Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
With a Mississippi-style exterior The Louisiana has been at the heart of Bristol’s vibrant live music scene for over 35 years.
To think it all came about by chance following a fire at The Fleece back in 1996. Local promoters sourcing alternatives asked to use the upstairs room and the rest, as they say, is history. In that first week Placebo and Super Furry Animals played and then the venue decided to put in a stage! Since then, the likes of Travis and The White Stripes have graced this venue of high repute.
Originally a terrace of three houses from the early 1800s The Louisiana, nestling on the corner of Bathurst Parade and Wapping Road, is a striking presence here in the heart of Bristol’s former docklands. Sitting opposite the south-eastern perimeter wall of the Old City Gaol it’s quite easy to be transported back to the hey-day of this area when sailing vessels from around the globe lined the waterfronts.
Present day is far more gentrified and there’s a pleasant hub-hub all about. Tonight, Canadian rockers The Commoners and English slide-merchant Troy Redfern roll their respective wagons into town for a mouth-watering evening of delectable, blues-driven rock. It’s a well-constructed 15 date tour with the acts alternating the order of play.
Tonight, it’s the turn of the English Sultan of Slide, Troy Redfern, to get the party started. With an ever-expanding catalogue Troy could be rightfully forgiven for shining a retrospective light upon his recorded output however he opts for a balanced approach, with more than an eye for the future, in his set composition with a healthy five brand spanking new tracks along with a prime selection of cuts from 2022’s ‘Wings Of Salvation’ and the year prior’s ‘The Fire Cosmic.’
The enlisted talents of drummer Finn McAuley (Wille & The Bandits) and bassist Keira Kenworthy (Syteria, JoanOvArc, Sharpshooter, The Kut to name a few) slot around Troy considerably bolstering the ranks. With a “1-2, 1-2-3-4” count-in from Finn we’re purring along the freeway with a new offering in the slick, feline-like form of ‘All Night Long.’ Sparks fly as Troy sets about the fret of his silver Stratocaster with some top-gear gusto slide.
A wee bit perplexed and having to burst out of the shadows Troy asks for some more lighting but none further is forthcoming. Sadly, there’s been problems that have proven unsurmountable so on with the show. The Sultan is in his usual rumbustious form with the raw carnivorous tones of ‘Sweet Carolina’ darkly stalking. Ever the ringmaster Troy is attuned to his band-members slotting into the reassuring rhythm of Keira and Finn. The harmonies that Kiera and Troy share are worthy and their vocals, whilst being so vastly different, complement so well.
With a wild reverberating bass and a hammer of the gods percussive force Troy’s battered, but beautifully crafted, National Guitar Resonator purrs like the hearthside kitty in ‘Come On’ a number that shaves, most respectfully, a bit of that little ol’ band from Texas.
Looking out at a packed to the rafters room Troy comments “We sure gotcha jam-packed in here!” before launching into another new one ‘Get Away’ with a breezy West-coast vibrancy and a hefty fiery ball of slide in its outro the track is well received. “Any reviewers in tonight?” Troy asks as the cheers subside. He explains that a recent review had commented that there “wasn’t much slide!” Colour us all a puzzled shade of bemused.
The flip-flopping between brand-new tracks and material from ‘Wings Of Salvation’ continues apace with the sparkling desert-flavoured ‘Dark Religion’ rolling into the volcanic eruptive power of ‘Native.’ In the middle of the rage of ‘Down’, with a full-blooded feral roar, the triumvirate pounce for the ‘kill.’
Attention turns to the excellent ‘The Fire Cosmic’ with the pedal pushed hard to the floor with the sizzling ‘Scorpio’ threatening to combust at any moment. It’s V8 rockabilly beat lavished, unsparingly, over a blues-fringed underpinning. Growling and snarling Troy, all bare chest, and tattoos, is the epitome of cool under his trademark headwear. With a nod to a glam realm latest single ‘The Fever’ kicks up dust as the fires burn out of control.
The driving slide of ‘The Strange’ gives further tantalising glimpses into the new output due in September. Going on what we’ve witnessed this will sit well with previous releases. Wrapping up a fine hour’s rasping slide and barbequed vocals we’re treated to a steam-rolling brace from ‘The Fire Cosmic; the swash-buckling blues-boogie of ‘Waiting For Your Love’ is a sure-fire rollercoaster are ready made for the soundtrack of a Tarantino blockbuster.
Out in the darkness of the plains the midnight express howls mournfully as the blues-billy rocking of ‘Sanctify’ brings in a delicious snacking upon San Diego’s alt-rockers Rocket
From The Crypt to this corner of Bristol. Nearly two years ago I predicted great things await Troy and I stand by those words. Tours with the likes of The Quireboys, Dare, The Sweet, Robert Jon & The Wreck and When Rivers Meet have stood him in good stead. Championed by Planet Rock, having played Rockstock and Winter’s End, Troy has heavyweights in his corner. Great things are happening.
Toronto-based five-piece The Commoners are the perfect complement to Troy, with tenacious southern grooves and well-mannered blues-rock in their musical locker there’s an awful lot to like about. It’s our first encounter with them and going on tonight’s despatch it’s not going to be our last. Watch out for their return to these shores in October with Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton.
Imagine pouring a finely aged Black Crowes-infused bourbon which has matured in a barrel soaked with the fine airs of The Allman Brothers over a neat double of the finest blues and you’re approaching the correct environs. It’s safe to say that these Canadians have hand-crafted a fine collective of tracks for our listening pleasure.
Demonic voices atop a southern swampland intro usher the quintet onto the shadowy stage. Adam Cannon’s thumping beat is the precursor for guitarist Ross Hays Citrullo whose six-stringing rolls in like the gathering storm. Smoking keys from Miles Evans-Branagh add further elements to the ascendant atmosphere along with bassist Ben Spiller’s articulate control of the low end.
With touches of Robert Jon & The Wreck opening number ‘More Than Mistakes’ bursts into life. The hooks are cast, and the crowd engaged with lead singer Chris Medhurst laying down a marker; hewn from the same vein as the Crowes’ Chris Robinson he’s an expressive presence out front. “Not gonna lead you to the promised land” prove to be completely erroneous as we’ve all been handed a one-way ticket to that very destination.
“How you doing Oxford?” asks a mistaken Chris before he corrects himself with a “Oh Bristol!” as they saunter into the title track from last year’s album ‘Find A Better Way.’ Its heavenly in its southern soul, right now there’s nowhere else I want to be. In self-deprecating tones Chris greets the Louisiana crowd for a second time “Hello Bristol, my mistake it’s been a long tour!” Seven dates in the mid-point of their first UK experience is nearing and geographical bloopers are forgiven in the briefest of moments.
New number ‘Devil Teasing Me’ soothes with a delightful Allman Brothers hard driving tempo atop which Chris delivers vocals with a rasping Joe Cocker edge to them. The crowded room roars in their approval and are at one with the band. Reminiscent of Jimmy Page, out stage left, Ross takes a violin bow to his Les Paul for the brooding accents of ‘Body and Soul’, appropriately a Zeppelin-esque foundation is laid down by his brothers-in-arms. Overall if one imagines Pink Floyd dipped into a bluesy region then the picture begins to paint itself.
‘Who Are You?’ explodes into full life with southern vibes aplenty with a, no doubt unknowing, nod towards Bad Touch. “We’re a long way from Ontario” observes Ben introducing ‘Naturally’, a country-tinged Eagles-type ballad written about being a long way from home resonates. “So, I’ll play this guitar ‘til there’s blood on my hands” emotes Chris in as Ross takes his Gibson SG to a new dimension.
With sparking keys shimmering in its intro ‘Deadlines’ strikes as arena ready rock whilst ‘Hanging On Again’ is gentle and soothing in its emotive. Soaring serenely with a soulful grace its apparent the quality of company we are keeping here this evening. The gloriously uplifting ‘Fill My Cup’ with its soul-drenched essence brings another stupendous hour of blues-rock to a befitting finale. It’s nailed on that these five gents will go down a storm upon their autumnal return to the UK.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM