It’s take some gumption to start a new band when celebrating the 50th anniversary of your pro career, but then Stevie Smith, the former Bad Manners, Ruthless Blues, Salt and Long John Baldry harp player, is no ordinary performer, and nor is his name sake guitarist Steve Smith.
And together with former UFO/ Pat Travers/Stampede/Wild Horses and current Lionheart drummer Clive Edwards and the mellifluous bass lines of Richard Taylor, Smith the harp has got himself a formidable little combo.
Being a new band inevitably means a healthy sprinkling of covers, albeit with interesting twists and original arrangements.
In between a relaxed opening of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Dimples’, the ska inflected ‘It’s All Over Now’ and Bobby Bland’s adopted anthem ‘Aint No Love In The Heart of the City’, there’s also a reminder of just how good Ruthless Blues were.
Three numbers in, and the new combo are rocking the packed house in a celebration of a magical connection between their own professional pride and an enthusiastic crowd.
Given it’s their North London debut, everything flows surprisingly well like a gentle mountain stream. There’s sudden lightning quick impulses and contrasting moments of quiet dynamics which evoke the phrase, “still waters run deep”.
This is especially so on guitarist Steve Smith’s version of J.J. Cale’s ‘Call Me The Breeze’. His tongue in cheek vocals give way to some scintillating guitar picking, framed by a slick rhythm section and Stevie Smith’s rhythmic train-time support.
It also provides the first of several moments when the crowd roars the band on to greater heights.
Suitably fired up, Stevie reached back into his Ruthless Blues past for a soulful, self-penned ‘Never Told Me Why’ and arguably his best song ‘Stomp (Is That The Blues)’, which electrifies the crowd.
Sin House may be old wine in new bottles, but they clearly still have much to give. If Stevie is fired up, then so is his guitar playing name sake, who takes to the stage with a walking stick, a high backed chair and acoustic, but barely an hour later he has seemingly found a miracle cure for all his ills.
Tonight, Sin House remind us of the joy of doing the simple things so well. They strike a musical equilibrium based on original arrangements of crowd pleasing material and topped by the Stevie Smith expressive harp playing.
Smith is a force of nature who would deliver a show to 2 people in telephone box, but tonight he’s got a full house and he’s in his element.
Sin House finish brilliantly with a show-stopping ska version of Bobby Womack’s ‘Its Over All Now’ – which recalls Smith’s extended stint in Bad Manners – and there’s also a very subtle take on Elmore James’s ‘Stranger Blues’.
It nicely sets the band up for an all night jam, except they have run out of time and the house light come on to provide a perfunctory end to a great north London debut.
Earlier on, the effervescent The Right Rev Swifty (aka former Alice Cooper and Nils Lofgren guitarist Stu Daye) mixes a warped take on self penned, trad blues with lashing of comedy, irony and plenty of slide guitar.
He also provides a semblance of contrasting conceptual continuity – think about it – The Right Rev Swifty and Sin House. There’s a blues song in there somewhere!
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Jennifer Noble 1-4 & 6
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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