It was the hottest day of the year, but our first club gig since May provided just enough cool blues to get us through the heat…
Introduced by our ever-cool compere Paul Keddle, we started the night off with Michael Parker.
Clearly delighted to be back playing in the Muse again, Michael treated us to some of his characteristic gutsy and energetic blues slide guitar, plus some excellent self-penned songs, including ‘Comanche Rules’, his poignant tale of life on the road. He was joined on harmonica by James Davies, and they complemented one another brilliantly as they propelled us through some thoroughly enjoyable blues standards, including great version of ‘Key to the highway’, and at one point some much appreciated kazoo playing.
By the end of the set they were firing on 100% pure alcohol – so it was time to cool off a little with a short break before Mike Ross then took to the stage.
The quality of Mike Ross’s singing and guitar work is obvious immediately, making you wonder at first how a Durham lad can channel authentic “Americana” so faultlessly. However, as he progressed through his set of almost entirely self-written material, the quality of his songwriting and the subtlety of his musicianship really began to shine through… there is a sophistication to his music that goes beyond such easy labels.
The songs have an intelligence and depth to the lyrics, many of them skirting around the themes of transcendence, mysticism and personal happiness – and the intimate setting of the Muse meant that for quieter songs such as ‘Fallen Down’ (from his new album Third Eye Open), the audience was drawn into his world, and held in rapt attention. It’s a rare songwriter whose lyrics require you to stop and think about what he just said…
For his blues numbers, such as the superb ‘Face by your window’, Mike’s delicate slide playing was complemented by just the right amount of echo, to create a mysterious and addictively sinister swamp blues atmosphere.
There was a nod to David Crosby, with a tasteful version of ‘Trio’. But all too soon it was the final song of the night, and as a special treat all three musicians came together for a truly wonderful and spontaneous rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Down by the river’ – not a dry eye in the house, and a perfect ending to a very fine evening.
We are now living through incredibly difficult times for touring musicians, with many gigs getting cancelled at short notice – which is ridiculous for hard-working musicians of this calibre. So it was extremely gratifying to see a very healthy attendance at the Muse for this one. Do please make the effort to get to these local gigs, if you possibly can, because you can only imagine how much work and effort goes on behind the scenes to bring them to you.
As ever, many thanks to the amazing Muse for hosting this gig, and to everyone involved in making it happen.
Photos by Barry Hill
Review by Jim Kerslake