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Peter Bruntnell Band, The Grey Horse, Kingston, May 29th 2010

June 10, 2010

A last-minute gig, this one. I’d been rather looking forward to a quiet bank-holiday weekend, but it wasn’t to be, as Peter Bruntnell announced that he was playing at the Grey Horse on Saturday evening with full band and Sunday afternoon accompanied by James Walbourne. How could I refuse? My comments from his gig supporting Richmond Fontaine speak for themselves, so on with the show. Well, not quite – Peter was fiddling with the sound and looking grim. After a bit of toing and froing, he suggested that the PA was so crap that he might nip back to his mum’s nearby to fetch his own PA. Fortunately, the fiddling eventually produced an acceptable result and the band took the stage. Peter and James were joined by James’s brother Rob on drums and Pete Noone on bass, and they launched into oldie 25 Reasons, with the band’s trademark rolling rock reminiscent of Crazy Horse.

After another Neil Youngish song, Here Come The Swells, they played the first of the night’s several cover versions, all of them carefully chosen and righteously if not perfectly executed. The earthy roots gospel of Uncle Tupelo’s Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down was followed by a fine Down By The River, with some tremendous soloing from James. After another oldie, Have You Seen That Girl Again from the Camelot In Smithereens album, James himself took the mic for the rollicking blues of Jr Kimbrough’s Meet Me In The City, though this version, with its heavier, dirtier sound, is closer to the Black Keys’ version of the song. The band then took a beer break, so we’ll take a breather too with Kimbrough’s song:During the interval, I chatted with friends Ty and Ayesha, pondering over whether or not to go to the Hop Farm festival in July to see Dylan and Ray Davies. I’m still undecided… Meanwhile, the band came back on for the second half and Peter explained that the next song, Black Mountain UFO, was partly inspired by his seeking therapy for having vivid alien abduction dreams… I think he might be serious.

After two more new ones, St Christopher and Ghost Dog, the latter inspired by comic-book author and magician Alan Moore, we got some more very entertaining covers – Fulsom Prison Blues, Like A Hurricane (with another blistering series of solos from James), Do Anything You Wanna Do and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Then James fronted another dirty-blues cover, this time RL Burnside’s Goin’ Down South as reinterpreted by RL and Jon Spencer on the crazily wonderful A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey album. He did so brilliantly and then the band launched into Peter’s Forgiven and By The Time My Head Gets To Phoenix (a marvellous song about cryogenics and parental regret…), both from his Normal For Bridgwater album. Actually, he didn’t manage to get round to the final verse of Phoenix, but who cares? The songs then came thick and fast – originals and covers – until the evening wrapped up with a brutally good Cold Turkey.

The band is simply terrific and there’s definitely no justice in the world. They really should be heard by thousands upon thousands of people who are happy to hear Saturday night music played with heart and soul… OK, skip that – they wouldn’t fit a stadium, never mind Brixton Academy. The best place to see them is in the back room of a pub, surrounded by people who know a good time when they hear one and then have to leg it to the station to catch the last train home. I’ll be back tomorrow, though…

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