Once again Norwich Arts Centre bring us some world class music with Ida Mae – recently signed to Decca playing a rare home-town gig, and Vieux Farka Touré – son of Malian desert blues legend Ali and a genius guitarist in his own right, so it felt fitting the following morning to learn that the NAC will deservedly be awarded a blue plaque by BBC Music in recognition of its contribution to musical heritage.
It’s always a treat to see Chris and Steph onstage together and after a long spell not playing while they record their debut album with Ethan Johns they looked fresh and hungry, eager to play. They opened with an unexpected but brilliant, powerful cover of Neil Young’s Ohio. Great dynamics in their voices, playing and presence these two have when they are onstage and they sounded just fantastic at NAC. During the final song Chris detuned his steel resonator to create something really low and grungey, a great way to close the set. Exciting times for Ida Mae, I think we are going to be seeing a lot more from them, both locally and beyond.
Vieux Farka Touré was also here early last year in a tremendous sellout gig and although there were not quite as many here this time it was still a very healthy sized crowd who were appreciative and involved. Lots of dancing down the front and a bit of singing along – not always totally successfully – with Vieux covering his ears between a wide smile and one particular voice, quoting his Father: “He always said, if you rely on your music and you sound like that … you’re in trouble!” It was very good natured and a lot of fun, super guitar and bass and I also loved the songs that featured the impressive sound of the calabash drum at the front. Playing flawlessly as a three-piece they are touring the album “Samba”.
VIEUX FARKA TOURE
Return of the Second-Born – “The Hendrix of the Sahara” Vieux Farka Touré sings of family, nature, and struggle on his newest album Samba.
When the producers of the Woodstock Sessions, a hybrid/live recording series in Saugerties, NY, asked Malian guitarist and vocalist Vieux Farka Touré to stop by in 2015, he didn’t have enough time to make it happen. Intrigued, he promised to return the following year. Making good on his word, the result of that incredible session is now Touré’s newest album, Samba (Six Degrees Records).
Instead of reinvigorated takes on old material, the ten songs on Samba are all brand new. Given Touré’s natural musical curiosity, the far-reaching blend of Malian blues and praise song, funk, reggae, and rock make this his most mature, well-rounded effort to date. The live element, where Touré excels as a performer, shines through on every track, even though the band stopped whenever they wanted to change something up. This was not your average performance.
“It’s quite some transformation from their grunge-blues band Kill It Kid, but former members, and now husband and wife, Chris Turpin and Stephanie Jean are opening up a whole new musical world. The duo are now emerging from a period of self-discovery and mutual creative power to create the rawboned and stripped back musical romance that is, Ida Mae.
Like previous generations of suburban kids growing up under heavy English skies burdened with rain, Chris and Stephanie became spellbound by the warm, sorrowful sounds of the Mississippi Delta. The working class songs of the South blew into Britain during the 1960’s like a hot storm and still held influence long after The Rolling Stones left Muscle Shoals. Following suit from other artists like Buckingham Nicks, John Martyn or Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Chris and Stephanie combine a fresh breath of British Blues with the honest songcraft of the Ryan Adams’ & Ray LaMontagnes’ of the world.
Ida Mae’s magic lies in the sensuous dovetailing of two voices and the intimacy of their songs. Their chemistry on stage isn’t just a dramatic pose and is a truly captivating sight to behold. Chris’ vocals are reminiscent of a Face’s era Rod Stewart or Steve Marriott, while Stephanie combines the delicacy of Patty Griffin with the effortless rock-chic of Alison Mosshart. Singing together, the couple have an unusual ‘which-is- which’ dynamic.
After finding critical acclaim with Kill it Kid, spending years touring various parts of the world, and working closely with legendary A&R man Seymour Stein, Chris and Stephanie felt drawn to a more honest sound, a simpler expression of song where all you need is a guitar and a voice to accompany it. Currently working on their debut album with acclaimed producer and friend Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams / Ray Lamontagne / Kings Of Leon / Laura Marling) their partnership with Decca Records is set to be the most exciting adventure they’ve ever embarked on together.”
Big thanks and congratulations to NAC for this richly deserved recognition of a fantastic venue.
At the weekend I was fortunate enough to catch two of Anoush Saadat’s three Sunday gigs, this video taken at Frank’s; where I am not altogether sure some of those drinking and chatting realised quite what they were missing with this exceptional flamenco guitar from the chap in the corner. Their loss, this was incredible!
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