Review: Tom Doughty and Adam Palma – Birkenhead – 13 Nov

Posted on: Friday, Nov 16, 2007

Birkenhead Town Hall: 13/11/07

The small, intimate gathering at Birkenhead Town Hall were treated to a display of acoustic guitar virtuosity as part of the 19th International Guitar Festival of Great Britain, from two players with styles far apart – yet able to round off the show as a duo – but more of that later!

Opening the night was Polish session guitarist Adam Palma, who has been based in Manchester for ten years and has worked with the likes of Chris de Burgh and Hamish Stuart. A quite lovely half-hour set saw him take us from Chris Rea to Frank Sinatra, with other numbers by Weather Report and Stevie Wonder – all delivered by his most rhythmic picking style.

He opened up with an instrumental version of  Chris Rea’s “Driving Home For Christmas”, as he said “a most optimistic song”, before a lovely, jazzy “Pick Up The Pieces” – with, I kid ye not, a snatch of “Back In Black”!

He is obviously a big jazz fan and a brace of Frank Sinatra-associated tunes back to back were highlights of the set – “Love And Marriage” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – both played expertly by this talented new name to me. Stevie Wonder’s tribute to Duke Ellington, “Sir Duke” rounded off his set.

Northwich-based Tom Doughty has established himself in the last few years as one of these shores finest lap-slide players – he is certainly one of the most original, with his style blues-based, but with Celtic, jazz and folk influences.

His one-hour set was engaging in the fact that he had no set-list and veered from all genres as the mood took him, also chatting with the small gathering. His superb playing has lots of improvisation and at times even he admitted that “there is a tune in here somewhere!”.

Starting with the title cut of his “Running Free” album, he followed with a couple of masterful covers – Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and Randy Newman’s superb “Louisiana 1927”, telling of the devastating floods of that year; before dipping into the jazz standard “Every Time We Say Goodbye”, and perhaps one of only a few straight blues all night, “Catfish Blues”.

Not being a guitar buff, I am unable to deliver vast detail of his lovely guitars – his website is your best bet for that – but suffice to say they were all nice on the eye and of course, sounded even better in a master’s hands.

His slide style, as mentioned, is heavily improvised – probably somewhere along the lines of American master Kelly Joe Phelps, meeting British player Johnny Dickinson – quite unstructured, and with a really lovely tone and feel, as evidence on a version of “Eleanor Rigby” that took the song places it has never been before.

Adam Palma returned for the last segment of the evening and the two players contrasting styles treated us to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” – ok Tom, we forgive you for not remembering all the words; a blues tune in “Come Back Baby”, and film music in the shape of “Mo’ Better Blues” – the intricate picking of Palma meshing with Tom Doughty’s glistening slide lines – great stuff to round off a most enjoyable evening.


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