"Blues Graffiti" is Blues'n'Trouble's first release since 1994. It consists of one CD of new studio recordings, and one of live and/or rare recordings from around the time of the "Hat Trick" album (1987). The rare recordings include some tracks from the "Hat Trick" sessions which were
recorded by legendary blues producer Mike Vernon. It does not matter which CD you put in the player, however, because they are both very fine recordings.
The new recordings CD starts off with a cover of the Pretty Things' "Big
City" which chugs along nicely sets the standard for the rest of the
album. The band manage to maintain it throughout the ensuing 12 tracks, 11
of which are originals (as are 14 of the 16 tracks on the second
CD). Frontman, and founder member Tim Elliott is a live wire, with a rich
voice, and a highly accomplished harp player. The first chance he gets to
stretch out is on "Dames Don't Care." He also struts his stuff in a Jimmy
Reed style on "Dr Boogie" and then goes one better on "Little Black Engine"
which is dedicated to the underrated Papa George Lightfoot. On this one
the line-up is stripped back to just Elliott and Lox Lovell on drums, with
Elliott singing the train style blues through the harp microphone to great
effect. The peak is maintained when Mike Park (guitar) and Alan Scott
(bass) return for "Louisiana Blues" which has a real swap feel to it.
Blues'n'Trouble have always had a good feel for the blues, and this shines
through in their performances. It has also been recognized by many of the
good and great along the way, with the band working with or supporting the
likes of B.B. King, Robert Cray, Pinetop Perkins, Buddy Guy and Junior
Wells. They also worked with Lazy Lester on his comeback album ("Rides
Again") which picked up a Handy award in 1987. Prime evidence of the
band's feel for the blues comes on the closing track of the first CD ("Hip
Shakin' Mama") which was the result of the band jamming at the end of the
recording session, when the tapes were left running.
The live/rare album mostly features tracks from a live gig recorded in
Germany, some of which the band still play. They have all worn well,
possibly because the band refrain from adding too much in the way of frills
and filler. The net result is that you are left with a set of fine tunes
that usually clock in round about the 3 minute mark. The rare stuff
includes a couple of previously unissued live tracks and a demo that the
band cut for Lazy Lester (which was later recorded by the band). The album
offers a good insight into the standards that the band achieve when they
play live, although it cannot capture the way that the band (and the crowd)
always thoroughly enjoy things from start to finish.
"Blues Graffiti" is a cracker of an album, from one of Britain's finest R&B
bands. This is good time British R&B at its best, in the same bracket as
Dr. Feelgood and Nine Below Zero, and shows that Blues'n'Trouble know how
to deliver a good time boogie with the very best of them. Since the album
was recorded the band have been rejoined by original member John Bruce on
guitar, which means that a very good band just got even better. "Blues
Graffiti" is an album that is well worth tracking down, and if you get the
chance you should also catch them live. You can get order "Blues Graffiti"
from the band's label (www.rgfrecords.demon.co.uk).
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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