Read My Shorts!

The Hat Reviews site enjoys its reputation for listening carefully and reviewing albums in a more considered way. However there are many releases, artists and events that come my way that whilst not making it onto the main page, are often worth a mention or an interested acknowledgement. The creation of this 'Shorts' page is aimed at addressing that problem and also giving me a place where I can flag up other pieces I find of interest. Hopefully this will both bring an artist's work to a wider public and also create some traffic for them which might not otherwise be available in the mainstream.  
You will see from the 'How The Hat Reviews' tab that I don't give stars, ticks or footprints. I just write about stuff that gets me. All the usual rules and contacts apply here as with the main review page (I'm In Charge, I have to like it and I am power mad) but this will be a rolling page that you can Bookmark or nick copy and paste stuff to your own page...I'll add to it on a regular basis whenever something of interest to me pops up. Roll on then - and btw, the bluehighlights are all click-throughs...

APRIL/MAY

It's a while since we last spoke -and meanwhile Ed Sheeran has had the top 70 places in the Top Ten and a number of famous heritage acts have not reformed. I'm not going to do my usual 'Ave et Valete' about all the great musicians we have lost – you know who they are and will have been affected in many different ways. However, I will mention the recent untimely death of Chris Cornell whose major contributions through among others, Soundgarden and Audioslave, undoubtedly made him one of the most influential and important musicians of our day. He will be sadly missed.

Now let me draw your attention to someone who is very much alive but fighting a losing battle against the march of time. 
You may know that Glen Campbell is in the final stages of Alzheimer's and made a poignant farewell tour about four years ago. Shortly after that he went back into the studio and there is 
now a final album. Called 'Adios' it is a collection of songs that he had always loved but never got round to recording – and it comes out in June.
I recently heard a couple of pre-release tracks from the album and, thankfully, that magic is still there. Glen's voice was part of the sound track to many millions of lives and this is such a beautiful place to plant the final flag. Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Glen's children, amongst others, add support. The first track is a cover of Fred Neil's “Everybody's Talkin' and not by accident, the final track is 'Adios' by Jimmy Webb. You will remember them, years ago, as huge hits from Harry Nilsson and Linda Rondstadt. Campbell makes them live again. Put a moment aside and listen to this. Shed a quiet tear and thank Linesman Glen for giving us all that beautiful music.


It's in the genes
Many moons ago there was a fluttering of feathers in the jazz world when Dave Brubeck started including his sons in some of his tours and concerts. This twitching disappeared almost overnight when audiences realised that they were all pretty damn good. End of scandalous nepotism story. Luckily, my meagre talent is such that my relations will not have that problem – even though there are some fine drummers, guitarists, singers, clarinet and sax players amongst their number. The music world is over-flowing with family connections - indeed Country music has many where the word 'family' is actually in the band name. You could name dozens almost from when time began. Nothing new there then. The list is endless.
But, can you imagine the position you are in when you simply want to do your own thing and the fame of one of your parents forever casts a magical shadow across whatever it is you are trying to do? My huge respect goes out to the many musicians who have to deal constantly with the input of the millions of well-meaning people whose lives were affected by the talent of their (perhaps deceased) parents - the comparisons, the judgemental comments. It will never go away and you have to own it. I guess with some, there is the pressure to be as good, if not better. Thankfully, more often than not, the progeny are seen to be hugely talented in their own right. You just know that they have to be more determined than the rest of us. Although some doors may open easier, the path is harder and steeper simply because the reputation of their beloved mentor is never going to go away.
One recent example is Mollie Marriott (Steve's daughter) who is clearly blessed
with a great voice but will, no doubt, forever have to field well-meaning quizzing about her dad. She is now putting down some talented markers and has stepped forward from the backing wings to underline her own identity. Listen here to her recent promo single and do try and catch her live. She is terrific...

..and while we are on the subject send some good karma to Malcolm Bruce (It was Jack's birthday last week) who is currently with Kofi Baker and Will Johns wowing them on an Australian tour which will undoubtedly sell out. He is obviously hugely proud of the stunning legacy of his famous dad but solo he continues to show that he is very much his own man and is brilliantly doing his own talented thing. Catch him live and look for his album 'Salvation' and listen for yourself...



Loving a Luthier
My dad was an amazing carpenter and cabinet maker. He often worked on the kitchen table and when someone called round unannounced it was my job to sweep the shavings under the table and throw a huge tablecloth across the top to cover them. My admiration for people who work with wood remains undiminished and it was inevitable that I would get to know a few luthiers on my musical travels – one of whom, incidentally, had the job of custom-building guitars for Versace and Elton John (too many diamonds for my taste!). Nevertheless, it is a wonderful skill, which is why it is so good to discover a working guitarist setting out on his own as a luthier. Ray Qureshi is the guitarist, who you may well have seen and heard on the blues circuit with Yoka. You need to check out his Facebook page, talk guitars - and maybe he could do something for you – diamonds are optional I guess!

Oldies and Goodies
Co-incidentally, two absolutely thundering albums appeared at Hat Mansions together recently. Both of them should be in your collection, if for no other reason than that they don't make 'em like this any more. The first was John
Mayall's Blues Breakers Live in 1967 (Vol 2) and yes, they are all there with Mayall – Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. Remembering that some of this has been around for over fifty years and it is not high fidelity, the 13 tracks still hold their thrill and remind us of that spectacular moment in musical history. 
The second is Mac Rebennack/Dr John New Orleans Good Times 1958 -1962. As the Dr so eloquently pins it -“Everything we done. We had fun doing it” - and hell does that show on this massive 30 track bundle of re-mastered serious fun. Seventy-one minutes will leave you gasping for air. If you want to hear the world's greatest living exponent of New Orleans piano playing and composition then look no farther. This is five decades ago when the young Mac was setting out in the foothills. Now he sits comfortably at the summit. 

More through the letter box
Like Guitar George, that famous character from Dire Straits 'Sultans of Swing', Marcus Lazarus knows all the chords. This is just as well, as Knopfler is one of the many musicians he pays homage to in his cracking new album 'Save My
Soul' which gives the nod to many of his influences. Gary Moore, Status Quo, Dave Gilmour and Santana all get referenced in the twelve excellently arranged and self-penned tracks and one feisty cover, 'Flight of the Surf Guitar' (made famous by the Australian Surf Band The Atlantics). In what might have been a risky venture, Marcus is pretty fearless in the way he tackles these major references and has put his own original stamp across everything. Some hard dirty rock, some subtle attack in the slower numbers and nice compact arrangements throughout that also give his talented side-men the opportunity to show their chops. Hugely entertaining and perfect for your Party Central. Listen and buy here. Go get.

The Mustangs: Just Passing Through
The Mustangs, in one form or another, have been with us since 2001. They have always been a terrific live crowd-pleaser and have played radio sessions and festivals all over the UK. In The Hat's opinion, they personify, in many ways, the
pure oxygen of the best of the UK blues scene. Now they have produced their tenth album 'Just Passing Through'. That is a CV plenty of bands would be very envious of – and yet, somehow or other they never seem to get the recognition they are due. I do hope that this album gets the plaudits it deserves. Fronted as always by the distinctive pure voice of Adam Norsworthy, this band of classy musicians – Adam, John Bartley, Ben McKeown and Derek Kingaby - have produced a fine album about the journey we make through life. This 'concept' notion is something of a departure for them, but it works so well. Intelligently written lyrics, with the careful production in the safe hands of Wayne Proctor and Steve Wright, the tracks chart the loves, lives and mortality of that journey. Here you will find acoustic, electric, harp, slide, piano (and even a tolling bell) all creatively brought to bear in one of the most interesting albums of the year so far. Do try and catch these guys live - you'll find them here. You will not be disappointed. If you can't get there, then invest in this album. You will not be disappointed.

Download and do something
Kaz Hawkins, the amazing singer/songwriter from Belfast whose band just won the European Blues Challenge has released a charity single for Mental Health Awareness Week in aid of Aware NI the national depression charity. 'Don’t Slip Away' is available for download via the charity website as a digital download. Hit this now and do your bit. Kaz has been a dedicated campaigner in using her music to increase awareness around depression and has been very public about her own struggles and her fight to overcome the trauma of the past. The powerful lyrics of the song, written by someone who has confronted her own past, will surely connect and give people hope when they combat their own dark days. 

Big Bigger Biggest
Never mind the breadth. Look at the quality.
Just got the latest listings for the 2017 Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival. Currently standing at over 100 bands at over 150 gigs. This will be the Festival of The Year. Admire the pretty picture and click here.


Oh, And Finally
I guess I should mention that it was Robert Johnson's birthday the other week. He was 106 and I gather that there was an awesome party at the Crossroads - which is still going.......

Previously in TheHat's Shorts....

FEBRUARY/MARCH

Now that those buttock-clenching self-serving hide-behind-the-sofa Awards programmes are but a distant embarrassing memory, (at least Ed Sheeran didn't cover 'Wish You Here'– again) it is a good time to look forward to some new music, new albums, new gigs, favourite artists finally getting their overdue acclaim, new young thrilling talent knocking on the door, some cracking concerts and festivals, immense amounts of goodwill and, of course, the small half of shandy...
However...

It's Lent...
Not that I have ever partaken (being a weak-willed realist) it is the time when, apparently, you give up things and stop doing stuff you like to do. Like New Year resolutions it seems that there is a certain flexibility built into this, but The Hat has a few suggestions for those wavering. Here are Ten HatTips to be getting on with....
Stop not going to live music gigs.
Stop not thanking the artist and venue when you've had a good time.
Stop trolling artists who have an opinion as well as making good music.
Stop not buying their merchandise at gigs.
Stop posting awful shaking crap phone-clips from noisy pubs.
Stop joining people to Facebook Groups without asking them.
Stop not putting digital track titles and timing on your New Awesome Album.
Stop pub landlords not paying an artist for a gig in exchange for 'publicity'.
Stop posting pictures of your dinner and animals being stupid.
Stop putting off sorting out your boring out-of-date website.
Ok. I'll stop now, get some chocolate and Stoly and lie down.....


Accidental Music
Lent or not, here's something you should never ever give up doing....at the suggestion of a musician colleague I dropped into a small pub to listen to a musician I had not seen before.(Now, own up all of you, how often do you look at the unknown name chalked on the pub A-board and don't go in?) As it turned out the artist was an enchanting singer with a beautiful voice called Edwina Hayes. She played a range of excellent acoustic covers from Donovan, Dylan and Denver to Nanci Griffith - but more interestingly mixed in some of her own material which was both heartfelt and absorbing and she captured the appreciative audience with ease. She travels a lot so check out her gig list and if you see her playing near you, drop in and be enchanted. Sometimes it is really worth 'accidentally' bumping into some good music. So, next time you're out and about you know what to do....

Al Jarreau has gone and left us but, as with many great musicians, we still have the wonderful back catalogue that embraces Miles Davis, Chick Corea and George Benson. Seven Grammys, smooth, mellifluous, industrious and articulate. A full life bringing pleasure to millions. Amen to that. Time to go back to your music collection and remind yourself how good he was... 
Leonard Cohen has left us too but you must must MUST check out the absolutely stunning goodbye video just put up on his fan website. It is called 'Travelling Light' and is from the last album 'You Want it Darker'. It is the man and his voice in a devastating and beautiful goodbye. Do take five minutes out to watch this and make sure you hang on until the final frozen frame. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now...

The Convent, Stroud....sadly this has happened before:
The news about the Convent and their doubtful business practices does not come as a surprise to many in the music world. I hope you are not one of those who has been short-changed.
Both the Musicians Union and London Live have a lot of advice available about doubtful venues and you should always consult them if you get a bad feeling about somewhere. In case you haven't seen this then you should read it and share it far and wide... 

Festivals
The festival season is getting under way and if you are nervous and have never been to one, make this Your Year. The Hat has written about this many times before. Festivals always give you more bang for your buck – anything from forty to eighty bands – and invariably, even if you don't like them all, there will be some that you absolutely love. I expect, like me,you can name a few bands who just come alive at festivals and have this amazing electric charge and spell they put on the audience. If you've been thinking about it, get on and do it. It doesn't have to be rain, mud,wind and rubbish portaloos. Some of the best festivals are warm, indoors, small and perfectly formed. By all acounts the Broadstairs Blues Bash this year was a cracker and if you look at the line-up for most festivals, whatever the size, you get tremendous value for the money. Forget the Glastonbury nonsense. Go to any Festival Guide site and there will be a festival made to measure for you.

The biggest blues festival in Europe this year is likely to be The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Colne. It's under new direction and I am already liking some of the things they are up to. They are shortly introducing their own YouTube channel and every artist at the festival will be appearing so you can get a taste before you go. There is already a Festival 'Spotify' playlist so you can listen to artists you may not know. They have a named shrewd musician curator (Tom Attah) to run their acoustic stage. There is an exciting un-signed musicians stage. The number of bands in the festival 'Road Houses' has increased and (this is really impressive) wonderfully, from what I can see, any of the three main stage performers on each night, could easily headline any venue in the country on their own. Better get a ticket soon then...here.

Cathartic Drum Corner
Drummers, like viola players, over the years, totally unfairly of course, have been the butt of some pretty terrible humour. Oh, how we all laugh. Nevertheless, in the real world, the history of drumming is phenomenal and it spans every country and continent from ancient tribal performance to threatening war sounds and the muffled beat of the funeral march. Drumming can be scary, intimidating, exhilarating and uplifting. Quite apart from being the solid and essential heartbeat behind the band, drums appear as street performance, massed military displays, threatening film scores and liberating dance performance. One person with a drum (remember your childhood?) is a Free Spirit.
I say all this as I am inviting you to support, encourage - and perhaps join in - the work of Jamie Morgan,whom many of you will remember from the much missed and exciting Rabbit Foot duo with Carla Viegas. Jamie, (who has a pretty impressive drumming CV) has set up the Seaford Drum Group  which he rather coyly describes as “hitting things with friends and good energy”. In reality it is demonstrably a hugely enjoyable growing gathering of people who are regularly getting together to play music - “not songs or arrangements or movements or rehearsals, but pure, in the moment, expressive, surely flawed but often sublime and powerful necessary music”. I like that description a lot. How can you resist? Check them out on Facebook here and get some cathartic rhythmic freedom into your life...

Through the letter box
Finally got round to catching up with the Catfish Blues Band album 'Broken Man' which was released at the end of January and has been a constant presence on the UK blues radio shows. This is justifiably an immensely popular live band on the rise and the album transmits that necessary live energy pretty well through an impressive range of self-penned work with just one cover. The tracks run from the gentle slow and soulful 'Part as Strangers' - with a little added distinctive harp from Paul Jones - to the mighty title track 'Broken Man' which runs for 8 minutes and after a gentle start delivers a huge piece of moody crowd pleasing progressive rock blues. Interestingly, the band chose to put a 14 minute vast panoramic track 'Make it Rain' as the closer. On the face of it, that was taking a huge risk as it puts the radio show Djs on the spot about how much air time they have available. However, as a piece of superbly recorded album musical theatre that puts the whole wide-ranging band and production out there at their best, this track works wonderfully well. This is the first album these guys have produced of their own material and from this it would seem they are well able to transfer their live dynamic to the recording studio. Keep this on your play list.You can find them here.

Teresa Watson Band: This is a debut album. Teresa recently returned to the live blues scene after a six years gap and it would seem she has lost none of her former gigging pizazz and her love of Etta, Koko and Bonnie. With some top musicians gathered around her, she has produced a fine album full of classic covers, that demonstrate her range and power perfectly. 'You got me where you want me' has a great swing with some fine rolling keyboard work and she puts an interesting up-beat twist on the familiar 'I just wanna make love to you'. The final track 'Need your love so bad' is, like a number of the other tracks, beautifully lifted by some elegant and sparing guitar work. This is a great debut recording and you should seek out the live band on one of their North East gigs.

New Single: These days quite a few artists put out a single to help promote a tour. One such is Saiichi Sugiyama who has just released 'Somewhere Down The Road' - a cracking rock and funk re-mix number - as he embarks on a 14 gig tour across the country that is taking him from Devon to Newcastle and Darlington to Dorset. Check the dates here to see if he is within reach of you. If so, do try to get to see this sublime artist. Tell him The Hat sent you. You will not be disappointed.

Backstage Chat
The fabulous Janiva Magness was nominated for a Grammy this year for her terrific album 'Love Wins Again'. Sadly, she didn't win this time but the Good News is that she will be headlining in Colne this summer....Do send a little love to ace keyboard man Dan Burnett who recently badly damaged his hand in a van accident. Every muso knows that's a pianist's nightmare....The Hat hears that exciting band Northsyde are apparently back in the studio after far too long away....It seems that Jo Harman with her spectacular new album 'People We Become' has smashed her way through the glass ceiling that is the enigmatic mainstream music channel playlisting....'trebles all round for that' as they used to say at Private Eye's Beeb...!....I gather that The British Blues Awards will not be taking place this year....however, the Blues Blast Awards go ahead as usual, not voting yet but you get your chance to nominate here ......Do send The Kaz Hawkins Band some good vibes as they head off to Denmark in early April to represent the UK in The European Blues Challenge. Enthusiastically supported by the UKBritishBlues Federation they recently rocked the Memphis International Blues Challenge by reaching the semi final. This time you can bet they are even more determined.

Hat Keyboard Corner (Yeah, I am a piano man and I don't care.)
1. It was the anniversary of Jimmy Yancey's birthday last week. There are few
keyboard players who would not know of him, but he was probably the man who first laid down the foundations of that mighty repeat flowing left hand that we all now know as Boogie-Woogie. The likes of Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons followed in his footsteps moving up-tempo as they did so. Two things you won't know about Jimmy that might help you as you plough your lonely furrow to stardom: He didn't make a record until he was forty, yep forty, and while he was he was growing up he was also a tap dancer and singer! So don't fret about your long overdue album and get multi-tasking....meanwhile here is The Blues (How Long) Like You Seldom Hear These Days......
2. Oh how I wish I was on the departing Blues Ferry to Amsterdam for Mardi Gras! Paddy Milner, Dom Pipkin and Dale Storr all on the same rocking boat...bet they rattle the life-boats.....

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Previously in The Hat's Shorts...

JANUARY
The Hat has put away his big Christmas balls, finished off Grannie's advocaat, re-stocked the Stoly cupboard and is really looking forward to a busy, unpredictable and musically absorbing 2017 served up by some brilliant musicians......

Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival
This week-end, the summer 2017 Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival is to launch itself into the public domain under the new patronage of  Colne Town Council. Be assured that this is a brave move by the Council. The Festival is the UK's biggest and longest running of its kind and is a very precious jewel in the festival world - but, as many will know, it has been under threat for a few years now. The Councillors have given their total backing and complete freedom to some new management with a really tasty track record and from what I am hearing (I have my ear firmly glued to their planning keyhole), this year it is going to be an absolute ground-breaking humdinger.
I am told firmly that this is not just a polish and re-spray, but the whole classic machine has been lovingly re-assembled, fitted with huge killer straight through blues exhausts; every modern twist that fans will love; a huge twin-stage turbo-charged beautifully tuned blues engine; it is overflowing with exciting new creative blues boosters; world famous classic to-die-for (head)lines and a collection of so many exciting 'Roadhouse' stop-offs that you will surely get giddy with adrenaline - let alone fine flowing high-performance ale.
Ok...ok! Yeah - I get a bit carried away...but what is really interesting this time is that the organisers have made it clear to anyone who will listen, that their aim is to showcase the best of contemporary blues. Inevitably, this has meant saying goodbye to what have become known as 'heritage' acts and some familiar friends andfaces, in order to make room for more modern, currently creative up-coming bands. Clap Hands.
Not everyone has taken kindly to that notion and it is sad to see the keyboard warriors have already been out – despite not having seen the line-up – to bemoan the notion that changes are being made to 'their' festival, their favourites are not there and the blues police are being informed.
I see nothing wrong with a bit of informed discussion but for years you will probably know that The Hat has been writing about the Broad Church of the blues and how one of the most enervating things about it is that there are constantly new bands and musicians and genres elbowing their way onto the stage. Nothing but good can come from that and I am not the only one to think that forever running re-cycled articles, blogs and videos about SRV, Rory and Elmore James is going to run your magazine or page into bankrupt oblivion sooner rather than later.
So let's not prejudge. Celebrate the fact that there are now so many bands and fabulous musicians welcoming the new approach, that you could probably run headliners for a week and fill fifty roadhouse with brilliant music. My guess is that you are going to have to book pretty quick.... this is going to be big.

Indies
Anyone who has run or been involved in the running of a small independent music venue will know that you turn into Sisyphus – forever pushing the boulder up the hill only for it to, inevitably, roll down again. Many fall by the wayside but for the few who carry on, the rewards are enormous. This is Independent Venue Week and all over the country venues are putting on extra-special gigs. Read this piece and rejoice in what the few and the dedicated are still doing – week in and week out. 

Jo Harman
No, this isn't yet another plug for her new album (next week btw) – The Hat was a HarmanLuvvie years ago – but it is to flag up a delightful small note I saw on her page recently. It is about her return to the New Crawdaddy Blues Club. In a few words she thanks the club as one of those who stood by her when she was starting out, before the razzamatazz and the fast blossoming international fame. Most musicians, as they climb that steep and slippery ladder will always remember those who helped them onto the first rung. It's nice to see it in print.

Hard Copy

Sean Taylor. This superb poet/singer/songwriter song-writer has just produced a new album 'Flood and Burn' which I reviewed here. His previous album was a classic. This one is a worthy successor. He travels a lot so try and catch him live and be bewitched by his distinctive voice and his beautifully crafted lyrics. Alternatively, as Valentine's Day is on the horizon, buy both albums as a present and become Unforgettable to the one you love....



Husky Tones. Back in 2015 the Husky Tones released their debut album 'Time for a Change'. Self-penned, self-financed and recorded live in a studio after a life of gigging on the road as a popular live band, it was a brave step and it worked. (Hat review here). Now they have taken another risky leap and are
releasing the very interesting 'Who will I turn to now?' in which drummer/singer Victoria Bourne and partner Chris Harper, guitar and backing vocals, stand alone on ten tracks, ranging from songs of protest, slow and tender love and despair to a poignant Peter Green influenced ballad about internment in a time of war. Victoria has serious pipes and seems effortlessly to rise above Chris's driving guitar riffs, often sparking some fabulous wall of sound moments. They have self-styled their venture as 'punk blues' - and it certainly has some splendid punchy moments where the White Stripes meet The Clash – but their range is much greater than that and the clever structured production both fills out the sound where necessary and cuts it back to its elements at the right moments. This is a great live band, who are clearly enjoying pushing some boundaries. I understand they intend to do some 'on the road' live recording in March, with particular songs on the album being played in a setting that is appropriate to it. You need to keep your eye on their page here and try and catch them live and electric.

Told You So Department
Kaz Hawkins, who is just off  with her band to Memphis to represent the UK in the International Blues Challenge has, with impeccable timing, become the cover girl of the latest ION Indie magazine. I have no idea why she is drinking tea but it's such a wonderful picture I thought I would share it with you. There is a long interview with her inside the mag which you can read on line.
Let's hope Memphis recognise the distinctive brilliance of this lady and her cool band.





Past Times
Many moons ago, The Hat ran a small jazz club in sarf london. One of the musicians who played for us on a couple of occasions was a young fresh-faced Martin Taylor who duo-ed with the talented Ike Isaacs. I still have the signed LPs. Now many decades later, Martin is justifiably regarded as one of the best jazz guitarists in the world. I love it when modest, hugely talented musicians just chat and infect everyone watching with their obvious pleasure and enthusiasm. Take a few minutes out and watch this...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLk-wapQhGY

And Finally
The Six Nations Rugby tournament starts next week. Hatfans will be pleased to know that I will be wearing my Special Occasion Hatunderpants...

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Previously in The Hat's Shorts

NOVEMBER
I'm sure you will agree it's been a weird few weeks since we last spoke – and I'm not talking politics here. Our music world suffered yet more losses, leaving some serious big gaping spaces behind them filled now only with their generous gift of inspired and elegant music and words. On the upside, the end of last month saw three major live events rejoicing in the fact that talent flourishes, music inspires and life goes on not with a whimper but with a joyful stage full of brilliant bang.
Good Night and Thank You


People get old and die. I have always liked the idea that when they are remembered you can say 'they made a difference' and that is so true about Leon Russell, Mose Allison and Leonard Cohen, who have now sadly moved on. They all wrote like people who were put here especially to speak on our behalf. They wrote and played about love, pain and deprivation, joy and happiness, ordinary stuff and extraordinary magic ecstasy - and so they became our ear to the ground and our philosophers. “Song for You”,“Everybody's Crying Mercy” (I insist you go and check the topical 'political' relevance of the lyrics of this song!), the adaptation of “Parchman Farm” and “The Partisan” were all killer honest, straight from the heart and plugged straight into your nerve endings. The legacy of these three reaches from here to around the world a dozen times. So dry your eyes, pick up that heavy back catalogue mountain and be glad that they were around to touch your life.

And now for the good news
Everyone who doesn't think our music is alive and flourishing must have missed the turnout for the London BluesFest, the Tribute to Jack Bruce and Bill Wyman's Birthday Bash – three events coming fast on top of one another last month, all very different but where all the stages overflowed with talent, young and on the way up and (shall we say) the mature and established. Not going to list who was there as most of you will have checked them out. As is usual, for such affairs, egos were mainly left at the door. However, my favourite tale to come from all of them (and, believe me, there were many, apocryphal of not!) was the cry that apparently went out at one point from the stage at the very moving Jack Bruce tribute concert...”We need another guitarist up here” and three world famous musicians stood up...


The 'Well I didn't know that' Department
This week 36 years ago Stephen Stills released his self titled solo album. He's still full at it all these years later with 'The Rides' band with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keyboardist Barry Goldberg. That original amazing LP is of course, now available on CD. If you don't have a copy, your music collection is not complete. It is the only album which has Jimmi Hendrix and Eric Clapton on it as well as Stephen. Also there is a certain 'Richie' (Ringo) and Mama Cass and a few not insignificant others. I remember buying it for just one track....”Black Queen”. If you are in need of a jaw-drop, just go find that right here....and crank the sound up to eleven... 



The 'I told you so' Department (1)
Just a short while ago I was banging on about how you should check out TheKaz Hawkins Band...(just scroll down). Well, at the UK Blues Challenge organised and run by the UK Blues Federation at the Robin 2 the other week, Kaz and her band came out as winners against some pretty stiff competition from Willie and The Bandits, Rebecca Downes and Dove and Boweevil. Now Kaz is heading off to the USA for a first solo tour and then the band join her in Memphis in January and Denmark in April for even bigger challenges. They will surely smash it. Check their Fb page and website and wish them well....AND while we are about it, tip your Hat to the wonderful and fabulous Upton Blues Festival who helped sponsor the affair... 

The 'I told you so' Department (2) 
 I was bemoaning the fact (scroll down) that the brilliant Saiichi Sugiyama didn't tour often enough. Well he's putting that to rights with a big tour in March/April 2017 to co-incide with the release of a new album he is now putting the finishing touches to.... He tells me that he would like to include more 'northern' venues to add to the list. If you run or know of a venue that would welcome a class act, contact him without delay. You will find everything you need to know here.


Tommy Emmanuel
One of the true 'guitar greats' – and that must surely be one of the most abused expressions in the music world – is Tommy Emmanuel. I'm delighted to see he is doing a rare 15 date tour of the UK in January 2017. If you haven't seen him, this is your chance to make amends. I wouldn't be at all surprised if his old friend super-talent Martin Taylor might pop up at one of his gigs as well. Do try and save some Christmas money to get to one of these venues. I guarantee it will be worth every penny.  http://tommyemmanuel.com/tours/


Self-Indulgent Hat Corner (they are my shorts so nah nah!)
Years ago, when Paddy and Jason's Hebden Bridge Blues Festival was breaking all the rules, the traditional 'after-lunch-kinda-dead slot' was never remotely dead. Quite the contrary, it was always bewilderingly filled with artists who got a packed room to it's feet en masse, hollerin' and whoopin'. No surprise really, as included amongst them were Dan Owen, John Crampton, L.R Phoenix and Gwyn Ashton. And the reason? Simples. They were all bloody brilliant. So here's a little Hat-tip their way with a short 200mph piece from John...(stick with it as even Gary Grainger's camera starts tapping it's feet at one point!) You all know this number, so feel free to plug it into your tele full screen, put your pants on your head - and dance... Enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gvie-gH91U

Procol Harum
Procol Harum have just announced their 50th anniversary UK tour for 2017. I'll just leave that thought with you in case you're feeling old or prone to bore the arse off your juniors by going on about the Good Old Days....

Stuff Through The Letter Box

Richard Townend: Goldfever
The many fans of the prolific and talented songwriter/guitarist RichardTownend will not be disappointed with the latest album to come from him and the Mighty Bosscats. As we all know, the best access to Richard is through his fine words (he provides a lyric sheet) and in 'Goldfever' they are as thoughtful, imaginative, provoking and drily amusing as always. His songs are frequently populated by the disillusioned and disappointed, the desperately hopeful and the ironically optimistic. Dates fail to turn up, buses are never on time and your castles in the air get washed away by the rain.  With 'Do You Miss me?' there is even a splendid track, with a join-in chorus, that could be an anthem for anyone who still struggles in their head over a lost relationship. The great skill shown on this and many of the tracks on the album is that, despite the subject matter he makes it so easy for you to listen and travel with him. His powerful and poignant words are at their best in the classic 'Batley Boy' which is a beautifully conjured set of memories from hard but good times gone by that anyone who had a childhood can relate to. The Mighty Bosscats, as usual, provide the perfect tight and professional context and backdrop for Richard's fluid vocals and guitar work. Another fine album to add to his fast growing catalogue.

Rhythm Zoo: Sold For Love
Some time ago, I wrote a small piece about the trauma of
producing your first album. To summon up the confidence, the resources and the funding, takes a certain kind of mad determination and many fall before they see it through. To do so, when your reputation is built on your live appearances is even more daunting and difficult. How do you get that stage chutzpah into someone's front room? Will they still love you when you are not standing there to be loved?

 I've finally caught up with the Rhythm Zoo debut album. For some years they have been taking bite-size chunks out of the live club and festival circuit, building up a loyal fan base in the process and now they have managed the leap on to disc with some style. The nine track album 'Sold For Love', is mostly self-penned by vocalist Andi Hall and guitarist Pete Rea. Vocal led, the solid rhythm backing given by Dermot Hall, Pete Betts and Pete Rea's guitar lays it down impeccably for Andi Hall's soulful and bluesy vocals to fly. As all their live audiences will readily testify Andi can raise the temperature and slip into rock-blues totally effortlessly and when this is meshed with accomplished lead guitarist Phil Dean opening up his guitar as on 'River of Tears' you get a feel of how these guys win over their air-punching audiences.Yet, by contrast, in another track, the terrific 'Coco Blues', Andi and Phil put together a masterly, moody number that shows exactly how diversely talented this band can be. They should be proud of this production and the range of tracks that give you a good taste of what they can do.
This is a really strong debut album from a fine band. Go look for them playing live, enjoy the party and then talk them into doing a follow-up album.

Eddie Martin
Eddie is back bang on stripped down blues form with his latest CD 'Black, White and Blue' and you can read my review here. His last album was a huge departure with a well received major (almost orchestral) big band live recording with his project Big Red Radio called "Live in Tuscany". If you like your blues music big and ballsy then you should check that out too on Youtube here - it has some remarkable guests on it as well...


Previously in The Hat's Shorts......


OCTOBER  2016

Some big hitters have been newsworthy in recent weeks...

Bob Dylan
So Mr Z gets a Nobel and the internet twittering goes into melting over-drive. The fact that a) they gave it to him and b) that it is getting talked about is, in my book, a wonderful thing. Those who reckon he hasn't been worth listening to since the '60's clearly missed, amongst 100 other things, the film track 'Things Have Changed' in 2009 and or the 2016 album 'Fallen Angels', where 'The Great American Songbook' ballads can funk, rock, blues or swing. But the point about Dylan is his words, then and now – and no, you don't have to be an expert and compare him to Yeats or get an annotated copy of 'All Along The Watchtower' to understand how powerfully he can connect. It is all there on the page and even without his distinctive nasal and reedy voice, he invariably has something to say and says it interestingly and in a compelling way.
Forget the inverted snobbery that thinks that the world has ended...even the New York Times thundered that the proles have taken over literature, Nobel has become a laughing stock and we are off to hell in a handcart. Instead, take note of two other previous Nobel Lit winners, the mighty poet Derek Walcott, who happily acknowledged Dylan as a poet who is 'close to his people' and Seamus Heaney, who when meeting someone's son and being greeted by him as 'the greatest poet in the world' said..”Oh, no, not me, that's Bob Dylan!”...

One of Dylan's peers and friends is of course Leonard Cohen who, now 82, has this week just released a new album 'You Want It Darker' and apparently still has a pile of poems and lyrics to publish and record. As a lifetime fan of both, let me point you in the direction of a splendid long article (here) by the editor of the New Yorker which amongst other things touches on the relationship of these two amazing wordsmiths... 

Jack Bruce
Now here's a gig to hitch-hike to London for.....

Malcolm Bruce and Pete Brown have put together an amazing line-up at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire on 25th October - to remember Jack next week. Hosted by Bob Harris, there will be some serious names getting on the stage to give voice to the massive respect there was, and still is for this much missed, hugely talented and distinctive musician....and yes, Ginger will be there. Click here for more info  

The Rolling Stones.
So they got together in some downtime, went into a studio for the
first time in a decade and went Back to Basics. The Stones apparently spent just three days putting together an album of blues covers called Blue and Lonesome (out on 2 Dec) and, according to Ronnie, unsurprisingly, they didn't spend any time rehearsing. This will be good news to hear if you are one of those Eight Million people who claimed to have been in The Station Hotel in Richmond all those years ago when they regularly rattled the walls with their exciting brand of raw blues. There will of course be those who think that they should have packed it in ten years ago and don't hold back telling anyone who will listen - but if you have ever seen them live you will know that the electricity they produce can neither be forgotten nor replicated. Anyway, as far as I'm concerned they can roll on and keep kicking it...and Keef can keep being Keef for as long as he likes...

Chuck Berry
Chuck had another birthday last week. The inventor of the Duck Walk, the man who brought the tennis racket, hairbrush and mirror combo to a million bedrooms, the man who wrote the sound-track for a million three chord guitarists, the man who got so fed up with being ripped off by promoters that he collected his fee in cash before he went on stage....was, seemingly against all the odds...Ninety. Notoriously 'difficult', I can remember seeing him kicking (literally) a bass player off stage for not getting it. If you want to celebrate this 'ornery' legend, then I suggest you go out and get hold of the movie 'Hail Hail Rock and Roll' and wonder how Keith Richards managed to avoid killing him live on camera! Happy Birthday dude – and thanks....


Sad, but co-incidentally, the week also saw the death of Phil Chess, the legendary founder and co-producer of Chess records who did, of course sign Chuck, along with Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Etta James, Howlin Wolf and Willie Dixon and dozens of other now household names. One of the few times you can use the word 'legend' and not be exaggerating. To grab an hour of all that brilliance you should go to the excellent Dave Raven's Raven and the Blues this week where the whole programme is devoted to Phil and his all star cast...

Kaz Hawkins
It would be wrong to let another week or so pass without drawing your attention to the wonderful Kaz Hawkins Band. With their sets over-flowing with style, talent, pzazz and buckets of fun this
talented crew seem to have roared into our consciousness in such a short time - although they have been a badly kept secret in Northern Ireland for years. Kaz fronts the band with some powerful vocals but, rather like another respected Irish singer, Mary Coughlan, she is able to tap into heart-rending and emotional nerve endings seemingly at the swish of her classy fifties frocks. They work hard, these guys and are putting in their time getting on to the touring and festival circuit and the new album 'Feelin' Good' is kicking up some dust. You can get to see her at the London Bluesfest on 30th October but meanwhile, if you want a lesson on how to take down a heckler, take a few minutes out to watch this cracking video, hear the lady sing and weep for 'Timmy'.... 

The Postman cometh..
Coming soon  - a lot of Cds through the letter-box waiting to be reviewed. Gosh there's some talent out there...
........
Previously in the Hat's Shorts...........

Lorna Fothergill
Northsyde are one of the UK's hardest working and most popular touring bands. They are a hugely talented foursome and the thousands of  pictures of their singer's trade-mark hair-in-action swoosh have made even the world's worst iphone photographers look good. Well, take a deep breath, those days are gone - for the moment. 
In an amazingly selfless act, Lorna has had her fabulous locks shorn to raise money for The Macmillan Cancer Support organisation.....Big Big Money....Three grand and counting...
Cheerfully, this will not affect her spectacular voice but it will, for sure, give positive and tangible support to a great cause - so get out your wallets, click here and tip your hat to a rather special lady....
/https://bravetheshave.org.uk/shavers/lorna-fothergill/

Salvation Jayne
I hear that Salvation Jayne, a band that is currently on a meteoric rise into the blues world's consciousness is parting ways with their fine singer Amy Benham who is moving on to do other things. They are young, talented, doing some touring and I understand mainly rehearse in Kent. So, if you know anyone who has the chops, the talent and the undoubted hutzpah to step into Amy's shoes, then you should contact them asap. http://www.salvationjayne.co.uk http://www.salvationjayne.co.uk/

Buckwheat Zydeco
Sad to learn of the death of 'Buckwheat' (Stanley Dural) Zydeco, who played with and for everybody from Clapton, Willie Nelson, Ry Cooder and U2 to President Clinton. He even brought zydeco to the 1996 Olympics closing ceremony! An extraordinarily talented cheerful upbeat guy who 'trail-blazed' the music into the main-stream and brought joy, pleasure and fun into millions of lives. Rest easy dude. Here he is jamming with a couple of guys you may recognise....



Dave Arcari
I wonder how many of you follow the amazing Dave Arcari? I see him as a kinda blues answer to 'The Killer' Jerry Lee Lewis – in that, without fail, he flies at 200% in every performance and totally takes you over in his live shows....and yet he can deliver sweet and slow traditional blues to perfection. His video blog is also wonderful fun. He has for many years ploughed his own highly distinctive furrow where he can run through slide, Delta and even wild trash country - and like a mad magician, has you transfixed with his deceptive brilliance. I see that once again he is off to rattle America, where they love him – a mere twenty gigs in thirty days....oh and he is, of course, sponsored by a single malt scotch whisky company! We wish him well and, for sure, our temporary loss is their gain! Check him out here. http://davearcari.com/

John Verity
I have just been listening to John Verity's latest album 'My Religion' and you can see my review on The Hat Reviews main page. However, forget about Argent, Phoenix and the arenas. If you do just one thing today go to YouTube and listen to his self-penned song Farkhunda which is on the album. He wrote this about the woman who was lynched by a male mob in Kabul for something she did not do and for too short a moment was headline news around the world. This is beautiful and I dare you not to be moved. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJNY9R_vI88

Pete Feenstra
How great to see Pete Feenstra getting a long overdue 'Lifetime Achievement' award at the BBAs this year. It would be difficult to find many who have made the kind of contribution he has made over the years, behind a microphone, fronting a club or a gig, pounding a computer keyboard, meeting and greeting and offering support wheresoever it might be useful. The list of musicians who owe him their thanks runs for ever. He is a precious, valuable and hugely busy member of the music community and incidentally, Facebook would be a very different place without the 'Pete Feenstra just posted 43 updates' notice that is always there to greet the curious and the faithful. Well done Sir and long may you continue...and anyway it's about time you stopped hiding your light behind that tiny, shy, coy, timid bushel of yours.... 


Bass Players
As hair is our lead topic, I thought I would just leave this here for bass players who like to sing and are working on their hairstyles. It's rather good...   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-rWNAQx1ZE

Seven Sisters
Over the years, The Hat has consistently shouted out for the talented young who are setting out to climb that massive music mountain. Now here is something from The Hat's Left Field. This video was brought to me via songstress Lucy Zirins, whose partner Kyle McNeill fronts a 'metal/rock' band called Seven Sisters who are launching their debut album this month.  This may not be your bag but nevertheless I'd like you to give the single a click and listen. This appeals to me not just because it is a very smart video and they are all pretty cool talented young musicians but also because of the construction of the song. It has a clever but startling change of tempo bridge in the middle which really works, pulls you in, totally complements the number...and....will remind you of some other pretty major players in this genre. These guys will go places. Give it a go... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBcUEltJG0Y

Ian Siegal
On the road again....Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK! Many of you will have seen Ian Siegal at the recent Newark Blues Festival- and picking up another BBA at the same time. Now he is off on tour yet again. Check his website for details of this seriously hard-working, must see, uber-talented musician... http://iansiegal.com/concert-tour


Tom Attah
Great to see that the mighty Tom Attah and The Bad Man Clan have released a kickin' 5 track CD called 'Put It On'. Tom, of course is a bit of a solo star (Doncha luv his 'half man, half blues machine' publicity strap) but we don't hear enough from these guys as a band. Do try and catch them live for some hugely exciting and entertaining killer and classy Chicago stomping...they will give you a night to remember! Find out more on Tom's Facebook page.

Saiichi Sugiyama
I have long been an admirer of the work of Saiichi Sugiyama and not just because he is an accomplished and respected guitarist and a master of his craft, but also because of the passion and sensitivity that he brings to his work. Thoughtful and subtle are rare attributes to find in much modern blues-rock but this is particularly the case with his self-penned material. Although he is well known on the London circuit, it is great to see that he has just been on a rare UK tour. I think there is but one stop left so do try and get to see this sublime guitarist live - and meanwhile have a listen to the stunning new single 'Melting Away' which features both a beautiful and delicate strings arrangement and is also underpinned with an elegant and adventurous bass line by the late great Andy Fraser in one of his last performances. http://www.saiichisugiyamaband.com/ 

Sean Taylor
When I reviewed Sean Taylor's brilliant album 'The Only Good Addiction is Love' last year (check the Hat Reviews page now) I confidently expected it and his songwriting to appear somewhere in the BBAs this year. That didn't happen and the awards were even more bizarre than usual. I doubt that he would lose sleep about that but nevertheless it is great to see this hugely talented and poetic troubadour making some serious waves at festivals and clubs both in the UK and on the continent. Regular air-time and nods from some major people are making Sean a must-see performer. Try and catch him and his guitar somewhere near you.  http://www.seantaylorsongs.com/


The Tuesday Night Music Club
Some years ago The Hat wrote a blog raising a glass to those mad people behind the scenes in clubs and pubs. Unpaid, overworked and often out of pocket, these are the guys who keep the wheels turning and the swan's legs pedalling. Personified by the late great Barry Middleton, you will find them everywhere in the UK bringing in thousands every week to the delights of our music. So here's a nod to the Surrey based 'TuesdayNight Music Club', which under the dedicated eye of Richard Dunning is going from strength to strength. Now they have a shiny new website so get clicking and check out the goodies on show.. 
http://www.thetuesdaynightmusicclub.co.uk/


Red Dirt Skinners
For most musicians in this business it is a long hard tough road....
learning your chops and putting in the time over the years. So, I bet that you, like The Hat, like nothing better than watching that graft and talent being appreciated and finally taking off....especially if you are one of the many that stood by the roadside and urged them on. I guess you could name one right now. The Skinners were just such a duo. Last year they played a sold out tour in Canada. Right now they are playing another sold out tour across Canada. Ain't that grand? ....and of course you can play their latest album while you are waiting for them to come back.    
http://www.reddirtskinners.com/





Pip Pip for now!