Chartron and Zed @ MB Slatterys 25/03/2006

Has a very enjoyable musical treat in the centre of Rathmines Saturday night on my first visit to this upstairs candlelit traditional Irish pub that’s nowadays a very welcome music venue showcasing premier foot stomping blues, rock and traditional local and international attractions.

The entrance to this warm and handsomely decorated lounge is tucked away just off the main street and the minute I walked up the stairs and entered I felt a relaxed ambiance, enthralled by its huge old style gleaming bar running almost the length of the venue that recalls ancestral footsteps to mind from decades before creating the same spirit of our greatest character trait, the cead mile failte.

A collection of Buddy Guy’s pioneering and immensely influential classic tunes tearing it up in Chicago in the early sixties was creating an atmosphere to inspire the audience and the artists for the night ahead. There’s hundreds of ways to play the blues but getting that respectable tone right on the money like that from hearing Buddy’s classic old blues cuts can only come from a player who knows his blues onions and ear candy.

On stage another first for me in Chartron and Zed, a French Blues duo who bring a very tasty collaboration of delta blues and modern guitar styles and techniques out in a very well mixed sound topped off with a low down Mississippi Delta, John Lee Hooker style vocal further enhanced by Jean Laurent Chartron’s melodic French accent.

Chartron and Zed are both left handed guitarists a feature I have found that brings its own unique approach to the wood and wire as is the case with Albert King, Otis Rush, Jimi Hendrix and our own Ed Deane especially when they play the strings upside down like Jean Laurent Chartron. Zed brings the modern coat to the finish with his conventionally stringed Johnny Winter, SRV, Claptonesque influenced Gibson Les Paul and Cry Baby going through a Classic Fender Twin amp on loan from Andrew Strong that was slightly miked into the PA mixer.

Jean Laurent Chartron used two acoustic guitars one big old Spanish flamenco bodied guitar for bottleneck accompaniment in Open G tuning and the other in standard tuning and uniquely like the legendary aforementioned players with the Bass Strings closest to his shoes.

Chartron and Zed bring a fascinating, absorbing new dimension to the music of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Ry Cooder, Robert Johnson and Mississippi Fred Mc Dowel with the blues deep in their hearts and the ingredients fluent at their fingertips.The performance was a sparkling and endearing variety brought out with grace and charm as the consummate chemistry filled the atmosphere with a rich and warm sound, pumping acoustic percussive rhythms and screaming wailing sustain and wailing, pinched harmonics played with such intensity that at least five guitar strings threw in the towel on the night.

The blues hearted audience applauded with pleasure and clearly loved the excellent and exceptional talents of these two blues loving French men who give their best on stage. One of the signature sounds of Chartron and Zed is the percussive boogie pulse rhythms Jean creates on the reverse string upbeats picking frantically with his thumb and index finger.On Baby Please Don’t Go the groove was relentless and deep, working the familiar John Lee Hooker figures and Zed powering on the hard rockin groove with his Les Paul crybaby overdrive.

The Key To The Highway started off for me like an old Ten Years After song called Hear Me Calling a familiar cover song from back in the good auld day’s when I first started hanging out at the front of the stage watching the magic being unleashed into the stratosphere.

Little Hobo was a funky Ry Cooder/Bo Diddley groove that developed into a full-blown cross between Voodoo Chile and Not Fade Away. Again and again because of the well-balanced sound the acoustic pick ups going directly into the mixer created the perfect foil and blend for Zed’s magical touch on the Les Paul with his searing guitar work being partially miked into the seamless mix.

Rambling On My Mind and Goin Down Slow were perfect vehicles for this type of arrangement and whether intentional or not I couldn’t help noticing the recurring matriarchal theme running through the set on the eve of Mothers Day.

“Won’t somebody write my mother and tell her the shape I’m in
I want somebody to write my mother and tell her the shape I’m in
I want to tell her to pray for me
Ask her to forgive me for all my sins”

Crossroads was given this essential signature sound treatment forging the primitive Mississippi Delta acoustic with the electrified urban sound of the city today. Two sizzling guitar languages in harmonic motion with two passionate pair’s of hands digging into the merciless strings to provide extra twists of tension.

Jean’s bottleneck technique was also a treat to watch due to his unusual bottleneck slide. There have been many implements used by bottleneck guitarist’s down through the years, Fred Mc Dowel used to smash the neck off a whiskey bottle, Leadbelly used a pocket-knife, Duane Allman used a Coricidin medicine bottle for his tight sound and less sustain, Muddy Waters preferred a craftsman’s 5/8 socket and Jean Laurent Chartron let me try on his severed piece of bathroom towel rail with a rounded top for added tone and access an ingenious and nifty idea that allows this oversized nimble a few more angles for inventive and safer sliding.

“I went down to the crossroads fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroads fell down on my knees
Asked the lord for mercy,
Save me if you please”

Chartron and Zed let their hearts lead their fingers into the blues heritage and the result is fresh and exciting set of classics invigorated with individualism. It’s a no mercy approach that gives these guys a hard working charisma on stage that guarantee’s them respect and admiration.

Chartron and Zed have mastered the first rule, the law of attraction, which is all about attracting into your life the people who share and harmonise with your thoughts. As the night drew to a close Chartron and Zed were like two living magnets on stage, drawing satisfied encouragement and delighted waves of appreciation from the audience in Slattery’s of Rathmines and that’s also how stranger’s become friends.

Promoter Pat Cannon’s has a determination to bring top quality Blues to this venue and his ability to do just that was clearly in evidence on Saturday night and I also bought some tickets for the real deal, Chicago legend and former Muddy Waters and Magic Slim and the Teardrops sideman John Primer’s gig on May 25th which is one of the best bits of blues news for me in 2006.

“ Well I’m a stranger here baby
Never been here before
I’m a stranger here baby
Don’t you turn me from your door
Don’t you know that a stranger’s
Just a friend that you don’t know.”