Muddy Waters Tribute - Review

Gig Review - A Tribute to Muddy Waters by Gary deWall (Sydney Blues Society)

Milton Theatre 14/12/2012  photo by Stephen Bray
Another great night of blues at the fantastic Milton Theatre! For the uninitiated, Milton Theatre is a quaint little, almost-as-original 200 seat wooden theatre lovingly restored, run and maintained by a dedicated band of volunteers. And the posters lining the walls of its little foyer represent a who’s who of great music both Australian and international. This place is a treasure - a great venue for live music, loved by punters and artists alike. There are no bad seats – everyone is up close and personal. Anyway, on with the show.

This Tribute to Muddy was the brainchild of local muso (and Milton Theatre volunteer) Johnny Cass and what a job he did of putting it together! Starting with the engine room of Curtis Martin on drums and Tim Curnick on bass. Not big name players to my knowledge, but great players none-the-less, and they thumped away all night laying down the perfect base for the front men to strut their stuff (or should that be Muddy’s stuff?) And he needed a piano player, so he got one of Australia’s finest singers and ivory ticklers, Dr Don Hopkins. Then of course Little Walter wasn’t available so Johnny lined up Ian Collard, arguably Australia’s best blues harp player. Johnny himself took the role of lead guitar and did a great job. And finally he needed some guitar playing singers to front the whole thing so he got Dom Turner(Backsliders), Jeremy Edwards (Whose Muddy Shoes, Dust Radio), and Kevin Bennett (The Flood, Chasin’ The Train). What a lineup!

The format of the show was that all the singers had a go, including Johnny. The first half was basically one at a time with the others coming and going in various combinations and offering support here and there. Then after interval we had everyone on stage adding harmony vocals and percussion, or taking their turn laying down great solos. The stage was full of stars of the Aussie blues scene but they were obviously enjoying playing together and the respect they showed each other during solos was noticeable. Lots of stars but no prima donnas here. Just before the break Dom had a technical problem with a lead or amp, and Jeremy simply unplugged his guitar and handed the plug to Dom so he could do his number and left the stage. After the break it was all systems go again.

I have to say I was blown away by Ian Collard. He was a real powerhouse on the stage. His harp playing was so powerful – it was awesome! It roared and soared, wailed and groaned, yet it was inventive and always interesting. At times it was soft and sweet, underpinning just about every song. And he’s a great singer too. It was almost a privilege to see and hear him play. (I know that sounds corny, but gee he was good.)

Other highlights for me included hearing Dr Don sing and play again (they don’t get much better than that), Jeremy Edwards’ nice little acoustic set playing his resonator, Dom Turner doing his thing with his quirky collection of guitars, and Mo Award and Golden Guitar winner Kevin Bennett singing the blues. I only knew Kevin as a singer/songwriter and “country” player until he got together with his mates fromChasin’ The Train and started singing the blues again. He is a class act all the way. And of courseJohnny Cass delivered some fine Muddy renditions and kicked in some very nice guitar work.

All in all it was a great night. Great concept, great players, great songs, great venue. Good on youJohnny Cass! And well done Milton Theatre!

The guys had played the show the previous night in Sydney and it got great reviews there too. They may do it again, so keep an eye out and don’t miss it next time.

Gary deWall