The SEAN CARNEY BAND in Banana Peel Blues Club at Ruiselede (West-Flanders, Belgium) Monday January 25th 2010.
After the commotion surrounding the concerts for gig # 1000 in Banana Peel in West-Flemish Ruiselede (the very first concert took place in October 1966 with the The Cotton City Jazz Band, that was announced to do a concert during this particular weekend, moreover with the original members) the counter has been set to zero again. So on Monday January 18th it was Jimmy Molière, the legendary New Orleans guitarist of e.g. Fats Domino and Bo Diddley, and also known for his amazing banjo playing, who bore # 1, or # 1001, if you will. Jimmy lives in Belgium nowadays, an unexpected twist of fate due to… Katrina, when Jimmy lost about everything he owned!
Concert (100)2 was for Sean Carney a week later, on January 25th, on a Monday again, as with almost all gigs at BP (there’s a historical reason for this!) The man from Columbus, Ohio is far too young to be a legend of the stature of the people mentioned above, but he’s well under way to become one of them. That was already more than obvious during his passage at the 6e Bierbeek Blues’d Up Festival, April 4th last year. He left an indelible impression, something that reached the ears of the far sighted and undertaking programmer of BP, Franky Van de Ginste. One thing came from another and quality always surfaces. In between the concerts in Oraison, France, and Emmendingen, Germany, there was still a day off, the ideal moment to make a pass at BP.
Since Bierbeek little has changed. There’s no new CD yet and Carney is in fact still promoting his third one, ‘Live Blues On Whyte’, which he used as a basis for the evening. For one reason or other the CD doesn’t completely reflect what a super performer Sean Carney is, but the songs on it are gems, as well his own material as the covers. Of course he also excerpted his other records, released on his own Nite Owlz Records, these being ‘Life Of Ease’ (2006) and ‘Provisions’, stemming from 1999, but released anew in 2007 as ‘Provisions – A Second Helping’: to the original tracks by Christine Kittrell, Nashville R&B pioneer, meanwhile deceased, were added. Sean Carney as well as his drummer Eric Blume had worked with her during their early years in Columbus.
Blume and Carney have shared the stage a lot of times, accompanying the likes of Jimmy ‘T-99’ Nelson and boogie woogie giant Big Joe Duskin. They joined efforts in creating Nite Owlz Records and they also attracted double bass player Chris Brzezicki. It’s impossible to enumerate all the formations Carney and friends played in or to draw the list of the great musicians they accompanied, but one can get an idea glancing at www.seancarneyband.com and www.myspace.com/seancarneyband . In Bierbeek Abdell Bouyousfi played the bass (and how!), but in BP Chris Brzezicki again did the job, as the man from Edmonton, Canada, actually plays the double bass on the most recent live record.
Those who expected Sean Carney to start with an all out offensive with the intention to overwhelm the audience and to convince them in no time of his capacities, got it all wrong. Instead of abusing that age old trick Sean began playing solo, taking his time, only asking Chris and then Eric to join him later on. The first five songs were a school example of how silence and restraint can give depth and character to the music. We got ‘Too Many Cooks’, a composition by Willy Dixon but best known in the version of Robert Cray, and Carney’s own ‘Seasons Of The Blues’, a new song not to be found on the CD, but you can hear it on YouTube, with Sean’s approval, as can be seen on Facebook.
Sean indeed has embraced these new media though he closes his first set with ‘Throw Back’, a brilliant new tune in which he admits to his baby he’s definitely old school. He swears he’s not into the world of Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, iPhone, SMS and Blackberry, which he all actually mentions. But he doesn’t mind, he continues tongue in cheek, because ,,I don’t have to be on Facebook to say that I love you.’’ Before that he had already sung the self-written ‘What Can I Say’, a slow he partly brings without amplification, as Flemish blues shouter Howlin’ Bill likes to do, and also ‘29 Ways’, the Willie Dixon song he totally makes his own.
Carney has set the tone and a high standard for himself, through his technical dexterity, the refinement in his guitar playing (BP CEO Franky would later speak of Sean’s ,,silken fingers’’), his powerful but at the same time relaxed and subtle way of singing, his mastery of different genres and styles. His musicians already had been given the opportunity to show off in solo bits their abilities and musicianship. Eric Blume serves you a drum solo that for once doesn’t need to be a power play full of clichés, the kind that take the rhythm out of the song and out of the concert.
After the break the recipe was virtually the same, but this first part already had sharpened our appetite. Sean had heard about the Abominable Neighbour and the police order to unplug at eleven o’clock sharp, for otherwise the cops rush in with screaming sirens and, yeah, Franky then has to pass another night in jail! Although the concert was a real treat for our battered ears in that it certainly wasn’t too loud, Sean kept to the rules. He played until a quarter to eleven, so allowing himself to add two encores to the set just in time for curfew.
Part two starts out with a homage to T-Bone Walker, the Texas shuffle blues man. The funny I Know Your Wig Is Gone allows the band members once more to give it all they’ve got in dashing solo parts. ‘I’ve Got A Gypsy Woman’ is Sean’s homage to New Orleans. The song thrives on a hypnotising drum beat, despite its requited nature, and is a highlight in the second set. ‘Take A Little Walk With Me’ is played as a tribute to Sean’s great example and tutor, Robert Lockwood Jr.. Sean states the song is almost sixty years old! With ‘If You See My Baby’ the trio presents another new song. Afterwards we’re told that the band had written the tune, just the evening before, in their hotel room, making this execution a first. James Milton Campbell Jr. better known as Little Milton, gets his shuffle too.
‘All These Words’ stems from the live CD, ‘Monday Blues’ reminds us of the creamy sound and singing of the great Duke Robillard. Through ‘Call My Job’ (well known in the version of Watermelon Slim but penned by Emery Williams) Sean brings to memory that it’s Tuesday tomorrow, and so working day for most of us. ‘This Is My Life‘ and ‘Why Do You Lie’ end up this marathon, performed without loss of focus or energy. Indeed, with a short break, this concert lasts from a quarter past eight up to eleven o’clock, almost three hours of continuous great music.
The two encores do not serve as a mere chill out. In ‘Keep On Blessing Me’ (that Carney recorded with Nick Curran) our Ohio man plays always less loudly until you can’t almost hear anything at all. The audience listens in total silence, forgetting to breathe: you could have heard a mouse running round the house! Second encore comes from ‘Provisions’. The perfect choice as ‘You Know-Yeah’ is a joyous homage to life itself: ,,Baby, let’s live it up today’’ With Sean Carney’s utterly refined blues in our heads that can’t be a problem. Franky had said it beforehand: ‘’Sean Carney isn’t 35, he’s… 85’’. Who are we to not agree with our Big Manitou?
Antoine Légat (Dutch/Flemish original January 29th 2010; this translation March 16th 2010)
PS Just as sadly missed Sean Costello had started up a fund for the scientific research on bipolar disorders (see www.seancostellofund.org ), Sean Carney, once a blues journalist and a concert organiser (he did gigs with Jimmy Witherspoon and Charles Brown, amongst others), began Blues For Cure, about which he said nothing during the concert (see www.bluesforcure.org ), a fine initiative indeed! Blues For Cure lets blues artists perform according to certain outlines and all gains go to cancer research. Carney’s family has been confronted with the disease at several occasions, as can be read on Sean’s site. In January a double live jam Blues For Cure CD should have been released (check it out on YouTube) Carney here cites John Lee Hooker: ,,Blues is the healer’’, something we can all agree with!