Friday, September 29, 2017

Take Me To The River in Lafayette

After New Orleans we travelled on to Lafayette, stopping off at New Iberia, where I bought a few records from the same junk shop where I got some last year. We stopped for lunch in Abbeville, home town of Warren Storm and Bobby Charles. It's quite pretty in the centre but dead, like many other small towns in the South.
In the evening we went to the Acadiana Centre For The Arts in Lafayette for Take Me To The River, the second in a series of concerts around the US promoting the film of the same name about Memphis soul, directed by Martin Shore. I saw a similar show in London a couple of years ago and was looking forward to seeing two of its stars, Bobby Rush and William Bell, again. Sadly the third star of the London concert, Otis Clay, has died, but he had a more than adequate replacement in Charlie Musselwhite, who I haven't seen in many years.
The first part of last night's show, lasting about half an hour, turned out to have nothing to do with the movie, featuring local musicians the Blue Monday House Band, which included Lil Buck Sinegal on guitar. Various members of the band did one number each, including an excellent Your Love Is Slipping Away by Lil Buck. Other numbers included Higher And Higher, Let's Straighten It Out and Having A Party. It was all fine, but then they vacated the stage with no explanation.
The main show followed, introduced by Boo Mitchell, son of Willie, after a clip from the movie with some great singing by Otis Clay. The live music kicked of with Willie's 20-75 played expertly by the band, not surprising since it included several members of the Hi Rhythm Section. Just as in London the show featured several younger artists, who detracted, rather than added to the overall impact. The first of these was Ashton Riker, a graduate of the Stax Academy, who did four numbers (more than anyone else), two by Al Green and two by Otis Redding. He was joined on stage at various times by Frayser Boy and Al Kapone, who rapped, rather than sang. Ashton's voice is OK but this section went on too long, given that we were there for the real stars. It was a relief when the great Bobby Rush appeared, as youthful as ever aged nearly 84, dressed in a red suit, and gave us Porcupine Meat, Do The Push and Pull (a duet with Frayser Boy) and Garbage Man. Next up was Charlie Musselwhite who was also excellent on his three numbers, Your Love Can Keep Me Warm, James Cotton's West Helena Blues and I'm Going Home To You. Charlie had his metal harp case with him and blew his harps well, as did, of course, Bobby, and it was a real pleasure to see him. Finally it was the turn of William Bell, looking smart as ever. He began with Easy Coming Out, Hard Going In and was in great voice, as he was in his next number Private Number, a duet with one of the backing singers. A pity then that his final number I Forgot To Be Your Lover should be spoiled by the arrival onstage of Al Kapone, who rapped inappropriately. Fortunately William was able to continue alone, dropping the volume and the pace and showing off his brilliant voice, then ending in a terrific climax. All the acts then came onstage to celebrate a show that was good in parts. The three great veteran artists showed the youngsters how it should be done, exposing the shallowness of much of today's music. Long may Bobby, Charlie and William reign.
Nick Cobban


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