The Hitman Blues Band

Tuesday 26th July 2022

The Red Arrows Music Club, Ramsgate

This was an evening that brought about two pleasant new experiences, a new band I hadn’t seen before and a brand new venue based down in sunny Ramsgate that with the right support should build up a big following. Anyone that starts a Blues club deserves huge kudos, especially in these times of doom and gloom. Promoter Geoff Pine kicked things off earlier this year with some top acts like The Cinelli Brothers already gracing the stage there, and more excellent groups are booked for the rest of the year. To top it off the venue serves ridiculously well priced (and very lush) beer from the local Gadds Brewery. With its welcoming atmosphere, it’s a nothing to dislike situation. I’ll be going back and I’d highly recommend checking it out.

From what I’d briefly heard of the band in advance (thanks to Spotify) I was looking forward to seeing what they could produce live and, boy, they didn’t disappoint. The New York band are led by frontman Russell ‘Hitman’ Alexander, who sings and plays lead guitar superbly well and immediately caught the eye in trademark undertaker’s hat, long black jacket and shades. As well as delivering a set of killer songs the band exuded personality in spades and the Hitman had a nice line in dryly amusing between song patter. Mike Porter on bass had already schmoozed his way around the audience before the show and just about charmed everybody, so the scene had been set.

You can’t beat a three piece horn section to provide that authentic soulful groove as well as full on brass power; while the New York Horns may have looked like they’ve been picking up their pensions for many a year, they certainly knew their stuff. Saxophonist Tex Protheroe gave off a distinctly Vietnam vet vibe in his headband, but he blew some really sassy smooth solos. The Hitman describes their music as “modern Blues music”. In that respect they definitely stand apart from the herd by the quality of their original songs, which are gloriously witty as well as profound.

They similarly take traditional Blues numbers and give them a completely fresh and radical twist that breathes new life into them, several of which they played on the night such as their take on ‘Hootchie Koochie Man’, which was enjoyably unrecognisable. The fast shuffle of 'Blues Enough' was introduced as being written in riposte to comments that they didn’t play the Blues. It really couldn’t have been more Bluesy.

Playing mainly numbers from their last two studio albums 'Not My Circus, Not my Monkey' and 'The World Moves On', the band delivered a superbly balanced set. The song ‘That’s What It’s Like To Be A Man’, played early on, has to be one of the very best to describe male sexual frustration and is an absolute modern Blues classic. In fact, both these albums are total gems and have been played on repeat since the gig. The title track to 'Not My Circus' is another classic number. If all the bands trudging around the Blues circuit wrote numbers anywhere near the quality of these two, attending blues gigs would be far more entertaining.

Great original songs and superb interpretations - their version of ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ was a horn driven funky blast. This was one classy act. Catch them when they’re next over. In the meantime, feast on their studio albums, they’re excellent; perhaps stick them on in the car as you drive down to Ramsgate to see what the Red Arrow Music Club has to offer.

Simon Green