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Jack Blackman At Willow & Tool's Music Parlour

Jack Blackman at Willow & Tool's Music parlour 5th March 2017

Willow and Tool's Music Parlour is open on the first Sunday of every month at the Harvester Inn Church Road Long Itchington CV47 9PE.

The Willow & Tool Band consist of Pete Willow, guitar, John McIntosh (Tool), bass, Keith Eardley, uke, harmonica and percussion, and Laurel (Lolly) McIntosh flute and vocals. There was a good audience for this highly anticipated concert and the hosts kicked off proceedings with a lively rendition of "Whose Gonna Be Your Man?" This was made interesting because as the Willow & Tool Band is comprise of three fellas (two of whom sing) and one girl, it allowed a call and response treatment which was most effective. Pete and Keith providing the call and Laurel providing the female response with all providing three part harmony. Wisely, John, Laurel's father, keeps mum at least during the songs. John announced that as Long Itchington was the subject of a flood warning, the next song would "After the Deluge." However after that , Pete succumbed to the temptation to get Jack Blackman up on stage early as they combined to render "King Bee". Written by James Moore (aka Slim Harpo), it is unusual in that it is a fifteen bar blues as opposed to the more often used twelve bar construction. This gave us all taster of what delights were to come when Jack provided a super middle eight on guitar. Jack regained his seat whilst the band continued with "Everybody Move It" and "I Need You Babe." Laurel took the vocal lead during "In the Pines" which displayed her beautiful voice to good effect. I will mention the support acts later.

Jack Blackman, for those who have yet to hear him play, is a blues guitarist extraordinaire. indeed he even impressed the connoisseurs of the art when he visited the Southern states of USA. "Son, we can't teach you nothin' about how to play the blues", one was heard to say. We are so lucky to have a midlands lad to entertain us in so fine a fashion. Much of his material is original and that which is not, is often his own adaptation of a traditional tune. For the first part of his two part set, we had a run through a mixture of some of his older compositions and newer arrangements as featured on his new CD "Nearly Man" First up was "I Stay Blue" which is a melancholic tale which includes the line "The colour of sorrow will cloud your tomorrow so sunshine can ever get through" this is accompanied by the soulful softly played guitar which matches the sentiment expressed in the song. The mood was lifted by Blind Blake's "Police Dog Blues which gave us an opportunity to appreciate Jack's amazing dexterity, where his fingers dance over the fret board and produce rapturous sounds. Another guitarist of note once said "I thought I could play the guitar until I heard Jack Blackman." I am sure that he is not alone in this conception. "Bottle Tree Blues" about trees decorated with empty booze bottles then a more lively "Jitterbug Swing" and "Travelling Light" (an original Blackman composition, not to be confused with the hit had by Cliff Richard in the 1950's), preceded "Take It From Me". This song is sung on the album by seventy five year old "Slopey" who Jack said sounded like he had been gargling with nails before recording the track. The set continued with "Nearly Man" the title track of the CD, which in an earlier incarnation had been played by Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2 and Big Bill Broonzy's "Long Tall Mama" before we reverted back to tracks on the CD, this time in the form of "She Don't Know" a melodic confession that the singer is harbouring a secret of which his woman unaware. Later in the set a favourite of mine appeared, "This Rag O' Mine", which exhibits a country feel in which his artistry abounds. If anyone could be the cream topping of any bill, then Jack Blackman is that man. This incomparable blues guitarist with his impeccable skill combined with his wry sense of humour which is slightly and (unnecessarily) self deprecating, adds to the enjoyment of any performance. We have seen Jack play on several occasions now and look forward to each one with a great deal of anticipation.

Willow and Tool also delighted us with a song with which I was unfamiliar, but contained the line "I stood on today and looked at tomorrow" and then pulled JB back up on the stage for a collaboration in "Alberta" and a vigorous performance of "Pick A Bale Of Cotton". Supporting the line up were Mark Timmins and Jackie James, who each took the stage for a three song set. Marks guitar style is quietly melodic as demonstrated in his first offering of Lindisfarne's "Can't do right for doing wrong" He then told us of and encounter with a homeless man who turned out to be a web designer fallen on hard times. This prompted a version of "Starlings" before concluding his set with Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush." Mark's contribution to the concert was congenial and refreshing.

Jackie James also uses guitar to accompany her all-original songs. "Take Me Back Again" preceded "That's The Way" which was enhanced by a jazzy style on her instrument. Jackie showed that she had both the talent to write songs and the ability to perform them and concluded her short set with a song of which I failed to get the title, but included the line "No-one will sing this song but love will carry on" which was clearly only half true. Never having seen Jackie before, I would like have a second opportunity to do so.

The Harvester Inn invariably has a number of guest ales available together with some mouth watering cakes. I was severely tempted even though I am diabetic. but luckily (or not) my wife was with me and issued an order that I was not to indulge. That didn't stop her having a slice though which I felt was rather twisting the knife.

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