Boo Boo Davis at Club Rega, Southend-on-Sea, 9th April 2003
Big Joe Louis/Steve Hooker at the Maritime Room, Southend-on-Sea, 20th April 2003
The first show in this two gig report took place at Southend’s Club Riga on April 9th, featuring Boo Boo Davis, here on a short U.K. tour. Davis is a fine singer and harmonica player whose voice will occasionally slide into an effective Howlin’ Wolfesque growl. Unfortunately though, I know nowt in terms of discography nor in regard to biographical details save to say that he comes from East St Louis and, according to publicity blurb, he supported/worked with Sonny Boy Williamson and Elmore James. If this were true, then James and Williamson must have been a year or two away from coil-shuffling and Davis must have been in his late teens, tops; he certainly looks in fine nick; I’ll be amazed if he’s a day over 64.
His opener, indeed, was a tribute to that certain city which brought us Ike Turner and Chuck Berry. Providing the boogie backdrop for Boo Boo were a tight, white, European trio who did well, especially the lead guitarist. The lesser known songs (to me) were all well executed but, of the more familiar tunes, Otis Rush’s ‘Keep A Lovin’ Me’ boogied along á la John Lee Hooker and the treatment of Albert King’s ‘Down Don’t Bother Me’ also impressed. Nice show, shame about the attendance.
Next to the Easter Sunday blues’n’booze up (with a little Rock’n’Roll for good measure) at the Maritime Room, Cliffs Pavilion in Southend (sure gets around the south east, this boy). A fair sized crowd witnessed sets by Steve Hooker and his All-Star Band and Big Joe Louis and the Blues Kings with Catman Jack and Mr Angry spinning the shinies (I look forward to his next column!)
On the previous occasions I’ve seen Steve Hooker play in Southend I’ve always been impressed with his hard hitting, refreshing approach to rockabilly (a trio based set I saw at the Riga a year or two back was sensational) but the crowd response tonight was more polite than ecstatic. I have to say that I’ve seen better sets from Steve, more inspired, but even so, those with a love of “contemporary” rockabilly should check him out, whether in person or on record.
Up until the first time I saw Big Joe Louis I refused to believe that a white English guy could replicate perfectly the sound and phrasing of a coloured Mississippi blues singer. That he manages to do so is remarkable and he proved his abilities to a (largely) Rock’n’Roll loving crowd this evening. The overall sound achieved by singer/guitarist Big Joe and his Blues Kings (Steve Weston – harmonica, Matt Radford – bass, Mike Watts –drums) is truly amazing and, if your tastes in blues stretch to Chicago, you must check ‘em out.
I’ve often seen the guys at Ain’t Nothin’ But Cramped, where acts usually play to 25% blues fans and 75% office workers who can’t tell Reuben Ford from Robbie Williams but, to this blues lover, he has never once disappointed. Frankly, tonight was the best show I’ve seen him give; plenty of standards (‘Baby Please Don’t Go’) combined with original compositions (‘Wine Head’, ‘Leavin’ On My Mind’) but the band really seemed to enjoy this session, it was a real fun time. They rightly earned a warm reception from us Easter blues bunnies and ultimately proved that, when it comes to the Windy City sound, no one does it better over here than Big Joe Louis and the Blues Kings.
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