The Dirt Road Blues Band
by Pete Clemons
I don’t think that it’s an exaggeration to say that Leamington Spa is blessed with its fair share of blues performers. Maybe it’s the water in the Leam or even the Grand Union Canal who knows. But something special has sprinkled on in that town for decades now.
The musicians that form the town’s abundance of blues bands tend to intertwine somewhat. And as if drawn together by this common bond a lot of the brotherhood were out in force to support guitarist Steve Walwyn, bass player Horace Panter and drummer Ted Duggan as they debuted the recently formed ‘Dirt Road Blues Band’ at St Patricks Irish Club.
An overused phrase when describing live music is that they were on fire. But in the case of this trio it really was an apt term. The Dirt Road Blues Band were really on the money as not only were this band playing their first gig but Steve’s stunningly beautiful new guitar (made by Robert Williams) was also making its first public outing.
And if frenetic playing and shredding a guitar to within an inch of its life is a term of endearment then Steve, along his new found partnership, are going to spend many happy years together.
From the opening bars of ‘You Got Me’, complete with guest harmonica player Mark Feltham, they had me. My anticipation rocketed as you could just sense you were in for something special. The medley of ‘Milk Cow Blues/Leaving Trunk’ only enforced that feeling.
But for myself personally, I was completely blown away when the band performed a couple of my absolute favourite tunes. And these were Canned Heat’s ‘World in a Jug’ and Etta James/Chicken Shacks ‘I’d rather go blind’. The latter gaining the extra distinction of having guest singer Patricia Moore, sister of Gary, perform it.
Another great tune was that from where the band’s name derives from. 'Down The Dirt Road Blues' by blues great Charley Patton first recorded during 1929. Once again this was a hugely impressive interpretation.
I asked Steve Walwyn: ‘What drives you to put together a new blues band bearing in mind you have the Feelgood’s, The DT’s, The Mosquitoes etc’
His reply was ‘Actually it was Ted’s instigation – he asked me if I’d be interested in putting a band together to do a gig at The Broomfield Tavern in Cov – I said yes, Horace said yes, and that’s how it started…….and at the first rehearsal I knew we had something’!
On display this evening was live music at its absolute finest and it was a pleasure to be at the birth of a band that will no doubt become known for its assimilations of blues material and for its efforts to promote interest in this type of music and refer to its original artists
As the gig itself left you gasping for more, the only disappointment from the whole evening was that the resulting CD from a recent live session at Leamington's Gighouse Studios was not available to buy on the night. No doubt that will be rectified at future gigs.
Footnote: I am the first to admit that I know nothing about music. I only know that I enjoy hearing it. Also, after years of listening, I am able to recognise my David Gilmour’s from my Keith Richards. But that’s about it really.
Andy Nixon - guitarist for Freedom to Glide and Badfinger, picked up on the harmonica notes coming off stage. Without knowing the connection beforehand Andy was able to identify that Mark Feltham was the same harmonica player featured on the soon to be released album by Steven Wilson titled ‘To the Bone’. And that, after only having heard a taster track from the album. Needless to say hearing this made me realise why I have worked in factories and on building sites all my life.