Blues Caravan 2014 Live
Ruf Records [Release date 12.01.15]
The Blues Caravan 2014 is a CD and DVD that gives it you as it really was, right down to the husky voices and the sharp band interplay.
I’ve never really made up my mind as to whether an album like this should be recorded in advance of the tour or whether it’s better to capture the magic while actually on tour. On the evidence of this warts and all recordingIlltake the latter, as Blues Caravan 2014 is that rare thing, a live album that transport you to the lip of the stage right in front of the edgy vocals and coruscating licks.
Of course you could just save yourself the trouble and just play the DVD, but in a way that’s missing the point, as there’s nothing like an audio to focus the mind. There’s also 5 different tracks on the DVD including Lawrence’s swinging ‘Soul Swamp River’, the ensemble version of ‘Cocaine’ and a ripping ‘Freddie’s Boogie’, but it omits Albert’s ‘Fat Cat’. I guess the DVD cliché things, but it’s cool to dip into the sharp sequencing and show dynamics of the CD.
From the opening ‘Join Me on the Blues Caravan’, the three guitar players – Christina Skjolberg, Lawrence Jones and Albert Castiglia sound drum tight, as they swap licks and slip into their respective solos with alacrity.
The album has a natural linear feel as each artist shows what they are capable of in front of a peerless rhythm section that will get a repeated mention in this review.
This smoking mid-tour date builds its own inherent dynamic on the back of the funky machinations of Christina, the gritty blues of Albert and the rocking blues of Lawrence Jones.
Christina might struggle with her vocals and accent, but here’s no denying the deep funk of ‘Come and Get it’ and ‘Hush’, while her incendiary wah-wah work on ‘Close The Door’ finds her at her fiery best.
Lawrence Jones sounds a little hoarse on the shimmering shuffle ‘Wind Me Up’, but gives a big hint as to why his songs have made as bigger impact as his guitar playing with the sheer poise of ‘Falling From The Sky’. The song seamlessly flows towards the sing-along hook, before he indulges himself in some serious Hendrix, but with a delicate mid number dynamic twist in tandem with 6 string bass player Roger Inniss and drummer Miri Miettinen.
Everything is well paced until Albert Castiglia explodes on to the stage with a scintillating angular instrumental ‘Fat Cat’ which perfectly captures his on stage frisson. There are no tricks here, no slight of hand, just a seasoned blues-rocker at the top of his game, with an incredible vibrato, high energy levels and an intuitive grasp of dynamics.
The sudden drop-down leads to an encouraging roar from the crowd as the rhythm section slip into the pocket like silk glove. Albert’s second solo sounds like Albert Collins. If both Christina and Lawrence have big future ahead of them, it takes a road warrior like Albert with his rock solid tone and dazzling technique to show just what is possible on this blistering track.
How to follow that? A heavier shuffle naturally, as his lived in gritty vocals perfectly fit the sing-along hook of ‘Put Some Stank On It’.
There’s a lovely ragged feel to his cover of the Stones ‘Sway’ that would surely make Keith Richard smile. It’s drenched in a mixed back fuzz guitar and given the intensity of the earlier ‘Fat Cat’, the variable mix is annoying, as it sounds as if it was recorded in an adjacent building.
No matter, you can still feel the intensity (and in the case of the DVD actually see it!) in his riffling and note repeats, as he builds things up to the climax and the riff-led outro.
The closing shuffle ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ is a good-time ensemble finish to a rocking raw album. If you’re looking for the niceties of polished production and smoothed out corners, you are in the wrong place, for as the name suggests The Blues Caravan is a travelling roots rocking combo who come to your town, do their stuff and then move on, leaving the fan to pick up a great CD/DVD in the slipstream. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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