Monday, November 18, 2013

Rocking at the Rhythm Riot

Just back from a weekend of R and B and rock and roll at the Rhythm Riot in Camber and a pretty good weekend it was too. For many of those attending, including a huge number from the Continent, it's less about the music than about dressing in 50s fashions and jiving. But for old music nuts like me and the other Woodies who were there it was definitely the music that counted. For the most part the American acts that I saw lived up to, or exceeded expectations, so it was worth the trip - only the second time I've been. And the in-chalet music provided during the day by the Rhythm Riot Ramblers, including John Spencely and Bunter Clark, made it doubly enjoyable.
The first act that I caught on day one was Beverly Guitar Watkins, a fine guitarist, now in her seventies, who played with Dr Feelgood (Piano Red) back in th 1950s as well as working with the likes of B B King and Ray Charles. Beverly is a spry, small grandmotherly lady who produced a clean and exciting guitar sound on numbers such as Blues Are Alright For You, Big Boss Man, Red Hot Mama and Walkin' The Dog, but each of them was over-extended, meaning that she ran out of time. She played only a few bars of the Dr Feelgood number Right String But The Wrong Yo-Yo before finishing briefly on What'd I Say. Her backing band the King Bees included an annoying lead guitarist, name of Hound Dog Baskerville apparently, and a bass player (Queen Bee), but with Big Boy Bloater also showing off his licks it was probably at least one guitarist too many. Nonetheless I enjoyed Beverly, who clearly plays as well as she ever did.
Next act was a new name to me - Nikki Hill - but one who has a potentially great future. She has a wonderfully bluesy voice, reminiscent at times of Amy Winehouse, and looks great too. Her set included some excellent covers, including I Know, Shake A Hand and an absolutely stunning version of The Girl Can't Help It, and quite a few self-penned tracks from her new CD, including Ask Yourself, I've Got A Man and Strapped To The Beat. I was sufficiently impressed to buy her CD and also get my photo taken with her (pity about my straggly Movember moustache). The only down side for me was the lead guitarist who, although very good, strayed into prog rock territory at times.
After Nikki I slipped into the Queen Vic bar to catch a short bit of Barbara Clifford's set, another young American singer who has an excellent girl-group flavoured voice.
Saturday evening kicked off for me with the Haystack Hi-Tones, a Dutch country boogie cum hillbilly group featuring two buxom and highly polished singers. Although not usually my type of music I thought they were excellent. Numbers included Steam Heat, Skeets McDonald's What A Lonesome Life It's Been, Don Gibson's Blue Blue Day,The Joke's On You and a number called Rockin' Hall, sung in Dutch. A very enjoyable set I thought.
Next were one of the highlights of the whole weekend, the Teenagers, featuring a couple of guys from the Frankie Lymon era, Jimmy Merchant and Herman Santiago, with two others, Tommy Lockhart and Timothy Wilson. They harmonised beautifully on classics like Goody Goody, I Promise To Be True, The ABC Of Love, I'm So Happy, Come Go With Me and Paper Castle before finishing with I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent, Creation Of Love, I Want You You To Be My Girl and, of course, Why Do Fools Fall In Love. Somone remarked that they were like a cruise ship act, but I had never seen then before and I thought their slick professional act was great. Teenagers they may not be (and haven't been for getting on for 60 years) but they can still do doowop with the best of them.
I have heard good reports about the next act, Bobby Brooks Wilson, so I was looking forward to seeing him and I wasn't disappointed. The son of Jackie Wilson, he bears a striking resemblance to his late dad, not just in looks and vocally, but also in terms of his showmanship and all round personality. The act was in many ways a tribute to Jackie, with dynamic performances of Reet Petite, I'll Be Satisfied, Lonely Teardrops, a wonderfully soulful Doggin' Around (not the UK version of 'dogging', Bobby joked), Come Back To Me, Sweetest Feeling and Baby Workout. He also threw in three Sam Cooke numbers - Twistin' The Night Away, Havin' A Party and You Send Me - and his dancing and stage presence were quite something. How could anyone complain? Not me, that's for sure. Excellent stuff.
On to Sunday night now and the return of Lazy Lester, last of the Excello blues men and a performer I have seen many times over the years. He never seems to age, although he is now 80, and always puts on a good show. But this one was perhaps the best I've seen, because he included a couple of numbers that he is famous for but doesn't usually perform, namely Sugar Coated Love and I'm A Lover Not A Fighter. Other numbers included Jailhouse Wall, Blues Stop Knocking, a slow blues Sad City, and I Made Up My Mind. Big Boy Bloater and his band provided great support, as they did for the majority of acts all weekend.
The final act, the Truly Lover Trio, was another about whom I had heard good things, but this time I was rather disappointed. They are a rockabilly group with a singer who sounds exactly like Roy Orbison, but although professional in their way, they struck me as something of a tribute act with a lead singer who knew only too well how good he was.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable weekend with loads of variety. Who knows, I may even go again some time!
Here's a photo of me with the lovely Nikki Hill.
Words and photos by Nick Cobban.


At 1:29 pm , Anonymous Nick S said...

I was wondering if the Timothy Wilson with the Teenagers was the famous 60/70's soul singer.


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