Nugene [Released 09.03.15]
Like all the best outlaws, Ian Siegal aggressively sings about the kind of lifestyle that his fans love to hear about but wouldn’t want to live.
‘One Night in Amsterdam’ casts him as the perennial outsider who has been invited in from the cold. His music long ago made a connection with Dutch audiences schooled on guitar heroes, but equally open to the magic of a charismatic performer with meaningful lyrics.
This live set confirms what Ian’s Dutch fans have known for years, that he is the real deal, or as he sings on ‘I Am The Train’: “I’m not the station, I’m not the stars, I am the train!”
It’s ironic that having waited for years for a definitive live album from the British Blues Award winner , we’ve suddenly been offered the ‘Man & Guitar’ solo album and the live sounding, North Mississippi back porch ‘Picnic Sessions’.
In short, anyone who has ever seen him live knows that if you put Ian Siegal in front of a crowd he will deliver, making it all the more curious that a release such as this has taken so long.
‘One Night in Amsterdam’ is everything you could wish for as he swaps his Mississippi accomplices for The Rhythm Chiefs, a rocking Dutch band who buy into his vibe to support the songs and nuance the lyrics.
Guitarist Dusty Ciggaar is taste personified as he taps into the Tex Mex flavour of Tom Russell’s ‘Gallo Del Cielo’. Clearly Ian also knows his territory, for outside of the hard riffing world of rock/blues,Holland houses a vibrant Americana roots scene which provides the perfect backdrop for his own musical sensibilities.
The album opens with ‘I Am the Train’, an essential slice of countrified rockabilly that draws us into a bluesy set that is frequently stretched to incorporate country, rockabilly, Americana and always has room for a significant lyrical phrase. The ten well crafted songs and carefully chosen covers subtly map out Ian’s own musical landscape.
He gets all funky on the autobiographical sounding ‘Brandy Balloon’ and extends that groove on the tightly wrapped ‘Kingdom Come’, complete with a snarling Wolf growl, as he sings: ‘When I was your age son I was only eleven.’
He’s an essential wordsmith whose colourful imagery is best represented by ‘Queen of the Junior Prom’ and the Dylan meet Springsteen crossover appeal of ‘Temporary’.
His search for songs with real depth and an emotional pull leads him to former Plummet Airlines front man Harry Stephenson’s ‘Writing on the Wall,’ as Ian ruminates repeatedly on a distopian world in which: ‘when you got no faith, the writing’s on the wall’.
Each song appears to be a window into his soul, thus explaining his choice of covers, from the Everly Brothers version of ‘Love Hurts’ to the heartfelt Rudy Lentze ballad ‘Please Don’t Fail Me’, which is given a climactic feel by additional harmonies from Tess and Joel Gaerthe.
Ian’s personalised take on the songs is never less than you would expect from a performer who eschews cliché and always looks for meaning and emotion. His own take on the blues would demand nothing less.
The crowd hangs on to every word of ‘Early Grace’; a song inspired by the film ‘Kalifornia’. It was originally on ‘Standing in the Morning’, a time when when he started to explore his Tom Waits fixation, though the song’s ambivalent view of California is closer to Steve Earle.
‘One Night In Amsterdam’ is an essential live snap shot of a die-hard blues man who has forged his career on his own terms. His songs emotionally engage us, his lyrics are veracious and his vocals mirror a lifetime spent living then blues.
Recorded in front of a partisan crowd in Holland, ‘One Night In Amsterdam’ is as good as it gets. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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