Danny Bryant + Kelvin Davies
Friday 20th September 2019
Dingwalls, Camden, London
Danny Bryant, the critically acclaimed British Blues Rock guitarist, released his eleventh studio album, 'Means of Escape' last Friday, and to support its release, Danny is now out on the road in October in the UK, which included a launch gig at London's Dingwalls in Camden on the same night night. Apart from Danny’s immense guitar playing and gravel style vocal, he’s also taken the reigns as producer for the first time at the Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, with the songs crossing the Atlantic to be mixed by Eddie Spear in Nashville (Rival Sons/U2) and mastered in London at Abbey Road by Sean Magee (Gary Moore/Rolling Stones), to help craft an album that he has been waiting his whole career to create, featuring nine tracks of blistering Blues Rock of the highest calibre. Anyway with the sad closure of The Pride - a stone's throw away from Dingwalls - plus more recently The Borderline and The Big Red - it was great to be back at one of my favourite, and one of London's most picturesque venues on a beautiful Summer's evening, opening with a great unplugged support set from Kelvin Davies. A traditional Country Blues and ragtime musician, with a British Folk vibe, the moustachioed acoustic guitarist Davies and his bearded bespectacled harmonica side-kick Gary, effortlessly transported us back in time including 'Kimbie' and 'Sick, Sad And Lonesome' in their delicate set.
The first time we saw Danny Bryant was on the big man's birthday at a very wet Ramblin' Man Fair in 2015 - Bryant immediately endearing himself to the crowded Blues tent by saying that he either had all of a sudden become very popular or it was the fact that that everyone wanted to get out of the rain! Well it was definitely a case of the former given Danny’s ‘Temperature Rising’ album, at the time, had been nominated in the British Blues Awards. Personally - one of my top three sets of that day, although the last time we caught Danny was in August last year on the Planet Rock Stage at Olympia's British Beer Festival in London, where of course we were not only there to sample the beer but also the musical fare, where Bryant's set, whether you were a fan or a virgin, was the highlight of the day.
I suppose it was no coincidence when the big man stepped on stage with his red strat and matching belt, that his opener was taken from 2016's 'Blood Money', namely 'Holding All The Cards', with Bryant's cool fret work immediately complemented by the Blues circuit legendary keys of the very talented Stevie Watts, previously of Danny's Big Band and who we had the pleasure of seeing at the aforementioned Beer Festival. This fusion of Bryant and Watts pretty much set the scene for the rest of the set as Danny welcomed the healthy audience before launching into the slower but superb 'Guntown' from 'Temperature Rising' - the stand out from that wet but memorable Maidstone tent four years ago. Cue the infamous Bryant solo grimace, thankfully not for the last time tonight. It was then time for Danny to debut a brace from 'Means Of Escape'. Whilst some of the Blues Rockers of recent years are moving to a more mainstream Rock direction, the awesome combination of Bryant and Watts were sticking to their guns, firing loud and proud on the Walter Trout influenced 'Tired Of Trying'. And talking of influences, hints of 'All Along The Watchtower' followed, in the make-up of the album's title track, which no doubt had the Blues Rock radio Police salivating in their cheap seats.
Following the pure Blues of 'On The Rocks', another from Blood Money, there was further affirmation from Danny, if you needed it, that 'Means Of Escape' was pulling in the right Blues Rock direction with 'Too Far Gone', and as Bryant peered menacingly into the crowd during an unbelievable and explosive solo, no one would dare disagree with him. Danny's heavy Blues rhythm machine continued with 'Warning Signs (In Her Eyes)' plus 'Hurting Time', both from the new album, the latter not only seeing Danny unleash the slide guitar technique he is well know for, but also some masterclass keys from Stevie. Another Bryant classic, 'Painkiller', from 2013's 'Hurricane' saw Danny's excellent vocal bookended by Watts' sumptuous keys intro and, of course, another exquisite Bryant outro. 'Take Me Higher', another Rocker from 'Temperature Rising' did exactly what it said on the tin, before Watts piano intro on 'Means Of Escape's epic awesome closing instrumental track 'Mya', delightfully gave Bryant another opportunity to excel on another guitar solo. Job accomplished and a slam dunk for experimentation by Danny's Big Band. Looking forward to that.
From a new classic to an old classic, namely Bryant's RedEye Band's 2009 debut album 'Watching You' and 'Heartbreaker'. Not only a chance for Bryant with his hunched style and gurning facials to effortlessly churn out another outstanding Blues guitar solo, but also an opportunity for Bryant to showcase and introduce the backbone of his band - namely Dave Raeburn on drums and Paul Mallatratt on bass guitar - which was well deserved. The band finished off their set with two songs from 'Means Of Escape', perhaps the song of the album, 'Nine Lives', hitting deep into riff country, and lastly, Watts' piano intro on the ballad 'Where The River Ends', think of Gary Moore territory. And to complete a memorable evening - why not an encore a cover of Booker T. And The M.G.'s 'Green Onions'? Needless to say Watts was in overdrive! The fact that, disappointingly in Danny's set, there was no 'Prisoner Of The Blues' nor anything off his last album 'Revelation', was on the other hand testament to the depth and strength of Bryant's ever-growing back-catalogue. Not only that, but we were enjoying the set so much, I had to keep reminding myself that I was doing this review! Anyway, don't just take my word for it - make sure you find a 'Means Of Escape' to catch Danny at one of his UK dates this October!
AJ (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)