West End Club, Barry
13th February 2015
Opening tonight was the ever popular Bella Collins, tonight as a duo with Gareth Evans entertained the packed top floor of the club, they delivered a mix of self-penned and some blues/jazz standards and every time I hear Bella her voice seems to improve as she develops her stagecraft. Gareth provided quite brilliant accompaniment on his acoustic guitars delivering the perfect musical foil to Bella’s vocal tones. Bella also had to cope with the stage lights going out mid-set she continued to sing in the dark, then ad-libbing mid song for someone please turn the lights on. Bella’s wish was her command the lights came back and the show went on. As Thomas Ford said when he thanked the duo for open they are too good for a warm up act and the audience definitely agreed with him.
Thomas Ford from Plymouth was the main act for the evening and he was quite a character as he told tales and introduced us to his earthy, dirty electric take on the blues, via his two 1950’s original Harmonies. He is a great guitarist and handy on the blues harp as well adding more layers of sound with his stomp board and then his powerful tuneful vocals on top. Thomas played a skillful mix of his own tunes from his forthcoming and past albums along with his own distinctive versions of a variety of blues numbers some well-known and others his own personal favourites including a very rootsy version, of Outside Women Blues, definitely not Eric Clapton’s version but probably closer to the 1929 original by Blind Joe Reynolds. His own pieces all had a story, some fun, some sad and included one with a safety message Danger Blues, all about the dangers of leaving the house, inspired by a trip to Bucharest, which just re-enforced his personal dislike of travelling as he lists various air, sea and land based disasters; this was both entertaining and very clever.
Poor Boy, an original folk tune whose origins are unknown and there are a wide range of variations in melodies and lyrics, but the core verse normally contains the line “I’m a poor boy a long way from home”; tonight his voice was accompanied by harp and stomp box giving the song a fresh interpretation.
Opening the second and much anticipated second set with Everybody Wants To Be Sane from his new album definitely hit the spot. Throughout the set Thomas used minimal effects letting the tones from his two electric guitars and national resonator do the talking and judicious use of stomp box and harp to augment the sound; combined with his vocals he produces a sound that has an authentic and at the same time modern feel as he delivers his homage to the blues with passion. We heard Sun House; Muddy Waters, Little Walter and many more. His own self-penned numbers were inspired by many of them including his personal guitar hero is Blind Blake on Peace Inside Blues. This was an evening full of tempo changes, some wonderful slide and finger picking then into the mix Thomas included an upbeat Rock N Roll beat number She’s Got It All.
We had the lights go out for the warm up and a broken string on the National in this set; but this did not faze Thomas as he picked up the Harmony and played on. This was an evening of music new and less well-known including former member of Crash Test Dummies, now undertaking solo career as Son of Dave and no it wasn’t MMM MMM MMM MM! it was a great variation without the loops and electronic layering which is Son of Dave’s hall mark. Finishing with Shake Your Hips a great evening of live music given the Thomas Ford treatment was sadly over; he made many fans tonight and will always be assured a warm welcome back in Barry, South Wales.