Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Rootsy blues gets tootsies a-tapping

THERE was a moment half-way through the first half of this gig when, if you closed your eyes, you could

THERE was a moment half-way through the first half of this gig when, if you closed your eyes, you could imagine yourself sitting in a dimly-lit jazz joint somewhere in Alabama rather than a pub on the manicured banks of the Thames. Papa George was howling, Mick Moody was picking and sliding at his guitar and the pair of them were beating percussion on the wood and making enough deep-down-and-dirty sounds for a whole six-piece band.

This tribute to JJ Cale, the old Tulsa bluesman who died in July, was the opening night of the Henley jazz and blues week and this duo was an inspirational choice.

Mick Moody made his reputation with Whitesnake but seems to have put his heavy metal days behind him and embraced an older, more visceral form of music. He had half a dozen different guitars handy and showed off some impressive slide guitar on his customised red Flying Finn. He’s so into the warp and groove of the music that his face contorts with his finger action (he just can’t help himself) and at times he looked like he was chewing on a toffee that kept getting stuck in this teeth. Marvellous.

Papa George may not be a household name in this country but he’s in demand on the international circuit. He got his first guitar at age 10 and took himself off as a teenager to see Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker at the Hammersmith Apollo. Their influence certainly rubbed off.

George is a natural born bluesman. He has that innate laid-back rhythm and the deep, raspy, broken-glass voice that sounds like he’s been smoking lots of fags and living the kind of rock ‘n’ roll life most of us wished our livers could withstand.

They launched their set with After Midnight, written by Cale but made famous by Eric Clapton, and were obviously relishing those luscious lyrics about letting it all hang out once the clock strikes 12. Crazy Mama, another Clapton favourite, had everyone’s feet tapping and by the final number, Cocaine, there was a definite rippling among the crowd. A great night of live music.

Tribute to JJ Cale, Little Angel, Friday, November 8

Lesley Potter

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