Reviews 2007

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Chickenbone John & Ken Stratford
Bryn Phillips 19 October 2007

Blues evenings don't happen often at the Woodman. The last I can remember was Ian Goodsman and before him Eddie Walker, back in the nineties. Sometimes we have a bit of blues mixed in with other material but tonight we had pure blues, played by Chickenbone John and Ken Stratford – a rare event in folk clubs. The first thing that I noticed was the rack of guitars. John is not only an outstanding guitarist he also makes guitars and amongst the acoustic and resonator guitars was a little guitar made out of a cigar box that beats anything I’ve seen Bo Diddley playing – it’s one of a kind – well actually one of quite a few because John sells them on Ebay!  

They started off with a powerful rendition of Ian Siegal’s “Meat and Potatoes”, which set the tone for the evening. Great guitar work and vocals from John and a driving double bass from Ken. From early in the set, it was clear that this duo were very versatile. All sorts of styles, from lap slide, to country blues picking to heavy Chicago blues distortion and then all the way to the delicate “almost-jazz” chords of T-Bone Walker. I was impressed by the variety of material. We had Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen” and “Crossroads”,  Lightning Hopkin’s “Shotgun Blues”, John Lee Hooker’s “Groundhog Blues” and Muddy Waters’ “Rich Man’s Woman”. One of my favourites was Bukka White’s “Jitterbug Swing” which was very reminiscent of Catfish Keith.

John did a couple of numbers solo. An incredible version of John the Revelator, with a few verses I’d never heard before and an intense rendition of St James Infirmary, with a very effective lap slide accompaniment. In the second half they invited our very own Steve “Potato Chip Walker” on stage for a few numbers which drew an enthusiastic response from the audience, especially in “Sweet Home Chicago”.

I’m always interested in the encores people choose. Some acts make the mistake of finishing on a strong number and then give a weak encore, other acts save their best for the encore and keep their fingers crossed that they’ll be asked. John and Ken just kept up the good work. The encore was a good as anything they had played during the evening – it was Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, featuring some amazing slide guitar playing. Couldn't have been better.