Thursday, 15 November 2018

Playing the blues requires a fair bit of backbone

BACKBONE are still virtually unknown in the UK, but in America the five-piece electric blues band has been on national

BACKBONE are still virtually unknown in the UK, but in America the five-piece electric blues band has been on national radio and played at some of the most famous blues clubs in the world, writes Lesley Potter.

Lead singer Tony Seaman, from Remenham Hill, is just back from a 10-day tour of the States with the band, where they were greeted with open arms.

They played at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale and in the infamous Balcony Music Club in New Orleans — and have already been invited back to play at a festival in Memphis next May.

He said: “When you go to New Orleans, for example in the French quarter, wherever you walk there’s music. Or you go to a restaurant and there will be a jazz band playing.

“A bit further on and there’s a blues band playing music on every corner. In clubs they rotate the bands so you might hear three different bands in one night.

“There’s a demand for live music, and it was the same when we went to Arkansas in the Mississippi delta. The blues culture there is endemic. You don’t get that here.”

The five musicians had been playing together as a typical pub band for years, knocking out dance favourites for parties. Then five years ago they found themselves listening to veteran blues guitarist BB King playing live and had a “Eureka!” moment.

Tony said: “BB King is still going, even though he can’t walk any more, he has to sit down to play. But he inspired us to start playing blues.

“Three of the guys then got up and played at an open mic and people just sat there open-mouthed and said, ‘you guys are good!’ That’s how it all started.”

Backbone have built up a repertoire of old blues numbers — though not your typical old chestnuts along the lines of “Got up this morning and my dog was dead”.

Instead, their sound is an electric, Chicago blues-based sound, following in the footsteps of musicians like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Bass player Duncan Highet has also written a number of songs, and they have recently recorded an EP, Made In Britain.

Tony, 54, a former session musician who has recorded with Billy J Kramer and Mud among others, said the American tour has inspired them to up their game: “It was great fun. The American public is very critical, but nice, and they loved us.”

For more information about the band visit www.backbonebluesband.co.uk

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