The latest Blues Night at Millers saw Manchester's Harpbreakers entertaining
the local devotees with two cracking hours of hot and steamy R&B. The
Harpbreakers blend together elements of Chicago and West Coast blues with a
healthy dose of British R&B making them sound a bit like a British
equivalent of R.J. Mischo pre-"West Wind Blowin'". The songs, mostly taken
from their last two albums, "That's Live" and "Come On Down Here", are
tailored to fit this style, which means they can tackle songs like Little
Walter's "Who Told You" in a Nappy Brown style and carry it off with ease.
Frontman Nigel Dunne is a singer with a good dynamic range, who knows how to
handle a harp. He is also a real live wire, performing one-armed
somersaults during a harp solo and then picking up the tune without dropping
a beat. The other live wire is guitarist Tony Roach. He was certainly
exorcising some demons on this particular night, and had Nigel Dunne shaking
his head in disbelief after one particularly inventive solo. The range of
different blues tones he managed to wring out of one guitar, even with an
effects box, was bewildering. His basic style suggests Wilko Johnson and
Mick Green as British influences, and he included some nice reverb in the
Hollywood Fats/Junior Watson tradition.
Among the original songs were the excellent "Let Me Be Your Lover" which
starts out a bit like "Do The Hip Shake", and the Feelgoods like "That's
Life". The covers (mostly originating from the West Coast or Chicago)
included a rousing (and highly appropriate) "Good Rockin' Tonight", and a
heartfelt "That's All Right". The latter was taught to Nigel Dunne by Lefty
Dizz on his last ever tour of the UK.
The Harpbreakers are one of the best British R&B bands around, and have the
same sort of spirit and gusto that used to be confined to Canvey Island.
Although they sound very good on their live CDs, they are much more
entertaining in the flesh. Catch them while they are hot.
This review is copyright © 2000 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.