Neil Warden & Gary Martin – Blues and Beyond at The Spiegeltent in George Square brought a nice local feeling to the closing days of The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival 2017. Both Neil Warden (Weissenborn as well as regular guitars ) and Gary Martin (vocals and harmonica) are well known to many as regulars on the Scottish Blues music circuit for many years (and other genres), and both have played together for a long time (both played in Tam White's Band), and that showed in the tightness of the band on stage.
This new band is though not a duo, but a trio – the third member being Jim Walker on drums. Jim originally hails from Saskatoon, Canada and came to Scotland in 1984 and has earned himself a solid reputation as a player and teacher of pipe band drumming, percussion and kit drumming. Jim’s sharp, clear and powerful rhythms add the final ingredient to this new musical venture which does exactly what the name of the show implies – “Blues and Beyond”.
Playing to a well attended 5.30 PM session (never the easiest time slot to fill, especially when the rain is pouring down like it was today), Neil, Martin and Jim performed a well received set that included Blues standards from Willie Dixon (I’m Ready) and Howlin' Wolf (Everybody’s in the Mood), heartfelt homages to their days with Tam White with two of his best known songs – “Working Class White Boy” and “Stonemason’s Blues” and new songs of their own. The new self penned compositions ranged from the classic blues sounds of “Don’t Tread On Me No More”, to more evocative “Paris Texas” film track soundscapes like “The Dream”. Many of the songs played in today’s set are available from their newly released album “Underneath The Deep Blue”, and Neil Warden’s very unique and inventive playing on “Weissenborn” can be heard exploring other soundscapes on his “Adventures in Weissenborn Land” EP, both of which we are reviewing on this website.
Warden, Martin & Walker are a very tight and capable band. Neil Warden is not only a very accomplished blues guitarist, but a guitarist able to play in any style required for the task ahead, and his talents on the Weissenborn Lap Steel Guitar give the band an extra edge that raise them out of the sometimes stereotyped sounds of a working blues band. As usual though, no flashy on stage antics from Neil Warden on guitar, in fact just the opposite, a man happy to just be sitting to the side of the stage providing whatever sounds are needed for the band at the time – a quiet talent that any band can always depend upon. Gary Martin, as always, gives everything on vocals and harmonica, and the precision percussion of Jim Walker is the last piece of the musical jigsaw needed to let the band go wherever they want to go musically.
Review by Tom King