Friday 13th may have seemed more than ominous to the girls in the Blues Caravan with a six hour journey from Scotland taking fourteen hours. But that didn’t seem to quell their enthusiasm for the South Midlands stop on a short series of dates promoted by German blues/rock label Ruf Records.
The tour is an annual event in Europe and the 2019 excursion follows last year’s jaunt with Bernard Allison, Mike Zito and Vanja Sky. We’ve had ‘Girls With Guitars’. This was ‘Chicks with Chutzpah’.
It’s a great showcase for label artists and in some cases a first showing for them in the UK. The Pershore gig typified today’s music scene: An appreciative, if spartan, crowd and lack of radio airplay or wider media attention for deserving – and relevant – musicianship.
Once the initial group collaboration was out of the way, we had an individual showcase before a regrouping at the end. First off, Serbian-born, Belgrade domiciled, Katarina Pejak weaved her singer songwriting magic, accompanying herself on keyboards and highlighting tracks from her new album ‘Roads That Cross’. She cites Tom Waits and Norah Jones amongst her influences.
Although she didn’t play it tonight, on the latest release Katarina has revived a sometimes overlooked Joni Mitchell song ‘Sex Kills’ giving it her own twist. Chatting to her post-gig, as with the other girls tonight, she’s an engaging and warm personality who told me she lived for seven years in the States including studying at the famed Berklee School of Music.
If you cricked your eye you may have even been convinced she is the new Carole King of jazz/blues. She rallied with an excellent song from the new album ‘Chasing Summer’ which seemed rather appropriate and a bit poignant on an early autumn day when we can but reflect on the previous season. It demonstrated that a few more highly accessible tracks like this – and ‘Moonlight Rider’ – may shift Katarina into the headlights.
We’ve been enjoying Ally Venable‘s album ‘Texas Honey’ since release, a regular on our radio station playlist, produced by Mike Zito and her third offering. Again, an engaging personality who told me this was her first visit to the UK and notwithstanding that traffic delay enjoying every minute. She made her first album when she was 15 (a mere five summers ago!) rooted in Texas blues with Stevie Ray Vaughan a perhaps obvious and major influence.
The current album though is more rocky, hinting at crossover potential for those with an ear for a catchy tune and an eye for a foxy delivery. Songs like ‘Broken’ and ‘Texas Honey’ contrasted with the bluesier and slower stuff like ‘Backwater Blues’ (although it does get going) and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Lenny’ which – to be honest – almost detracted, whilst ‘One Sided Misunderstanding’ was conspicuous by its absence. But there speaks a hardened rocker.
We’ll hopefully see Ally again on tour in the UK early next year and with a follow-up album due later. With the female blues/rock space dominated by the likes of Joanne Shaw Taylor, Ally has the look and chops to appeal to a much wider (and hopefully younger) audience assuming she moves further from her blues roots.
Our final lady in the reimagined Teutonic Triumvirate was the Finnish singer songwriter Ina Forsman. The moment Ina opened the show with the other girls it was evident she has a superb contemporary pop/R&B voice and an infectious, theatrical delivery. This is more than reflected on the current album ‘Been Meaning To Tell You’ which was highlighted tonight with songs like ‘Miss Mistreated’, and ‘Genius’.
When she gets down to the real rhythm and blues groove (‘Why You Gotta Be That Way’) it is quite wonderful, ably abetted by her fellow ‘chicks’ plus the redoubtable Roger Inniss (bass) and Elijah Owings on drums.
The Caravan rolled to a rousing finish with Merle Travis’ ‘Sixteen Tons’ which included the words ‘we owe our soul to the company store’. I’m sure this wasn’t a veiled reference to their label boss Thomas Ruf and that he’ll facilitate further appearances in the UK.
In summary, this was a super night out that should be more widely trumpeted, a well-run venue by a spirited promoter, and hopefully with the effect of punters investigating the various artists’ back catalogue. You could start by purchasing the Blues Caravan 2019 live CD/DVD due October.
Friday 13th? Definitely unlucky for some who missed this gig.
Review and photos by David Randall
Album review (Blues Caravan 2019)
With thanks to Mutley/Iron Road
Ansgar Liebhart/Ruf Records
Setlist: Part 1: Ensemble: They Say I’m Different (Betty Davis)
Katarina Pejak: She’s Coming After You/Turtle Blues/Old Pain/Moonlight Rider/Chasing Summer
Ally Venable: Texas Honey/Broken/Devil Son/ Backwater Blues/Lenny
Part 2: Ina Forsman: Why You Gotta Be That Way/All Good/Genius/Chains/Miss Mistreated/Figure
Ensemble: Love Like A Man (Bonnie Raitt), Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis) House Is Rockin’ (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
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