Great Guitar Moments! Eric Clapton – Duane Allman.

Great Guitar Moments! Eric Clapton – Duane Allman

That Saturday afternoon Eric and the Band fumbled around in the studio until about seven, and then drove over to the Allman Brothers concert. They snuck up front and they crawled on their hands and knees so that they wouldn’t obscure the stage.

Duane was in the middle of a solo; he opened his eyes and looked down, did a dead stare, and stopped playing.

Dickie (Betts) was chugging along, saw Duane had stopped playing and figured he’d better cover, that Duane had broken a string or something. Then Dickey looked down, saw Eric and turned his back. That was how they first saw each other. 

If the concert was the start of a mutual love affair for each other’s music, the Layla album was certainly the consummation. As the out-takes from the sessions show, prior to Duane’s involvement with the album the band lacked the sparkle and bite that would later be evidenced on tracks like Key to the Highway. 

Sam the Sham (Woolly Bully) was in the studio and they heard him doing it in an adjacent room. They thought it was a great tune, Eric or Duane picked up on it, Carl Radle jumped in, Bobby Whitlock – who knew all these tunes – jumped on it and before you knew it everybody was trailing along. 

Producer Tom Dowd turned around and said “hit that goddamn machine!” 

From the moment the track kicks off it burns with the intensity of a Mississippi religious revival meeting. 

Had Eric not met up with Duane that fateful night, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1971) would have undoubtedly been one of Clapton’s finest hours. As things turned out, it was Duane’s incisive slide playing that was to prove the mystery element, the catalyst that turned a potentially fine album into a great one, an album regarded as one of the finest in rocks tortured history. 

I got the key

Key to the highway

Darlin’ about to go

Gonna leave here running

Walking’s much to slow.  

The sound that filtered through the control room door of that air conditioned Miami Studio was the sound of a raw bleeding 12 bar blues imbued with an almost painful intensity.

The sweat marks under Eric’s arms bore witness to the energy the band were pushing out. Across the room next to Eric’s small Fender Champ amp balanced precariously on a canvass chair, stood a skinny ginger-haired kid with mutton chop whiskers, cradling a Les Paul. 

Grinning, he slid a small glass slide up the neck as though his life depended on it. It brought the blues crackling into life and whoops of delight from Eric Clapton. 

Tragedy has always stalked greatness throughout the post office and rock and roll’s history and Duane was soon to go to that great stage in the sky following a motorcycle accident 

Just an unlucky 13 months later Key to the Highway would be played at his funeral inMaconto a shell shocked congregation. Duane Allman’s slide guitar skills and soulful phrasing made him one of the most venerated white bluesmen ever. He was a complete guitar player who could give you whatever you needed, rhythm, lead, blues, slide, bossa nova with a jazz feeling, beautiful light acoustic  and on the slide he had the magic touch. To get clear intonation with the right overtones that’s the mark of a genius. He was one of the few who could hold his own with the best of the black blues players, and there are very few.

You can count them on the fingers of one hand if you’ve got three fingers missing


Willie Nelson & Family feat Sharon Shannon’s Big Band Point Depot Jan 2006.

Willie Nelson & Family feat Sharon Shannon’s Big Band Point Depot Jan  2006. 

Texas born American music icon Willie Nelson started his music career off as a country music Disc Jockey back in the mid fifties moving on to become a gifted songwriter and a world famous star of stage and screen over four decades.

Willie’s earlier songs became hits for some of Country music’s biggest stars, Crazy for Patsy Cline, Funny How Time Slips Away for Billy Walker and countless others, Night Life for Ray Price who Willie started off on the road with playing bass guitar.

In the 70’s Willie blended his brand of country with rock n roll, jazz, folk and western swing forging the image of a hippie styled country music outlaw riding the range outside
Nashville with fellow cohorts Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser, Jessie Colter, moving the concept on to The Highwaymen in the 80’s with Waylon, Johnny Cash and Kris  Kristofferson also captured on screen in the movie Stagecoach.

Willie Nelson has also appeared in Gone Fishing, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Simpson’s, Miami Vice and is appearing in a sequel to The Dukes of Hazzard in 2007.

Willie has his own number one in 1975 with Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain going on to have 19 more number one hits over the next two decades and returning to climb the charts once again in 2003.

A much respected political activist Willie has supported the Farm Aid concerts since the beginning and when the tax man cleaned him out for €16 he turned what would have been a disaster to his advantage releasing

After high school, Nelson served briefly in the Air Force and then spent some time as a student at Baylor  University. Beginning in the mid-’50s, he worked as a disc jockey in Texas and Washington, played in honky-tonks and continued refining his skills as a songwriter. In 1960, he moved to Nashville and signed as a songwriter with Pamper Music. He joined Liberty Records in 1962, his first major label deal. It didn’t take long for country artists to notice his talent as a composer. In 1961, Faron Young scored a No. 1 with Nelson’s “Four Walls.” Later that year, Patsy Cline hit it big with “Crazy,” and Billy Walker did moderately well with “Funny How Time Slips Away.” In 1963, Ray Price, in whose band Nelson had once worked, had a No. 28 hit with the urbane, jazzy “Night Life.”

Nelson’s second single for Liberty, “Touch Me” in 1962, took him to No. 7, and that would remain his chart high point for the next 13 years. He recorded for RCA from 1965 until
1972, then moved to Atlantic Records. Dissatisfied with his pace as a recording artist, he returned to Texas, where he became a focal point of Austin’s emerging progressive country music scene. It was during the early ’70s that Nelson switched from suits and short hair to jeans, flowing locks and the omnipresent bandana. He staged and starred in the first of a series of outdoor music festivals — the famed Fourth of July Picnics — at Dripping Springs, Texas, in 1973. The concert drew thousands of fans more oriented to rock music than
country, and he completely won them over.

In 1975, Nelson began a fruitful association with Columbia Records that would last into the ’90s. As part of his deal with the label, he was given basic control over what and how he recorded. His first album for Columbia was the stripped-down and stark concept album, Red Headed Stranger. Although some at the label thought it sounded like a collection of demos, it proved its appeal when one of its songs, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” went No. 1. Nelson’s outsider mystique gained a name in 1976 with the release on RCA Records of Wanted: The Outlaws, a compilation of tracks cut by Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. Henceforth, Nelson was a charter member of “the outlaw movement.” What that meant, essentially, was having creative control over one’s own records, which had long been the practice of rock artists.

From 1975 onward, Nelson’s star rose. He was the subject of hundreds of prominent articles, not only in fan magazines but also in the general press.
He appeared on the then hip Saturday Night Live and began acting in movies. His album Stardust, which came out in 1978, stayed on the country charts for 10 years. In 1982, his album Always on My Mind won the CMA’s album of the year award, while the title cut won for single of the year. During this period, he won five Grammys for his best-known work, including “Always on My Mind,” “On the Road Again,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” (with Jennings) and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

As befits such prolific tenacity, Nelson has been showered with honors, among them admission to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1973), the Country Music Hall of Fame (1993) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2001).
In addition to the six Grammys he has won for specific records, the Recording Academy (which confers Grammys) has also given him its Living Legend Award (1990) and Lifetime Achievement Award (2000).
Nelson has been nominated for 43 Country Music Association awards and has won
nine of them, including the entertainer of the year prize (1979) and the vocal event of the year trophy (2002) for his duet with Lee Ann Womack, “Mendocino County Line.” That collaboration also won a 2002 Grammy, 20 years after his previous win.

In 2006, he paid tribute to songwriting friend (and Country Music Hall of Fame member) Cindy Walker by recording an album of her songs, You album titled Songbird,
produced by Ryan Adams and featuring Adams’ band, the Cardinals.

The fact that his first appearance on the charts was a duet (with Shirley Collie, then his wife) may help account for Nelson’s alacrity to be a duet partner for others. He has since recorded albums and/or hits singles with Tracy Nelson, Jennings, Price, Ray Charles, Leon Russell, Webb Pierce, Darrell McCall, actress Mary Kay Place, Hank Cochran, Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass, band member Jody Payne, Johnny Bush, Roger Miller, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Brenda Lee, Julio Iglesias, Kris Kristofferson, David Allan Coe,
Young, Porter Wagoner, Curtis Potter, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, Sinead O’Connor, Neil Young, Ryan Adams and the aforementioned Womack and Keith. One source puts Nelson’s total number of duets with different artists at more than 80. He joined forces with Jennings, Kristofferson and Johnny Cash in 1985 for the No. 1 single, “Highwayman” and an album and tour of the same name.

In 1979, Nelson made his first foray into movies with The Electric Horseman, which gave him some wonderfully funny scenes with Robert Redford. He followed with Honeysuckle Rose (1980), in which he was the star — and which introduced the song that would become his theme, “On the Road Again.” Subsequent films include Thief (1981), Barbarosa
(1982), The Songwriter (1984), Where the Hell’s That Gold?!!? (1985), The Last Days of Frank & Jesse James (1986), Red Headed Stranger (1987), Once Upon a Texas Train (1988), Dust to Dust (1994), Gone Fishin’ (1997), Wag the Dog (1997), Outlaw Justice (1999), The Journeyman (2001) and The Big Bounce (2004).

In 1990, the Internal Revenue Service presented Nelson with a tax bill for over $16 million and then seized most of his property to cover it.
Nelson even managed to turn this setback into a publicity bonanza when he released the fund-raising double album, The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories. For the past several years, Nelson has recorded critically praised work for a variety of labels, including Liberty, Justice, Island andLost Highway.

As a political activist, Nelson co-founded the Farm Aid music festival in 1985 with fellow performers Young and John Mellencamp. Its purpose was and is to raise awareness about and funds for America’s family farmers. Nelson has co-headlined the event every year since its inception, except for 1988, when it wasn’t held. In 2004, he endorsed and appeared at benefits for Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

Besides the songs cited above, Nelson also wrote such standards as “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” “Good Hearted Woman” (with Jennings), “I’m a Memory,” “Three Days” (with Young), “Me and Paul,” “Bloody Mary Morning,” “Pretend I Never  happened,” “Why Do I Have to Choose,” “Yesterday’s Wine” and “Touch Me.”

Nelson’s albums — nearly 300 titles, including repackagings — have sold millions. Stardust, his 1978 cover collection of the pop hits of his youth, exceeds 5 million in sales, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Three others have sold 4 million copies each, along with two double-platinum albums and nine platinum albums.


Richie Havens Irish Tour withTanya Nally & Don Mescal @ Whelan’s, Wexford St, Dublin 6th July 2005

Richie Havens Irish Tour @ Whelan’s, Wexford St, Dublin 6th July 05

Richie Havens brought his signature blues folk soul musical style and delightful artistic personality to a warm and appreciative full house in Whelan’s on Wednesday night and left his disciples very satisfied and converted the rest with effortless ease.

Arriving on stage this high priest of the hippie dream, veteran of the pioneering Dylanesque New York Folk Cafe’s in the early sixties, his famous three hour opening act at the famous Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in 1969 this gentle lovable musician captures the hearts and minds of his audience with immediate effect creating an atmosphere of mutual respect that is positively wonderful. Richie is proud of his past and breaths hope and enthusiasm for the future in his conversations with the audience, calling a spade a spade when it comes to politics and environmental issues always delivered with an intriguing wit and charm, dipping the gloom and doom in a little honey to make it more understandable to provide solutions for.

All through the years he has maintained a unique approach and style in his music that forty plus years later threading the boards still remains fresh and interesting, that creates
nostalgic emotions but is not dependant on nostalgia, is not a parody, jaded or worn away by the years in between.

It was my first time to see his performance live and as happens in these cases my feelings of joy were somewhat tinged by regret that I had waited so long to make this journey. This man is an inspiration, an inspiring and lovely man to meet on the road of life in the most profound and spiritual sense.

My previous reference points were of course his memorable Woodstock performance immortalised on screen and the bible for any aspiring musician and self confessed hippie like myself wanting to gain street credibility in Dublin in the early seventies, and also a mid seventies late night experience when listening to Radio Luxemburg late one night on my transistor radio when the now sadly deceased DJ Stuart Henry went into his nightly meditation rap affirming the audience to relax and remove the troubles of their day, wishing his girlfriend well the next day on her modelling assignment, a man in love, affirmations rolling off his Scottish timbre that segued like day into dusk smoothly and
unhesitatingly into a most beautiful Ritchie Havens voice and piano piece
called Dreaming As One.

“And as I reach for you

You open your eyes

As if somehow you knew

The need in my life

As you always do

Slowly you come

And though we sleep as two

We’re dreaming as one”

That wonderful piece of radio has lingered on my memory with so much affection ever since with Ritchie Haven’s voice leaving an indelible and hypnotic impression, transforming beautiful words into a powerful soulful stream, a hymn of lyrical magic.

His trademark guitar style is different from anyone I have observed before or after over the years and produces one of the most identifiable Open tunings, an Open D with the F sharp dropped down a semi- tone to an F at times. The results, partially down to the light but
ceaseless percussive rhythmic strumming driving the droning notes on the open strings into the waiting atmosphere where they nest with pleasure. The bass strings seem to resonate with an even bassier sound because of the use of his left hand thumb to barre the strings allowing him capability to play behind the barre on the higher A and D strings.

His ability to pick a good song and infuse it with the elements of his talent makes his unique interpretation one of the joys of innovation with classic songs like “All Along the Watchtower”,”Tupelo Honey”,”Fire and Rain”,” Just Like a Woman”,
“Here Comes the Sun” being reborn with freshness and appeal to old ears and new, renewing a lease of life, yet never losing respect for the original works of art which are nowadays considered like Georgian houses in Dublin studiously protected by musical preservation orders.

He was flanked by two fantastic musicians on stage augmenting the sound and
presence with complementary performances on acoustic lead guitar by the long lean Shakespearean looking Walter Parks a most interesting accompanist turning left and right on blue, like a reliable taxi man he knows the guitar neighbourhood like the back of his hand, always stays within the speed limit and drops off passengers on Jazzville Crescent, Country Avenue, Classical Boulevard and is a gift on Bluebend Corner with a mixolydian of other stops on his route and from New York Stephanie Winters playing Cello that was
remarkably appropriate to Richie’s   Open Drone guitar sound and baritone timbre and his left leg stepping out the beat on the floor. He remarked that his left foot has clocked up seventeen miles more than his right foot over the years as a result.

Stephanie sold the sound of the cello to me big time with her own innovative technical proficiency showing a capability to flourish above and beyond the call of duty in an almost Hendrixian, Miles Davis mode of creativity in support of her inspirational overseer. I bought her enthralling CD Through the Storm after the gig put it on in the car on the way
home and its going around in my head space ever since. The Cello brings such an emotive four octave colour range in a folk blues rock relationship, a marriage of classical beauty and modern atmosphere that get on so well with each other and deserve to be with each other so much but unfortunately all to often end up eloping, having to run away from home to be together because of parental disapproval.

Richie brought the night to its penultimate climax with his masterpiece “Freedom” which was greeted with a resounding applause of recognition for this anthemia classic with the audience participation creating a call and return exchange of upbeat joy in the air.

Sometimes I feel like I'm a Motherless child
Sometimes I feel like I'm a Motherless child
Sometimes I feel like I'm a Motherless child 
A long long long way away from my home yeah
Freedom, Freedom x 10 times 
Sometimes I feel like I'm almost gone
Sometimes I feel like I'm almost gone
Sometimes I feel like I'm almost gone
A long long long way away from my home yeah
(Clap your hands) x 8 times 
(Yeah, Yeah) x 10 times
I got a telephone in my bosom and I can call him up from my heart
I got a telephone in my bosom and I can call him up from my heart
I got a telephone in my bosom and I can call him up from my heart
When I need my brother, I say Brother! (Brother) Brother! (Brother)...
[Mother (Mother) Mother (Mother)] x 2 times 
Yeah...Yeah... fade 

When the show ended on stage another magical experience happened as fans queued up for a chance to meet the man himself upstairs and have CD’s and LP covers signed. This took time and credit to Whelan’s for their restraint and patience as Richie took as
long as it takes to meet and converse with each individual with his characteristic gentle friendly affectionate personal approach.

When I parted company with him I truly felt blessed and that I had been in the presence of a very spiritual human being. Life had been more of a tumble drier than a joy ride for
the Woodstock generation with more bombers riding shotgun in the skies now, than there ever was and with very little hope of them turning into butterflies and because of that it’s a welcome luxury for mind body and soul to spend a few hours with Richie back in the garden.

Tania Nally @
Richie Havens Irish Tour @ Whelan’s, Wexford St, Dublin July 05

It was a great night for music and earlier on in the night proceedings had got off to fine start with the opening act Tania Nally stepping up to the challenge of ice breaker
for the night with her fragile enchanting songs capturing much attention particularly because of a nice banter style with the audience setting the tone for each songs subject matter. She related how some man had sat down beside her on the train journey to the gig in Dublin earlier and was somewhat confused as to his intentions. Two guys beside me were clearly not confused about the male passengers motives only amazed that there was an empty seat available beside this good looking young Mayo woman in the first place.  She is a hard working musician and getting the makings of a good album of original material honed into perfection on the live scene around the country.

Don Mescall @ Richie Havens Irish
Tour @ Whelan’s, Wexford St, Dublin July 2005

The next act on stage was the Limerick born singer songwriter Don Mescall who should have no problem solving the commercial nature of his talent and deserves to be propelled into the public consciousness on the strength of his hauntingly beautiful well
crafted tunes full of infectious hooks and memorable melodies, Don is a serious
musician who has paid his dues on a long trail of destinations and collaborations and comes across as genuinely modest and likable, that kind of person you meet in life who you feel deserves to do well if there is any justice at all in the world.

Don Mescall’s personal songs capture attention easily, supported by warm spontaneous storytelling skills and effective humour as evidenced when dealing with a loud interfering
conversation chattering incessantly throughout the introduction of a song in the crowd by inviting us all to listen to their conversation instead.

Don has a voice that weaves the lyrics into a captivating experience with a natural phrasing the real craft for me of a songster, a voice so easy to listen to that it floats around the room in waves that was most definitely born to be on a stage. Two beautiful sounding Guild acoustic guitars were used and a harmonica rack to produce excellent guitar and harp playing, aided by a superb PA sound being engineered by Whelan’s sound technician to produce an heartfelt performance by the artist and an eye opening introduction for the audience to a great Irish talent right here on our own doorstep. Don Mescall is without the slightest hesitation a national treasure.


The Bree Harris Band @JJ Smyths Saturday 4th March 2006

The Bree Harris Band @JJ Smyths Saturday 4th March 2006 

Bree Harris is a legendary character on the Irish music scene, blessed with a powerhouse voice and a passionate style that has earned her the well-deserved reputation as one of the
best blues and soul singers to strut the boards in this country for the past three decades. Saturday night to a full house in JJ’ Smyth’s, Bree with her very unique and powerful voice fronting an excellent band, unleashed a highly charged, sonically stunning and awesome performance to an utterly amazed crowd.

Bree Harris has an incendiary stage presence that exudes fun and enjoyment and a passion for the songs she makes her own. She is a classic Blues Mama on stage and shares a stage in my mind with Etta James, Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Maggie Bell, Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler (The Rose) and I gathered on the night that she now has very recently added the distinction of Blues Grandma to her credit. She infuses the set of excellent hip grinding covers with raucous raunchy affection that creates an atmosphere of excitement, bluesy, rollicking soulful R&B, rock and soul magic.

Brilliant and shimmering in the glow of awe-diance approval Bree Harris presents the
impeccably rehearsed set with freshness, spontaneity and liveliness.

The Bree Harris Band is a well rounded chemistry on stage, a skilful example of musicians who have listened and learned well over the years, who demonstrate a desire to keep on
exploring, featuring the superb Paul Fairclough on Rhythm and Lead guitar, the funky, solid and dependable Davy Byrne on Bass, and the multi tasking Kevin Malone on movable Drums and assorted percussive effects.

Paul is a mesmerising craftsman at work on stage displaying masterful control over his sound and weaving a web of outstanding guitar fretwork, technique and technical proficiency into the sound with a confident ease.

He is an excellent guitarist with fingers like lightning rarely striking the same note twice, who clearly believes that there are no limitations to what ten fingers and six strings can do when you put your mind to it. On the Ricky Lee Jones and Jesse Winchester numbers he warms up the room with some excellent hybrid thumb and finger chord picking, embellished with judicious use of the tremolo arm on his vintage Fender Stratocaster.

I am saying vintage because I haven’t seen a guitar so worn in appearance since Rory Gallagher’s battered 1961 Strat graced the stages of this country.

Moving into Peter Green and Etta James territory, Paul pulls technique after technique out of the bag integrating meaningful volume pot violin phrasing and appropriately seamless slippery runs, tapping and bottleneck solos into the mix, well below the flash radar screen while Davy and Kevin drive the funky rhythms along with a resonating tightness and Bree soars with boisterous vocal authority.

The Bree Harris Band has countless years experience that highlights a well thought out approach to their material and is reflected in an honest likable performance with vibrant
energy and bounce. Bree delivers highly personal signature interpretations of Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire and Manhattan in addition to Talking Heads and Dylan masterpieces that seen her hopping and bopping with zest and enthusiasm building each song up to a climax that comes rolling off the stage and down into the invigorated crowd like an eagerly awaited taxi coming around the bend on a cold frosty winters night in Dublin.

“And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I practiced every night, now I'm ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin”

The last time I got such a buzz out of hearing some of Leonard Cohen’s stuff was on first hearing the late Jeff Buckley sublime version of Hallelujah.

A guaranteed cure for anyone’s blues, songs like Further On Up The Road with its ZZ Toppish intro groove and I Can’t Stand the Rain will never grow old while such accomplished keepers of the flame are standing on a stage and begs to be experienced by anyone who likes a good straightforward 100% live performance.

The set was a stunning blend of blues, funk, rock, and R&B stretching far beyond the roots of each song to achieve and encompass an unfeasibly mature mix in the arrangements. For
me behind Paul’s guitar landscape of sound lies a tangled family tree of influences, that sent me into a Little Wing style tailspin picking up passengers along the way like Messer’s Berry, Clapton, Page, Green, Gallagher, Knopler, Blackmore, Van Halen, Elmore James, Ronson, all drawn together comfortably for a ride through the fires of urban blues, the distinctive crunch of and raw power of rock and the sophistication of psychedelic folk and soul music driven by a rhythm section that is matchfit and doing loop the loops in support.

There was an added bonus on the night when Bree’s sister Shirley went on stage to sing a sexy, storming version of Fleetwood Mac’s Need Your Love So Bad that kept the band on
its toes, followed by yet another talented sister Yvonne who done an absolutely magic version of Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home with a dynamic powerhouse vocal that had the potential to leave goldfish homeless within a three mile radius of JJ Smyths on Saturday night.

JJ Smyth’s on Saturday night was a feast of sizzling guitar licks, slap happy funky bass
lines and fascinating drum rolls all bubbling away on stage through a perfectly balanced sound mix, resulting  in a top quality show from the Bree Harris Band in full flow and on devastating form.
Again and again Paul Fairclough’s extraordinary rhythm and riff work, his ability to call up the sound he wanted from Marshall Stack and his customised effects unit, the fluency in which he emulates his guitar influences and builds his own style around each arrangement was consistently rich in inventiveness and superb on Saturday night.

Final credit though goes to Bree herself, who has been the lifeblood of the female blues heritage over the years and I recall another excellent show at last years Red Peters
celebration in the Temple Bar music centre. Wisely Bree by introducing a more modern and soulful sound into her repertoire succeeds in bringing her old fans with her and opening the door for many new fans into good traditional blues classic’s like Sippi Wallace’s Women be Wise which Bree’s voice and style caressed like a well fitted glove.

“Women be wiser, keep your mouth shut

Don’t advertise your man

Now don’t sit around girls

Telling all your secrets

Telling all those good things

He really can do Cause if you talk about your baby

Yeah you tell me he’s so fine

Honey I might just sneak up

And try to make him mine

Women be wise, keep your mouth shut

Don’t advertise your man”

The Bree Harris Band is entertainment of the first order with Bree on top form vocally and the band always superb.


The 12th Annual Lucerne Blues Festival, Switzerland November 2006.

Paid a welcome return visit to Lucerne the city of Lights, a charming city centrally located in the heart of Switzerland, gifted by unique and fascinating towering high snow capped mountains on the banks of the beautiful Lake Lucerne with wonderfully restored features of its 800 year old heritage and tradition, super friendly restaurants like our regular haunt Café Rex and its appreciative proprietor Peter, who nourished us after each day’s sightseeing through wonderful streets and museums on offer and before each night’s marathon blues performances in the Grand Casino.

The Swiss city of Lucerne has got it all, rustic and relaxed, elegant and exotic, unforgettably enthralling walks through the cobblestone streets, old wooden bridges, elegant boutiques and events to suit all tastes all year round making it a city that really has to be seen and experienced.

This year I walked along the ring wall with its nine high towers that protected this ancient city in day’s gone by, first mentioned in 840 AD and visited the wonderful Culture and Congress Centre, Picasso Museum, the Natural History Museum and on Sunday morning the magnificent baroque edifices and atmosphere of the Hofkirche Church where a young boy played Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore on a glistening Tenor Sax almost as big as himself during a Baptism ceremony. 

The highlight of course each day was the Lucerne Blues Festival, which has become famous amongst local and international Blues Fans in the past 12 years  as one of the world’s foremost, important and primary Blues Festivals in Europe, showcasing top quality performances from the finest Blues Musicians on tour from the American and European  Blues circuits.

This year’s event was yet again a magnificent occasion with wonderful performances taking place among the breathtaking surroundings bringing together ardent Blues fans from all over the world. 

Seven hours plus, of the finest world class blues live every night for a week every November in the elegant and excellent sound stages of the Grand Casino in Lucerne with Sunday brunch performances in the plush and stylish Hotel Schweizerhof.

This is a well run professionally organised Festival that has gone from strength to strength because of its uncompromising commitment to providing a focus on real bluesmen, providing a stage for masters of the craft, exciting and revered legendary performers treading the famous blues stages of Chicago, Memphis, Californian and the other Blues States of America. 

The spectacular line up of performers for each Lucerne Festival for the past twelve years is credited to the superb selection process of Guido “Mojo”Schmidt, Martin” Kari” Bruendler and the administration committee who spend the months leading up to each years Lucerne Festival visiting blues performances around the world to assemble each years world class line up to provide 14 exciting acts for the exquisite nightly performances throughout the week.

The organisation driving this festival is superb with every detail attended to in precise Swiss fashion creating a specialised atmosphere around the performances that makes it a pleasure for music travellers, with a staff that demonstrate a rare and wonderful courteousness, efficiency and professional attention to every possible detail including an opportunity to meet and greet the Artists after each performance, get CD’s autographed and pictures taken. 

I set off from Dublin Airport on this years blues pilgrimage in the company of veteran Irish blues travellers, Charlie “Bluestrain”  Hussey, presenter of my favourite weekly blues radio program Bluestrain, now beaming into cyber space on the internet at or  103.2 FM every Sunday night 10pm to midnight, Southside Pat , Southside Eddie and Sean “Sonny Boy” Williamson with Northside Eddie and Black Hat Gerry following the day after and local Lucernian Flavio Ceresa whose got the best Dublin accent in Switzerland having spent some of his formative, impressionable years in Dublin’s fair city . 

At this calibre the artists all have immediately recognisable blues styles; they not only speak the language fluently but also can master the grammar book as well with conviction, articulating their passion and personality through the
language of the blues effortlessly and naturally and there is the much acknowledged Lucerne factor that which brings out the best in these great
musicians that come to present there wares on stage.

Someone shouts “ Its Star time, like Father like Son, the one and only” and The Chicago All Star Band started proceedings off for us on the Wednesday night with Lurrie C Bell & Carey Bell feat, Eddie Taylor Junior, Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith and he tall man Joe Thomas.

Watching the empathy of father and son trading licks on stage is to witness the magic of  Chicago Blues performance with Eddie Taylor Junior on rhythm and lead guitar playing a Gibson 335 just like his father did on those legendary Jimmy Reed records, Kenny “ Beady Eyes” Smith playing drums with finesse and inventive flourishes just like his father Willie Big Eyes Smith and the tall laid back Joe Thomas on bass laying down the subterranean low down groove on bass shaking the boards beneath our feet on the Casineum Stage.

Lurrie C Bell is a master of the blues guitar on stage, wringing every drop of blue out of every solo, having paid his dues behind the likes of Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor  and S.O. B. Sons of the Blues, playing the spinechilling notes on his Dupont guitars  with his thumb and fingers, seldom even looking at the fretboard this gifted guitarist shapes each song into a molten hot Chicago blues classic performance with his guitar lines and Carey’s harp bleeding and blending  into each other seamlessly  on favourites like Five Long Years, Sweet Little Angel and I’m Ready, Got My Mojo Working and The Sky is Crying.

The following night we were treated to an Acoustic performance on the main stage with just father and son playing pure magic on versions of Key to the Highway,Little Red Rooster and Every Day I Have the Blues. This was pure down-home blues on acoustic guitar and good old fashioned blues harp, hot and steamy long and satisfying blues by the bucketful.

Lurrie C Bell, Eddie Taylor Junior, and Joe Thomas hit the stage later backing up Big Jesse Yawn for another storming blues set from the man from Baltimore whose vocal talents have been rediscovered in the 90’s giving us an insight into the man who shared stages with Albert King, George Benson, Jack Mc Duff and Grant Green and Robert Ward whose guitar on I Found A Love is a perennial favourite of mine.

Big Jesse Yawn is a gentle giant of a man with a huge loyal following in his resident Baltimore/Washington area and his set in Lucerne, revealed a man oozing with passion and love for the music he was making on stage. 

The line up this year was varied with a mixture of acts from both sides of the Atlantic with two local bands Bluecerne and Blues Rooster who both delivered sets that were a revelation and well received by the good spirited audiences in attendance with Little Rooster in top form on standards like Bad Boy. 

One of the great highlights of this years event was Sweden’s Sven Zetterberg, Knock- Out Greg & Blue Weather who delivered two excellent sets at Lucerne full of soulful vocals and Chicago Blues class experienced on a lifetimes devotion  to Chicago blues music in his native Sweden and tours with Jimmy Rodgers, Sunnyland Slim, Luther Allison, Eddie C Campbell
and Big Moose Walker.

Sven comes over as a very friendly and personable bluesman and was on fire looking like a rockabilly king with the slick back hair and his vocals were emotive and exciting performance backed up by a tight and tough sound on stage of  Sweden’s finest Knock- Out Greg & Blue Weather.

He proclaimed his first idol as Ann Peebles and has some great soulful tunes in his repertoire like “Big Big Woman with a Short Short Skirt” and a rousing
version of Jackie Wilson’s classic Higher and Higher with the Blue Weather
horns right on the money.

“Ashes toAshes

 Dust to Dust

 Mess With My Woman

I’m gonna hurt you fast” 

One of my favourite performances this year came from the eagerly awaited Nick Moss & The Flip Tops playing straight ahead, no nonsense, no frills Magic Slim meets Freddie King style Chicago Blues and Nick who keeps his foot on the pedal all the way and is something special to witness on stage with great house rocking stage presence and confidence and a fantastic band on stage in Willie O Shawny on Keyboards, Gerry Hundt (Utility Man) on everything required, including Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Harp and Mandolin and veteran Bob Carter on Drums.

There is a superb, raw, exciting and tough cutting edge to Nick Moss & The Flip Tops performance and they took Lucerne by storm this year and when Willie O Shawny straps on the Bass and Gerry takes over on the second Fender Jaguar it is easy to see why they are the most exciting high energy Chicago Blues bands on the planet at the moment.

Nick Moss & The Flip Tops blitz the audience, cranking out rough raw edged Chicago blues night after night with a combustible blend of grit and spontaneity, cut to the bone. Nick’s tone stings, his heart and soul are right on the money and his band, Gerry, Bob and Willie are Ziplock tight behind him. There is a palpable collective understanding as each member on stage encircles and entwines each other In the warm Chicago Blues making it all look so easy and entirely absorbing.

Nick’s gritty Chicago blues guitar style is distinguished by it timing and phrasing subsuming the classic styles of the genre into a dynamic signature of his own and can play does bread and butter shuffles till the cows come home. There is a nice little foray into some mandolin blues from Gerry, which I have really got into thanks to Billy Flynn’s tasteful efforts in recent years.

The showstopper for me on the main stage performance was “Down in Virginia” which reminded me of a 400 mile drive and a ferry across the Irish Sea, to the Bishopstock Blues Festival in the South of England on the May Bank Holiday back in 1999 to see the great Magic Slim and The Tear Drops put on the ultimate Chicago Blues powerhouse performance.  

The Lucerne audience was overjoyed and rapturous in its appreciation and got a special treat on Saturday nights show when Nick’s wife Kate joined The Flip Top’s on stage for several numbers having flown into Switzerland
with their little daughter Sadie Mae to link up with Nick on the Lucerne dates of the European Tour. This pure old fashioned Chicago magic, sizzling live blues energy picked up a lot of new fans over the two blistering jaw dropping performances at Lucerne this year.

“It was late in the evening

When she caught my eye

Its was late in the evening

When she caught my eye

And you better check my pulse

Make sure I am still alive” 

Detroit was represented this year by Little Sonny Willis who electrified the Lucerne audience with his hard driving harp and tight family orientated band. Deriving his nickname from the great Sonny Boy Williamson and moving through a fast paced energetic set this 74 year old veteran of the blues scene is supported on stage by two multi talented son’s Anthony and Aaron Junior who  display a flair and grasp for blues, soul, funk and jazz and a razor sharp professionalism. Little Sonny started off working local Detroit joints with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Baby Boy Warren and Washboard Willie going on to release his modestly titled New King of the Blues Harmonica on the Stax’s label circa 1970.

Little Sonny told the audience “its taken us a long time to get here” but everyone felt like old friends as the performance progressed through classic’s like Stormy Monday and a tribute to Eddie Taylor Juniors Dad in Honest You Do.

Little Sonny and The Detroit Rhythm Group put on a first class performance and his vocal is sock it to them soul embroidered with his mastery of  Harmonica, Rhythm, Blues and Funk styles allowing his boy’s to showcase their own proficiency by  breaking into some instrumental James Brown
mid set. 

“Its hard going up but twice as hard coming down”

A man who has known the best and the worst of what life can have in store is Howard Tate a man with a voice Elvis Costello described as being somewhere between Jackie Wilson and Al Green who has made a return in recent years to the music business after dropping out in virtually every sense for 30 years.

Howard Tate warmed the audience with faithful renditions of some of  his classic cuts with Jerry Ragavoy like Stop and Part Time Love and it was good to see this legend of the sixties who got burnt badly by mismanagement shine again on stage in Lucerne in 2006. First     time I heard Stop was on a James Gang LP featuring Joe Walsh and its always a delight to see how some songs can provide a ripe harvest time after time in the seasons of our musical appreciation providing a soundtrack in a retrospective of events and listening experiences in our lives over the years. Howard Tate’s vocal on Everyday I Have The Blues is golden soulful magic, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and do a Mexican Wave from the tip of your toes to the top of your head.

This year I set up base at the luxurious Hotel Schweizerhof built back in 1845 and is steeped in class with all the comforts a guest could desire available in the sumptuous breakfast buffet on display each morning washed down with a glass of Italian Prosecco Champaign delicate and fresh on the palette just like sound of Leon Blue on the Piano tinkling the ivories with passages from every genre of music flowing spontaneously from his fingertips. The beautiful lakeside view and the snow-capped mountains glistening in the distance make it a scene from Hollywood movie as staff like the cheerful Vera Louise, attend to each guest’s requirements with care and attentiveness to every detail. There is so much on offer in this delightful place that it proves to be a time pressured experience trying to cram it all in and get back to the Grand Casino each night for the 7pm kick off, which is why I unfortunately clipped the start of my next live  performance. 

Craig  Horton is a towering figure on stage, a great singer with a direct and
impassioned style, a stinging guitarist with the sweat dripping from this  man’s  brow effusively from the stage in the Grand Casino, a man who prides himself on  not playing with a net. Craig has played with Chuck Berry, Muddy  Waters, Otis Rush, Freddie King and played  lead guitar with  Sam Myers & The  Mississippi Delta Blues Band on their tours of Europe in the 80s. Craig Horton  accompanied by the excellent Rusty Zinn for the Lucerne date serves up a catchy  soulful perfectly ordered blend of Chicago Shuffle and traditional Soul with  his guitar lines sizzling in the mix of tales of life and love going through  the mill in songs  like 3 Days and 3  Nights.

I got to  meet both Craig and Rusty later on and it was great to meet two very down to  earth talented guys just taking their music from place to place and giving it ll they got on every opportunity commanding the audiences attention with pure  personality and style. With credentials like playing guitar in Little Walters  Band to The Dells on top of everything else this man stands on stage
demonstrating individual brilliance and had the crowd beaming in a state of
high excitement with his performance this year in Lucerne. His deep gutsy vocal  comes from a man who created the template, its real deal territory from a man  who has paid his dues over the past five decades and was awarded Blues  Guitarist of 2004 by the Bay Area Blues Society.

There are few artists walking on stage these days that can boast of a 60 year recording career and such was the case when the living legend Jimmy Mc Cracklin arrived  on stage in Lucerne.
Spanning a daunting career that began back in 1946 when he formed The Blues  Blasters hitting the big time in 1958 with his famous hit The Walk  and co writing The Tramp with Lowell Fulson a  hit for Otis Redding in 1967. Jimmy sits behind the keyboards in the middle of  the stage and orchestrates the big band with vigorous determination and 60  years of stagecraft charisma.

This is big band class with horns and related soul sisters on lead and back up vocals  all seamlessly grooving along at the behest of their legendary ringmaster with  a razor sharp left handed guitarist and bass player locked into the groove.

Chain of  Fools, Mustang Sally and Kansas City  were some of the classics that got the Jimmy Mc Cracklin touch of class on the  night.

Jimmy Mc  Cracklin fully reinforces his reputation of being a solid hard working band and  he controls the soulful brand of good time music with everybody looking  sartorially pretty sharp and as professional as the music pouring off the stage  with the talent and professionalism that we had come to expect from this living  legend in his own time . 

Representing  the young guns and someone who looks set to have a bright future is Anthony  Gomes who certainly pleased the ladies in the crowd. Displaying amazing skill  on the guitar with right and left hand techniques that are astonishing as he  blazed his way through his performances consisting of storming blues, classic  rock and big ballads topped off with a powerful R&B vocal.

This  extremely adept long haired six string gunslinger with the equally amazing  Biscuit Millar on Bass had the Lucerne crowd in the palm of their hands with  stellar showmanship and musicianship stopping the show at one point to dedicate  a number specially to Martin “Karl” Bruendler who as master of ceremonies was  on hand for the start and finish of every performance that took place.

Guitar  classics like Heartbreaker, Voodoo Chile,  Hey Joy allowed Anthony to take his sound into the stratosphere with  notes wailing and screaming for mercy into the late hours blending U2, Led Zep  and the Blues effortless into a funky stew.

This is  high energy rock solid breathtaking guitar mastery and technique and Anthony  takes no prisoners with his six string lightning fast technique creating a  vibrant masterwork of contemporised blues based soul, rock and r&b as his  new CD Music is the Medicine demonstrates with a William Shakespeare motto  driving his vision.  

“This  above all, to thine own self be true”  

One of the  performances that I cherished dearly at this years event was from David Lee  Durham & The True Blues Band a gentle giant of a man, sartorially elegant  and from the heart of the Mississippi Delta who steps back in time with a voice  that’s pure blue and a multi talented group of musicians on stage who weaved a  delightful musical landscape behind David’s living master style.

David Lee  Durham grew up picking cotton in the hot Mississippi Delta sun and at the age  of fourteen climbed up on an old oil can at the local juke joint and looked in  the window at the great Howling Wolf and went home and thought himself to play  on a homemade broom and wire guitar. David Lee worked the circuit alongside of  musicians like Clarence Carter, BB King, Blues Boy Willie, Ray Charles and  Bobby Rush and his seated finger picking guitar playing was hypnotic and  unforgettable on songs like the title  Struggling and Straining.

I was very  impressed by the distinctive style of his musicians and in particular the multi  instrumentalist Leven Lortkipanidze from Georgia in the former Soviet Union  whose contribution on flute was superb and brought back memories of some of my  early Jetro Tull LP’s especially the early blues based material Ian Anderson  danced around the stage on one leg to in the early 70’s.

Leven was  voted Mississippi Delta Blues Musician of the Year 2004 and was in fine form  with the wonderful Alphonso Sanders on Sax, former Albert King drummer Frank  Vicks and a distant Irishman and great character Chaz Monaghan on bass whose  ancestors moved from Co Monaghan in Ireland back in the bleak famine period on  the mid 1800’s and is nursing an aspiration to someday return to his ancestral  home in Ireland, meet a nice Irish Colleen, settle down, play music and work  the auld sod.

Bringing  this years event to a close for me was a real treasure and a live performance  you have to witness to truly appreciate from the best female blues singer I  have seen so far Diunna Greenleaf and the amazing Blue Mercy Blues Band. I was  fortunate enough to secure a much sought after ticket for the Sunday Blues  Brunch performance in the Hotel Schweizerhof thanks to reservations manager  Dunja Speck and it gave me an additional opportunity to witness another  polished and confident presentation on stage from the fantastic Queen of the  Texas Blues, Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercy featuring sensational guitarist  Jonn Deltora Richardson,  a favourite of  mine Leon Blue on Keyboards, Fred Arceneaux on Bass and in fine form all week
on drums Kevin Berry.

Diunna  Greenleaf was loved by everyone all week long, the woman is beaming with  charisma and this winner of the 2005 Blues Challenge is an amazing vocalist  with an equally amazing band behind her such as the winner of the Albert King  Best Unsigned Guitarist Award 2005 and is a fleet fingered joy to watch on the  fretboard who unravels fiery guitar breaks with precision, restraint and grace.
This was a Texas Blues performance full of soul, passion and remarkable
interaction between Diunna and her musicians  in the luxurious comfort of the Hotel Schweizerhof, while spoiling  myself with rich wine and cuisine of the finest order in the company of the  Lucerne social elite all served by the wonderful, commendable and professional Schweizerhof  staff. Diunna Greenleaf is one of those rare singers who can take a song and  render it superbly soulful giving a chilling a cappella performances of Amazing
Grace and Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Summertime, that left us all speechless  in awe. The Blue Mercy arrangements percolate pure Texas Blues for this larger than life  troubadour on songs like Jimmy Mc Crackling’s, “Double Dealing” and the raunchy  Tribute to John Lee Hooker was a viable musical organism.

Again and  again Jonn Deltora Richardson’s guitar genius prevails with emotive stinging  axe work riding shotgun with effortless ease complemented by sturdy rhythm  support from the ultimate sidemen in Kevin, Fred and Leon.

Diunna  Greenleaf is a big lady with a blues soaked voice as big as Texas and a
magnetic stage presence with Blue Mercy arrangements that are  simultaneously  polished and orgasmic blending seamlessly with the incredible guitar  performance of Jonn Deltora Richardson, it’s a marriage made in Blues Ville  Avenue Paradise and she rounds the 2006 Lucerne Blues Festival off in fine  style, clearly enjoying herself immensely.

“Take a  pause for the cause” 

Again  two years in a row for me and my fellow Blues  Travellers from Dublin Ireland, everlasting credit is due to The Lucerne Blues Festival  committee for organising this marvellous, splendid and appreciated presentation  of  deserving talent old and new, superior examples of the character and fervour
of the great Blues Music tradition without sacrificing good taste or quality.

They say  that vision isn’t enough unless its combined with venture and it’s a truth that  not only do performances of this calibre make you stop and stare at the steps,  they help the spirit, to step up the stairway to a musical high. These musical  troubadours  harness the power of good rhythm,  riding it on the spine chilling crest above the  waves of rhythmic energy, swimming in tune
with the currents of time and tradition, helping us to synchronizing our
personal desires with a refined attuned, contentment and joy to the natural blues  around us.    

“Everyday,  everyday I have the blues

  Oh everyday, everyday I have the blues

  When you see me worrin’ baby,

  Yeah it’s you I hate to lose”


Onya O Doherty @ Whelan’s, Wexford St, Dublin 12th April 2006

Onya O Doherty @ Whelan’s, Wexford St, Dublin 12th April 2006

Paid a return visit to see Onya in Whelan’s perform after a busy year that has seen the stunning Donegal lass refine her stagecraft on a relentless touring schedule in Ireland, Europe and America.

Last year I witnessed Onya do a solo opening act performance for West of Ireland flamenco guitar stylist singer songwriter Albert Niland, and introduced us to her own song writing skills that built on the acclaim and wave of popularity her excellent weekly show pieces on the Your A Star talent show generated.

Opening the show in Whelan’s on Wednesday night for the soaringly popular Mullingar band The Blizzards and backed by band mates on additional guitar and percussion Onya’s originals work beautifully.

Onya’s voice is fragile and hopeful with that endearing Donegal accent, singing straightforward, emotionally direct lyrics capturing the feel and wit of her warm, pleasant and affably personality.      

Nigel Mooney @ Sugar Club, Dublin, Thursday November 2nd 2006

Nigel Mooney one of Ireland’s national entertainment treasures brought his well crafted, jazz tinged, soulful blues to the Sugar Club on Thursday night accompanied by a big band of consummate musicianship linked with a jazzy blue sensibility.


Nigel stands on stage with the power and authority of a man confident in his own ability among eminent cohorts of the music scene Damien Evans on Bass, Johnny Taylor, Piano, Guy Rickaby Drums, Danny Healy Trumpet, Karl Rooney Saxophone and the amazing Richie Buckley who I have been enjoying at home very much recently in Sharon Shannon’s new Live at Dolan’s DVD.


There is a good up-tempo diamond tipped class about each song’s arrangement mostly from Nigel’s excellent new CD All My Loves in Vain, that is consistently refreshing, strong and inventive throughout.


Love in Vain is a superb collection of good music, played with flair and feeling from top to toe and one of my favourite presents to friends at home and abroad over the past year.


This well oiled music machine launched into a strident rousing fashionable moon dancing instrumental the minute they stepped on stage with each of the musicians attacking their individual role with verve and relish underpinned by Guy Rickaby’s rock solid and equally adept drumming technique.


I was very interested in meeting Guy as he has much in common with my teenage hero Keith Moon in that they both played drums behind Rocks great vocal belter Roger Daltrey.


On top of Nigel’s proficient fretboard fluency the icing on the cake is the wonderful chemistry of Nigel’s vocals and his very superior lyrics and it all works marvellously in the warm comfortably appreciative surroundings of the Sugar Club.


As well as familiar numbers from the All My Loves In Vain CD, Nigel introduces a classic Lowell Fulson song Love Grows Cold giving it that traditional West Coast groove highlighting the fact that Richie Buckley and he shared a memorable stage in Dublin with the prolific and legendary Bluesman back in the late eighties.


Whether its old standards like Sammy Cain’s Teach Me Tonight or Willie Dixon’s I Am Ready, the arrangements are dynamic, free from excess and full of excitement and melodic soulful goodtime tone with Nigel’s voice particularly well suited for getting inside the nostalgic lyric’s which in turn illustrate the sulty silky sexy edge of his infectious vocal on songs like Ray Charles’s I Got A Woman.


Nigel has paid his dues and it seems like several lifetimes ago when we all piled on the 19.25 out of Donabate on a Friday night for the place to be, The Gripewater Blues Band weekly residency in JJ’Smyth’s to hear the real deal on guitar back in the early 80’s.


Over the years this fine player has been a pleasure to listen to swerving away from the rock excesses and producing interesting, insightful and thoughtful mature and mellow music with a solid crew around him.


The retro swing and masterly guitar playing with Saxmen Richie Buckley, Karl Rooney and Trumpeter Danny Healy’s horns riffing behind him as he ranges from tricky single string riffs to blistering propulsive left on blue chord phrasing bursts makes him a guitarist’s guitarist these days.


The show came to a close with the smooth rich flowing mellifluous Beautiful Day revealing how uptown and strong his own material is and a hopeful expectation for the future, that it won’t be long until he repeat’s the prescription.


The extremely well received performance featuring this local guitar slinger of note, with his distinctive emotion charged vocals and a very tight unit finishing each number with pin point accuracy got a standing ovation until they returned for a classic encore Everyday I Have the Blues.


Nigel is succinct, never in your face, knows when to lay back and when to step forward and develops graceful and subtle guitar solos and thought provoking fleet fingered fretwork that attracts your attention with its diverse ideas and tasteful restraint.


The CD has a wonderful version of one song that always reminds me of the summer holidays in Wexford when all the family would gather in the ancestral home and perform a party piece and mine was Boolavogue on an old cheap F hole Egmond acoustic guitar, a far cry from the beautiful job Nigel does on it with his big warm sounding Epiphone.


If you fancy a heap of groovy fun, smoky brown tenor baritone melodic ballads and a set full of fine and varied tunes and styles backed up by musicianship of the highest calibre then treat yourself to a Nigel Mooney gig, a class act right on our own doorstep.


“I got a woman,
way over town,
That’s good to me (oh yeah)
Say i got a woman, way over town
good to me (oh yeah)
She give me money,
When I’m in need
Yeah she’s a kinda,
Friend indeed
I got a woman, way over town,
that’s good to me (oh yeah)”


Mick Kenny aka MTW

Lucerne Blues Festival Switzerland November 2005.

Lucerne is a magnificent city in Switzerland with a population of 80,000 surrounded by scenic high Swiss mountains on the banks of Lake Lucerne with wonderfully restored features of its 800 year old heritage and tradition, super friendly restaurants like my regular haunt Café Rex and wonderful museums, which has become famous amongst Blues Fans in the past decade as one of the world’s foremost, important and primary Blues Festivals, showcasing top quality performances from the finest Blues Musicians on tour from the American Blues circuits.

Six hours of the finest world class blues live every night for a week every November in the elegant and excellent sound stages of the Grand Casino in Lucerne with Sunday brunch performances in the plush and stylish Hotel Schweizerhof. This is a well run professionally organised Festival that has gone from strength to strength because of its uncompromising commitment to providing a focus on real bluesmen, providing a stage for masters of the craft, exciting and revered legendary performers treading the famous blues stages of Chicago, Memphis, Californian and the other Blues States of America.

The spectacular line up of performers for each Lucerne Festival for the past eleven years is credited to the superb selection process of Guido “Mojo”Schmidt and his administration committee who spend the months leading up to each years Lucerne Festival visiting blues performances around the world to assemble each years world class line up to provide 12 acts for 30 exquisite performances throughout the week.

The official performances are sold out well in advance but because of the brilliant organising committee we had pre-booked our tickets at the Grand Casino Lucerne and accommodation arrangements at the Hotel Flora months in advance thanks to email exchanges with Festival Administrator Martin Bruendler and everything was ready and waiting for us like clockwork in through Swiss fashion.

I set off on this years blues pilgrimage in the company of veteran Irish blues travellers, Charlie Hussey presenter of my favourite weekly blues radio program Bluestrain on Dublin City Anna Livia 103.2 FM every Sunday night, Big Eddie Breslin regular blues traveller abroad, who I met for the first time and exchanged tales of all the concerts we had both been in attendance at in Dublin over the previous 30 years and also Southside Eddie Soye who weaned me off the guitar styles of Keith Richard, Nils Lofgren and Angus Young back in the 80’s and converted me to the primitive beauty and perfection of pre rock guitar styles from the likes of Jimmy Reed, Freddie, BB, and Albert King with his regular homemade compilations, and encyclopaedic knowledge and passion for the Blues.

The Lucerne Festival Committee have created a specialised atmosphere around the performances that makes it a pleasure for Blues travellers with a staff that demonstrate a rare and wonderful courteousness, efficiency and professional attention to every possible detail including earplugs if God forbid anyone would want to subdue these amazing performances in any way.

At the end of each performance fans have a chance to meet the performers and get CD’s from the nearby Crosscut Records stand, programmes and fan paraphernalia signed in a specially designated area that was a real treat for I believe both artist and fans alike. I ended up coming home with twenty-four CD’s from the Lucerne Festival representative of the musicians in attendance at this year’s festival. I watched as fans got old LP covers they had brought with them autographed and I witnessed one lady get a harmonica signed by her idol Charlie Musslewhite.

One of the notable features of being in the presence of such fabulous calibre of musicians is the beautiful individuality of each performer and that’s one of the striking experiences, I acknowledged and recognised, witnessing up to seven hours of live blues each night across the two stages in the Grand Casino from masters of the harp and guitar like Billy Boy Arnold, James Cotton, Charlie Musslewhite, Philip Walker, Bob Margolin, Johnny Bassett, who have each clocked up a half century of on the boards experience, entertainment finesse, flair and refinement. At this level the artists all have immediately recognisable blues styles; they not only speak the language fluently but also can master the grammar book as well with conviction. Watching players like Billy Flynn and James Wheeler play their guitars is like watching passion and personality articulated through the language of the blues, add the rhythm section from heaven Willie Big Eyes Smith on drums and Bob Stroger on Bass and the end result is totally beyond anything words can describe.


This was the line up for Billy Boy Arnold & The All Star Band and it featured a magical musical marriage of legendary performers who have carved out their own signature sound, have refined their chops down to reflect and reproduce Chicago, Texas, Southern States, and West Coast Blues perfection effortlessly and naturally.

Chicago Blues Guitar luminary and leading light Billy Flynn’s economical approach and perfectly placed fills crafted some of the most memorable blues guitar of the festival with the ultimate ability of knowing when to get in and when to get out and seems to truly enjoy performing adding humour and class to the proceedings looking like a very competent bank manager on stage. Describing himself to me afterwards as the only Irishman who’s never been to Ireland, the multi-talented Billy Flynn has the gift of the gab, a humorous, easy going, affable musician playing a clean Les Paul Copy through a Fender Amp and occasionally pulling a slide or harp from his pocket for a killer blast.

The All Stars created a great atmosphere in advance of the arrival of Chicago Harp Legend Billy Boy Arnold on stage, whose landmark 50’s classic’s “Ain’t Got You” and “I Wish You Would” inspired every pub blues band in Ireland and England in the sixties following successful chart hits for the Yardbirds. Born in Chicago 1935 and recording since 1952 with Bo Diddley “I’m A Man” in ‘55 and on Vee Jay Records with Jody Williams and Henry Gray, a youthful looking Billy Boy Arnold leads the All Star Band into each of his classics by playing the opening riff on a Fender Strat and as soon as Billy, James, Bob and Willie are locked into the groove he would fumble in his jacket for his harp, wet his lips and the world would stop for what seemed like blissful eternity as the audience swayed along to the infectious groove of his hypnotic R&B blue vocal, his unique harp and his classic compositions delivered with authoritative conviction and effortless ease.

“I got women to the left of me
I got women to the right of me
I got pretty women all around me
But I Ain’t Got You”


For me the wildest, high energy performances of the Lucerne Festival in 2005 was from Chicago Slide Guitarist Lil Ed and The Blues Imperials and it zapped me completely with its electric fast lane house rocking intensity and had the packed Grand Casino overjoyed and rapturous in its appreciation and amazement for every minute of Lil Ed’s fun loving acrobatic stage moves.

Following in the classic slide guitar style of his uncle J.B. Hutto and evoking the spirit and memories of razor slide legends like Hound Dog Taylor and Elmore James this is one of the best heads down, raw and exciting blues and boogie bands to ever set foot on a stage. This was a sweat dripping, blistering, jaw dropping suspension of belief performance with the Blues Imperials pounding out the rhythms, his massive half brother Pookie Young on Bass and long time accomplice Mike Garrett on rhythm and lead guitar, and the pulsating Kelly Littleton on Drums laying down the pounding foundations for Lil Ed William’s tireless duck walking, back bending, tip toeing, flying leap, mind blowing guitar escapades around the stage and out into the awe-diance playing screaming raw edged solo’s that sound like the speakers had been slashed with razor blades.


This is pure old fashioned Chicago magic from the grinning pocket sized former buffer at the Red Carpet Car Wash, who demonstrated to all present how he has built a reputation for tearing up concert and festival stages for the past twenty years with ferocious, roaring hot slide playing and sizzling, solid, hard hitting live blues energy adding a platoon of new supporters to his loyal following of fans affectionately called Ed Heads at Lucerne this year.

“Because you never miss your water
Till your well runs dry”


One of the Lucerne Blues Festival favourites over the years has been Bob Margolin and his All Star Blues Jam this year was a fantastic celebration of Chicago Blues from himself and his sidemen. Steady Rollin Bob who learned his chops in Muddy Waters famous band also had the aforementioned Muddy sideman Willie Big Eyes Smith on Drums and award winning Brooklyn born slick back biker look alike Mookie Brill on Bass, David Maxwell on Keyboards accompanied by Bobs sister Sherry, the marvellous Mark Kaz Kazanoff on Saxophone, and a brilliant performance from Nappy Brown regarded as the greatest living blues singer, with a strip teasing procession into the middle of the crowd. Bob has a proven track record for producing the brightest and best blues performances on stage and in the studio and his passion and skill motivates brilliant Chicago Blues performances from his collaborations. One of my favourite blues writers, Bobs insightful contributions to Blues Revue are a wise counsel and a must for any aspiring musicians wishing to create music and perform and keep the Blues flame alight around the globe, a tremendous guitarist and bandleader his sound is dependable and foot tappingly spontaneous and when he cuts loose on his Les Paul the result is a adoring wailing blue sound that is vintage, groovy, authentic and bone chilling.


Charlie Musslewhite put on two superb showcases of his talent and music in Lucerne, one the first night I arrived he performed a sumptuously intimate solo show that was like a workshop demonstrating his mastery and skill in an atmosphere of palpable warmth and affection for this very likable journeyman of the blues. With his case of Harps open in front of him he dipped into a treasure throve of delights holding the audience’s attention in the metaphorical palm of his hand. When he arrived for his second show two nights later, with the remarkable Kid Anderson on Guitar, it was a stunning, electrifying solid Musslewhite spectacular. The sizzling chemistry on stage between Charlie, Kid and the Band was musically explosive relentless and the individual brilliance at play on stage combined to generate a rocket fuelled blues presentation and performance that was clearly as enjoyable and pleasurable for the Charlie Musslewhite Band on the main stage, as it was for the elated crowd beaming in a state of high excitement on that Saturday night in the Grand Casino.

“You know the blues overtook me
When I was a little child
Fast women and whiskey
Made this southern boy wild”


One of the early morning highlights of the Lucerne Festival was going down to breakfast in the Hotel Flora for a relatively healthy fare in comparison to the greasy fry ups back in Ireland instead settling down to an a tasty assortment of cold meats, cheese, fresh fruit garnished with loads of yoghurt and pots of tea .The other treat was meeting all the musicians resident in the hotel having a chat with fans and planning rehearsals and interviews for the day ahead and a favourite every morning as I dragged myself out of bed in time for the breakfast, was greeting Billy Flynn and The Carter Brothers always bright and cheerful and groomed for the day ahead even though I would have left them jamming at 4am in the Grand Casino.

The Carter Brothers are enjoying well deserved acclamation on the Festival scene with their brand of soulful blues and the crowd pleasing conversations from Roman Carter on vocals and his brother Albert on guitar dressed in matching full length pin stripe suits on stage was visually dramatic and fabulous as they worked their back catalogue of hits from the early sixties.

These great survivors Roman and Albert had been playing their brand of invigorating, tough bluesy southern soul and good time stompers, in the shadows of the music scene in local clubs back home after slipping out of the limelight in the late sixties and have re emerged onto the international circuit in recent years to find their reissued material has fashioned a popular fan base in Europe and Japan. Roman has a wonderfully catching, anguished toned voice that could peel the potatoes for you, and takes the audience into a magnificent ambiance of down home blues and deep soul updated by the sound of their rhythm section and the modern blues guitar sound of Adam Myles who told me he mastered his chops playing along to our own Rory Gallagher’s licks and techniques, bursting forth on cue like a double barrel shotgun on stage. The Carter Brothers are amazing and if fair is not just something you pay in the taxi then they will hopefully enjoy their well earned success in their senior years ahead, and finally, sticking with the breakfast theme, from their 1964 hit, Southern Country Boy.

“You cook me fried chicken and hot biscuits
You serve it to me in bed
You pick the seeds out of my watermelon baby
And put a pillow under my head”


Great Harp legend James Cotton known as Mr Superharp arrived on stage with another fantastic assemblage of talented sidemen that included Darrell Nulisch on vocals, David Maxwell on keyboards and the incendiary guitar talents of Rico McFarland. This crowd were delighted to see and hear this true legend of the harp that shared stages with Sonny Boy Williamson, Howling Wolf, Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters who commanded the crowd’s attention with his personality and style.

One of the hardest working bluesmen on stage and in the studio James Cotton’s reputation as a Harp player has been recognised across all genres of contemporary music in the last fifty years and his music lives and breaths as the template for blues harp performance in not only Blues but also Country and Rock as well. Perched on his seat on stage James blows the living daylights out of his harps creating a wall of sound and texture with a relaxed atmosphere that makes you feel your standing at the steps of a front porch in Mississippi in the presence of a Blues Master.


Detroit was well represented by the excellent Detroit R&B Revue with the very tasty and assured guitar skills of Johnny Bassett breathing fire into his sweet licks backed up by the driving sound of a stage full of Detroit’s finest rhythm n blues players with 50’s star Joe Weaver laying sweet soul tinged blues vocals for the first phase of the set and the belting Thornetta Davis arriving later to take the session into the stratosphere.


Bringing to mind another great Master of the Blues was heralded by the arrival of the great John Lee Hooker companion and studio associate and incredible slide guitarist Roy Rodgers with his superb Delta Kings. Working with an assortment of amplified acoustic guitars including a stunning double neck this was a barnstorming, high-energy set of pure and authentic blues guitar mastery and technique. It was a rock solid throbbing honky tonk performance that pulsated beneath the soles of your feet with a cutting edge of tightness and force that was breathtaking to observe and had the camera brigade at the front of the stage furiously trying to track the manic pace on stage some of whom were wielding elongated lens and attachments that would require planning permission back in Ireland.


Roy Rodgers connects to the audience with a certainty and solid confidence in his absolutely amazing skill on the six strings. Like his famous namesake Roy Rodgers rode into Lucerne on his six-string trigger and proceeded to shoot up the place with a rousing, motivating inspired performance leaving not a sinner on the streets when he walked off the stage. Roy remembered fondly his open air performance in College Green, Dublin back in the 90’s at the Temple Bar Blues Festival sadly now defunct and was looking for forward to revisiting a stage in Ireland some day soon.


One on my most memorable blues gigs in Dublin was by Philip Walker and it was acknowledged by many in I spoke with in Lucerne this year that their cherished performances was from the Philip Walker Big Band Blues Show with his four piece brass ensemble.

The super talented line up of superb musicianship and first class blues guitar presented a unique blend of blues.

Philip Walker is deservedly considered to be one of the best guitarists and live performer on today’s blues stage and has earned the respect and love of his colleagues and fans the world over for his outstanding full size sound embroidered with immaculate fret work. Standing with authoritativeness centre stage he builds each song up from its roots into a flowering orchestration of counter melodies taking the audience with him into dynamic climax after climax full of blue swing, jive and West Coast versatility. His voice has a wonderful silky smooth sleek timbre that is uplifting, raspy and swampy and fills the air with intimate, impassioned, emotional magic and is in pole position as one of the most important performances for any fan of the guitar and a live performance to witness on stage with 50 years of stagecraft charisma standing tall as a well dressed mountain in living breathing authenticity.


The final performance bringing proceedings to a close in the Grand Casino was left in the very capable hands of young gun Ronnie Baker Brooks now cutting a blazing reputation for himself after serving his apprenticeship as sideman for his famous Dad, the legendary and celebrated Lonnie Brooks. He has got the blueprints and is building a blistering, smokin, full frontal assault on his fret board with his modern speedy blues shuffles driving along with the rhythm crunchiness of tank tracks under the hood.

Ronnie is a classic showman on stage manipulating the guitar and sound into a melting brew of audience captivation fuelled by a boundless non stop energy and unpredictable joy at one stage bringing his performance across the hall and in behind the bar where he proceeded to have a cocktail through a straw while playing a paint peeling solo behind his head.

Rico McFarland joined Ronnie midway through a song on stage with as unbelievable as it sounds four hands tearing note perfected fills from Ronnie’s guitar and in true camaraderie Ronnie handed the guitar to Rico to finish out the song in his own inimitable style while looking on approvingly from the side of the stage.


It doesn’t get and better than this and as we danced into the early hours of the morning in Lucerne and began to wind down we all felt collectively blues zapped and orgasmic after such a range of sublime and intricately beautifully potent blues performances from the stellar line ups on the Lucerne Blues Festival stages in 2005 where age was nothing but a number.


Mick Kenny

Johnny Winter @ Astoria, London Friday April 27th 2007.

This was my first time to see American Bluesman Johnny Winter perform having been a fan since buying his storming live album back in the early 70’s.

White Blues Rock guitar slinger Johnny was born in Texas in 1944 and has been recording, playing and producing great rock and blues music since he was 15 years of age.Rolling Stone magazine picked up on Johnny Winter back in 1968 and resulted in incendiary performances in Woodstock and numerous festivals and jams with Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison in the rock arena and Walter Horton, Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters in the blues world.


He hooked up with legendary Bluesman Muddy Waters in 1977, playing and producing some Grammy Award winning recordings with Muddy and his band up until Muddy’s death and was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall Of Fame in 1988.His career was badly screwed up by poor management over the years with many dubious releases credited to the mercenary motives of former manager Roy Ames.


Johnny’s tone has been pure authentic Delta blues crunch and boogie grind with amazing prowess on acoustic and electric bottleneck and has been burning up stages with his lightning.The Astoria in London was packed with fans many like me who travelled a great distance just to see Johnny perform conscious of the fact that he has lived life in the fast lane over the years and is lucky to be still alive and well the title of one of his hits.


The Scott Mc Keon Band kicked off the show in The Astoria with some loud high energy rock blues reminiscent of the main act and also in the style of Stevie Ray Vaughan and the new young guns of the genre.Johnny arrived on stage dressed in black, with his trademark Black Hat and sat down on a chair at the front of the stage.


At 63 years of age he may look physically weak in appearance but his guitar skill is still astonishing with dazzling fret board skill.I had to withdraw from the front of the stage because of the sheer distorted volume coming from a wall of speakers and moved about the various circles and balconies which are very much similar to our own Olympia in design, to get a better sound position stopping into the Keith Moon Bar for some local sustenance.


All my favourite covers were blasted out like Hoochie Coochie Man, Hideaway, Tore Down, It’s All Over Now, Blackjack and Highway 61 Revisited in a set lasting 90 minutes long.The Astoria was clearly full of dedicated fans who were in thrilled to see their hero and master of the blues rock guitar still on fire with his rhythm section Scott Spray on Bass and Wayne June on Drums pumping solidly behind him.


There is a fond regard and great sympathy for this artist who has suffered so much mismanagement and drug abuse and thanks to his new management has been rehabilitating his body and career with this highly acclaimed and successful tour.


The term living legend is often bandied about but no one deserves the title more than this master of modern rock blues who certainly plays its loud and proud at 63 and long may he continue.It was my first time to see the unusual Lazer Guitar which Johnny maintains is the perfect mix between the Stratocaster and the Gibson and was screaming white hot riffs in the hands of this giant of rock n blues guitar.


“Oh God said to Abraham, kill me a son
Abe said man you must be putting me on
God said no, Abe said what
God said you can do what you want Abe but
Next time you see me coming you better run
Well, Abe said where you want this killing done
God said out on Highway 61”


Mik Kenny aka MTW

Jed Thomas Band @ JJ Smyths Dublin Friday Aug 4th 2006

The Jed Thomas Band from Harrogate in Yorkshire deep in Emmerdale land, got the August Bank Holiday weekend of to an excellent start in JJ Smyths Friday night with their own tight brand of high energy British Rockin’ Blues with crying bottleneck squeals, amazing fretwork, plenty of crunch n bite and relentless rhythm attack.

What makes Jed Thomas so enjoyable on this side of the water is his dedication and celebration of the guitar style and approach of our own Rory Gallagher, capturing the atmosphere and mood of Rory’s trademark techniques and blending them seamlessly into his own fluent interpretation of the blues.

The Jed Thomas performance is a direct descendant of the history of British Blues and Rock and contains all the essence, exciting sounds and potent influences of progressive blues.The evolution of the blues in the hands and hearts of musicians like Rory Gallagher, Tony McPhee Groundhogs, Alvin Lee Ten Years After and Jed Thomas has been first not to treat it as a museum piece, to be stifled over, but to give it a contemporary modern living experience and impetus so that despite the assault of time, the music of the Hooker, Wolf, Muddy and Sonny Boy that inspired them to pick up that lump of wood and wire in the first place has ongoing vitality. Music like life itself is about growth and motion, a fixed point of view constrains anyone who has one.

It’s an emotional experience for the awe-diance, makes you feel glad inside, makes the crowd holler with enthusiasm, makes life surge as each song builds up to a delayed explosion, makes the shapely Rebecca dance elatedly around the pounding relentless beat all the way up to the stage and back.

The performance of this three piece turbo charged outfit live from Leeds, was brilliant and well balanced in every respect, with superb support on Bass from Nibb and Paul flailing like an octopus with an itch on Drums.

From the minute Jed lets rip, his amazing speed and accuracy are captivating, this guy is matchfit and capable of mastering the fretboard workout from hell, as is evidenced by the paint worn edges of his battered Cherry Red Strat through his confusing but highly effective customised effects unit. Jed’s tools of expression are a varied range of right hand and left hand perfectly played fast blues rock guitar techniques that would take me several lifetimes to master.

The Jed Thomas Band grooves along like a locomotion trying to out run Sitting Bull who is emblazoned on Jed’s Strat, across the wild primitive plains of Boom Boom Boom Boom, fast and furious SRV and Chuck Berry shuffles, topped off with tone and phrasing that reflects a wealth of delightful influences blended together to create his own signature sound.It’s evident watching these guys play, that the collective honed skills are the result of years of hard work and demanding schedules demonstrated with that fluent familiarity with each other’s technical vernacular.

Anto from JJ’s House Band joined the band on Blues Harp for a Mystery Train style jam in place of their own Harp player who missed the flight or as Jed remarked later on when he did arrive, travelled over via Spain. Tony Poland from Parchman Farm also got up for another call and response jam with Jed on guitar.The repertoire is diverse and versatile Jed producing three different guitars in various tunings for forays into blistering Rock Blues and Bottleneck with a piece of copper pipe on a hollow bodied Epiphone and finishing the night off on a Fender Telecaster as sharp as a crosscut saw.


Statesboro Blues, Shake Your Money Maker, Rollin n Tumblin, all given a hard driving facial along with originals such as Devils Been Blowing In Your Ear all played at breathtaking speed as Jed coaxing amazing sounds from his armoury of influences displayed balls out riffing and furious chordal changing stamina.

The buzz was Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, ACDC, George Thorogood to Live At Leeds but the icing on the cake for me is that I felt I was back 30 years watching the similar intensity and chemistry of our own local hero Rory Gallagher in the Carlton Cinema or on the boards in the National Stadium.

Jed is a devoted fan of Rory as demonstrated in two stellar workouts on Laundromat and Messing With The Kid telling us that if it weren’t for Rory he would not be standing on the stage tonight.Thankfully a Jed Thomas gig will ensure that Rory’s music and technique which opened up my own universe with Taste and the subsequent pilgrimages to witness our white hot guitarist in action, will always be just a memory away and serve to remind us just how brilliant Rory was and the tragedy that his contribution to the traditions of Blues guitar ended so prematurely.

Apart from being great commemorators of Rory Gallagher, what grabbed my attention most about the Jed Thomas Band are their focus, attention, sheer authority, control, and confidence in their repertoire, combining all the elements of blues past with high energy dynamic modern techniques including a rapid fire devastating drum solo.

Without the slightest hesitation I have now added Jed Thomas to my favourites list as one of the most exciting guitarists on the planet, with a style that combines traditional blues, blazing progressive blues, touch, tone, speed, energy and stamina in a very creative, fertile, testosterone laden style uniquely his own.


” Well Mama killed a chicken,
She thought it was a duck
She put it on the table
With his legs sticking up

You’ve got to bottle it up and go
You’ve got to bottle it up and go
Yes them high-powered women
Sure got to bottle it up and go”


Mick Kenny aka MTW