Review : Ben Andrews at the Harbourside Club, Liverpool, Tuesday 15th November 2005

Posted on: Thursday, Nov 17, 2005

I couldn’t make Tuesday’s gig as I have a nightclass every week; aprendo Espanol. Luckily Lionel Ross was there and sent this review……

From start to finish of this magnificent evening of acoustic blues, Ben Andrews from Washington, DC, held a spell-bound audience in the palm of his hand, combining powerful, grit-laden vocals with superlative guitar playing, backed by a nice line in amplified foot tapping. He also shared his knowledge and vast experience of playing the blues around the USA through fascinating tales of his meetings with the many blues legends who have inspired his career.

He opened his account with an upbeat Texas prison song, penned in 1927 by Furry Lewis, and John Lee Hooker’s Ride ‘Til I Die, before singing his own Easy Rider, a slow and bluesy love song. He then delivered tremendous versions of Baby, Please Don’t Go in the style of one of his main mentors, Brownie McGhee, and Blind Willie McTell’s Statesboro Blues. His combination of slide and finger-picking techniques were simply superb on both six- and twelve-string guitars. He also demonstrated the range and versatility of his playing with Georgia Rag, Monday Morning Blues and a vibrant Leadbelly medley that he smilingly described as “the roots of heavy metal”.

The second set was equally wonderful, featuring three Robert Johnson numbers and a fabulous, earthy version of Willie Dixon’s Spoonful, which he dedicated to his sadly missed friend, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Yet more variety was supplied by a beautifully performed interpolation of mildly ribald humour with Bo Carter’s Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me and Mississippi John Hurt’s Candy Man. A John Fahey instrumental then gave the opportunity for another generous helping of scintillating dexterity with due deference paid to Leo Kattke, paving the way for Robert Johnson’s Travellin’ Riverside Blues to conclude the set.

Finally, a stunning delivery of the self-penned Gallows Pole fully justified the wildly demanded encore to end what was a masterclass from one of the world’s finest exponents of Delta and Piedmont blues. The huge success of the evening was a fitting credit to John Welsh, whose enterprise and energy had secured the extension of Ben Andrew’s original itinerary to include a highly appreciated appearance in the North West at a suitably excellent venue.

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