Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Roll Wyn James - live at Perth Concert Hall

Perth Concert Hall's Norrie Miller Suite was packed-out for a fine evening of guitar-driven blues last night. Alongside their genuinely exciting playing, Perth-based Blues band Roll Wyn James, brought an extra dimension to the evening by talking about the gradual return to music of founder member Alwyn James following a catastrophic stroke over a decade ago. James himself had organised the gig as a fundraiser for Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland and contributed on keys and harmonica throughout the night.

Alongside Alwyn James, the band is built around the fabulous rhythm section of Chris Agnew (bass) and Kevin Smith whose drumming was as creative as his facial expressions which might even scare Ginger Baker! Front-man Paul Henderson's vocals held-up well for most of the evening but his lead-guitar work was stunning throughout. Able to play with speed and power where necessary, but also having the discipline to use space and to play the long-bends that give Blues-guitar its pathos, there were moments reminiscent of the late, great Gary Moore - or even Peter Green.

Grooving, driving, kicking and bluesing through a set of both their own material and blues standards, the band used the songs as a platform for some exciting improvisations and trading solos. Highlights for me were some of the numbers when bassist Chris Agnew took the vocals, and guitarist Henderson was really let loose. Their instrumental Chrome Blues, is a fiery hybrid of songs like Caldonia and Gary Moore's Texas Strut brought their main set to a fabulous finale. Joined at the end by frenetic guitarist Duncan Findlay, and wonderfully melodic saxman Paul Towndrow, the band delivered a very fine evening of electrifying music (and all for charidee, mate!).

What will linger in the memory as long as the music and the atmosphere of the evening, was learning more about Stroke and Aphasia. The evening began with two short films about Alwyn James' long and brave rehabilitation. The STV interview with James and his daughter in the centre near Dundee where he has been enabled to re-discover musical creativity, was fascinating; while the more reflective piece by Hazel Baillie about the nature of the condition was very moving indeed.

Altogether a really great evening, which was memorable for more than its music alone.

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