The Bkues Band aka Paul Jones, Dave Kelly, Tom McGuinness, Rob Townsend and Gary Fletcher finally made it to the Queen’s Hall Edinburgh stage tonight as part of their “39 Years and Back for More” tour. If ever a show was beset by events to make a great Blues song, then this is the one. Originally re-scheduled from the original March 3rd date which had to be cancelled due to “The Beast From The East” snow storm, tonight’s show was also beset by two of the band just making it for the show due to flight delay problems that put the start time back 30 minutes or so. Still though in true professional “the show must go on” spirit, everyone was finally able to be here, so a big thank you first of all to everyone for making this show happen (many bands would not have put that effort in).
For anyone with even a passing interest in “The Blues” and the original “British Blues Movement”, The Blues Band are one band that I think have to be on your “go to see” list at least once as the rich musical history that they collectively bring to the stage is amazing. Once upon a time music papers used to publish these “Band genealogies”; if you did one for the various members of this band, then the list of people that they have worked with individually and collectively over the years would read like a “who’s who” of British and American blues greats.
As “The Blues” has become an international musical phenomenon over the years, impressive guitar skills (often played far too fast) have become the predominant sound of “The Blues”, and this is not the sound of this band (although they have the ability to play like that if they wanted to). Watching “The Blues Band” perform is like watching “The Blues” distilled to its core essence musically. Here is a return to not only an economy of notes and chords that I always associate with the great musicians of yesterday, but a return to a sound where the most important instrument to be heard is the human voice. Guitar, harmonica and drums all play an obvious role here, but as we visit the music of some of the greats – Howlin’ Wolf, Blind Boy Fuller, Big Joe Turner (a great cover of his original “Shake Rattle and Roll” with the original lyrics) amongst others - it is obvious that the band understands that this music is all about human emotions and not putting on a display of musical virtuosity. The Blues Band formed nearly 40 years ago for a simple reason – to play together music that they all loved at a very deep and personal level, and it may seem strange to some people, but the pleasure that “The Blues” brings to every member of the band was obvious all night here in a very warm and at times light hearted show.
The Blues Band operates more like a jazz musicians’ collective as, although the band have recorded a lot of material together, they are also always working on their own solo projects, or projects with other people, so as well as visiting some of the great songs of the American Bluesmen of yesterday, a mixture of original band and solo material over the years gave the evening a musical continuity that clearly shows in songs like “Fame”, and “Got To Be The Blues” that “The Blues” are just as alive and well in the 21st century as they always have been. A very slick cover too of “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield that highlights just how thin the lines between (and often overlapping) soul/gospel and blues can be. Proving again that everything comes down in the end to the emotive powers of the most amazing musical instrument of all, the human voice.
The Blues Band are the real deal. Individually and collectively they have a massive historical knowledge of the history of the music and over the years have contributed so much to the genre. Most of all though, they have never lost that feeling that they each encountered when they first heard “The Blues”.
A little while ago, Dave Kelly from the band was kind enough to take some time out and answer some e-mail Q & As for us. You can read his answers on this link.
Review by Tom King