The marketing for the now traditional January London Blues Month is a mocked up, retro-style handbill. Someone who can remember those days is Kim Simmonds. He may not have the high profile of other guitar contemporaries of the British blues explosion like Clapton, Green and Lee, but for a remarkable 53 years he has led an ever changing Savoy Brown line up, releasing new work at regular intervals.
He has been based on the East Coast of the USA for many moons – and the current band are American – but seems to be a fairly regular visitor to these shores in a variety of London venues. Fittingly this time it was in one of the few places to have survived from the days when the then Savoy Brown Blues Band were first making their name in the capital.
On this occasion Savoy Brown opened with ‘Why Did You Hoodoo Me’, marked by an insidious riff with an almost ZZ Top feel in places. ‘Payback Time’ from current album ‘City Light’ was straight down the line blues but enlivened by a great solo mid-song from Kim, typically immaculate in tone and technique.
Inevitably there were oldies like ‘Train To Nowhere’ and ‘I’m Tired’, accompanied by a fund of reminiscences delivered in the spryly dapper 72 year old’s soft Welsh lilt. However they were accompanied by as many songs from recent albums. ‘Conjure Rhythm’ had a great hypnotic groove to it and ‘Living On The Bayou’ combined a Creedence-like swampy guitar sound with the almost Knopfler-esque strains of Kim’s laid back baritone.
The fact the latter now sings as well as plays guitar is not the only change over the years. At various stages the band have had second guitarists or keyboard players, but these days the line up is a power trio and closer to traditional blues. This placed a greater onus on what in Savoy Brown terms is now a long-serving rhythm section of bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm, both of whom played a full part in some fine jamming.
However the latter briefly gave way to Heavy Metal Kids drummer Keith Boyce, one of many to have done service in the band in the past, who looked like he was enjoying himself during the slow blues of the Memphis Slim cover ‘l’ll Keep On Singing The Blues’.
‘Cobra’ was a boogie-style instrumental including a drum solo from Garnet who had now returned to the stool, but the moment many of us had been waiting for was the epic ‘Hellbound Train’, with Kim following some very menacing power chords by winding up to a long solo, though it ended at a relatively modest seven minutes.
The encores saw them revert to the supercharged boogie that made them such a success in the States in the seventies- ironically in a similar vein to the ex members who left to establish Foghat. Preceded by an anecdote about meeting its creator Muddy Waters, a mean and dirty version of the old standard ‘Louisiana Blues’ gave way to ‘Savoy Brown Boogie’ which took in a bit of everything from a snatch of ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ to name dropping famous blues guitarists.
The only complaint was a short set length of an hour and 25 minutes, with a few of their best known numbers (‘Tell Mama’, ‘Poor Girl’) omitted. Nevertheless this was possibly the most enjoyable of the Savoy Brown shows I have seen, a timely reminder of one of Britain’s most enduring musical exports in which Kim Simmonds is playing better than ever.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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In this show, first broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 2 February 2020, David Randall plays a selection of tracks from some of the artists who impressed at this year’s Giants Of Rock event in Minehead (24-27 January).
Featured Albums w/c 17 February (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 NEWMAN Ignition (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 BLACK SWAN Shake The World (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 CORMAC O CAOIMH Swim Crawl Walk Run (indie)
Power Plays w/c 17 February (Mon-Fri)
SHAKRA Turn The Light On (AFM Records)
THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA Transmissions (Nuclear Blast)
RYDERS CREED Lost Soul (Off Yer Rocka Recordings)
FRAMING HANLEY Puzzle Pieces (Thermal Entertainment LLC)
ROBERT HART Mysterious (Escape Music)
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