Review by Danny Hill
Photos by Darren
Who needs to travel all the way to Southern USA for a decent blues fix around here, when Sunday night’s entertainment at The Old Brown Jug provided all the medication blues fans could possibly wish for?
It was the impressive Dirk Diggler’s Blues Revue that kick-started proceedings with an impressive rendition of Aint That a Lot Of Love, taken from Taj Mahal’s performance at the legendary Rock 'n' Roll Circus from 1968.
’This is how it’s supposed to be done,’ jokes Walsall-born vocalist/bassist Darroll Wheatley. Dirk Diggler’s Blues Revue have a sound so distinctively blues, so hard-edged and gritty, stripped down to its bare, whiskey-drenched bones, that if you closed your eyes you could almost feel the hot sun beating down and practically taste the air along the cotton fields of Tennessee. Warming to their act now, the band move on to other classics, Buster Brown’s Dr Brown earns great cheers, and the furious sliding and soloing and drumming of Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues and Nappy Brown’s That Man sets the crowd rocking appreciatively. They finish their set with a driving rendition of Ray Charles’ Hallelujah. With the band’s solid musicianship and Wheatley’s casual rapport with the audience between songs, I predict we’ll be hearing a lot more about Dirk Diggler’s Blues Revue in the future…
A tough act to follow, it would seem… To some, that is. The Black Apples approach the stage soon afterwards with the casual, almost nonchalant manner that proceeds most bands that have been around for as long as they have, and they dispel such notions of disquietude by launching headfirst in to fans’ favourites You Don’t Do Nothin’ and the raunchy Leave Before My Time. Each song of theirs’ are infectious, with catchy choruses and hypnotic rhythm playing, and it’s done with such snarling, adrenalised gusto it proves irresistible. The stompy Hypnotise soon follows, with its hypnotic, chugging riffery, thundering from speakers, daring people not to like it. It’s The Black Apples ability to combine blues, rock, soul and indie that separates them from others. Somehow, they don't make each song sound wildly different, but as though they all come from the same passionate source.
What’s also great about The Black Apples is that they’re a band of characters, a cartoonist’s day-dream: Jamie on the bass, head bowed, his face obscured with long hair, sometimes dressed in the style of an early 19th French bohemian with his cravats and pointy rock boots; Musso, the vocalist and guitarist, fidgeting and bouncing around the stage like Zebedee, a mop of curly hair and a toothy grin, skinny jeans hanging off a skinnier frame, and shaggy-haired drummer, Joe, slamming his drum skins and tossing his head ferociously like a wild caged animal being tormented by a particularly cruel zoo keeper with a pointy stick.
The Apples, incidentally, are due to release an EP later this year, and have of recently been under new management. The future is looking bright. Not only are The Black Apples a great band, a statement reinforced by the crowds they pull in every time they play, but they are getting better and better. Past criticisms I have had regarding The Apples is that, with the style of music they play, with its 12 bar rhythms, it offers little diversity from song to song, but as the night wears on they prove me wrong. With the inclusion of new song, Everybody Gets a Little Lonely, The Apples display more of their sensitive sides, and Musso explores new depths to his vocal range. Jamie soon joins in on backing vocals with my new personal favourite, Twinkle, an anthemic little stomper that reminded me of Muddy Walters. A little later on came covers of Fleetwood Mac’s Got A Mind Of My Own, and Robert Johnson’s They’re Red Hot - each earned massive applause; so much so that the band were called back for two encores. Buy Me a Ticket and 1,2,3,4 seems to do the job.“Everyone’s lookin’ for a damn good time,” wails Musso; and if this is the case, they certainly didn’t go home disappointed