THE STONED CHERRIES – Baked In A Pie (own label)

Baked In A PieHaving only recently moved away from Shropshire, I had heard from time to time of The Stoned Cherries, who are based in the Shropshire/ Herefordshire/ Worcestershire area, but had never (as far as I know) actually met or heard them, so I was looking forward to hearing their CD Baked In A Pie. The band consists of Aly May (whistles and backing vocals), Dave Evans (acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, lead and backing vocals), Matt Donaldson (bass guitar, foot drum, acoustic guitar, piano accordion, backing vocals), and Roger Pugh (acoustic guitar, mandola, spoons, lead and backing vocals), augmented by Jo Rowland on steel pan on ‘Run With The Moonlight’. The CD is an interesting mixture of dance tunes and (mostly) original songs by either David Evans or Roger Pugh.

  1. ‘Morrisons’ is the traditional ‘Morrison’s Jig’, though it’s played through the first time at half-speed, which is actually quite attractive. It then accelerates into a more conventional version with more than a dash of folk-rock.
  2. ‘Rosalind’ (David Evans) is a C&W-ish song about a schoolboy romance. I suspect that it’s more entertaining as a live performance, especially the long and quirky spoken section at the end.
  3. ‘Run With The Moonlight’ (Roger Pugh) offers slightly reggae-tinged “Words of advice to a 16 year old son“. Well, Caribbean-tinged, with its leavening of steel drum.
  4. ‘Si Bheag Si Mhor’ is usually attributed (as here) to Turlough O’Carolan, though there’s some debate as to whether he wrote it, or adapted it from ‘The Bonny Cuckoo’. There again, some believe ‘Si Bheag Si Mhor’ came first and was adapted for ‘The Bonny Cuckoo’. I’ve no opinion either way, but it’s a melody I never tire of hearing, and is played well here.
  5. ‘Lemon Girl’ (David Evans) appears to be about the lengths to which people will go to get a lemon in wartime. Which is more fun than it sounds. I’m sure Robert Johnson would have approved of the metaphor.
  6. In ‘Final Arrangements’ Roger Pugh makes clear his preferences as regards his funeral arrangements. One of the better melodies among the songs here: nice arrangement, too.
  7. ‘Witches Flight’ (Roger Pugh) is described as “A sparkly tune from Roger’s folk opera “A Minstrel’s Tale”2.” The first few bars do remind me of a tune better known as ‘Arthur McBride’ (think Martin Carthy rather than Paul Brady), but as an arrangement it does indeed sparkle. Apparently it’s “now the signature tune for the Saint FM Folk Show.
  8. ‘House In The Woods’ is credited to Chris Allen and Chris Broderick, better known as the Singing Loins. It’s pretty close to the original, though thankfully it misses out the massed kazoos. Good song.
  9. ‘Dance Of The Seven Suns’ is another attractive minor-key tune by Roger Pugh, advising us to celebrate the natural world rather than destroying it. Some of the lead guitar has some almost John Renbourn-ish phrasing, which is never a bad thing. However, the lead vocal sound very uncomfortable in the lower register.
  10. ‘Forgotten Man’ (David Evans) is a surprisingly plaintive subject and arrangement. Good lyric, despite the repetitive chorus, which might be more effective cut down slightly.
  11. In ‘Cottage’ Roger Pugh sings of a life of unsophisticated self-sufficiency in a cottage in the Welsh Marches. The arrangement is suitably Celtic, if more Goidelic than Brythonic (and the lyric reminds me a bit of band rehearsals in a somewhat similar geographical context, but let’s not go there now…) The song goes seamlessly into…
  12. …a medley of the reel ‘Oysterwives’ Rant’ and the ‘Ballydesmond Polka’. And I can see why they might use this one to get “toes tapping and hips swinging at the end of a gig.
  13. ‘Days End’ (David Evans) is a reflective song about “memories, and the age-old conundrum of getting older.” Interesting lyric.
  14. ‘Down At The Billet On Boxing Day’ (Roger Pugh): while the notes promise us “Morris dancing, a mummer’s [sic] play and a traditional sing song, held at an annual event at The Crooked Billet, Leigh On Sea [sic], Essex“, this turns out to be just a song describing these events rather than the actual events. What a track that might have been. J However, it’s a likeable performance, sung unaccompanied and with strong harmonies. A good way to end the album.

I suspect that I might have liked this CD better if I’d seen the band live. Not that I didn’t enjoy it: it’s just that some of the tracks sound a little like hearing a live performance on the radio – it’s just not the same as being there. My wife (who is by no means a folkie) doesn’t like it because it’s so whistle-dominated, but Aly’s playing adds a more varied range of colours than you might expect, and the other instrumental work is equally efficient. The instrumentals are fine, and the songs are interestingly quirky, though the lead vocals are a bit patchy. However, I’m sure that fans of this very popular band will find much to enjoy here.

David Harley

Artist’s website: dgand2.wixsite.com/thestonedcherries

‘King Of The Fairies’ – live:

ASSEMBLY LANE – Northbound (own label ALCD01)

NorthboundThe Newcastle-based band Assembly Lane are Tom Kimber (mandolin, harmony vocal), Niles Krieger (fiddle, harmony and lead vocals), Bevan Morris (double bass), and Matthew Ord (guitar, lead and harmony vocals). While their CD Northbound – due for release on November 10th 2017 – draws on both British and North American traditional material, the arrangements lean generally towards the North American: indeed, if it were not for the absence of a banjo player, this would be a classic bluegrass line-up, and their sound generally reflects that sensibility. The songs are all traditional, but there are three instrumental tracks credited to Tom Kimber and one to bluegrass mandolin player Bill Monroe.

  1. ‘The Hills Of Mexico’ is one of those slightly morose songs in which the singer regrets a poor choice of occupation: lyrically, it has some lines that resemble ‘The Buffalo Skinners’. Nicely arranged, though sometimes the backing distracts from the vocal. The tune used here resembles the one recorded by Roscoe Holcomb.
  2. ‘Ain’t No More Cane’ is the well-known-prison song: the arrangement of this version, however, is closer to old-timey than to the Texas prison farms. It appears to owe much to the Band’s arrangement, though a little more sprightly and with much the same verses but in a different order. Nice harmonies, too. However, it doesn’t really convey the brutality of the environment from which the song arose.
  3. ‘Mind The Gap’ is an attractive instrumental set with a bluegrass feel, but credited to mandolinist Tom Kimber. Mandolin, fiddle, bass and guitar are all featured prominently in the course of the track.
  4. ‘The Fair Flower Of Northumberland’ is a familiar version of the border ballad (Child 9), but rendered here with a bluegrass-y arrangement that gives it some freshness.
  5. Title track ‘Northbound’ is an attractive tune by Tom Kimber with some impressive unison work from fiddle and mandolin, as well as spotlighting skilful lead work from fiddle, mandolin, and guitar as well as the usual solid basslines from Bevan Morris.
  6. ‘Northbound’ segues almost seamlessly into Kimber’s ‘Fivefold’. While there are sections in ‘Fivefold’ that recall tunes that are staples of Celtic dance music, there’s a fascinating individuality and complexity to the interplay between the instruments over jazzy bass riffs.
  7. ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ uses the tune from Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs used on Nic Jones’s 1970 recording and many subsequent recordings. It’s a fine tune, and this version does it justice, vocally and instrumentally.
  8. On ‘1845’, sometimes known as ‘The Morning of 1845’, fiddler Niles Krieger gets to take the vocal lead, and does so with credit.
  9. ‘Road To Columbus’ is the classic Bill Monroe tune, and the band does it justice.
  10. ‘Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Mourn?’ – more often heard as ‘Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan’ – is particularly notable for the rich acapella harmonies of the opening section, and the bowed bass and fiddle of the next section, but the athletic playing and changes of pace throughout ensure that the listener’s interest never flags. A delightfully upbeat end to the CD.

For me, the best part of this CD is the instrumental work. The press release suggests that the album was essentially recorded live as an ensemble, which perhaps explains its freshness, yet the arrangements are impressively complex: clearly these are excellent musicians who are very comfortable playing together. The vocals are very competent and appropriate to the arrangements, and while there are one or two songs that we have, perhaps, heard a little too much of over the years, all are well performed. This is an album that delivers good music and promises more. And I’d love to hear them live.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.assemblylane.com

‘Mind The Gap’:

GHALIA & MAMA’S BOYS – Let The Demons Out (Ruf Records RUF 1250)

Let The Demons OutGhalia & Mama’s Boys are, to all intents and purposes, the New Orleans band Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys acting as the studio band for Belgian singer/guitarist/songwriter Ghalia Vauthier. The resulting CD, Let The Demons Out is released on the 20th October 2017. It’s a 21st-century take on the sort of butt-kicking R&B that pushed me towards my first electric guitar in the early 1970s. And very good it is, too, though the sound here is probably more Chicago than New Orleans. The rest of the line-up consists of Johnny Mastro (a.k.a. Mastrogiovanni) on vocals and harmonica, Smokehouse Brown on guitar and backing vocals, Dean Zucchero on bass and backing vocals, and Rob Lee on drums and percussion. Songs are by Ghalia unless otherwise indicated.

  1. ‘4AM Fried Chicken’ is probably not about KFC. He said, blushing slightly. Nice medium-paced rocker that wanders in and out of a 12-bar format.
  2. ‘Let The Demons Out’ is slower, and bears little resemblance to the Edgar Broughton Band, still less the Fugs, though the lyric shares an obsession with the expelling of demons out. Rather good: I’m not surprised they made it the title track.
  3. ‘Press That Trigger’ is another raunchy lyric with several metaphors to add to Robert Johnson’s lemon squeezing and Bessie Smith’s sugar in the bowl. Though this probably isn’t what Sondheim had in mind when he wrote that line about “got a rocket in your pocket
  4. ‘Have You Seen My Woman’ relates the predicament of a free-spirited woman and a possessive man over a suitably repetitive riff.
  5. ‘Hoodoo Evil Man’ – well, I suppose you can’t record blues in New Orleans without some sort of reference to Louisiana Voodoo.
  6. ‘Addiction’ takes the pace way down in a slow-burning song about romantic obsession, with tasteful, atmospheric harmonica and slide guitar. My favourite track at the moment.
  7. ‘All The Good Things’ was written by Ghalia Vauthier and Paul Niehaus. The arrangement reminds me a little of John Lee Hooker, which is never a bad thing. I love the way the vocal is tracked by the harmonica in the playout.
  8. ‘I’m Shaking’ is a very effective cover of the Rudy Toombs number first recorded by Little Willie John in the early 1960s.
  9. ‘Waiting’ is a medium-paced 12-bar written by Johnny and Lisa Mastrogiovanni: the vocals are shared here between Johnny and Ghalia, and framed by some tasty slide. Good harmonica break, too.
  10. ‘See That Man Alone’ retains a blues feel, but over an interesting descending chord sequence.
  11. In ‘Hey Little Baby’ the minimalist lyric is augmented by heavy drums and fuzzy slide.
  12. ‘Hiccup Boogie’ is a quirky topic and lyric – words by Ghalia, music by the whole band, though it’s hard not to hear Canned Heat in that underlying riff (and it’s actually spoken most of the way through). What’s more, “I got the hiccup boogie” reminds me irresistibly of Spike Milligan and “I’ve got those rheumatism blues“, while the call-and-response section of the playout almost recalls the swing era. Still, it’s great fun and well-played.

So, is it folk? Well, not really, but then many of the CDs that reach me for these reviews would fail to meet a purist definition of folk. Though it’s certainly in the blues idiom, it isn’t ‘authentic’ (or meant to be): it does, though, suggest the tight ensemble work of many 1960s R&B bands, with carefully-considered harmonica and guitar solos ornamenting the song and the singer, rather than the song being a launching point for extended solos. Not that Ghalia’s powerful and versatile vocal work would be easily overshadowed, and while her accent sometimes makes some words hard to follow, the lyric sheet makes up for that. (And the lyrics fit the idiom very well.) In fact, there’s something slightly English about the harmonica here (think Paul Jones or John Mayall), but Ghalia’s songs are already well beyond the cover versions of early English R&B, and I look forward to hearing how her writing develops in the future.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.facebook.com/ghaliaandmamasboys/

SHANKARA ANDY BOLE – Rainbow Crow (Left Leg Records LL2017)

Rainbow CrowRainbow Crow is a new CD from Shankara Andy Bole, featuring what are described as seven “spontaneous compositions” recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios.

Bole is best known, perhaps, for his work (especially on guitar) with the late Daevid Allen’s Glissando Guitar Orchestra and the folkier Bonfire Radicals, as well as with members of Fairport Convention, Blowzabella, even the Electric Light Orchestra. But his talents are by no restricted to the guitar. Rainbow Crow focuses on his playing of the bouzouki, augmented by the use of a looper and EBow.

  • A looper pedal is often used in live performances to allow guitarists (most often) to record an instant backing track over which other parts can be overlaid. And yes, there are loopers that can be used with a microphone for vocal and other instrumental work, allowing multi-tracking and other effects. One of the less obvious uses of a looper is to allow switching between instruments in live performance, and while the press release does say that there are no overdubs on the album, there are bass guitar, guitar and percussive sounds on some tracks that may have been obtained in this way. At any rate, if they were extracted from a three-course bouzouki, I’d love to know how. J
  • An EBow can be described as an electronic bow for guitar (though it can be used with other instruments). However, its ability to manipulate harmonics and use of Direct String Synthesis gives a player potential techniques that go far beyond a violin-like sustain.

The title of each track reflects one of the colours of the rainbow, which makes a track-by-track summary look a little odd, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I don’t usually include track times, but given the variance between tracks here, it seems more than usually appropriate.

  1. ‘Red Crow’ (14.31) is the longest track on the CD, and to my ear has an indefinably North African feel. (Or maybe I’ve just been influenced by my recent revisiting of some of Davy Graham’s Moroccan-ish work.) It starts off very simply with slow, sparse chords, building up gradually to more complex single string and double-stopping (a more recognizably Greek technique) around a minor mode. Nearly 5 minutes in, a bass line/countermelody is added. And about nine minutes in, the bouzouki improvises over a previous layer of bouzouki. From around eleven minutes in, the recording is dominated by EBow sustain giving extra oomph and colour (and, sometimes, near-atonality) until almost the end of the piece.
  2. ‘Orange Crow’ (2.33) has a similar melodic feel, though it’s a faster piece played against a continuous chord, almost like a mountain dulcimer piece.
  3. In ‘Yellow Crow’ (6.29) the EBow is predominant, but the piece features some percussive effects against a periodic bouzouki line and sharply percussive chords.
  4. ‘Green Crow’ (14.15) is only a little shorter than the first track. It begins with percussive effects and slow, sparse single string – or rather single-course work, since it’s in octaves – giving an almost bell-like tone. About 5-6 minutes in, the EBow comes in, then a plangent guitar (I assume) dominates the lengthy final section.
  5. ‘Blue Crow’ (2.10) is another slow track that seems to consist entirely of a single-layered bouzouki improvisation, lifted by some muscular tremolo.
  6. ‘Indigo Crow’ (7.42) features angular percussive effects and changes of rhythm, with a melody line overlaying the simple but driving chordal work after the first three minutes or so. To my ear the melody line is a little overwhelmed by the chord work on this track.
  7. ‘Violet Crow’ (2.20) is something of a contrast, apparently consisting of a single bouzouki without overlays, in a predominantly major mode.

I often see albums where the sleeve claims that no synthesizer/overdubs/looping/second takes were used. Does all this matter? Well, it does enable a spontaneity that gives a recording some of the feel of a live performance, while lacking the ‘perfectibility’ of a heavily layered, multiply-overdubbed recording. Especially in this case, where presumably the entire recording was improvised. But in the end, it’s the final sound that matters, not how it was achieved. Yes, you may hear the occasional moment of fretting imperfection, for instance, but a true obsessive can spend years on recording a single track and still not achieve uniform perfection.

I’m not sure how to describe this CD. If you’re looking for slick bouzouki music to bring back memories of that holiday on Cephalonia, this isn’t it: rather, it brings to mind some of the experimental fusion music of the 60s and 70s. While these pieces seem to me to be shaped by the choice of instrument and tuning rather than by a specific genre, most of these tracks have a North African timbre. As an occasional (and neither prolific nor authentic) bouzouki player myself, I was fascinated, but I’m not sure how other people will react to it. The combination of EBow and (mostly) slowly-paced music could sound dangerously ‘ambient’ but it’s used sparingly here, and with some unexpected dissonances to great effect, especially in the first track. Check the video, or even the sound clips on his web site, and see what you think.

David Harley

Artist’s website: andybole.co.uk

‘Red Crow’ (edited version):

DAVY GRAHAM – Folk, Blues & Beyond (Bread & Wine BRINECD1)

Folk, Blues & BeyondDavy (or Davey) Graham’s Folk, Blues & Beyond is a reissue of his 1965 Decca album on licence to Bread and Wine Records/East Central One, due for release on October 27th 2017. It retains the same tracks and running order as the original vinyl release and the Topic reissue CD from 1999, unlike the 2005 reissue from Fledg’Ling which also included five rarely-seen earlier recordings. It does include the original sleeve notes from producer Ray Horricks and a booklet including a 2016 article for Rolling Stone by David Fricke.

There are few folk-ish guitarists of my generation who haven’t owned or at least heard this album at one time or other, and even fewer who were not influenced by his work directly or indirectly. Indeed, that influence extended far beyond the folkier types who picked up on his use of modal tunings, and eclectic pickers like Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Even in the 60s/70s it extended into the commercial and rock ecologies with (for instance) Paul Simon and Chicken Shack’s Stan Webb – two of many guitarists who recorded Davy’s instrumental ‘Angi’ (a.k.a. ‘Anji’).

Here’s the track-by-track summary:

  • ‘Leavin’ Blues’ is credited to Leadbelly, though it strays quite a long way from Louisiana and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) railroad so beloved of so many blues and old-timey singers. The intro has a decidedly Eastern feel, often described as raga-like or sitar-like, though to me it’s more Middle Eastern in intonation than Indian. The main body of the song uses octaves in a guitar figure that recalls Leadbelly’s version while going far beyond it, returning to some Eastern voicings in the mid-song instrumental break. I suspect that this was played in DADGAD tuning: at any rate, it falls off the fingers quite easily that way.
  • ‘Cocaine Blues’ has been a folk club staple for many years: this version apparently derives at least in part from Rambling Jack Elliot – it’s a song with a multitude of floating verses – though Davy’s guitar gives it extra swing and fluency. Still my favourite version, 50 years on.
  • ‘Sally Free And Easy’ is another folk club standard, written (of course) by Cyril Tawney, though more often performed in a more ‘traditional’ manner. I’ve always thought that this rhythmic, drum-driven version has an entirely appropriate maritime-motor feel, though it can be sung very prettily unaccompanied.
  • ‘Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair’ uses more or less the same lyrics to this (originally traditional) song as Nina Simone’s. Simone used the tune written by John Jacob Niles, as does Davy. Wisely, perhaps, he doesn’t attempt the vocal pyrotechnics that both Simone and Niles tended towards. Not the strongest performance on the album, vocally, but worth it just for the subtle, restrained musicianship of the guitar part.
  • ‘Rock Me Baby’ is one of a group of blues songs with similar titles and themes: the version here is very much as Big Bill Broonzy wrote and recorded it (also recorded as ‘Rocking Chair Blues’) though the drums and bass here augment a typically jazzy arrangement. I suspect that Broonzy, who often played and recorded in a jazz context, would not have been unhappy with this version. I love it.
  • ‘Seven Gypsies’ recalls his collaboration with Shirley Collins Folk Roots, New Roots, released a little earlier if I recall correctly, being a traditional ballad (Child 200) treated to a typical guitar accompaniment, athletic but not flashy. While there are longer, more dramatic and certainly more ‘authentic’ versions, I’ve always liked the way this version, like some American versions, strips the story to its barest bones. I’d love to have heard Shirley sing this version, but I don’t know if she ever did.
  • ‘Ballad Of The Sad Young Men’ is an abbreviated version of the song by Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf from the 1959 musical The Nervous Set. While the whole lyric bears close examination, Davy’s version gets to the point, and it suits his voice.
  • ‘Moanin” is the classic Bobby Timmons composition, played faster and harder (and more succinctly) than the Jazz Messengers version, and no worse for the experience.
  • ‘Skillet (Good ‘N’ Greasy)’ is a song associated with Uncle Dave Macon, among others: this version, from an unnamed banjo player, is fairly similar to a version recorded by Woody Guthrie, but Woody never played guitar like this. But then, who apart from Davy did?
  • ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business What I Do’ is a blues standard from the 1920s that has branched off into many variations of tune and lyric. According to the original sleeve notes “Davy says ‘In my lyrics, I’ve chosen to bring out the loneliness side of the song.’” There aren’t too many examples of Davy’s lyrics around, but if these are original, they’re entirely suitable. In any case, it’s a great version.
  • ‘Maajun (A Taste Of Tangier)’ is Davy’s take on “a melody he found in Tangier”. It’s a stunning instrumental track with sympathetic bass and drums.
  • ‘I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes’ is a song mostly associated with Blind Willie Johnson, as credited here. However, this is very different from Johnson’s growl and slide version. (I don’t believe I ever heard Davy play slide.) But just as effective.
  • ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ is a song by some American singer/songwriter whose name escapes me. Faster than most people seem to play it, and it works fine that way. It suits Davy’s voice very well.
  • ‘My Babe’, Willie Dixon’s secular rewrite of ‘This Train’ for Little Walter, was long popular with British R&B and pub rock bands, and probably still is. Davy’s “Chico Hamilton-ish” version swings a little more than was usual in those contexts, and is all the better for it.
  • ‘Going Down Slow’ is a classic if lugubrious blues. This version was learned from Champion Jack Dupree, but the interpretation is pure Davy Graham.
  • ‘Better Git In Your Soul’ (Charles Mingus) is an exquisite example of how Davy, on the right day, could take a jazz theme and make it sound as if he wrote it himself. Fine work (as on several other tracks) by Tony Reeves (bass) and Barry Morgan (drums).

Davy Graham made many fine albums, but perhaps this and Folk Roots, New Roots (which provided a template of sorts for the English folk rock bands that came later) were the most influential. He was capable of phenomenal instrumental technique, and a pleasant voice, if a little erratic in pitch at times. At least as importantly, he defied categorization and musical boundaries, and generations of guitarists have benefited from that breaking of barriers. If you don’t know Davy’s work or this album specifically, you owe yourself the opportunity to hear it.

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the DAVY GRAHAM link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [VINYL]

Artist’s website: www.daveygraham.moonfruit.com/

There are lots of sites that talk about Davey, but I don’t know that there’s one that could be described as his own. http://www.davygraham.com/ is really just a link to an info email address.

Not on the album but try finding appropriate footage. ‘All Of Me’ – Davy Graham on TV:

JOOST DE LANGE’S ROCK BLUES EXPERIENCE – Live In Antwerp (own label)

Live In AntwerpJoost de Lange, though well known as guitarist with Zeeland band Yes You Did (among others), has fairly recently emerged as a vocalist/guitarist with his own band Joost de Lange’s Rock/Blues Experience, also featuring Mitchell Goor on bass and Ramses Donvil on drums. The band’s latest CD is Live In Antwerp, recorded with what sounds like a small but enthusiastic live audience. All the songs here except 5, 8, 10 and 11 were written by Joost. Given the name of the band, it’s probably no surprise that two of the covers here are songs by Jimi Hendrix, along with one each from the repertoires of Rory Gallagher and Freddy King. It seems the band’s live sets regularly feature tributes to these and other artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, so this is presumably pretty close to the band’s less formal live gigs.

  1. ‘Wandering’ kicks off with a metallic riff and overdriven chords, and goes into a lead break that builds up into the sort of guitar heroics that you’ll either love or hate, complete with a chorus or so of wah-wah. Well, if you’ve got it, you may as well flaunt it.
  2. ‘The Rambler’ starts off slowly, with a minimalist intro that segues into a classic rock chord riff slightly reminiscent of ‘Money For Nothing’. The lead break builds up slowly from indeterminate feedback to a reprise of the intro to some fairly restrained double stopping.
  3. ‘Set Me Free’ is a slow blues in a minor key, starting with a subdued intro: even when the pace picks up a bit some of the guitar is surprising lyrical.
  4. ‘You’ve Got It All’ at one several points owes something lyrically to John Lee Hooker – especially ‘Boom Boom’ – though the underlying riff and overlaid is more heavy metal than Hooker, and the song is pacier than you might expect. The first lead break in particular wanders off into some interesting runs. I like it.
  5. ‘Bad Penny’ [Rory Gallagher] starts with a more reflective intro than I remember from Gallagher’s Top Priority album, but picks up the pace and borrows wisely, including Gallagher’s very effective octave riffing. His voice isn’t as strong as Gallagher’s here, but there’s no denying the fluency of his guitar, which is a little more restrained than on many of the other tracks, at least in the opening sections. Mitchell Goor’s playout bass solo is also refreshingly restrained: too often a bass solo comes over as a frustrated lead guitarist with something to prove. Goor is clearly well equipped in the chops department – consider, for instance, his doubling the lead guitar on the playout to ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ or in the lead breaks to ‘This Town’. It’s to his credit that he doesn’t overstate on his solo.
  6. The guitar on ‘The River’ is also fairly restrained (mostly), as befits this slow, somewhat wistful song.
  7. ‘Magic Crow’, the title track of the band’s previous album, is a drum-heavy rocker.
  8. ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return) [Jimi Hendrix] – the sleeve lists this as ‘Voodoo Child Slight Return’ but I’ve included parentheses as used on the Reprise release of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album in 1968, as there’s already enough naming confusion between various releases of this song and its sibling ‘Voodoo Chile’. J The band starts and finishes with (more or less) the Hendrix introduction, but the middle section is more Joost and less Jimi. This version stretches to over eight minutes, which makes it the longest track on a CD which isn’t noted for the brevity of its tracks. But if you can’t stretch out on a live set, when can you? After all, the original ‘Voodoo Chile’ jam runs to about 15 minutes. And some of us can never get enough Hendrix.
  9. ‘This Town’ is another rocker that fits pretty well between the two Hendrix songs.
  10. ‘Little Wing’ [Jimi Hendrix]. A song that has painful memories for me, having once been dragged onstage to play bass on it (an instrument I haven’t really played for decades) without really knowing the song. I struggled. But it’s since become one of my favourite Hendrix songs, and respect to Joost for taking a shot at it. The guitar sound is a bit trebly and harsh for my taste in this extended version, even in the very Hendrix-y intro, though Joost sings it quite well. This version strikes me as being mostly about the guitar gymnastics, but misses some of the tenderness that underlies the Hendrix version.
  11. ‘Going Down’ is credited here to Freddy King, who is not, perhaps as well-known as B.B. King or Albert King, but was a fine and very influential blues guitarist. However, I’m pretty sure the song was actually written by Don Nix (one-time saxophonist with the Mar-Keys), and recorded in 1969 by Moloch. Nonetheless, many people consider Freddy King’s version on his Getting Ready album a couple of years later to be the definitive version. Joost’s guitar goes the 900kph ’70s-and-later-rock-god-speedfreak route rather than King’s sparser diversion through Texas-meets-Chicago blues voicings. It’s very different, but the song can take it.
  12. The structure of ‘Party’ reminds me a little of ‘Born To Be Wild’, and in fact Joost’s voice here slightly resembles that of Steppenwolf vocalist John Kay, though less assured. But then, this is a live performance, and vocal perfection isn’t always to be expected. In any case, it’s a suitably upbeat note on which to end a live album, with more finger-scorching fretwork. I’m not generally a fan of drum solos, but Danvil’s extended stickwork builds nicely.

There’s no doubt at all that Joost de Lange can play guitar. Not only has he absorbed the influences and techniques of some very classy players, but he also has that faster-than-light fretwork that so many lead players aspired to in the 70s and 80s. So much so that it’s almost a relief when he sometimes goes for a more lyrical tone and dials back on the mph.

His singing is less assured: there’s a decent blues/rock voice there, but his tone and pitch sometimes wavers. Some of that is probably due to the unforgiving nature of the live performance, and I suspect that he still needs to build some confidence in his own vocal ability, having come to taking lead vocals in his own band fairly recently.

Some of his own songs are overshadowed, lyrically at any rate, by the cover versions chosen here, but they provide the basis for some very sharp guitar-playing.

Perhaps Joost de Lange still needs to find his own voice, both literally and as a songwriter, before he reaches his full potential as a frontman. In the meantime, there is much to enjoy here, if you’re up for some very competent blues/rock guitar.

David Harley

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DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artist’s website: joostdelange-rbe.com/index.php/en/

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