Supported by an impressive set from our own local blues heroes The Business featuring Pat Farrell on some finely crafted blistering fretwork, John Quarney on Bass and Davey Gaynor on Drums playing some crowd favourites like Standing Out There in the Rain, Ain’t Superstitious, Poor Man’s Throne and Willie Dixon’s I’m Ready the atmosphere in the Bleu Note was on a high when one of Chicago’s finest blues guitarist’s Carlos Johnson arrived on stage.
The Bleu Note a very welcome new live music venue on Dublin’s Capel Street, put on three Chicago Blues nights featuring the electrifying Carlos Johnson supported by The Mary Stokes Band on Thursday, The Business on Friday, and The Conspirators on Saturday night.
Carlos Johnson is the real deal on stage a south paw playing with the heavy strings nearest the floor and a tone wailing on the right side of the feedback threshold, this thumb and finger style bluesman played scorching guitar breaks and high energy funky blues.Carlos Johnson knows exactly what he is doing on stage, drawing on his voraciously wide musical interests, with elements of funk, soul, jazz and classic Chicago blues, all bubbling away, is cooking away on the Bleu Note stage.
Born in Cook County back in 1948 Carlos started off being in awe of BB King but soon started adding other influences like Charlie Christian who pioneered the sound of single string guitar playing back in the late 1930’s and early 40’s moving on to make a living playing the blues behind Junior Well’s, Koko Taylor and Son Seals.
Playing his hollow bodied Gibson upside down with the knobs under his arm, Carlos goes for a stinging, biting tonal attack taking it for a stroll around the crowd when its really cooking. His band for these engagements were a Polish Blues Band called Blue Crow based in Castlebar and they were kept on their toes as Carlos play’s hard and fast, teasing the female audience members at every opportunity as to whether he should play hard or soft, clearly gifted in the art of the double entendre.
He mixed in classics like Jimmy Reed’s Bright Lights Big City and I’m A Man with inventive material of his own like Leaving On The Next Train and Blues Man and by the time he finally unplugged his faithful guitar the crowd was well and truly in a party mood.Carlos is especially hot on the slow soul jazz style guitar workouts with a terse and tasteful attack on the strings and like all left handed players who play the strings, strung high on top his unique approach is spellbinding to watch with the end result individual and divine.
His resulting popularity with the audience in the Bleu Note had them all in the palm of his hand in no time with all kinds of dance moves being witnessed at the front of the stage. His voice is full of funky urban tones with a wicked sense of humour repeatedly teasing the receptive audience with plenty of feedback from the equally humorous Dubs.
Carlos has earned his stripes touring internationally as far away as Japan and serves the tradition well when he demonstrates how easily he turns the blue groove into a soul party and left no one in any doubt that there was a Real Chicago Blues Man in Capel St steaming up the windows on a freezing cold November night in Dublin.