Review: David Honeyboy Edwards – Birkenhead – 02 June 2008

Posted on: Thursday, Jun 5, 2008


Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead: 02.06.08

More of an historical event than a regular gig, one of the oldest working bluesmen on the planet, David Honeyboy Edwards, stopped off at Pacific Road on his farewell UK tour, accompanied by his manager, promoter, harmonica player and record label owner, Michael Frank; and stalwart of the British acoustic blues, the affable Dave Peabody.

A couple weeks shy of his 93rd birthday, this grand old gentleman of the blues was born in Sunflower County, Mississippi on 28th June, 1915, spending his early years as a musician travelling from town to town, playing on the street, where eventually he was discovered by Alan Lomax in 1942 and recorded for the Library of Congress, and the rest, they say, is history!

Opening the show, Dave Peabody delivered a most enjoyable 40-minute set, starting with the standard “Crow Jane”, followed by his own tongue-in-cheek, “It’s Hard To Write A Blues When You’re Happy”, both highlighting his lovely guitar picking. Joined by Michael Frank on harmonica, other delights were RL Burnside’s “Jumper On The Line”, and some nice slide on Robert Johnson’s “Rambling On My Mind” – he thought he do a Johnson tune as Honeyboy, he informed the packed house, doesn’t and is loathe to talk about the legend that he both knew and played with.

After a short break, the two musicians returned accompanied by Honeyboy Edwards, who belied his age with a spirited hour, mainly forsaking his recent “Roamin’ And Ramblin’ ” release for a set of blues standards, with a brace of well-known classics up first – “Catfish Blues” and “Sweet Home Chicago” – with his now raspy voice and fluent guitar rolling back the years.

I thought we may be treated to some tales of the old days, but Honeyboy was content just to offer a polite ‘thank you’ between songs, saving his energy for playing and singing – with Peabody’s acoustic rhythm work and Frank’s harmonica giving the music some added muscle – the sound surprisingly good, for an acoustic gig in such a large room, hats-off to the soundman!

Other highlights were Robert Lockwood Junior’s “Little Boy Blue”; the great “Shake ‘Em On Down” and Lightining Slim’s “The Things That I Used To Do” – all played with an energy belying his grand old age and lapped up by a standing-room only seated crowd – lovely to see, especially on a Monday night! Curiously, the opening track from “Roamin And Ramblin’ “, “Apron Strings”, featured in the set twice!

A large queue of well-wishers after the gig were rewarded by Honeyboy Edwards signing autographs and posing for pictures – some half-hour after the show he was still at it! A flight home on the Tuesday was to be followed by a Wednesday gig in Chicago – some schedule, even for a younger man, but I guess once a bluesman . . . !


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