Monthly Archives: November 2011

Catfish Keith, Leeds New Roscoe, 17.11.11

Catfish KeithNot for the first time, Catfish Keith graced the stage of The New Roscoe with his mixture of self-penned and covers acoustic blues. The frightening thing for me regarding his playing of other people’s songs is that not only do I not recognise the song title, but I don’t recognise the name of the composer!  (Leadbelly apart maybe).

Now it’s not unusual for someone to start out by announcing that he has a new cd out and he’s going to start with a song from it. It IS unusual for someone to have TWO new cds out and the second song is from the other cd. (Unless you’re Bruce Springsteen).  He alternated between his steel-bodied guitar, a small 6-string and a new 12-string which he described in glowing terms at great length. Ironically, he broke a string after about 5 seconds!  But he never missed a beat, a bit reminiscent of when Keef unstrapped his Telecaster and brayed a stage invader with it.

He played 2 x 50 minute sets to an appreciative audience and didn’t seem perturbed that there were maybe only 40 or 50 there. It really annoys me when talent like this who has been recording since 1984 can make the trip across the pond and attract only a handful , and The Jamm (or any of the other leeches, sorry, tribute acts, ) will have 200 in there at the same ticket price.

He and his wife Penny are pretty much a cottage industry and are obviously surviving though. I remember putting ‘If I could holler’ on my car player and assuming he was a 70 year old black man. He isn’t !!

He still has some UK dates left , so why not have a themed Mississippi Delta Blues night? Pay your £9, get your denims on, order some bottles of Bud, sit down and close your eyes. You are in a bar in New Orleans! At a fraction of the price!

 

The Low Anthem, 14.11.11. Leeds Irish Centre

The Low AnthemI was put onto The Low Anthem a couple of years ago, and recently got Lady A to listen to some of their concert recordings. Safe to say she wasn’t 100 per cent convinced, but agreed to make the trip.

It was a bit surprising to find two support acts. The first, Admiral Fallow from Scotland, were…okay. Pleasant enough way to pass half an hour or so , and an unusual combination of instruments, but nothing to tempt us to further investigate.

William Elliott Whitmore is someone I’ve been listening to of late, and he puts on a hi-energy, percussive one-man show. Trading guitar and banjo, he has good original songs and while maybe not having the repertoire to hold an audience for two hours, he is well worth checking out live. He’d be great at eg The Acoustic Festival in May and I’ve put his name forward to the organiser.

So to the headliners. When I first heard them I was a bit unsure about the vocals, but then again I was in 1970 when I first heard The Flying Burrito Brothers! I’ve never been a fan of falsetto voices (and that includes Mssrs Stipe and Jagger), but it totally works for The Low Anthem on stage. They started out with the title track from ‘Smart Flesh’ and ‘Hey all you Hippies’, ‘Matter of Time’ and ‘Apothecary Love’ were also given an airing. The set list seemed to pretty much feature the songs they have been touring all year, with extracts from their previous ‘Charlie Darwin’ cd providing some haunting falsetto performances.

And may I take the opportunity to thank the pondlife who were stood near us, gabbing near the merch stand. Obviously so arrogant that they thought everybody had paid to listen to them and not the people on the stage. In the interests of health and safety (theirs, that is) we moved down to the front for what was a much better spot. Thanks, Mr Richard Head and entourage!

They finished with an ethereal version of Laughing Lenny’s ‘Bird on a Wire’, and Lady A had definitely been won over by the end. I’m not going to go into their short but eventful history, but the much-maligned Wikipedia is actually a good place to start. Their musicianship is phenomenal and wonderfully obscure, almost. And for those of you who are amazed at Jimmy Page playing a guitar with a violin bow, this lot play a metal saw with one!  Finally, (and I hate mobile phones), do NOT forget your mobile phone! I will say no more on the matter.

It is only a ‘matter of time’ (sorry for the pun) before world domination is theirs . They are definitely one to see AND hear simultaneously, but it will be a while before we get another chance.

Roger McGuinn, Leeds City Varieties, 1.11.2011

Bit of a tough one, this. I have been a Byrds fan since I first heard ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, and it’s only beaten into 2nd place in my all-time fave singles list by ‘God Only Knows’. Mr McGuinn puts on a really good show, especially if you are interested in late 50s/early 6os music.  The venue is so cosy that if you can manage to get a box, it’s like watching him play in your front room!

Starting out on his 12-string Rickenbacker with ‘My Back Pages’, McGuinn leads us through his intro to folk music, meeting Crosby, getting Dylan’s ‘Tambourine Man’ acetate and other Byrds -related anecdotes.

But the main problem is that he has being doing basically the same show for at least 15 years. Same banter, jokes and only slight changes in songs. I checked my 1996 ‘Live  From Mars’ cd just in case. It’s brilliant for anyone the first time, although other web-sites have reviews that indicate fans go year-in, year-out.

In these days of anyone being classed as ‘diva’, ‘icon’ or ‘legend’ on the grounds that he/she has been on X Factor, it is, however, great to see a bona-fide legend still treading the boards when he’ll be 70 next. I just wish there could be a bit more variation eg tales about the Clarence White era or, better still, going out as a 4 piece electric unit. How about coaxing the multi-talented Gene Parsons away from his Stringbender business to go out as a duo?!

Lots of Byrds songs (though no ‘Rock n Roll Star’ this time) and it makes you realise what a fantastic body of work they produced when ‘Feel a whole lot better’, ‘Drug store truck driving Man’ and the underrated ‘Just  a Season’ all feature even though they could all only ever make it onto a B side!

His peers such as Stills and Young can still cut it solo without having to be repetitive but I suppose the format of McGuinn’s show is restrictive i.e. he can’t alter events, can he? Also, he comes across as a very shy performer, hence his word-perfect banter. The Byrds early days had Gene Clark as a typical tall, dark, Beatle-browed lead singer (and songwriter), plus Crosby who could talk a glass-eye to sleep, and it seemed that the No 1 single suddenly thrust Jim McGuinn to the fore.

Go and see him, it’s a really good couple of hours , but beware about second helpings!

Alison Krauss and Union Station, The Sage Gateshead, 5.11.2011

It seems ironic that AKUS have been going for 25 years and have finally seemed to have achieved recognition while being relatively inactive. Mostly down to, in effect, her collaboration with Robert Plant. Tickets were double the price of her last appearance and it shows how their profile has soared when they have no less than 4 nights booked at the Festival Hall. They started out with the title track from ‘Paper Airplane’ and anyone who bought (and liked ) the cd will have been well pleased with the set list. The first half featured older songs such as ‘Daylight’ and ‘Baby, Now That I’ve Found You’, and I personally was well pleased to hear the word ‘bluegrass’ in her first words.  I can’t believe I would be using the word ‘disappointed’ in the same sentence as the words ‘Alison’ and ‘ Krauss’ but the last time they were here, I felt they should have been called ‘Jerry Douglas and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas’. The wonderful Ron Block on banjo seemed to be overlooked. This performance seemed to to hanker back more to their late 90s shows, and , yes, bluegrass.

Half-time approached with the intro to Mr Douglas. Yes, there are now more than 7 billion people on the planet and yes, Jerry is probably better on the dobro than all of them, but can’t they just make a sign and an arrow pointing to him, rather than a dobro solo!? Just my opinion though. ‘The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn’ and ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ showed off Dan Tyminski and the show came to a close with a breathtaking 15 minutes in bluegrass , all-round-one-mic mode. A snatch of Brad Paisley’s ‘Whiskey Lullaby’ , a touch of gospel and off to buy my (overpriced) birthday T-shirt. No ”Jacob’s Dream’ though, maybe because it would add serious weight to Ms Krauss’s comments about sad songs!

A great show by a truly stellar bunch of musicians who are absolutely at the top of their genre.

 

Steve Earle and the Dukes and Duchesses, Gateshead Sage Centre, 26th October 2011

This was the eagerly-awaited return of Steve Earle and The Dukes (and Duchesses), featuring long-time rhythm section of Will Rigby and Kelly Looney, plus multi-instrumentalists Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore (aka The MaSteve Earlestersons) and current wife Allison Moorer. Not for the first time, an early start caught a few punters out and , as usual, he started out with some songs from his latest cd.  ‘Oldies’ came along in the shape of ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ and ‘Someday’ and Allison Moorer got to do a few numbers(incl. a great version of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. (Check out her solo cd  ‘The Hardest Part’)

Only a 20 minute interval , and they were straight into ‘Copperhead Road’. The 2nd set included older and newer stuff, including songs from The Mountain’, and Kelly Looney was given a song, as were The Mastersons. Mr Earle always gives value for money, and the extended encore finished with ‘The Unrepentant’. Plenty of vintage songs, such as ‘Devil’s Right Hand’ and ‘Hillbilly Highway’ made it a good mix and a cracking show