarist and Music magazines internationally,
and being touted as Top Ten British Blues Guitarist of all time, there
was quite a lot expected from the new album. However I am glad to say
that it doesn't disappoint in the
Right from the off, you're hit with that infectious New
Orleans funk that Schofield and his band do so well, one is instantly
reminded of the meters in their heyday. 'Pack It Up' by Freddie
King is one of only two covers on the album, yet the arrangement is so
personal to the band that it's hardly your stereotypical filler
material. In fact the closing number 'When it all Comes down' by
B.B King, is one of the strongest tunes, thanks to the superb gospel-laden
organ playing of Jonny Henderson.
Produced in Holland, the new record definitely has a clearer,
warmer sound than the first one, 'Siftin’ Thru Ashes',
the band are a real tight unit now, with Schofield's playing getting
better and better, everything is more professional. Put up against the
latest offering from U.S star John Mayer, for example, 'Ear To
The Ground' holds it own, without losing the musical honesty and
emotion the band have in spades.
For me, the stand out tracks on the album are the storming shuffle 'Someone',
and the title track 'Ear To The Ground'. The later showing
a real maturity to Schofield's songwriting, great dynamics, rhythm,
melody and harmony, with some fretbord pyrotechnics to boot. 'Someone'
is just one of those feel-good blues shuffles that are so easy to kill
with needless guitar-related egotism, Gary Moore anyone? The drums, organ,
and guest Harp by Pete van der Pluym bounce along at the perfect tempo,
with Matt providing just enough vigor, both vocally and guitar wise,
to make it a real treat. Watch out for the kicker half way through, The
Meters would be proud.
The tracks in between are a mixture of up-tempo jazz shuffles, with
some impressive command of the linguistic range of the guitar on shown,
along with some truly emotive slower numbers. Robben Ford, The Meters,
Albert Collins, throughout Matt and his band divulge these influences
into a flowing musical experience, not putting a foot wrong, leaving
you with something you don’t get very often these days, the feeling
that your money has been well spent.
Maxwell – Happiness in Time
Review by G.P. Bennett
Ah Good! – Something fresh
from a Country Influenced artist. Admittedly, Maxwell's
influences are bubbling at the surface of this record, but with a clean
production, some competent song writing and that little bit of patience
that all albums deserve, it works. Ranging from Black Crowes-ish rock,
through Stones tinged drawling and ending up with some Jayhawk country
harmonies (there may even be a little bit of Wilco hidden in there too),
a nod to the past but deserves to stand on it's own in today's
struggling blues scene.
The arrangements are authentic enough, with some
solid guitar work, punchy Drums and some often essential piano lines, all
complimenting each other. Maxwell's vocals are reminiscent of Wild
Horses era Jagger, but avoiding the indecipherable slurring, and with a
slightly lighter delivery.
The album is pretty upbeat throughout and is
a nice antidote to the low down and dirty stuff I'm usually listening
too. Is it Blues? To be honest, who really cares, it's got some
blues influences without doubt, but there are no 12 bar romps here (thank
god) and on an even happier note, there are no wild Gary Moore-esque guitar
forays spoiling it for everyone. Probably the strongest song on the album,
Stepping Stone, has a blues guitar solo as it should be played, melodic,
thoughtful, funky (a hybrid of Albert King and BB, but much more understated)
and most importantly, short!
Some of the lyrics could maybe do with a bit of attention - album closer
"California Star" spouts lines about "Wind that blows" and "Sun
that Shines"... no shit - but he get's away with
it with some perfectly placed Pedal Steel (Russ Pahl) answering his vocals.
This album should get enough people to notice his talent for hook-writing
and obvious enthusiasm for his music. You can see that one killer song
could launch a lucrative career in the US, and I think a second album
would be well worth a listen.
Available from Hoodo Music: www.hoodoomusic.com
Freemonts feat. Mighty
Joe Milsap - Mighty Crazy
Review by David Atkinson
Wearing their influences proudly on their sleeves, The Freemonts have
crafted a refreshingly old school album with Mighty Joe Mislap on vocal
duties. Their sound is robust but there is still heaps of
space on the record. It is economical insofar as they make
all the notes count; clearly rhythm is king in Freemont country and
there's room for everyone to get down. There are some great cuts
on here; the title track is especially good and would be better in
the first half of the album, I think. There is a lot to boogaloo
to on the way to it though: Come To Mighty Joe had me strutting about
at one point, which impressive considering I was sat at my desk at
the time. Like at lot of things, this is perhaps best enjoyed slightly
Underground Ballroom - Contradictions
Review by David Atkinson
Featuring some of the baddest-assed Hammond sounds I've heard since the
New Mastersounds debut, Contradictions fuses the Brit blues-rock MO with some
wonky jazz. Deep Purple or Zeppelin-style wig outs have been goosed by
four chaps from Lancaster. About time too, if you ask me, but perhaps
they should have gone even further. Grooves like this require space to
stretch out so most of the tracks are quite long, which is great if you
like that epic feel but it is diametrically opposed to Mighty Crazy - it
just shows how broad the church is. The snappy title track stood out
for me and highlights how sound their idea is. I love funk as much as
the next man in a mauve suit but just like blues I know it is only better
for having some dirt in the mix. Contradictions gives that often
leaden blues-rock dinosaur some funky new shoes.
Powers - Prodigal Son
Review by David Atkinson
From the title Powers seems to be suggesting he is
some sort of unrepentant wastrel. This may be so; on an album that includes
covers of Goin' Down, It's A Bloody Life, Voodoo Chile and Train Kept
A Rollin', you immediately know that it's guitar chops that Powers
inherited. Is he wasting them?
I reckon so. Guitarists struggle to
overcome the 'awesomeness' of their instrument; like paintballing the
electric guitar can very easily bring out the worst in people. These
are by no means bad covers versions - they are all really good and
the album is excellently produced - but they detract from his own
strong song writing and arrangements, which are good enough
to stand on their own. I prefer the originals versions and probably
you will too but if you can forgive the excesses of Prodigal Son then
you'll probably enjoy the rest.
King - One
Review by David Atkinson
Album opener Sweet Potato Man clocks in at 6:38 and the next three tracks
are all over six minutes. Don't worry though, track five, Writing In
The Sky, is nine and a half minutes long. You get a lot of boogie for
your money with Willie Brown. Like John Lee Hooker's 70's albums (Endless
Boogie and so on) there ain't no use resisting, you just go with it.
There are few surprises on One Love but Willie's drawl is as much of
a pleasure as the loose vibe of whole album. In fact, when I got
to the ten minute long title track, its Staple Singers-style groove was
just washing over me like it should and I felt mighty fine. Nice one
from CD Baby