Errol Linton at Long Street Blues Club

In a remarkable finale to the season for Long Street Blues Club, London-based The Errol Linton Band presented Devizes with a sublime lively blues blend of delta and RnB, incorporating jazz, funk, reggae and ska too. But if the band’s proficiency in implementing this melting pot sounds erratic, the perfection was in the precision of switching through subgenres. The result was simply infectious.…..

It’s rarely mused, given the contemporary influence of Jamaica’s musical export, that prior to reggae its route lies with the removal of shortwave radio stations provided for American soldiers stationed on the island after WW2. As they disembarked Jamaica they left a blossoming sound system culture, the entrepreneurs of which set up recording studios as supply of US 45s declined.

They pulled from the influences they heard, jump blues particularly, and within these walls is the fabled Duke Reid session with Prince Buster, whereby copying the offbeat experiments of Fats Domino and Barbie Gaye, as was popular on the sound systems, and riding the shuffle beat style of T Bone Walker, a timeout was called and the guitarist ended by running the shuffle backwards, accidently creating “the ska.”

Even less widely known; initially Duke Reid wasn’t in favour of ska, but as the government promoted it for tourism as “Jamaica’s first national sound,” obviously he felt he’d lose out if he didn’t follow the trend. So, pre-ska, and even during its explosion, the Jamaican studios continued to put out as wider variety of sounds as they heard on US Radio, from blues to doowop and even country. This is a necessary backstory to capture the ethos of Errol Linton and his band, as Errol and two-thirds of the band have Jamaican heritage, are keen to emphasis this, and however subtle, everything mentioned gets a nod in their performance.

Errol is also an accomplished artist, creating portraits of his influences gives clear indication of who he is citing, the blues legends, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Louis Armstrong and beyond. Yes, the band deviated from blues, to throw down a jazzy number, to increase levels of danceable funk, and with a narrative of Howlin’ Wolf visiting Jamaica, they covered Howlin’ For my Darling with a matchless ska offbeat. Particularly diverse was an original “Country Girl,” as while maintaining one-drop reggae, the chorus verged onto a dancehall riff. It was right up my street and knocking loudly on my door, but I paused to observe the more blues aficionado regulars enjoying it equally as much as I!

For all the diversity I’ve noted, and mentioned the pleasure was in how proficiently they switched, even mid-song, this tight arrangement was best at delivering blues, and did so second-to-none. Frontman Errol gliding between vocals and harmonica, cherry-capped pianist Petar Zivkovic lightening on the keys, Lance Rose in porkpie hat, chilled on the upright double bass, perfectionist timekeeper Gary Williams on drums, and guitarist Richey Green presented the funkiest dancing show during play, the combo was spellbinding.

But none of this happened before Devizes-own Adam Woodhouse delivered the textbook support slot. Confident, despite his first outing at this blues appreciation society in which regulars will aim all eyes on you, Adam kicked off with an Elvis rendition of That’s Alright Mama, and with top-notch finger picking, continued covers with a remarkable Johnny Cash. Adam, a regular soloist at The Southgate and attendee of their celebrated Wednesday jam session, had some originals of his own, which were executed with panache.

A most memorable evening was had, in which frontman Errol reigned the moment, showing this natural ability accomplished over thirty years, since a busker of London’s streets. This is British blues at its finest, individually stylised yet heavily drawing from his roots, a perfect blend to homage his heritage, entertain and packaged in such a non-pretentious manner, you couldn’t dislike it; impossible!

An absolutely blinding night for the Long Street Blues Club, organiser Ian Hopkins’ smile said it all, as he clarified he’s been trying to book these guys for a while, and made a promise to the crowd they’d return; you need to be there when it does. The next season starts on 20th August, with anticipated return of Skinny Molly. Worth mentioning though, being we’ve discussed the early stages of Jamaican sound systems and Duke Reid’s Treasure Ilse, competitor Coxsone Dodd over at Studio One gave fame to a majority of reggae artists, yes, including Bob, and another crowned King of Rock Steady, Alton Ellis, that Alton’s son, Troy is on in Hillworth Park around about 3pm today. So, get your sandals on, unless you remain adamant nothing ever happens in Devizes!


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