Keegan McInroe ScrollerKeegan McInroe seems pretty relaxed about the whole process of touring, in fact he seems pretty relaxed all round. If you listen to his latest album, “Uncouth Pilgrims”, you’ll know that he’s travelled extensively and used his experiences to create some great songs. It’s obvious from the moment you open the door of The Lighthouse on Battersea Park Road that it’s not the ideal gig for a singer/songwriter. It’s Friday night, noisy and full of the ‘few beers after work’ crowd, but Keegan doesn’t seem too bothered; it’s a gig he’s done since his first tour here in 2004 even though the pub has changed hands and function since then. Having a quick chat before the gig, he’s remarkably unfazed by the audience, explaining that he’ll just play a few more covers than usual and some of the songs from the new album.

And that’s just what he did. His own material, mainly from the new album, was slotted fairly evenly into the two sets and included “Lumberjack Blues”, “Give Me the Rain”, “I Got Trouble”, “Flower Song for Barefoot Dancers”, “Nikolina” and “Lay Down”. The stripped-down versions worked beautifully live and the audience didn’t distract too much; there was even a fair smattering of applause around the room.

As for the covers, well, he didn’t put a foot wrong; he even played a couple of unexpected old favourites of mine. There were songs by the songwriting giants (Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and a tribute to Merle Haggard) and a few less predictable choices. Only three songs in, he made the brave choice of tackling Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia” and, despite a fairly noisy crowd, he made it work. The more esoteric song choices added the spice that made the evening unique; Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Life by the Drop” and Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita” (both stories of addiction) introduced an element of pathos, while Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer” and Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” (which closed the second set) gave Keegan the chance to demonstrate his blues licks.

If this gig had been in an established ‘listening room’, the audience chatter would have been hugely distracting, but it was a free gig in a local pub and Keegan took a pragmatic view of the situation, playing to the people who were interested and tuning out those who weren’t. His own songs are well crafted and worked perfectly in the stripped-down format. He’s also a really nice guy.

Uncouth Pilgrims” is released on Friday May 27th

Simple LifeWe’re continuing our European journey into 2015 with a blues band from Hungary who write and sing in English and take their inspiration from the legendary Keb’ Mo’, who also makes a guest appearance on one song. The album, “Simple Life”, is the fourth from T Rogers, following “Driven by the Blues”, “Wear your Soul”, and the live album “Live from Home”. The band has been together for about ten years with a core of Bélá Baráth (drums), Ferci Kovács (vocals, guitars), Pál Sturmann (guitars), Zsolt Szatai (bass), Vince Széil (percussion) joined in 2010 by Canadian Stew Hay (harmonica). The album has been available for almost two years, but the lovely people at Cable Car Records have sent me a copy, so it would be rude not to tell you about it.

The first three tracks, “Far and Slow”, “Weary Road” and “Gotta Go” kick things off reasonably well with nice harmonica and guitar solos; “Gotta Go” taking its inspiration from “Sweet Home Chicago” and ”Dust My Broom” and featuring solos with some of the cleanest picking this side of Albert Collins. But it’s only after this opening trio that things start to get really interesting.

“Angelina”, a Keb’ Mo’ cover, featuring vocals and acoustic slide from the man himself, seems to bring out the best in the entire band, from the stuttering acoustic intro to Stew Hay’s manic harmonica solo. While “Weary Road” shows hints of something other than blues, “Something Human” moves into rock territory with a hint of that uncertain late sixties/early seventies era when blues, via the power trios and The Yardbirds, was morphing into rock. The uptempo shuffle of “The Regular’s Blues” is more of the harmonica and ice pickin’ interplay with one of the most clean, laid-back blues solos you’re ever likely to hear, leading into a noisy guitar/harmonica duet.

Sun on my Back” and “Mood for the Day” are both acoustic, country blues, but that’s where the similarity ends; “Sun on my Back” is a rattling upbeat, uptempo piece with harmonica and acoustic guitar solos but “Mood for the Day” is much slower and builds layer by layer from an acoustic and tambourine intro to a full band and massed chorus finale. There’s even a trucker’s gear change coming into the acoustic solo; what more do you want?

“It Hurts me Too” is a fairly straightforward Elmore James cover, and “Sunshine Cold” opens with a funky guitar riff and verse before moving into a straight rock chorus and then we close with the title track of the album. “Simple Life” is the album’s ‘message song’ and the message is a very clear ‘let’s get back to basics with our lives’. The song ebbs and flows using volume dynamics, acoustic and electric instrumentation and tempo changes to keep the interest level high and is the perfect choice to close out the album.

If you’re a blues/rock or blues fan, there’s definitely something here for you; it’s mainly influenced by traditional country and Chicago blues, bypassing the sixties and seventies interpretations and it’s played with a lot of skill and a fair amount of style. I’m guessing that this would be a great band to see live.

“Simple Life” is out now and is self-released.