Saturday Night Blues, Dublin 09/2006

Steve James & Del Rey @ Cobblestones, Smithfield.

Carvin Jones @ JJ Smyths, Aungier Street.

Jalapenos @ Blue Note, Capel Street. 

KJ Mac & Aileen Mythen @ Saturday Night Blues

Dropped into Frank Ryan’s in Queen Street and caught the end of the Irish Soccer International in Stuttgart where most of the punters seemed relieved that we had only lost by one goal to Germany before going across the wet cobblestones of Smithfield to see Austin Texas based traditional blues resonator guitar and ukulele performers Steve James sharing a double header with long time friend and country blues collaborator Del Rey from Seattle Washington in the appropriately named Cobblestones live music venue.

Larry Roddy was on the door, a stalwart of live Blues promotion staying closely rooted to the traditional blues styles going way back and I have had the pleasure of attending many of these promotions over the years in Dublin and down in Ballymore Eustace for his Monday night performances by Chris Smither, Catfish Keith, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines.

Steve James is a warm and talkative musical visitor to Ireland for many years and it was a long overdue opportunity for me to catch up with this virtuoso of humorous rootsy tunes and immaculate guitar picking bred of back porches and wood shedding circuits of fast bottleneck story laden legend Furry Lewis who first released classic mould shaping records in the 1920’s and enjoyed a popular revival aided by Steve James by his side in the later decades of his life in the folk blues revival of the 1960’s.

Playing National Resonator guitars with a clean and articulate technique his speed and expression seems limitless, full of energy and spontaneity showcasing an easy command of his impeccable country blues-picking blend.

After years on the road meeting up for duets at countless festivals and workshops around the globe, Del Rey and Steve James together on stage is an amazing feast of counterpoint double lead playing that could only be described as a musigasm of finger picking and bottleneck technique.

Singing tunes about going down to Louisiana and experiences with do right women and the hassle of trying to get from place to place on previous tours around Ireland, it all flows effortlessly and sublime off the folksy stage in the Cobblestone venue with Del Rey visually reminding me of Merle Streep as the 50’s diner lady in The Postman Always Knocks Twice and Steve getting stuck in to his fretboard like a working man with first hand knowledge of his trade.

Milwaukee Blues was excellent and their version of Chuck Berry’s Nadine blew me away and a trip back to 1928 by Steve to the music of Sidney Bechet who created the role of jazz soloist in the 20’s featuring Back Street Blues and One More Meal, with sophisticated finger-stretching levee breaking exercises by Del Rey playing a guitar and Ukulele like Jimmy Page with a double neck, that opened a new universe on that instrument for these eyes.

Carvin Jones Band @ JJ Smyth’s Aungier St Dublin 2

I legged it down to JJ Smyth’s next to catch the end of the flamboyant USA electric rock blues sensation Carvin Jones playing his Stratocastor in every position anatomically possible to a full house of jubilant fans.

With his Hendrix, SRV tube screaming repertoire of fast lane boogie, Carvin moves through the audience with his black hat, cowboy boots and smile as wide as the Liffey and a Karma Sutra book full of positions to make his guitar kiss the sky with, never missing a beat with his cohort Bill Troxill pounding along on Bass.

On a whirlwind tour of Ireland the ever-popular Carvin breaks every speed limit on the fretboard, strapping on an extra Stratocastor for a spot of duelling with both hands playing both guitars at the same time as if they were extensions of his arms.

Jalapenoes @ Bleu Note, Capel Street, Dublin 1

My final stop on the night was over to The Bleu Note on Capel Street to listen for the first time to a new local group for me, Jalapenoes featuring K.J.MAC also playing some great SRV high energy blues on his Stratocastor backed up by a tight rhythm section in spidery fingers of Paddy Joyce on Bass and Kieran Lally on Drums and an excellent vocalist and charismatic stage front presence in Aileen Mythen who exibits a total comfort and charisma on stage adding to a collective assured performance. Kieran is a fine player and although this was my first time to see him play live I had listened many times to his version of Elmore James classic “Talk To Me Baby” on the Irish Blues Club compilation Forty Shades of Blue Vol. 11.

My Babe, Summertime Blues, Pride & Joy, Tell Me Why got maximum R&B treatment, tight and polished arrangements with the dial stuck firmly in the having a good time range.

When they got into the roots material the chemistry was rich and entertaining inhabiting a groove somewhere between the common ground of the old blues masters and the new  country artists sometimes referred to as Americana.

The musicianship in the Jalapenoes works so well together and the male female harmonies are so full of vitality, handling any requests from the audience with a perfectly beautiful professionalism of approach and intricate interplay not to mention that Aileen would bring eyesight to the blind when she blows the blues harp and pounds the stage in her blue leader boots.

“My babe don’t stand no cheatin’, my babe
Oh no, she don’t stand no cheatin’, my babe
Oh no, she don’t stand no cheatin’
Everything she do she do so pleasin’
My babe true little babe my babe.”