Veteran blues shouter Norrie “Snakebite” Burnett has been active on the blues circuit for over 50 years. Blues shouters must project their voices over drums and guitars – orginally this was done without amplification. Blues shouting is considered to be the opening pathway which led jazz music to ascend into rock and roll. Norrie is generally considered to be one of the finest blues shouters in Britain.
Norrie fronted up his band of seasoned pros at the excellent Staines Riverside Club on 26 January, playing an exciting assortment of blissful rhythm and blues classics – delivered like a howitzer with that astonishing voice of his, with vocals of sustained and unimaginable power and yet subtly controlled – each note held with skillful precision.
Norrie treated us to several gutsy, glorious covers – many taken from the Willie Dixon back-catalogue (widely acknowledged as the founder of the Chicago blues sound.) This means that most of the pieces had a rock and roll feel to them rather than being purely traditional blues numbers.
Joining Norrie on stage for many of his musical sojourns was the sensationally talented blues-harp player Dave Raphael, who conjured up some startling harmonica solos.
Norrie is tall, good looking and fairly imposing. He wore a crisply pressed dress shirt and smart trousers over a lean body, and he is blessed with a full mop of silvery hair. It seems nigh on impossible to believe that Norrie started his singing career way-way back (as he reminded us) in a skiffle group. This was long before the British rock and roll scene started to take off.
As he sang, his delivery reminded me of Big Joe Turner – you could detect that glint in Norrie’s eye, as he surveyed the room, confident that each word had hit it’s mark. On target. Each song was carefully crafted and delivered with courage, each piece richly decorated by guitar, bass and percussion from his efficient supporting musicians – or occasionally coloured by a tantalizing contribution from Dave Raphael on harmonica.
This was a rare spectacle and a significant show for the Staines Riverside Club – and we all felt privileged to be there and to witness the magic of this seasoned performer and his friends playing for us in an intimate setting.
© Neil_Mach January 2012