Keeping the blues alive

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Jim Crawford supported by Danny Kyle @ the Hawth 25/3/18 submitted to Blues in Britain by Graham Hutton

It’s good to see people play who you have never heard of before, especially if they come highly recommended by people you trust, and Jim Crawford was one such person.

Jim was supported by Danny Kyle, an affable young man who, aided by his new Gretch parlour guitar gave us about 30 minutes of excellent roots blues.

Fingerpicking his way through ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’, past Scott Joplin’s ‘The Entertainer’ and into a slow version of ‘Come On In My Kitchen’ with some lovely delicate slide work.

Danny is well thought of at the club and there are plans for him to return for a full set as soon as dates can be confirmed.

What can I say about Jim Crawford? Originally from Lancashire and now living in Appledore, he initially comes across as a bit on the ‘slow and careful’ side but has a wicked sense of humour and a whole raft of anecdotes to choose from whilst tuning his guitars.

His introduction to ‘Trouble in Mind’ was ‘some old blues to make you really fed up’, but it did the exact opposite.

Elizabeth Cotton is one of his favourite early female blues artists and his version of ‘Shake Sugaree’ certainly did her justice with some community singing during the chorus.

Jim fingerpicked his Ukulele to excellent effect for the fast ‘Stagger Lee’ which highlighted just how talented he is before moving on to some self-penned numbers, ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ and ‘When The Rains Came’ which was recorded by Beth Rowley and much to his surprise, used on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.

Danny joined Jim on stage along with Fred Ball, another of the club’s founders, for John Lee Hooker’s ‘Crawlin King Snake’. It was the first time i’d heard Fred play the harp and a great job he did of it as well.

Jim ended the evening with a bit of telephone gospel ‘Jesus On the Mainline’ to liven things up before we all went home.

Yet another great artist with a strong connection to Crawley Blues Club, giving the audience an excellent night’s entertainment.

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The Elevators @ the Hawth 8/12/17 forwarded to BiB December 2017

This is a gig that needs to be contextualised in that it was a landmark show being the final one for the band in period that spanned over three decades. The club will be celebrating their 20th anniversary in January ’18 and the music has been overlapped and intertwined over that period, in fact you could argue that the Elevators are/were synonymous with Crawley Blues club. The line-up retained the same rhythm section with Mick Hill on drums, Martin Robinson on bass and Phil Greaves on rhythm guitar (a gross understatement, more like joint lead). The two relative newcomers were the superlative Paul Rawson on lead and Fran Galpin on vocals. If that were not enough the band were augmented by a frequent guest Richard ‘Wandering Wilf’ Taylor on harp & vocals.

The air of expectation and emotion was palpable in the packed audience, many of whom were regular attendees knowing this was going to be a nigh to remember. The gig was to be recorded for posterity, however the only blip was that only the second set was captured. In the context of the track I am currently listening to ‘Oh well’…….. sums it up exactly.

The evening kicked off in high tempo with ‘Further on up the road’, which showcased the many talents of the group and encapsulated what I had heard in the lengthy soundcheck. The bands repertoire is extensive, very much in the Chicago blues tradition featuring tracks from early Mayall (Bluesbreakers, Hard Road & Crusade albums), early Fleetwood Mac (“Dog and the dustbin & Mr Wonderful), the Kings BB & Freddie and many more too numerous to mention. Picking out some highlights their version of the Bertha ‘Chippie’ Hill classic ‘Trouble in mind’ was very much their own with wonderful, slow guitar passages exchanging the lead between Rawson & Greaves superbly interspersed with Taylor’s wailing harp. It is difficult review such an event without it becoming a set list, but the playing of standards, high standards in the form of ‘Bright lights big city’ & ‘Reconsider baby’ hopefully help to give those who were not present a feel for the evening. I choose these numbers as they are known to many of us, however the true skill is the interpretation, which was masterful. Here was a band at the top of their game, enjoying every moment as much as the audience who played their part to the full, with enthusiastic support plus several standing ovations.

Talking to many of the audience in the interval the consensus was that the evening to date had surpassed their expectations. The band returned as a four piece and went into what is one of the most iconic instrumentals ‘The Stumble’ written by King & Thompson and appeared on “Hard Road” featuring Peter Green. The band were tight, and the soloing of Greaves on his Gibson 335 and Rawson transported us all back to the sixties. ‘All your loving’ from the “Beano” album, written by Otis Rush, which featured Clapton on lead was next up and has phrasing that you are listening for, it was spot on. The title track ‘Hard road’ followed, which is a blues classic with Galpin’s soaring vocals and sympathetic guitar passages, very much the bands own interpretation. Certain riffs evoke memories of where you were at certain times in your life and have the ability of transporting you back in time. One such riff is the opening bars of ‘Oh well’ which also has certain drum patterns, another classic, but the real surprise was the segue into Willie Dixon’s ‘Spoonful’ and the haunting harp solos, which ebbed & flowed. At times such as these you realise how much the blues has to offer and when friends & colleagues dismiss the blues as being sombre or even downright depressing you wish they could experience music such as this which lifts the soul. At one moment I heard sounds from a gig many years ago, the one and only time I saw the original Canned Heat band, praise indeed. The mood changed again with the Moon Mullican number ‘7 nights to rock’, which has a jump jive vibe and featured vocal duets and harp harmonisation plus skatting. ‘It’s automatic, not sure of the author was said by Fran to be harmonica led and on its conclusion extolled the virtues of Wilf on harp replied modestly “Just having fun folks, that’s what it is all about. Try as I may I could not put it more eloquently, leave it to the musicians. ‘Key to the highway’ was co-written by Broonzey and is a case of a song being embellished over a period of time and a staple of Clapton’s songbook, which allowed the band to showcase their individual talents once more, but sadly we knew the gig was coming to the end. The penultimate track was Freddie King’s ‘Tore down’, which allowed us to soak up more of Paul Rawson’s guitar virtuosity. As an aside to the final number Wilf, who by profession works for a well know airline associated with Gatwick, he was asked by a Scandinavian passenger if he had wifi (pronounced literally rather that our wyfi!) to which he replied “no”, whereupon the passenger said that another British Airline had it, looking bemused he said, “it’s probably the drains?” at which point the man sat down dejectedly. Wilf returned to his seat and mentioned this conversation to a colleague and said the that man wanted WiFi….. You needed to have been there. Introduced as ‘One way out’ the feeling was that of West Coast blues and the lyrics like ‘There’s a man down there’, definite strains of Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield. The audience were on their feet applauding and shouting for more as the band took a bow and exited stage right.

As the clamour for an encore reverberated around the studio I allowed myself some brief period to reflect upon our association with the band, who often played for us in various venues during the December period. With a tinge of sadness, I recalled the former leader of the band John Whippy, who died over ten years ago, a wonderful, kindred spirit with a penchant for guitars and sound equipment. On some occasions they enlisted the help of a four-piece brass, who sight read the material from music stands initially, but in latter states they jammed with the band. One such night at the Railway club John turned up with a car full of sound equipment, which he dutifully set up on a dodgy ring main with flaky circuit breakers. During the first number, probably ‘Hideaway’ they blew the fuses, descending the venue into complete darkness. After a period of a few seconds the brass kicked in acoustically to save the start of the session, after which we manned the circuit breakers through the gig. What fond memories!

My recollections were stopped abruptly by the band returning for encore medley starting with ‘Sweet home Chicago. Not the usual rendition as Paul was playing electric slide to the gravelly vocals of Wilf, sounding like the Wolf himself. There were strains of ‘Dust my blues’ in the mix segueing into ‘Dr Brown’. The overall feel was of musicians and audience alike who did not want the evening to end. During the Dr Brown section while Fran was singing Wilf was using the mic like an intercom to stunning effect, calling to the doctor in question. All too soon it was over, however the band clearly wanted to play again saying that if there were venues with good PA’s and appreciative audiences they would not rule out the odd gig. The reply from everyone in the venue was rousingly in the affirmative. What a night, glad that some of it was captured on record.

As a coda to the night itself and the influences mentioned in the article of Mayall & Mac, we had in the space of six weeks Mike Vernon & the Mighty Combo perform then John Mayall supported by Buddy Whittington. I used the opportunity to dust off some old vinyl which were signed by the artist and the producer respectively. I was able to give one of the albums to Martin as an early festive present. Many times, have I been asked about why I promote the music, it’s for evening such as these. ‘Just having fun folks’.


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Ben Tyzack & Guy Tortora 16/03/18 submitted to Blues in Britain by Graham Hutton

Both Ben and Guy have a rich history in playing the blues US style in their owns bands, the Spikedrivers and Guy Tortora band respectively.

They also both have a long history associated with Crawley Blues Club and It was the clubs head honcho Tony Molloy who first suggested a duo several years ago. Due to its overwhelming success they have been taking time out from their bands to tour as a duo for about a month a year ever since.

I think they are ideally suited to each other as, although they play a similar style, they are nearly polar opposites. Ben’s voice is smooth and mellow whereas Guy’s is brighter and grittier. Ben’s slide playing on his large vintage guitars give off some hauntingly beautiful tones and Guy effortlessly fingerpicks and slides his way along a little parlour guitar and mandolin.

They played a selection of self-written pieces and older classics with some surprises.

Taj Mahal’s ‘Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes’ came across as a slow melodic love song with some great harp playing from Guy.

Ben then did a solo slot opening with ‘John Henry The Steel Driving Man’. Ben started it with some lovely slow slide playing and kept the pace down throughout, allowing his voice to take the lead. There have been many many songs about John Henry, but this is probably as close to the original as you will get. There was a theme started when Ben played ‘Riding With My Baby’, a walking blues about a bicycle interspersed with the chorus from ‘Daisy’ with audience participation. He ended his solo set with a Jimmy Vaughan favourite ‘Six Strings Down’.

Following an interval, Guy played a short solo set continuing Ben’s transport theme with ‘I Need A Car’, a self-penned number Guy referred to as Californian Blues, because In California, you’ve just gotta have a car.

With Ben back on stage there was more audience participation in ‘Glad That Walls Can’t Talk’. They ended with a Spikedrivers number ‘Laying Down Lincolns’, a variation on a railroad song, the Lincolns referring to the US penny and a childhood game Ben used to play where they put pennies on the tracks to see if they would fall off or get crushed by the trains.

For the encore we were treated to a Robert Johnson number ‘They’re Red Hot’, a fast ragtime with Ben’s ‘horn section’ made out of a kazoo and a Brasso tin, unique and effective.

Ben and Guy are like old friends to the long-time members of the club and were received as such.

It was a lovely laid back and relaxing evening as many of the club’s gigs are, with two of the best in the business doing what they love.

If you like your blues mainly acoustic, in the traditional style, from artists who were born with it in their blood then Crawley Blues Club is the place to be.

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