Review: Michael Messer and Ed Genis – Worthenbury – 18 Jan

Posted on: Thursday, Jan 24, 2008

‘Going Up The Country’ at Worthenbury Village Hall: 18 Jan 2008

From the ashes of the Hooker Blues Club at Wrexham, has risen the equally excellent ‘Going Up The Country’ gigs at the intimate 100-capacity Worthenbury Village Hall – still organised by Pete Evans, with his trusty lieutenants, Paul Taylor and Ian Williams – with their venue resembling an old-fashioned ‘juke joint’, with the walls decorated with classic gig and artist posters, and many of the old regular faces still in evidence.

For the first gig of the year, British slide maestro Michael Messer, and his long-time rhythm guitarist Ed Genis, and occasional vocalist, delighted a near-capacity crowd with two fine sets of mainly vintage Delta blues, with variations along the way. The two musicians have developed an almost telepathic understanding on stage after 25 years together.

Having caught the duo quite recently at The International Guitar Festival of Great Britain, in the company of pedal steel player BJ Cole, it was great to catch them again in different circumstances – at a much smaller venue and with different arrangements of some of the same tunes.

Michael Messer switched guitar several times – playing acoustically in a conventional slide manner and also lap-style, with his electric playing on Terry Clarke’s “Blue Letters” being one of the evening’s highlights, with its piercing Chicago flavoured slide playing. The Sleepy John Estes tune, “Diving Duck” was given an African feel, with Ed Genis’s fluent acoustic guitar underpinning Messer’s slide.

The duo doffed their cap to one of the most legendary bluesmen on the moody “Robert Johnson’s Wake”, and performed what is considered to be the first recorded slide guitar piece, “Steel Guitar Blues”, surprisingly recorded in New York, not in the Delta, Chicago or the south! Both songs are to be found on Michael Messer’s “King Guitar” release, along with the fine “Crow Blues”, which featured more trademark gorgeous playing.

From the more recent “2nd Mind” we were treated to the brooding “Locomotive Skin” – very different to the full band arrangement on the album – and the lovely “Shine On”, appropriately a song about a steel guitar. Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Write Me A Few Short Lines” saw another Delta legend’s music featured with yet another most impressive arrangement. Michael Messer may not be the greatest vocalist in the world, but his guitar playing is certainly of the highest calibre!

In all, a great way to start off the year, at a lovely venue with nice, friendly atmosphere – you can see why most gigs are sold-out in advance. If you fancy a nice night out in the country to see some fine music, check it out. Most nights feature artists of the same calibre and a visit is highly recommended.


Photos by Ian Williams Photography


More photos are available at the photo archive at Flickr

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