Tuesday 23rd May 2023
The Beaverwood, Chislehurst, Kent
Yet another thoroughly enjoyable evening spent in the company of very underrated Southern Rockers Skinny Molly, returning to The Beaverwood for the second of six UK dates before heading off for eight dates in the Czech Republic and Germany.
Formed in 2004 by current bandleader, guitarist, vocalist and engaging raconteur Mike Estes, drummer Kurt Pietro and the late Dave Hlubeck (whilst the latter was between two spells with another band of his formation, Molly Hatchet), the original intention of a single European tour soon turned into into something more permanent. The current lineup, completed by Jay Johnson (guitar/vocals) and Luke Bradshaw (bass/vocals), has been in place since 2008 and, with the exception of Johnson's predecessor Chris Walker appearing on 2005's debut release 'No Good Deed', have been the recording musicians on the band's two other releases to date, 2012's 'Haywire Riot' and 2014's 'Here For A Good Time'.
With the service put in by members to other bands (Estes had a spell with Lynyrd Skynyrd and he, Pietro and Johnson all had a stint in Blackfoot), it is customary to expect some covers from those bands catalogues... and tonight was no exception, with six (or seven depending on your viewpoint) tracks from those bands, plus a few extras... some expected... some a bit less so :-)
With no support, and after having chewed the musical cud for an hour or so with a very healthy Beaverwood gathering, it was time to 'Shut Up & Rock' as these original Tennessee titans kicked off with this loosener from the aforementioned 'Haywire Riot', despite MC's prediction it would be Skynyrd's 'Working for MCA'! The classic riff of another original, the title track off the very apt, 'Here For A Good Time', was followed by their first cover, Steve Earle's 'The Other Kind', amusingly introduced by the Pork Pie hatted Estes, at his supposed shock of discovering the name for the yellow crops aligning our motorways! You work it out.
Cue of course, 'Two Good Wheels', another original from 'HFAGT', with their spot on harmonies, before their own delicious take on Free's 'Wishing Well', a classic that was also covered by Blackfoot. Pietro's drum solo paved the way for more amusing band member introductions, so it was no surprise, given the incestuous nature of Skinny, Hatchet and Skynyrd, that we learnt that Estes actually played with himself, before they launched into the gloriously entitled, and another original from 'HFAGT', 'When the Going Gets Tough The Tough Go Fishin'. Brilliant. It was at this juncture that I realised that the set list, kindly captured by our erstwhile photographer, Les Linyard, was the one that this fun band used on their opening night at Derby's The Flowerpot! Hence the deviation, as they missed out Skynyrd's 'Cry For The Bad Man' and jumped to 'Me and the Devil Himself' from their debut, 'No Good Deed'.
One of the unexpected covers of the night followed - 'Dead Flowers', from The Rolling Stones revered 1971 album, 'Sticky Fingers.' Probably completely irrelevant as it was likely chosen because it's a great song that they enjoy playing, but there is a bit of a tenuous connection with this one: whilst the latter half of the album was recorded later elsewhere, the early sessions took place at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. And none other than Jay's dad, Jimmy - one of the famed Swampers (who'd receive the normal namecheck later in the evening in one of the Skynyrd tracks) who formed Muscle Shoals studio - was the credited engineer for those recordings. The connection falls apart a bit as 'Dead Flowers' was not one of the tracks recorded in the Muscle Shoals sessions... but 'Brown Sugar' and 'Wild Horses' were... just a small part of the massive legacy of the Swampers and Muscle Shoals.
The foot-tapping JJ Cale penned/Skynyrd cover, 'Call Me The Breeze', not only deservedly resulted in lots of "oohs" plus hand-clapping from the Marquee faithful, but also saw a wonderful solo from the flat capped Johnson, who looked more like a Cockney geezer than a son of Muscle Shoals! Another Steve Earle cover saw the "fifth Skinny Molly", Stretch, as usual, join the fab four on mandolin for the magnificent 'Copperhead Road', followed by the first Blackfoot cover of the night, 'On The Run'. Two more 'Haywire Riot' originals were then reeled off, namely 'Devil In The Bottle and 'After You', the former seeing a stand out solo from Estes, with the latter showcasing the energy and backbone of both the cowboy hatted Bradshaw on bass plus the effortless Pietro on drums.
Blackfoot's 'Train Train' was understandably overshadowed by the familiar intro to Skynyrd's classic 'Sweet Home Alabama', that unsurprisingly had everyone singing along. Two final originals, 'Better Than I Should' from 'NGD' and 'For Y'all' from 'HFAGT', were the meat in the sandwich for the predictable encore of another Lynyrd classic, 'Freebird'. In fact I was thankful that I had videoed 'For Y'all', instead of this gargantuan epic, given I wasn't sure my raised arm would have lasted out for the thirteen, albeit, exquisite minutes. although those punters who left to catch their bus during the now hatless Mike's amazing solo, was a bit like (using another football analogy I'm afraid), leaving before the penalty shoot-out.
Indeed, Estes perfectly summed up tonight in his intro to 'For Y'all', "It's about you, each and everyone of you. Bet you didn't know you had a song written about you, did you? It's about people who will come out and put their ass in a building and watch a Rock band on a Tuesday night. And we really, really appreciate it." So did we Mike. And if y'all looking for your next fix of Southern Rock, then make sure to bring your asses down to this very same venue for Molly Hatchet on Thursday 29th June.
AJ & Mark C (Photos Les Linyard)