If music matures like fine wine, 1979 was a vintage year. That’s when Paul Jones and Tom McGuinness, from the hugely successful Manfred Mann, returned to their first love, the Blues.
Over 20 albums and 35 years have passed since1979, when Paul Jones and Tom McGuinness expected a short shelf life for their idea of forming a pub band to ‘play the blues for beer money’. But passion is a currency everyone covets, and The Blues Band had passion by the bucketful; and fans know a good thing when they hear it. The public’s eager response to what The Blues Band thought was a hobby project took them by surprise, providing a career for life beyond the boundaries of pop, in the musical tradition they love. Pubs and beer money are a thing of the past. The Blues Band continue to be celebrated across the media and have played to wildly appreciative audiences around the globe in venues ranging from clubs through to civic halls and theatres. They’ve toured with Dire Straits and headlined at Glastonbury. Now they’ve added to their expanding catalogue of recordings with a brilliant new album, Few Short Lines.
35 years is a long time, but although their longevity may not be unique, unlike many of their contemporaries they’ve pulled off a fine musical balancing act, and having four gifted singers and song writers in the line-up certainly helps. There are few British blues performers on today’s scene who can look back on a career which included working as sidemen to legends such as Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Big Boy Crudup or Son House, but members of the Blues Band can, and what they learned from those giants comes into play every night. Whilst staying committed to their authentic blues roots, their ability and craftsmanship enabled them to explore new directions and expand their creative repertoire. What makes The Blues Band stand out from their often over-amplified peers is their historical understanding of every diverse category of the blues. They demonstrated this in 1994 by releasing the acclaimed album Wireless, their first purely acoustic venture. Confirmation of their open-minded musical resourcefulness shone through with the fat, joyful and punchy big band blues vitality of 1999’s Brassed Up.Whilst the Chicago-based electricity of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker remains in their act, they never the less wowed their many fans yet again in 2000 with another fine acoustic album, Scratchin’ on My Screen. In 2002 the classic 5-piece line-up bounced back, with the dynamic vocal and instrumental duo Paul Jones and Dave Kelly elegantly supplemented by Gary Fletcher and Tom McGuinness’s increasing vocal contributions.
Eric Clapton once said; ‘When all the original blues guys are gone, you start to realise that someone has to tend the tradition.’ But although they carry the torch, The Blues Band are no musical museum. They’re the ultimate good night out. After thousands of gigs their passion and showmanship keeps filling venues around the world. You can experience it with their latest recording, Few Short Lines. Check out their studio guests: Bob Dylan’s keyboardist Al Kooper, Bruce Springsteen’s sparring partner Southside Johnny, Linda Lewis duetting with Paul Jones Dave Kelly paired with Scotland’s soul queen, Maggie Bell. If you’re looking for spirited blues with a peerless pedigree, your search is over.
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