JOHN CEE STANNARD & BLUE HORIZON – Bus Depot Blues (Cast Iron CIRCD 024)

Bus Depot BluesFrom the Thames delta area of Reading comes the debut album by John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon; a set of original blues songs with one standard – Arthur Crudup’s ‘That’s Alright’. Alongside John in the band are guitarist Mike Baker and Howard Birchmore on harmonica and they are joined on the album by a group of sidespersons including drummer Julian Bown who is a major part of their sound.

John Cee is a fifty year veteran and readers with long memories may remember him as a founder member of folk band Tudor Lodge back in 1968. He’s done a lot since then, finally arriving at this particularly English take on the blues. This isn’t straight 12-bar, in fact there is as much skiffle underlying the songs – I swear there’s a washboard in there – and most of the songs are taken at a cracking pace. The themes are traditional enough and expressed in titles like ‘Solitary Vacation With The Blues’ and ‘Bad Luck Rain’, but often with a twist: ‘Hard Times – 83’ is clearly rooted in modern financial fraud and heartless bureaucracy. ‘Flood Water’ immediately contradicts everything I’ve said by being a heavy, grungy 12-bar in the classic style.

That aside, this is the happiest blues record I’ve heard in a long time. ‘I’ll Take Care Of Mine’ is a defiant message to the world to back off and leave the man be, a new take on ‘Nobody’s Business But My Own’ and ‘When You Need Them Most’ is almost comical in its portrayal of misery. The playing has a fluidity that comes with experience and the band conjures plenty of variety from a few simple ingredients – and sometimes simple is best.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: http://www.johnceestannard.co.uk/

‘Not Until It’s Gone’ – the final track from Bus Depot Blues: