The excellent Staines Riverside Club is hosting a “Month Montage of Blues” — four Blues acts of high quality, hand-picked by the promoters, one for each Thursday evening during the month of September. You’ve probably seen the posters all around town.
This Thursday we enjoyed the Ali Maas band with Alan Glen and Micky Moody (guesting.)
The band more-or-less kicked off their set in Staines with Don Bryant’s song “99 lbs” (made famous by The Black Crowes — but actually first released by Ann Peebles in 1971.)
It’s a song-choice that reminded us that ‘Big’ Mama Thornton [she originally recorded “Hound Dog” in 1952] weighed a mere 99 lbs at the time of her death in 1984. This brings unexpected heartache to the songline: “Ninety-nine pounds of soul, oh, oh.”
It is worth reminding ourselves that women blues singers like Big Mama, plus Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and, of course, “Lady Day” were among the most powerful and highest-paid entertainers of their day. These women ensured that the Blues remained a prosperous and potent art-form.
The soft-shoe number “Emotional Powder Keg Blues” was apparently written by Ali when she was going through a “bunny-boiler phase…” This number had pat-a-cake rhythms and expressive guitar-lines from Alan Glen.
One of Glen’s own compositions was the squelchy “No Time For You” whose rhythms and general 1970’s style reminded us of the bounce in “What’s the buzz?” That’s the song from the rock opera [Jesus Christ Superstar] that boasts the repeating percussive phrase: “Let me try to cool down your face a bit …”
On the Alan Glen number the main voice from Ali was jazzy… With wit and elegant passion in every phrase.
The organ notes (Pete Whittaker) were talkative and blabby and delivered the goods along with guitar. This was a great number to introduce the skills of each musician. Roy Parsons’s bass was particularly memorable — a self-propelled jumble of electric jiggles.
After the break we had “Son of a Preacher Man” recorded by Dusty Springfield in 1968 but initially offered to Aretha Franklin. [Aretha turned it down, but her sister Erma recorded it for Soul Sister.]
Ali’s vocal performance reminded us of Dusty. She possesses a similar density of voice: with husky lows, followed by dashes to high places and heartfelt persistence when the song requires a big push. To sing the blues you need resolution and resistance. Ali has these qualities in abundance.
Towards the end of this superior show in Staines Micky Moody came to the stage for the Muddy Waters number “I got my brand on you.” So, in effect, we had a “Million Dollar Sextet” in our club!
Who would not want to witness this incredible line-up and the resultant duel between the Yardbird’s blues harpist (Alan) and the lyrical guitar work from Whitesnake’s Moody? And, of course, all this excitement was decorated with sweet care by Ali.
This was probably one of the best evenings we have enjoyed at this club.
Next Thursday Fran McGillivray (with Mike Burke) make their first appearance. Not to be missed!