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Blues In Britain, Live Review, Half Moon Putney Double Header with Catfish, May 2018

The day after the Boat Race, Putney witnessed another head-to-head between two blue crews.

Representing the darker shade were Catfish: the striding rocker ‘Leading Me On’ and the slow march of ‘Broken Man’ showed the deep influence of Joe Bonamassa, particularly in the latter’s ‘John Henry’esque riff and matt Long’s skittering fleet-fingered runs. A muscular cover of ‘Breaking Up Somebody’s Hone’ also had more than a touch of JoBo’s frenetic finger work although Matt’s vocal leaned more toward Warren Haynes’ rendition. Sprightlier fare came in the sunny Caribbean-tinged ‘Better Days’, its swirly organ, full on reggae passage (led by new boy Adam Pike’s bass) and soulful rasping vocal reminiscent of Devon Allman; and in the fast-faced 60’s a-go-go vibe of the first of two new songs ‘Break Me Down’. Rather more downbeat numbers saw Paul Long take lead vocal: first on the portentous show-tuneish ‘Ghosts’ (the second new number), and on a wistful Bayer-Sager-like ‘Part As Strangers’. Closing a workmanlike set was the inevitable cover of Foy Vance’s ‘Make It Rain’: sweeping organ and Kevin Yates’ cymbal swells created a brooding backdrop for Matt’s emotional vocal, before a passionate solo complete with the now de rigueur diminuendo passage.

Figuratively lighter blue tones came from Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion: fun, upbeat numbers like ‘People’ and ‘Way Down In The Caves’ conjured Beat-Boom-meets-Punk with trenchant organ, energetic, almost-spoken Stranglersy vocals, and surprising, off-the-beaten-fretboard discursive guitar from Rob Koral. The slinky loose-limbed lope of ‘Don’t Hold Back’ featured stylish progressions, with Zoe’s sultry vocal matching the steamy subject, while the sophisticated Schofieldish swing of ‘I Wanna Get Something Started With You’ saw her playful squeal backed by grooving Jimmy Smith organ and more Fripp-like you-never-know-where-it’s-going-next fluid guitar. Late 60s stylings appeared in both the Moody Blues of ‘You’ve Changed’ where, backed by Pete Whittaker’s proggy organ and Paul Robinson’s sophisticated drumming, Zoe’s plaintive vox built to an impassioned wail; and in the stately progression of ‘You Don’t Live Here Anymore’ which featured fantastic classical-tinged Bantonesque organ and searing guitar. The highlight of the night was ‘Angel Of Mercy’: hypnotic guitar lines, lush organ and crisp rim-shots underpinned Zoe’s relaxed by precisely intoned litany, with very “Nice” keys culminating in a period-specific major resolution.

After more bustling organ-trio-style swing in ‘Tell Me’, the ever-eager Matt joined the band (earlier than billed!) to jam on a smoky cover of Billie Holiday’s ‘Fine And Mellow’ and the bustling ‘Shout It Out’.

The Result? For me, “Cambridge” shaded it by a canvas.

    • Words by: Moray Stuart