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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Empty Chairs and Devil’s Music

The warden said, “hey, buddy, don’t you be no square, if you can’t find a partner, use a wooden chair.” Least Elvis tells it as thus, I wasn’t in the whole cell block at the time.

Ah, not always a wooden chair around though; availability of seating at many a gig I’ve attended slight, the act pleading to the shied audience to dance. Why I like the name of this Wiltshire, The Empty Chairs. It suggests everybody’s boogying, better than C+C and their music factory!

“We’re often asked why the band chose the empty chairs as a band name, it can sound negative, but when we’re faced with a room of empty chairs,” they explain, “it’s a positive thing because we know we’ve got the audience up and dancing.” For if you really do have to sit while listening to this rock n roll four-piece, you’re going to at least be toe-tapping.

While the Empty Chair’s provides an assortment of covers ranging from Imelda May, JD McPherson to rock n roll classics like Elvis and Chuck Berry, and lead singer Carmen also heads function band The Casual Ties with a plethora of pop hits spanning all eras, The Easy Chairs have released a debut EP of original material called “Devil’s Music,” very worthy of our attention.

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Sure, it’s rock n roll, essentially, but carries a tint of acceptable post punk pop; think Blondie particularly, given the accomplished gritty female vocals, delivered wonderfully by Carman Hyde. Yet, while the genre of yore may have lost its roots since Elvis was doing bird in the big house, the twangy pentatonic guitar licks, and archetypical composition of these original tunes are homage to the true spirit of rock n roll’s golden era, with nods to both its blues and country influences.

Throw away thoughts of seventies reconditioned rockabilly though, there’s nothing Matchbox, The Darts or gaudy suits and spongy platform shoes about this steady tempo rock n roll, for which I’d confess I troubled putting my finger on comparisons to the Empty Chairs, without cliché or discrepancies. Need to say more, it has to be heard, because while it retains these influences, it doesn’t feel retro revival in any fashion, rather strangely fresh and contemporary.

Neither, I suspect will it be the next big thing, to be brutal about it, it’s not bonkers as the title track, Devils Music, might suggest. It’s not high-energy rawness, taking you to new forms, but feels like some proficient musicians, drummer Dom, guitarists Daniel and Darren, and singer Carmen, having fun putting their four years of experience to the test, and for which, it works and is a fabulously catchy and bouncy beat, in line with their cater-for-all ethos.

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The opening tune, Preacher informs just how it’s going to go down, beguiling and rocking. The writing is virtuous, the title track which follows is a love-knows-no-rules subject, with an impenetrable rhythmic groove, which flows throughout. Southern fried it progresses through an eloquently melancholic account of a girl called Jodie, through to the feelgood Brand-New Day.

 
I know the bread-and-butter scenario for singers, a function band like The Causal  Ties requires you strum through timeworn anthems, and for which I’d suspect The Empty Chairs would produce a most memorable evening too. Yet I’d like to see these guys booked at a venue keen to promote original music, like the Vic, Southgate, or Shoes, as this showcase EP is skilful and moreish. In fact, guitarist Darren Arthurs just let it slip they’re at our trusty Southgate next year!

EP on Bandcamp here – and give them a Facebook Like here!


© 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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Mod R&B Legend, Georgie Fame Coming to Devizes!

Update:

Tickets for Friday 8th November are Here!

 

I’ll probably get told off by my mum for adding this photo, but I love it. My parents and friends at a dance in Shoreditch Town Hall, 1964. Dad captioned the bands were Screaming Lord Such and The Rockin’ Berries. How cool those mods looked!

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Zip forward to 2004 and tired of taking my mum to see mod legend, Georgie Fame, my dad dropped us off in Camberley. It was an awesome night, he played a homage to Ray Charles who had passed that week, and told some great stories. One about Mitch Mitchell, the drummer in his band, the Blue Fames. After checking out an American guy in a club nearby their gig in 1966, Mitch ran back to tell the band how awesome he was, and was soon signed to The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Georgie’s son played guitar at the event, did an amazing solo of Hendrix’s Red House. And of course, Mr Fame, aged sixty-one at the time and still looked cooler than the mods in this photo, played his plethora of hits, “Yeah Yeah,” “Do the Dog,” and “The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde.” Though I don’t recall my personal favourite, “Somebody Stole my Thunder,” a mod classic which still gets people up today; I know, played at the Scooter Club’s family fun day.

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With my mum, incessantly inquiring if I thought he’d remember a club in the East End he used to play at, regularly in my earlobe becoming somewhat irritating, after the gig and standing waiting for my Dad to pick us up, I noted Georgie gathered with just a handful of people by a car. “I don’t know!” I huffed, pointing the figure of this senior chap out to her, “why don’t you go ask him?!”

My mum quivered like a star-struck teenager, “oh no, I couldn’t possibly do that!”

“Ahk! He’s standing right there!!” But alas, anxiety got the better of her. It pushed into my mind, that we were all young and impressable once, we all idolised heroes. Yet, though I may shudder to recall some of my own lax, eighties idolisations, I have to admit, Georgie Fame would’ve been one cool one to follow, if I lived in that era.

But time is an illusion my friend, for just when you thought we’d seen the end of The Devizes Arts Festival for the year, they today whack us with the announcement Georgie Fame is coming to Devizes on Friday 8th November, playing a one off at the Corn Exchange. I knew this, Margaret whispered her secret some weeks ago, been aching to announce it since!

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I will let you know when tickets are out, but this fantastic news. This Lancashire lad is a legend on the rhythm and blues scene, played alongside rock n roll heroes like Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, and an idol to mod/soul aficionados as one of the first British Caucasians to be influenced by ska. Whether you lived through the sixties or not, this is an absolute teaser to forthcoming Arts Festival events, and I thought I was done praising them for the year!


 

© 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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Buddy Holly Lived, Last Night at the Corn Exchange

I love the way BBC Radio Merseyside presenter, Asa Murphy says “Devizes,” in his Facebook video-diaries. The rich scouse accent feels almost alien against the usual Wiltshire enunciation. In fact, there was a scouse tinge amidst the customary folk chatter in the Corn Exchange last night, as it prepared for the hit show, Buddy Holly Lives.

Asa had messaged me early in the week, asking to give the event a push; he still had sixty tickets left. We did what we could, but I had to forewarn him Devizine’s demographic doesn’t trend to an older age group, generally. Also, it was perhaps the wrong weekend to stage anything rock n roll in town, both the Long Street Blues Club and the Melksham Rock n Roll Club had events, popularly enticing loyal target audiences the show would surely attract too.

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Yet my only inane grumble about last night was that we crammed into the Corn Exchange like sardines, the seats adjoined with paper-depth separation, left barely the leg-room of an Easy-Jet flight, as this massive hall was brimming to bursting point; seems virtually every remining ticket at the beginning of the week had been snapped up. While a younger crowd could cope with this, the nature of the show bound to attract an older crowd, who surely need just a little space to move, particularly being the show was absolutely spellbinding and enticingly danceable. You could feel the audience, of an average middle-age, being there were a few younger, itching to jump off their seat but fearful in their morals that they’d be shoving elderly neighbours to the floor.

Although the last thing I wanted to do was injure a kindly old lady with my frenzied twist, when Asa finally suggested we get up and dance, by pronouncing “we are still teenagers!” the crowd needed no more encouragement, and the finale saw old and young throwing away cares, qualms and perhaps, any medical advice against excursion, to dance wildly in the aisles and manage best they could in their space.

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If Asa also suggesting continuing the party into the Exchange’s basement nightclub in jest, had become reality, I’d wager this generation would show the younger a move or two! For rock n roll, agree or deny, doesn’t care, it doesn’t care if you reject its influence on every brand of pop which followed, and even if after this aged generation the songs of Buddy Holly was to fade away, his and his peer’s daring experimentation, hedonism and desire to fuse cultures will be the blueprint for everything which ever follows.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, for Buddy Holly Lives is not a ground-breaking turning point for rock n roll, rather a homage to those that was, and for which was sublimely performed and thoroughly entertaining. Its narrative separated the show into four sections, recreating historic moments in Buddy’s career; his beginnings at KDAV radio which demanded he abstained current trends in rock n roll gave us a country intro, with a need to break the rules. Again, the resistance against shying away from playing the majority Afro-American Harlem Apollo and in doing so, giving Caucasians acceptance here, made an explosive second section leading to the interval.

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An inspiring third section a recreation of Buddy in the studio, enlightened his desire to experiment with strings and orchestral accompaniment, whereas the final section, though rather predictable, took the audience to the Winter Dance tour which saw the tragic end to this young prodigy’s life. Combined, Asa, backing group and associates acting the parts, gave us a comprehensive catalogue of Buddy’s songs and covers which Buddy would’ve approved, with panache and precision.

Rarely done with a “tribute act,” Asa tugged off trademark glasses and leapt out of character, to explain his reasoning for creating the show, the importance of bringing it to Devizes, and in doing so, not only introduced his charming charisma which has labelled him the “king of swing,” but paid a moving ode to Bruce Hopkins. It indicted the originality in this show, for though it had enough narrative to combine the songs, unlike a theatrical production, there was not enough to distract from the music, but more-so, this was not a tribute act, but a homage to Asa’s influence. It also stated the charitable donation the show made.

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In conclusion then, the combination of the show’s charitable cause, the reasoning for producing it, the subtle but significant narrative, the band and Asa’s realistic, vivid and skilful recreation of the legend of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, made this show absolutely brilliant.

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April Warming with Asa Murphy as Buddy Holly

The Corn Exchange, Devizes most prestigious and largest venue, sets to rock n roll on April 6th when Asa Murphy and gang brings his hit Liverpool show, Buddy Holly Lives to town.

Posting a rehearsal video on Facebook this week proved a plan, it sounds marvellous. Asa also made an appearance at Devizes Books last week. Yet, the weekend may not have been the most carefully selected, the popular Long Street Blues Club hosts the Billy Walton Band, while The Melksham Rock n Roll Club are bound to pull a crowd for the Hurricanes, all on the same night. With rock n rollers spoiled it’s just to express why Buddy Holly Lives is my personal choice for the most unmissable event this April, hopeful to reach to an audience beyond rock n roll aficionados, and I base it upon the simple fact Buddy’s music was such it transcends its genre.

Timeless performers of Buddy’s level of talent and prolific drive come around one in a generation, if we’re lucky. Above all of their peers, Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the experimentalists, the pioneers who avoided rock n roll crashing out of fashion with their diverseness in musical formats. The unpretentious, simplest formulas are the backbone of every pop classic, take the ease which Buddy mastered this notion in a tune like “It’s Raining in my Heart,” or “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”

 
But if we are to strip down a song for analysis, take “Everyday” as a prime example of what I’m attempting to get at. An out of studio rehearsal of the song, where without drums Jerry Allison tapped the rhythm with his hands on his thighs, it is Buddy’s immediate eureka moment to keep it as that, rather than use drums which represents the genius in simplicity which the Beatles borrowed, the same cognitive creative virtuoso producers like Quincy Jones, Lee Scratch Perry, Giorgio Moroder, or William Orbit would adopt to make a song into a hit, in their respective eras.

 

Do you see where I’m coming from? It is why I’d recommend any contemporary aspiring musician to take heed of Buddy’s catalogue, and also why I’d advise, if there’s one show this month you need to be at locally, it’s this homage to the utmost pioneer of pop, aside being a fan rock n roll, or not.

 
This is without the added detail it’s a celebration of the life of Bruce Hopkins, who through his music raised substantial amounts for Cancer Research, a donation will be made to charity, and Asa’s professionalism and dynamic charisma. Bought to together with Buddy’s music, with narrative, I’m not only looking forward to this, but dragging my mum halfway across the country to come see it! As a Buddy fan since early teenage, she will be a far harsher critic than me, Asa!

 
Tickets are £20, available now from Devizes Books.

 

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