REVIEW – Jimmy Carpenter – Long Street Blues Club – Saturday 2nd October 2021

Long, slow sax in the evening

Andy Fawthrop

I think we’re all partial to some casual sax when it’s on offer, so it didn’t take much persuasion to get me back up Long Street to the Con Club for the next date of Long Street Blues Club’s winter season.  Tonight it was the turn of Las Vegas-based Jimmy Carpenter and his band, and the Devizes date was the first night of their UK tour…..

But first things first.  Acoustic support act for the night was Lewis Clark, shorn of his Essentials for the evening – just the man, his voice and his guitar.  Lewis played mostly his own material, and a lot of the songs were new.  These were often raw in emotion, but still strong on melody, with some intricate guitar playing and soaring vocal work.  He did play one cover – John Martyn’s I Don’t Wanna Know, and a damned fine job he made of it too.  Lewis is a talented guy, and the crowd clearly appreciated it as a great start to the evening’s entertainment.

Then it was onto the main man – Jimmy Carpenter.  The man came highly recommended on the back of his new album (Soul Doctor) and his Blues Foundation 2021 award for Best Instrumentalist.  The guy is a saxophonist, singer-songwriter, and arranger and has been in the music business for over 35 years – and it showed.  I was new to the guy’s music, but was totally won over by the end of the night.

The 5-piece band played two 50-minute sets and it was the mark of how darned good it was that it seemed to slip by in half that time.  Jimmy was in total control of his band (including a bassist brought in at the last minute due to a possible Covid scare) and, after a few numbers, in control of the crowd.  The sets featured several original tracks from the album, including a really superb rendition of the eponymous Soul Doctor, together with a seamless leavening of carefully selected covers.  Just as I was beginning to think of comparisons – Van Morrison, Southside Johnny, Junior Walker – up came the latter’s Shotgun.  We also journeyed through Peter Green’s Need Your Love So Bad, Otis Clay’s Trying To Live My Life Without You, the Rolling Stones’ Shine A Light, Freddy King’s Surf Monkey and Eddie Hinton’s (of Muscle Shoals fame) Yeah Man. 

All of this was played with enormous panache and great energy, effortlessly working through Memphis soul, boogie-woogie, rock & roll, and blues.  And not content with blowing some wicked sax and putting out a great line in gravelly vocals, the man kept flipping over to lead guitar “just for a rest”.  What a performer!  Needless to say the crowd lapped it up.

Great night’s entertainment, and what good quality live music is all about!  Best sax I’ve had in ages!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

  • Saturday 30th October – Climax Blues Band (at Devizes Town Hall)
  • Saturday 20th November – Focus (at Devizes Corn Exchange)
  • Saturday 27th November – Antonio Forcione Quartet
  • Saturday 18th December – Kossoff: The Band Plays On
  • Friday 14th January 2022 – Chicago Blues Allstars

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