Review of Ian Siegal live for Bluefunk Rhythm and Blues Club at Cabin 5150 Macclesfield Cheshire Tuesday April 8th, combining a review of Ian Siegal’s forthcoming live Album release Man &Guitar

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 Ian siegal
If there was ever a reason needed to cut a trip short and travel back to Macclesfield from foreign climes then it would have to be a very serious one to beat a concert from Ian Siegal. I would have happily walked the 800 mile journey barefoot to witness the performance from him last Tuesday night at the Cabin. Conventional methods sufficed without a hitch and I was back late Tuesday afternoon in plenty of time.
   This would be Ian’s third visit to Macc (all at Cabin 5150) and the previous two were hardwired into the memories of those who witnessed them. He has the affect of creating lifetime allegiance from audience members from their very first experience. He certainly did where I was concerned. Even in the role of promoter it is sometimes not possible to attend a gig in person for whatever reason but where this man is concerned I am as much a consumer (fan) as anyone there. I doubt I could ever get enough of him live. With only six solo performances in the UK scheduled from Ian for the rest of this year, it was imperative to be back for this.
             He did not disappoint. In fact he paid the effort of the journey back in spades. It was for me and many audience members spoken to afterwards, the best they had ever seen from him, which is a massive statement once you know the level he performs at.
            The song choice was inspired as ever with many original compositions woven together with traditional blues and gospel tunes and a splash of country and folk/blues. Whatever he chooses to sing be it original compositions or pieces from the past by favourite artists such as Leadbelly or Charlie Patton he totally makes them his own.
         Siegal at Cabin april 2014 (2)    He is an accomplished raconteur and there is never an opportunity missed to tell a tale or pay homage to another performer, writer or old friend. With a devilish sense of humour laced into these tales the audience tends to laugh a lot.
             I can liken him only to Ry Cooder – there are many similarities. In over 45 years of listening to and collecting blues, apart from the originals that inspired them, no-one has affected me quite like Cooder and Siegal, his heir. They are both ‘musicologists’ trawling the same archives for gems to revive, reinterpret and preserve. A classic example of this has to be Siegal’s version of the Sunday school favourite Mary Don’t You Weep. I recall singing this as a child in Sunday school and it was always a popular hand clappy singalong.  My goodness it bears only similarities to Ian’s stunning delivery which turns it into pure high octane Gospel, fantastic.
            They are both amazing guitarists both acoustic and electric, Cooder being acknowledged as one of the finest slide players ever, with Siegal right behind him. They are both fine, quirky, characterful vocalists. Siegal for me is one of the very best vocal interpreters and performers of blues and related roots genres in the world today. He also edges it as a composer as well. I am far from alone with this opinion, in recent years he has picked up international nominations and awards aplenty for these skills.
            He mischievously denies he is a ‘blues’ singer and feigns puzzlement as to why he continuously picks up awards for such. He says he is a country singer. All of which is true and false. He is a fantastic blues singer and plays more blues that he admits to. He is also a superb country singer and he is a master writer in both genres.
            The simple truth is he has a gift that allows him to sing, write and play whatever he chooses and he makes it your favourite genre for the duration. He opened the show with Silver Spurs an original country song, moved seamlessly into Mary Don’t You Weep (trad), gospel, and on with Mortal Coil Shuffle an original blues, and that’s how he went on.
            Finally they are both collaborators and work with many artists and bands from across the globe in many styles.
        Siegal at Cabin april 2014 (1)    Last Tuesday however for whatever reasons (he cited the venue made him feel good) Ian raised his game and played a blinder, every song a gem. In an array of music so fine I still managed to find a favourite with a song with a Mexican flavour about a fighting cock, Gallo del Ciello. What a song! What a folk tale. It is thankfully featured on his new live album Man & Guitar. Although not officially released (May 12) he had copies with him for the tour. Played it five times so far and every time Gallo del Ciello moves me to tears. Daft. It is so powerful.
            It it can sometimes be the easy option to release a live album, but Ian needs no such options. He is a prolific writer and even with a live schedule like his (insane), he visits the studio regularly and almost always has something in the pipeline. When you are as good as Ian is in live performance it is no surprise that he has been pestered for years for a live release. The chance last year at the London Bluesfest was an opportunity gifted on a plate.
           It was recorded by the BBC at the Royal Albert Hall and if it doesn’t net Ian further awards I will eat my copy of it. This combined review of concert and album was an obvious thing to do as at the show we were treated to the album’s content live plus a load more besides. To be able then to take home a slice of the show was a bonus too good to miss.
It is a privilege to work with artists as good as Ian. The show was a joy from start to finish The album? Well the album (Man & Guitar) is Ian Siegal solo, live. Five stars are not enough, never could be.
Bluefunkster
(Bluefunkster is the Music Correspondent for the Macclesfield Express and the promoter at Bluefunk Rhythm and Blues Club. which is dedicated to bringing the very best live music of all genres to its area of operation.)

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Review of JIM KIRKPATRICK’S HEAVY WEATHER with Very Special Guest JON AMOR of the Hoax.. For BLUEFUNK RHYTHM and BLUES CLUB at CABIN 5150 Macclesfield. March 6th 2014.

Jim Kirkpatrick (FM, Bernie Marsden Band, Heavy Weather etc) is a superb, versatile guitarist who I have no qualms describing as World Class. In particular he has a growing reputation as a slide player with good reason and is in constant demand as a session player. Live he has a repertoire of material that is endless, including two albums worth of his own penmanship, a growing number of writing credits with FM plus a specialist knowledge of the work of Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher as well as an interminable number of classic blues and blues rock tunes up his sleeve. His fine trio Heavy Weather can track him on most of it. They comprise his long time drummer Neil ‘Keggsy’ McCallum (8 years with Climax Blues Band) and bassist Chris Cliff, who arrived on our local scene from a clear blue sky last year and blew us away. Keggsy, who has played with dozens of ‘name’ bassists rates him as the best of the bunch. I wouldn’t argue.

As a promoter I have worked with Jim over the last ten years at many venues and festivals with many line-ups of Heavy Weather and other incarnations including Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake) four times.

Around the time I moved the Bluefunk club’s operations to the fabulous Cabin 5150 in Macclesfield last year, I got wind that Jim and HW had just lost a residency due to the venue closing. It took me less than two seconds to decide to offer him a new residency (something I had never done before) with Bluefunk at the Cabin and about the same timelapse for him to say yes. Although the Cabin was new he had been in to see it and knew how fine it was.

He started for us in May 2013 (the Cabin opened in March) and continues to do the first Thursday of every month. Jim and HW have turned it into the ‘hot ticket’ in Macclesfield with ever growing audiences coming from further and further afield. Last week we had travelers from Shrewsbury, Derby, Leeds, Bolton and those were just the ones I spoke to.

Mind you last Thursday, 6th of March, was very special indeed.

Mindful of keeping his residency fresh and worth visiting repeatedly (many have yet to miss one), Jim and I had talked of inviting some ‘name’ guests to play with his band. He knows many personally and as a promoter so indeed do I.

It transpired that at a Hoax gig last December I was able to chat with Jon Amor, one of the two brilliant guitarists in that band. Having had the privilege of working with Jon with the Hoax and two of his own bands Amor and The Blues Group he was inclined to listen. When I asked would he like to join Jim at one of his Bluefunk sessions he was immediately receptive. He had never met Jim but knew his rep as a player and a further flurry of messages and emails in the New Year got the date fixed.

For me it could not come soon enough. Two of my favourite guitarists were going to collaborate of the cuff in the Cabin for Bluefunk. Stuff that dreams are made of, provided I could manage to sleep that is. Honestly I was like a kid at Christmas.

These guys are not only world class players they are diamonds as people, both consummate gentlemen without one whit of ego between them. They are both joys to work with.

The day arrived as did the players, Jon having driven up from Devizes, Wiltshire, arrived about 7.15pm. Doors would normally be around 8.30 but the punters were arriving from 7pm! Fortunately the Cabin has a piano bar downstairs which is proving to be an invaluable holding spot on these occasions.

The band and Jon were able to meet, set up and learn something about each other undisturbed, for about an hour. The mettle and quality of Heavy Weather came to the fore as during this time and whilst sound checking with the Cabin’s exceptional sound engineer (and co-owner) Elliot, they managed to learn five (!!) of Jon’s original compositions which they then played in the two sets they performed. This included ‘Even after That’, a song I adore, which Jon admitted when introducing it, HE had never played it live with a band before that night!  He was visibly nervous when he started it but by the time it finished he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. No wonder really, Jim’s off the cuff slide work was superb and if anything enhanced the original, for me it was one of several highlights of the performance. What a band Heavy Weather is, we are so fortunate to have them.

Both of these guys can rock it up with the best of them as I have seen on many occasions and whilst they did on the occasional piece (eg  Jon’s ‘Juggernaut’) for the most part it was a Master Class in how to blow people away playing blues with skill, taste and restraint without trying to inflict casualties. They both played with the utmost respect for one another which shone through their performances. They boxed and sparred occasionally but for the most part it was all about enhancing each others skills, it was delicious to watch.

Jon Amor and Jim Kirkpatrick by N V

They had never met previously but I suspect they left as good friends. Whilst it can never be the first time again I couldn’t live with myself if I did not try to bring them together for another show in the future. It was just too good.

We recorded the whole show and have been tinkering with the stems for a couple of days but haven’t yet heard even half of it. What I have heard is staggeringly good and proves I didn’t dream the whole thing, nor had I died and gone to heaven.

There is also video footage, none of which I have yet seen, so there are still treats to come off the back of what I expect will remain one of the best gigs I will see this year. I hope to post some of this media as it becomes available.

Jon Amor with JK and Heavy Weather by NV

Jon’s performance makes it 3 of the 5 members of the Hoax that have performed at the Cabin in other bands. I live in hope but it is nice to get them in instalments anyway.

Jim won’t be at the Cabin next month as he is playing at the O2 Apollo in Manchester with FM, alongside Europe and Foreigner (he’s a big shot when we give him a night off).  Nor will he be in on May 1st as he is on the European leg of their tour but he will be back on May 8th instead. Come and see him, meanwhile sign up to the mailing list using the contact form and we will keep you in the news loop.  http://bluefunkclub.wix.com/blues#

Bluefunkster.

(Bluefunkster is the Music Correspondent for the Macclesfield Express and the promoter at Bluefunk Rhythm and Blues Club. which is dedicated to bringing the very best live music of all genres to its area of operation.)