Live review: Paul Lamb & Chad Strentz acoustic duo – Summer Blues at Alexander’s, Chester: 9th July

Posted on: Friday, Jul 10, 2015


A bit of a coup for Alexander’s Summer Blues series this . . . one of the finest blues harmonica players ANYWHERE, in town on his 60th birthday, in the company of his long-time bandmate and travelling companion, the excellent Chad Strentz . . . just a shame about the dreadfully low turn out, which I have to confess was really sad to see. That’s the down side out of the way – the good news is that the small, very appreciative audience were treated to two stunning sets by this pair of consummate professional musicians, who dipped into blues, country, gospel, soul and more!

Paul Lamb has long been at the ‘top of the tree’ in the harmonica stakes, and this totally acoustic setting, with him also on occasional vocal and the simple acoustic guitar and great voice of Chad Strentz makes for a most entertaining evening that held everyone from the opening song, “The Underdog”, through to the closing “Key To The Highway”- the aforementioned audience joining in at selected moments and having a ball!

Most of the two sets contained songs from the duo album, “Goin’ Down This Road”, with the highlights too plentiful to mention them all. Chad Strentz featured on a lovely medley containing songs from two of his musical heroes, on a stirring pairing of Ray Charles “I Got A Woman” which segued into the Johnny Cash classic, “Folsom Prison Blues”; he also delivered a fine ‘nod’ to another influence with a delightful take on the late, great Solomon Burke’s “Don’t You Feel Like Cryin'”.

Paul Lamb is well known for his championing of the harmonica style of Sonny Terry and we were treated to a brilliant “Hootin’ And Tootin'”; but may be the best of all on the night was his gorgeous re-working of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” . . . given his North East roots, the appropriately named “Summertyne”, with trademark top-class harmonica playing. He dipped into some Sonny Boy Williamson (II) for a vocal on “Fattenin’ Frogs For Snakes” and another second set treat was piano-man Roosevelt Sykes’s “Ida Mae”.

Elsewhere in the second set, the duo delighted with an uptempo take on Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special”, with an excursion into “Down By The Riverside”; and a special tribute to the late, great BB King as both musicians put their heart and soul into a wonderful “Guess Who?” – the song that often ended BB’s show. This great night ended in fine style with a romp through Big Bill Broonzy’s “Feels So Good”; and a richly-deserved encore in the shape of the afore-mentioned “Key To The Highway”.

A truly great show, and just a shame it was not embraced by the blues fans of the area; but nonetheless well done to those present and the duo who had driven up from London in horrendous traffic, and were heading back straight after. Needless to say, please catch these guys if they are in your area – in the duo format are, of course, in the shape of Paul Lamb & The King Snakes.

It was smashing to see Paul Lamb back doing what he does so well, after illness early in the year caused him to cancel two months of shows . . . Mr Lamb and Mr Strentz we salute you!!


(Picture: Lionel Ross)

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