Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue at the Southgate

Hibernation, like a bear, saving motivation and funds for Christmas, spent too much at the Lantern Parade? Ah, a bit of all three meant it was only to be a whistle stop at the Southgate Saturday night. When I should’ve been at the Sham’s Assembly Hall for the Female of the Species, and I should’ve been in Trow-Vegas for Sheer’s gig too. Without cloning technology, the pressure usually melts my enthusiasm entirely, and opt to I slob on the sofa cuddling a packet of digestives, chocolate ones, naturally. Yet if just a pint at the dependable local couldn’t persuade me,after reviewing the forthcoming live album from Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue I simply couldn’t resist.

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And for all the thoroughly deserved lovely things I had to say about it, I propped this gig on a pedestal, but was far away from disappointment. The band started with Hold It, and blasted Baby Please Come Home, virtually replicating this live album. Best thing at the Southgate is the communal feel, beneficial to meet and greet the artists; I was a handshake away from Ruzz Evans and the band, which I did, and with it he explained they often begin with that formula and mix it up thereafter. The advantage though was not our quick chat, but the close inspection of Ruzz handling that guitar, as it’s something spectacular and I watched in awe.

Unsure if I got the ball rolling fittingly, as I mumbled, “you make that look so easy,” at the suited Bristolian caked in perspiration. Clearly, and as I expressed in our album review, blasting a lengthy and vigorous rock n roll chef-d’oeuvre like this takes stamina! I knew what I meant though, they did make it look like child’s play, the band equally as proficient as the front man.

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So, a high-energy blast of traditional rock n roll blended with acute blues blessed the trusty Southgate, a never-ending foundation of great, free, live music in Devizes. Here’s the twist; it’s the uniqueness of Ruzz and crew, amidst the conventional rock n roll cliché of Elvis or Buddy tributes, passé eighties rockabilly four-pieces, and nostalgic but substandard fifties cover bands, Ruzz simply doesn’t come off like that. Mostly fresh, original works; if there were covers, they were rarities, and delivered with the youthful energy and passion of an era of yore.

I can’t keep on this glorious new find, I’m not even a rocker! But when stripped back to the roots, as authentically as this, all pop genres combine and there’s no need to pigeonhole. Funny, in reflection, and considering diverse fifties artists like Buddy Holly, how close mod’s and rocker’s tastes were, yet at the time, reason to fight. Look, just read our album review, will you, before I waffle on a tangent? Which, incidentally, is released February but available for pre-order today. There’re also two previous studio albums, and Ruzz returns this way in March at the Sports Club, (see poster) if not before.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Live Album at the Louisiana with Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue

A cheetah can achieve motorway speeds, but not long enough to get off the slip road; worthless trivia, unless you’re an antelope. I like to think cheetahs listen to rock n roll; no, hear me out. Akin to this feline fact, those RnB and rock n roll classics are one short burst of energy. Fortunately for the artists the 78rpm record lasted a maximum of five minutes, and for radio play they’d cut it to little over three, any longer they surely risk congestive heart failure.

As the era passed to late sixties, psychedelia stretched recorded music to live and extended dimensions Little Richard could never maintain. Mellowing tendency matured rock, but arguably robbed its dynamism. Ah, come the eighties twelve inch single and the mega-mix, prompting the question; why didn’t Glenn Close choose the Jive Bunny to boil?

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Image by 
Jerry Tremaine Photography

Rare then it is, to hear a frenzied traditional rock n roll sound encompass ten minutes; welcome to Ruzz Evans’ world. Embodiment of Johnny B Goode, Ruzz can pick guitar like he’s ringing a bell, for an astounding period too. Due for release on 10th February, but available for pre-order from December 1st, I’ve been adoring this album recorded live at the Louisiana in Ruzz’s hometown of Bristol.

Forgive me for sustaining the rock n roll pigeonhole, for Ruzz has the quiff and is photographed in a teddy boy drape jacket. With backing from an incredible band including drummer Mike Hoddinott and upright bassist Joe Allen, the panache of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue straddles rock and its namesake blues. Since 2016, when they added an awesome horn trio to the roster, we can add big band jazz to their style. That’s my thoughts while absorbed in this, of what Miles Davis did to jazz, or Pink Floyd to prog rock, Ruzz does to traditional rhythm and blues come rock n roll; the result is breath-taking.

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Bearing in mind his voice isn’t growling Tennessean, yet neither was Gene Vincent’s, rather quirky Bristolian, the vocals are sporadic, instruments reign. There’s an amusing conclusion to “Under Your Spell,” where 10 minutes of detonating electric blues is broken by a genuinely surprised thank you from Ruzz in said accent. This often amuses me, pondering, no, thank you, mate, I just clapped, you’ve just held me spellbound for ten minutes, the pleasure is all mine!

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In this instance I’m not even there, merely listening on my headphones, but still entranced. While they’re Bristol based Ruzz and his Guitar’s Blues Revue are no strangers here, and you can catch them at the Southgate (Nov 30th), White Swan Trowbridge (tonight 9th Nov) at the R&B bar in March at Devizes Sports Club. I’m quivering, ashamed after hearing this that I’ve not caught them live yet; an offence I will rectify, you would too if you hear this.

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Live at the Louisiana explodes from the off; the two, Hold It and Baby Please Come Home, for starters envelope all I’ve said, lively jump blues come big band rock n roll. Catchy, you’ll be lindy hopping before your first sip. Yet if Movin On groovily notches to allegro moderato, Back Home to Stay boogie-woogies again, and Sleepwalk is as dreamy as it suggests. The last two tunes, Sweet as Honey and the aforementioned Under You Spell embrace all we’ve so far said, making this release, I reckon, a treasure; fantastic!

With two self-released studios albums already under their big rockabilly buckles, and opening for Dr Feelgood, The BlockHeads, Kirk Fletcher and Bill Kirchen and Darrel Higham, they’re stamping an authority of quality worldwide. Ruzz has been honoured by being officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, and that’s what I perceive of him, the kind of obsessive guy who will turn any conversation to his labour of love, but when it’s this proficient, you cannot help but take heed. I’m off to find out what they can do in the studio, but with such a formula I think this live album captures the spirit perfectly.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Minions, and Mr Tea’s Mutiny

Put the kettle on; Balkan gypsy ska here in Bristol, Mutiny, the new album from Mr Tea & The Minions is a favourite for my best album of the year, with a top hat on.

Impressionable, I creaked the door on a near-expired student party, where a cocktail of Cinzano and shrooms polished off the amateur bassist, and he hung unconscious half off the edge of a sofa in his own puke. I witnessed scholar deprivation; comatose youth, crusty dreadlocks matted into a teetering Christmas tree, and a random arm draped over a guitar amp, howling feedback. I gulped, no partygoer standing, but an erratic noise of a “Red Roses For Me” cassette whirling. Sounds blessing such a character-building eye-opener makes you reconsider your loathing for a particular genre of music.

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Until then, my presumption of folk music was pruned from an overwhelming desire to hold primary school sweetheart, Trudi’s hand, and the only foreseeable method to achieve it; to opt for country dancing. Ever frustrated to find myself partnered with dowdy Emma instead, I guess it rubbed a revulsion for frumpy folk music, with its delicate romances of falling autumn leaves and daisies dancing in a spring zephyr. It can be nauseating, symbolic of my failure to caress Trudi’s nail-bitten digits.

The epiphany dusted, I bought the Pouges long-player, shaking my preconception solo until crusties like The Levellers came onto the scene, boiling the realisation folk doesn’t have to be frumpy, in fact, it’s an epoch, a people’s music, and the roots of all that followed owe it. But if that era of recklessly launching yourself around, knocking down parent’s ornaments and calling it dancing has come of age, and if the Pouges are now acceptable, seasonally, (they stole the best Christmas song slot from a band in tartan trozzers and platform shoes after all,) I say unto thee, Mr Tea & the Minions; it’s my new favourite thing.

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It’s not an awkward mesh of Despicable Me and the A-Team, rather a contemporary Bristol based, female-fronted six-piece ska-post-punk-folk Balkan-inspired riot, and their new album, Mutiny is beyond blooming gorgeous. Constructed out of lead vocalist and controller of “shaky things,” Elle Ashwell, drummer Fabian Huss, guitarists James Pemberton, James Tomlinson and James (Fold) Talbot on bass, with manager Lucy Razz on violin, they formed six years ago through James’ love of Balkan music. With the edges polished by collaborating with DJ Howla, and James’ professed love of tea, Mr Tea & The Minions was born, a name which they say was “a joke that was never meant to go so far.”

As Balkan, it’s fresh, electrifying and wonderfully danceable. Elle’s gritty shrill is apt and uplifting, the theme is often invitingly saucy, awakeningly tangible, sometimes metaphorically current affairs, but it hardly wanes in energy, and if it does you know it’s building to something. Mutiny is ten songs of splendour, drizzly evening enriching with a gypsy spin. It’s a warm musky pub of yore, where a furtive crusty band jams and you spill your cider on a scraggy dog. It also riffs like ska, boils like The Levellers and rinses fresher than Shane MacGowan on his best hair day.

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The Eye of the Storm, like the title track, and Pandemonium are the Fruit Pastels, breezier tempo tunes like the beautifully crafted The Spider and The Fly stun you in anticipation of the melody, but no single tune stands alone, there’s a flow of prog-rock, and if it starts and ends with a little “meow,” it’s never completely nonsensical. Lyrics are sublimely executed, mostly evocative, but dashed with fun. There’s really nought bad I could say about this unique album, I’ll be dancing to it for the foreseeable future, maybe even look up Trudi on Facebook, she can’t still bite her nails.

Somebody local book these, pl-weaseeee; the Southgate or Barge would suit to a, pardon the pun, tea. Yet times are looking good for this madcap band, on the verge of another spectacular festival season and numerous gigs on tour, our closest to date is the Prince Albert Stroud Nov 22nd, Bocabar in Glastonbury on the 9th, or recommended homecoming at the Old Market Assembly, Bristol on 30th Nov. Failing this, try the Mutiny for size.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Numb Tongues, Kings and Dukes

If you like your soul and blues with an authentic vintage feel, look no further than this new Bristol group, The King Dukes…. 

 

If Bristol wasn’t the birthplace of a “new cool” through electronic blues in the nineties, with the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead, it certainly led the way. I have to take a deep breath, fetch my pipe and slippers; this is a new era of anti-pop, an era of retrospective tendency, where traditional instruments override our technological desire of the pre-millennium. An era where technology is used only to market, allowing sounds to hark back to a time before drum loops, rap, and the DJ as king.

The king is dead, long live this exciting renovation, and long live The King Dukes. I’m honoured to give you the low-down, about their new journey. Formed in Bristol in April, a merger of a variety of local bands, including Crippled Black Phoenix, Screamin’ Miss Jackson and the John E. Vistic Experience, The King Dukes combine said talent and experience to create a unique, authentic sound, dipped in a heritage reuniting contemporary slices of British RnB with a dollop of Memphis soul.

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Set to unleash their debut album ‘Numb Tongues’ on October 25th, I’ve had a listen or ten, and can plainly see why it’s been picked up by UK label, Paratone, as well as French label QSounds Recording. Chatting to guitarist and frontman, Marc Griffiths, I asked him what’s in a name, predicting it might relate to Duke Ellington. While pondering he sent a YouTube link of a track not on the album. This song, titled King Cyrille, is Hammond organ boss reggae, akin to Harry J’s Allstars. It’ a tribute to West Bromwich Albion player Cyrille Regis. “The team used to come out to Liquidator,” he explained, “it’s in conjunction with West Brom, for their podcast, so we did something similar.” Momentarily contemplating the name possibly nods more to Duke Reid, Marc cleared it up, informing me they had a residency at the Old Duke in Bristol, “but that’s named after Duke Ellington.”

I can see why, aside this one-off tune, Numb Tongues is not only dependent on a classic RnB sound, there’s sprinkles of jazz, blues, yet formulated like Stax or dare I say it, Motown. It rolls out in a manner able to slip its tunes into a set of old-time soul unnoticed. Caril-Anne, for example, is up-tempo soul, beguiling through that recipe of yore, simplicity. Kid Gloves is another lively number, foot-stomping soul with a subtle nod to rockabilly akin to The Big Bopper. This one reminded me of Jack and Elwood Blues marching back and forth.

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But if this four-beat soul formula rings through tracks like I Gotta Go, and Gone, Gone, Gone is stepping, handclapping doo-wop reliant, Rub You The Right Way hooks into a blues riff taking me to Howlin’ Wolf, and True, True, True nods to bebop. This one has a sublime vocal by April Jackson, who holds a note like Etta James. Generally, the vocals are as polished as the aforementioned soul legends, yet grittily Caucasian, like Jim Morrison’s finest hour.

As a whole there’s much going on here, but whether there’s echoing vocals like the ballad, Dying Man, with a breezy jazz-come Otis Redding passion, or, like Marlo Cooper, it’s a blast of instrumental groove, comparable to Stax session musicians Booker T & the MG’s, it’s all stylised and flows superbly. In fact, it was mention of an Otis Redding post on their Facebook page which got Marc and I chatting; glad I did now.

With Marc and April, there’s drummer Dan Clibery, bassist Mandrake Fantastico, Henry Slim owning that Hammond Organ and Harmonica, and a fiery three-piece brass section with Joss Murray on Trumpet, Rebecca Sneddon on Tenor Sax and Sarah Loveday-Drury handling the Trombone.

Together they’re a force to be reckoned with. Throwing modern recording techniques aside and using methods for a fifties-sixties sounding album, such as recording a section with multiple instruments all at one time, and playing period-specific instruments, The King Dukes have captured perfectly this raw, vintage backline on ‘Numb Tongues.’

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We’ve seen a similar blueprint around our way with the brilliant Little Geneva, and if this is the trend then I’m in, hook, line and sinker. Although, naturally, those ol’ time classic soul songs never wane in appreciation, sometimes looking further afield to the rare grooves, like Northern Soul aficionados, often the tunes never make equal approval in production and quality. Numb Tongues meet this notion in middle; The King Dukes deliver fresh material with honours, and if heard in 1965 would surely be considered classics.

You can pre-save a copy of Numb Tongues here, there’s an album launch on December 7th at the LeftBank in Bristol; I’m keen to hear of anyone willing to bring these guys local for a gig. As you know Devizine doesn’t usually cover Bristol, too much going on and not enough hours in the day, but when it’s this good…….


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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New Band, Old Roots: Little Geneva

If Devizes folk have a love of blues, with a slash to rock, and all this I find a beautiful thing; Long Street Blues Club, the origins of Saddleback and of course our own legend Jon Amor, there have been occasions when a portion of visiting bands I take with a pinch. There’s cliché, whereas roots of blues are strictly raw, these convey the conventional, an earnest shot to commercialise to a middle-aged tolerable market, which in a way is fine and dandy, there’s clearly a thirst for it and historically such progress is natural.

 
You see where I’m coming from? At a time, Elvis was unacceptable, was edgy, now the rock n roll audience is pensioner age, consider it classic. Marlborough’s popular Jazz Festival fills with hoity-toity yet the rags of Scott Joplin at the time of their conception could only be heard in bawdy New York brothels. Similarly, I hear a once subversive, outrageous noise of nineties rave as a children’s TV cartoon theme tune.

 
From the crashing drums and thrumming guitar opening blast of “Key to Love,” there’s no doubt barriers have been stripped back. Echoes of raw energy from a time of yore rip through you, its two and a half minutes of screeching harmonica and growling vocals place you in 1967, under a blanket at an LA love-in. Little Geneva maybe newly constructed, but resonance images of The Animals, of Steppenwolf and the Stones with a truly proficient edge.

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Putting my point to them, they agreed, “we feel very similar to you mate, very similar indeed… which is why we made those recordings, and, in the stripped back/vintage way we did.”

This EP satisfies retrospective mod-culture and beatniks more-so than contemporary indie fans, I’d say; imagine punk didn’t happen. “All Your Love” slides you into the smooth classical/jazz stimulus of The Doors, yet “Yer Blues” harks the blues which would’ve inspired these aforementioned legends. “Someday After a While,” again breezy melancholic blues sound of Cream or The Animals. Five tracks on this EP, but from the first note I was hooked.

 

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Bristol-based, Little Geneva, name coined from a Muddy Waters track, only formed on the eve before 2019, conceived during a conversation between the Doherty brothers, Dave and Chris. Partisans of the UK contemporary blues scene for over a decade, they felt a need to get back on stage together, as part of a truly great live band; thus, Little Geneva spawned. Once the seed was sown, recruiting additional members didn’t prove a problem.

 
Chris, 32, and Dave Doherty, 36; both gifted guitarists, holding players such as B.B King, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton in high regard, headhunted Rags Russell, 32, (vocals/harmonica) who fronts the youthful and energetic band with an emotive and soulful vocal style. Zak Ranyard, 27, (bass guitar) and Simon Small, 33, (drums) provide the rhythm section’s high level of energy and power, driving the band.

 
Having completed this blinding EP, the band is set to record their first album at the beginning of March, as they look for clubs and festivals dates across Europe. But the bestest part of it all, the album launch gig is based right here, in Devizes. I had to ask them, the connection.

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You may know already, you see that’s where Devizine differs from being our town’s Time Out magazine, it’s a learning curve for me. There’s history behind this band, as individuals, Little Geneva members have opened shows for Ray Davies (The Kinks), John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Mud Morganfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Also sharing festival bills with The Red Devils, Jimmie Vaughan, The Hoax, B.B King and many others. But three members of the band began their musical relationship in Devizes, back in 2004. Chris, Simon and Dave went to Lavington Comprehensive.

 

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“We all lived in Devizes at the time our first band formed,” explained Dave, “and we were quickly recruited by other older stalwarts of the scene. We helped create a thriving music scene at The Bell by The Green around this time and it was, for a time, a great little scene.”

 
“They go right back to the beginning of Sheer,” Sheer’s creator Kieran Moore informed, “Check out a band called Hitchmo; that’s where it started.”

 
“That early band came to an end around 2008,” Dave continued, “and the three of us went our separate ways, musically speaking. We all met other musicians, worked with other producers in different genres and countries. Chris now lives in Cornwall, as does Zak. Rags lives in Bristol, as did I when I met him. Simon and I now live in Devizes, where we feel rooted. Bristol is the hub of our activities; it’s obviously a more connected place than Devizes. Devizes is our home though, and all three of want to come back here for our first show, and smash it out of the park!”

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It’s Little Geneva’s deep respect for, and knowledge of what made those early British blues recordings so energised, and exhilarating, coupled with the soulful spirit with which all members express themselves, that will make an unmissable launch date at The Cellar Bar on Saturday 23rd March. Initial reaction to this retrospective goodness was wow, great booking Kieran, but I see now, what’s news to me is a reunion, to a degree, for Sheer and aforementioned scene; indisputably making the gig even more poignant than simply this absolutely rocking sound.

 

I shit you not, it’s like being bought up with Neil Sedaka and suddenly discovering The Faces. Oh, and if you need more convincing, Jon Amor supports…. supports, I know, right!

Website www.littlegenevaband.co.uk
Email: bookings@littlegenevaband.co.uk

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