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Live Review:

Spitz Festival of the Blues - John Crampton, Tom Rodwell, Sister Mary & The Choirboys, Mr. Black and Blues
St. Pancras Room at Kings Place 4th September 2009
Review by Pete Savage, photos Christopher Tribble


Friday September 4 saw Kings Cross' Kings Place, a new office complex/music venue, hosts the Spitz’s regular Festival of the Blues. In the long-standing tradition of the festival, previously held in Spitalfields, it providing a showcase for four very different acts.

The only solo performer was Brighton-based John Crampton who made a rare visit to London to present his raucous but technically skilled blues mainly based around his flair on national steel (with and without bottleneck) or, on two tracks banjo and harmonica. Along with throaty, rasping vocals and foot-stomp this makes John Crampton a true one-man blues band.

John launched the festival with a lively bluegrass instrumental called Micklepage Stomp (possibly named after an old 14th century Sussex farmhouse). Demonstrating his versatility, he followed this with a traditional gospel song and a series of more blues-based numbers including the lively (slightly manic?!) renditions of the oft-covered Bo Diddley’s Who Do You Love? and Big Joe Williams’ Baby Please Don’t Go.

Rodwell and co.

While John Crampton firmly occupies the pre-urban blues era, Tom Rodwell takes a glance in several directions ranging from the musician’s plea Pay Me Money Down, to the light-hearted calypso of Bang, Bang Lulu and a similarly “blue” song—Frank Zappa’s Down in France with its linking of a well known blues performer to a certain sexual activity. The sound ranged from hypnotic blues drone to gospel and catchy rhythms. Accompanied mainly by percussionist Damian and also occasional accordion from Art Terry, Tom Rodwell engaged the audience throughout with humorous quips and also references to his adopted home town of Sheffield.

Sister Mary

A set of varied blues was provided by the excellent Sister Mary & the Choirboys, a London-based six-piece band. Emine Pirhasssen’s dynamic vocals provided the focal point for the hard-working choirboys (who incidentally seemed to be praying as well as playing because they had their eyes seemingly closed throughout much of the performance). Songs ranged from the throaty, Janice Joplin-like vocals of My Name is Em to the lost-night-out of Upper Class Princess and the bleaker, more folksie London (with words by William Blake). Songs of love and lust were common themes and Emine certainly sounded as if she meant it, singing with passion as well as showing a wide vocal range.

Mr. Black and Blues

The four hours plus of music was topped off by the more soulful, stomping and countrified blues of Australian band Mr Black and Blues who used the festival to launch their debut album. This was something of an achievement for the four-piece band whose leader suffered a broken neck and the prospect of not playing again a year or so ago. This perhaps explained the contemplative tone of Morning Light, the album’s title track and second number, which was less of a blues song more a celebration of the band’s continuation. Muddy Water, the opener was more typical of the band’s set.

As a venue the St. Pancras Room at Kings Place proved more than adequate with good sound and an intimacy that might have been lost in one of the large auditoriums in the venue used for major classical concerts.

Check out the Spitz' video of the event:

John Crampton’s entire set was excellently recorded and, unusually, the audio has been made available by Kings Place (It would have been even better had the entire event been recorded!). Click below to hear it.