Richard Bargel – Dead Slow Stampede (Clementine Music)

First a quick catch-up for those who are not familiar with the name Richard Bargel. Growing up in Bonn Bad Godesberg, Bargel started out as a folksinger but even early on was thinking outside the box and formed his own puppet and theatre company ‘Lumpentheater’. The ’70s saw him building up a following in England by playing at some of London’s premier pubs and clubs (100 Club, Dingwalls, Half Moon in Putney). He was in some excellent company too embracing a mixture of styles with the likes of D.P. (Elvis) Costello and Wizz Jones. The ’70s also saw Bargel forging his blues links through concerts with luminaries of the genre such as Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim.

Recording-wise, you have to respect anyone with the nerve to bring out an album titled ‘It’s Crap!’. The fact that this 2014 release was nominated as one of the year’s best blues releases by the prestigious ‘Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik’ will tell you too that Richard Bargel has the talent to get away with such mischievous album titling. As it happens that 2014 disc was the first one that Bargel released with his new band ‘Dead Slow Stampede’, and the new disc is the band’s latest.

There’s no doubt that Richard Bargel knows his Blues history. Proof that its present and future are also close to the man’s heart is ‘Talkin’ Blues’ a series he began in the 1990’s featuring music and discussion with many leading blues musicians of the time that has remained popular. He describes himself as a ‘Freelance musician, author, actor and photographer’ and perhaps Bargel’s constantly enquiring mind has been his own worst enemy – What to do when. What to put in, and what to leave out? Where to focus? Enter Fabio Nettekoven. It was clear very early on during Bargel’s Summer concert here in Bonn last year that Nettekoven is a vital element in the band’s sound. His ability to instantly switch guitar styles at the drop of a musical hat was a perfect foil to Bargel’s meandering onstage style. It was clear too that Bargel revelled in knowing that, whatever he musically threw out, Nettekoven could follow with ease. The confidence between the two was a key element on stage and importantly adds to both this disc’s sound and its success. Not least through, Nettekoven’s nicely balanced production work allows both Bargel’s voice and the instrumentation to shine equally.

“We captured Richard at the prime of his singing and guitar playing, right at the beginning of a new chapter in his life” remarks Nettekoven in the liner notes, and I couldn’t agree more after giving this gem of a disc regular plays. Each track makes its own mark. There is never a feeling of repetitiveness here and Nettekoven’s decision to make each track as ‘live’ as possible pays dividends. There are moments when Bargel chases the spirit of early Bob Dylan as with ‘What a Fool I Am’ and then he pulls a totally different diamond from this jewel of a disc that would be a standout on a Willie Nelson release – ‘Heartshine Girl’. That was my favourite track here for a few plays, and then it was the mean, rumbling ‘One Way Ticket’, and a few plays later it was the simple but effective ‘I Go Blue’.

There really is so much to like on ‘Dead Slow Stampede’. Even the presentation of the disc is clearly a labour of love, with beautifully designed individual cards for each track from Nora Catharina van Rijn containing lyrics on one side and eye-catching designs on the other.

Be warned that by listening you may, as Bargel sings on the closing track ‘Time For Mr Blues’, indeed find that “Mr Blues – will come to you and sweep you away like a storm” . This is very possibly Richard Bargel’s finest hour to date in his long career and if there is any justice a release that will put his name firmly on the Blues map worldwide. I definitely recommend not just getting ‘Dead Slow Stampede’ but also getting to *a show when this band are in town.

*If you are in the Cologne/Bonn area grab a ticket for Richard’s CD Release Party at the Comedia Theater on 4 February

and below, a taster of Bargel and Nettekoven…

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