Devon Allman plugged in his Gibson, counted down “1,2,3,4…” and Royal Southern Brotherhood were off and running with ‘All Fired Up’. A good description of both band and audience at a crowded Harmonie last Wednesday.
If there was a concert last year that I most regret missing it was Royal Southern Brotherhoods appearance at the Harmonie. The discovery then that they were not only returning this week, but also had ‘in tow’ a lady who’s recent release ‘Black Wind Howlin’ is one of my faves this year, and I was down to ‘Mr Music’ to buy my show ticket faster than you can say “Woke up this mornin’”. Were RSB really the ‘Supergroup’ that everyone was talking about? You’ll have to read on to find out…
An hour before showtime and Thomas Ruf has already set up his stall of back-catalogue RUF releases to tempt the last Euro from my flimsy wallet. Flicking through the CD’s in the worn brown carton is like a musical flash back of my Harmonie going life. All those ‘Blues Caravan’ stars and starlets: Oli Brown, Erja Lytinnen, Dani Wilde… Remember Roxanne Potvin from the 2007 Caravan? I’m not sure what’s become of her, but I do know what’s become of the lady on the CD behind hers in the box. The girl with left hand scratching her head nervously and right hand straddling a guitar fretboard is about to take the stage tonight.
Musically Samantha Fish was love at first sight. On the 2011 ‘Girls with Guitars’ tour She had a slightly gawky nervousness about her that lasted just as long as it took for her to disappear into a guitar phrase. Like Rory and BB you can almost read a Samantha Fish solo just by looking at her face. Except that it’s more difficult to concentrate on her face if you’re a red blooded man on account of a short and shimmering dress.
Don’t be distracted though, This girl plays some of the meanest raw Blues going down. Today of course she is also helped by having a rhythm section of the best quality – ‘stolen’ from main band RSB – in Charlie Wooton and Derek Trucks Band sticks-man Yonrico Scott. It’s a real power trio for the Blues and when she kicks off her red high heels and pulls on her red cigar-box guitar for ‘Sucker Born Every Minute’ you know this girl is the real deal. For me the only weak point of her new Mike Zito produced CD ‘Black Wind Howlin’ is a Country song, so I’m a little disappointed to find her giving it a place in a criminally short set (a half hour) at the expense of Fish classics like ‘Other Side of the Bottle’ but thankfully the RSB know a great extra guitarist when they hear one and messrs Allman and Zito called her back during their own set – way to go guys!
Royal Southern Brotherhood time, and finally that snare drum that had been blocking my view of Sam Fish’s legs for the first half hour was finally put to use. It’s the ‘workplace’of Cyril Neville. I admit it, I thought the Neville Brothers were named Gary & Phil and both played for England, but in America they have a different, and more musical, brothers Neville of whom Cyril is one. He keeps a mean rhythm too as is clear from the opener ‘Fired Up’ with it’s funky overtones and Santana like undertones courtesy of some great early work from Gregg Allman’s son Devon.
It’s clear we are in for a lively evening. A loud evening too, or maybe it’s because Mike Zito’s monitor is almost within reach of my right arm. By shows end I was enjoying the sounds from the slightly more muted vantage point of the balcony, and have to say that Devon was right when he pointed up to us and remarked that we up there were having the most fun in the house because we could look down on everyone else dancing. I loved watching the band work furiously on ‘Working Man’ from Neville’s solo disc ‘Magic Honey’ with fiery guitar contributions from Zito’s flying V and Allman’s Gibson, but there was so much to enjoy musically that it’s almost criminal to pick and choose. Yonrico Scott had a grin on his face all evening, and I did too just by listening to his tight playing and the light tone that I wish more drummers would follow rather than the ‘thump thump crash!’ that I hear too often these days.
A highlight has to be Charlie Wooton’s bass spot “recognize this?” he smiled, before launching into an impeccable ‘Day in the Life’. Vocals were as shared and as impeccable as the guitar work, with Allman, Neville and Zito, each acquitting themselves with flying colours. Who the better guitarist was is down to taste. Zito’s burning slide work was a joy, but then so was Allman’s cool approach on ‘Left My heart in Memphis’ and the Stones classic ‘Shine a Light’. Both men rocked it up magnificently too on Cyril Nevilles ‘Magic Honey’. Don’t forget Miss Fish either who joined in for a guitar jamboree (pun intended) on ‘Sweet Jammy Donut’.
There’s a great enthusiasm within Royal Southern Brotherhood at present and the audience undoubtedly plays it’s part. Devon Allman spoke excitedly about the smiling faces in front of him afterwards: “F*****g awesome!. One guy was really going crazy and I started wondering, wow! What if everyone went crazy like that? Wouldn’t that be something?!” From the balcony of the Harmonie I could imagine the scene would look like the title of a Doctor Feelgood classic ‘There’s a riot going on down in cellblock number 9’. awesome.
On the way out I spotted a copy of the gig I missed from last year on CD. Awesome indeed!