If a gig is put on by Punk Rock Blues that’s a sure-fire guarantee of quality for me. These nights are superb and even if I don’t know a band I’ll still go because there’s a brand endorsement attached to the name now.
JD McPherson were obviously familiar to me through Red Rooster but Charley Crockett who was supporting was a new name to me. This gig sold out literally within days of being announced last year and the NAC really felt full, with a noticable air of excitement and anticipation and queues not only to the Arts Centre itself but also for the auditorium and it seemed, pleasingly, that everyone was in there early to catch the opening set. Charley and his band oozed charm, charisma and brilliant musicianship – and they are the real deal. One of them was playing trumpet and keys at the same time! They charmed the audience and sounded just superb with a great mix of Cajun, blues, honky tonk and Texan country blues, you can hear New Orleans in the mix to. “People ask me, ‘Hey boy, what’s your music about?’ and I tell ’em ‘About two or three minutes'” This was their very first gig in the UK and it was soon obvious they were having as great a time as we were, the energy between the stage and floor was wonderful. The songs were varied and beautifully played, many of them having some of the spirit of Hank Williams. Introducing the last song they invited us to come and chat at the mech table afterwards, Charley saying: “If you like us enough you can buy a vinyl. If you don’t like us you can still give us $20 and we’ll buy ourselves some music lesssons!” Pure class. I bought the vinyl. I’d have bought both albums if I could. If you like Pokey LaFarge you’ll love these guys too.
“Charley Crockett, a true descendant of Davy Crockett, was born in a poor town in deep South Texas. His early years were spent between Texas and Louisiana, raised by a blues singing single mother in Dallas, and an uncle who introduced him to the big brass sound of the French Quarter in New Orleans where he would later learn how to play guitar as a street performer. In 2009, Crockett showed up in New York City, where he made a living captivating subway car audiences for several years before being discovered and offered a record deal as part of the street group “Trainrobbers.” Deciding to take his chances in a rapidly changing music industry, Charley declined the offer and headed west to California instead. Of mixed Jewish/White/Creole dissent, he has a unique sound blending a rich and diverse heritage of both new and traditional music. Crockett has been compared to many artists from Bill Withers and Jerry Lee Lewis to Dr. John and Citizen Cope. Elusive, rebellious and self taught, Crockett is a true street made original from earlier times.”
There was a good rockabilly crowd in for this gig, people looking so good it could almost have been a Bo Nanafana night. Huge cheers and warm applause greeted JD McPherson as the band took to the stage. For an hour and a half they played some high energy R&B, rock and rockabilly, and as a friend observed, this could have been straight out of Sun Studios. The audience were wildly enthusiastic and once again the atmosphere was terrific with a blisteringly good band clearly having a good time too. They are so tight and with great songs, some real singalongs and a whole lot of joy in the hall as JD McPherson played a varied set which never dipped in quality. The whole band took a collective bow at the end of their encore and received well-deserved, prolonged applause. Nice to see Charley Crockett and his band among that cheering audience too. Superb night, absolute top quality and an early ‘gig of the year’ contender.
The previous evening I saw Soyuz Rats at the Owl Sanctuary, in their new, even mightier incarnation which features the amazing Pip on drums. There was some movement with the drum-kit slowly edging its way over the podium until some heroics from Ryan and Martin kept it in place.
After this I headed briefly to a rammed Murderers where Dona Oxford from New York was playing Fine City Blues, and then to Cactus Cafe Bar for a beautifully relaxed evening of music in one of Shane O’Linski’s regular nights. Arriving just as Of the Clay were starting their set. I’d not had an opportunity to see them for a few months so this was a real treat, plus a chance to get hold of their recently released splendid EP (Thanks Joe!), it’s an absolute pleasure to have recordings of these songs I can now listen to between their gigs!
There were further enjoyable sets from Monkiboy, the always enjoyable Andrea King who previewed some excellent new songs, plus Shane O’Linski himself. I love these Cactus nights.
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