High Fives 2016 – Moray Stuart
You might think that the world of music writers and photographers, particularly in London, is cut-throat, dog-eat-dog and devil-take-the-hindmost; the reality’s very different. Generally speaking, the people that fill the magazines, websites and press releases, and shoot the posters and album covers get on pretty well with each other. As a demonstration, we invited Moray Stuart, Live Music Editor of “Blues in Britain” to make a contribution to High Fives this year. To illustrate his High Fives, Moray included some cracking photos from great photographers, who all deserve a mention. Credits for the photos, in the order they appear below are: Tony Corner, Rob Blackham, Rob Blackham, Steve Thomas and Al Stuart. It’s good to have some decent photos on MusicRiot for a change. Here’s what Moray had to say:
“Not Mike Ross to Bear”
It’s pretty rare in my (admittedly limited) experience to find an artist where you just think ‘Oh yes!’ straight off: Rosco Levee (of whom more later) was one, and in 2016 it was Mike Ross. The single act I’ve seen the most times this year, assisted in no small way by the quality of the various musicians he’s teamed up with.
With Jack Hutchinson / Maker – Latest Music Bar, Brighton 22/01/2016
The necessity of an overnight stay couldn’t stand in the way of a first opportunity to catch Mike live. This triple bill had quality written all the way through it like a stick of seaside rock, with Jack’s excellent vocals ranging from surprisingly delicate at times to a taut, tense rasp and a full-band set from Maker, who with all the cocky swagger of the Faces (and the chops to match) embody early 70s louche, laddish verve. Mike’s own solo set was an astonishing display of power and soul, brimming over with loss, anger and resignation, moving from dark and menacing one minute to wistful the next. So good I even took my wife along.
With Jack Hutchinson – Ain’t Nothin’ But, London 14/07/2016
I’d never really got to grips with this venue: ram-jam-packed with tourists and Italian students it always seemed a daft place to go to hear music. But following the Brighton show I made a special effort to arrive an hour and a half before show time to snag a seat at the front for this acoustic duo set. It allowed them to “pay their dues” with plenty of classic covers as well as originals from both and even an unexpected Black Crowes number. Jack and Mike’s playing nicely blended American and British influences and Jacks grade 3 sandpaper rasp complemented Mike’s stentorian drawl. So good I even returned for their next ANB joint session.
Tuesday Blues, 100 Club, London 23/08/2016
The Tuesday Blues session has become a regular event this year but this was a cut above the usual fare, showcasing Mike’s new album Jenny’s Place. Great original song-writing, killer playing and singing, tone that could fell a herd of elephants, and the kind of assured polish, punch and fluidity normally associated with American bands, this was the best act of the fourteen I’ve seen at the 100 Club this year. Even slick Brum soulsters the Tom Walker Trio who headlined struggled to step out of the shadow cast by this performance. So good they released a live album of it.
Rosco Levee & Friends a.k.a Walrus – New Crawdaddy, Billericay 30/09/2016
Another schlep to an unknown venue courtesy of a hastily arranged bass player taxi (thanks Trev!) was well-justified by the return to the scene of the Kaiser of Chutzpah, the Tsar to the Stars, Rosco Levee (now new and improved with added Mike!) A positively electrifying set of old Southern Slide numbers, Mike originals and stunning new material from the upcoming Soul Roller album had me grinning from ear to ear like an imbecile (maybe not a good look but who cares). Probably the gig of the year for me, and a glorious harbinger of what Walrus might deliver in 2017. So good… just so, so good
Interview – A Pub, Central London 30/11/2016
OK, not an actual performance as such, but the funniest interview I’ve ever done: Mike and Rosco delivering a perfect blend of swagger, thoughtfulness, crudity, spirituality and self-deprecation, with more unprintable bits than an MP’s expenses report. Who else can cover Levi 516’s, Wookies, and benevolent dictatorships? ‘That song? I’ve done better shits than that’? and ‘I could give you a really detailed description of exactly where they went wrong: from their shoes, to their choice of patch leads, to their fucking choice of van… but I’m not going to’ were two of the choicer moments. So bad it was so good
Now I better sign off before POW! my fairy godmother appears