Blues and Rhythm No. 295 Christmas 2014

LARRY GARNER: Born To Sang The Blues JSP 5803 (59.36)

This is claimed as the first DVD release by Larry Garner, if this is true it comes as a surprise to me as I thought an artist of Garner’s stature would have been accorded a DVD release by now. The blurb states that Garner is probably the greatest blues artist of his generation and on this occasion I am in total agreement.

Garner’s empathy with his audience is well-known, he plays the blues and nothing but the blues, his brand of blues has a contemporary edge (but don’t mistake contemporary for a mish-mash of rock licks) and his songwriting often cast a wry but always pertinent eye over the current scene.

This set was recorded live at the Fuggle and Firkin in Oxford on 17th November 1997. Larry is backed by ‘Wabi’ on harp (all the way from Osaka, Japan), local drummer Eddie John and ‘The Professor’ on bass. Like the Otis Grand DVD reviewed in this issue of B&R, it was recorded by the Blues Archive. Also like the Otis Grand DVD, there are brief spoken segments between the tracks.

‘Good Evening Everybody’ opens the set followed by one of his well-known originals ‘Jook Joint Woman’ (I remember two sisters who attended Burnley every year who were definitely ‘jook joint women’, there is a picture somewhere of one of them perched on the knee of a member of the B&R editorial board, a snap he hopes his missus won’t ever see…!) Next up, the tempo slows for ‘The Preacher Man’, a sly tale of a preacher who wears Doc Martin shoes and spreads a different kind of gospel from that laid down in the scriptures.

‘The Road of Life’ reflects the travails of a relationship that has come to an end and the difficulty we gentlemen sometimes have in accepting that it’s time to call it a day. Next up, the only non-original of the set, Jimmy Rogers’ ‘That’s Alright’ (although JSP claim it is a Garner composition!).Larry takes a few liberties with the lyrics, updates it to the internet age, but it’s still Jimmy Rogers, nice cut though. ‘Had To Quit Drinking’ is a humorous reflection on Larry’s serious drinking days, nowadays his well-known love for Guinness is his only serious vice. The closing track is the autobiographical ‘Born To Sang The Blues’ relating to his introduction to the guitar and the conflicts he had with the Deacon of his church regarding him playing the blues. It’s a pretty humorous number but scratch the surface and there are several well-posited arguments.

There are bonus items: a 25 minute interview; two tracks recorded in 1996 at The Filling Station in Newport – ‘Jook Joint Woman’ and ‘The Preacher Man’; and a fifteen minute sound check at The Hub in Bath, also from 1996.

Larry Garner enthusiasts will need to have this DVD, it’s the real deal, there’s not much more I can say.

Phil Wight