Wednesday, 26 November 2008

CD Review - Mike Markey & Nick Jones

Heads of the Valleys

By M.D. Spenser

One hates to be too negative about this album, because both of these Welch sidemen are highly competent players. But competent can be a damning word in music.

The best bluesmen – all of them – have brought something original to the table. Not so here.

Mike Markey & Nick Jones have backed the likes of Water Trout and Zoot Money. Out on their own on this album, they offer typical prewar two-man Blues: One guy on acoustic guitar and slide, the other on harmonica and vocals.

Jones’ imitations of the guitar styles of Robert Johnson and other old-time greats are skilful. Markey’s harp playing is equally so, although his singing sounds deeply rooted in the white experience.

There are fast songs, slow songs, humorous songs and songs where they perform the old trick of having the slide and vocals track exactly. But nothing makes you sit up and take notice.

They do a cover of ‘Fishin’ Blues’, but if you think this matches Taj Mahal’s version – talk about original personalities – you’re mistaken. Not even close.

The music here, while well-played, is indistinguishable from any number of artists on any number of albums. Something’s missing, and it’s this: Markey and Jones have completely neglected to include anywhere in their music something of themselves.

1 comment:

Blues Reviews UK said...

Here's my review -
Friday, November 28, 2008
Hi there,

Here's my review of a recent gig/cd.

I discovered Mike & Nick at the Bluefront Bluesroom Guy Davies concert last week. Mike & Nick played the support slot and were a total surprise for me, and judging by the overwhelming response - the whole audience. They tore through six songs (at the bluefront, support acts have a 25 minute slot) ranging from searing dirty slide guitar blues, bittersweet bluegrass, along with some wonderful inuendo ridden amusing ragtime - and left me wanting more. A whole gig at the Bluefront maybe?

Both of these fine musicians were keen to talk and I discovered that their highly polished performance is down to them both having quite a prolific background in the music scene covering many genres and styles....So I bought their debut CD 'Heads of the Valleys'.

We start with 'Let me squeeze your lemons'. The title here speaks for itself launching the album with a raucous and refreshing variation of the 'Walkin' Blues' tune. It features some wonderful vocals and aggressive harp accompanied by Nick's intricate picking and solid basslines. Fishin' Blues is a blatant cover version of the original 1920's opposed to the diluted Taj Mahal song..worthy of note here is the tight solo that Mike & Nick play together so well it's as if they were Siamese twins! The album continues with more syncopated rhythms that are a genuine 'shot in the arm'. Yes this is pre-war blues/ragtime/bluegrass, but it is so beautifully executed and modernised that nearly every song has Mike & Nick's stamp all over it.

Gems amongst the tracks on this CD are 'Back to California' with it's driving rhythm and wailing harmonica and 'Too much alcohol', a bottleneck guitar Rory Gallagher tune. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long for their second album.

Information on Mike & Nick can be found at their website

Elina Everson
Music Critic/Reviewer