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The North American Guitar Blues Evening

Michael Messer

Verbals : Pete Sargeant      Visuals : Pete Sargeant

It’s Guitar Heaven – a showcase for leading custom guitar makers, established and new to the scene, all put on by the organisation that cares about guitar-building quality – The North American Guitar
We send one of our axe-toting writers down to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith in West London to see the craftsmanship AND enjoy a three-act special show in celebration of the finest instruments a player could want…

Hard luck and trouble – the bluesman’s lot ! and tonight in the form of a horrendous stop-start drive through Putney and Hammersmith against hordes of Fulham football club supporters heading for a major fixture….imagine a horde of darkly-dressed soccer-obsessed lemmings in identical scarves and beanie hats at night walking straight into your path every six seconds as you try to drive to your gig. And then park. A nightmare indeed. But worth all the aggravation, because this One Special Occasion.

You could hardly meet a warmer bunch of folk than those running The North American Guitar – they are hospitable, helpful and they know their stuff. The organisation exists to promote custom guitar makers and an amazing display of the craftspersons’ work is set out on the stage of the studio hosting the show. Makers include Patrick Eggle ( and he’s there!), Carter Poulsen, Fine Resophonic, Kostal, Scott Walker Electric, Lame Horse, Froggy Bottom and Greenfield. Use a search engine to see just what committed makers can produce. The ones we tried out had style, balance and lovely tones, especially the Dave Crosby chords that your scribe essays on a six-string.

Babajack

Slide merlin Michael Messer of course produced some spellbinding blues’n’beats albums in recent years and in his solo spot shows a driven and fluid guitar style that exactly suits his characterful voice. He really is an expert player with glass or metal slide – in conversation with us before the show he says he knows instinctively which to use on what selections, for the tone be it mellow or sharp and sardonic. His offhand between-song remarks are funny and informative which suits the informal tone of the whole evening, each act is respectfully listened to and savoured by those present, including the acts yet to play.

The spirited male-female duo BabaJack have an infectious groove, deeply soulful vocals (Becky Tate) over guitar (Trevor Stege) and harp plus percussion. Yet they are not preachy or po-faced and the audience warm to them straight away. Including some cuts from their recent ‘Rooster’ album they serve up traditional blues elements in a lively and soulful way making it impossible to keep your feet still our your head from nodding. Curious to see old wineboxes turned into playable instruments but that’s the resourcefulness of blues craftsfolk. They wanted their new album to be performance related and not an example of layered studio trickery. Given the great slide moments and attack I humbly suggest their next effort be titled ‘Tubular Balls’…

Michael Messer

Last encountered by this writer outside the Apollo after Ronnie Wood’s Chess Label Night where they had opened he show, the band John Bull & The Bandits closed the show, kicking off with a rumbling and solo’s-peppered ‘Let The Good Times Roll’. This is a stew of blues, country, rock’n’roll, R&B and every other kind of roots music and they have a particularly adept bassist plus a raspy sax player, all over guitar dialogue that gets the toes tapping and charges the songs. Plenty of own compositions, already. In the spirit of the night, they invite Michael Messer to contribute electric slide guitar, which he does without grandstanding or showing off. The group seem to enjoy his runs as much as we do. We would recommend this outfit for the songs ‘Sweet Rosie’ and ‘Gotta Go Home’. This electric roots style is best savoured in a live setting so a good call to have them on this bill.

Invited to carefully try the guitars, many audience members do just that. The room is filed with acoustic licks of differing styles

John Bull Band

Did MasterChef man Loyd Grossman really come up during the break and contribute to BabaJack’s recording project fund or did they dream it ?  No, we saw it happen. That kind of night !  I hope they do more events like this, we all felt really connected to the craftspersons’ art and even just as a night’s entertainment it worked out fine

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Warm thanks to Aimee Withrington and more info on www.thenortheamericanguitar.com

Pete Sargeant www.fairhearing.co.uk

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