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On this page:  Mike Sanchez, Ian Siegal, Watermelon Slim, Daniel Smith, The SPIKEdrivers, Guy Tortora...

January 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008      MIKE SANCHEZ

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British singer, pianist and guitarist Mike Sanchez is one of the most exciting and charismatic performers of Rhythm & Blues and Rock 'n' Roll in the world today. His indelible image as a frenetic front man, pumping powerful boogie-woogie from the piano in a soaking red suit, has won him fans from all over the world and attracted a following from many famous rock and blues legends who have lined up to work with him.

Mike was a full-time member of Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, now fronting the band for the third year running alongside Georgie Fame, Beverley Skeete, Albert Lee and Andy Fairweather Low on their annual world tours.


Outside of Rhythm King commitments, Mike is involved in a number of recording projects and touring line-ups, most notably his 8-piece outfit including legendary guitarist Andy Silvester, ex-Biscuit Boy bassist Al Gare, drummer Mark Morgan, vocalist Imelda Clabby and The Harlem Horns (Al Nicholls, Dave Priseman, Pete Cook).
This band's 2001 release 'Blue Boy' (MS 003) continues to receive fabulous reviews throughout the blues and rockin' scenes across the UK and Europe.

Mike Sanchez was born Jesus Miguel Sanchez Bastida in London's East End to Spanish parents Jesus and Manola on the 17th of February 1964. At the age of eleven, his family moved to Worcestershire in the West Midlands where Mike took up the piano, developing a strong love for 1950s' American roots music through his high school years. As a teenager he taught himself guitar and formed The Rockets, a rockabilly trio.


Mike was soon introduced to former Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown and Steve Gibbons' multi-instrumentalist Andy Silvester by Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, which led to the founding of the Big Town Playboys in 1984, specialising in authentic post-war Rhythm & Blues. Procol Harum pianist Gary Brooker became an early fan and introduced Mike to his friends Eric Clapton and Amen Corner's Andy Fairweather Low. The latter signed up as guitarist with the Big Town Playboys for two years in the 1990s. Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood is another good friend who regularly involves Mike in his plans wherever possible.


Mike recorded a number of albums including the classic rockabilly album 'Crazy Legs' with guitar great Jeff Beck in 1993. The Big Town Playboys had various stints opening for Eric Clapton at London's Royal Albert Hall and appeared at many European music festivals, backing bluesmen like Lowell Fulson, Don & Dewey, Joe Hughes, Jimmy Nelson, Carey Bell and the great Little Willie Littlefield.


Last year Mike was honoured to be voted 'UK Keyboard Player of the Year' for the fourth year running by the well-established magazine Blues in Britain.

Mike's main aim has always been to make every live show his best yet as he continuously enjoys growing acclaim and admiration for his electrifying stage performances from new and old fans of all age groups across the world.

 

For more information about Mike Sanchez check out the  website at www.mikesanchez.co.uk 

 

April 2007           IAN SIEGAL

Born in the deep south (of England!) in 1971, Ian's earliest musical memories are of Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis and Chuck Berry, but it was on hearing the great Little Richard that he really caught the music bug and became nothing short of obsessive about it. This lead him into a life-long passion for the Blues and all of its various branches, and most of all, the man he calls "The Blues God" - the inimitable Muddy Waters.

At 16 he began to roadie occasionally for his cousin's band and one night, quite unexpectedly, he was asked to sing. The result was a blown-away audience and a delighted (and rather surprised!) young vocal talent with a long career ahead of him.

It was 2 years later that he picked up a guitar and taught himself to play, listening to the likes of Muddy, B.B King, Robert Cray and Albert Collins. At 20 he dropped out of Art college and travelled to Berlin, busking for a living. This is where he says his playing dramatically improved as, if he didn't make money, he didn't eat! By the time he returned to England he knew that a career in music was the only one for him.

A visit to Nottingham resulted in a five year stay and Ian's first band became one of the most popular on the local music scene, with a residency at renowned venue the Running Horse attracting full houses and appearances at Colne and Burnley festivals getting rave reviews. His first album "Picture Postcards" also showed Ian to be a gifted songwriter with a deep understanding of musical traditions, but with an eye on the future.

Moving to London to further his career was inevitable and Ian became an established part of the London Blues community almost immediately. That’s where today’s Ian Siegal band was born.

Many gigs followed, along with a number of appearances with American Blues acts - Phil Guy, Sugar Blue, Nappy Brown, Eddie Kirkland, Catfish Keith and Jimmie Vaughan to name but few. He has also sung with other bands, notably The Lee Sankey Group and can be heard on the album "Tell Me There's a Sun".

All the time Siegel's writing and playing skills developed, and appearances on larger festival stages to bigger audiences - such as Edinburgh, Lugano, BRBF - enabled him to hone his skills into becoming one of the most naturally exciting and vibrant talents on the scene today.

Awareness among British Audiences of Ian’s talents grew considerably after two consecutive tours opening for Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, including a performance at the Royal Albert Hall; and then in 2005 (and again, in 2006) he toured playing as a duo with Big Bill Morganfield (Muddy Waters’ son). “That’s as close as I can ever get to the great man himself,” says Ian.

In 2005 he played the main stage of the North Sea Jazz Festival (the world’s largest indoor music festival) alongside Robert Cray and Solomon Burke; and had the pleasure (as he says, honour!) of making a guest appearance with Pinetop Perkins and some of the remaining members of Muddy Water’s band (Bob Margolin, Will ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, and Mooky Brill). This was at London’s Jazz Café to a packed house.

Ian’s first major CD release was in 2004, although recorded two years earlier. “Standing In The Morning” (Taxim TX2077) on which Ian drafted in some top players to supplement his band, in particular the horns of Nick Payne, Frank Mead, Martin Winning, Sid Gauld and John Beecham, who between them have worked with The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Van Morrison, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. The album is an entirely original composition, with reviewers drawing comparisons with Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Dr. John and Van Morrison.

His latest CD “Meat & Potatoes” released in April 2005 (Nugene Records NUG502) sees Ian returning to his roots with an album of powerful urban Blues. For this recording he augmented his core trio sound with upcoming Brit guitar maestro, Matt Schofield (who also produced the album), and Jonny Henderson on Hammond organ. This album has drawn widespread praise and put Ian firmly on the map on both sides of the Atlantic.

For more information about Ian Siegal check out the  website at www.iansiegal.com

May 2005           WATERMELON SLIM

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Bill Homans, a.k.a ‘Watermelon Slim’, has a storied past from which he draws experience and fodder for the eighteen tracks on his latest release Up Close and Personal on Southern Records. Watermelon Slim first appeared on the music scene in the early 1970s as the only Vietnam veteran to record a full length LP album during the Vietnam war, a 1973 protest-tinged "underground" release entitled Merry Airbrakes. In the subsequent years his original material has been reissued and performed by anti-establishment icons such as Country Joe McDonald.

He developed friendships and musical bonds with Barbara Dane, roommate Henry ‘Sunflower’ Vestine of Canned Heat, and his dear fishing buddy, seminal Chicago blues harp player 'Earring George' Mayweather. In his 30 years of music he has played with Vestine, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, the late John Lee Hooker, in Paris with expatriate New Orleans barrel-house piano player Champion Jack Dupree, Boston's leading blues guitarist and producer Chris Stovall Brown, and most recently with Muddy Waters' guitarist ‘Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin. But not until recently did he fully chase the dream.

Less than six months after leaving his latest truckdriving job, hauling industrial waste, Slim is now making a living as a full time touring bluesman. The decision was predominantly the result of a recent and nearly fatal heart attack, and the renewed perspective on mortality that followed. Logically, why drive industrial waste around Oklahoma to dispose of when one can drive band mates around the United States to play music and entertain? Pleasingly, the blues community has officially recognized him as one of the best contemporary blues artists with a nomination for a 2005 W.C. Handy Award for Best New Artist Debut.

One would think that the experiences and tribulations of heart attacks, relationships, and decades behind the wheel would be sufficient foundations for his blues and roots songwriting. Not quite. Over the years Slim has satisfied his thirst for academic knowledge. In 1986 he earned an honours degree in History and a degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon in Eugene. In 2000 Slim received a masters degree in History from Oklahoma State University. Outside the classroom Slim was a member of MENSA International, an exclusive society limited to those with genius range IQs. There is no bravado in his voice when he states "I am probably the most literate bluesman in the world - or no less than Taj Mahal anyway."

"However," he cautions, "the further through things I think, the more it ends up being the blues. 'Who increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow', the scripture reads, though I can't quote you the chapter and verse. It's enough to make a saint cuss, enough to make a strong man cry."

Despite - or perhaps because of - the aforementioned educational pursuits Slim has always lived the life of a bluesman. "Through all my life, then and now, I have been a blue-collar labourer and trucker, which has much more to do with my blues than all my intellectual activities," he says.

"There are three themes in the blues I usually sing: work, frustrated expectations (in relationships, of course, but not limited to them), and consciousness of personal mortality. I'm gonna die. I have a trucker's face and hands; I am the trucker's face and hands. I may yet die a trucker."

He continues, "I sing what I have lived, in the blues. You might say I am a musical journalist in the same way that the late Mississippi bluesman Robert Pete Williams was. Now, I write and perform an array of Americana and American roots music and just like the blues, that's part of my North Carolina roots. But when I’m doing any kind of music, although I remain completely individualistic, I consider my audience, and I suspect that you will say that that material is a bit more universally accessible. Mom and girls and trucks and trains and booze.

"Now, that's all in the blues too, of course. But I'm an old man now, and when I really just surrender to reality, the only thing left to me is to write about it and sing it, and the blues it lays on me comes out of my mouth and fingers. And the more bitter the reality, the more like broken glass my guitar playing gets."

In May 2004 Slim toured through the United Kingdom, impressing festival and club audiences with his musicianship. On tour, he paid homage to a great personal influence, the English evolutionary existentialist philosopher Colin Wilson, and shared his enthusiasm and knowledge of Shakespearean and Elizabethan/Jacobean drama from the stages of the UK blues venues and festivals. The English blues world is awaiting his second tour, from May 10 to May 30 this year.

Slim’s selection as featured performer at The Blues Foundation’s Blues First Weekend in Memphis,Tn. in 2004 and coast to coast non-commercial radio play created a sizeable pre-release buzz and played a large part in his recent Handy nomination for Best New Artist Debut.


  
For more information about Watermelon Slim check out the  website at www.watermelonslim.com

December 2002  & 2003           DANIEL SMITH

Read the BFBR interview!

"... the best boogie piano heard in a long time... with his jazzy vocals, this guy is seriously talented! RA" Blueprint 

Daniel Smith is one of the most exciting talents to emerge on the British blues scene in recent years. Returning to the UK in 1994, he first shot to prominence with Sonny Black, gaining rave reviews from press, audiences and fellow musicians alike. 2000 saw him launch his own solo career

Virtuoso live performances, his acclaimed debut album ('Southside Boogie'), BBC Radio sessions and an Edinburgh festival appearance have earned him a nomination as Best UK Blues Keyboardist 2002. In 2002 he released the album "Dreamtime" to much acclaim and radio play.

As a solo artist and with the Daniel Smith Blues Band, he mixes virtuoso driving barrelhouse boogie woogie with an authentic down-home blues piano style, reflecting influences from Albert Ammons, Memphis Slim and Otis Spann through to Jools Holland.

This is flavoured with refreshing and rhythmic Dr John/Professor Longhair-inspired New Orleans material and cool, classy Gene Harris/ Ramsey Lewis jazz-blues grooves; excellent original material and his soulful bluesy voice set him apart as a performer of rare technical and musical ability.

He has a rare technical and musical ability to produce sustained and inspired keyboards work across the whole spectrum of the blues genre. Whether performing standards or his excellent original material, Daniel Smith is commonly recognised as an outstanding keyboards talent and a boogie woogie pianist without parallel.

Add to this his dry, laid-back, on-stage humour and an absolute killer band - (some of Britain's finest, most experienced musicians) - Dino Coccia, Jeff Walker, Alan Glen, Dave Briggs and you have a class act invoking a genuine sense of the old-time, good-time barrelhouse and speakeasy.

For more information about Daniel Smith check out the  website at www.hants.org.uk/daniel.smith  

October 2005, Dec 2006, Dec 2007           SPIKEDRIVERS

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'The atmosphere the band is able to create
around its music is nothing less than remarkable'

Blues Revue - USA

'Three musicians interweaving
and complementing each other perfectly.'

Folk Roots - UK

Taking inspiration from their American roots and the country’s rich musical heritage, the SPIKEdrivers’ songwriting, vocal harmonies and unique instrumentation make their sound fresh and exciting.

The atmosphere created by the band takes you on a journey, from southern juke joints and lazy front porches to the huge open spaces of dust bowls and railroad tracks disappearing into the distance.

Ben Tyzack
Guitar, vocals & harmonica

Raised in Charleston, South Carolina. Ben picked up his passion for the blues while growing up in the Deep South. Once he heard the likes of Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Doc Watson in his fathers record collection the decision to play guitar was an easy one. After years playing in bands honing his fingerpicking and slide playing, Ben decided to start a project based around his love for early blues. He formed the SPIKEdrivers in 1992 and continues to develop the bands sound and his song writing. Ben has also performed with Lee Sankey, Roger Askew and recently with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Constance Redgrave
Bass guitar, vocals & percussion

From Hollywood, California, Constance learned her craft at the Musicians Institute of Technology in Los Angeles. Her obvious talent landed her the gig with 'Christian Death' who were just about to leave for a European tour. Now living in London she has gone on to play with Otis Grand, Steve Cropper, Anson Funderburgh, Hank Wangford, Chris Jagger, Pierre La Rue, Wes McGhee, Companions of the Rosy Hours, Boo Hewerdine and The Colin John Band among many others.

 Maurice McElroy
Drums, vocals & percussion

A "veteran blues drummer" according to Blueprint Magazine, Maurice originally hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Nicknamed 'The Groove Meister' by the Earl Green Band, his credits include Otis Grand, Larry Garner, Philip Walker, Robert Ward, Guitar Shorty, Wes McGhee, Kimmie Rhodes, Lee Sankey, The Colin John Band, and, of course The Earl Green Band.

For more information check out the  website at   SPIKEdrivers homepage

May 2004      GUY TORTORA

Read the BFBR interview!

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Pasadena, according to some, is probably better known for its little old ladies rather than for giving rise to blues musicians (well, there's Lightnin' Willie, but he comes from the other Pasadena -- the one in Texas). But situated as it is on what was once the legendary Route 66 and near the western end of the Union Pacific Railway line running straight from Chicago to Union Station in L. A. the blues were always passing through. 

 "When I was growing up, Pasadena was a very mixed community.  I was raised in a family with an Italian background.  Although my dad liked country music, mama wouldn't let that stuff in the house unless it wiped its shoes.  Even more so with the blues. I guess it wasn't exactly what my folks wanted me listening to, but I just couldn't help it.  It crept in over the airways.  Especially late at night & with certain atmospheric conditions you could pick up radio stations from really far away, stations that played stuff you didn't hear on mainstream radio in L. A. until a lot later.  And there were a couple of bars in town where you could hear the real stuff, if you knew where to look."

Restless feet and an urge to travel took him all across the USA & Canada & then brought him brought him to Europe, where he worked at ". . .just about anything" -- delivery boy, cook, artist's model, carpenter -- & wandering troubador, of course, while drifting around, eventually settling in London.   

The drifting continued, but now it was in and out of various bands playing many different musical flavours until eventually he came back to the blues, but in his own personal style. RA  "I'm not trying to play Chicago- or Delta-style right now, that's just not me.  For me the song comes first, so maybe I don't always appeal to the blues purists who want to put you in one particular pigeonhole and keep you there.  I need to spread my wings a little bit."

G T plays both acoustic and electric guitars, with a fine line in bottleneck playing.  His fret action has been compared at one time or another  --  "By others, not by me!" -- to players from the well-known likes of Ry Cooder, to the more obscure such as Rainier, he changes effortlessly between acoustic six string, a "Style N" resonator guitar, and standard & bottleneck work on his Fender Strats.  Oh — he plays a little bit of harp, too.