Review: Paul Lamb & The King Snakes – The Games People Play

Posted on: Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012

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Paul Lamb & The King Snakes – The Games People Play

(Secret Records: SECCD0552)

A new release from one of our finest ever British blues bands,  Paul Lamb & The King Snakes, is always welcome in these parts – and their second release on Secret Records, sees him and band on top form, with “The Games People Play”, a live outing that captures a ‘snapshot’ of the current live set, recorded in Switzerland, and also at the Carlisle Blues Festival, and backstage at the Green Hotel, Kinross, Scotland.

It seems a hell of a long time now since Paul Lamb came out of Blyth, Northumberland, forming The Blues Burglars then The King Snakes, and eventually relocating to London, but over the years he has always ran a really tight outfit of fine players, which now comprises of, apart from him on ever-wonderful harmonica and occasional vocals: Chad Strentz (vocals and rhythm guitar), Ryan Lamb (guitar and backing vocals), Rod Demick (bass and backing vocals) and Dino Coccia (drums).

This 12-track album consists of some band originals and heartfelt covers, all superbly played and with the emphasis on giving the people a good time – all band members contributing notably behind Paul Lamb’s masterful and inventive harmonica playing . . . of course inspired by legends such as Sonny Terry and Big Walter Horton . . . his two main influences.

Proceedings get off to a lively rockabilly-influenced start with a nod to the classic Sun Records on a medley of Ray Charles “I Got A Woman” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, with Paul Lamb’s trademark harmonica, fine vocal from Chad Strentz and twangy licks a-plenty from Lamb Junior, guitarist Ryan. The soulful stomper “Let Me In” follows, another perfect vehicle for Strentz’s voice, with sweet acoustic harmonica from Paul Lamb.

The band lay down a fine John Lee Hooker/Junior Parker-style boogie on the strutting “Come To The Conclusion”, driven by Ryan Lamb’s tough guitar and the rhythm section of Rod Demick and new recruit Dino Coccia. The beautiful “Summertime” gives Mr. Lamb Senior a chance to show off his excellent chromatic harmonica work, and he also gives a virtuoso performance on the rolling “Easy” – an instrumental penned by the afore-mentioned Big Walter Horton – and it’s a standout here, aided by his son’s fine guitar work.

Ray Charles “Black Jack Game” has been in the set for many a long year now and the slow blues treatment of it still sounds tremendous, with sublime guitar and harmonica intro and another cool vocal from Chad Strentz. The title cut is a funky take on Joe South’s “Games People Play”, with lots of Sonny Terry-flavoured harmonica and whoops and hollers. The rousing title cut of the last album, “Mind Games” is revisited here, a swing number with a soulful edge courtesy of Strentz’s vocal.

The album ends with a ‘stripped down’ brace of tunes . . . Paul Lamb taking the vocal on Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya Blues”, here given a real country blues feel; before the closing Leadbelly song, “Midnight Special” . . . just harmonica, almost a vocal choir with handclaps and foot stomps, recorded at Kinross, which gets a namecheck . . . and it sounds like all concerned are having a ball!

Paul Lamb is a true ‘torch bearer’ for the British blues scene, and long may he and his fine band prosper . . . this comes highly recommended!

GRAHAME RHODES

www.paullamb.com

www.secretrecordslimited.com

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