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'Blues In Britain' Magazine Issue 145 January 2014

"terrific stuff & quite properly receiving a deserved ovation from the audience"

Zoe Schwarz and partner Rob Koral were playing at the temporary home of Scratchers in a stripped down version of their usual six piece Blue Commotion. On this occasion singer Zoe and guitarist Rob were joined by Dave Mayne on drums and Bas Tarrez on bass. Those who got there early witnessed a great start to the evening as Zoe gave us a touch of Etta James on ‘Something’s Gotta Hold On Me’, starting acapella , then bringing the band in powerfully, Rob’s great tone on his Ibanez guitar making an immediate impression. Ton eschewed any effects apart from some careful use of a wah-wah pedal.

The full band has a new CD out and quite a lot of songs from it were played. Two songs in particular demonstrated the range of the band: the title track of the CD The Blues Don’t Scare Me is a hard-edged tune on which bassist Bas dug deep in support of Rob’s guitar whereas ‘I Believe In You’ was an impassioned ballad on which Rob’s extended solo explored pretty much the entire neck of the guitar, even finding some eastern flavours on the coda.

Zoe’s voice meanwhile just gets better and better, whether she is rocking out or singing in gentler mode. Ballads are probably her forte and ‘Heroes’ was another in that style in the first set. The closing sequence of material was an excellent combination of ‘I’ll Do Anything’, an upbeat original rocker, Newley/Bricusse’s ‘Feeling Good’ and Willie Dixon’s ‘I’m Ready’. A special mention for the version of ‘Feeling Good’ as it is a frequently covered song but Zoe returned it vocally to Nina Simone territory whilst Rob’s jazz-inflected solo took the rune to different places than recent versions by Joe Bonamassa and Aynsley Lister (excellent though both of those are).

Some people arrived in time for the second set – a shame as they had missed some excellent music. However, it did follow a similar pattern, interspersing new CD material such as ‘Lucifer Is Blue’ on which Dave’s drums were featured, ‘Come Home Sweet Baby’ with powerhouse vocals and ‘Say It Isn’t So’ on which Rob’s fingers were a blur in his solo, with some blues classics. Lowell Fulson’s ‘Reconsider Baby’ was beautifully done in cool style with a gorgeous solo from Rob, another oft-covered song getting an original makeover. For the encore the band again went for breadth of approach first making another visit to the Willie Dixon songbook for ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’, then closing with possibly the strongest ballad on the new CD ‘We’ll Find A Way’, Zoe ranging from gentle soothing tones to full-on rock howl – terrific stuff and quite properly receiving a deserved ovation from the audience.

This is a band on the rise and well worth checking out when they play in your area.

words by: John Mitchell
Gig: Farncombe Cavern at the Freeholders, Surrey, 23.11.2013