A Riff Too Far

The Robben Ford Band at The Arches Theatre, Glasgow on 29 April 2013

Driving west along the M8 to Glasgow, I was thinking to myself why it was that I wasn’t particularly excited about attending the evening’s Robben Ford concert at the Arches Theatre. The gathering clouds reflected my mood, gloomy and full of frustration at the long awaited and overdue spring. It had been a long winter and the promise of spring was exasperated by the persistent cold weather. It might need a little more than a rock guitar virtuoso to drag me out of my melancholy.

The Arches Theatre is based in Victorian brick railway caverns right in the heart of Glasgow city centre, beneath the central station’s railway bridge. There are four arches in all, but only arch no’s 1 and 2 were required for the gig configuration, with access to the other two arch spaces being restricted by a loosely hung curtain at the interconnections. 

These are big arches, big enough to comfortably park a couple of steam engines or railway carriages in (maybe that was what they were originally built for?)

“We have lots of variety” one of the staff members told me. “Last week we had a major car launch here.”

The audience space was laid out in a seated concert configuration. The audience was predomintally composed of middle-aged males, with the odd female attendee dotted here and there. With the ongoing low temperatures, the seating area was chilly. Unfortunately, there would be little in the ensuing performance to warm me up.

Poor sound quality

The venue is generously equipped with overhead stage lighting racks, some back stage light columns, and two banks of expensive looking speaker cabinets, one either side of the stage. But the prospect of a good aural/visual experience was immediately dashed when the band struck up.

Ford’s guitar, piped through those PA stacks, was too bright and had so much reverb that it was difficult to distinguish one note from the next. I gave up trying after the second number.

The bass guitar sound was equally ill-defined. Most of the time it sounded like Brian Allen was playing the notes slightly off key, further compounding the poor sound quality. And his bass solos (there were a few) were jelly on an oily boat deck in a force 8.

Tony Moore provided the backbeat which was uninspiring. Just straight rock style drumming that seemed to be driven from the bass and toms, with little subtlety on the drums or cymbals to indulge the listener's finer rhythmic aesthetic.

Ford’s vocals were feeble and passionless, with lyrics that seemed to be past their sell-by date, retaining little of whatever emotional expression had inspired them in the first place.

In one song, Ford bemoand his implied relationships with all and sundry in a desperate bid for individual freedom. "I just want to be nothin’ to nobody, free like a bird.” In another he denigrated a life of late nights, boose and gambling with “my mama told me not to be staying out all night long drinking and gambling.” In the chill of the auditorium, these sentiments missed their mark by a mile.

The exception to the evening’s proceedings was a dazzling display on the Hammond organ by band member Ricky Peterson. There is one thing about so-called “blues” keyboard players that I’ve noticed over recent years – most of them can’t play a decent 12-bar blues solo. But Peterson was off the top of the scale, whipping up Jimmy Smith-like solos at the drop of a hat. And he had fire in his soul.

Monkeys at the controls

To be fair, forces outside the onstage personnel also had an impact on Ford's lacklustre performance.

“I’ve never seen such a weird light show” one attendee remarked disgustingly to his companion after the show.

I had to agree. At one point during Moore's drum solo, the lights were shut down completely for almost 8 seconds, leaving the audience (and more importantly, the drummer) wondering what was going to happen next.

Despite the expensive set-up, no doubt financed by generous Scottish government arts grants, the Arches' management must have employed a couple of monkeys from the zoo to operate the audio and light controls.

An unlit candle

Ford's problem is that he has become a victim of his own success. It's not always easy to maintain an emotional connection with your instrument and material when you're constantly on the road, playing night after night to a predominantly guitar-geeky audience. It seems that this constant gigging has become a daily (or nightly) chore, with Ford's acclaimed guitar technique feeding an endless stream of riff-hungry wannabe guitar players and awestruck admirers.

But an unlit candle, though elaborately adorned and embellished, is merely something you may look at and admire for a few seconds, then move on.

A lighted candle on the other hand is a completely different dynamic. Now you have something that reaches beyond itself, beyond its elementary components and craftsmanship; something that illuminates, tempers its observer’s mood, changing the ambience of its surroundings. 

Similarily, without this flame, this passion for the music, the musician is simply a mechanical robot, and the observer is untouched. 

In my view running up and down scales on the fret-board to impress an audience hardly counts as music. Surely the whole point of any instrument is as a vehicle for expressing human emotion that connects with the listener.

Whilst no one can doubt his ability, Ford appeared to be detached, dispassionate and adrift in an emotionally barren landscape. It would appear that, for this guitar virtuoso, it was simply a case of a riff too far.

So I asked myself the question "What’s the point?" I might as well have paid the £25.00 entrance fee to sit and watch some road workers digging up a pavement in Glasgow city centre. And hopefully, Ricky Peterson busking nearby to thrill on that Hammond Sk2 keyboard.


Robben Ford - Guitar, vocals
Ricky Peterson - Keyboard
Brian Allen - Bass

Tony Moore - Drums


Perhaps the following video illustrates what Ford may have been trying to achieve in Glasgow's chilly auditorium, and what we missed - a warm and intimate atmosphere with relaxed musicians. The song is the jazzy instrumental "On That Morning" from the album "Bringing It Back Home", featuring the same band as appeared at the Glasgow gig (with the exception of Harvey Mason on drums). In fact it could be the theme song to my review!


If you want a couple of examples of what I’m talking about check out the following YouTube videos.

The first clip is from a concert in Paris 2013. Look at Ford’s expression. I would say he looks bored and disinterested, avoiding eye contact with his paying audience by staring into space; just going through the routine – another day at the office. As the song goes: 

       “You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
          When they all did tricks for you

                                    Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan 


This next video sums up nicely what the sound was like in Glasgow. I watched this full concert video (some video footage is missing) in the comfort of my home on a Friday night to confirm if my negative impression of the Glasgow gig was mood related or not. If you manage to stay awake (my wife fell asleep while watching it) you’ll get my point after a while. 


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Gathering No Moss

Grainne Duffy at the Malt Shovel Tavern
27 March 2013 

Scanning through the list of performers booked to play the Malt Shovel Tavern throughout the first half of 2013, it is noticeable that acts with female members are in the minority. Of the 26 bands booked, only six feature female members.  

Guitar duties were shared with sidekick Paul Sherry
A quick piece of stat maths illustrates the current situation:

- less than a quarter of the bands booked (23%) contain any female members
- only 1/6th of the bands booked (15%) are led by a female performer

It’s the type of result that would have the equal rights movement up in arms in any other field of endeavour. Then again, we are talking about “the blues”! It’s my personal observation of audience numbers that blues is a genre of music that generally appeals more to men than women. 

Of course I’m not suggesting that this is representative of the blues music scene as a whole. In fact, it’s quite difficult to locate any meaningful data source for such an analysis. But it does serve to illustrate an interesting demographic, albeit one based on a minute slice of the blues music industry’s pie.

So it was inspiriting to welcome a relatively new female-led entrant on the UK blues circuit for their first outing at the Malt Shovel Tavern’s Wednesday night blues gig.

Feather Weight

Despite her “blues” ranking, Grainne Duffy has a strong propensity towards Rock and Americana musical genres, and it could be argued that she is not a blues performer at all. But all three music genres sit well together, and she is clearly following in the footsteps of another great blues/rock/Americana performer (and incidentally one of Grainne’s favourite artists), Bonnie Raitt.

Bedecked in casual canvas boots, black leggings and black Bob Dylan print t-shirt, the young Irish singer/songwriter belied her online publicity as a hard-nosed blues heavyweight, the kind of tough-faced individual you might expect from an inner-city council estate. Quite the reverse, this affable blues singer from Co Monaghan was light footed and free moving, and with her Gibson Les Paul slung across her shoulder, she skipped through the two one-hour sets like a feather-weight.

Expressive Nuances

Grainne’s vocal tone and style was at times uncannily similar to her hero Bonnie Raitt, but her delivery lacked power and emotional conviction. Take for example her cover of the Etta James classic “I'd Rather Go Blind”. Grainne has adopted this song as a kind of vocal showcase, but it’s a difficult number to deliver convincingly at the best of times because of the prerequisite emotional charge needed to make it fly. And when you’re doing it night after night, that’s a big ask. Her rendition was certainly theatrical, but didn’t connect emotionally. 

Guitar duties were shared with sidekick Paul Sherry, who discharged his guitar remit with energy and enthusiasm. Paul is an accomplished all-round guitarist, and whilst he placated the attendant guitar nerds’ insatiable appetites for flashy animated guitar solos, Grainne kept her guitar work fairly simple, doing what she was comfortable with as opposed to trying to impress. This worked really well, allowing her to concentrate on her guitar tone, and carefully picking out solos that supported and extended the song’s chord structure, adding colour and expressive nuances to her vocal work.

Test Of Time

The band ploughed through their set list, each number followed its predecessor in a well-rehearsed sequence, and with the exception of a requested “Wild Horses” to open the second set, the band deviated little from an apparent preset course.

The majority of the songs covered were from her current CD “Test Of Time” which was released last year, and one of my favourites of the evening was the funk-reggae styled “Sweet Sweet Baby”. By all accounts this is a popular gig number with her fans, and Grainne sponeously encouraged the audience to sing along. Obviously, her expectations were a little overreached, as I doubt than very many Malt Shovellers would be familiar with her material. A few enthusiastic respondents tried to muddle through with her on the chorus lines. 

Tipping Point

Overall, Grainne’s performance fell a little short of the immediacy, depth of feeling or intimacy needed to produce a first-class show, and despite her obvious vocal talents, her phlegmatic delivery failed to engage emotionally. Don't get me wrong! I certainly enjoyed the gig, and overall the performance was well above the standard expected, the band was a tight unit that worked effectively together, and there was a raft of talent on show. But it just never reached that tipping point, after which everything becomes "WOW". As one friend might have put it, she didn’t quite “float my boat”

“I would like to have heard a bit more from the guitar guy” one punter complained afterwards, reflecting on the fact that Sherry was merely a member of the backing band, supporting and enhancing Grainne’s performance as opposed to spotlighting his own musicianship. But there was enough there to betray a more-than capable level of southern rock guitar prowess.

When all’s said and done, the Malt Shovel gig was just one part of a whistle-stop tour of the UK by the band, and these rolling stones weren’t gathering any moss at this little Northampton venue.

Rising Star

The band was very well received by the capacity crowd, and this fledgling singer/songwriter from Castleblayney was treated as somewhat of a celebrity by a few of the attendees lining up to have their photo taken with her during the interval; something the Malt Shovel Tavern is certainly not used to.

But maybe a little stardust had already rubbed off on Grainne from her previous engagements as the opening act for world-class luminaries such as Van Morrison and Robben Ford; not to mention playing Glastonbury? Then again, maybe those happy snappers predicted a rising star, and were already on the pop memorabilia trail?

With a voice like Grainne’s, the future looks bright. But will it be bright enough to take her beyond the reach of venues like the Malt Shovel Tavern? Probably, but I for one hope she’ll be back again in the not-too distant future.

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Taking The Blues By The Horns

Debbie Giles' Midnight Train at the Malt Shovel Tavern
6 March 2013 

Debbie Giles’ Midnight Train is a well known act on the London blues scene and beyond; and the band is no stranger to The Malt Shovel audiences. Founded by a meeting of minds at the Maryport Blues festival in 2009, the band draws its inspiration from a mixture of funk, rock and blues music. 

"...works hard at her craft..."
Debbie cut her teeth on the stage in West End musicals such as “Hello, Dolly!” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Her interest in blues and jazz music found her singing with various big bands around the country. Then she met Sam Kelly at the Maryport Blues festival, and Midnight Train was born.

Debbie’s delivers her music with a gritty determination and energy that draws from her experience in musicals as well as jazz singing. Like many actors of the theatre and screen, Debbie’s persona on stage is primarily that of a performer as opposed to a straightforward singer, and she embellishes her singing with animated dance movements and expositive gestures. Neither endowed with a wide vocal range nor particularly distinctive tone, she prevail upon her audiences by working hard at her craft, and with the backing of her well-honed funky blues band, she can carry a song off well. Debbie might be considered your typical female blues or jazz singer.

Her band of seasoned musicians includes Chris Belshaw on bass, Pete Emery on guitar, Steve Oakman on keyboards and Sam Kelly on drums. 

Sam Kelly is a powerhouse of a drummer with a personality and drum kit to match. Not one to sit quietly in the background inconspicuously providing a backbeat for the front men, Sam has a magnetic personality that draws the audience’s attention to him. He reciprocates by digging into his extensive vocabulary of drum patterns, rhythmic grooves and dynamic diction to provide an audacious pulsating backdrop to the proceedings. The impression is of a charging bull; twisting, turning, suddenly coming to an abrupt halt; then tearing off on some funky groove. 

"...a powerhouse of a drummer..."
Flaunting his drumming flair in such a manner has sometimes worked against him, and on more than one occasion, Sam has found himself sitting around at home waiting and hoping for a gig, whilst his contemporaries are busy playing and touring. But Sam is a man of conviction and goes as far as to encourage his drum students to be as intrepid and adventurous as he is.

Now I said power…oh yes, and subtleness. Sam knows about dynamics, and his drumming is punctuated with stentorian drum rolls and beats that unexpectedly come to a sudden stop, instantly followed by delicate interpositions and feather-light cymbal work. His imposing personality exudes from behind his drum kit at the back of the stage, militating and working the tone and texture of the performance. And the overriding effect is g-r-o-o-v-e. Groove is what Sam is all about, and its effect on the band is striking.

This was serendipitously illustrated on one occasion, when Sam couldn’t immediately locate the required drum chart for the particular song that Debbie had called. The band started up without him whilst he sat at the back thumbing through his chart book looking for the appropriate sheet. The band was already into the second verse when Debbie turned around to hurry him up. But he continued thumbing through his book, un-phased by her expression of urgency. Having finally located the required sheet a few seconds later - boom! The effect was dramatic. It was like a powerful engine roaring into life. Instantly the band’s sound polymerised into a synthesis of funk, rock and blues grooves, a blues machine belting along on a predefined course - solid, steady and unstoppable. And all powered from the engine house that was Sam Kelly’s drumming. 

“Your charts..” I asked him later. “You write them in music notation?”

“Yes. I've taught myself” he explained. “I play with so many different bands that even when they cover the same songs, there will be differences in tempo, arrangement, breaks etc. It becomes difficult to remember which style is which, so I make notes.”

The band features songs from their two CDs. One of my favourites of the evening was Junior Wells’ “Little by Little” which closed the band’s first set. The song was delivered with a driving beat and featured a rollicking organ solo by Steve Oakman and a snazzy drum accompaniment and short solo by Sam. 

The bluesy ballad “Damn Your Eyes” covered by Etta James on her 1989 album “Seven Year Itch” was particularly suited to Debbie’s voice, and one of the numbers that showed off her vocal savoir faire and lyrical sensitivity.

The band delivered a credible version of Little Willie John’s “Take My Love” featuring a zestful and gutsy vocal by Debbie and a piano solo by Steve on his Nord keyboard. The song ended with an extended cadence during which Debbie turned and sang directly at Sam as if she was a torero taunting a bull, cajoling him to play some freewheeling drum rolls and pulsating rhythms. Sam saw the red cape and charged!

The concluding number was Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” showcasing each of the band members in turn, and culminating in a driving drum solo by Sam during which he sang scat along with his drumming.

All in all, a really enjoyable evening of funky blues, soulful rock, and the overriding rhythms of a rolling steam train. The train leaves at midnight, folks! Get your tickets now!

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Raising A Little Sand

Electric Experience at the Malt Shovel Tavern 
27th February 2013

Electric Experience is a three-piece outfit from the London area devoted primarily, though not exclusively, to the music of Jimi Hendrix. As well as Hendrix perennials the band’s set usually consists of numbers from Cream’s back catalogue, the odd track from The Who, The Doors, Santana, and a couple of their own.

I’ve seen the band perform at the Malt Shovel Tavern and The Wig and Pen (another local Northampton music venue) on a number of occasions, and I can safely say that Electric Experience is one of the more popular bands to perform here.

But it’s just another Hendrix tribute band, I hear you say! So what?

In one way, I agree. But on a different level, Electric Experience offers a pretty convincing jaunt back to the psychedelic era of the mid-to-late 60s.

Many imminent guitarists have covered Hendrix’s work - Gary Moore, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Gales amongst them, as well as countless cover bands. Even blues bands invariably cover one or two Hendrix numbers.

In addition to being a real crowd pleaser, Hendrix has become a kind of standard for measuring a guitarist’s ability. If the guitarist pulls it off, the performance is usually followed by loud cheers of approval. Hendrix material is therefore more often than not used by guitar players as a way of showing off their technical abilities. After all, nobody is going to argue with Hendrix, right? But it rarely goes beyond that.

With Peter Orr, however, you know he can cut it. He’s been doing it for years, so forget it! You can go beyond the technical details and get into the spirit of the music. Needless to say, Electric Experience has many admirers among the Malt Shovel’s faithful, and there was a good turnout for the gig.

Unlike other guitarists who take Hendrix’s licks and chord structures, and expand, adapt or transmute them - effectively creating a new piece of music in their own style, Orr makes no attempt to superimpose any individualistic style or guitar signature over the original material. He keeps fairly true to Hendrix’s original recordings, and his playing intentionally emulates the great man as closely as is humanly possible. As a result, you end up with a pretty authentic rendition of some of the more famous Hendrix songs.

Aural stimulation is a powerful agent on the memory cells, and Orr’s elaboration and attention to detail acts like a bridge to another time and place; much like a medium facilitating a séance. His playing evokes a feeling of transcendency, and before you know it, you could easily find yourself basking in the nebulous irradiation of a purple haze. If you’re lucky, you might even get to kiss the sky!

That was my expectation anyway as I ventured out into a cold dark Wednesday night to catch the band’s nth performance at the Malt Shovel Tavern. But things didn't go according to plan, and my feet never left the ground.

Maybe it’s just maturing age, but I seem to be getting less and less tolerant to loud music. It’s not a complaint I’ve had with the Electric Experience before, but tonight they were LOUD. A familiar theme was beginning to repeat itself again – the snare drum and lead guitar (see 52nd Street Reverie).

Then I noticed the bassist Andy Tolman had something in his ears. Ear plugs!

As it happened, I’d brought a pair along myself, just in case – a pair of general-purpose foam type plugs. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as they say. So I popped a pair into my own ears.

The effect was dramatic - comparable to the difference between driving a go-kart at speed around a racing circuit and driving a warm sound-insulated soft-suspensioned executive saloon on a motorway. The saloon buffers you from the harshness of the outside environment, but you don’t get to feel the exhilaration and thrill like you do when driving a go-kart, despite the attendant noise and vibrations. The ear-plugs reduced the sound intensity to a comfortable level, but I was also strangely isolated in my own cocoon, my experience of the music benumbed.

“Try silicon ones next time” a friend advised me at the end of the gig, producing a pair he’d been wearing from his pocket.

The band’s drummer John Tonks also produced a pair of custom-made earplugs which he was wearing during the gig.

“Specially moulded to my ears” he told me. “With changeable filters”

“They don’t muffle the sound like bog-standard ones” he continued. “You can still hear quite clearly, but at a lower volume. These ones reduce the sound levels by -15 Db, which is equivalent to a fivefold reduction. But some of the bands I play with are REALLY loud, so I use -25 db filters. ”

“Harley Street Hearing” Tolman interjected as he was passing, referring to his preferred supplier located at the London hub of private health clinics and medical practises.

“I was using rolled up tissue paper” Orr simpered. “Besides, they’re more hygienic”

Jeez! Was I the only one still wet behind the ears? The only one not to have grasped the benefits of ear protection at live gigs until now? This revelation seems to mock my former ranting about loud bands (see previous gig reviews).

During the interval, I’d had a conversation with a friend who was seated directly in front of Peter Orr’s position – in the direct line of fire, as it were. He objected when I complained that the band was too loud.

“No!” he objected “It’s just right.”

Which goes to prove that different people have different noise level tolerances. I think I may need to investigate this little revelation further.

Keeping their feet firmly on the ground, the remainder of the band’s complement of guitar, bass and drums was drawn from a crème-de-la-crème of musicians from London and the South East.

Peter’s sidekick on bass was the unassuming Andy Tolman. Andy’s outwardly laid-back and rather staid stage presence gives very little clue as to his musical prowess, but in my opinion, he’s one of the best bassists currently playing the UK’s blues circuit.

Andy takes the bass guitar from being merely an accompaniment instrument to a complete instrument in its own right. His musical knowledge and fret-board dexterity stretch far beyond the confines of the blues or rock idioms; competently demonstrated by his Latin-style bass solo on “Black Magic Woman” and his funky slap-bass solo on “Voodoo Chile”. No doubt Andy would be equally at home in a Latin or jazz fusion combo.

"...a vintage 1971 Ludwig drum kit..."
Completing the line-up on drums, John Tonks has been playing with the band for a few years now. John is one of the drummers to fill the vacant seat in the band left by the amazing Dave Innis, who moved back to Scotland some years ago. Sporting a vintage 1971 Ludwig drum kit, John undertook his duties with typical fervour and agility, and put on a display of blistering drumability rarely equalled at the Malt Shovel since Innis’s departure from these regions.

Notable songs during the evening's performance included The Doors “Riders of the Storm”; Santana’s version of the Peter Green classic “Black Magic Woman” featuring the Latin-style bass solo by Tolman; and Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile”, which included Andy’s funk-style slap-bass solo and a blistering drum solo by John.

But the highpoint for me was the band's literal interpretation of Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9” which featured in the 1969 film Easy Rider. I was bowled over by Orr’s mimicry of Hendrix’s flighty guitar work and Tonk’s explicit rendition of Mitch Mitchell's drum patterns from the original recording.

As it happened, the band didn’t cover the Hendrix classic "Purple Haze" during the show. So we didn’t get to “kiss the sky”, but we did managed to “raise a little sand.”

Sound clip:

Listen to If 6 Was 9
recorded live at the gig (links to external web site) 


Peter Orr - Guitar and vocals
Andy Tolman - Bass and backing vocals
John Tonks - Drums and backing vocals

High-Octane Blues

Simon "Honeyboy" Hickling at the Malt Shovel Tavern

30 January 2013

The veteran blues-rocker Simon “Honeyboy” Hickling has been a mainstay of the Midlands blues scene for over thirty years. But what is notable about Honeyboy, as opposed to other veterans of the 60s and 70s scene (such as John O’Leary, for example), is his energy and undying enthusiasm for the music. From the word go, Honeyboy hits the ground running, his trusty harmonica leading the charge. Backed by a line up of seasoned musicians, there’s no holding back this firestorm of a blues player.
The band are regular visitors to the Malt Shovel, usually booked to play at the venue on the lead up to Christmas. And I can understand why! A party animal at heart, Honeyboy likes to join in on the fun himself, and usually indulges in his favourite tipple at The Malt in the process. After all, it’s a relatively short drive back to Leicestershire after the gig, and he’s invariably accompanied by a non-drinking companion for the journey home. 

For me, Honeyboy is one act where I can get off my pundits chair and simply let my hair down (metaphorically speaking, of course, as I don’t have so much hair to “let down” any more). 

But don't get me wrong. If your thinking that this sounds like a rambunctious cacophony of blues and beer, think again! Honeyboy is a notable blues harp player, and knows his way around his instrument, even when standing on his head (not literally, but you know what I mean). Alternating between his hand-held "bullet" type microphone run through an amplifier and his vocal microphone, Honeyboy played some memorable blues classics, ranging from Little Walter's "Broke And Hungry" to Canned Heat’s “Going Up The Country.” He doesn't pull any punches, and his playing is straight Chicago-style blues, with a sound reminiscient of the great Little Walter. His playing is colourfully interspersed with some fine melodic runs, evoking comparisions to the legendary white bluesman Paul Butterfield.

Bob Wilson (guitar) had a classy eloquent style of playing, with a solid rock tone that contained more than a hint of country. His solos were neatly articulated, without the usual verbiage associated with so many blues guitar players’ performances. His guitar playing was notable for some clever use of the tremolo arm complimenting his fretwork, and the result was a seamless confluence of sound that gave his playing a unique and easily distinguishable signature. You know when you’re listening to a Bob Wilson solo.

The band performed two guitar instrumental numbers, each strategically placed at the middle point of both of the one hour, giving Honeyboy a welcome breather; but more importantly, a chance to replenish his glass at the bar.

The first instrumental was Bob's own take on the Freddie King's "The Stumble" and the second way the definitive Hammond organ classic "Green Onions", both of which were dispatched prefessionally and efficiently without the usual fanfare associated with such perennial masterpeices. 

Frank Walker took a bass solo on "The Stumble", and he'll be the first to admit that soloing is not his forte. But his solo provided a mellow placido to Bob's blistering guitar work.

Along with Frank on the bass, Tony Baylis on drums providing a solid back line to the band's effervescent front men. Tony, sporting a fine growth of head hair*, is another member of the band who is perfectly happy to remain in the background, and he put in a proficient and pragmatic performance on drums.

All in all, a rollickingly good evening of high-octane blues.  

Incidentally, the posponement of Honeyboy's Yuletide appearance at the Malt Shovel Tavern was reported at the time as a little "domestic" problem with the band. It turns out that this little "domestic" was nothing less than a motorcycle accident involving Honeyboy himself.

"You didn't know?" he exclaimed incredulously when I professed my surprise. "It was all over the newspaper!
Heavy Drinker Crashes Moror Cycle!" he concocted, laughing at the notion.

"I don't normally read the Dipso Times" I quipped, sensing his wind-up.

it turns out that the accident was far from being funny at the time. Honeyboy
sustained a number of cracked ribs, a punctured lung, and a badly shattered scapular!

"My shoulder still hurts a bit" he added.

But haven't we seen all this this before? Like with Bob Henrit? (see my review on the John Verity Band back in May 2011).

It seems that these old rockers never say die. And long may they continue!

* when you reach a maturing age, such things are noteworthy

Sound clip:

Listen to The Stumble recorded live at the gig (links to external web site)

Photo Album 2012

Blues at the Malt Shovel Tavern

* Click on image to view in large format

21st November 2012 - Robin Bibi Band

The Robin Bibi Band tear into a blues standard at the Malt Shovel Tavern

8th February 2012 - The John Verity Band

An art poster produced from photos taken at the gig


1st August 2012 - Blue Bishops

Blue Bishop's Geoff Grange strutting his stuff at the Malt Shovel gig

19th September 2012 -The Early Mac Band

Art poster of the Early Mac Band at the Malt Shovel Tavern

26th September 2012 - Mike Ridgeway's Mojo Hand

Mike Ridgeway's Mojo Hand - "...blues in retro livery"

"... impressed by the sonic quality of Adrian Wood’s stripped down drum kit.

Read full review and listen to the band performing at the gig

14th November 2012 - Trafficker

Trafficker in full flow at the Malt Shovel Tavern, Northampton

Trafficker's Tommy Allen on guitar and vocals