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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Live Review: Stoney Curtis Band


Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst, Kent, December 6 2011

Pedestrian blues revivalists. Don’t you just hate ‘em? Playing their substandard, sub-Jimi, sub-Clapton, sub-sonic smug widdly at you rather than to you, with the approval of a squillion chartered accountants who insist “oh, you reeeeelly must get the new CD, it’s absleyexlent. It was only £17.99, but worth it….”, lost in the delusion that they’re doing something new with an ancient music.

I’ve seen a lot of those in my time, even promoted a couple. Luckily, Stoney Curtis isn’t one of them in the slightest - even though, playing in Zone 5, the very heart of chartered accountant land, he so easily could have been . But no, he’s brilliant. Taking all the psychedelic and freaky elements of Cream, Hendrix, the Groundhogs, Robin Trower, Beck Bogert & Appice, Taste and most of all Blue Cheer, but adding to it a slightly more hard rock sound (later on, during the show, he admits to having grown up as a Kiss fan) and jettisoning any of the plodding elements which often so restrict that form of music, he made Chislehurst on a Tuesday evening come alive.

Having actually walked in some 20-odd minutes into the show at 9.55, I obviously missed most of the build-up, but on the other hand, it means I’m serenaded by the most mouth-wateringly throbbing, squalling, wah-wah guitar I’ve heard live in years, backed by a rhythm section that understand the free-form ebb and flow necessary to make this music interesting and free it from the confines of trad-dad rock plod hell. For all that the drummer Jesse Bradman, while technically flawless, has yet to fully embrace the jazz ethos of a Ginger Baker, Keef Hartley or Mitch Mitchell, and still leans a little too close to the precise thump and bludgeon of a metal drummer, but he’ll get there eventually, and that’s what matters: likewise bassist Barry Barnes, with his pre-torn jeans, white t-shirt and high-held pluckage, has the air of a session musician rather than a full-blown bandmember, but all that will change with time.

And as it changes, we’ll also of course be able to watch Curtis himself develop: his last album Cosmic Connection emphasised the trippier, spacier elements of his sound, and featured several expansive experiments in acid blues (some aired tonight) that rank among the most unusual things I’ve heard done with the format in decades, but as far as productions go, it still erred too much on the side of the Formula-One loving Classic Rock reader and seemed afraid to plunge headlong into the murky waters of full head music. Then again, with a talent like his, he could actually go in any direction, as the more pop-rock-sounding 'Mouthful Of Honey', bringing to mind long-forgotten 70s names like Starz, Piper and even Dwight Twilley, hinted. Either way it’s going to be interesting….

He loses marks for the final track, which does in the end degenerate into the kind of meandering blues-jammery he obviously seeks to provide an alternative to (even if its slight jazz phrasing does bring to mind the Dixie Dreggs) and for a pointless cover (do we really need another rendition of 'All Along The Watchtower', even if sped up to pounding-double time with full on fuzz fretwork?) but when he lets rip and allows himself to stretch out, he’s on the verge of greatness, to the point where you could almost be forgiven for thinking the new Tommy Bolin (with the voice of Dickie Peterson) had finally arrived. Well, someone has to assume the mantle. Will Stoney Curtis be the man? Will he stay in Shindig territory or slide across the water into cosy melodic blues rock infamy, boarding the last train to Clarksonville? Stay tuned.


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