Friday 20th March 2015
So here I return for a second instalment at The Edinburgh Blues Club (EBC). The EBC is a Social Enterprise established to create a specialised environment for the support of a monthly blues event in the fabulous Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh, to guarantee that the people of Edinburgh city do not miss out on class-touring blues acts. The EBC is maintained on a membership subscription basis, where members pay £10 per month in return for access to all EBC events and newsletter. Tickets are also available to the general public via Ticketweb, Tickets Scotland and Ripping Records.
This month sees the event migrate from the speakeasy venue downstairs, to the glittery Ballroom upstairs to accommodate for the growing audience. The EBC kept patrons waiting outside the Ballroom in suspense for 40 minutes, while they completed last minute sound checks inside. After the audience poured in to a mainly standing arena, the host apologised for the lateness and assured us they are not in a habit of this unforeseen delay. I was somewhat surprised there were so little seats since the majority of the audience was of the mature variety.
First up was a 6-piece band from Perthshire called Wang Dang Delta. The band started performing together in 2003 and focus on mainly original compositions with some classic blues and groovy numbers. Inspired by other genres such as jazz, soul, folk and country but always remaining firmly devoted to blues. The line up includes Ian McLaren on guitar and lead vocals, Pete Caban lead guitar, Jim Harcus on harmonica, Alan Sutherland keyboards, Pim Pirnie on drums and Jason Wotherspoon on bass. They have performed at some of the UK’s top blues clubs and have appeared at Perth Festival of the Arts, Southern Fried Festival, Orkney Blues Festival, Dundee Blues Bonanza, Perthshire Amber and Thunder in the Glens. The Wang Dang Delta members individually have also had guest appearances in an array of impressive bands such as Rancho Rebop, Full Moon Howlers, Radiotones, Dave Arcari, GT’s Boos Band, Dougie MacLean and Tartan Amoebas.
Wang Dang Delta possess a diverse range of songs written by lead vocalist Ian McLaren, their first number was a rocking high tempo track full of energy which really grabbed the audiences attention. Well Runs Dry, a groovy tune followed. The band demonstrates flawless, professional talent. Ian McLaren maintains good connection with the audience through friendly banter, after a mellow blues track he vowed the next song would get people moving as the audience looked like an oil painting, and boy, did they get the crowd bouncing! The slick ensemble work effortlessly together, to create top toe tapping and thigh slapping numbers one after another. You could see the bands sheer enjoyment in performing and their collective performance was second to non. Kudos goes to Ian Sutherland (sporting a pair of tan cowboys boots) the keyboard player for his breathtaking solo performances. A unique song, Caravanette, was one of the final numbers devoted to Scotland’s A9
truck road and by the last song everyone was bugging out. Live At The Royal Albert Hall, recorded by the BBC. This year, her international touring schedule increased to Festivals in France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the Caribbean, with USA beckoning, as well as theatre and major club shows in UK.
After a couple of opening songs, Harman welcomes the crowd, thanking us for making it while mentioning it took them 11 hours to drive here. Her next song, she introduces as been co-written with Andy Platts from Mamas Gun called This Is My Amnesty and you can see everything of her has been put into this song. Harman’s voice storms through styles and ranges with ease, delivering tracks with a vigor and passion. Hartman makes the Bluesy Bobby Bland classic cover Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City her own, by stretching the vocal range and the talented keyboardist Steve Watts builds a commendable keys solo. Throughout the show Harman portrays tremendous energy, with a healthy amount of hair flicking and strutting! Harman can hold tone and melody and there’s an almost gospelstyle to the way she holds her arm up, clawing at the air on long cords.
Unexpectedly as Harman was about commence another soulful number a gentleman fainted in the audience, presumably from standing too long in the warm environment. Thankfully he soon came to, the audience returned and Jo was able to resume her set. Returning to a somber track this time, in contrast to the majority of the supercharged rock songs. Supporting Harman we saw Steve Watts on keys, Andy Tolman on bass, Martin Johnson drums, Nat Martin on guitar and a musician standing in from Glasgow on guitar. Shortly after the evening ended with ‘Better One’. A single encore ensued where Harman obliged, holding her vibratos well once more. While I cannot fault her on her vocal abilities, my only harsh criticism would be her heeled platforms, while striking, they gave Harman an awkward and ungainly stage presence and prevented her from moving fluidly. Also where we saw Wang Dang Delta connecting with their audience, maybe it was nerves or youth, but I never
felt Harman gained full command of the audience, any banter she tried to create was inaudible or fell flat.
Upon reflection I would not regard Jo Harman especially a blues singer, she’s too loud and boisterous for the blues genre, if anything she falls into the rock or jazz category. And as Harman has confessed herself: “It’s been a joy to have people connect with the music, and of course its wonderful to have been adopted by the blues community. But to be completely honest I don’t consider myself a blues singer. There is a bit of the blues in what I do, but there is also a whole heap of soul, gospel and country in my sound.” She is quick to clarify, “You know, I’m really not fussed about the label. I’m more interested in telling a story. I want to tell my story.”
Reviewer : Sarah Lewis