Review: Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys at Warrington – 13th April 2007

Posted on: Monday, Apr 16, 2007

Having stunned the audience with their performance on the main stage of the Burnley National Blues Festival on Good Friday evening, California-based Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys were equally impressive on their appearance at Warrington a week later on the final leg of their UK tour. Many references have been made to the band’s similarity to the Red Devils of Lester Butler fame, whose seminal album, King King, has earned cult status. That claim is not ill-founded, particularly in respect of Johnny Mastro’s richly-toned harp playing.

The first set began in heavy rocking mode before easing into “In The Middle Of The Night”, a medium-paced shuffle. On the marvellous slow blues, “I Can’t Kick The Habit”, Dave Melton delivered a highly distinctive guitar solo while Johnny Mastro delighted with a switch to chromatic harp. On the subsequent fast-moving shuffle, Melton played slide guitar, in a style highly reminiscent of Hound Dog Taylor, combining very effectively with more wonderful harp work from Mastro. While the latter took a breather, the guitarist assumed powerful lead vocals on another slow blues and provided a further dose of raw slide, while Jim Goodall excelled with some aggressive and eccentric drumming. A smouldering rocker concluded the exhilarating set.

The mood was instantly restored at the start of the second set with a fast-moving shuffle, a boogie and an adaptation of the Green Onions theme. “Take Your Time”, from the band’s latest album, Take Me To Your Maker, then boasted more excellent interplay between slashing slide guitar and thick-toned harp. Dave Melton took a second turn on vocals before a splendid duet featuring Mastro and bass guitarist, Paul Loranger, created an air of relative calm. The set was brought to a climax with the funky “Lover Man” and a rip-roaring rocker embellished with some fabulous harmonica virtuosity.

Two encores completed the vibrant show in the form of a boogie that drifted in and out of “Summertime” and a slow blues. Make no mistake, this is raw, loud, unpretentious and uncompromising blues – definitely not for the faint-hearted or those of a more gentile disposition. But, in the words of promoter/MC, Ray O’Hare, Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys is undoubtedly one of the finest bands to grace the Warrington club over its ten year existence – and that really is saying something.

Lionel Ross




April 16th, 2007 at 19:30
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Very nice Lionel – don’t think we are far apart on this one!