Edinburgh Fringe 2011
The Blueswater Collective present “Blues”, a musical salute to the titans of the genre. With the inclusion of informative and educational elements, they perform several of the seminal works that influenced the development of blues music. The (eventual eleven piece) band begins with Robert Johnsons experience at the crossroads, which is the root of Mississippi Delta Blues, and snake their way around and about Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton and James Brown all the way to Stevie Ray Vaughan and that big rock sound.
This blues gig and lesson starts as the audience enter to a serenade by a dynamic duo playing guitar, voice and harmonica. Introducing their goal for tonight, the principal male singer connects quickly with the audience, clarifying what or who they know, then adding to that knowledge base. He begins with a rousing Robert Johnson number that allows the harmonica player to shine, it’s upbeat and so are they. Joined by a mischievous rhythm section of drums, guitar and keyboards, we are moved out of our acoustic comfort zone when they plug into a Bo Diddley song. The enthusiastic guitarist solidly achieves the Diddley playing style.
The band then enhances its line up with a brass section: tenor, alto sax and trumpet. This allows them to expand on B.B. King and delve into his back catalogue. The band adds a second intuitive guitarist who discerningly captures the Hendrix playing style with admirable ease, and two young females singers who both get the opportunity to solo as well as providing raunchy backing vocals. With a brief look at record sales and race related marketing ploys, they rattle along, managing to reference iconic female vocalists, to leap across the pond to The Rolling Stones, and eventually finish on a Muddy Waters classic.
The players only have fifty-five minutes to cram in essential information that’s more slippery than this time slot will allow. I think they could have considered that they needn’t play full versions of every song, sometimes just a fragment would have sufficed. They explain the I-IV-V chord pattern of the blues but for listeners with a limited musical vocabulary a practical illustration of this would have supported that.The impact of lyrical content and an explanation of call and response could have been a refreshing addition; some of the vocals were drowned out by the band. Tonight’s set list is all hard rocking and I felt that it lacked just one blues song that was painstakingly downbeat and heartbreaking.
Still, the underlying intention of these performers is to share their love for the blues with you, and they certainly achieve that. One young woman in the audience is apparently so possessed by the music and the bands energy that she leaps up dancing when the music overpowers her. The nearly full house participates eagerly showing that many of them have an established interest in the genre.
This is confirmed when, during the last number, audience members are treated to being randomly selected to try soloing on the instrument of their choice with the band. It’s scheduled at an early enough time to get you in the mood for a night of revelling. At best, the liveliness and onstage banter of these musicians’ will have entertained you, at the least it will start a heated debate about who you would or would not have included.