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Kris Dollimore

The Green Note, Camden, 26.01.07
By David Atkinson, Photos by Rick Webb

Kris Dollimore's music is unmistakably British and delivered with an edge that might suprise most listeners. I caught Kris live last friday night in Camden and had his debut CD, 02/01/1978 in my hifi most of the weekend. My introduction to the man and his music have formed this abum-come-live review thingy...
Initially, the album's title presented me with a problem: how best to say it? Asking a friend "Have you heard The First of The Second, Nineteen-Seventy-Eight by Kris Dollimore yet?" would be met with with bewilderment. The title is not the only unconventional thing though; Kris honed his chops with The Godfathers, Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee Ramone, Adam Ant and Del Amitri, not really names dropped in blues circles. It all seemed quite incongruous but the tracks available on his website added to the intrigue...
Playing at a busy Green Note, Kris switched between straight acoustic, amplified acoustic and electric styles with ease and plowed through most of 02/01/1978 and a few familiar standards. He's an accomplished player, no doubt about it, and the years of post-punk and New Wave have imparted a toughness to his music that is pleasingly free from posturing. 'Lean' is perhaps the best description...

The Green Note is a good venue that balances the comfort of the audience with that of the performer. The former enjoy table service, good food and fine music, while the latter can be part of an eclectic roster who play to an appreciative crowd in surroundings a genuine cut above most small music joints in Camden. It is intimate yet lively; trying to maximise the benefits of having both music and food but also manage the limitations that accompany such a juxtaposition.
Those hungry for Blues had much to enjoy in in Kris' performance but to my eyes and ears the acoustic tracks had a hard time cutting through the noise made by those who were just plain hungry. Kris did look and sound more comfortable ramping things up on the electric and semi-electric numbers though, employing a well thought out stage set up that included a wooden stomp box (or 'portable portch' as I like to think of them) that utilised slap-back echo for that urgent John Lee Hooker vibe which characterises some of the standout tracks on 02/01/78.

The JLH thing is only part of the deal though. There is a feeling that reminds me of the least faux-punk blues offerings typical of Fat Possum; it's sort of Mississippi hill country blues by way of Kent. Indeed, Dollimore cites Fred McDowell as one of his heroes so it is not surprising. The album's Britishness is to its credit rather than a handicap. On one hand it frees him form the crushing weight of tradition but, on the other, that tradition is clearly enjoyed and respected by him and his music. He really does bring something of his own to it.
Listening to the album since the gig, the initial buzz of the electric material gave way to the more ambient songs. The shout-a-long of North Kent Post Industrial Hillstomp Blues, the more pensive Rolling Stone and the closing track, East of England, come across nicely in a normal listening environment. Actually, the album's acoustic tracks' vocals remind me of British folk whizz Martin Simpson's, albeit over some quite different (but still inventive) guitar work.
All in all a distinctive and individual take on the blues.