Review: John Cee Stannard & Blues Horizon – Stone Cold Sober

Posted on: Friday, Aug 21, 2015

John Cee Stannard 2015 CD cover at 300dpi.bmp

John Cee Stannard & Blues Horizon – Stone Cold Sober

(CastIron recordings: CIRCD 025)

Here’s proof the blues really can make you happy. Stannard and friends dish up superbly played and elegant jazzy blues with a joyful swagger that will get the foot tapping and bring a broad grin. Despite obvious roots elsewhere, all Stannard’s songs are delivered with a totally unaffected vocal that makes the whole job sound thoroughly English. Confidence and real style fills every track.

Backing duo Mike Baker (guitars) and Howard Birchmore (thoughtful harmonica throughout…and I mean throughout) add impeccable backing. In lesser hands some of this stuff may have sounded lightweight. Stannard takes centre stage on guitars, resonators and banjo.

“I Don’t Want You Anymore” and “Rum Ol’ Do” are the most ‘up’ of the upbeat with harmonica filling gaps and chugging the rhythm along. Mandolin king Simon Mayor guests on impeccable jazzy violin to enhance “This Rag of Mine” and the sassy slow blues “So Long” (featuring nice chunky electric guitar from Baker).

Mayor’s violin also helps make “The Story” sound like a 1920s standard before he returns to his instrument of choice to solo nimbly alongside Matt Empson’s barrelhouse piano which helps fuse the title track. “Poverty Blues” rolls along with Stannard’s resonator ringing above a dense instrumental sound, heightened by Nicole Johnson’s urgent backing vocal.

The only non-original is a triumphant, thumping and suitably rustic version of Blind Blake’s “Lead Hearted Blues” with ringing, ragtime guitar underpinned by more insistent harmonica.

Stannard is a veteran of folk band Tudor Lodge. This trio’s eponymous 1971 LP is one that older record store vets may remember cropping up in the racks while flicking past albums by the likes of Taste, Third Ear Band and Trees. If you do, you should have bought it. Not only is it apparently a delight but it’s the third rarest album released on the highly collectible Vertigo label and valued in this year’s Record Collector Guide at no less than £1,750 (though I’m sure you could persuade some sucker to part with it for a grand!). Meanwhile, Stannard has ensured Tudor Lodge continue as a duo with a handful of new CDs to their name. He seems to be having the time of his life.


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