Gig review: Mellowtone @ The Shipping Forecast
SJ Downes, Billie Van, & Mike Badger and the Shady Trio
Wednesday 26th January, 2011
Mellowtone kicked off the year with a strong line up of blues and roots based music. In between sets were the resident Beaten Track DJs, spinning tunes that added ambience to the event.
SJ Downes began proceedings playing a couple of numbers by Blind Blake. His rediscovery of obscure delta blues songs from 1920s and 30s has struck a chord with contemporary audiences. Downes is a fine interpreter of this material and his modest, laid back delivery had everyone engaged. Special mention should be made to his acoustic guitar style, which is as authentic as you can get to the original sound. However, Downes is not merely a copyist as he puts his own stamp on the material. One of the highlights of his set ‘Red Hot’ will be a number familiar to listeners of Robert Johnson. The guitar introduction set the stage up nicely and had everyone on the edge of their seats. SJ Downes will be playing at Liverpool Acoustic Live on Friday 25th March.
Next was Nordic singer, songwriter and guitarist Billie Van, who was backed by a tight blues rock band playing alt.country. Billie was backed on second guitar by Jonas Alaska, an artist in his own right. Her approach is not far away from say a young Bonnie Raitt or Sheryl Crow. However, Billie has her own style that works well with the crowd. It was a strong lively set that kept the right vibe going.
Rounding off the evening was veteran rockabilly artist Mike Badger. He was backed by The Shady Trio, which featured members of The Loose Moose String Band. Wearing a black shirt and dark rimmed glasses, Mike charged to the stage with his acoustic and held the crowd’s attention by playing a powerful set. By now it was a full house. The trio of electric guitar, double bass and shuffling beats recreated the classic sound of fifties rockabilly and provided the perfect backdrop to Badgers vision. Needless to say Mike and the boys brought the house down, ending the night on a high note.
Stuart Todd runs and hosts the award-winning Liverpool Acoustic Live music events with Graham Holland. Stuart was formally in the group Triad before leaving to do solo work. In recent years he has had a successful partnership with local classical guitarist and composer Neil Campbell with whom he formed the duo Campbell Todd. He has also been in the band The Freebies and involved with a number of creative writing projects. His current band is called Three Minute Hero.