Modest Mussorgsky / Hartmann's design for the Great Gates of Kiev / "The Forest" one of the illuminated pages from the Carmina Burana
The Wotton Concert Series: St.Mary's church, Wotton-under-Edge, 18 May 2013: Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky); Carmina Burana (Carl Orff)
Piano: John Alley and Catherine Edwards; The Choir of the Rinaldo Consort; Scott Bywater (timpani) and other percussionists from the Royal Academy of Music, London; Quentin Hayes (baritone), Claire Watkins (soprano); Gareth Dafydd Morris (tenor).
Despite both pieces being well known, both held surprises in their presentation. The first I knew about in advance, namely that Pictures at an Exhibition was to be delivered as a two-piano performance. It was written by Modest Mussorgsky, of course, as a solo piano piece. I was vaguely aware that Mikhail Tushmalov had produced an orchestrated version of Pictures very early on, the first of 28 people to do so (the most famous being Ravel). But he also produced a two-piano arrangement, albeit incomplete, not covering all 10 movements. So it seems that tonight's performance was a premiere - the first time that a two-piano arrangement of the complete suite has been performed in public. (However, in addition to the 28 orchestral arrangments there have also been 46 arrangements for other forces, including a three-piano version - and, of course, Emerson, Lake and Palmer's version). The two pianos were arranged such that I doubt the pianists could see each other. Certainly they could not see the other's keyboard. I presume this was due to lack of space. Nor was there a conductor for Pictures. They did well to keep together as well as they did, but they did go out of synch rather badly at one point. The two pianos seemed to work quite well, with the labour being shared equitably. It's a favourite piece of mine, so inevitably I enjoyed it. It also went down very well indeed with the audience (the church was full to capacity). However, I had made the mistake (if you can possibly call it that) of watching a video of Evgeny Kissin giving a solo rendition before attending - and his performance was just electrifying, an impossible act to follow (I have embedded that video below).
I had wondered how Carmina Burana would be presented. Normally there would be a large force to deliver the sheer volume upon which some key parts depend. I was rather worried when I discovered that they were to give us the Wilhelm Killmayer 'chamber' version in which the only instruments were percussion. I'm being a clever Dick here, in that 'percussion' includes the two pianos. Actually it worked fine. Even the pianos were fairly inobtrusive. All you need for Carmina is the voices and the (non-piano) percussion. It is a real show-piece for a timpanist. But the bass drum, cymbals, xylophone, etc were used to surprisingly good effect with so little instrumental backing. The choir, was, however, really excellent, and that of course is not optional. The famous opening and closing aria (O Fortuna) has to be delivered in-your-face, and was. It is positively Wagnerian (a deliberately ambiguous allusion given the provenance of Carmina in 1937 Germany). The most prominent solo part is for the baritone. He struggled rather on the unusually high notes for a baritone in Dies nox et omnia (Day, night and everything), but otherwise did the job. I thought he missed the chance to ham it up in the first tavern song (Estuans interius), where the emphatic rhythm is a gift to the opera actor. But he made up for that in the second song, as the drunken Abbot, coming across most comical, including a hiccup. See the embedded video below for a particularly good baritone delivery of Carmina. The tenor has only a very small part, but my goodness Gareth Dafydd Morris made the most of it. Despite having but a few notes to play with, he turned in a searingly heartfelt performance. I guess it was technically falsetto and I now realise that this was to represent the agonies of the roasting swan (in Olim lacus colueram, Once I swam in lakes). The original Carmina Burana is a medieval illuminated manuscript of poems and texts in a mish-mash of Latin and medieval German, and some Old French. It is not religious, as you might naturally think. Quite the opposite. It is mostly scurrilous, satirising the Catholic church in particular. It is also very bawdy in parts, so much so that even the Nazis were nervous about it initially. But then they adopted it whole heartedly, a thing which did Carl Orff a great deal of good financially at the time but made him a subject of suspicion ever since. The music is actually rather simple. There is no overall structure such as would be found in classical symphonies or sonatas. There is no polyphony, which would be a natural mode to adopt to be redolent of the renaissance. The music is driven by the rhythm, which is why it works so well with just percussion - providing, of course, your choir is up to it. The Choir of the Rinaldo Consort was. They turned in a stunning performance which was clearly appreciated by the capacity audience.
Pictures at an Exhibition, solo piano - Evgeny Kissin - really tremendous rendition this...
And a nice rendition of Carmina Burana, with full orchestra (UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, the University Chorus and Alumni Chorus, and the Pacific Boychoir). Particularly noteworthy baritone...
Of course I should have taken my camera/mobile to take a picture, since this particular collection of performers was unique - but I didn't so instead see above a random selection of the Bristol Ensemble musicians
The Bristol Ensemble conducted by David Ogden, Colston Hall, Bristol, Wed 8th May 2013: Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue with Freddy Kempf (piano); Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 with the Bristol Choral Society, the City of Bristol Choir and the Exultate Singers.
Whilst I fancied hearing Beethoven 9 live, I nearly didn't bother with this performance because I thought the Bristol Ensemble were a small chamber orchestra - and initially there was only one of the above mentioned choirs on the bill. Given that the ninth symphony is usually delivered by a cast of thousands (well, hundreds) I was concerned that it might be underpowered. However, by the time the night arrived there were three choirs on the bill, as you see. They were nearly 200 singers strong. That's more like it! And the Bristol Ensemble itself appeared to be twice its usual strength, with around sixty players. So, I can confirm that the sound was as big as it needed to be for this, the ultimate masterpiece. But first - no, not Gershwin - but a new piece being premiered. Written by the viola player, Bernard Kane, and entitled "Bardsey Sound", the piece was not the inaccessible abstraction that one might fear from modern classical music. I overheard an audience member in the interval declaring that it sounded like the 4th movement of a symphony and rather flagged the need for the earlier movements. I agree. But I didn't agree with his other comment that it sounded very classical. It sounded rather twentieth century minimalist to me. I liked it, though, and it gave the timpanist some good exercise as a warm up before the Big One. Next up was Rhapsody in Blue. It went down very well with the audience, but it's not really my thing. Far too American. There were some impressively weird noises in it (deliberate, that is). The opening glissando from the clarinet is the least of it. I think it might have been the trumpet responsible for the later squeaks and squawks, but I'm not sure. After a truly horrible glass of red wine in the interval I was glad to get back to the hall for the main event, though I didn't relish another 70 minutes on those hard seats (must take a cushion next time). You will shortly be able to read my total inability to say anything even vaguely sensible about The Ninth in my classical selection (see link above). The most important thing is that everyone should hear it live once in their lives. It's two symphonies, really, with the first three movements being the first, and the choral movement the second. I believe this was the first time that voices had been introduced into a symphony. Beethoven was, of course, completely deaf by this time. Incredible. The best piece of music of all time? It's a meaningless thing to assert, but I wouldn't argue if someone did. It was echoing around my head for days afterwards. Freude! Freude!
Here's a performance from the 2012 proms, Royal Albert Hall, Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Chris Woods, Under The Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 4 May 2013. There was a number of musical events in Wotton this weekend (including the annual silver band on Wotton hill on Sunday). This one clashed with a classical concert at St.Mary's which I was tempted by in view of the Haydn G major violin concerto but I didn't know the rest of the programme (and I don't like Benjamin Britten) so I choose Chris Woods. (In any case there's a second opportunity to catch the Haydn violin concerto at St.George's on Friday). Chris Woods is not to be confused with Chris Wood, the irascible scion of the English folk scene. Our man, Chris Woods, is a purveyor of the percussive style of electro-acoustic guitar playing. If you are familiar with Jon Gomm or Andy McKee then that's very much the thing. This is Chris's second visit to UTEA, though I didn't see him last time. On both occasions he has also led workshops on the ukulele and (separately) on percusive style guitar. Chris played exclusively his own material, some of which was on offer on an EP, which I bought. I enjoyed the evening, being quite fond of this style of playing, though I noted it was not to everyone's taste - possibly because it was entirely instrumental - no singing. The interval could have been longer, but Chris seemed determined to press on. A modest sort of chap, he appeared genuinely surprised to be asked for an encore - and had some difficulty thinking of a piece to play. There was a fairly decent number of people in the audience, all the tables were occupied, though perhaps not quite as many as recent events (Gypsy Fire was a sell-out last week - I coudln't get in). So, another winner at UTEA. Here a taster...
This is Chris doing his John Martyn tribute...
Martin Simpson, Colston Hall 2, Bristol, 26 April 2013: I'd not been in Hall 2 before. It's quite an intimate venue compared with the main Colston Hall, though several times the capacity of UTEA. There was a decent turn-out, but by no means full. Jack had come up from Southampton especially to catch this appearance by, in his opinion, the UK's best living guitarist (noting that Bert Jansch died last year). Martin Simpson is one of those UK folk singers, along with Richard Thompson and John Renbourn, whose guitar playing is of the highest calibre but whose voice is not of the same standard. Like all the long time members of the British folk scene, Martin has played with everyone, and is widely respected in the community for his guitar playing. He had a long collaboration with June Tabor in the 70s, and again more recently, providing the backing for her singing. He also spent some years in the USA which seems to have been influential since this period figured largely in his between-song patter - and indeed in the songs themselves. He told a story of accepting an offer to play a couple of his early albums live in their entirety - and then discovering that he had to re-learn 20 of the most challenging pieces he'd every written. He boldly attempted one of them, and grimaced as he fluffed some parts. It was spectacularly tricky. He did a couple of banjo numbers too. But he played guitar style, with a thumb pick, rather than clawhammer banjo style (though he plays that way too - and has been known to do entire sets with only a banjo). Martin was joined for a couple of old-time blues numbers by Spider John. They had apparently been doing some filming together. It was easy to see how the lanky Spider John acquired his nick-name. Martin's songs were the inevitable mixture of new material from a forthcoming (and much mentioned) new album and old pieces. All told the audience got what they came for and Jack pronounced it well worth the trip. And a race up the 11 flights of stairs in the Trenchard Steet car park ensured we got pole position and didn't have to wait in a queue like last time.
Martin Simpson gives some guitar instruction before launching into a slide blues number...
...and here he plays a piece in more traditional folk mode, though one of his own compositions,
Kent Duchaine / Kent Duchaine with Johnny Shines
Kent Duchaine, Under The Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 13th April 2013: Well, old Kent belted out those delta blues, right enough. Suitably accompanied by his long-time companion, Leadbessie - his 1924 National Steel guitar. Well, a blues player's best friend is always his guitar. And an impressively scarred old warhorse Leadbessie is too. Kent coaxed an array of authentic old-style blues sounds from those steel strings and bottleneck slide. He played a mix of his own compositions and standard blues numbers. Between songs he regaled us with stories of the old timers he's played with (or, at least, bumped into) in his career, including Muddy Waters and Johnny Shines. The latter is notable for having been Robert Johnson's travelling companion in the 30s. Another strong attendance at UTEA and the audience loved it, including the sing-alongs.
The Exultate Singers (I still haven't found a photo with all 42 singers) and His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts
The Exultate Singers with His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts - "Splendours of Venice", St.George's, Bristol, 23 March 2013. The opposite end of the musical spectrum from the Finch gig two days ago, this concert was the launch of the Bristol Baroque Festival. Should I ask for my money back? Most of the composers on the programme were firmly in the Renaissance era, not Baroque. No, I joke, I really don't care about such pedantry. The Exultate were their reliably brilliant selves. And "doing Venice" really means doing the tail-end of the Renaissance and the start of the Barqoue (Monteverdi/Rigatti). You will have seen me waxing lyrical about the Exultate on three previous occasions, so I'll start with His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts. What is a "sagbutt"? I admit I hadn't a clue. Well, it's a trombone. Sagbutt is merely the original name, derived from the Old French for "to pull and push", a pretty fair description of the playing action of a trombone ("saquier", to pull; "bouter", to push; hence, "saqueboute" subsequently misspelt). There were four sagbutt players, each playing an instrument of different size / tonal range. There were also two violinists (a new-fangled instrument in the late renaissance). Finally the consort included two cornett players. The cornett is a wind instrument shaped like the horn of highland cattle (or like an oboe someone sat on). There is also a doubly curved variety (the tenor cornett). But the mouthpiece is trumpet-like: it's not a reed instrument. Reed instruments didn't arrive in the West until much later. (The cornett is not to be confused with the trumpet-like cornet). The tonal quality of the cornett was much admired in the medieval and renaissance periods because of its similarity to the human voice - and the primary purpose of instruments at the time was to imitate or accompany singing. The Exultate generally sing unaccompanied but the Sagbutts and Cornetts were a perfect match which complemented their sound excellently. The instrumental accompaniment was completed by a choir member on a chamber organ/harpsichord (or continuo?).
So to the music. There were a couple of instrumental pieces, but we were there for the choral music, of course. Being called Giovanni was a big help in terms of getting on in music in renaissance Venice, there being three on the programme. Ditto, being called Gabrieli, there being two of those. The programme was two halves of an hour each, 14 pieces in all. There were no duds. There wouldn't be. This was a choice selection from the pinnacle of the renaissance high culture period (approx 1560-1650) centred on St.Mark's Basilica in Venice. We got the Magnificat interpreted by two different composers, Monteverdi and Giovanni Gabrieli. The former would have been rather avant-garde in its day, I guess, with an emphasis on solo performances set against the back-drop of both the larger choir and the instrumental accompaniment. This gave virtually everyone in the Exultate the opportunity to do a solo. The Gabrieli Magnificat was just that - magnificent. This was one of the four stand-out pieces for me. The others were: firstly a short but exquisite funeral motet O bone Jesu (Donato), sung with the lights down; secondly, Maria stabat ad monumentum (Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni's uncle), sung in the Exultate's trademark "surround sound" (so some of the singers were within arm's reach); and finally, Adoramus te (Merulo). The Exultate, and Sabutts too, made good use of both the aisles and the balconies to dispose separate choirs, frequently two choirs on stage and one on each balcony. I'm a big fan of this. It makes for an extra dimensioin to the music, and helps identify the different parts of multi-part songs. I now realised that this is no new innovation. On the contrary this practice is traditional. It is an imitation of the setting in St.Mark's Basilica, where the numerous niches and arches due to the building's geometrical structure naturally lead to separated groups of singers. On high feast days, when the Doge visited the Basilica, the great golden altarpiece, the Pala d'Oro, would be displayed in centre spot, causing the choir to be split into groups on either side. Another major piece was a setting of Dixit Dominus (i.e., Psalm 110) by Rigatti. This is one of many settings of Dixit Dominus (the Exultate performed Benevoli's blockbuster version here at St.George's last February). The final piece was Giovanni Gabrieli's Omnes gentes, plaudite manibus (not, I think, "minibus", as it says in the programme - I make that "all people clap your hands" as opposed to "all people on a clapped-out minibus"). David Ogden's little joke about clapping at the end of the performance, not that any encouragement was required. But energetic clapping and foot stamping failed to ellicit an encore, despite David Ogden being re-called for another bow twice. They clearly hadn't prepared an encore. Pity. But we got our money's worth, right enough. I bet the Sagbutts could easily have played on, though.
Finch and vocalist Nate Barcalow
Finch - "What It Is To Burn - the 10th anniversary tour": The Institute, Birmingham, 21 March 2013. Transfered to the smaller room in the venue, this was an intimate setting - all the better really. It was full, but only becaue of the choice of hall. I don't know who the first band were and don't want to. Nuff said. It's been a while since I was at a gig where the bass drove the air out of your lungs (I exaggerate slightly, it was little more than a slight earthquake). A good job I brought along my newly acquired ear plugs, thus underwriting my old-fogey status, not that there can possibly be any doubt. The second support band, Mallory Knox, were in a completely different league. (The name comes from the female character in "Natural Born Killers"). I'd invested in a download of their recently released first album, Signals, before the gig and was quite impressed. Easily accessible, they provide middle-of-the road rock with immediately catchy tunes executed well. Recommended as long as you are not allergic to being a little commercial. Their set was largely off this latest album with two or three older numbers. They were a good match for Finch.
Readers of my album list will know that "What It Is To Burn" is on it. And rightly so, I think, having had this opportunity to revisit it. Often categorised under the meaningless label "post-hardcore", Finch were one of the many bands to emerge in the early noughties who shared little except that they were not punk and not nu-metal but were equally likely to appear on Kerrang! compilations. Finch never fulfilled their promise after this, their first full length CD. The second album had a long and difficult gestation and the band folded shortly after its release. They reformed briefly to record a third album but I think it never came out. So this, the 10th anniversary of their one triumph, "What It Is To Burn", gets a whole show dedicated to it. I believe we saw the original line-up, with the exception of the bassist. They did what it says on the tin, performing all 13 tracks in sequence. There were no diversions, apart from a brief foray into Weezer territory - and a non-WIITB number in the 'encore'. Oddly they left the stage after "Ender". Appropriate though that may sound, this is not the last song on the album. Did they play the all-important title track out of sequence and I missed it? No, they came back alright. This was just their way of rigging the encore so that the track What It Is To Burn came last - as, of course, it had to. So will we be hearing more of Finch? I think not. Apart from the fact that they are officially not together, and the 3rd album never got completed, the vocalist (Nate Barcalow) looked very like a rock casuality to me. He was pretty wasted on stage. A good job the audience were hard core Finch fans who knew all the lyrics. The audience rather carried the vocals at times - not a trivial accomplishment against the volume of a rock band.
The Budapest Cafe Orchestra: Chris Garrick (violin), Eddie Hession (accordion), Adrian Zolotuhin (guitar), Kelly Cantlon (bass)
The Budapest Cafe Orchestra, Under the Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 9 March 2013: Well, what a turn up! I confess when I saw this on the programme I thought I'd give it a miss. Then we found out that the advanced bookings were going sky high (for UTEA, that is). On the grounds that they must know something we didn't, we went. It was the right decision. And getting there half an hour early (not usually necessary) was a good move too, for securing a pole position. We had a "sold out" sticker on the door - for the first time in my experience. They did better than Dick Gaughan. Purveyors of Balkan/Hungarian folk/gypsy music, they hit the stage running, so to speak. It was a lively performance from the word go. Well, gypsy / jewish dance music pretty much has to be. The music was authentically Balkan if the band members were rather more Harringay than Russian gypsy. They had great stage presence and an entertaining act, as much comedy as music. The violinist went at his fiddling with such vigour that he shredded his bow. He had a neat trick of pulling a strand of horse hair across a string to make notes with a creaky-door timbre. The first time he did it I was mystified. It looked like his hand was making the notes in mid-air, like a theremin. He and the button-accordion player did a phrase-swapping spot which seemed to amuse the band as much as us. The guitar strumming guy also did a solo comedy spot in which he introduced us to his other instruments, namely a balalaika and an electric saz. The latter is a seven stringed instrument with a narrow neck and a round bellied sound box like half an overgrown gourd. He delivered his spiel in a cod Balkan accent, which went well with his genuine Russian surname, though I suspect he's never strayed far from his native Hampshire. Not all their pieces were frenetic dance tunes, though most were. There were also a few slow pieces. The musicianship from all four band members was excellent. They were extremely well received by the full hall. In fact the demand for an encore was positively rapturous, accompanied by stamping of feet! What? It's just not done in UTEA! But it was that night.
Richard Thompson and his trio on the Electric album/tour
The Richard Thompson Trio - The Electric Tour, Colston Hall, Bristol, 23rd February 2013. The support act, Rob Ellis, deserves an honourable mention in dispatches. With just an acoustic guitar he delivered a sequence of his songs which were catchy enough to captivate an audience to whom they were all unfamiliar (at least I assume so). He played a mix of finger picking folk and good ol' country, the latter delivered with punchy emphasis. I suspect this was in self defence given his support status and his fear of a harsh reception. He needn't have worried. As he put it himself, "Richard's audience are always nice. You should see the hostile hordes I get back home", home being Texas. The connection is that Electric was recorded in Nashville.
Richard Thompson came on and launched straight into three of the tracks from his recently released album, Electric. Can't complain about that, after all this is the Electric Tour. We'd invested in a copy of the CD as soon as it was released, so we were well familiar with it, always a good idea with any sort of music. It was apparent that we were in for a particularly rock-style sound from the first track, Stuck on the Treadmill. I was prepared for this, but it was still slightly shocking, somehow, given Thompson's folk background. The whole set was played as a trio with the same bassist and drummer as on the album, Taras Prodaniuk and Michael Jerome, the latter being particularly hard working. However the evening was not simply about the Electric album. In fact we probably got only about half the tracks from the album. In particular the songs with a female backing vocal were not included, there being no such person touring with them, and those songs being less amenable to the rock trio format. So we actually got more of the Thompson back-catalogue than anything. And Richard Thompson has a back-catalogue to rival anyone's. I can't claim encyclopaedic knowledge of Thompson lore, so I didn't know them all. However we got Shoot out the Lights and Wall of Death, to name but two, the latter being one of my favourites. Several of the numbers turned into virtual jam sessions with Thompson showcasing his guitar god credentials. He got alarmingly close to shredding at times. However, on the whole, good taste prevailed. We were never less than entertained and the virtuosity shone through. Not being a great fan of the Thompson voice I thought it came over much better live, perhaps due to the louder, rock setting. One of the things which differentiates top performers from those on the arts centre / pub circuit is the variety of their material. Thompson has variety in abundance, the fact that the electric persona we saw tonight is just one of his facets bears testimony to that. But Thompson is steeped in the folk tradition and this inevitably showed at times. One number was virtually an out-and-out slip jig in 9:8 time (and I can see why those blessed with natural grace might be drawn to do a Irish step dance).
Much of the fun was reserved for the encores. Inevitably there were two encores, and each involved two or three numbers. (It was a two hour set, all told). When they first came back on someone in the audience shouted "Hey Joe". After explaining that just because they were a trio didn't mean they did that sort of music, they nevertheless did just that and produced a very credible version of the rock classic. Was this spontaneous or a pre-arranged stunt? I don't know. But Thompson then started into the intro riff of Sunshine of Your Love to much amusement. Changing his mind he started playing the portentous opening chords of White Room - and the whole band joined in. This was sounding quite credible too, including the vocals, but then he stopped, claiming he didn't know the words (though I suspect he'd just realised that he couldn't play White Room without a wah wah peddle). So maybe this larking about really was spontaneous. Returning to his own material, Thompson did something typically folky: he got the audience to join in with a response, to a sea shanty! Pretty impressive to start the audience participation in the encore. What aplomb! The second return to the stage for an encore met with many requests called out from the audience. I caught 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (Jack's favourite), Down where the Drunkards Roll (my favourite) and Beeswing (Sally's favourite) as well as others. However, we didn't get any of these (illustrating the extent of the Thompson back catalogue again). Instead we got (perhaps inevitably) Persuasion, sung solo to an acoustic, of course. And then they finished off with a foot stomper electric number. A jolly good night out, more lively than I'd anticipated, marred only slightly by being stuck in a queue in Trenchard Street multi-story for 45 minutes thereafter.
And here's Richard with Fairport Convention (1968/69) - and, more importantly, with Sandy Denny...any tenuous excuse...
As a total non-sequitur other than being from the same year (1969), I thought you might like to hear perhaps the most haunting blues ever recorded. It's the closing piece from Hendrix at Woodstock. In the film of Woodstock it is presented as if Hendrix is presiding over the wasteland that is the deserted festival site. There are versions of this blues on record (all posthumous) but they disappoint after hearing the Woodstock version, which is just transcendentally luminous. Unfortunatley, the copyright people keep removing the video, so it will probably appear blank below. I did find a sound-only version of the whole of Hendrix's Woodstock set, but the idiots chose to speak over the first part of Villa Nova junction and then omitt the rest. Clearlt there's a conspiracy to stop you hearing it. It hasn't worked, though, because every blues guitarist in the world aspires to cover it. However, alongside the blank original is a YouTuber's very creditable rendition. In fact it's note perfect, with the original playing in the background. So this will do as a substitute, though you miss seeing Hendix's unique fingering on the fretboard (effortless compared with the YouTuber's darting fingers). Note that the YouTube guy is playing a right-handed guitar left-handed (but re-strung so the strings are in the natural order), in direct imitation of the great man himself. I hope the guy is naturally left-handed and not just learnt to play left-handed out of deference. That would be a bit frightening.
Matt Woosey, Under the Edge Arts, Wotton-u-Edge, 9th February 2013. The first UTEA gig we've got to this year. Rather cruel of me inserting that Woodstock video up there so Matt has to follow Hendrix - sorry, Matt. Putting up the publicity board in the morning I noticed it claimed Matt to be the UK's best blues man since Rory Gallagher. Hmmm, rather over the top hyperbolae I think. However, Matt could belt out the blues with great gusto, neither the singing nor the guitar work lacking in energy. I believe he has lent his name to the phrase "Woosey blues". He certainly has his own style. That said, he does not shy away from the blues cliches. Quite the contrary, both the sound and the lyrics are so traditional as to be almost pastiche - or they would be if they were not delivered with such conviction. He did only his own material. This, I think, is a mistake which many artists make. It would be better to mix covers into the set. Regaling the audience exclusively with material they do not know can be rather a stretch. Doing solely one's own stuff is a luxury best left to those whose audience are devoted followers. However, Matt's stuff was so generically blues that accessibility was not a problem. He included most of the tracks off his latest (6th) album. I bought it, so that says something. Matt is off to South Africa on tour in a couple of days and we wish him the best of luck. It would have been nice to give him a better send off than an audience of just 16.