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Author Topic: Country Blues Comes To Town  (Read 1429 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Country Blues Comes To Town
« on: May 12, 2008, 09:49:32 AM »
The discussion concerning "country blues" elsewhere coincides with my scanning a feature about British country blues and its exponents for Ian Anderson of fRoots magazine. What follows was published in a Focus On Folk Special Supplement, Melody Maker, August 1968:

Country Blues Comes To Town
Tony Wilson

The electric blues scene in this country has become an established part of the musical spectrum with groups like John Mayall's band, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, the Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown Blues Band leading the field.

In a way it's a renaissance because it was only a few years ago that interest in rhythm and blues was strong. With the teenies bopping to Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker ? and it was on this particular wave that the Rolling Stones rode in. The current blues same has possibly gone further back to nearer the grass roots, nevertheless, it is still pretty much an urban sound.

Now interest is building up in country blues and a number of singers are making themselves names in this area of the idiom. They have been working in folk clubs mainly but now country blues oriented clubs are beginning to spring up. Among the leaders of the country blues stylists are Jo-Ann Kelly already well known on the folk club circuit Mike Cooper and Dave Kelly

These singers, along with Simon [Prager] and Steve [Rye], the Panama Limited Jug Band and the now defunct Missouri Compromise, can be heard on an album issued last week. Titled "Blues Like A Shower Of Rain," it is the first release by the new Matchbox label.

The label, started by Gef Lucena's Saydisc company, will feature British and American country blues artists. Saydisc has already issued limited edition EPs by lan Anderson and Mike Cooper but the Matchbox label will be generally available. Saydisc have also issued some specialist albums , including folk and blues material but this is their big move into the blues record market.

Ian Anderson, recently living in Bristol and now resident in London, says "The interest that has been shown in the album has been, to us, phenomenal, not only from the folk club scene where most of us work, but from the electric blues scene."

Ian states that all the country blues singers seem to be getting more work, the excellent Jo-Ann Kelly, in particular, is already well known with her big blues vocals and bottleneck guitar work." I think we've been helped by Alexis Korner's Blues Roll On series of three radio programmes on British blues," says Ian.

The first country blues specialist club was Ian Anderson's Folk Blues Bristol and West club which featured Ian, Elliott Jackson and Mike Cooper. "The audience was up to 200 a night when I left," says Ian, who now appears regularly at London's country blues club, the Blues House at the Elephant and Castle. "Now there are quite a few clubs, In Brighton and Bournemouth for instance and universities are opening them up. Even in Ireland, I gather they're opening up. There's one club in Dublin and one in Belfast and both are thriving.

"The people who go to the city blues clubs are showing a heck of a lot of interest in the country blues, too."

With the first Matchbox label album out, Saydisc are planning the second which will include blues performers such as Andy Fernbach pianist Bob Hail, rag-time guitarist John James, Pete Dyer and another jug band. Recording is due to take place at the end of September and it is hoped that the tracks will be cut at Bob Hall's studios now being completed in South London. "The next step," says Ian," is to have albums with artists on the first album having half an album each."

The relationship between the country and urban blues bands and singers is a very good one. John Dummer who leads his own electric blues band, runs Sunday afternoon blues sessions at Ken Colyer's Club (Studio 51) Great Newport Street, in London's West End. "We often get Jo-Ann Kelly, Bob Hall and the Panama Limited jug band dropping in," says John. "Jo-Ann Kelly is really great, she knocks me out." So taken by Jo-Ann's singing is John that he asked her to sing on his band's forthcoming Mercury album "Cabal."

Another blues label, Blue Horizon, which issues albums by the Fleetwood Mac, the Chicken Shack and Champion Jack Dupree, have recently signed their first white country blues singer, Gordon Smith. Blue Horizon's Richard Vernon says that he is not sure whether they would sign another such singer "unless we find someone as good as Gordon Smith. We didn't intend to sign him at first but we decided that we couldn't let the chance go by. And we wanted to give variety to the label.

"The market isn't all that big at the moment, but I don't see why it shouldn't be with all forms of blues becoming accepted. We do have Duster Bennett too who is a mixture of electric and country blues." Duster is a sort of white Jesse Fuller and is something of a bridge between the two types of blues. Blue Horizon have just issued his first single "It's A Man Down There."

Perhaps the most ambitious venture involving all types of blues is the first National; Blues Convention at the Conway Hall. on September 7 and 8. Such artists as Stefan Grossman, Alexis Korner, Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation, Champion Jack Dupree plus a strong contingent from the country blues field will take part and it will, if successful, be one of the most comprehensive showcases of British blues ever presented.

The electric blues scene has arrived and now, with the enthusiastic work of  Ian Anderson, Jo-Ann Kelly, Mike Cooper and their fellow singers and musicians, the country blues have come to town.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Country Blues Comes To Town
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2008, 01:24:37 PM »
These were great days for the acoustic blues scene in the UK, weren't they? Just reading this brings back a lot of memories of many fine players, some of whom (like Jo-Ann) who are sadly no longer with us. Like many Melody Maker articles, this one is very 'southern-centric' in respect of the artists mentioned. The vibrant scenes in West Yorkshire and the North East don't rate a mention, sadly. Still, just imagine a return nowadays to 200+ audiences at club gigs? Thanks, as ever, for posting this gem.

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Country Blues Comes To Town
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2008, 01:20:55 AM »
Oh the memories!  Thanks for that, BH.

Another strange coincidence is that through Roger Hubbard I have just made contact with Graham Hine, another Blues Goose artist and member of Brett Marvin & the Thunderbolts (a country blues band with the whole band playing through a 15 watt amp!!).  Graham and I were talking in our e-mails about the Sunday sessions down at the venue Studio 51, which we all called "Colyer's" after the owner, British jazzer, Ken Colyer.  I was there pretty well every Sunday afternoon in the early 70s.  Maybe you were as well Bunker Hill??
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob


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