By Matt Gleeson
Photography by Nadia Achilles
Heavyweight blues harpist and vocalist Charlie Musselwhite headlines A Night of Blues at The Triffid
The “A Night of Blues” event was held at The Triffid (Newstead) on the evening of Thursday, 26 February. The headline act was the internationally acclaimed Charlie Musselwhite Band, supported by two local acts, the Mal Eastick Instrumental Trio (from Sydney) and the Buddy Knox Blues Band (from Tamworth).
Opening the festival was the Buddy Knox Blues Band, whose members include Buddy (lead vocals, Gibson guitar), Gareth Hudson (5-string electric bass, didgeridoo, double bass) and Teangi Knox (drums). The band played an appealing blend of southern American style blues (ala Freddie, Albert and B.B. King), original home-grown blues and a few Cajun-inspired tunes (with additional member Fiona Peters on accordion). I have enjoyed seeing Buddy’s clips on NITV’s “Volumz” music show, but this was the first time that I had seen him live. The overall performance quality was high, although the lyrics to “Sweet Home Chicago” received an interesting re-working! Buddy’s self-composed “Original Aboriginal” was a personal highlight with evocative lyrics and some inventive ‘amplified’ didgeridoo playing.
The second act was an instrumental trio led by Mal Eastick on lead guitar, and ably supported by Pete Kohlhoff on bass guitar and Rudy Miranda on drums. I was first introduced to Mal Eastick through his guitar work with Sydney-based rock band, STARS, who released a trio of albums in the latter part of the 1970’s, and left behind some memorable songs such as “Quick on the Draw”, “Mighty Rock” and “Look After Yourself”.
Over the years, Mal has played with some of the highest profile musicians in the business including Buddy Guy, Eric Burdon, Jimmy Barnes, Kevin Borich and Phil Manning. The Mal Eastick Instrumental Trio came out of the blocks with a ferocious onslaught of power rock blues featuring wailing guitar, heavily strung electric bass & powerful drums. However, there was a brief interlude when Mal Eastick recalled events on the day that Stevie Ray Vaughan had passed away, and a subsequent jam session that occurred with fellow Aussie guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. This was followed by the performance of two Stevie Ray Vaughan tunes including “Lenny” - a festival highlight.
The headline act finally hit the stage at 9:30pm, led by heavyweight blues harpist and vocalist Charlie Musselwhite, who was supported by Matthew Stubbs (guitar), Steve Froberg (bass) and June Core (drums). The bandleader’s longevity goes back to the early 1960’s when he first arrived in Chicago and played with Big Joe Williams. His debut album “Stand Back!” was issued in February 1967. One of Charlie’s most recent collaborations was with Ben Harper on the “Get Up!” album, which won the 2014 Grammy Award in the Best Blues Album category. Charlie’s ability to narrate his life’s journey between songs and translate those experiences into his musical performances is commendable. Age certainly has not wearied him, and his spectacular stage presence and command of the audience was on show for all to see. Charlie’s harp playing and expressive vocals were in fine form. His band members also performed to a very high standard. Special mention should be made of June Core’s exemplary drumming technique.
The overall performance highlighted an international superstar at the top of his game, and the enthusiastic crowd looked on with absolute delight. Please come back soon, Mr. Musselwhite.
By Matt Gleeson