Home Gigs Gig Review: Laurence Jones with support from Brave Rival Destination Unknown Tour – Cheese & Grain, Frome

Gig Review: Laurence Jones with support from Brave Rival Destination Unknown Tour – Cheese & Grain, Frome

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

We last caught Laurence Jones live for a stupendous headlining set at Upton Blues Festival back in July. Not long off tour supporting the mighty Quo it was pretty damn evident the massive effect those dates had had upon this most humble of six-stringers.

That sultry Saturday evening alongside the River Severn, at the intersection of Waterside and High Street, Jones and his band played an absolute stormer sending tidal-waves up and downstream on Great Britain’s longest river. A highly polished application upon a talent beyond doubt shone brightly and flawlessly as dragonflies danced skittishly alongside the majestic watercourse.

This evening, exchanging riparian rocking for that a bit more rustic, Laurence and his band head to the Cheese & Grain. Tucked in behind Frome’s grandiose sandstone buildings that tumble sinuously to the river that bears the same name this venue has garnered a healthy reputation for hosting the best acts from near and far. From the Foo Fighters to Kris Barras plenty stirs herein. It’s always a pleasurable task to head across the leafy Mendips to Frome; the tinges of fall-for-real beginning to replace those of the ‘false autumn’ that the lack of precipitation has brought about.

Having blown us away upon our first encounter at Bilston Blues at Wolverhampton’s Robin 2 venue it’s a brave and assured choice of support in the form of rapidly ascending Portsmouth outfit Brave Rival. Their debut album ‘Life’s Machine’ is swiftly cementing itself as one of my personal favourite releases of the year. Yes, it’s that good! Nominated for Best Emerging Blues Band at the UK Blues Awards this is an outfit to take note of.

They possess a compelling, captivating dynamic that emanates not just the blues which forms their nucleus, but they can rock with the best whilst adding a dash of soul and a touch of funk.
They have their idols in musical terms which shine as brightly as Sirius, but they meld them into their very own intoxicating draught elixir.

For 45 minutes this evening they set about entrancing the gathered assembly here in Frome with an assured confidence. From the opening riffs and beats of the effervescent album opener ‘Heart Attack’ to the fading of the final notes of the guilt-drenched, sultry southern rocker ‘What’s Your Name Again?’ attention is guaranteed.

The immediate focal point is the sublime vocal pairing of Chloe Josephine and Lindsey Bennick but there’s much more to this quintet beyond the unquestionable chemistry and understanding between these fine singers. The indestructible bedrock of drummer Donna Peters and Billy Dedman, formerly partners in beat with Albany Down, provides an unwavering platform for the fret-mastery of Ed ‘The Shred’ Clarke to weave a potent incantation.

Be it the tilt of the collective headwear to the iconic past masters or taking a 21st century take on the blues Brave Rival are equally adept. “I’m channelling Aretha” states Chloe before blasting into the soulful ‘Fool Of You’ whilst a melding of Rebecca Downes and King King comes through in ‘Guilty Love.’

A stunning reworking of the legendary Etta James’ 1988 release ‘Damn Your Eyes’ sets an early high bar before the blues-driven rollercoaster hits top gear with the incendiary ‘Run and Hide.’ Muscling in with a gritty 12 bar six-string intro the band barrel along in an Amorettes/Girlschool vibe before switching effortlessly to a chorus with a redolence of the anthemic best of Heart and Roxette. Ever pondered what alloying Heart and Fleetwood Mac would sound like? Running in the shadows we have the Wilson sisters nestling alongside Nicks, Buckingham et al. The sheer magic however is that this five-piece’s efforts are yielding their very own identity.

A fanbase is quickly building and the band are clearly forming a bond between themselves and their ‘Bravians’ with good friend Colin getting a shout-out for his t-shirt bearing the names of all five band-members.

Nice touch! The closing ‘morning after the night before’ pairing of the Gary Moore-infused blues of ‘Come Down’ – the next and final single from the debut long-player – and the honey-sweet slide guitar of ‘What’s Your Name Again?’ brings the curtain down on an outstanding performance. Once seen there’s no danger of anyone forgetting this band’s name.

Make no bones about it for these are rocks that the aspirations of many a headliner to come will be dashed upon. However, this evening’s top bill act is hewn from the very same rich vein that our opening act has been extracted from. It’s been producing high-grade blue-rock for some time including highly valuable nuggets like Laurence Jones.

Born on the fringes of Liverpool Jones picked up his first guitar before the end of his first decade and before too long, inspired by his father’s vinyl collection, he had formed his own blues trio. Nowadays, seven albums into his career, this affable, instantly likeable chap is signed to Marshall Records and endorsed by Marshall Amplification and Paul Reed Smith Guitars (PRS). Massive seals of approval of the talent possessed.

The, as ever, imperturbable Jones strides on stage and before striking a note he lends his support to his opening act “Before we go any further a big hand for Brave Rival. The best support band we’ve had for a while!” All within the Cheese & Grain recognise the genuine sincerity in this appreciation.

Kicking off with the hard riffing of ‘Anywhere With Me’ – the opening track of the recently released and, rightfully, critically acclaimed ‘Destination Unknown’ album – the quartet are into their stride with consummate ease.

The majestically swirling Hammond keys of Bennett Holland entwine about the silken tones of Laurence’s green and white PRS SE Silver Sky whilst the rocksteady rhythm section of Brummies Jack Alexander Timmis (bass) and Samuel Jenkins (drums) lay down an edifying base.

Although the latest album was released in mid-September this quartet have been airing various numbers, including this evening’s set-opener, from the album throughout the year. Including several during a seraphic performance at Planet Rock’s Winter’s End festival back in March.

A metaphorical subdivision of the pound should have dropped when the head-nodding Quo-edged ‘Can’t Keep From Loving You’ – the second track off ‘Destination Unknown’ – follows. The feelgood chorus is infectious and there’s a touch of Cream within. Hard driving ‘Give Me That Feeling’ is indicative of the course Laurence is plotting, navigating a similar course to his fellow peers Kris Barras and Jack J. Hutchinson dabbling in the rockier elements and alloying an edgy blues with this high-grade rock.

Slick notage from Laurence’s fret and Holland’s keys usher in the masterpiece ‘Tonight.’ Clapton-infused to the core this epic blues-ballad is destined to be a crowd favourite. The ten-minute extended version that ended that aforementioned Winter’s End set will live long in the memory.

Encouraging Bennett to “Give it some” Laurence and the band give ‘Tonight’ an extended outro in Lynyrd Skynrd fashion with the six-stringer, broadly smiling, raising a right-handed V to salute the Frome crowd. He proclaims that “I’ve not been to Frome for about ten years.

I’ve grown a beard since!” The polished ‘I Won’t Lie Again’ is followed a heart-tugging bluesy number entitled ‘Holding Back.’ Laurence takes time to explain that he wrote this emotive number with his fiancée Amy Eftekhari; dedicating it to her.

The propulsive ‘In Too Deep’ is settling well into the setlist. Its up-tempo nature goes down well. It’s not until Laurence states “This is the title track. That’s the whole album” that the blooming penny descends and flicking back through my notes and scanning online it dawns on me that we’ve been treated to a play-through of the entirety of ‘Destination Unknown’ in track order. Sterling stuff indeed, 55 fulgent minutes that have captivated.

The remaining third of the set is rounded off by tracking back to 2012. “Are you feeling the music?” enquires Laurence. “Take you back to where it began for me.” With overtures of the late, great Gary Moore and a wondrous dollop of Pink Floyd the spellbinding ‘Thunder In The Skies’ has stood the passage of time well. Crowd favourite ‘What’s It Gonna Be’ gallops hard as does the Quo-infused rocker ‘Foolin’ Me.’ Laurence’s passion for Hendrix dazzles with set-staple ‘Purple Haze’ a showstopper.

“Do you want one more?” Laurence asks. Of course we do! “This is your last chance to sing” he encourages. ‘Move On’ wraps up a cracking 90-minute set that leaves one and all wanting more. Salivating we wander out into the warm night air with goosebumps standing to attention military-style. This evening we have bore witness to two of the finest modern-day exponents of blues-rock.

Photography Kelly Spiller for MPM

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