Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Music Review - Nottingham City Pulse Festival - Sunday - Dr Feelgood and Others
Nottingham City Pulse describes itself as "Nottingham`s feast of free outdoor music". Here are a few of my recollections of this year`s event. Since I no longer live in Nottingham and have work and family commitments, obviously I`ve only really scratched the surface of the music on offer, but for what it`s worth, these are the bits I caught ;
The first band we planned to see was Dr Feelgood. Arriving early, we caught the tail end of a lunchtime set by Paul Lamb and the King Snakes, a band I`ve seen before, albeit some years ago now. This looked like a different line-up, but as much as I could tell from the songs we caught, very much the same sort of thing - a blues/rock `n` roll band lead by harmonica player Paul, heavily influenced by the Sun Records sound of the `50s.
Once their set ended, we walked down to St Peter`s Square to catch the end of a set by local lads Wholesome Fish. I assume they would be classed as folk music, which is not a specialist area for me, but I`d happily see them again, and indeed would pay good money to do so. Good-natured, lively and tuneful are the adjectives that spring to mind. Fortunately they were scheduled to play again later, so that was another chance to catch them.
Dr Feelgood are a very well-established band that traces it`s ancestry back to the `70s and are noted for their hard-edged, blues-influenced `pub rock`. None of the current line-up are founder members, but all have years, if not decades, with a band that`s seen it`s share of troubles.
They opened their set with a version of Muddy Waters` Hoochie Coochie Man that was all but unrecognisable to me, despite being very familiar with the song, which was written by the great Willie Dixon if I recall correctly. The initial few songs were taken at a brisk pace with the trademark Feelgood intensity and, while I like what they do, I was beginning to wonder if it wouldn`t all begin to seem a bit relentless and overpowering. Right on cue, they changed tack and threw in a fairly lengthy slow blues.
This set the pattern for the whole set, and while they lack subtlety, they balance their rather driven approach to blues-rock with a good feel for a slower number . Singer Robert Kane had obviously copied the moves of some of the singers who were around when I was young, notably Johnny Rotten, but he is a compelling performer and a charismatic focal point for the band. The high point for me was guitarist Steve Walwyn*`s solo spot, his version of Rolling and Tumbling by Muddy Waters.
If I wanted to be a purist I would say their music is blues without any sense of swing and very much removed from it`s origins. However, my feeling is that with a band like this you take them on their own terms or you leave them alone altogether. At home if I listen to blues it`s usually early rural blues or jazz/blues, but frankly I loved the Feelgoods, as did the very enthusiastic crowd.
A final section made up of `50s rock `n` roll covers - interspersed, oddly enough with extracts from the novelty tune Tequila - finished the show on just the right note.
After that it was back to St Peter`s Square to catch the end of Wholesome Fish`s second set - just as enjoyable as they were earlier - and then back up to the Market Square to see Imelda May.
I know little about Imelda and had been told to expect a mix of rockabilly and ballads. That would have been great, but as it happened ballads were noticeable by their absence. What we got was really a mix of rockabilly and related styles, drawing heavily on blues and rock `n` roll. To me, it`s great that such a young singer - she looks about 24 - has immersed herself so deeply in that sort of music and come out sounding authentic whilst not sounding like a `50s revival act. Her eclectic choice of covers helped (The Yardbird`s Train Kept a Rolling and a rockabilly version of Tainted Love - I`m not making this up ! - rubbed shoulders with tributes to Howling Wolf and Bo Diddley). I was very taken with one song, which was apparently written by guitarist, Darryl or Darren, who played exceptionally well at times. If I had any reservations, I`d say they didn`t always seem to gel together as a band as much as they might, and at the start I thought Imelda herself seemed a touch stiff and self-conscious. However, given her age and the size of the crowd, that`s only human and I would expect great things from this girl.
* Dr Feelgood guitarist Steve Walwyn has a child that has Downs Syndrome and, since he numbers cycling amongst his leisure activities, raises money for one of the Down`s Syndrome charities by doing sponsored cycle rides - one from Land`s End to John o` Groats and another across Spain. Details can be found in the Archives section of the Feelgoods web site, and that includes a link to the charity he supports. He also has a couple of occasional bands with musician friends under a variety of group names - The GBs, The Steve Walwyn Band and The Rogues are names they`ve used so far.