The Convent near Stroud, Gloucestershire is a dramatic backdrop for any musician, where the Alter stood originally full of iconography is now the stage, the stage area is flooded with light and the audience have a choice of sitting at tables or listening from the ornately carved choir stall while supping their beverage of choice. The compare warmly welcomed the crowd to a night of entertainment and the show began with the backed venue full of excited anticipation.
The stage was set with a table of Harps waiting for Katie Bradley to make them sing, and this she did as the set delivered a mix of self-penned and gorgeous interpretations of well-known numbers including ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ included on her current album Anchor Baby. There is no argument this was a perfect setting for Katie’s gospel style blues and we heard some of the amazing numbers that are making her latest album so popular with Radio DJ’s at the moment. Her band tonight they were Dudley Ross playing guitar that was gritty, determined and the perfect foil for Katie’s lyrical vocals; the rhythm section was the effervescent and popular bassist Roger Inniss and Wes Johnson on Drums who were on fire enjoying every moment as they interacted and picked up the groove and laid it down and into the mix adding an extra tone on Hammond C was Vic Martin, who played with Gary Moore.
This is a band that is enjoying being on the road and loving every moment that they are in front of the audience entertaining with a wonderful selection of the blues infused with soul, gospel and a twist of funk. Dudley with his controlled aggression on guitar on tracks including Junior Wells Little By Little and featuring some sublime Harp by Katie from her latest album Anchor Away. In the set was also a reminder of how wonderful her debut album She’s Ready was with tracks such as Be Careful With My Baby with the sultry phrasing of her vocals. Katie Bradley delivered her distinctive brand of the blues, with soaring harp and a voice that rang high and clear through the chapel.
Tonight was an opportunity for Katie, to sell her approach to the blues and her albums this she did with warmth and delivery of quality blues. For anyone who had not heard her before were delighted they heard her and the band tonight as I heard many chat about her in the break as it was Kirk Fletcher that had drawn them to the Convent tonight.
Quick break and Kirk Fletcher strode onto the stage with the band returning to the stage to support Kirk who having played with Mannish Boys, Fabulous Thunderbirds the quality of his guitar playing is known by many. They all looked like they were happy to be playing and determined for everyone to have a very good time indeed for what was Kirk’s first UK tour as himself having previously visited a couple of times with the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
What a blues guitarist, as he made the Telecaster play to his tune with a mix of subtly, control and then full-blown array of power riffs and clever licks, at times the phrasing the control and the use of space in the music reminded me of Robben Ford with a blending of Chicago blues, creating as Kirk as endorsed by Joe Bonamassa – “….hands down – one of the best blues guitarists in the world…”
The music the guitar skills on display was not a surprise, I was delighted that Kirk has such a great soulful voice live as well as in the studio. He delighted the crowds with a rather special take on several blues classics including a slowed down version of Jimmy Reed’s Found Love. Throughout the set all the musicians had solo slots to show why they were such an awesome backing band for any guitar/vocalist. His renditions of blues classics made you appreciate why they are classics and really listen to them again with a refreshed ear, Kirk has musical style by the bucketful. They have the skills to make their own instrument be centre stage or in the background as the music dictates. The drama of Wes – who managed to smash the snare did not cause a beat to be missed Roger filled in the gap on bass whilst Wes popped of stage got a replacement and carried on. This was high-octane musicianship with Kirk’s vocals the perfect pitch to ensure the words were heard but the music was at the heart of the evening. What a great gig with two headlining sets that perfectly matched drawing on all the strengths as the vocals curled, the harp wept, the guitars snarl, with a Hammond adding depth and a rhythm section that was the perfect back-line of timing and control. There were lots of happy music lovers wanting to take the live sound home by purchasing Kirk’s latest album Burning Blues – Live
A great double set evening entertainment from marvellous Katie Bradley and then the wonderful Kirk Fletcher leading a band of exceptional musicians at The Convent, it might be a strangely different location for a music club but it really worked hoping lots of bands and musicians check this rural gem out.