THE BLACK LILLIES + Archie Brown quartet @ JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY2 NEWCASTLE 15/02/17
Knoxville six-piece The Black Lillies were the latest act to grace the Jumpin’ Hot Club stage on making their English debut. & on pulling an enthusiastic audience, all was set for a night of fun & more .
It may not have been chalked up on the admittance poster but fun was high on the agenda tonight as The Black Lillies aimed to make a favourable impression. A mixture of traditional barroom room country spiced with incessant urgency had front man Cruz Contreras (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards) lead the line in fine fashion.
They could all play, but with pedal steel, electric guitar, bass, drums and fellow vocalist, sweet voiced Haley Cole at times all fighting for pole positive they did not always make the best of their respective talent. Then again, that could be a matter for debate as their a relatively all new band ( Haley not even a month into her job as co- vocalist)
Support act ... Archie Brown Quartet (accordion, fiddle, upright bass) put all their excellence to great effect, and with Archie Brown’s world weary vocals cushioned, expertly I have rarely heard him in better or more commanding form. Among Archie's best work you had “Lowlife” and “Can’t Get Used To It”, songs that provided violinist Bradley Creswick to explore avenues not usually accustomed for the leader of the Northern Symphonia. One could not have asked for more really, from a set of musicians opening the show.
Leader for the Black Lillies, Cruz Contreras seemed to have been on a mission to perform all songs from their previous albums, and if it wasn’t for a curfew the band may well have done so . When it comes to hard work, the Black Lillies like , the Turnpike Troubadourslast week, give thir fans, great value for their money.
Some of their songs of the greatest merit, enjoyed travel themes and love relationships that took the listener on exciting trips through their home state of Tennessee, North Carolina and on one song spoke of a journey from Louisiana to LA. “Dancin’ with Haley Cole sharing lead vocals was one of their very best, and it was in excellent company with the R&B styled “Mercy” plus the wonderful “Two Hearts Down”. As for one of their most popular country rock songs, “Runaway Freeway Blues” had the place set to erupt - as was the wild applause that was given afterwards. Hot of the heels of “Runaway Freeway Blues” you also had “Smokestack Lady” and the likes of “Desire”, with such evocative lyrics ‘silhouette on a blood red sky I could see fire in your eyes’ the band were picking up new fans at every turn.
With time about to be called Cruz (who’s voice on occasions possessed hints of 1990s country favourite Clint Black) and Haley , of whom I could have heard more, whisked through “Hard To Please”. On switching from his regular acoustic guitar to keyboards Contreras let ‘er rip as the band just kept rocking the joint. In fact they rocked all night long !
Maurice Hope - pics Juan Fitzy
The Mastersons + Anthony D ‘Amato - Jumpin Hot Club @ Caedmon Hall – Sat 11th Feb 17
The Mastersons made a welcome return to The Jumping Hot Club (the stars of Made in T&W TV) and to the first show of the year in a venue, just perfect for their semi acoustic country /americana music - Caedmon Hall, Gateshead. Playing tunes from both their old albums and some from the forthcoming third album “ Transient Lullaby “ their harmonies and musicianship was second to none. Chris Masterson on guitar & his missus Eleanor on fiddle & tenor guitar not only have the chops but their story songs are just so damn good. New song’s such as "Highway 1" which inspired a couple to stay together although “they don’t breathe the same air “and the poppy & eerie "Fight" which celebrated in a funny way , the ups and downs of their seven year marriage with lines such as " I don’t want to fight with anyone else but you" had the crowd clapping along as instructed by the charming Mr Masterson. They had plenty of earlier material too in their 75 min’s set to enjoy like “Cautionary Tale" where a comment on modern technology such as mobile phones & a catchy fiddle arrangement made for one of the best songs of the evening. One of my other favourite’s was the title track from their second album " Good Luck Charm" which showed both a fear of the world at present and of pre Valentines day love " You can hold my hand I sure could use a good luck charm"…it was simply poptastic.
No wonder Steve Earle has them in his backing band on all his major tours, as they are a major league talent.
The Finale highlight was the Bob Dylan cover gem "You Ain't Going Nowhere” accompanied by their support act Anthony D’Amato, for a resounding pre St Valentines day highlight.
Special mention must also go to the support act New York singer songwriter Anthony D'Amato who jumped around the stage with energy & verve playing guitar and harmonica with a Dylanesque quick fire vocal style. His ode “Honey That’s Not All" being outstanding.
Jumping Hot Club just keeps the high standard going & going well into their fourth decade.
Words & pics Juan Fitzgerald
TURNPIKE TROUBADOURS - JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ CLUNY 2 NEWCASTLE 05/02
Oklahoma-band the Turnpike Troubadours and their fans won’t forget the English debut in quite a while & I certainly won’t either. Such was the energy that filled the air, the band were made to feel right at home immediately as they set foot on stage. It would be fair to say they were taken aback with the instant response from the jam -packed Cluny audience.
Cheered on by an enthusiastic audience including a healthy share of young happy faces (including some who’d travelled over the pond for their tour) the band led by Evan Felker (acoustic guitar, harmonica lead vocals) torn up Sunday night with their head-on brand of Americana. Possessing drive and charisma Evan & the boys (pedal steel, fiddle, bass, lead guitar and drums) ploughed headlong into their best work from their most recent record, Turnpike Troubadours along with fans favourites from earlier recordings.
With little time to draw breath they made full use of their 90minute stage time. It was like they wanted to play all their established fan’s favourites, and at the same time let everyone else know just what they have been missing. I have to put my hand up for till tonight I was of the latter category.It was one of those nights the venue was flooded with discerning fans of a group or artist and were thrilled to bits to get to see their heroes. For a band to posses such a pull they not only have to be good but also have to thrive on hardwork ! Girls with drinks in their hands were lined up at the edge of the stage, some dancing, then others singing the word to every song. One girl in particular was to experience an unforgettable night.
Once she regained her breath on receiving a package containing a red rose delivered by TT leader Evan Felker on her boyfriend’s behalf, and seen her prince charming get down on one knee, propose to her and place a ring on her finger, she was in seventh heaven. Such was the intensity of Turnpikes music and songs “The Bird Hunters”, “Down Here” and “Gin, Smoke, Lies” plus one of their best “Easton & Main” the band in some ways made me think of the first time I saw Scott Miller perform in his own right. Only with a little bit more added as in pedal steel and surges of electric lead and incredible fiddle work of Kylie Nix (he was of another class) pressed all buttons possible to ensure the band’s charismatic Turnpike’s leader enjoyed a platform to work from. But it really wasn’t about one Turnpike player or another.
On the subject of songs there was a bunch I would recommend people to check out such as “Bossier City”, the dynamic “The Mercury”, & the amazing tune “Long Drive Home” that saw them vacate the stage for the last time.
Yes, this was most certainly a special night. Let’s all hope the newly engaged Austin Texas couple Kris Mews and Tori Rolen will savour the occasion for a great many years.
While opening act Liverpool’s Robert Vincent and his band did their reputation no harm at all, it was all about the debut on English soil of one of Oklahoma’s finest and of course, the question we were all asking was - when can we expect to see this exciting band back here.
Maurice Hope + pics Juan Fitzgerald
JAMES McMURTRY- JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ THE CLUNY, NEWCASTLE 03/02/17
Americana singer-songwriter James McMurtry and his band were nicely into their 31 night straight European tour when they took to the Cluny stage. Since the last time McMurtry was here not only had he cut his hair but he’d also shaved off his beard. Apart from looking smarter, visually, it was pretty much as before on the song front.Followed by band members Darren Hess (drums), Cornbread (electric bass), they put to bed a handful of songs before Tim Holt (electric guitar, accordion) joined the party.
McMurtry opened with “Bayou Tortue”, and in no time he was into “Just Us Kids” and firing on all cylinders; with the music keener and hunger rekindled we were in for a killer gig! On listening to his inspired descriptive lyrics it was like he blows the lid off the art. Who but him would come up with ‘all bunched up like pearls on a string’ as he describes the lights of trucks on the horizon on the highway as darkness falls.
McMurtry is one of a kind, his gritty songs are peppered with lyrics powerful enough to make one jolt, and with his electric guitar and a powerful rhythm in support he held court. Stopping every now and again to change guitars, swopping an old electric for a Gibson acoustic and a mouthful of water he dug back into his war chest for one of his biggest songs “Choctaw Bingo” plus “Painting By Numbers”, “Childish Things and “The Buffalo’s Gone’. It was a non-stop procession of treasures from McMurtry as other standards “Red Dress”, “Too Long In The Wasteland” and others decorated the recently refurbished Cluny stage.
His latest record Complicated Game was well represented as one new treasure after another was performed. Songs about real people or at very least inspired by those he’s met or come to know came in“Copper Canteen” “These Things I’ve Come To Know” (just him and an acoustic guitar), and a song written one drunken night in New Orleans “Ain’t Got A Place”. It was a thrill a minute night as McMurtry dipped into his songbook and come up with image prompting new songs “You Got To Me” and a memory from his childhood days when he learnt to fish at “Deaver’s Crossing”. Even after, seemingly all his energy expelled McMurtry still had a couple of aces up his sleeve when it came time to pull the plug from the amp and bid goodnight. “Lights Of Cheyenne” was a great choice to close with. Just him and his guitar he performed the song superbly, but how else would a man who is a genuine American treasure close a gig! Even then there were a pack of more winners still left unheard at The Cluny like “Hurricane Party”, “We Can’t Make It Here” and “Ruby And Carlos”. Songs big enough to make up the core of most other acts performance and I have but only brushed the surface of material synonymous with this remarkable talent.
Prior to which Chicago blues – free jazz trio Alice Drinks The Kool Aid had warmed the stage with some solid work. Lead vocalist brewery owner Tony Magee will go down in history as the man who brought over from the States crates of free beer to be consumed.
Maurice Hope - pix Juan Fitzgerald
PHIL WIGGINS, BEN HUNTER & JOE SEAMONS + CD Wallum - JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ THE LIVE THEATRE, NEWCASTLE 29/01
Blues, 1930s style with the odd addition or two. Phil Wiggins, Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons covered them all; as songs from The Mills Brothers, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong featured alongside early country blues for an amazing evening..
Dressed accordingly, Wiggins (harmonica, vocals) and Hunter (fiddle, mandolin, vocals) and Seamons (banjo, guitar) regaled the audience with their music and tales about some of the greats of the time & more.
The audience were held in awe at the presence of the legendary harmonica player Wiggins, Seamons and the innovative Hunter. Equally at ease on fiddle and mandolin, and arguably at his best on the latter his star shone brightly through out.
Seamons likewise was forever prodding and probing as the trio performed “(In The Evening) When The Sun Goes Down”, “Jones Oh Jones” and with Hunter simultaneously playing fiddle and singing lead, a terrific version of “John Henry”.
Steeped in tradition, and legendry tales of Blind Boy Fuller and Lonnie Johnson the good times flowed. It has been said ‘what Armstrong did for the trumpet Johnson did for blues guitar! & for this ‘trio’ they are championing roots blues in a fashion that would be very hard to beat.
Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures Of Plenty” (taken from a new album of Woody’s songs Roll On Columbia gained a slot, and with current Stateside policies this song has became even more meaningful as it spoke of the plight of the poor immigrant. Seamons lead vocals provided the much-covered song with an ideal texture that again, would be very hard to beat.
Hunter understandably was keen to question his country’s decision to place the restrictions it has; however tradition and parameters are forever changing.
Highlights included, their general playing and their great bond shared on and off the stage, “Stop & Listen Blues” and “Jazz Fiddler” from the famed Mississippi Sheiks were worthy of a mention. . While a song about ‘a date’ and a man named Billy Morgan lifted the mood as if it was needed. As for an encore that came after almost two hoursof playing & they came back on stage with a terrific version of Nina Simone’s “Sinner Man”. By this time, they could do no wrong or approach anything near it. Hunter’s arms were going in all directions as he played spoons with Wiggins and Seamons tagging along;
“Sinner Man” probably alongside the trio’s opener, a stirring a cappella version of “Leave That Liar Alone” and Wiggins’ enthusiastic rendition of “Do You Call That A Buddy” made a special place in my hear on the night, . But, so did a good few others during their long set.
Support came from Leeds-based young blues guitarist/singer, Chris Wallum who also performed more tasteful music of the era. His version of “Rag Mama Rag” coupled with Jimmie Rodgers’ “My Old Pal” and the golden sound from his acoustic guitar ensured he left a favourable impression.
Maurice Hope - pics Juan Fitzzzy
LINDSAY LOU & THE FLATBELLYS / This Little Bird - JUMPIN’ HOT CLUB @ THE LIVE THEATRE NEWCASTLE 26/01/17
Michigan-formed, now East Nashville-based Lindsay Lou and her three-piece band The Flatbellys brought a fine blend of folk, bluegrass, country and some gospel/ soul to the Jumpin Hot Club, previewing songs from their forth-coming album & more.
Wonderfully varied, Their performance was entertaining from their first song to the last. The band all sang and at one time or another played upright bass as instruments were exchanged all through the show.
Accomplished in all areas; Lindsay Lou (guitar, lead vocals) Joshua Rilko (mandolin), PJ George (upright bass) and Mark ‘Huggybear’ Lavengood (dobro) performed music guaranteed to gain an in-road into the heart and soul of fans of the above. Ever keen to keep their music organic driven, even their records are made in old by their standards, locations. With a new set for release this spring they were kind enough to share a sample.
“Hot Hands” featuring some amazing hot licks from mandolin man Josh coupled with “Iron Bell” which was performed solo, by Lindsay Lou on guitar and harmonica were up with the rest.
They opened with a version of “High Sierras” & it soon became very evident that the band’s strengths lie in the ‘to die for’ three-part harmony vocals and playing opposed to Lindsay Lou commandeering the vocal spot - as hers and hers alone.
When the audience weren’t mesmerised by the changing of instruments and, or harmonies they were engrossed in songs like “A Woman Needs A Man”, (the idea from a bumper sticker A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle) “Sugar” (a song about addiction) and PJ lead singing on the superb “The River I Knew” (Minnesota’s many lakes and rivers)
Interspersed was a little banter “The River Jordan”, “The Power” and an audience participated “Shining In The Distance” all these vied for best song of the evening.
On their way home the audience had a good many things to muse over. Of the many virtues of their performance & of how tastefully the music all welded together.
Support from local girl, Seaham singer-songwriter Rebecca Young (This Little Bird) was likewise appreciated as she performed a fine collection of her work. The pick of the litter was a well-written and clever “Anemone”, as her music loosened up to advantageous effect.
Maurice Hope - pics Juan Fitzgerald
THE CACTUS BLOSSOMS/ Howlin Ric & The Rackateers - JUMPIN HOT CLUB @ THE LIVE THEATRE, NEWCASTLE 20/01/17
Minneapolis sibling act, The Cactus Blossoms (Jack Torrey and Page Burkum) accompanied by upright bass (Andy Carroll) and drums (Chris Hepola) attracted a full house on making their North East debut. Walking, casually, on stage with no fanfares or jumped up egos the boys soon made them selves feel at home. I had very much looked forward with great expectation to this show , and wasn’t about to be disappointed.
It was already common knowledge through their Red House album debut You’re Dreaming of their riveting vocal harmonies, but I hadn’t realised just how accomplished, and stylish was the electric guitar (tiny it was too) playing of the ever busy Jack Torrey.
The Cactus Blossoms led the audience through a sound that goes right back to the 1950s and 1960s; one as rich and pure as fruit picked straight from the orchard. Their stash made up of lesser-known gems and quirky appetisers included a totally unexpected cover of the Kinks’ mid-1960s song “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” and 50’s country duo Johnny and Jack’s wacky and older still “Uncle John’s Bongo”.
Hugely entertaining and innovative they did justice to Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line”, and from way back time and fitting like a glove, the classic “Tennessee Border”.
No time was lost between songs as they eased from one song to another. Not least among the other highlights that came thick and fast were the boys own show stoppers “Stoplight Kisses”, “Adios Maria” and heartfelt environmental piece “Change Your Ways Or Die”. Here is a song that will just not go away. Due both to the state of the planet and quality of the lyrics and harmonies & of course the terrific rhythmic bass, percussion and rhythm guitar. This was closely followed by “Powder Blue”, arguably the most potent moment of the evening.
They then eased into Chuck Berry’s “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”, fittingly dedicated to former American president, Barrack Obama the audience showed their appreciation of the sentiment.
It was one of those nights when the standard of entertainment met everyone’s hopes, and wishes and then some; and that includes the rousing performance of opening act, Howlin’ Ric & the Racketeers ! Ric and the bands debut performance demanded a return visit-, the Summertyne Fest would be most fitting. As for on the night, the Leeds five-piece of acoustic guitar, electric lead guitar, slap bass, saxophone and drums ignited the touch paper with their self-penned tunes and dynamic style.
Fans of old-fashioned rock’n’roll and early country were well served and those unfamiliar (if that is possible) were signing-up after the show. They were that good!
Maurice Hope - Pics CJ Holley