Boo Boo Davis @ Irish Blues Club, JJ Smyths. 29/05/2007

It was standing room only in JJ Smyth’s for the weekly gathering of the Irish Blues Club to witness and welcome Boo Boo Davis from the heart of the Mississippi Delta for a performance on his Irish tour.

Boo Boo Davis started off touring the Delta taverns and juke joints with his musician father and brothers before joining up with one of the hottest bands in St Louis in the sixties providing back up to Little Walter Sonny Boy Williamson Elmore James and Little Milton.This was a class set from a class act with Boo Boo Davis in bowler hat and sartorially sharp suit blowing up a storm on his harps with a solid professional band of musicians providing support.

Boo Boo Davis combines the traditional elements with modern grooves very effectively with the whole band on stage skilfully mixing their talents in a cohesive electrifying spectacle with the guitar, bass and drums being played very nicely instead of just plodding along in the background allowing Boo Boo Davis receive recognition for his talents and well paid dues.

The consummate Dutch blues band consisting of drums, bass guitar and an excellent guitarist shone through clearly behind Boo Boo who certainly pleased the crowd with a clutch of new blues songs and new approaches that are indicative of a welcome potential rejuvenation of genre when in the right hands.Boo Boo Davis‘s unpretentious skill and ability, coupled with the overall quality of the musicianship on stage invigorated the audience creating an exciting and electric atmosphere in JJ’s.The most startling aspect for me was Boo Boo Davis’s vocals because you could close your eyes and you’d think it was Howling Wolf in the room as he enthralled the audience and bounced about the stage.

Humorous sexual innuendo together with Boo Boo’s unique blend of traditional blues and hip hop phrasing keeps this mans blues strident, engaging, alive and kicking and appealing to all the young listeners around me in the audience and scores with a futuristic vision in the mix akin to Chris Thomas King and RL Burnside.

The harp and guitar breaks were sharp and concise but Boo Boo’s, Howling Wolf flavoured approach with subtle inventive arrangements and intelligent rhythm work was first rate and a winning formula for the Irish Blues Club audience.This experienced entertainer lets the songs breathe and demonstrates he is aware that space is a crucial element in the dynamic and as important as the notes.

This was a classy performance from Boo Boo resplendent in his bright suit and bowler hat effortless cranking up the tempo and towelling away the sweat pouring profusely from his efforts.He is a true ambassador of the blues and the fun and enjoyment on the stage was evidently transmitted to the crowd with shapely gyrations being attempted in the most constrained spaces.

Boo Boo Davis proved himself a big favourite with a big turnout of local blues musicians and fans like Pat Mc Sweeney from the Chillhouse Blues Band, Peter Moore and Karl O Byrne from The International Blues Band, Tommy Grimes and Tony Poland from Parchman Farm, DJ Charlie Hussy from Dublin City Anna Livia FM 103.2’s weekly Sunday night Bluestrain program and veteran live blues supporters like Southside Eddie and Sean Williamson.

The repertoire was drawn from his new CD, Drew Mississippi and previous releases like Can Man , East St Louis and The Snake with powerful and well conceived covers like Little Red Rooster all displayed with superb musicianship in a tightly integrated format.Boo Boo Davis is a genuine blast from the past giving a high energy performance and the general consensus was “what a brilliant performer” as we grooved along to two encores well past bedtime and headed for home with out our hands stinging from the suitably appreciative and well deserved applause.

Boo Boo Davis is in Ireland for a few weeks with a good spread of gigs over the Bank Holiday Weekend and into June before he returns to the American Festival circuit so if you get a chance to groove to the blues, go for it you won’t be disappointed with Boo Boo Davis, this man’s got style and a highly recommended set.

“Dogs begin to bark now
And the hounds begin to howl
Watch out little stray cat
The little red roosters on the prowl”

  • May 23 – Cooperative de Mai – Clermont Ferrand – France
  • May 24 – The Cherry Tree – Walkinstown Dublin – Ireland
  • May 25 – Droichead Arts Centre – Drogheda – Ireland
  • May 26 – Blues on the Bay – Warrenpoint – N-Ireland
  • May 27 – The John Hewitt – Belfast – N-Ireland
  • May 29 – JJ’s – Dublin – Ireland
  • May 30 – McKenna’s – Monaghan – Ireland
  • May 31 – Ardhowen Theatre – Enniskillen – N-Ireland
  • June 1 – Sandinos – Londonderry – N-Ireland
  • June 2 – Island Arts Centre – Lisburn – N-Ireland
  • June 3 – Rory Gallagher Festival – Ballyshannon – Ireland
  • June 6 – Colfers – Carrig on Bannow – Ireland
  • June 7 – St John Arts Centre – Listowel – Ireland
  • June 8 – The Barger Rooms – Ennis – Ireland
  • June 9 – Jazz & Blues Festival – Limavady – N-Ireland
  • June 10 – Seamus Ennis Center – Naul – Ireland

Beginning to End feat Christy Doran @ JJ’Smyth’s. 29/10/2006

Had a very exciting night in JJ’s candle lit Pendulum Club Sunday night getting my head around the futuristic guitar talents of Irish born Lucerne resident Christy Doran on his way back from the Cork Jazz Festival for a welcome Dublin appearance. Beginning to End is an improvisational collaborative music performance written with leading Irish Composer and Bassist Ronan Guilfoyle inspired by the works of Samuel Beckett and polished off with the extraordinarily unique Swiss Vocalist Isa Wiss out front and drummer Sean Carpio tying everything down at the back.

Trying to explain the amazing excitement and beauty of this performance is a bit like dissecting a fish out of water it would be impossible to capture the grace and magic of it all away from its natural environment but that’s never stopped me before so I will press on. The door handle for me was Christy’s guitar, a six string electric Fender Strat look-alike produced by ESP with a worn look finish that allowed his brush strokes, moves, tickles, scrapes and scratches up and down the 22 frets to sound as smooth as a baby’s ass interplaying with the beautifully fused musical explorations of Isa Wiss’s vocal’s Ronan’s acoustic bass guitar and Sean’s percussive foundations and backdrops.

This is a musical experience that open’s your eyes and ears, capable of taking you beyond your wildest dreams, to the unlimited potential of the spoken word freed from boundary’s of expression, the improvisational rhythmic rearrangement of the dot’s and a Hendrixian guitar world of delights hinted at previously in masterpieces like Electric Ladyland and the spiritual spacious sounds of John Mc Loughlin. In the hands of master musicians like these it’s possible to experience a musical transcendence that is fluid and spiritual even on the first date. The ecstatic innovation bursting with energy on stage pulls you along the rails planting seeds along the way that soon become laden with all manner of fruit and ear candy.

Being a self confessed latecomer to jazz music, I have my own coat hangers with me to make sense of it all in the wardrobe and yet I find again and again in the company of Beginning to End that where the technical proficiencies, which are of the highest calibre are enthralling and challenging to me, the evocative passionate galaxy patrolling expression of Christy Doran’s guitar sound makes perfect sense to me finding an immediate interpretation in my conscious, listening experience.

Compositions entitled Neither, The End is in the Beginning, Happy Day’s and Gone are all vehicles brim full of inventive guitar and bass lines, lyrics steeped in the darkness of Beckett and tripping off Isa’s tongue like an alien dialect interpreting simultaneously to the conscious subconscious and spiritual mind releasing pleasurable waves of ecstatic comfort for the ear. After coming to a brief standstill to take a break for air, Isa introduced her own song entitled Probably and then two more by Ronan including Sucking Stones a vocal performance searing with brilliance and another gem called Stories if my memory cells serves me correct. Ronan and Christy sprint relentlessly up down their respective fretboard’s with furious speed keeping the needle just barely below the spontaneous combustion threshold.

What I loved about Christy Doran’s guitar technique, Ronan Guilfoyle’s bass, Sean Carpio’s Drumming and Isa Wiss’s vocals, is that they collectively create such a wonderful atmosphere, that brings superb craftsmanship to the rich textures and layers of the complex and captivating compositions opening the impenetrable pages of Samuel Beckett’s work so that you realise that there are no classically understood limitations necessary. Beginning to End celebrates the centenary and work of Samuel Beckett and it’s a marriage made in the beautiful unpredictability of defining usefulness in any spoken or musical language.

That music develops with an improvisational flow that only touches the riverbank once on its way, offers up no resistance to constraint, listens out for no matchfit in anyone else’s speech pattern and is entirely satisfied with its usefulness, accepting that our convenient definition of chaos is really just a lack of awareness and converting that into a conclusion that the sea will refuses no river so why should we. This is a musical dream and better still, because unlike our dreams which are fragmented by the limited power of our recall, the Beginning to End musical experience is cohesive and linear unravelling its capability to imply the beat while flowing openly along to a limitless aesthetic future.

Creatively expansive and fuelled by the finest, explosive, combination of skill and passion on stage, building blocks of pure emotion and sensation are produced effortlessly on stage, glued craftily together with Christy’s tremolo bar technique and superb control on a trippy and spacey delay effects unit, with creative left and right hand techniques, tools like a screwdriver sitting dangling against the strings behind the neck pick up and a bow highlighting his impressive chops and amazing lead tones.

If you like your music on a constant restless quest, up for the challenge of reinvention, fresh with a new perspective, propelled by a deep understanding and an appropriate nod in the influential direction of masters like Miles Davis, Tony William’s, John Mc Laughlin, Jimi Hendrix then you have come to the right place in a performance by Beginning to End and the extraordinary talents of Christy Doran( ) Ronan Guilfoyle( , Isa Wiss and Sean Carpio that will take you on an amazing journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well done Carvin Dublin loves you.

Brian Meakin Band @ JJ Smyths, Dublin 23/07/2005

The Brian Meakin Band’s show is a high energy, maximum entertainment value, sizzling six-string, no bull, tour de force. When it comes to the vigorous lightning fast technically proficient guitar techniques of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Rory Gallagher there is no doubt that Brian has studied each of his heroes well, obviously practiced his ass off and is now like a kid in a candy store capable of giving you any flavour you need, putting real spirit and not just technical ability into the traditional three piece landscape.

This three-piece powerhouse outfit is tight with an energy and primal intensity, which runs through renditions from the aforementioned gods of rock n blues with a passion oozing and dripping out of each of them.These guys can walk the walk and when they talk the talk they pay homage to the music that we all love so much and to the musicians that inspired them to get on a stage in the first place.

As time marches on we have lost many of the Brians heroes but we will still have their amazing guitar techniques and signature sounds demonstrated with pride and joy and dedicated to the joyous preservation of their musical legacy as long as talented guys like this combine their love for the music with their love for what they are doing.

What The Brian Meakin Band has got going for it is the ability to not only capture your ears but to capture your attention and hold it which is crucial in terms of attracting fresh new audiences around Ireland in through the front door to discover the musical magic of a bygone era. From the minute they walked on stage they had that in your face attitude like horses at a starting gate with a mission to keep the customer satisfied.

Brian’s guitar style is a neat hybrid of Blues and Rock that has been revisited and reshaped for the last five decades with a contemporary dynamic tube screaming analog crunch maintaining the consistent attack, making the notes sing on his green Fender Stratocastor, which is down tuned a half step to E flat giving the sound a beefier big and bouncy bite, with his right hand picking strengths adding texture, overdrive and Cry Baby wailing overtones with perfect execution on the Jimi and SRV double stop and microtonal bends.He harnesses the sound to each song with confident control creates exactly the canvas he wants without any involuntary extraneous noise or signal colouration as evidenced on his version of Rory Gallagher’s Laundromat Blues that took me back through time with authentic passion to the National Stadium on the Live in Europe tour such was the spot on tone and tempo.

He can progress confident in his ability to nail down that much loved modern blues fat swooping sound and big vibrato and he is on those slippery triplets to maintain momentum like a dog with a bone with the sound greased nicely with tube screamer, wah – wah and some sort of vibrotone creating that rotating Leslie type effect that was a staple of Jimi and Stevie Ray’s set up which he told me he had only received the day before and that the jury was still out on whether it should Clash (should it stay or should it go).

Mary had a Little Lamb, The Thrill is Gone and Jimi’s Berkley University version of Johnny B Goode show how quickly Brian switches lead to rhythm and back again throwing in a veritable encyclopaedia of blues and classic rock phrases shredding up the neck into a frenzy of melodic melting pot licks and screaming bends. Brian’s guitar performance is chock full of Texas hook-tastic heavy arm riffing, perfectly crafted slices of classic blues rock guitar that recall Green, Clapton and Pages front door mat welcome to the blues relaying a brew garnered from their own inspirations in Chicago and Texas from a generation earlier.

It’s the wonderful beauty of music, the only international language that we have got that thankfully what goes around comes around in a beautiful relay of who influenced who that should be cherished and embraced on positively blues street.Brian’s got an infectious enthusiasm on stage banter fantasizing about babysitters, G strings and focussing dedications towards some of the pretty women in the audience in a bid to channel some x and y sexual energy into the sound and the atmosphere of JJ’s on a Saturday night.He can rest assured that there is no cheese cutter walking about likely to get as much hardship as the G-string on his green Fender Stratocastor.

It all worked a treat on the night even if it’s a risky technique in Dublin with the mating response of many the macho native I’ve witnessed in the past threatening on such occasions to “shove that guitar up your hole if you don’t stop messin’ with me bird.”

Top marks for being a very hard working, genuine, dyed in the wool, music loving band and a very talented, cheeky and likable showman in Brian Meakin, spell that M…. A…. N.
The line I shoot
Will never miss
The way I make love to them
You know they can’t resist
I’m a man
I spell it M…. A…. N

Carvin Jones Band @ Irish Blues Club, JJ Smyths 7/6/2005

Always a” must go” for me when an American Bluesman comes to town and boy was I delighted to be in attendance for this high energy, cocktail of trailblazing guitarmanship, on stage acrobatics and solid gold entertainment.

Carvin Jones and his very competent and capable Band have their priorities right, its all about having a good time and I get the feeling that they don’t ever give up until everyone in the audience feel like their on stage and participating in the celebration, except that their way of doing things is by way of bringing the performance down with fifty foot guitar leads to the tables and sitting in between the amazed members of the audience, laying the regularly abused and evidently long suffering Fender Strat wailing like a banshee to rest across two tables and adopting a lap style technique in mid song and without any interruption to momentum of the piece of music filtering into every crevice in the room.Nothing stands between the artist and the audience at a Carvin Jones gig, there are no barriers, and it’s a wonderful feeling and a testament of his self confidence and natural friendliness on stage or off that leaves one and all thoroughly entertained.

Just watching someone like Carvin is enough to ratchet your own guitar confidence up a level on the stage presentation front alone.At one stage he invited Jennifer a beautiful American Lady and self confessed fan of the Blues in the audience beside me to dance a few steps while his guitar lay reverberating on the ground between the tables.

Carvin arrives on stage in top Texas form smiling like a showman that’s got more than enough to meet the challenge ahead, immediately stepping into a comfortable pair of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix’s boots with an effortless combination of charisma, soul, showmanship, and guitar vocabulary that pays homage to all the great influential masters of Blues. Carvin thankfully doesn’t go for the pain and sorrow approach to interpreting the blues preferring to whammy it up with joy and pleasure as central parts of his armoury.

Carvin is an ace player and delivers the set of classic covers and medleys with an uncompromising muscular brass knuckled style on his Black Fender Strat, that takes you to the hearts and hands of the essential bluesmen enhanced with some signature sounding effects that deliver right to your doorstep that combine to create a fusion of pile driving rhythm and screaming notes that suspend in the air long enough for someone to run downstairs in JJ’s and outside and rotate a flat tyre on Augier St if the need existed.

Like Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Stevie Ray and Jimi its got more to do with passion than technique at times stepping outside the minor pentatonic box scales and making the magic happen in the intervals, working the space between the notes till there fingers bleed, weaving in and out of the prescribed 1- 1V – V harmony and orbiting around the original influence until its time to land it on your own runway.

Hammering on double stops and rubbing sensually against ninth chords with power tube distortion, its Guitar Slim hanging out with ZZ Top and the wind cries get out of the way or its going to run you over.There is no standing on ceremony here, no bandstand meandering ,if its reverences you want you’re in the wrong house at a gig like this, you need to cross the street and go up to Whitefriars Street Church. Hideaway, Voodoo Chile, Little Wing, Sweet Home Chicago, Boom Boom Boom, Johnny B Goode, Dust my Broom are all just ingredients for the Blues n Boogie stew boiling away on stage.

If we are ever going to reclaim the blues for this generation and the next and solve the commercial nature of it for all concerned, then this sums up what a live performance is all about. This is what Guitar Slim and T Bone Walker has to do fifty years ago along the roadhouses of Highway 61 walking out through the crowds with a 100 foot lead snaking its way from the stage and playing back in at the audience through the window. This is a barrier removing participation tradition that must not disappear and is a signature trademark of the Blues performance and as necessary a credential as an Albert King wide interval bend, BB Kings vibrato and the bone chillin legacy of Albert Collins or John Lee Hooker already incorporated into the standard.

I witnessed our own Peter Moore weave a similar magic in JJ’s one freezing cold night in January, flanked by Ben Prevo and Johnny Reynolds on guitars and with Irish John Earl and the rest of the International Blues Band when the audience and musicians were as one and the atmosphere was warm, wonderful and spine chilling.

Peter also works from a tapestry of diverse and unique delights, one minute your head is in Mississippi and the next you’re a Blockhead in a burlesque London pub gig.So it is when Carvin plays its about attitude, he has one hell of a take no prisoners right hand approach snapping and popping the strings with utter conviction on his beat up Strat at one stage sent sliding down the floor of JJ’s at full throttle. Slashing and cutting the chords, chicken picking and damping arpeggios the reverb drenched sound commanding attention at all times with foxy pull and slide manoeuvres and the occasional bottle whipped off a table to add the bottleneck touch to proceedings.

He is unpredictable and cagey thriving in the fertile soil of Blues, Soul and Rock churning out a mix to keep things interesting, watching the eyes watching him from beneath the Texas Stetson. The Bass and Drum rhythm gives a rolling motion to the boogie as Carvin grafts on cunning grooves and hard rocking riffs delivered in an alternating fluid and piercing attack. Just as Muddy was the master of forging Delta acoustic music into the electrified, Chicago blues of today the flame still burns as long as players with the passion and vision of Carvin Jones are playing from the heart with that gift for spontaneous reorganisation and give freedom of expression to the music so that the end result is larger than life itself.

“If I can bring joy into the world…then I’ll be successful”. Bobby McFerrin musician said and if you want to see that demonstrated treat yourself to a Carvin Jones Band gig.

As I left JJ Smyth’s last night and fair play to the lads in the Irish Blues Club for their efforts to keep the Blues scene alive, someone outside the door told me that the powerhouse rhythms from upstairs had caused the air bags in a Toyota Avensis to involuntarily explode outside the door. Legendary gigs when reminiscing have a habit of prompting exaggeration as time goes by and this one deserves to get off to a good start.