History of The Early Blues Part II – Cal Williams Jr.+

Wheatsheaf Hotel March 1st – Adelaide Fringe 2020
Review by Gary CLarke – 5K ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Images courtesy of Aaron Root.

Following on from Cal William’s sell out performances of part one of ‘Early Blues’ over the last few years Cal and his band ‘Great Moose’ decided to extrapolate on the theme extending into later incarnations of Early Blues music.
This was the result.

Cal is a consistently fine performer and this band comprising the wonderful Kory Horwood on double bass, Cal Williams Jr on resonator steel guitar and the talented Dom Smith on drums are great exponents of the early American blues genre.

As we were all seated in The Tin Shed at The Wheaty late on this cloudy afternoon chatting amongst ourselves the band appeared single file through the venue playing Leadbelly’s Midnight Special to the delight of the full house.

After some introductions and a brief prologue from Cal they launched into Charly Patton’s ‘34blues’ and ‘Dockeys Plantation’. The Audience were entranced as we heard contributions from the great blues artists of the early 20th Century including the brilliant exponent of Piedmont blues, Rev Gary Davis and his iconic “Cocaine”.

All this interspersed with wit and good humour as Cal gave us a history lesson for every song. We heard William Brown get ‘Ragged and Dirty’ in this band’s tribute to Brown’s tribute to Blind Lemon Jefferson’s ‘Broke and Hungry’. Williams goes on to introduce his favoured blues instrument, a locally hand fashioned resonator steel guitar made from the side of a chook shed by Adelaide artisan/muso Don Morrison of ‘Bodgies’ fame.

We hear that Alan and John Lomax assiduously tracked down many of these artists in tiny out of the way remote locales throughout the country to record them for the US Library of Congress. And I am so glad they did.! Many of these artists may have never been heard outside those remote places had it not been for them.

We were then treated to some Mississippi blues from JB Lenoir. After a comprehensive intro the band launched into their version of ‘Down in Mississippi’. The detail and nuances explored in this rendition were hauntingly beautiful.

Cal introduced us to his delightful cigar box 3 string guitar. Or as he points out, this one is fashioned from a Mississippi car licence plate. The sound and Cal’s delivery are quite simply mesmerising. Once more Cal regales us with history and tales from the era. This included the wonderful story of how Robert Johnson rigged up steel wires across the side of his tin dwelling and proceeded to play his house !

The band known as Great Moose are a class act. The double bass playing by the talented Kory Harwood worked magically with William’s hand constructed guitars driven by the rhythmic uncluttered drums of Dom Smith gave the whole sound and delivery an authentic feel but with their own signature.

This was the last performance of ‘Great Moose’ and William’s other band ‘Happy Sad’ for Fringe 2020 but they will be performing elsewhere throughout the year and hopefully for more of the same next Fringe. Don’t miss them.

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