The Spitz - Jan 2006
David Atkinson. Photo Martin Harms
Rodwell plays the blues. Often sounding like there’s a four-piece
band playing, Tom’s approach is refreshingly rhythm-orientated.
It’s all syncopation; there’s chiming Pops Staples and
fat Bo Diddley chords jostling with stabs of slide or inspired yet
brief single-note runs that always serve the rhythm of the tune.
Clearly each song has a loose framework that is played with and
improvised within – it’s about that moment, that room
and what feels right.
There are no straight shuffles here, just inspired re-workings of
mainly pre-war blues, forgotten spirituals, work songs and one-chord
vamps. Tom’s amp groans and wheezes with heaving bass notes
and shimmering, tremulous chords – rich in harmonics, at once
scolding and emollient. His foot keeps time on a homemade wooden
stomp box, which adds to the percussive feel and anchors the songs.
There’s a lot going on and the urge to move is irresistible.
Out of the rhythms drift some familiar lyrics and odd fragments
of Howlin’ Wolf, Fred McDowell, John Lee Hooker and Junior
Wells, but it’s like you’re hearing them anew. His voice
isn’t the gravel holler you might expect but serves as a perfect
counterpoint to the churning guitar and imparts the right amount
of weariness and wonder to the lyrics.
Often the groove belies the weight and seriousness of some of the
songs. Out Of The Wilderness, The Lord Will Make A Way, and Why
Don’t You Live So God Can Use You are somewhat at odds with
the wine bar feel and trendy crowd. It’s a curious soundtrack
to a Saturday night. However, this isn’t a gospel meet, it’s
a party and all that’s asked of you is that you get down.
This would have been easier if the Spitz management had seen fit
to dim the lights a bit and move a couple of tables seeing as people
had long since stopped eating. It would have helped the atmosphere
a lot but did not detract from the quality of the music.
Seemingly without trying, Tom Rodwell manages to eschew the clichés
that beset a lot of blues music and musicians. Well-spoken between
songs and dressed in a dark suit, he cuts an unassuming but confident
figure. His music isn’t a recreation of anything – it’s
not like an old 45 captured in amber - it just taps into the feel
and flow that makes all those old blues records so great and forceful.
It’s by turns wild, angry, hypnotic and sensual. It’s
as uncompromising as it is funky and some of the best live music
I’ve heard in a long time.
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