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Dooley Wilson
The Spitz 24th September 2005

Review by Blues in London free ticket winner Mr. K - seen here bravely attempting to convince a tall girl that the blues isn't just about old farts playing long guitar solos. Props to him for getting the flyer into the pic too...

"Thee Most Super-Bluesitatious Old-Time Mother-For-Ya" read the legend on the poster adorned with a photo-shopped Dooley Wilson head atop Robert Johnson‘s body. Quite a bold claim! And so with more than a hint of scepticism I headed off to The Spitz for a night of freebie Blues courtesy of

Arriving to an almost empty hall there was mild confusion with the guestlist but it all stopped short of mild hysterics, wild fist gesticulation and shouted claims of ‘BUT DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM MATE!??” and before long I was sat sipping vodka quite contentedly at the bar whilst Djs ’Too Bad’ Jim & Hangdog Trash Sound System pumped out a rather unruly aural backbeat.

  John Crampton and his shirt...

By the time John Crampton came on the place had filled up a bit but I would’ve still had no problem swinging several large cats around with no fear of maiming anyone! The moral of the story here is 'never judge a book by it’s cover' because when he plonked himself down on a chair centre stage sporting a quite vile Hawaiian shirt and looking for all the world like an errant Beach Boy my heart kinda sank. That all changed about 30 seconds into the first number 'Million Miles' as I was more than pleasantly surprised by the swampy Mississippi style blues, gritty vocals and manic foot stomps.

A definite one-man-band, Crampton plays a mean bottle-neck on a ancient looking National Steel whilst providing his own percussion via stomp box. Add some gravel vocals and the occasional harmonica burst and really the man can’t be faulted! Except maybe for the workman like version of 'Baby Please Don’t Go'…oh and that god awful shirt of course!

Wilson lets himself go...

A few more drinks, a few more people and before I knew it Dooley Wilson himself was taking his place mainstage, Guinness in hand. Being a Dooley virgin and with that scepticism being tickled even more by the fact that Mr.Wilson is the poster boy for 'skinny white boys' everywhere, things weren’t looking hopeful! To his credit though the boy can play a mean electric slide, despite having problems with a buzzing amp (on loan from one Mr.David Viner).

Vocally however I wasn't convinced with the lightweight delivery, especially after the spit'n'sawdust approach of John Crampton. There wasn’t much in the way of interaction with the audience either. He just kinda sat there, closed his eyes and lost himself in the blues. Did find it strange that he did 'Baby Please Don’t Go' again seeing as we’d heard it already not 20 minutes beforehand!

But hey, he’s the Super-Bluesitatious-Old-Time-Mother, not me, so who am I to be contentious!? Song wise I recognised the old Hooker chestnut 'Bundle Up & Go' and a track I'd previously downloaded from Dooley's first cd 'Asshole’s Last Chance' called 'She Moves Me'. All in all it was an enjoyable first set and I was interested to see how it’d all come together later when Soledad Brother No.1, Mr.Benjamin Swank, joined the party on drums for the second set…

  Sartain gives Santana a run for his money in the gurning stakes...

Next up was the man I really came to see, Dan Sartain. Finally getting some recognition in the U.K. now his album 'Dan Sartain vs the Serpientes' has a release via One Little Indian. I picked the thing up TWO YEARS ago when it originally came out on Swami and really fell in love with the super-lo-fi sub-Rocket From The Crypt wailings.

Dan didn't bother with the stage and instead set his mic up ground level amongst the audience… which thankfully had now swelled somewhat. A quick slug from what was either a chilled bottle of water or a really cheap bottle of Lambrusco(!) and he kicked straight off with 'Cobras', engaging the audience immediately and really not letting go for the entire set.

Wild eyed, excited and hungry, he strummed the life out of his guitar and played all the best stuff from the album including my personal favourite 'P.C.B.98'. The trump card was when he removed his shirt to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Ol' Dirty Bastard, poured a drink from his water/Lambruso onto the floor and dedicated the next song to "…all my dead homies…"!

He was joined on the last few songs by Ben Swank and that really did turn the entire thing up to 11! I'd bet my Elvis belt that by set end there wasn’t a non-believer in the entire building! Definitely a name to watch out for in the future. Mark my words.

And so back to Mr.Dooley Wilson, now joined by the primal drumming skills of Mr.Swank again. Starting out with a cover of Muddy Waters 'Rollin’ & Tumblin' I’m not sure if the edition of drums improved the state of play or just made it different. Fair play to him, Dooley was now somewhat more animated, rockin' out some heavy slide blues but there was still a sense that something was missing. Authenticity perhaps? Some grit? A bass player most definitely!

It wasn’t so much that I disliked Dooley, just that I found him kinda like 'Ikea Blues'. Like beige wallpaper. A foot-tapping, head nodding distraction but nothing earth shattering or for that matter, nothing that I hadn’t seen or heard before done better.
For me the definite winners tonight were Dan Sartain and Mr.Beach Boy himself, John Crampton. 
More info about John Crampton can be found at

More info about Dan Sartain can be found at

More info about Dooley Wilson can be found at

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