Review: The Hokum Hotshots + Louis ‘Gearshifter’ Youngblood at Worthenbury Village Hall – 3 November 2007

Posted on: Thursday, Nov 8, 2007

Louis ‘Gearshifter’ Youngblood from Jackson, Mississippi, is a great nephew of the legendary bluesman, Tommy Johnson. He opened this session of the Goin’ Up The Country Blues & Roots series of gigs at Worthenbury with an engaging set, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. He covered a range of material, which demonstrated the versatility of his soul-tinged voice. Among blues standards including “Walkin’ Blues”, “Dimples” and a splendid version of “Help Me”, he intertwined a variety of ballads and lively rockers. There was also a fair sprinkling of humour not least in George Jackson’s “Last Two Dollars” and Floyd Hamberlin’s “Banging The Headboard”, which bewails the noisy, nocturnal activity of energetic but inconsiderate neighbours.

Headlining the show were the marvellous Hokum Hotshots from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who, not to be outdone by their fellow artiste’s nickname, announced themselves as Beershifter and Pieshifter. They then proceeded to deliver a brilliant set of good-time blues, interpolating copious amounts of hilarious banter into their superb programme of musical artistry. Jim Murray rang the changes on three dazzlingly-bright steel guitars (‘my partner in chrome’, as Pete Mason described him), while Pete majored on acoustic guitar, which he occasionally swapped for a ten-stringed tiple (a dance band ukelele). They shared the vocals on a wonderful array of numbers that included Memphis Minnie’s “That’ll Be Alright”, Tampa Red’s “Seminole Blues” and Tommy Johnson’s “Canned Heat”.

The instrumental “Cat’s Whisker” saw Jim on lap steel guitar, as did “Guitar Swing”, the title track from the duo’s latest album. On “The Dallas Rag” and the following two numbers, he switched to mandolin, then back to steel guitar on Charley Patton’s “Oh, Death”. Meanwhile, Jim Mason excelled on guitar with some beautifully played solos, not least on Cliff Carlisle’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”. The magical evening was brought to a close with another dose of ribald humour on “Go Ahead, Buddy” and, as an encore, “Winnie The Wailer”.

With every appearance of the Hokum Hotshots a good time is guaranteed. Humour is never far from the surface but it is mightily underpinned by supreme musical ability. On this occasion, it was also a significant bonus to have the added pleasure of Louis Youngblood’s excellent performance, which set the scene admirably for what was to follow.

Lionel Ross

Photos courtesy of Ian Williams


More photos from the gig can be seen at the photograph archive.

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