Category Archives: Blues

VIC & KEPI: ‘After the Flood.’

Wow!

You know how it is: you’re on coronavirus lockdown, stuck in the house. There are no shops open, which means no record stores to hang out in. But that doesn’t really matter, ’cause you ain’t working and have no money anyway.

Bored out your box, you half heartedly surf through Bandcamp looking for something fresh. But it’s a struggle.

Then, BOOM!

I’ll admit, it was the album’s artwork that first caught my eye. Then the names … VIC RUGGIERO & KEPI GHOULIE. I know these dudes. Well, I know of them – they both already have places in my record and CD collections, courtesy of their history with The Slackers and Groovie Ghoulies respectively. This was gonna be good.

In fact, it was more than’good.’ The next thirty-five minutes or so were spent foot tapping and bouncing around my room to a good, old fashioned, stripped back rhythm & blues vibe.

My first reaction was it reminded me very much of the Rolling Stones album, ‘Stripped‘ from around 1995. I had never really noticed before, but perhaps because of the song content on this album, there is a similarity at times between Vic and Mick’s vocal intonation.

And then, just as I was reveling in this comparison, I reached track four, ‘Bright Lights.’ Of course this is a Jimmy Reed standard, but I recognised it from an ‘unofficial’ Stones album from back in the day when their staple was covering some of the big blues players from USA.

(An old performance of ‘Big Kiss,’ from 2017)

Several songs on ‘After the Flood,’ sound familiar, I have to say, though I really have no idea as to the writing credits. I do know, though, that Vic & Kepi cover the Shangri-las – twice. ‘Big Kiss,‘ at track six is a slowed down version of the Sixties hit. It works really well, though I personally prefer the album-closing version of the track, ‘Great Big Reprise,’ which is a lot more ‘perky’ in its delivery

There’s something really endearing about an acoustic and more organic interpretation of rhythm & blues. Maybe it’s because the bass lines have more room to cut through and add to the bouncy feel; maybe it’s because, as in this case, Vic & Kepi are afforded space to blend their vocals and interaction, or maybe it’s just that good music doesn’t need to be over complicated and cluttered.

Seriously, there’s not one dodgy track on this album. It just feels like the lads are playing a relaxed, fun jam and somebody left the recording switch on accidentally.

Which, actually, if you read the notes to this Bandcamp release …..

RORY GALLAGHER: ‘Check Shirt Wizard.’

It’s sad to say that very often, when our musical heroes pass on, their legacy is somewhat tarnished by the release of substandard recordings.

This is perhaps understandable where more ‘commercial’ artists are involved, their estates and labels seeking to capitalize on the fans’ grief, and milk every last penny from their ‘investment.’

But commercialism was never the aim of the game for Rory Gallagher, and with brother Donal curating the recordings, you just know that whatever is / has been released posthumously will remain true to the ethos of Rory.

Last year saw the release of double (vinyl) album / triple (cd) ‘Blues,‘ and we fans thought it could never get better – all that time (I have been too lazy to add the track lengths up) devoted to Rory’s specialist genre? Pigs in you know what, we were. (Said Yoda. )

But it just has! Gotten better, that is.

Check Shirt Wizard,‘ reverses the format of the previous release and gives us a triple vinyl / double compact disc, which to my immature mind is a lot more sexy.
That said, I still bought both!

I’m conscious that many of Rory’s ever expanding fanbase were not fortunate enough to have seen him play ‘live.’ But this release is a perfect illustration of what it was like to have been at a show, some forty-three years ago. (Forty-three???!!)

Rory was in his prime. He was backed magnificently by Gerry, Rod and Lou – what I’d consider the strongest line-up he ever played with. A concert those days would last the best part of two hours, in often very basic and sweaty surroundings. No frills; no glitz; no glamour; no posing; no pouting. Just blues infused rock ‘n’ roll as God intended.

This 1977 UK tour, promoting the latest album ‘Calling Card,‘ took in twelve shows in sixteen days, an eleven day break, then another six shows in eight days, with a final date at the Royal Albert Hall no less, a further couple of weeks down the line. Touring certainly was a bit of a slog in those days, but if you wanted your music to heard, this is what you had to do.

But Rory loved it – and this was reflected in his shows: full of energy, but with humility and good humour. These three vinyl records (recorded variously at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Brighton Dome, Sheffield City Hall and Newcastle City Hall) totally encompass this.

Everything about ‘Check Shirt Wizard‘ is spot on. The sound quality is top end – a studio quality recording that fuses the electric atmosphere of a live show. The fold-out sleeve and the photographs are beautiful, as is the eight page, colour insert that takes the form of an outsize concert programme. (Remember them?)

Obviously this particular version is not on ‘Check Shirt Wizard,’ but it is from the same year,

The majority of the twenty tracks are upbeat, boogie and riff-laden, and although recorded over the four different venues, they have been compiled in such a manner as to give the feel of one show. This means that in keeping with his live shows, Rory slips in a few more acoustic blues numbers just after the mid point.

In addition to eight of the nine tracks originally on the ‘Calling Card‘ studio album (only ‘I’ll admit You’re Gone‘ is missing) ‘Check Shirt Wizard’ gives us blinding versions of what became ‘standards’ such as ‘Tattoo’d Lady,’ ‘Going To My Hometown,’ and of course, ‘Bullfrog Blues.’ The latter of these three really did make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, especially towards the end when over the top of a heavy boogie riff, Rory thanks the crowd for attending and acknowledges the band members in his own inimitable style: “Lou Martin on keyboards! Lou Martin! Yeah!”

Up till now, I have always held ‘Live in Europe‘ as my favourite album – not just of Rory Gallagher, but ‘favourite album’ full stop. This though, could well replace it. It’s an awesome collection that if time permits, should be listened through track by track to get that full on concert experience.

‘Check Shirt Wizard‘: they don’t make them like you anymore.

*****
I always wished to have been at a gig that was recorded for release as an album at a later date. I wasn’t at any of the four shows that are included here, but I was at the Glasgow show that predated the tour, and was sat (until the bouncers turned away) just two rows back from the ticket stub pictured on the inside back cover of the album insert!
*****

Introducing Roy Buchanan: The World’s Greatest Unknown Guitarist

I have taken the easy option here, because I know I couldn’t do any better! This post is reproduced with the kind permission of JIM S who runs the excellent MUSIC ENTHUSIAST blog / site.

I can’t say definitively how I came across the music of ROY BUCHANAN, but it would likely have been encouraged t explore more Blues material by the recordings of my ultimate musical hero, RORY GALLAGHER. Or perhaps it was the late night radio shows of JOHN PEEL.

Either way, my enthusiasm for the blues and ROY’S distinctive guitar playing style st me aside from my school pals who were all into the ‘accepted norm’ bands of the time like YES, DEEP PURPLE and PINK FLOYD.

This post by the MUSIC ENTHUSIAST is a really succinct piece on yet another tragic blues player taken from us to early. (I’d say ‘star’ but Roy was not the kind to go for that terminology).

(Thanks JIM S.)

I’ve added this to MUSIC ENTHUSIAST’S original post,, simply because it’s my favourite. Just check out the guitar solo from about 3 minutes, forty seconds in!

Music Enthusiast

“Probably the most original country style rock and roll guitar player. Has the nicest tone, the most amazing chops technically – superfast. And much neglected.” – Jerry Garcia on Roy Buchanan.

“We never heard anything quite like what Roy was doing. He interested the hell out of me. He’s not playing an arpeggio the way you learn an arpeggio. If you had studied the instrument you played straight on, the chromatic scale you’re taught in school (sic). This guy was anything but conventional – he was just out there. He was unrestricted, as far as what he played. If he felt like getting from here to there, it didn’t matter how he got there. If he didn’t pick it, he plucked it with his fingers. There were no rules with Roy. He was cruising down his own lane.” – Les Paul on Roy Buchanan

“I found something at church I…

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DAVE ARCARI: ‘Brexit Blues.’

“Dave plays like he got his skin turned inside out and pretty soon my skin was inside out too listening and it was all good. That boy bleeds for you – he a real down deep player and a soul man…” SEASICK STEVE.

Neither a pro-, nor -anti-, Brexit song, Brexit Blues is more an observation of the current chaotic and confusing state of the nation.

Alt Blues troubadour, Dave Arcari , releases his latest track via all the usual online outlets, today – Friday 7th June.

It must be the best part of twelve years since I first saw Dave play. I went to that show more out of curiosity . The gig posters described his music as ‘alt blues.’ And I knew his earlier band, Union Avenue had achieved ‘Record of the Week’ status on Mark Radcliffe’s radio show with their sort of hillbilly version of Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades.’ It all added up to a promising night.

A couple of songs into Dave’s solo set that night, and I was hooked. One guy, one guitar, one helluva party!

If there’s a band / artist out there more proactive and prolific than Dave Arcari, I’ve yet to come across them. When not touring USA, the UK and mainland Europe, especially Estonia and Finland, he’s at home on the banks of Loch Lomond in the West of Scotland, writing new material and showcasing it via Facebook to a growing number of fans. Not just, ‘showcasing’ the completed song – fan input is encouraged as to gig set-lists and tracks to be included on albums and EPs.

Brexit Blues‘ was in fact played live online to followers several weeks ago. Two versions were offered – this one, which obviously got the nod, and an electric version. Which got my nod … but hey ho.

This acoustic version, in hindsight, actually works better, with the juxtaposition of the light almost whimsical guitar work and air of resignation set against the heavy, oppressive atmosphere heaped upon the nation by the subject matter.


And that’s about as ‘political’ as either Dave or I are likely to get.

Here’s an additional video taken from the Dave Arcari website, which shows a bit more of what Dave and his music are all about.

(Dave Arcari if not touring your area, will at least be ‘live’ online via Facebook sometime soon. Don’t miss him, either way!)