Review of the Live Blues Night, 28 April 2023

by Skip Landy

Another chock-a-block evening’s worth of music entertainment occurred at the Geeveston Returned Servicemen’s and Women’s Club on the last Friday in April.

Act 1: Newcomers to the club, Iris Richter and Josef Steele, who incidentally also host radio shows on Huon FM Community Radio opened the evening’s entertainment. Iris is the lead vocalist/whistler and rhythm guitarist, and her “counterpartner” Joe provides backup vocals and harmonies as well as lead breaks on guitar. He is also quite an accomplished harmonicist.

They commenced with a song that Nina Simone made her own, the Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley classic from the 1960’s “Feeling Good”, and then segued into a medley consisting of Percy Mayfield’s (aka “the Poet of the Blues”) “Hit the Road Jack” and Otis Blackwell’s “Fever”. A useful way of combining similar chord changes and feels into a limited time frame. They then delved into Bill Withers’ “Use Me” from his second album, 1972’s “Still Bill”. I feel that Bill Withers was such a talented songwriter, and so underrated and forgotten since those early 1970’s. Check out his songs from the very early 70’s – great stuff!

Iris and Joe concluded their set with Otis Redding’s belated “Dock of the Bay” with Iris providing the whistled chorus. Unfortunately, they were not able to hang around until the end of the evening as their Friday night radio show was beckoning. Tune in or check their show out “Funk Factory” live on Friday nights or find it on one those Streaming radio apps.

Act 2: The still unnamed trio of Bruce Duncan, James Vicary and Tony Dunshae, provided us with a varied set of songs from Kiwi, Mike Rudd’s “I’ll Be Gone” to the Rolling Stones’ dumped at the altar “Dear Doctor”. We also got to hear Taj Mahal’s train song “She Caught the Katy”, as well as a reprise from March’s Blues Night of “Old Fashioned Morphine” and Bruce’s own “(The Girl with) Her Back to the Mirror”. Last month it was decided that Bruce’s smooth vocals are reminiscent of Martin Plaza’s, but this time with prompting from Kate Meehan I agreed that Bruce’s voice is closer to Alabaman singer/songwriter Dan Penn (without that Southern drawl). James demonstrated his versatility with stringed instruments by playing bass on all bar one of the songs. I felt that this gave the trio’s songs an added dimension, and it obviously affected the visitors from the Kingston Fun Rockers* club who jumped onto the dance floor when the Spectrum classic “I’ll be Gone” was played.

Act 3: Mick Reid returned to the club and gave us four songs from four different sources, John Hiatt, Loudon Wainwright III, one of his own, and Utah Phillips. John Hiatt is an incredibly gifted songwriter, you may be familiar with “Have a Little Faith”, or one of my favourites “Feels Like Rain” or even “Yellow Moon”. I was not familiar with “The Way We Make a Broken Heart”, described by Mick as “instructions on how to do the wrong thing to someone the right way”. Wainwright’s song about life on the road for a musician, certainly does not apply to my own experiences - maybe I should try and write about some of my own. Mick’s third song “You Can Walk from Here” was the second one of his where I detected a reference to a Tom Waits song, this time combining whistling and graveyards. Mick finished his set with the sad and bitter “Rock, Salt and Nails” by the itinerant anarchist Utah Phillips. Mick has a great voice and accompanies his vocals with some very tasteful guitar backing.

Act 4: The record holding band for the most appearances at the club, The Swamp Ratz welcomed back their original drummer Damien “Damo” Walker after his serious accident. I hope you continue to mend mate! (mind you, your playing suggested that you might have been holidaying rather than recuperating. I mean that in the most complimentary way!) The Ratz reprised songs that they have played before, but lead guitarist Paul shouldered more of the vocal responsibility, and lead vocalist Franky was happy to provide him harmonic support. They started with “Don’t Wait Too Long” from Madeleine Peyroux, with Franky leading the way through the changes and PTS (Paul) soloing. We then went into Clapton territory with PTS singing and playing two mega solos. Franky took centre stage with a rocking Albert Collins version of Little Johnny Taylor’s 12 bar “If You Love Me Like You Say”. The Ratz then got found their groove on Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue on Black” before finishing a rather blues infused rocking set with Lara Price’s minor blues “Crazy”, (with another mega effort from PTS.) This act is not only about big vocals and big solos, but the engine room is also providing the platform for that, and Damo, Aaron and James are essential to providing what blues clubs are all about when it comes to electric rocking blues.

Act 5: Club Patron Kate Meehan made her second appearance for the year with a selection of songs from the 50’s and 60’s. She started with Charles Brown’s unique version of the old spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” before getting her regular and reliable line up of Manny, Andy and Robert to accompany her and Skip through some old school rhythm n blues. Rosco Gordon’s “Just a Little Bit” was followed by Jesse Stone’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, originally written for blues shouter Big Joe Turner, but made famous by a couple of white singers, Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. Kate then romped through Slim Harpo’s groove of “That’s Why I Love You” and finished with one of Big Mama Thornton’s 50’s rnb rockers “My Man Called Me”.

Special mention must be given to Manny, Andy and Robert, as we find it just about impossible to rehearse these songs due to Kate’s commitments away from the beautiful Huon Valley. Rehearsals are in fact emails with a YouTube clip and Kate’s key. Maybe an occasional “mudmap” is thrown in to help clarify things. (Clarifying with mud – I like that!) Each time we perform, it is like walking the tightrope with maybe just the right amount of your favourite tipple thrown in. Just about everything fell into place in this set, and a good time was had by all on stage.

Jam 1: Bruce Duncan took the microphone and guitar again and led us through a spirited version of “Jailhouse Rock”. Clive Perryman (Blues Union) swapped bass duties with Manny.

Jam 2: Saw Mick Reid takeover from James to guide the players through Will Jennings and Stix Hooper’s “Never Make a Move Too Soon”. One of the outcomes of jamming can be the imparting of enough information to guide all the participants from A to Z together. This time we didn’t have the time to process the fact that the song is a 20-bar blues, instead of an expected 12 bars, but hey, that’s jamming.

Jam 3: Kate returned to belt out a Bo Diddley/Koko Taylor classic “I’m a Woman”. No problems here with only one chord to contend with, all the players accompanied Kate, riffed and soloed to their heart’s content (and that includes you, James! Hiding under that bushel indeed.) And then it was time to end the evening’s agenda.

Before finishing up for this month I think that special mention should be given to Andy Koppleman, teacher to the teens of Huonville and Dover. He has found a trio of students who are going to play at our next night on Friday, 26th May. Please tell your friends to come and support our next night. The future of live blues in the Huon is waiting…