The Blues Band - 39 Years and Back for More tour arrives at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh on 29th May with a show re-scheduled due to bad weather in March. With a line up of Dave Kelly, Paul Jones, Tom McGuinness, Rob Townsend and Gary Fletcher, all of the musicians in this band have contributed enormously over the years to The British Blues Movement.
Dave Kelly was kind enough to offer to answer some e-mail Q & As for this website leading up to the show, so here are the Q & As.
Q1. First of all, a big thank you to everyone in the band for re-scheduling the upcoming Edinburgh show at The Queen’s Hall. The original date was on March 3rd when one of the worst snow storms in a decade hit and caused travel chaos. Was that a big disruption overall to the tour schedule?
A1. Yes we lost three shows : Edinburgh, Whitley Bay & Langholm. We have yet to find a date for re-sheduling Langholm. It's difficult with everyone's other committments.
Q2. The Blues Band website at http://www.thebluesband.net/Tourdates.php lists a solid touring schedule through to September 2018. In a time when band tours are often very short now, what keeps the band going for such long tours?
A2. We formed originally to play the music we love and that is still the case
Q3. The title of the tour is self explanatory. When the band was first formed in 1979 did anyone imagine that you would all still be playing together 39 years later?
A3. No not really, the whole thing took off, very quickly in a manner none of us ever imagined.
Q4. Everyone in the band already had many years of experience and commercial and artistic success. Was there any real thought of The Blues Band being another commercial project at the outset, or was simply getting together to play music together that everyone loved more important at the time?
A4. See above
Q5. When the band was first formed in 1979, punk/new wave was still a strong and new force in music. How difficult was it to fight what was a youth culture movement with the older and more established sounds of “blues”? Maybe a bit of an odd question I know, as some of the band had been part of their own youth culture movement in that first wave of Brit ish Blues movement.
A5. I think to some degree the punk movement helped the formation of the band. Punk was an antidote to the emormous stage and light show productions of 'Pomp Rock', taking music back into the clubs and in direct contact with it's fans - just like 'the Blues'
Q6. Every generation seems to re-discover the blues and claim it in their own way as their own. What is it about the Blues as a musical genre that always seems to be there no matter how other musical tastes may change? The BBC Radio 2 “The Blues Show” presented by Paul for over 30 years is proof itself that a solid following for the Blues has always been with us in the UK.
A6. The blues never goes away, just rises and falls in popularity over the years. The styles change and amoeba like it transforms and absorbs. It is simple direct music, that reaches people but if it's not done with feeling it doesn't.
Q7. Related to the last question. A solid proportion of any Blues Band audience will be of a similar age group to the band, but when you see younger people in the audience do you get a sense of continuity taking place, that the band have managed to get a new generation interested in “the Blues”?
A7. Absolutely. Over the last ten years there has been quite an upsurge of younger folk at our gigs - not just our generation.
Q8. We could spend a lot of time in this interview talking about the great bluesmen of the past – Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker (to name but a few), but to me there was something other than just the music in their songs as they were often writing about true events happening around them and very much writing from their hearts. Do you feel, without mentioning any names, that although there are many technically excellent musicians out there in the global marketplace that is now “The Blues”, have some lost that soul in place of technical ability?
A8. No names, but yes I agree completely, there are some who put technique before feeling.
Q9. Joe Bonamassa has just released his “British Blues Explosion” double CD/DVD paying tribute to musicians like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, and acknowledging that without the British Blues movement of the 1960s that Blues as a music genre may never have developed. Do you still find it odd that British musicians exported the Blues back to a youth audience in the USA that had for the most part either lost ot disregarded this music?
A9. Not at all and never have. Ry Cooder has been quoted as saying 'The British stole the blues' but I say we saved it. ( I'm playing at a festival in Canada in July where Cooder is top of the bill. I may ask him about that comment.)
A10. When the first wave of British musicians came across these, and many others Blues musicians and songs, could anyone then ever have imagined that British musicians like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton Jimmy Page and Peter Green (naming again only a few) would go on to inspire a whole new generation of American Blues artists?
A11. Well no, not before they started playing, but once the Brits were playing the music I don't find it surprising that it was exported back to the country it had come from in the first place, but who had neglected it.
Q11. Is there a defining difference to anyone in the band between British and American Blues? Even in just what the songs are written about? I ask this question, because the stories in the blues so often reflect cultures and true events as well as emotional feelings.
A11.Human beings all over the world have the same emotions and to some degree the same experiences, and music is a universal language
Q12. Pretty much anyone listening to Blues music these days associates the sound heavily with guitars, but for me one of the defining sounds is also the harmonica. Has that instrument’s contribution to the music maybe been overlooked a little over the years? Paul is still I note President of “The National Harmonica League”.
A12. Possibly re harmonicas, but the main instrument of the blues is the voice. Yes guitars have to some degree taken over and not always in the best way (see question 8)
Q13. Blues and Jazz musicians have always been allowed to grow old gracefully (or not gracefully) by their audience. Has that helped you to keep The Blues band together over the years as there is thankfully not that “youth” time lock here that other musical genres seem to impose upon their bands?
A13. The band has stayed together because we love playing the music (and we seem to do it quite well)
Q14. Although “The Blues” is defined by many people as a set musical form, The Blues is at its core a very emotional musical genre, and to me any music that deals with emotions at that level can be “The Blues”. To me, songs by Woody Guthrie about poor white share-crop farmers are just as much the Blues as stories about life in a poor black neighbourhood. Would you agree with that statement?
A14. Yes generally, see question 11.
Q15. Referencing back to the last question. The Blues deals with very basic human emotions, like love, loss and sorrow. As you get older and experience through life more experiences and emotions, do you think that you come to understand the Blues more? I think what I am trying to say here is that although someone can play the music, sing the words, does that ability to convey the emotions in the songs only truly come with experience of them and a deeper understanding of the words and music?
A15. I think I have always understood the lyrics and emotion ever since I first started playing. You start playing because you're moved by others - life in general and other musicians. i do feel however that I am a better singer and guitarist than I used to be, (but then one would hope so.)
Q16. As well as the tours, The Blues Band has also had a pretty busy album release schedule over the years, so with the 40th anniversary only a step or two away, is there anything special planned?
A16 We have a new album to be released next month (May) by Repertoire records of Hamburg. It is called 'A Rooster Crowed' It has 12 tracks, 9 originals written within the band and three arrangements of old traditional songs. Only the band are on it, apart from Paddie Milner on keyboards on some tracks.
Dave Kelly 30/April 2018.
A big thank you to Dave Kelly for taking the tim eout to answer my questions.