REVIEW – Lewis Clark & The Essentials @ The Southgate, Devizes –Friday 13th March 2020

No Pigeon-Holes

Andy Fawthrop

Friday had been a not-so-great day, with lots of news about C**, pitched battles in the aisles of Morrisons over the last few toilet-rolls, and the cancellation of many sporting and other events. How to react to this desperate situation? Well it was obvious – go to the pub for a few beers and to listen to some live music.

It was The Southgate’s landlady Debs’ birthday week-end, so some great music (as always) was promised. And it all kicked off on Friday night with locals Lewis Clark & The Essentials. Although the band had played this venue before, I’d managed to miss them last time out, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d been told that they were wonderfully hard to pigeon-hole, but that they were an acoustic based band, blending folk, soul, and blues.

Lewis’ band on this occasion consisted of the man himself on vocals and guitar, accompanied by upright bass and keyboards, and they had just kicked off their first number when I got there. I was with friends and so started the evening by chatting to them, but the chat soon died away as we all relaxed and really began to listen to this very talented performer. This was no mere pub background music. None of us wanted to ignore what was clearly some very fine music.

The first thing that struck me was Lewis’ incredible voice. His range, delivery and vocal style were completely arresting and mesmerising. Coupled with some wonderful jazz-like phrasing, his vocals absolutely carried the night. The effortless musicianship of the band supported Lewis’ songs through a whole range of musical styles and influences – folk, jazz, blues, latin, roots, soul – sometimes within the same song. The result was a spell-binding fusion of melodies, haunting lyrics, and an eclectic and varied performance.

The trio produced two superb sets of original music, and still managed to work in a few covers, to which they lent their own fresh interpretation. Stand-outs among the latter were a mash-up of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” with the Guess Who’s “American Woman”, and later on Free’s “All Right Now”, which all received a damned good seeing-to.

In total, it was tour de force performance – lyrical, multi-influenced, impossible to pigeon-hole, and thoroughly entertaining.

And, yes, after self-medicating with beer, I did wash my wash hands at appropriate times during the evening.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

• Saturday 14th March Lightnin’ Hobos
• Saturday 21st March Eddie Witcomb
• Sunday 22nd March Vince Bell
• Saturday 28th March Mark Smallman Band
• Sunday 29th March Gary Hall


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