Carvin Jones Band @ Irish Blues Club, JJ Smyths 7/6/2005

Always a” must go” for me when an American Bluesman comes to town and boy was I delighted to be in attendance for this high energy, cocktail of trailblazing guitarmanship, on stage acrobatics and solid gold entertainment.

Carvin Jones and his very competent and capable Band have their priorities right, its all about having a good time and I get the feeling that they don’t ever give up until everyone in the audience feel like their on stage and participating in the celebration, except that their way of doing things is by way of bringing the performance down with fifty foot guitar leads to the tables and sitting in between the amazed members of the audience, laying the regularly abused and evidently long suffering Fender Strat wailing like a banshee to rest across two tables and adopting a lap style technique in mid song and without any interruption to momentum of the piece of music filtering into every crevice in the room.Nothing stands between the artist and the audience at a Carvin Jones gig, there are no barriers, and it’s a wonderful feeling and a testament of his self confidence and natural friendliness on stage or off that leaves one and all thoroughly entertained.

Just watching someone like Carvin is enough to ratchet your own guitar confidence up a level on the stage presentation front alone.At one stage he invited Jennifer a beautiful American Lady and self confessed fan of the Blues in the audience beside me to dance a few steps while his guitar lay reverberating on the ground between the tables.

Carvin arrives on stage in top Texas form smiling like a showman that’s got more than enough to meet the challenge ahead, immediately stepping into a comfortable pair of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix’s boots with an effortless combination of charisma, soul, showmanship, and guitar vocabulary that pays homage to all the great influential masters of Blues. Carvin thankfully doesn’t go for the pain and sorrow approach to interpreting the blues preferring to whammy it up with joy and pleasure as central parts of his armoury.

Carvin is an ace player and delivers the set of classic covers and medleys with an uncompromising muscular brass knuckled style on his Black Fender Strat, that takes you to the hearts and hands of the essential bluesmen enhanced with some signature sounding effects that deliver right to your doorstep that combine to create a fusion of pile driving rhythm and screaming notes that suspend in the air long enough for someone to run downstairs in JJ’s and outside and rotate a flat tyre on Augier St if the need existed.

Like Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Stevie Ray and Jimi its got more to do with passion than technique at times stepping outside the minor pentatonic box scales and making the magic happen in the intervals, working the space between the notes till there fingers bleed, weaving in and out of the prescribed 1- 1V – V harmony and orbiting around the original influence until its time to land it on your own runway.

Hammering on double stops and rubbing sensually against ninth chords with power tube distortion, its Guitar Slim hanging out with ZZ Top and the wind cries get out of the way or its going to run you over.There is no standing on ceremony here, no bandstand meandering ,if its reverences you want you’re in the wrong house at a gig like this, you need to cross the street and go up to Whitefriars Street Church. Hideaway, Voodoo Chile, Little Wing, Sweet Home Chicago, Boom Boom Boom, Johnny B Goode, Dust my Broom are all just ingredients for the Blues n Boogie stew boiling away on stage.

If we are ever going to reclaim the blues for this generation and the next and solve the commercial nature of it for all concerned, then this sums up what a live performance is all about. This is what Guitar Slim and T Bone Walker has to do fifty years ago along the roadhouses of Highway 61 walking out through the crowds with a 100 foot lead snaking its way from the stage and playing back in at the audience through the window. This is a barrier removing participation tradition that must not disappear and is a signature trademark of the Blues performance and as necessary a credential as an Albert King wide interval bend, BB Kings vibrato and the bone chillin legacy of Albert Collins or John Lee Hooker already incorporated into the standard.

I witnessed our own Peter Moore weave a similar magic in JJ’s one freezing cold night in January, flanked by Ben Prevo and Johnny Reynolds on guitars and with Irish John Earl and the rest of the International Blues Band when the audience and musicians were as one and the atmosphere was warm, wonderful and spine chilling.

Peter also works from a tapestry of diverse and unique delights, one minute your head is in Mississippi and the next you’re a Blockhead in a burlesque London pub gig.So it is when Carvin plays its about attitude, he has one hell of a take no prisoners right hand approach snapping and popping the strings with utter conviction on his beat up Strat at one stage sent sliding down the floor of JJ’s at full throttle. Slashing and cutting the chords, chicken picking and damping arpeggios the reverb drenched sound commanding attention at all times with foxy pull and slide manoeuvres and the occasional bottle whipped off a table to add the bottleneck touch to proceedings.

He is unpredictable and cagey thriving in the fertile soil of Blues, Soul and Rock churning out a mix to keep things interesting, watching the eyes watching him from beneath the Texas Stetson. The Bass and Drum rhythm gives a rolling motion to the boogie as Carvin grafts on cunning grooves and hard rocking riffs delivered in an alternating fluid and piercing attack. Just as Muddy was the master of forging Delta acoustic music into the electrified, Chicago blues of today the flame still burns as long as players with the passion and vision of Carvin Jones are playing from the heart with that gift for spontaneous reorganisation and give freedom of expression to the music so that the end result is larger than life itself.

“If I can bring joy into the world…then I’ll be successful”. Bobby McFerrin musician said and if you want to see that demonstrated treat yourself to a Carvin Jones Band gig.

As I left JJ Smyth’s last night and fair play to the lads in the Irish Blues Club for their efforts to keep the Blues scene alive, someone outside the door told me that the powerhouse rhythms from upstairs had caused the air bags in a Toyota Avensis to involuntarily explode outside the door. Legendary gigs when reminiscing have a habit of prompting exaggeration as time goes by and this one deserves to get off to a good start.