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|It´s Been Proved
1 July 2007
The main concert of the Lakeside Blues Festival confirmed the rumours saying Johnny Winter is back alive and kicking. Billy Boy Arnold and Jody Williams brought greetings from the windy city with Bob Stroger on bass. Keb´Mo´ and his band were entertaining.
Finns don´t believe in anything until they see it before their eyes. After the main concert of the Lakeside Blues Festival ("Puistoblues" in Järvenpää near Helsinki) it was clear to even the most stubborn Finlanders that Johnny Winter really isn´t ready to change his clothes for a Chicago overcoat. Winter and his trio played the last set of the concert and it surely did it´s trick.
The scuttle butt about Johnny Winter´s comeback was on the air as soon as his appearance at Puistoblues was confirmed. Among the people there was fear that the Winter´s fiasco in Pori Jazz Festival eight years back could occur again. Saying Winter was a zombie back then would have been a compliment.
|Johnny Winter in Järvenpää, Finland|
|Johnny´s stage movements weren´t exactly panther-like, but as soon the man sat down and got a guitar on his hands, It was all magic. The band started with guitar player & vocalist Paul Nelson taking the lead. The rhyhtm section contained the bassman Scott Spray, who has also played with Edgar Winter and James Cotton, and the hard-working freelance drummer Tony Beard. Paul Nelson does remarkble job backing Winter and humbly stepped aside and gave the stage to the master himself.
Johnny Winter´s concert recording "Live in NYC `97" was a tribute to his fans and he chose his fanbase´s favourite tracks for the songlist on the album as a thank-you, and that wonderful idea is also the frame of his live show nowadays. Hearing songs like "Hideaway", "She Likes To Boogie Real Low" and "Johnny Guitar" at Järvenpää gave his fans an everlasting memory to cherish. On the Ray Charles´ slow blues "Black Jack" Johnny whipped up enuff power to electrify a small village.
Johnny´s vocals have allways been, to put it nicely, personally characteristic. Experience, aging, hard living and most remarkably the all-around new spark of life have brought totally new depth and strength into his singing.
At Puistoblues 2007 the only track heard from the classic album "Second Winter" (1969) was the easy-going "Miss Ann". The program also contained songs from the important comeback album "I´m A Blues Man". Winter´s enocores, who played under a big sunshade, were a top notch tried´n true job: "Mojo Boogie", "Highway 61 Revisited".
The English drummer Tony Beard seemed to enjoy himself very well as the skinster for Johnny Winter. "As a 15-year-old blues enthuasiast, Johnny swore someday he´ll play with his idol Muddy Waters", Beard explains. And that´s exactly how it came to happening, Winter not only played with Muddy, but also toured and made great albums with him. "Muddy treated Johnny like he was his own son. Their relationship is one of the defining moment in the history of the blues", said Beard in Järvenpää.
Arnold and Williams Brought Bob Stroger
Few Puistoblues-goers were surprised by the fact that Billy Boy Arnold and Jody Williams brought authentic Chicago Blues to Järvenpää, but a real surpise was they had the legendary Bob Stroger on bass! The band's guitar player Billy Flynn played a Les Paul, a rare treat to see in blues circles, exitedly even claimed Stroger as the new Willie Dixon. Allthough Flynn seemingly has a sweet tooth for some slight exaggeration, his acclamation isn´t blank hype. Bob Stroger has been nominated six times for the Blues Music Award (the former W.C.Handy Award). He started as the bassman for Otis Rush and contiued his career backing for Snooky Pryor and Sunnyland Slim among others. He knows his place in blues, as he introduced his singing slot with the mojogenetic words: "I Am Bob Stroger and I am the Blues".
|The dymanic duo of Arnold & Williams started their Järvenpää uprising on the Friday club gig at the HeVen-club where also the excellent French duo Bo Weavil and the Danish Mike Andersen Band made appearences.The concert was marketed under Jody Williams´name, but - surpise surpise - a friend for over 50 years joined the fun almost as soon as the house started rocking.
On saturday the "marching order" was different as after a short set by the backup band Billy Boy Arnold took the stage. He is best known for his harmonica playing, but he is also a good singer. And the Stratocaster also ain´t an unfamiliar instrument for him. His long-time fellow partner Bo Diddley´s trademark beat applying signature song "I Wish You Would" worked for the audience well. A jumpin´ blues styled version of "Stormy Monday" was an uplifting number. Many of us remembers "I Ain´t Got You" as performed by Jimmy Reed. In Järvenpää we got to hear it by the original composer Billy Boy Arnold and by the guitarist on the original recording, Mr.Jody Williams.
The cane-walking Jody Williams, 72, is perhaps the less joyous fellow of the duo today, but his take on his signature theme "Lucky Lou" still works like a charm.
|"The last time I was here in Finland was couple of years ago, and the people have always treated me here in a very friendly way", Williams thankfully said. The backing band also deserves a big hand. Besides the leading figures Flynn and Stroger, Berlin piano player Christian Rannenberg was a man in the right place with his slick tone figures and the drummer Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith with his heavy hitting snare spanking.
Billy Boy Arnold is man of strong opinions. He gives plenty of compliments for his playing companion. "Jody Williams is the most gifted and creative guitar player that ever walked into a recording studio. As the number 1 session guitarist in the 50´s & 60´s Chicago he made all the classic songs sound like we all like to hear them now", Billy Boy Arnold said at Järvenpää.
Arnold also liked to talk about his biggest idol, Sonny Boy Williamson - The Sonny Boy I and for Arnold the only Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Williamson. "The official story goes Williamson was killed by muggers and robbers, but I´d like to make it clear he was killed by his peers, envious musicians. Sonny Boy was the brightest star of the blues at that time and also a successful gambler. It was too much for some of his colleagues." John Lee Williamson was beaten to death in 1948. He was only 34 years old.
|Billy Boy Arnold|
|At Keb´Mo´s Lounge
Keb´Mo´ was responsible for the stylistically most sophisticated set at the 2007 Puistoblues main concert. The US westcoaster´s set was highly entertaining, allthough his style doesn´t perfectly suit for a big outdoor festival - the impact of his music is much greater in smaller arenas like in an intimate clubsetting for example. Kevin also has one serious problem: his singing voice is beautiful.
Keb´Mo´s set was mostly based on his latest album "Suitcase". The delicate feeling of the title track and the steamingly pulsating "Your love" were pleasant for the ears. "This is a love song" as Keb´Mo´ led his listeners to the latter song, "Like many other songs, all my songs are about love in one way or another". It seems obvious he also categorizes personal hygiene into the "Love song"-category as he had chosen the song "Shave Yo´Legs" from his 2004 album "Keep It Simple" to the setlist. The most bombastic song of the set was "Whola `Nutha Thang" which worked mighty fine without the hornsection too, as heard on the album version.
During his performance Keb´Mo´ switched between a resonator guitar, stratocaster and a hybrid guitar (as seen on the photo) and his wide range of influences he has tried along his career, and it rings aloud and clear. Especially on the "Suitcase" albums material Kevin´s reggae and calypso influences are quite evident. Besides Keb´Mo´ himself, the keyboard and mandolin man Jeff Paris took a few wild excursions on his own too. Mr. Jeff Paris´ & the bassplayer Reggie McBride´s vocal backing for Keb´Mo´ were a smooth´n fine treat for the audience to enjoy.
|The opener of the main concert at Järvenpää was the locally legendary Super Blues Band, who also played at the very first Puistoblues in the 70´s. Their set included classic blues songs along the lines of B.B.King, Otis Rush and other headhonchos.
The people dragged their physical selfs among their spiritual ones to Vanhankylänniemi with no rush, but with a perfect timing for Lännen-Jukka J.Karjalainen. The "Yucca Western" rode on to the site with his brilliant Deep south-north-ugrian Charley Patton playing his-heart-out with-Tapio Rautavaara backed by the phantom of the north African Fra-Fra Tribe and made the scene up´n on just right. Yuccas´s great string band was also specially moonshined with a mandolin man on this special 30th Puistoblues occasion.
The Blues Song Contest Victory Goes to Canada
On Wednesday, the blues-street program was the main attraction for the blues people with the over three-hour show-case "30 Puistoblues Festivals" show with such Finnish blues luminaries as Pepe Ahlqvist, Ykä "Slide" Putkinen, Ville Leppänen, Nono Söderberg, Esa Kuloniemi, Aija Puurtinen and Johanna Försti. Other winners on the free-for-all shows were Baby Boy Varhama & The Jinx, the very young and promising Sweetspot and naturally the unbeatble dymamic duo from France, Bo Weavil.
In the 30th anniversary songwriting competiton the winner was the 29-year-old Canadian Layla Zoe with her song "Someday". She cashed some 3000 US dollars with her song. Congratulations Layla Zoe!
The thirtieth Puistoblues was a success, although someone without real knowledge on the blues would realize this was a one. The headlining lineup of the festival has been so high-class for so long, that a few other recent similar happenings can´t quite possible compete with it nowadays.
Report by Pasi Tuominen
Translated from Finnish by Sameli Rajala
The Lakeside Blues Festival Main Concert, Järvenpää, Finland 30 June 2007
Johnny Winter (guitar & vocals), Paul Nelson (guitar & vocals), Scott Spray (bass), Tony Beard (the drums & vocals)
Keb' Mo' (guitar, vocals), Jeff Paris (keys, mandolin, backing vocals), Reggie McBride (bass, backing vocals), Kevin Moore II (drums)
Billy Boy Arnold (vocals, harmonica, guitar), Jody Williams (guitar and vocals), Bob Stroger (bass & vocals), Billy Flynn (guitar & vocals), Christian Rannenberg (piano), Kenny Smith (the drums)
Lännen-Jukka J. Karjalainen (vocals & banjo), Ninni Poijärvi (violin & backing vocals), Mika Kuokkanen (guitar)
Super Blues Band: Pekka Kokkonen (guitar & vocals), Kari Ikonen (drums), Rauno Selamaa (guitar & vocals), Ilkka Hopia (bass)