WRC Xmas Bash - Albany Down + Southbound
Wednesday 2nd December 2015
The Horn, St. Albans
Well the WRC knew exactly what we would get musically with two class bands at our Christmas Bash at The Horn in St. Albans last Wednesday night. But did the lead up to Christmas, the Santa hats and the mistletoe add that extra bit of magic? Well we had previously seen Southbound supporting Shooter at their album launch gig at The Half Moon, Putney in September - hence the reason why they were chosen for this gig. It was also good to see Shooter vocalist/guitarist Dom O'Riley among a strong Southbound following.
Lead guitarist Elliot Stout had tipped us off before the set that their set list would be made up entirely of their own original material and sure enough the evening began with the catchy Skynyrdish 'Lover Boy Blues'. A neat drum intro heralded the funkier Blues of 'Whats A Man Gotta Do' with an even neater solo piece at the end from drummer Aaron Virciglio. 'Come Judgement Day' was sandwiched in between 'Live On' and 'You Got A Hold On Me' - with Elliott not only taking over from Tom Ford on vocals, but also throwing in a mean Blues guitar solo in for good measure. And as for Ford, not only has he got great vocals but he is a great front man - no more evident than on the rockin' 'The Desert' which followed 'Lonely Blues' - which gave shy rythym guitarist Jordan Carter an opportunity to shine with a superb guitar solo, and likewise, excellent bass guitarist Dan Collins for his "arriba" on the Mariachi influenced opening of 'Rock Bottom'. "This is the nearest you are going to get to Rory Gallagher" announced Stout as Southbound launched into their final number 'Book On A Shelf' - the sound from Stout's slide guitar something that Rory would have no doubt smiled down at. No 'Georgia Peach' but what the hell - a great start to the evening. The Christmas magic had begun!
London-based Blues-Rock band Albany Down were lauded for their stellar performance at this year's WRC BluesRockFest and consequently asking them to headline this gig was a no-brainer. As they made their way on to the Horn stage it was good see that drummer Donna Peters had entered into the spirit of things dressed as an elf which complemented the Santa hats worn by the assembled WRC members - although Dom let the side down by not wearing his pirate hat!
The Eastern mantra intro signalled the appropriately named 'Back Again' from their 2013 album 'Not Over Yet' and then 'Dirty' from their first album 'South Of The City' left those who had not seen Albany Down before in no doubt of the strength of their material and also how formidable they are as a unit. The distinctive 'Man Like Me' from 'NOY' reinforced the charisma of front man Paul Muir on vocals and how inspirational Paul Turley is on lead guitar particularly when they dropped down a gear with the Bluesy 'You Ain't Coming Home This Time' - also from NOY - with it's Zeppish 'Since I've Been Loving You' intro influence. 'She's The Light' and 'Travelling Blues' (both from NOY) emphasised the other half of Albany Down - drums energetically driven by the elf herself - Donna Peters plus the cool Billy Dedman on bass guitar. It was then time to test the water with some new material from the new third album currently in production - although 'Mr. Hangman' was aired at BluesRockfest in July. Paul introduced 'I Won't Wait' from 'SOTC' with the anecdote that it was released in 2011 - the last time the guys played The Horn!
The brand new 'Revolution' was debuted before we were back on familiar ground with the groovy 'My Lucky Streak' from 'NOY'. Hendrix's amazing 'Voodoo Chile' was almost the only cover on the night - Turley more than doing this epic justice. Two more new tracks 'Rock & Roll' and 'Feeding The Flame' still kept the momentum going before they rounded of an excellent set with two final tracks from 'SOTC' - 'I Wanna Know' and finally the stand-out title track - with its give-away slide guitar intro and riff. Of course Santa checked out who in the audience had been naughty and nice and we all subsequently received an encore prezzie in the form of: Albany Down in Santa hats, the cover 'Let It Snow' (which it did thanks to the snow machine) and the rockin' title track 'Not Over Yet' - which - despite its name - brought proceedings sadly to an end! All in all a great night from two outstanding and very friendly bands - we must really try and celebrate Christmas like this every year!