Review: Bill Sheffield & Dave Saunders – Alexander’s, Chester

Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2012

Sheffield & Saunders 02.JPG

(Pic: Lionel Ross)

BBs Blues Club at Alexander’s, Chester

Thursday, 17th May, 2012

Quite simply this was the perfect andidote to the current bland, reality-show driven media of today . . . . live music from a pair of  seasoned musicians having a ball with two lengthy sets, comprising both originals and covers and thoroughly enjoyed by the appreciative Alexander’s audience. The amiable Atlanta, Georgia bluesman Bill Sheffield first linked up for UK shows with Dave Saunders, bass player with Dorset-based band The Producers, some 12 years ago and they have a chemistry borne out of hundreds of gigs together.

Sheffield, an energetic 60, possesses a quite huge voice, is a wonderfully rhythmic guitar player and has added harmonica to his talents as well, with the rock-steady and simple bass playing of Dave Saunders providing the perfect foil. This great night started off with a couple of blues classics . . . . Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s “Walk On”, and the Georgia legend, Blind Willie McTell’s “Georgia Rag”, with some sublime fingerpicking from Bill Sheffield.

He is by no way strictly a bluesman, and has definite Americana, folk and jazz touches in his set, as evident on his own “13 Hours On The Highway”, an ode to long road gigging trips in his native USA. He wrly introduced Tom Waits “The One That Got Away” as the ‘jazz number’ of the show; with the lovely “Back In My Baby’s Arms” . . . his wife’s favourite song . . . being another first set highlight.

Other treats in the first part of the evening were a glorious Bob Dylan cover in the shape of  “I Want You” and, even better, the fantastic Richard Thompson song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”, with some stunning guitar work; a top hour ending with an impassioned swing through the timeless “Route 66”, the Bobby Troup song covered by hundreds, from Nat King Cole to Chuck Berry!

His spectacular voice soared on an emotive take of The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby”, before a switch of style into bluesman Jimmy Reed’s ‘downhome’ “Natural Born Lover”, before he showed his impeccable taste in covers with Tim Hardin’s  “If I Were A Carpenter” . . . such a beautiful song. The duo had some fun on the ragtime flavoured original “New Tattoo”, with its wry lyrics, and the audience were treated to the brand new song, “Every Time I Close My Eyes” . . . ‘a pop song’ as Bill Sheffield noted!

The duo were at full tilt by now, and other second set songs included a stunning “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, a song written for Nina Simone and a huge hit for The Animals; and also Sheffield showing his prowess on slide guitar on Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ On My Mind” and his own “It Don’t Bother Me”. A much-demanded encore saw Dave Saunders step down to allow Bill Sheffield deliver a gorgeous solo version of Gerry & The Pacemakers hit, “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” . . . what a brilliant end to a great night!


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