Digging into the blue scene

Music Plus
with Winston Watusi watusi@thesun.co.nz

Last week I started on the local blues scene – let's continue...

There are a number of acts to watch for, from traditional blues players – Mike Garner and Trevor Braunias's TJS Blues Band – to blues adjacent practitioners, including Rehaab, Kokomo, Kaos, Lounge Dogs, Grant Haua, Joanne Melbourne, Gary Harvey and more.

The best places to hear the blues, aside from the blues jams every second Wednesday of the month at the Sports Fishing Club? The Barrel Room on Wharf Street features Mike Garner and Robbie Laven one Saturday a month. They can also be found some Saturday afternoons at Jack Dusty's Ale House in Bureta.

Mike Garner and Robbie Laven.

Those places also have other music: jazz features frequently at the Barrel Room; the Self-Righteous Brothers – a duo offshoot of Kokomo - play blues at Jack Dusty's, where you can also see Trevor Braunias jazzing with singer Jill Leighton.

Jill features on a new release by Mike Garner, just back from shows in the South Island. Prior to that he was home-recording with three blues-singing women and, remotely, with his blues guitarist son Paul in London. Paul is sensational.

The result is 'Q Blues', on streaming platforms now, five old-timey blues tunes, one from Jill and three from Joanne Melbourne, whose authentic unadorned voice makes great work of Memphis Minnie's 'In My Girlish Days' while harmonising with herself on 'Careless Love'. Sydney's Queen of the Boogie, Jan Preston, chimes in with another Minnie tune, 'Me And My Chauffeur'. It's acoustic, clean and poised.

Two things: Jan herself has a new album, 'Pianoland', available for download from her website and eventually on CD and vinyl; and Mike has released two more songs, the old standard 'One Meatball' and an acoustic take on Dylan's 'Highway 61 Revisited'.

Flaming Mudcats during the recording of Til the Moneys All Gone.

Meanwhile Auckland's Flaming Mudcats have released their fifth album, 'Til The Money's All Gone', recorded live at Mount Maunganui's 11b Studio over two days. It sounds tight and dynamic, a mix of electric blues styles from Texas to New Orleans and more.

Craig Bracken, whose ancestor wrote our national anthem, is a commanding singer and fascinating harmonica player, utilising a broad range of harps and sounds. He also writes a fine song.

Meanwhile Doug Bygrave's unique electric guitar style shines. As well as Texas chops, he shows influences including Magic Sam and Westside Chicago players, often making for surprising soloing. Drummer Ian Thompson, once of The Underdogs, also has a distinctive style, different from today's rock-influenced drummers.

Guest keyboard player Liam Ryan mixed the album at his Waihi studio and provides a warm approachable sound. The songs are good – eleven original prime cuts - the vibe is cool. I like it a lot.

Flaming Mudcats.

One more to watch, who, like Karen Clarke, is a blues woman from Taranaki: singer/guitarist/keyboardist Courtnay Low has two bands, The Mons Whaler and The Unholy Reverie. She is a tough and impressive blues player. The former has an album out, 'Hold My Gun', the latter a single. Watch out for her!

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