OMN 31 May 2022

Skip's Review - Friday 22 July 2022

 by Skip Landy 

22 July 2022 was the first time that the Lightwood Bottom Blues Club presented their monthly Live Blues Night on a Friday. This move seems to be justified as seven of the eight available time slots were booked in advance through the club’s web page. Also, Friday nights are more amenable for the players and punters who reside outside the Huon Valley. They can now stick around for the jamming fun at the evening’s end.

If anyone who hasn’t yet attended one of these nights and would like to play – just click on the “Run Sheet” tab at the top of the club’s home page and insert the relevant details into one of the available time slots.

Likewise, for the jam, if you have a suggestion, please provide the name of the song, and the key you intend to perform it in. Also, if you can insert a link to the song from YouTube or whatever, so other players can get up to speed with what you intend to play.

The club provides the PA system and a drum kit, so you only need to bring your instruments and amplifier. There will always be some amplifiers on stage, but please check with the owner of the amplifier, because not all amplifiers there are available to any comers.

Of the seven acts to perform last Friday, four were solo artists and three were bands. The first act for the evening was a newcomer - Steve Gray from Moonah, (performing as Little Black Book), singing and slapping his seven (yes Seven!) string bass, playing a set of originals, accompanied by pre-programmed backing tracks. A newcomer with a new sub-genre – Blues Karaoke!

He adapted “Kansas City” to the FNQ’s “Cairns City” to tell of a place where he resided for many years during the heyday of the legendary Johnno’s Blues Bar. He also gave us the interestingly titled “Bullshit Blues”, but unfortunately, I could not discern the lyrics on the night.

Another Lightwood Bottom debutante was Hobart’s Peter Thompson, who gave us a masterful set of pre-WWII slide and mandolin songs. His rendition Tampa Red’s hokum “She Wants to Sell my Monkey” tickled my funny bone. Peter played mandolin on Sleepy John Estes’ “Milk Cow Blues” showing his skill on that eight stringed instrument.

Peter is a highly regarded and qualified guitar teacher, so if anybody wants to learn from scratch, or wants to improve their chops, I recommend Peter.

Next up we had Cygnet’s Alan Thorne, a regular player and supporter of the club, playing songs from the 1960’s through to the 1980’s. Alan is a disciple of the great Stevie Ray Vaughan, and played for us two of SRV’s songs “Dirty Pool” and “Texas Flood”, showcasing his ability to play a slow blues with amazingly fast licks. 

Alan soothed us with the pleasant chord changes of Jimi Hendrix’ classic “Little Wing”, and then amused us with the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” soon to be renamed as “House of the Dreaded F Chord” …(Sorry)

Pat Curley made a return trip from Hobart to play a solo acoustic set, playing songs also from the pre-WWII era. Two stand outs were Robert Johnson’s 1937 masterpiece “Come on in My Kitchen” and the Memphis Jug Band’s novelty drug song “Cocaine Habit Blues”. 

While researching “Come on in my Kitchen” I came across a quote from Johnson’s contemporary, Johnny Shines, regarding Johnson’s performance…

“He was playing very slow and passionately, and when we had quit, I noticed no one was saying anything. Then I realised they were crying -both women and men.”

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case on Friday night, probably because there was a lot of loud talking going on during Pat’s performance of this song. I feel that somebody should call this out. Just a little reminder to show some respect for the people who have spent a large part of their lives learning, practicing, and honing their skills to give us this great music, and also a bit of respect for the other people who have paid to listen to the music. The club does have a bar area where people can get together to catch up on their lives.

Local band The SwampRatzzz gave us a well thought out set, playing some classics from Buddy Guy - “Little by Little”, Lucinda Williams - “Can’t Let Go” and Li’l Millicent - “Rich Woman”. The last two songs have recently been covered by Allison Krauss and Robert Plant, and it was these newer versions that the SwampRatzzz used as their source.

Their set was bookended with Madeleine Peyroux’ “Don’t Wait Too Long”, a song that follows the 32-bar structure that you’ll find anywhere in the Great American Song Book. (Also, a special mention to Paul for his lovely solo - short but sweet!), and then their showstopper “That’s What the Blues is All About”, which by the way is not from Albert King’s funky album, but from a relative newcomer from the UK, Maria Danes. Vocalist Franky Tielman is a commanding presence with her clear and powerful voice. She is really coming into her own as a blues singer, and I think she has made this song her own.

The next band to play were the Dover based and regular performers here, the Chord on Bleus, a guitar/bass/drums trio steeped in the complexities of jazz harmonies, melodies and rhythms.

So why are they playing at a blues-based event?

Because their music is infused with the blues. The blues is a framework for most of the tunes they have played for the club, and jazz and blues are so intertwined it really isn’t funny or upsetting.

They started with an early 1960’s minor blues “Coming Home Baby”, first a hit for Herbie Mann, and then for Mel Torme. I also loved the beautiful slow minor waltz from Frank Foster “Simone”, and guitarist Robert Jackson’s “Turbulence”.

To cap it off they played Ornette Coleman’s “Broadway Blues”, which I will get up and dance to one day when I’m much less inhibited and don’t have to drive home.

The last band to play in the open microphone segment of the evening was The Patrons, an ad-hoc collective fronted by local Kate Meehan. This band is an assembly of like minded musicians who Kate has met at these live blues nights, who can afford to spare some time learning, and rehearsing songs that Kate hasn’t been able to perform as just a duo with her partner, Skip (yours truly). 

Last Friday’s set was a mixture of Southern Soul, New Orleans Rhythm ‘n’ Blues and a slightly mega ballad from performers such as Bonnie Bramlett, Dan Penn, Huey Smith, and Irma Thomas. I take full responsibility for any glitches that may have occurred using the excuse of being effectively homeless for the last fortnight. Did anybody really notice?

The Patrons set segued into the free for all jam, where Kate led the players through some Chicago blues of the 60’s and 70’s courtesy of the great Koko Taylor. 

Nearly all the guitarists who appeared earlier in the night got to have a go, including a newbie resident in Geeveston, another first timer called Steve who played some excellent slide. The jam kept going until Sam the barman’s shift finished and the club had to be emptied.

Overall, another successful and inspirational night for our fledgling club.

One final word:

This is the first blues club that I have attended where there is no trace of any harmonica players. On the mainland they can be considered as pests jumping up on stage willy nilly, demanding to know what key you are playing in, and brandishing their harmonicas like a passport at a border crossing. I miss that kind of action, so if you are reading this report and would like to help, please go out there and shake a few trees and find a few for harmonicists for me.

If there are harmonica players out there who can read but feel like they are not well looked after, (for example, they can’t be heard because the band is too bloody loud) please contact the club, and we will endeavour to accommodate you with some quiet, sparse, and sympathetic backing.