Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Sugaray Rayford + Jo Harman: 100 Club, London 17/1/2019

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Sugar 1 Sugar 2 Sugar3 Sug5

London Blues Week got off to a rip-roaring start with the irrepressible Sugaray Rayford, a giant of a man with a heart to match, tickled pink having finally made it to London, his long-awaited debut, Sugaray tore up his setlist and freestyled yes folks, it was it was party time! Obviously he'd been tipped off about the famed Londoners 'reserve' so battle commenced head on as he laid out his remit of exactly what we were going to get for 10 minutes (without any music,I might add) songs about big booties, borrowed love and women who might talk in their sleep (snowflakes spoiler alert stop reading now!)

The patter worked too, loosening up our well-known stiffness, if anybody was going to do it was this man! But more about him later as Jo Harman's delightful support slot set the evening off in style and effortless class. Things have been going rather well for this enterprising lass her well-received album, the reflective "People We Become" has taken her to new heights as she grabbed the audiences attention right from the off. It's seldom to see an audience in hushed reverence enthralled with her gospel-infused material adorned with electric piano and languid vibrato guitar. "I Shall Be Moved" presciently did its job as did a stunning version of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" The stripped-down approach was a gamble that paid off and whetted my appetite to see her with a full band.

Also whetted was my desire for some stonking, funking, soulful blues and who better to deliver it than a 6ft 5, ex Marine weighing in at 300lb, ladies and gentleman remember this name SUGARAY RAYFORD! This lovable, joyous jester is the real deal and his simple formula of taking the best bits of BB and Albert King and fusing it with James Brown in his words 'ain't rocket science'. Kicking off with an exceedingly crunchy version of "Who Is He (And What Is He To You?)" got the party going in full swing mode, adorned with a hot bluesy guitar solo (there were many) and punchy horns courtesy of the stinging Aaron Liddard sax and trumpeter, Giles Straw typified the evening. Sugar was here to party, drink whisky, impart life skills and tell us what food and women he likes and it all comes out in his songs as well, the man, the music they're all entwined - one big package!

His band are versatile too, calling them his "Swiss army knife" nothing is off limits to these wonderful bunch of musos but even I didn't see a groovy version of the Pink Floyd classic "Comfortably Numb" coming - that definitely broke the ice and from then on in it was plain sailin. But despite the covers, his originals really stood out too. "Blind Alley" being just one of them. A subtle piece of wah-wah blessedness from guitarist and newcomer, Alistair Greene who also played Stan Laurel to Sugar's Oliver Hardy during the slapstick and hi-jinx moments... priceless!

Another particular highlight "I Don't Regret A Mile" was the standout track, highlighting Lavell Jones a seasoned drummer with astute groove and great side-stick cross rhythms who played a blinder as did the 'earthquake' bassist Allen Markell, whose time keeping is set in granite. These guys know about foundations and laying it down. And let's not forget about the spry keyboardist the sage-like Drake Munkihead. What more can I say? Except that, this gig is going to take a lot of beating! Watch out for his new album too, coming in the spring and if you do talk in your sleep mention his name! A top night at the famed 100 Club, so let the good times roll, yowsa, yowsa!

Words Emrys Baird

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