Review and Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
Another busy Saturday and I’m on my way back to the West Midlands for a night of pure Rock n Roll mayhem.
The Commoners are over from Ontario Canada promoting their latest offering ‘Find A Better Way’, the singles form the album have made it onto a Planet Rock playlist recently.
The exciting tour is tinged with sadness as, drummer, Adam Cannon, sadly lost his father whilst the band toured the UK. Heartfelt Condolences go out to Adam, his family and the band.
With that aside, as hard as it is, the band are killing it on their debut UK tour. The Asylum2 is a small intimate venue with a cap of around 100, it’s good to see that there is a good crowd in for this amazing Co-headline show with the UK’s very own King of Slide, Mr Troy Redfern.
Switching it around as the tour progresses, ‘The Commoners’ are first up tonight. They make their way through the crowd to the small stage and amidst cheers from the good crowd set about a ferocious set of scintillating Canadian Blues Rock.
Kicking their set off with ‘More Than Mistakes’, they hit the ground running with this bouncy number from the new album. With a familiar sounding lick punctuating the slide guitar from Ross Hayes Citrullo, and the dynamic vocals of front man Chris Medhurst have the crowd nodding along, very happily.
The groove is rooted in southern rock but you sense there are other influences as ‘Find A Better Way’ the title track of the new long player fills your aural senses. The guitar is off of Medhurst as he hits the ‘jazz hands’ whilst delivering a soul full lyric.
The keys are swirling from Miles Evans-Branagh, he’s tucked away in the back corner of the cramped stage that is overflowing with a sound stage that isn’t too far away from the Black Crows or even Dirty Honey. I guess reading other reviews there will be mentions of more bands, and to be fair they’re all right. This Canadian troupe have tapped into a great sound and are having fun pushing the boundary’s without being cliché.
Adam cannon is pulling the faces as he thumps around his kit as ‘Devil Teasin’ me’ carries on the galloping groove. Bassist, Ben Spiller is happily smiling away, his locks trapped by his hat which during the course of the all to brief set will come off. Midhurst’s stunning vocal has touches of Phil Campbell, not the Welsh geezer of Motorhead fame but the Glaswegian frontman, in fact the movements and body language behind the microphone have the brought the similarities to mind, a great singer, both of them.
The night continues with Citrullo grabbing a violin bow for the intro to ‘Body and Soul’, the steady drawing across the strings of his sunburst Les Paul have the emotions stirring it’s a delicious sound that works, there’s a thunderous bass riff and drum riff that slams alongside it, the drawn bow is replaced by a fat slide run of slow licks as Medhurst laments slowly, the guitar is curling around his smokey vocal.
This is a stunning track and worthy a listen, full of jazz club smokiness throughout, combined with that soul full lyric. The breakdown, the guitar on the edge, controlled Ooosh, lovely, I like this one a lot!
The night continues with the crowd’s heads nodding and some dad dancing behind me. The groove laid down by these Colonials has captured the room as the band salute Birmingham and Troy and the band. There is a brief mention of the previous hard times mentioned and the room salutes, rightly so. Adam has a can and enjoys the love and the cool swallow of beer before thrashing away into ‘Who Are You’ and ‘Naturally’, a country inspired ballad which has some beautifully sung lyrics.
The guitar is restrained again as, eyes closed, Medhurst proves he’s more than a one trick pony. The album has Chantelle Williams, Shezelle Weekes and Tash Lorayne on backing vocals, Oh and as an aside Ben Spiller plays piano on the recorded version. ‘Deadlines’ picks up the dirty grit, and, in a laid-back way, continues to impress the crowd with a solid Marshall Tucker, Allman Brothers vibe. Soaring guitar reminds you that you’re listening to a Blues Rock band.
Jimmy Page is back in the room as the violin bow is drawn across a red SG guitar this time. The penultimate song ‘Hangin’ on Again’ draws on the southern Blues Rock sound, there are heavy influences of Melissa in the vibe as this one cracks out, it’s all the better for this stunning harmonised guitar sound. The slide guitar cuts through like a warm knife through butter, not hot enough to burn but enough to make it spread out all warm and comforting.
The keys fill in any gaps giving them a massive sound stage, a great addition to the usual four piece, one that works and should be kept moving forward. The guitar from Citrullo is exceptional, a man of few expressions and emotions lets his playing do the talking, and wow he’s on the money.
The night is finished with the gargantuan ‘Fill My Cup’. I say gargantuan as Citrullo reduces the breakdown of this ballad-esque set finisher into an extended 8minute jam of pure delight, Medhurst is watching him for clues to where he’s going as Spiller and Evans-Branagh are both heads down grooving, the drums have a building snare roll that has Citrullo aching back, Les Paul pointing to the sky as he screams out a lick or three.
Halfway through Medhurst gets to sing a bit before the guitar of Citrullo, tucked in tight starts to wind up as Medhurst and Citrullo face each other for some cheeky string bends before Ross departs and is runs his fingers down into the dirty end, feet stamping as he riffs and throws some licks out there. Medhurst brings it all back in line, and with a flurry of drums the song finishes to some great cheers from the crowd.
A stunning set, and as they lads pack down their kit, they find time to chat to the fans who are eager to talk to them.
These are a band to catch if and when you get the chance, they have the chops, the voice and the ‘tunes’ to really go places, it’ll be nice to catch them again, hopefully in the not to distant future.
While the stage is cleaned down, its bathed in the dreaded red light, looks good and gives everyone amazing skin, but it’s a swine to photograph.
As the band clear away, Troy’s lovely wife, Emma, comes over and say’s hello, I finally get to meet Troy’s partner after chatting on social media. We have a mutual close friend who unfortunately is at a wedding so couldn’t attend tonight’s show. Yes, it’s my old mukka ‘Waldorf’.
With red light being a thing, I have a word with Troy, we then chat to the lighting guy and we’re good to go. Troy is joined tonight with faithful Finn McAuley on drums and the amazing Kiera Kenworthy on bass guitar. I’ve seen Troy, live several times but up until tonight I’ve never managed to grab the trio so this is going to be ‘electric’ in more ways than one.
With the band all set up on stage it’s time for the headline to destroy us with a set of slide guitar that is second to none. Troy Redfern is hailed as the King of British Slide Guitar, I’d go one better and say he’s high up in the top 10 on the global circuit, certainly in the same, small room as the like of the revered Derek Truks.
With lightning-fast licks he’s up and down the next of his fender guitar, his signature bottleneck is working hard as it squeals in delight, his dark appearance belies his gentle nature, dressed in his trademark custom made hat, leather waistcoat and sleeveless shirt, his fretting arm is a sleeve of ink, whilst his chest is covered by native American beaded jewellery. He stands behind the microphone, an intimidating, fearless figure as he’s backlight in fire red.
A scorching break on the guitar and enough energy to power a small village, the set kicks off with new song, ‘All Night Long’, the new album is due out in the Autumn, and continues, quickly with ‘Sweet Carolina’ from the latest album ‘Wings of Salvation’ a copy of which I already having in my collection, and pretty damn good it is too, and it’s followed up with ‘Come On’, again from the new album, Troy keeps the abuse flowing as we have yet another guitar change, that’s three so far. He’s back and forth across the front of the stage, the heat is high as he rocks out.
As the band leader, he keeps a watchful eye on Finn and Kiera, who, tonight, is taking on the backing vocals, as she makes an easy job of wielding that impressive Fender Jazz bass guitar. She and Troy lock in tight as Finn is flailing behind the kit, his hair is flying around as he pummels the skins, as abusively as Troy is hitting his strings. The slide comes at you with the subtleness of a runaway freight train, its pretty obvious that Troy is something special, his style is effortless if disgustingly dirty.
‘Dark Religion’ has a great Tarantino, Spaghetti western flavour and rolls nice in the set. Keira is rocking out making faces as the thundering bass line pulses along into another new song, ‘the Native’ another explosive demonstration of both Troy’s playing and song writing.
The latest album offers up ‘Down’ next another primal delivery of dirty vocals and scorching guitar work. His energy is bubbling over into the crowd as their heads are nodding along to the rhythmical beats laid down by Finn and Kiera.
The sonic slide riffs opens the tune wide with the precision of a surgeon such is Troy’s skill. The ‘batman-esque’ ‘Scorpio’ takes over, this is from ‘The Fire Cosmic’ a cracking album that features none other than Sons of Apollo axeman, ‘Bumblefoot’. This is yet another sonically mesmerising tune. Troy throws his soul at it, whilst the solid beat from Finn and Keira continue to keep everything on track, Troy’s back and forth his boundless energy seems relentless as he continues to slide and riff like a demon.
Up next, we get a brace of new numbers destined for the forthcoming, but as yet un-named album. ‘The Fever’, released as a single, with its laid-back vibe and searing slide and ‘The Strange’ a tune I’d not come across until tonight, equally as disgustingly great and a treat to hear live prior to the record release, it’s a banger full of tasty hooks and sumptuous, dirty slide.
Speaking of which ‘Waiting for Your Love’ kicks off with a nasty slide before we get a good listen to Troy’s smoke filled gritty vocal, he’s got as many voices as his overdriven Magnatone amp, the distortion makes it borderline annoying, this man does it all so bloody easily, making us pure mortals feel inferior.
The night concludes with one of my favourite Redfern tracks, the mighty ‘Sanctify’, with its fast riff intro and cross stick snare it fair rattles along, another tune that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino romp.
With the sweat pouring from his face, he and the band turn up the heat and grind out a stunning finale. The band have played a blinder, and judging by the applause he’s gone down a storm.
Having seen troy several times I’ve got to admit that he is a force to be reckoned with, equal to anything from across the pond, the nice thing about his music is that its unmistakably Troy Redfern and he is one of ours..and bloody brilliant to boot!