The humble Staines Riverside Club has gradually emerged, quietly yet earnestly, as an interesting and valuable local music venue over the last few years – with regular live music slots – along with plenty of other cultural activities. As a result of a lot of hard work from some of the music-loving club members , the venue has been able to entice some formidable artistic talent to their tinsel fringed stage in recent months – such as Papa George, Big Jim Sullivan and the Good Old Boys. Last Thursday night the club opened their Thameside doors to welcome in the gifted Australian guitarist and composer Roland Chadwick. Roland’s career has spanned from the blues to world music and then to pop, and he has been hailed as a ‘guitarist’s guitarist’ by the likes of John Renbourn and Tommy Emmanuel. He has recorded and worked with the likes of Steve Vai, Barriemore Barlow (Jethro Tull), Mike Lindup (Level 42) and Alan Glen, (The Yardbirds.) He has also been greatly praised for his work with the English Chamber Orchestra.
Starting off a two-part set with some rootsy blues guitar work, the quixotic and, frankly, Van Dyckesque musician and his resonator guitar seemed comfortably at home in front of the relaxed Staines audience. Technically brilliant, he is also emotionally inspirational and possesses an unerring instinct to tease the sounds out of the twanging strings. The sights, smells and the sensations of the Delta come alive with his sublime use of bottle-neck and picking. But much of his blues derived material has a loftier and even classical guitar ‘edge’ to it, and is played with an observant nod towards the Spanish ancestry of his instrument. His voice is high and sweet, and has a sad quality to it. Sometimes these high notes are extended to falsetto- reminding the listener of bluegrass yodeling.
The more rounded, and probably the most commercially viable piece in this portion of the set, was Chadwick’s own song ‘Valentina’ during which he plays the guitar with such speed and melodic tone that it almost sounds like a mandolin. The tune is heart-achingly beautiful and has an emotional dimension that reminded me of the Led Zeppelin song “Thank You” (off their 1969 album Led Zeppelin II containing the lyric … “Little drops of rain”.)
Other highlights of the performance included an even handed yet thrilling version of “Come Together” (The Beatles – Bluesman Muddy Waters is mentioned in this song) and an exciting version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” the Delta blues number Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
In the second half Roland Chadwick introduced the audience to Nick Linnick, a young ‘student’ guitarist of his acquaintance. Nick is a prodigious talent in his own right and his youthful and relentlessly high quality guitar-play is delivered at formidable speed. Balanced with an eloquent style, and in terms of talent, it was often hard to separate the master from the apprentice. This half of the set was dominated by jazz numbers including some standards like “Ain’t No Sunshine” but also included some more demanding improvised work. The guitar duo created seductively mellow colours, often given backdrops of brooding and melancholy chords, and punctuated by vivid fluidity. A lighter moment was a show tune from ‘The Sound of Music’ but the most memorable number was the blues standard “Hoochie Coochie Man” ( written by Willie Dixon and first performed by Muddy Waters in 1954.) When played by the duelling guitars, this song became a poignant melange of swampy, smoky delta blues laced with enough exhilarating xampany to evoke an exhilarating and dazzling percussive flamenco style. Chadwick’s nimble fingers picked and plucked the strings with astonishing speed – trickier and nippier than a ferret in a trap.
Roland Chadwick is class act and provides a hot evening of fun. And he got the mojo too!