Another sell-out crowd at the Muse on Sunday saw a fantastic performance by Scotland’s Dave Arcari, very ably supported by our old friends Candy Mountain and Mr D.
Our compere Mr Paul Keddle kicked off the evening with his customary flair, introducing first Candy Mountain (Aled-Wyn Jones) accompanied by Mr. D. (Dilwyn Roberts). Together they delivered an absolutely monumental performance, with Candy Mountain’s trademark gruff, soulful voice and driving guitar blending seamlessly with Mr. D’s tasteful and skilful harmonica, perfectly in step with one another as they turned out a raunchy and powerful blues sound.
The confessional and heartfelt quality of Candy Mountain’s songwriting was especially impressive on some of the slower numbers such as the wonderful ‘Make Me Good’ and ‘Man Alive’. Many of his songs summon up a world of emotional pain, loss and longing, delivered with an utterly uncompromising commitment and at times painful honesty – but nevertheless the overall experience is always immensely positive: you can’t help but smile at the quality of his music, the sincerity of his singing, and a deeply buried strand of dark humour running through the whole thing. He manages to make such intensely sad songs feel somehow uplifting.
Mr D. really added to the sound, never dominating, always sensitively contributing just the right touch of blues wailing to the mix.
After a short break, the mighty Dave Arcari hit the stage like a whirlwind – covering every inch of the Muse’s floor space as he hopped, kicked, yelled and stomped out irresistibly powerful blues rhythms with prodigious commitment and drive. His guitar playing was masterful, with a rhythmic precision and dexterity that brought huge life and energy to the songs. He played a couple of well-chosen covers – excellent versions of Merle Travis’ Nine Pound Hammer, and Johnny Cash’s Blue Train, but most of the material was his own. As he worked his way through some superbly engaging self-penned numbers (‘Travelling Man’ being a particular favourite) you had to marvel how just one man could produce such a full, rich, pounding blues sound.
Dave really throws his whole body into his performance, with an infectious exuberance and an endearing Scots humour that is a delight to witness. The occasional (very deliberate) lapse into a Glaswegian accent for a line of two in the middle of an otherwise authentic American blues number adds a wonderful charm and makes it impossible not to smile and warm to him.
At the end, Candy Mountain and Mr D were invited back to the stage for a rousing final blast of gritty blues… followed by a lovely rendition by Dave of his own modified version of Loch Lomond – a fitting tribute to his homeland – that was charming and poignant.
The audience left with smiles on their faces having witnessed two very fine and heart-warming blues acts – a brilliant way to warm up a damp February evening.
As ever, many thanks to all the folks at the Muse for their wonderful hospitality, and to everyone involved in making this gig possible.
Photos by Barry Hill
Review by Jim Kerslake