Carvin Jones Band @ Irish Blues Club, JJ Smyths 30/05/2006

Almost 12 months to the day the Irish Blues Club opened its doors once again to the amazing Carvin Jones from Phoenix, guitar player extraordinaire and one of the happiest guys ever to walk into a room with a guitar around his neck.

With his long time buddy Will Troxell on Bass and stage management duties and new black leader clad Drummer Pino Liberti from Rome in top form fresh from a string of dates up the road at the Warrenpoint Blues Festival, Carvin tore up JJ Smyths with his high energy guitar blazing mix of Rock n Blues.

Recently voted as one of the top 50 guitarists in the world its easy to see why as Carvin in white cowboy boots and black hat turns the entire floor area of JJ Smyths into a stage, playing fast and furious at the end of a 100 foot lead through a tube screaming Fender amp.

All the crowd favourites are present Hideaway, Mary Had A Little Lamb, Red House and Boom Boom Boom Boom played back to back with Drum solos, Bass Solos, in the fast lane hardly coming up for air in-between the intense and powerful shuffles.

Carvin Jones name is synonymous with guitar showmanship and his stage antics are the ultimate celebration of blistering good time entertainment, acquiring accolades from Eric Clapton,Buddy Guy and BB King.

If you want to make a decent living at this business then you have to make the people listen to you and most of look at you and send them home feeling like they had the time of their lives.

If you go to the trouble of opening a store you can’t just stock the shelves with all the things you like yourself, you have got to put what the public want on the shelves as well or else you go out of business, and that’s why Carvin has his store jam packed with all the goodies, SRV, Hendrix, Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry and ZZ Top on top of his own classics.

His new CD I’m What You Need is full of the fiercest sounds to come from a six-string guitar, exquisitely presented on a bed of humorous lyrics, Drowning On Dry Land, Ya Drive Me Crazy,Born To Win and my own favourite Wanna Walk Wicha Baby.

His biting attack and stinging axe work is a roller coaster ride for the audience in JJ Smyths, The Sky Is Crying, All Along The Watchtower, and Voodoo Chile are giving the bone fide classic treatment as Carvin assembles his lexicon from a variety of sources, traditional blues, classic rock, R&B tapping into the bone chilling adrenalin rush of the 12 bar blues progression.

Carvin lets it all hang out on Johnny B Goode which was sent into deep space many years ago by NASA as a representation of life on Earth aboard the Voyager as a message of good will to other alien civilisations and if you wanted them to witness what a good time fuel injected rock n blues show is all about then Carvin is the ideal ambassador.

Carvin creates a compelling web of guitar tones wielding his battered black Strat around the back of his neck, bouncing it off the floor, playing with his teeth, sending it flying down the floor in full volume with a smile of devilish excitement beaming from ear to ear.

The atmosphere is solid gold entertainment, is magically unpredictable and intoxicating with non stop excitement as someone remarked,

 “I don’t know whether to eat it, drink it or ride it.”

Just like last years performance there are no barriers between the artist and the audience at a Carvin Jones gig, just the feeling that you are in the presence of supreme confidence, natural friendliness and a super talent.

Its excellent guitar skill given freedom of expression, driven by passion by one of the happiest guys on the planet backed up by a pile driving rhythm section.

It was the best fun as always, vital and interesting at the Irish Blues Club on Tuesday night, and that’s probably the best complement you can pay someone at the end of the day.

Well done Carvin Dublin loves you.

John Primer @ Madison Bar, Dublin 25/05/2006

The sound of Chicago blues was heard loud and proud in the centre of Rathmines last night and it was a joyous night, a blues feast, of grooving, dancing, carousing in the company of the legendary Chicago Blues Guitarist John Primer.

The original show was scheduled to take place in MB Slatterys regular home of local blues promoter Pat Cannons Saturday Sessions, who found thankfully that the interest in the John Primer gig exceeded the capacity available in Slatterys and so we were treated to a large, well spread out and good stage visibility venue across the road upstairs in the Madison Bar.

John Primer earned his stripes riding shotgun with Willie Dixons All Stars, Muddy Waters Band filling the lead guitar spot until Muddy passed away in 1983, and moving on to a huge favourite of mine Magic Slim & The Teardrops before enjoying well-deserved front man status himself in the 90s, releasing hit albums like The Stuff You Got To Watch and The Real Deal among ten of his solo albums.
John originally from Mississippi moved to Chicago in 1963 cutting his teeth in the West Side Clubs of Chicago by the side of Junior Wells, Sammy Lawhorn and Buddy Guy and has evolved as a superb electric Blues troubadour with his own clean, uncluttered and ever reliable traditional blues solo phrasing and fast bottleneck signature sound.

Proceedings got off to an unexpected and excellent start with the arrival on stage of John Quearney, Pat Farrell and Jimmy Doyle popularly known to us all on the Irish Blues scene as The Business.Pat Farrell is a terrific guitarist and was in particularly fine form in this fast opening act set from these local stalwarts which caught fire from the start with solid groove favourites like Talk To Your Daughter, Dimples and a superb traditional Chicago blues treatment of Seamus O Hendrixs Red House.

Pat Farrell demonstrated an impeccable blend of blues techniques on the night that never once sounded crowded or overblown and it was a sizzling set and such a pleasure to settle into a night of blues in the company of such accomplished and unassuming flag bearers for the blues in Dublin.
Willie Dixon and T Bone Walker also got boiling arrangements from John Quearneys bass lines with Pat Farrells molten guitar lines slashing through clean and articulate, full of variety, energy and spontaneity topped off with tasty harp from Glen Baker joining them on stage for the night.

John Quearney is a joy to watch on stage showcasing a command of numerous musical styles using the neck of his Bass Guitar as a sort of baton to gesticulate the pace and groove reigning in Jimmy Doyles jazzier improvised flourishes again with the neck of his bass acting as a third drumstick.

A regular musical treat for myself recently has been one of Johns other projects the Wildmans Blues session in the Annesley House on the first Monday of the month with Jimmy as his regular drummer creating the backbone for a different line up and surprise amalgamation of Dublins finest musicians each month.

John Primers backing band for his Irish dates including the Warrenpoint Blues Festival was The Lee Hedley Band who took to the stage and warmed up the main phase of the show for about 30 minutes with some of their own favourites starting with Canned Heats On The Road Again.

“My dear mother left me when I was quiet young,
She said, Lord have mercy on my wicked son”

The groove was turning into a party at this stage as promoter Pat Cannons fears of solving the commercial nature of this venture were assuaged and calmed by the arrival of many familiar blues fans, Anna Livia 103.2 Bluestrain presenter Charlie Hussey, both Northside and Southside Eddie, Peter Moore just out of hospital for the event and local blues guitarists Ben Prevo, Pat Mc Sweeney and Graham Hynes all present to celebrate and support the arrival of this much respected guitarist from the Chicago Blues Scene.

Lee Hedley on Harp with his brother Mark on drums, flanked by Aaron Loughran on Electric and Double Bass and Lou Campbell playing a white Strat on Rhythm and Lead guitar duties have a friendly good time charm about them on stage.

It was my first time come across this competent and friendly bunch of guys from across the border who have a jam band, bar room roadhouse repertoire to suit all occasions with Hookerish/SRV Boogie pieces, the Fabulous Thunderbirds Tuff Enuff, The Rolling Stones Miss You and the ever popular Commitments song Treat Her Right all setting out the stall to get down and get with it.

By the time John Primer joined them on stage to rapturous applause they were pulling out all the stops with Lee wailing away to his hearts content on his Blues Harp on Johns classic Knocking At Your Door.

John moved about the stage with his favourite weapon of choice a hollow bodied Epiphone Rivera until he got the sound he wanted around him on stage moving on to another classic JP hard driving shuffle The Stuff You Got To Watch.John Primers seasoned guitar genius prevails from the start in a warn confident and unpretentious style show, that brings the band, the crowd and each song rumbling along like a latent volcano that climaxes with his trademark emotive, stinging axe work. His voice is confident and soulful and his bottleneck technique is pure traditional fifties Chicago blues producing pointedly wicked guitar solo after solo that serves tradition well.

John has a great sense of humour on stage his lyrics recalling adventures he had with some Red Hot Mamas across town and about the dilemma of having someone elses mule kicking in your stall, turning the atmosphere from groove time to party time and had the ladies shaking their beautiful asses all around the front of the stage.

“Everybody say yeah”
“If you got a mouth use it”
“If you ain’t got a mouth I still luv ya”

The Lee Hedley Band does well to stick the almost three hour pace this being the first time out of the traps with John Primer who confessed to not sleeping for two days, and even when they lose their footing there is a great sense of imagination and daring bobbing and weaving around Johns expertly delivered guitar playing.

The great affection the audience has for the traditional Chicago Blues set is often the familiar and accessible repertoire of classic songs like Sweet Home Chicago, CC Rider, Got My Mojo Working and Hideaway which cut straight to the chase, meaning for middle aged groovers like myself I don’t have to speed date a load of new songs to get into the groove.

John had to part with his hard working hollow bodied Epiphone and strap on what looked like a sunburst Les Paul mid song for string breaking version of I’m A Man with bite and girth, reassuring the audience that they will always have a friend in John Primer reaching to the shouts of approval with a vigour and love for both life and his top flight blues guitar music.

Magic moments were a plenty with the diversity of John Primers delicious guitar lickery ringing out effortlessly from the man known as The Real Deal and certainly satisfied the blues fans in Dublin with almost three hours of genuine house rocking live blues music reverberating around the Madison on Thursday night and one gets the feeling that when the groove is good these Chicago Blues guys would play all night long as was the case for the late Luther Allison up in the Monaghan Blues Festival back in the nineties on another memorable night.
Fortunately I got a chance to have a chat with John earlier on that night and found him to be an engaging affable man full of stories about the Windy City Blues scene and his travels.

I bought him a cranberry juice and we talked about hollow bodied Epiphone Rivera guitars and how his use of the same sweet toned hollow body through a Fender Twin is his desert island choice and how he had influenced many of his contemporaries to convert to hollow bodied Epiphones as well over the years for that traditional raw edged and uncompromising windy city blues style.

Like a good wine when it comes to guitars there are good years and bad years you have got to get the vintage right before you part with your money and he has a 1965 the bitch of the bunch.He is a very likable guy and great fun to spend time with.I told him in jest I had told my own father I wanted to play blues guitar when I grow up and my father had told me you cant do both.

Above all John Primer is fond of the past but he is not one for reclining on his laurels, constantly looking forward to the next performance with enthusiasm and good will and greeting all around him with a big broad smile.

Johns philosophy is simple, play from the heart and make people happy and hopefully be a success in the process and there was a house full of contented fans in Rathmines last Thursday night and early into Friday morning who would willingly confirm and second that emotion and the success of his philosophy without the slightest hesitation.

“She spends your dough
She drinks your gin
She rolls and she tumbles
Then she’s ready to go again
That’s the stuff you got to watch
That’s the stuff you got to watch
If you don’t wanna lose that girl.”

Bruce Springsteen & The Seeger Sessions Band 5/05/2006

The Boss came back to the Point Dublin on Friday night for an electrifying hard working performance from one of the most influential entertainers on the scene exclusively dedicating an entire show to some of the most significant old folk, gospel and blues songs from the past inspired by his portal to the same tunes through the music of Pete Seeger.

This was my first time to see Bruce Springsteen perform since witnessing his memorable shows in Slane and the RDS in 1988, which defined him as a Superstar and one of the very best live Rock Acts in the world.Another reason is that its become a lottery trying to get a ticket for a Bruce Springsteen show in Ireland such is the huge demand and the enduring loyalty of his fans and by all reports the shows on this current European tour sold out in less than ten minutes.

During his two hours on stage Bruce with his 17 members of the Seeger Sessions Band including his wife Patti Scialfa on guitar and vocals, turned The Point packed like a sardine can into a good old fashioned Barn Dance revitalizing classic tunes that go back to the Wild West day’s like Jesse James and Buffalo Gals and gave all an insight of the mass movement rally’s with sacred anthem spirit raising numbers such as We Shall Overcome creating an atmosphere of joyful celebration.

Since receiving a present of Bruce’s new compilation of traditional songs, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, which he had himself come across on old Pete Seeger LP’s from my good friend and Americana music collector Sean Finn I have been eagerly awaiting this opportunity to see these wonderful tunes performed live on stage and seldom has the wait exceeded all expectations and more.

These songs in years gone by, pointed people in the right direction in times of struggle, protest, disaster and now in the hands of a master communicator like Bruce Springsteen, experience a well deserved new lease of life on the international soundtrack of our lives, a well deserved revival and acknowledgement, providing hope and inspiration for the troubled communities of America as the modern generations experience the mistakes and disasters of the past being revisited in disbelief like the displaced populations of New Orleans and the neighbouring States and the divisiveness of the Iraq War.

As the musicians all filed on to the stage and Bruce directed them into “O Mary Don’t You Weep” followed by “John Henry” with super lap steel solo from Marty Rifkin one of the many assembled musicians on this tour who Bruce has played with before, but this is the first time they have combined their talents and played together for this jubilant jamboree on tour.

The stage looked like a Wild West tavern with pink and purple Grapes of Wrath backdrop and similar coloured chandeliers hanging overhead and when Bruce launched into the sweat dripping “Old Dan Tucker”, I half expected Trampas and the Virginian to ride on stage.Bruce Springsteen has always used his talent and popularity to represent an independent political voice an alternative source of information, a moral compass for his audience and never more has the sincerity of that voice been heard so passionately as in the dramatic interpretations of songs like “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize” and “We Shall Overcome” and pity the fool that tries to distract him from that mission such as his remark to a noisy member of the audience, “There’s a little man talking to me down there trying to keep me from fucking up.” Any premature clappers are advised to keep their hands in their pockets, The Boss sets the pace and he is deadly serious about the message contained within his performance.

Down through the years Bruce Springsteen has earned unquestionable respect and regard for his stance on civil rights, economic justice and a sane foreign US policy and when he performs the pain and protest sentiments contained in his Dixieland version of “My Oklahoma Home” its currency is as valuable as ever as millions and millions of residents of New Orleans found their homes and possessions washed away leaving them with nothing but the mortgage as the music of America’s shared past in the dust bowl and depression era is as real today as it was back in the 30’s and 40’s in helping people put it all into focus.

Before his own inimitable version of the nineteenth centaury Irish Ballad “Mrs Mc Grath” Bruce humorously informs the audience of a phone call from a well known Irish Musician and friend who admonished him over his pronunciation of the aforementioned Mrs McGrath as follows,” Bruce, you dumb bastard its Mrs McGrath not Mrs McGrate”. In fact the phonetic difference works perfectly as Bruce aligns the chorus to suit and its fun and its Bruce in top form.

“No, I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t blind
When I left my two fine legs behind
A big cannon ball on the fifth of May
Tore my two fine legs from the knees away”

Bruce Springsteen is a mighty performer on stage in full control and steel driven in his conviction as each song is given his trademark key changing dynamic, the multiple climax. Bruce takes each song to an exhausting finale and then takes the audience willingly through several more bouts of foreplay building the song up for multiple climaxes with his awe-diance firmly in the grasp of his hand.

Jacobs Ladder he describes as a song abut this enormous “Fuck Up” who went on to find himself in God’s good books and it gets the aforementioned Springsteen signature treatment to perfection as well as the key changing sea chantey “Pay Me My Money Down” with that familiar voice booming powerfully around the Point leaving not a disappointed fan on this first date of the European Tour.

For me the real buzz here is the huge contribution, credibility and new doorway this opens for a whole new audience to traditional folk blues and gospel. The irony is that throughout Ireland there are thousands of musicians playing these songs with passion, week in week out and now hopefully this international attention will help fuel an energising enthusiasm and new audience interest.
Bruce Springsteen has been heralded as many things over the years from the new Dylan, to rock’s great white hope and the future of rock and roll and he has taken it all in his stride uncompromisingly following the voice in his head.

He is a charismatic performer beyond compare, who has always played by his own rules, making sturdy rhythmic harrowing bluesy folk arrangements of the modern world, of homeless, jobless, displaced, frustrated and confused people and creating morality pieces of art that mirror the world around him in the same way as Woody Guthrie, Lightning Hopkins, Bob Dylan and Hark Williams. His songs are consistently about hard people making hard choices some of their own making and some as a result of bad government or corporate greed and neglect.

I recall my own introduction to some of these tunes watching Frazzle’s Pat Mc Sweeney putting down his Strat and strapping on his Banjo, downstairs in Toners back in the late 70’s for a version Jesse James, sandwiched between Cocaine and Smoke On The Water and it was always a roof raising crowd pleaser and favourite of mine. Then their was PJ Curtis’s radio programs which I would tape and make up compilations of preferences from, which laid the groundwork for an amazing journey back through previous decades to join up the extraordinary music of previous generations and put it into context and its been an inexhaustible pleasure ever since.

As the encores of “Buffalo Girls” and “When The Saints Go Marching In” sends everyone out of The Point, The Boss’s reputation for being a superb live act is confirmed in a gutsy performance of deep inspiration, demonstrating the potency of a reputation that stands for thoughtfulness, integrity and conscience whose musical endeavours leaves an indelible fingerprint on the imagination of this generation.

Bruce Springsteen deserves great credit from all lovers of our musical heritage for taking such a wonderful collection of songs off the sidelines and giving them another chance to play. The music needs you Mr Blues Springsteen.

Now there’s tears on the pillow
darling where we slept
and you took my heart when you left
without your sweet kiss
my soul is lost, my friend
Now tell me how do I begin again?

My city’s in ruins
My city’s in ruins

Now with these hands
I pray Lord
with these hands
for the strength Lord
with these hands
for the faith Lord
with these hands
I pray Lord
with these hands
for the strength Lord
with these hands
for the faith Lord
with these hands

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!
Rise up