Beki Brindle was discovered by Rick Danko and Richard Manuel of The Band fame. You almost don’t have to say any more than that. The fact that she has the stamp of approval from two-fifths of the greatest band in the world (Teenage Fanclub notwithstanding obviously) is, frankly, good enough for me. It's not good enough for you? What? You mean you need more? My God, you’re a cynical bunch! Well, in that case, she’s also played with rock n’ roll legends like Jerry Lee Lewis and blues greats like Tampa Red and James ‘Yank” Rachell. Oh, and Bono, the little fella from U2, commissioned her to create and run a blues workshop on Irish National Television. How do you like them apples?
My recent trips to Backstage at The Green Hotel and some of the artists I've seen there seems to have rekindled my love of blues music. So much so that after seeing John Verity here a couple of weeks ago, I dusted off my little short scale Jaguar bass and attempted to learn the bass lines from a couple of classic blues numbers. It didn’t sound pretty, but I had fun, and that’s what counts.
This Saturday night, Backstage at The Green is the best place to be for even the most casual of blues fans. Beki has been playing blues professionally since she was discovered at the age of 15. In the intervening years, she has worked up some serious chops, playing with the greats. During this time she has also built up an enviable repertoire of original material and classic blues covers. Tonights set-list demonstrates the breadth of her knowledge and skills when it comes to playing and singing the blues. As a big fan of the upright bass-player, vocalist, prolific singer, producer and all-round legend that is Wille Dixon, I am pleased that there are a couple of links to his music in Beki's choice of songs.
Early in her set, she plays 'I Can't Be Satisfied' by one Dixon's acolytes, the great Muddy Waters. Beki's recorded version of this song features The Loving Spoonful frontman, John Sebastian on blues harp. Tonight we are treated to a more stripped back and direct version, featuring the growling Fender Jazz of bass player Colin Ness and the mellifluous drumming of Sticky Wicket. I may have mentioned in previous reviews that my beautiful girlfriend, Jo, has a thing for drummers of a certain age. I'm a little worried as Sticky Wicket seems to tick all the boxes. According to Jo, he is cute, infectiously goodnatured (he literally smiles every second of the 90-minute gig) and most importantly he drums really, really well.
Beki also unleashes a blistering live version of Howlin' Wolf's The Killing Floor (Dixon co-produced the original) that showcases her scintillating solo-ing and breathy vocals. Yet again, the band are tighter than two coats of paints. The final Willie Dixon connection (at least that I noticed) comes in the shape of the raucous 'What Kind of Man is This?". Most famously recorded by blues diva Koko Taylor with Dixon on bass. The song seems almost tailor-made for Beki's feisty vocals and inventive lead.
My favourite cover of the evening though is 'Floating Bridge', an autobiographical song by Sleepy John Estes. It tells of the time he nearly drowned as a floating bridge collapsed beneath him, leaving the blind, non-swimming blues singer to be fished out by a fellow musician. It's a great storytelling blues song, with another pitch-perfect performance by Beki and the band.
Beki's own songs are equally impressive, particularly the ones she co-wrote with her songwriting partner James 'Gizmo' Fullin (who is sadly no longer with us). 'New Shoelaces', is a catchy and funny Texas boogie that features a great walking bass line and sees the dusty end of Beki's fretboard getting plenty of love in a series of impassioned and expertly executed solo's. Gizmo also wrote the lyrics for Beki's 'Young Woman Blues' a song that details the struggles of a young working mum backed against a slinky blues chord progression. A spellbinding cover of BB Kings 'Rock Me Baby' closes out another great evening of blues at Backstage at The Green Hotel. If you are a blues fan and you live in Perthshire, it is really the place to be!
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