Review : Eddie and Frank Thomas at Alexanders, Chester 03 Nov 2005

Posted on: Monday, Nov 7, 2005

Lionel Ross wrote the following review….

This appearance in Chester formed part of the second tour of the UK by Eddie and Frank Thomas within the space of six months. The brothers from Iuka, Mississippi, received rave reviews from their first tour in the spring of this year and were in great demand to make a return visit. On witnessing this performance, it is not surprising that their talent, warmth and charm touched the hearts of so many people.

Eddie and Frank wonderfully combine their respective skills of musicianship and film-making to provide a riveting melange of music, history and geographical images around a journey along Highway 61 from Memphis to New Orleans. Eddie sings and plays the music and delivers a commentary on Frank’s sensitively compiled film, which depicts the Mississippi river, the railroad and Highway 61 itself and the cities and townships along the way. It also gives a flavour of the ancient and modern aspects of the cotton industry from the old buildings on legendary plantations to the current machinery that has replaced the labour-intensive cotton picking methods that inspired and nurtured the blues.

The musical element of the show fully demonstrates Eddie Thomas’s remarkable versatility, embracing fine vocals, intricate finger-picking on acoustic guitar, authentic slide on his 1932 National, occasional blues harp and some beautifully controlled artistry on muted trumpet. The first set of the programme, which began very appropriately with Rice Miller’s “Good Evening, Everybody”, included terrific versions of Charlie Patton’s “High Water Everywhere” Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues”, and ended with some fine trumpet playing, most notably on a version of “Hotter Than That” in affectionate memory of Louis Armstrong.

The delight was undiminished throughout the second set, which featured music by Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup, Gus Canon, Bukka White, Big Bill Broonzy and Lonnie Johnson. In contrast, it also contained a splendid rendition of “Mr Jelly Lord” in homage to Jelly Roll Morton and Jimmie Rodgers’s “Mississippi River Blues”. Finally, this unique presentation of superb entertainment was brought to a close by Louis Jordan’s “Let The Good Times Roll”, which, in truth, was an entirely inappropriate and superfluous exhortation, as the good times had already rolled in abundance all evening.

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