Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Earl Thomas at Dover Street

Dover Street Wine Bar, in the heart of Mayfair, is not a venue where you would expect to see a top American bluesman. It's a favourite of my girlfriend and a good place to visit if you're a tourist. on a hen night or on a night out with colleagues from the office. The food is good, if expensive, and there's always live music. But the clientele tends not to be discerning. I've seen some quite decent British soul bands there, but if the band sounds OK and the customers can get up and dance it's usually good enough.

Earl Thomas, though, was different class. Stopping off on his way to the Burnley Blues Festival he put in two blistering sets of top quality soul and blues backed up by the excellent Paddy Milner band. A native of California, Earl has been around for nearly 20 years and has recorded a number of albums. He's a slim, lithe performer with a great soulful voice and is equally at home with soulful Al Green style material as with Muddy Waters blues. He sang several numbers from his latest album Soulshine - the title track and an excellent song - including Last Train to Paris which, like several others on the CD, he wrote himself.
Altogether a very enjoyable evening, even if the meal that my girlfriend and I enjoyed was rather pricey. Dave Carroll got the best deal: he arrived before 10pm and got in for nothing. But then he's an Earl Thomas afficianado, with three of his CDs in his collection.


At 11:38 am , Blogger Dave C said...

Calling me an ‘aficionado’ is a bit of an exaggeration. Although I did buy his first 2 CDs, I did not follow up this ‘Early’ interest, missing out on all but one of his later releases and also his recent appearances at the Burnley Blues Festival. However I was not disappointed at all by his first ever gig in London, even if it was at a venue that did not serve beer! When I enquired, the barman mysteriously fiddled with his watch, as though I had asked for something illegal, before saying ‘no’.

Checking out Earl’s website, I was surprised to see that he had released 1 LP and 11 CDs before his latest, ‘Soulshine’, which he was selling at the gig. Earl appears to be following a tradition (of which Willie Clayton is the greatest exponent) by the regular re-releasing/re-recording of his songs. Out of interest I compared 'Soulshine' (no label or year shown on the CD, casing or enclosed notes) with 2008’s ‘Blues Moderne’.

‘Soulshine’ has 10 tracks, 7 of which were on Blues Moderne (5 of these having appeared on previous albums albeit 2 were ‘unplugged’) and 3 which appear for the first time. ‘Blues Moderne’ has 13 tracks. Apart from the 7 duplicated on ‘Soulshine’, a further 3 appear on previous albums, making it first time appearances for 3 songs.

All in all I was very impressed by Earl Thomas’ performance and would very much like to see him again in London but at a more suitable venue and one with a larger number of blues/soul fans in attendance.


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