Review of the Live Blues Night, 24th February 2023

by Skip Landy

The last live blues night for the summer of 2022/23 was also the hottest night of the year.

A newcomer to Geeveston, Steve Bobs kicked the proceedings off with a soul classic from Solomon Burke – Everybody Needs Somebody to Love - A song that was given a new life when Jake and Elwood Blues performed it in “The Blues Brothers”. Unfortunately, Solomon Burke never received his due having been coerced into sharing his song writing royalties with the recording session producers. A recurring story in the blues genre.

Previously when Steve played a set at the club, he used his Weissenborn guitar, but this time he accompanied himself with a standard acoustic guitar and harmonica.

Steve followed this with his “Skinny Dad” version of Big Mama Thornton’s rendition of Hound Dog. Steve’s version owed more to Jimi Hendrix with his use of the dominant augmented ninth chord, and less to Thornton’s by keeping strictly within the 12-bar structure. And speaking of Jimi, Steve played The Wind Cries Mary, and whistled in lieu of a guitar or harmonica solo.

Steve’s next song was a contemporary one – I Lived to Tell About it by a duo called War and Pierce. Having never heard of them until Steve introduced them last October, I looked them up and was delighted to read a description of Sunny War as “She may be a Robert Johnson with a shot of bad brains”.

Otis Redding’s posthumous release Hard to Handle was Steve’s closing song in a set that gave us plenty of variety. I look forward to seeing what this versatile musician will bring to the club next time.

Speaking of versatile, The SwampRatzzzz Unplugged made their debut.

Franky’s vocals were well supported by her two (acoustic) guitarists, Paul, and James. Franky sang a lovely lilting version of Summertime while James held down the bass part combined with a rhythm guitar accompaniment, and Paul backed the vocals with a mandolin style of guitar playing as well as providing the solo. Last month Gary MacKay gave us a totally different version of this great standard, and this month the Ratzzzz played a version that was a lot closer to Gershwin’s ideal.

The next song -The Lonesome Road predates Summertime by eight years and is also a standard that can be adaptable to many different genres. I gather that the trio have taken their inspiration from Madeleine Peyroux’ version. Franky sounded great with her haunting vibrato laden vocals, and Paul snuck in some slick guitar lines over James’ steady rolling rhythm.  

The trio next turned to a Randy Weeks’ song that has recently had some success with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ version – Can’t Let Go. This gave James the opportunity to showcase his slide guitar playing.

Love Me Like a Man is Bonnie Raitt’s signature tune, penned by the great Chris Smither, and has all the hallmarks of a blues classic even though it was written in the early 1970’s. The trio rocked their way through this, and Paul pulled off another good solo.

The Ratzzzz closed their set with Michelle Shocked’s If Love was a Train as an up-tempo toe tapping shuffle. I am very impressed by the way these guys have adapted from being a five-piece band into an acoustic trio.

The third act of the night was The Lightwood Regulars who comprised five players from around the Huon Valley – namely Andy Koppleman (Blue Chilli) on drums, Manny Patty (ex SwampRatzzzz) on bass, Robert Jackson (Chord on Bleus) on tenor sax, Skip Landy (Kate Meehan Band) on piano, and Steve Bobs on trumpet. This act was hastily put together via email to fill a slot on the empty Run Sheet on the club’s website.

With no rehearsal whatsoever the Regulars played a set of mainly New Orleans RnB and Mardi Gras classics and one jazz standard. It would have been a bonus if we could have found a vocalist, but we managed to pull it off as an all-instrumental half hour.

Songs included One O’clock Jump (Count Basie), Big Chief (Earl King), Tipitina (Professor Longhair), Iko Iko (Trad), and Such a Night (Dr. John). When I look at the composers’ first names I think of over-educated royalty.

The final act for the evening was a debutant band playing their first-ever gig. Aptly named Blues Union comprised Nakita Gabatel (vocals and electric guitar), Les McClements (vocals and electric guitar), Jeff Anderson (drums) and me on the Red Volvo (a Swedish keyboard).

Commencing with drummer Jeff’s original tune Seven Times - based on a Green Onions type of groove, the band then played an extended version of BB King’s Rock Me Baby, with Les and Nakita trading vocals. Another original song, this time from Jeff’s daughter Kiri - Good Days, an up-tempo shuffle, before finishing with the late Freddie King’s Same Old Blues. This slow 6/8 ballad was the platform for Nakita to show off her talent as not only a singer but as a guitarist with a moving solo over Freddie’s changes. Another song was hastily squeezed in before the jam, this one was the third original of the set, and this time written by Les - called One Last Chance. I noticed somewhere on the club’s website, that acts were advised to keep their original songs to one per set, but can we interpret this as one per performer in this instance?

The jam session was basically another bout of the Lightwood Regulars playing whatever tune Robert could call off the top of his head. It was all 12-bar blues adapted for the bebop era (eg. Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce), as well as Miles Davis’s So What. Everybody got to solo, including Manny on bass and Andy on drums.

Now we are looking forward to what might befall us during the Autumn quarter. Hopefully we will see more newcomers willing to strut their stuff and also repeat visits from some of the wonderful musicians who live further afield. The club is a great place for people to network, and to experiment with ideas.