Review: Michael Messer and BJ Cole – Birkenhead – 15 Nov

Posted on: Saturday, Nov 17, 2007

Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead: 15/11/07

This concert, part of the 19th International Guitar Festival of Great Britain, saw the unique pairing of two of Britain’s finest players – slide guitar master Michael Messer, and the man who has graced hundreds of albums since the seventies, pedal steel maestro B.J. Cole.

In the company of Messer’s long-time rhythmn guitarist, Ed Genis, and bass player Chris Clark, they delivered two enjoyable sets of great diversity – from Hawaiian tunes, to Chicago blues and western swing – with interesting dialogue about the songs and the instrumentation.

Messer and Cole switched instruments to suit the songs, with the most stunningly visual item on display being a beautiful four-neck Fender steel guitar, dating from 1953, which presented less tuning problems than B.J. Cole’s other steel guitar, which caused much hilarity from the crowd!

Highlights of two great sets were the lovely “Jitterbug Waltz” and a Hawaiian tune called “Sweetheart Darling” – both featuring stunning interplay between Messer’s lap slide and Cole’s pedal steel. A standout blues tune saw them perform “Steel Guitar Rag”, which was the first known blues song recorded in 1923 – this was done twice as a slide guitar piece and then on the steel guitar.

Michael Messer switched to electric slide for the Chicago blues of “Blue Letters”, co-wrote by Terry Clarke. The standard “Cry Me A River” was delivered quite beautifully as a duet from Cole and Ed Genis’s acoustic guitar; with a rip-roaring version of legendary country writer Roy Acuff’s “Steel Guitar Blues rounding off a most interesting and original evening.

Having not caught Michael Messer with his full band before I will certainly be looking out for them in our area the next time – he is a fine musician with lovely technique and great tone in his playing – to sum up, another gem of a night from the good folk of the International Guitar Festival of Great Britain!


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