JAYSON BURNS (PHOTOS: DAVID SANSONI)
The Robin 2, Bilston, has a sizable midweek crowd assembled for this feast of blues from the West Country to Memphis via Bilston.
Opening act, Bristol’s Elles Bailey has a soulful, husky blues voice and is ably abetted by a cut-down band of Zach Ranyard on bass and Joe Wilkins on guitar. She works her way through a sizable set of swamp blues punctuated by superb slide in ‘Same Flame’, anthemic, keyboard driven rock (‘Perfect Storm’) and ballads like ‘Times a Healer’ – all of which feature on her debut album ‘Wildfire’ recorded at the iconic Muscle Shoals in Alabama.
‘Girl Who Owned the Blues’ plays homage to Janis Joplin and Bailey moves into early Elton John territory with this melodic-blues number while ‘Shackles of Love’ is a swampy slice of delta blues that showcases the magic that comes from Wilkins’ beaten up acoustic. The predominantly middle-aged male throng, who are looking like a geography teachers’ annual convention, are now nodding along sagely as Bailey closes her set with the title track from her album.
Headline act, Eric Gales, has a pedigree of work on over fifty albums and he is the blues guitarists’ blues guitarist. Those assembled in Bilston tonight include local luminaries Grant Pritchard and Steve Gibbons; who pay as testament to his standing with the aficionados and are keen to see the man described by none other than Joe Bonamassa as ‘one of the best if not the best guitarist in the world today.’ It is hard to review a Gales set in the traditional way. Over the ninety minutes or so we are treated to a succession of blues jams with influences from funk, jazz and soul thrown in for good measure.
Gales is essentially in the UK to promote his latest work ‘Middle of the Road’ and tracks like Freddie King’s ‘Boogie Man’ and ‘Change in Me’ (the latter depicting Gales’ personal journey through drink and drug abuse to his current clean state) are standout moments in the set.
That a Gales set can be so fluid is not only down to his inspirational playing but also the support provided by drummer Nick Hayes, bassist Cody Wright and backing vocalist and percussionist LaDonna Gales; the blues-man’s wife. This solid foundation allows Gales to segue into Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ and head off into the blues stratosphere during a cover of Buddy Guy’s ‘Baby Please Don’t Leave Me’.
Another quality night of Black Country Blues at The Robin! Both Bailey and Gales continue to tour into the New Year. Details can be found on their websites:
**PHOTOS ARE NOT TO BE USED WITHOUT THE PRIOR CONSENT OF DOWN THE FRONT MEDIA / DAVID SANSONI**