Sunday, 27 April 2014

Booker T Jones/Valerie June Corner Hotel 25.04.14

Another Bluesfest sideshow and just an amazing gig, to see such a legend in Booker T Jones was an exciting prospect and he didn't disappoint. Jones' musical CV is groundbreaking to say the least he was present during the glory years of Stax Records, playing on countless sessions for Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, William Bell, Wilson Pickett and Sam and Dave as well as being a mainstay of Booker T and the MG's. As a producer he has worked with the likes of Bill Withers and Willie Nelson to name a few. In the last few years Booker has stepped back out into the spotlight releasing three fantastic studio albums that have seen embrace new musical settings, he isn't one to cover old ground.

To open proceedings was Jackson Tennessee native Valerie June, who I had only recently been introduced to via Brian Wise on Off The Record who saw her perform at the Juke festival in Clarksdale Mississippi and was captivated by her voice. She has deeply embraced the country blues and her voice truly lends itself to the tales of death, love and despair that are a staple of the country blues. Her voice is amazing, it's piercing at one point and then it's a guttural low growl as she exhorts everything from her guitar. She has a great stage presence, affable and talkative like she is sitting talking to you in your living room.

Booker played for nearly two hours and his selection of material was first class, he kicked off with the MG's spaghetti western theme Hang Em High from 1967, he had that groove locked and loaded and was helped by a cracking rhythm section that included his son Ted on guitar. The classic 1966 song Hip Hug Her was given a similarly ferocious treatment, Booker T not letting up on the intensity of the song as it cranks into the final stanza. Jones spoke of his love for Blues music that had captured him a as a young man hanging outside clubs on Beale Street. He did a great version of a song he co-wrote with William Bell, Born Under A Bad Sign which was recorded by the great Albert King in 1967 and was later covered by Cream. He also did a cover of Muddy Water's I'm a Man but Booker doesn't quite have the raw vocals required to do that song justice.  He then sat back down at the keyboard and talked about a song released in 1963 that was originally a B side, he was talking about the brilliant Green Onions and he had the audience going nuts as he set that staunch groove in motion.

He returned to the blues for a version of the Hendrix classic Hey Joe, allowing his band to cut loose particularly Ted on the guitar. From his latest album Sound the alarm he performed Everything is Everything and Father Son Blues. As the night drew to a close the sounds of Time is Tight wafted out of the organ, slowly building and then the band kicked into that familiar groove, once again Booker and the band were completely locked into a mesmerising foot tapping groove, an amazing gig!

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