Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blues and rain in Atlanta

I'm at the start of another U.S. road trip taking in a wide sweep of the South, beginning with Atlanta, a place I haven't explored before. I'm travelling with Dave Carroll, Alan Lloyd and Lee Wilkinson, all guys I've toured with in the past. We arrived too late to catch any live music on our first night, but three of us had a couple of beers at Smiths Olde Bar, a popular and noisy pub. It was a rainy day in Georgia next morning as we set out to explore the city, beginning with the Martin Luther King historic site around Auburn Avenue. There's a museum, which is ok but not as impressive as the Civil Rights museums in Memphis and Montgomery, plus his grave, the King Center and the house he was born in. We also checked out the impressive Fox Theatre and the closed down Royal Peacock, where the likes of Little Richard once played. Then it was time for a quick drink in the Northside Tavern, which features live blues seven nights a week.

In the evening, after a good meal of Southern Fried chicken in the Atkins Park restaurant, we went to the nearby Blind Willie's Blues club. Named after Georgia bluesman Blind Willie McTell, the place was crowded with a really mixed audience, both age wise and ethnically, but we managed to get prime seats to see Sandra Hall, Atlanta's 'Empress of the Blues'. Her backing band the Shadows didn't include Hank Marvin but were a pretty good four piece with a decent guitarist and warmed things up nicely with four or five numbers including I Wish You Would and Rib Joint. Then it was the turn of Sandra herself, who is something of a force of nature with a raunchy act and an earthy voice reminiscent of Ko Ko Taylor. She's been around Atlanta all her life and has recorded five albums, including three for Ichiban, and her performance was a lot of fun. Now in her late sixties, many of her numbers focussed on sex and the attractions of her full figure to the men in her life. She dragged several guys on stage, got them to place their hands on her hips and their heads on her bosom while she urged the females in the house to Use What You Got. Lee, who was sitting right at the front, looked nervous but was spared this indignity but others were less fortunate. Other numbers included Breaking Up Someone's Home, Walk Into My Fire and I'm Not A Size Five and she finished her second set with a rousing version of Wang Dang Doodle which got quite a few people dancing. Her voice is strong, indeed raucous at times, but she sure knows how to put on a show with her risqué and bluesy act. Definitely not to be missed if you are ever in Atlanta.
Watch out for further reports of our Stomping road trip and photos when I get back.


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