17 May 2015

L - R: Paul Lamb & The Detroit Breakdown. Aynsley Lister. Eddie Martin. Alex McKown. Cherry Lee Mewis. Paddy Milner & Marcus Bonfanti. Mississippi MacDonald. Northsyde. Angelo Palladino. L R Phoenix. Ben Poole. Rabbit Foot. Red Dirt Skinners. The Revelators.

Paul Lamb and The Detroit Breakdown - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2013

Paul Lamb and The Detroit Breakdown don't take prisoners. You just get what is written all over the tin and from the first note there is no messing about as they take you straight into a ten minute roaring blues rock number complete with Yabbadabbadoo shout out. Paul is backed by the astonishing powerhouse of Layla and Joey and tight together they drove their mix of savage seventies blues rock and modern downtown Detroit blues straight deep into the heart of the evening. This is a brilliant, thrilling and roaring trio who lifted the roof off the venerable old Hebden Chapel and it will surely never be the same again. As they said in one of their self-penned numbers "There Goes The Neighbourhood"...and didn't we just love it...
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Aynsley Lister - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2013

Aynsley Lister is one of those guitarists that real die-hards with fixed views about their blues have terrible trouble with. Not so The Hat, who loves the rule breakers. Anyone who can start a set at a hundred miles an hour, stop off briefly for a slow blues, divert for a short self-penned tribute to the TV series 'Life on Mars' and finish up with a standing ovation whilst playing a stunning 'Purple Rain' gets The Hat's vote every time.This was proper headlining at a grown-up Blues Festival. Clearly we were in the company of an accomplished musician but also one who could both get the audience involved with numbers like the shouty chorused 'Straight Talking Woman' and then get the place quietened down with a beautiful self-penned tribute to a Friend.

Many of the numbers were from his soon to be released album 'Home' which is clearly going to be an essential purchase for fans. Aynsley has also surrounded himself with a top flight close-knit band and in particular his keyboard man shone when they played a delicate extended version of 'Feelin' Good'. 
Aynsley is the classic blues crossover artist and is clearly as much at home on a rock based stage as he is on a pure blues based one - indeed, in the past, he has toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd and played Glastonbury with huge success. At Hebden he managed to bring that complete range of styles to the stage and deliver them brilliantly with elan and style to an ecstatic audience.
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The Little Devils: The Storm Inside

Over many years, The Hat has never offered up stars, ratings or any other daft gradings to music he gets to listen to, see or review. There are good reasons for this, the most obvious being that it is not 'Strictly' so what the hell does a 'reviewer' do when they have imperiously handed out a 'Ten' – and something better comes along – invent an Eleven? Nah.
This terrific album is a fine example....The Little Devils recent release 'The Storm Inside' is a classic candidate for re-writing the ratings rule book - if I had one. This is a passionate, powerful, clever and beautifully executed album with the mix of superb vocals, lyrics, musicianship and arrangements coming together in a way that would put any rating system into meltdown in every department. The whole album journey concept of 14 tracks is well-ordered and interesting.

Making a name for themselves on the 2014 festival circuit, this is apparently the first album that last year's 'live' line-up of musicians have collaborated on and despite the transition from live to studio CD - which is always a hard trick to pull off - it works with huge success. The mix is terrific. On some levels, it is a like a festival performance. On the one hand, there are some foot-stomping pieces and on the other there is much that is heart-rendingly sad and thoughtful. It would be difficult to find a single track on this album that could not be put straight onto a live performance stage and yet the production allows an intimacy that can be beamed straight into your own stereo. This band has presence. It would take too much space to give all these tracks the proper respect. There is a bit of blues here plus some soul, a tiny touch of country, a bit of shed-a-tear and some kick-off-your shoes. But, above all, pay attention to the lyrics.

There is no avoiding the power of Yoka Qureshi's deliverance of the potent lyrics – and the song-writing, all penned by Ray Qureshi and Graeme Wheatley, is top quality. Yoka sings on them all but for one track where there is a left-field transfer of responsibilities - in 'Long Time Ago' and Graeme gets the wistful lyrics while Yoka (wearing her Roland Kirk hat no doubt) stands up front with her beautiful ethereal flute. It is difficult to avoid the directness and pain of some of the songs, and the killer soul that Yoka brings to a number like the much lauded 'Deep Inside', amongst others, could barely be matched by Dusty Springfield at her finest, saddest and bluesy best. Many of the song constructions are interesting too - in that they use the device of a chorus repeat as an integral part of the song, sometimes to underline the sentiment set out before and on other occasions to offer a redemptive counterpoint to to an earlier cry of sadness or reflection.
But let's not over-think this.. All four in this band are clearly hugely accomplished, with Yoka adding quite brilliant haunting flute and saxophone to great effect while Big Ray's guitar, even when letting loose, dovetails economically into every arrangement in a perfect partnership. Graeme Wheatley's bass and Sara Leigh Shaw's drumming never put a beat out of place and it is nice to hear them given a bit of space when the number permits. 
Curiously, the album opens with a very short haunting guitar track, 'Storm Warning', offering up a desolate Cooder style slide, harp and cool vocal - and you wonder where that is going to lead you. Well, as the title suggests, this is a stormy journey, but we are in safe hands. They take us through some sad stuff delivered with passion and feeling and not a little humour. This is an outstanding album and the Little Devils have put down a substantial claim-marker to be one of the high flyers of 2015. Forget the star rating. Just go and buy it.

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Eddie Martin: The Blues Took Me By The Hand

Sadly, the front or back porch is something that doesn't really
figure in British architecture but if you had one, that would be the best place to pull up your favourite easy chair and listen to this evocative album. Although there are only a couple of covers included - the rest being self-penned - Eddie Martin's new album 'The Blues Took me By The Hand' in turn takes the listener by the hand and leads you down a wonderful acoustic blues-lined sometimes sweet, sometimes raw and mean avenue of superb classic blues.

Eddie has already released thirteen albums and this is the first part of a two album retrospective - the second to be electric based. Apparently, he even took the risky democratic step of canvassing his thousand of fans to get a view on what to reprise. You may know him as a One Man Band, his spectacular harp playing, or fronting a trio or quartet or a big band complete with horn section. Eddie has been a travelling man and as well as hard touring for twenty years or more around Europe, he has paid his dues elsewhere, living in Texas and gigging in Beal Street, Memphis and Clarksdale Mississippi. All those influences have been absorbed and many are evident here from from Broonzy to Barrel House and Beyond. Everything about this retrospective has a nostalgic and authentic feel and yet, weirdly, there is nothing here more than a couple of decades old.

The opening and title track gets straight on with the job in both mood and location and by using a double bass and having the brilliant piano of Paddy Milner rolling and barrelling along with him (on this and some other tracks) this kinda defines the rest of the album. Quickly followed by the highly traditional 'Keep on Working', we know where he is coming from. There are many examples here of his huge talent as a musician with both guitar slide and pick as well as harp and the album also underlines his ability and versatility as a song-writer. He moves from the rollicking driving lick of 'Kind Lady Moon', the subtle bossa nova of of 'Month of Mondays' with its plaintive harp and the atmospheric 'Gone away to Canada'. If you want to hear his distinctive voice in serious action go straight to his splendid cover of 'Key to The Highway'.

Having a look-back album can be a risky business. The pop chart remainder bins are full of them. Eddie has shown here that if you have such a huge back catalogue of top quality stuff then the hard bit is deciding what to leave out. This is good proper original acoustic blues. Looking forward to the electric album due in November.

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Alex McKown - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2013

Alex McKown, second time nominee for a British Blues Young Artist award has been lauded by The Hat before and I last saw him at the great Newark Blues Festival. Crikey - what a difference a few more months on the road can make. Here was a cracking mature performance from an old pro. Having had not one, but two car calamities on the way to Hebden, Alex got the black cloud's
Seriously Silver Lining with stand-in back line of Layla and Joey from Detroit Breakdown. Standing solidly on his right side was the Sheffield stellar saxophonist Simon Peat who has accompanied Rod Stewart, Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse and Tina Turner in the past when he is not fronting his own group. Far from being phased in such company, Alex fronted a fantastic energy pumped set with a new found voice and frequently swapped frenetic exchanges with all of his bandsmen that got the lively crowd hollering in appreciation. Exciting, breathless, uplifting, jaw dropping – and no, I'm not going to harp on about his age...suffice to say that, if this is the future then it's in pretty safe hands.
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Cherry Lee Mewis - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2012

Cherry Lee Mewis manages to get some skiffle on to her terrific most recent CD and her reputation for being able to mix up the genres was endorsed by this set. If you've got Mud Morganfield, Seasick Steve, Albert Lee and Walter Trout on your credits, you know that this lady can do anything and brilliantly -  and she did, delivering a cracking set with one of the tightest bands of the week-end. A Festival Favourite, Cherry topped a fabulous evening with style, class and a stage full of Sassy, Sassy and Sassy....
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Paddy Milner & Marcus Bonfanti - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2013

The Hat has written a good few words about Marcus Bonfanti and Paddy Milner - although not as many as the notes they hammer into a lot of their 
numbers - so they'll forgive him for this short paragraph. These two with their fantastic symbiotic musical relationship have played every Hebden Festival. They sit at the high table which is where you sit the big boys and girls. They play 'Take Five' for fun, 'Cheap Whisky' to thrill and everything for huge pleasure. You get picked up, carried along, get involved, open your mouth, gulp, dance the bad boogie and they'll never let you go once they've got you.They dedicated 'Grits ain't Groceries' to head honcho Jason for his graft in the kitchen. Proper nice blokes. Fabulous musicians. If you took them away The Hat worries that the building might fall down.

Paddy Milner & Marcus Bonfanti - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2012

Back at the Blue Horizons stage Paddy Milner and Marcus Bonfanti were getting an excitable packed house fighting for oxygen. These guys start at 100 miles an hour and just get faster. (I am a touch biased as Paddy was playing on The Hat's keyboards and after this beating they will probably never sound the same again). Their collaborations are an exciting new development in the blues world and they clearly have an almost symbiotic relationship that makes them seem to be joined at the hip. Huge love from the audience is reciprocated and this was a devastating set that went from roof-raising, keyboard pounding and guitar shred to subtle, tender and moving. They were here last year. We love 'em. We may have to kidnap them and lock them up to ensure they come back again.....

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Mississippi MacDonald and The Cotton Mouth Kings - American Accent

With their second studio album 'American Accent' Mississippi MacDonald and the Cottonmouth Kings have produced an elegant classic.
Apparently conceived as a musical voyage from Chicago to The South, this is a terrific showcase for Mississippi as he supplements his usual core band with piano, hammond and occasional backing vocals. He tells an interesting and absorbing story as he moves from acoustic to electric and back and Rossco blues winds his cool Sonny Terry riffs around the tracks.
There is some real stand-out music on here. The title track 'American Accent' is a wonderful sly look at the cosmetic need to sing with an American accent if you want to get a radio play and the lyrics reference all those echoes from our youth, including Dylan. In true Bob fashion the track lasts nearly ten minutes taking us from quiet finger pick to the wonderful full house electric and wrap-around Hammond finish.
Mississippi is of course known for his straight forward belief in the need for authenticity in traditional blues and the whole album trip bears that out. The soulful 'If I could only hear my mother pray again' takes us directly back to church gospel with his vocal playing against some brilliant rollin' and strollin' piano from Adam King, while on the beautifully ironic 'You said you were leaving' we are back in the familiar blues land of dodgy morality lyrics and sad singing guitar.Every track takes you some place new and you want to stay and listen.

Here is an album that not only demonstrates great musical skill and talent but is full of single tracks that all have something to say – and that doesn't happen very often. This is one of the best albums of 2015 so far. Mississippi has been under the radar for far too long. American Accent should change that.

Mississippi MacDonald - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2013

When you are six feet something tall, wear a red suit and a big hat and you and your colleague walk into a blues bar and announce yourselves as Mississippi MacDonald and Rosco Blues then there is a fair chance that you are either completely mad and looking for a fight, or you are a talented authentic blues duo looking to spread a little happiness.
Fortunately for the Blues Festival these two bluesmen were the real Thing. Quickly settling into a cool acoustic groove they took the hugely appreciative audience on a knowledgeable journey South,
stopping at all those traditional musical halts and raising their hats to their heroes on the way. (There was even a delightful story of Mississippi and his dad trekking to see Robert Johnson's recording studio only to find that it had been bulldozed down the day before!) The absolute purity and controlled power of MacDonald's voice is beautifully counterbalanced by Rosco's fine and delicate Sonny Terry influenced soaring harp lines. They are a perfect fit. How often do you go to a gig and hear a Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a stack of traditional numbers, the referencing of Little Lizzy Jane and, of course, the classic line that just has to be somewhere in any brilliantly played traditional set “You're so mean to me'. A great set by some serious musicians....and unsurprisingly they took two well-deserved encores.
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Northsyde - The Storyteller's Daughter

Anyone who has seen this band live will know that together, they have that
ability to lift a whole room into another stratosphere and front lady Lorna Fothergill can both strip the paint from the walls and hold you close and whisper in your ear. To translate that onto an album is not easy but this has to be one of the best vocal led blues-rock releases of 2013. There is so much to like about it and there is not a track on it that disappoints.

The formula for their success is obvious. Firstly, it is clear that this is a tight, solid collective of brilliant musicians who have paid their dues and who think as one. With Ian Mauricio and Hayden Doyle at the back - so close that you can't separate them with the proverbial Rizla - and the stunningly talented guitarist Jules Fothergill conjuring solos, rhythms and fills from nowhere, Lorna's raw and beautifully powerful voice is given the perfect platform to fly free and unfettered.

And then there are the lyrics. Apparently all crafted by Lorna they are incredibly smart and tell compelling, sometimes bitter sad stories many of which, if you have ever been in a one-sided relationship, will have you nodding a knowing glance at your past. Sometimes, the sentiment feels so angry you want to clap in agreement. The outburst on 'Chicken Shit' reminds me very much of the Marianne Faithful/Keith Richard fiercesome attack song “Why'd Ya Do It?” But it is not all sad despair and as the title track says, sometimes 'you can catch her with her guard down and her head on straight'. So. Fine band. Brilliant lyrics.

And then there are Jules and Lorna. So well crafted are the arrangements that you only first notice Jules' brilliance when he opens up and lets go in 'Spinhead' and later he is given the freedom of the six minute track 'Messing Around'' to show just how spellbinding and soulful the guitar can be. Echoes here of Jim Mullen at the top of his game.

And then there is The Voice. Having seen her live, I try and refrain from making comparisons. (Lorna can sing Janis, Plant, Amy, AC/DC, anybody - check Youtube). The blues/rock music scene is currently blessed with some fine female singers but Lorna's voice is unique and this album shows exactly how powerful, raw and sensitive a top class singer can be when she has the right material and some fine musicians around her..

Go get this album. I lived in a road called Northside for fifteen years....it was never this exciting... 

Northsyde - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2013

A squillion years ago, before The Hat needed help to lift an amplifier, there was a regularly used band expression "Watch Out For The Windows". It came back to him with a bang when blues rock band Northsyde kicked off on the Electric stage. Fortunately, Yorkshire mills are made of stern stuff and held on whilst Lorna Fothergill and band threw some of the best heavy blues and blues rock at them that the Hebden Festival has ever seen....plus a little noisy soul funk goes in the mix as well. This was the real deal and the rammed room moved as one to shout/greet and punch air at every number. Singer Lorna has a raw and powerful voice and she seems to channel every rock and heavy blues singer straight from her spectacular heels to the top of her head. Dynamic doesn't really do it justice - it would be daft to reference Zep and Janis because her voice is nobody else's but hers - but her range and power would match anyone you can name. Somehow she effortlessly lifts it above her classy driving band of Jules Fothergill, Ian Mauricio and Hayden Doyle -  which in itself is some achievement when they are running at full tilt. Yes, they do a bit of slow and a bit of quiet - but I'm not going to mention that. Go see for yourself. Soon. This band is moving fast.

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Angelo Palladino - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2012

Then it was back to the Horizons stage for one of their massive baguettes and to listen to the fabulous Angelo Palladino. The Hat loves this artist and is quite bewitched by his idiosyncratic guitar style and absorbing self-penned songs. He played in Hebden earlier in the year and was warmly welcomed back. With a voice that sometimes brought echoes of Leonard Cohen and an easy relaxed way with his audience, he has become a Festival Favourite.

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L.R.Phoenix - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2013

L.R.Phoenix could not be invented. Lives in Finland, can be very scary but is really quite unreasonably nice, sings blues, plays bottleneck, sings country, has a voice like Waits meets Howlin' and is hugely, hugely entertaining. The blues underground love him and you can see why. He brings with him not just  an obvious guitar talent but there is a touch of something subversive lurking and he likes to make you feel you are in on the plot. This was a cracking set by the sharp-suited and booted L.R and there was great delight in the audience (but no real surprise!) when he announced that he was fed up with lifting his guitar - and sang his last number, majestically, acapella! A true festival star.

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Ben Poole - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2012

And so to Ben Poole back at Bar Place. From the moment this extraordinary young guy walked on stage The Hat knew we were in for something special. Standing front and rock solid, he took us straight into a long version of 'Have you ever loved a Woman?' and took the mood from slow and sweet to near shred. After that, the rammed audience was transfixed for the complete set.
Ben played one of the most amazing versions of the Hendrix 'Hey Joe' The Hat has ever encountered and took one of the simplest structured songs around and turned it inside out and upside down. The audience was hushed. It was breathtaking. The sheer breadth of style and skill of Ben was demonstrated throughout the evening - no less than when he did 'Ain't No Sunshine..' when together with his bass man and drummer they blew the room away. Barry
Pethers on bass was phenomenal. Although he took a few jaw-dropping solo breaks, the Hat sees him in that grand tradition of John Paul Jones from Zep and the sadly missed John Entwistle from The Who......those brilliant musicians who just stand there and do their stuff. No flash. Here it is. Enjoy. Ben moved through different guitars and styles throughout the set and at one point with his band off the stage he even played spanish style Gibson semi-acoustic that had us stunned with its simple dexterity. It would be easy to get too carried away by this talent and his close band. But why not say I? You will enjoy every moment of this musical prodigy and....I have to report that he didn't take his shirt off until he had been playing for an hour and a half. This is where, on behalf of those to whom fitness is important, I say...Phwoar!
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Rabbit Foot - Dark Tales

Every so often The Hat hears a new release that is so refreshingly different that he is obliged to play it again to catch all the nuances and sub-texts. The new EP coming from Rabbit Foot is just such an album. 
I have watched the progress of this talented duo for a few years now and their spirited left-field approach to the blues is still a joy to hear and - even if you wanted to - impossible to pigeon-hole. They started out some time ago as purveyors of what they then called Swamp Boogie Blues - although you would be hard pressed to locate Tony Joe White in there anywhere - and quickly earned a reputation as a truly exciting live act. 

With Carla Viegas powering up the drums and bringing her beautiful liquid crystal voice to play across everything like an irresistible naiad and Jamie Morga
n driving it all along with his extraordinary and very personal fierce guitar sound mixing blues, rock and vibrant staccato tribal rhythms and lead licks, together they have created a totally distinctive sound that has gathered loyal fans to them wherever they have played. Although they set themselves a hard task to try and capture that live electricity onto a studio album, with these five tracks they have managed to bring us at least the essence of their sound. 

As the title suggests, the album apparently reflects some strange times encountered by the duo and overflows with some very smart but really mean lyrics about how low down you can go, whether you care, possibly wishing you were dead and how do you get rid of the pain. This is tough stuff. Fuzz, wah-wah, echo and even feedback are deftly employed to this end.

Nevertheless, the lead track 'Tip My Hat' hits a more cheerful note in which Carla wraps her voice around you with smooth promises of love and you are left to decide whether she means it or not. The same ambiguity of lyric crops up everywhere and echoes the dark sentiment of the album. In 'Stubborn Child', Jamie gets to sing about the doctor who tried to deal with his youthful lows and on 'She Comes to Me' pain, clouds and rain pervade the issue of how well you really know someone. In 'Suite 136', the duo give a sideways look at the role of church and alcohol in alleviating all that stuff that can mess your head when your down. This track also sees Jamie really strutting his stuff, showing us how he can really fly with his guitar and what talent he has. The final up-beat piece '1234' intimates that they may just have some answers to some of these problems - perhaps moving on from "can't take no more" - and it appropriately ends with a gleeful cackle from the pair of them.
This is a really interesting, highly original and exciting piece of work. It is a great balancing act between cynicism and hope. These five tracks demonstrate not only how talented they are as musicians but it also shows how they are able to write lyrics that are amusing and clever but also take a grown-up and demanding look at situations that can beset us all. Due to be released late January.

Rabbit Foot - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2013

The Hat gets strangely confused when watching Rabbit Foot. They are totally impossible to pin down - and this, of course is their great, great strength and  They are unique in style and taking the blues world by storm - and yet - when you listen, one minute you are suddenly drumming in a Columbian village hearing Ella and George Thorogood partying like crazy and the next moment you are taken with this overpowering urge to throw shapes while Jamie Morgan and Carla Viegas whoop and swoop around each other like crazed shamen. What is truly attractive about this duo is not that they are both superb musicians but that they enjoy it and they insist, no, make you enjoy it too. They do dirty blues. They do ecstasy blues. They do jumping blues. Class act. Hebden loves ' em. 

Rabbit Foot - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2012

Unable to move for fear that an HBBF groupie might steal his place at the bar, The Hat stayed on for Rabbit Foot. Was that a smart Non Move! Not only did The Hat get to hear a fabulous set but I fear he fell totally and helplessly In Love with yet another female musician...along with 200 others.. This band is phenomenal. Just three people working a room to make it sound like an arena concert. Fronted by the beautiful and hugely talented singer Carla Viegas firing up the African drums, Andy Whitely on bass and with Captain Jamie Morgan playing out of his skin on guitar, they really know how to party. There was a wonderful moment when the guitar and vocals exchanged echo 'fours'. Quite brilliant. Tight, fast, exciting but taking time to occasionally take a breath and woo us with a slow number, this group must surely be one of the discovery hits of the festival. It was so good to see the foot tapping and dancing and when Jamie hit the floor with probably the longest ever version of 'All Night Long' in the history of the world, you knew you had seen the Festival Party, there and then...
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Red Dirt Skinners: Live at the Blue Lamp Aberdeen

I will own up immediately. I love these guys. Not just because they are constant in their spirited campaign to put their fingers up at the blues and country police and their refusal to be comfortably filed in the genre index – although that is to be admired by any sensible commentator - but mainly for a whole host of proper musical reasons. They can sing beautifully, they can write terrific lyrics and they are both consummate musicians who can turn their hand to original work, old standards and re-interpretations all the while throwing in delicate boundary pushing border crossing harmonies.
If you have seen The Red Dirt Skinners live, you may wonder, like many other artists, whether their live performance would hold up when it is transferred to disc. Will the magic still be there? Will the recorded audience ruin the spell of the performance? Will the production standard be up to bringing you the moment without killing the event with clinical cleansing?
Live recordings can be like Marmite. I have some live recordings where the out of time clapping and the absurd yelping and screaming destroy the performance and make you wonder why the record company bothered. On the other hand, some live recordings have gone into historical legend and will always be with us. In these you are in the audience and the artist and producer lure you into a front seat where you can turn up and enjoy the show as often as you like.

The 'Live in Aberdeen' album is a terrific show piece for the duo. Although much of the audience response and stage banter has been fine-tuned down there is still more than enough in there to leave you in no doubt that this was a hellova night out with the Skinners throwing the whole package out there to a really appreciative audience. These two can move from smooth sentiment to stunning stramash in a heartbeat. 

The fifteen tracks on this live concert album are taken largely from the spectrum of their previous recordings and show exactly why this duo is now so highly regarded and have been on an exciting upward trajectory for the last few years. There is something here for everyone. They both have subtle bluesy voices (Sarah can also throw in a bit of Janis when she pleases) but the set takes them from in your face country shouty swing with a rousing audience chorus (Up All Night) to tender romance (Forever Young and Lay Me Down) where the close personal relationship between them is manifest. Many have tried to classify them – blues, americana, country – but this album throws the spotlight on all their talents and you can see why they find the labels so irritating. They do what they do – and they do it like no others that I know of....

Just to make sure they won't fit in your genre box, straight out of left field, there is a quite superb arrangement of 'Space Oddity' with Rob absolutely on song, taking a powerful vocal lead and Sarah's saxophone flying with him in their tin can to the stars. This would be a show stopper on a main stream radio station let alone in an adoring club in Aberdeen.

Live recordings find you out. You can't go back and do it again and when it comes to the quality of your performance the microphone is unforgiving. This is a fine atmospheric album. The guitar, sax and voices are beautifully balanced. The smart production lets you in the door and doesn't intrude. As the gig progresses you can feel the warmth between the Skinners and their audience growing and their on-stage banter lets you in to their party.

If you want a great night out, with one of the best duos in the business then you should pull up a chair, pour the malt and put on the 'Live in Aberdeen' album.

Red Dirt Skinners - "Sinking The Mary Rose" - Album

 Barely eighteen months ago, The Hat saw this talented duo playing in the corner of a small cramped room in a now closed bar in Hebden Bridge. Much impressed, I wrote then that I was certain that we would be seeing a lot more of them and their highly original style. Now, such a short time later, they have a great new evocative name, are clutching a handful of award nominations in both British Blues and British Country and they have produced yet another top class album that is a wonderful magic bag of country, blues, blue grass and rootsy down-home americana.The album demonstrates exactly why this

exceptional multi-instrumental husband and wife team are making such a mark. The ten tracks, mostly self-penned, range from the slow and heart-breaking 'Just 18' to the get-up-and-dance 'Idabel Blues'. Throughout, they give us the tightest of warm harmonies and some quite brilliant instrumentals and solo vocals. Notably, the album is bursting with fine and sensitive lyrics and it is impossible not to to be moved by the sad but beautifully expressed sentiments in 'Alone' and 'Black Eyes', this last being a tough, Dory Previn-like statement of the gritty truth about a violent relationship. The short title track positively spits anger about a moment in their lives from which they need to move on.You will find jazz and blues here as well and throughout, the soaring, roaring and sometimes wild and mad saxophone of Sarah Skinner winds its way through the album like a capricious friend with Rob providing a whole orchestra of support. Two fine musicians, song-writers and singers have delivered a hugely entertaining and accomplished piece of work.

Red Dirt Skinners (Something Blue) - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2012

After Saturday night, a visit to Moyles at lunch-time to catch the Something Blue Duo felt like a dawn alarm call but boy, was it worth it. Playing a packed small room, Rob and Sarah Skinner, described recently as being 'impossibly talented' did a wonderfully polished romp through half a dozen styles of blues, blue grass, jazz, folk and americana. A sparkling sax and a range of other instruments left the audience in no doubt as to why they are Blues Award nominees. The Hat is certain we will be seeing a lot more of this duo. 
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The Revelator Band: Hebden Bridge Blues festival 2014

A smart shuffle in the rain to one of the Free Juke Joints where
The Hat met up with a familiar face, another hatted star, Captain Barnaby Neale, the exotic, charismatic and (when in character) slightly barking mad front man of The Revelator Band. He told me, tongue firmly in cheek, to make sure I used the word 'slick' if I was writing about them. Well....er... Playing in a bar that was bursting out on to the pavement, this Band gives 200% in performance Fire and Energy. Led by the leaping bouncing Barnaby, they cracked through their set, throwing in guitar changes, harp changes, dancing, waste bin drumming and a quick squeeze box solo or two. The local audience, of course, responded with vigour to 'Hell-Hull/Hole and Halifax' and shouted for countless encores. This band is stuffed to the brim with talent, they really enjoy themselves and they really know how to slickly (geddit?) Beat Up The Blues. Hugely entertaining as always. See Them. Book Them. Now.
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The Revelator Band - Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 2012

Whoever stole the launch strap line 'Let's Get This Party Started' was a genius...and so it proved. The Revelators are an incredible stage band. They are terrific entertainers with the beautifully hatted and totally charismatic Captain Barnaby Neale leading the party. You couldn't help feeling that the stage was far too small for him as he bounded around almost hitting the ceiling as he leaped up to tell you about his' Ball and Chain'. This cracking tight band connected directly with the audience from the first note with tales of bad love, murdered lovers and daft romance. After a particularly black number, an aside about being available for children's parties also went down well! Moving through near punk and blues and using bongos, slide and harp, the band gave the locally influenced crowd a storming version of 'Hell Hull/Hole and Halifax' amid a set that had everyone in the palm of their hand. The Revelator Band played the Festival last year and it is easy to see why they were back. Full of humour and bursting with talent, they set fire to the Blue Horizons stage and The Party was well and truly Started....Phew!