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Issue 1089

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Review

Mitch Laddie: Burning Bridges (Mystic Records)

Mitch Laddie CD Pic

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UK release date 26.03.2012

You ever had a cake where there are several layers, and you need to get through the bit you donât particularly have a liking for, to find the tasty stuff? Like marzipan on top (invented by the devil?) But you know thereâs a thick layer of coffee cream half way down?

Well, thatâs how Iâd describe this CD by UK blues guitar prodigy Mitch Laddie. It started off with me having to hit the volume control - to turn it DOWN - with very hard rock-edged and bleedinâ loud stuff blasting out. Oh dear, oh dearâ¦yet another young blues guitar slinger following Bonamassa and Gary Mooreâs lead (guitar!). Yawn, yawn.Track 1, track 2, track 3 and thenâ¦â¦â¦â¦fourth track in.

What have we here? A Eureka moment. Light and shade, technically difficult playing and time signatures. Almost jazz meets blues meets progâ rock in structure. A soulful vocal putting me in mind of Sting - before he went all kissing trees and cucumber sandwiches on us. A very different sound to what one would expect from a white, British blues guitarist. But at 21, it is eyebrow raising stuff to say the least.

Yeah, the opener âTime Is Running Away,â is heavy. Rock not blues. Vocal perhaps third in line when it came to production; guitar and the track swamping it a tad. More Download Festival than Colne blues fest fodder. More Kerrang! than Blues & Soul. More Black Sabbath than black origin.

âPaper In Your Pocketâ is still at the rock end, a busy solo but the track does have quite a nice feel. âTake A Biteâ drinks at the rock saloon once more, Free/Zepp mode. But thenâ¦â¦.

âWould You?â Swap guitar for sax and youâd almost be back to the â70s, and jazz-rock fusion like the great band âIfâ with Dick Morrissey. A Sting-ish vocal, very strong song highlighting Mitchâs writing ability.

No one is doing stuff like this in the UK, let alone 21-year-old Geordies hailed as blues guitar talents. Itâs brave, itâs very impressive and it is very refreshing that heâs not dipping into the predictable SRV, Gary Moore, Joe B pool like the majority of his young contemporaries are these days.

A shrewd move to leave Provogue Records where he cut his debut album "This Time Around" at the age of 18, where heâd be in the shadow of a Mr Bonamassa. He was introduced to the label by US guitar star Walter Trout who took him to Europe when he was 16. He writes the sleeve notes here, and says Mitch is âthe finest of the new generation of guitar slingers/performers.â Agreed.

Mitch leaves space, lets the songs stand on their own merits and allows them to breath, away from the heavier rock stuff where he can tend to veer toward OCD shredding. Overall, his playing ability and song writing is that of someone who has been doing it for more than 21 years, not someone whose last birthday cake had just 21 candles on it!

âWhat Are You Living For?â is Robben Ford territory. A jazz vibe, which seems to be at the core of most of Mitchâs offerings here. Fine by me mate. Nice groove, soulful vocal, solid drums from Lee Clifford. This, like the majority of material here is strong, commercial, hooky and modern. Tremendous crossover potential. Mitch has unique vocal phrasing, which seem to be an under-valued skill, missing from many of todayâs artists.

I feel he needs to be marketed outside of the blues genre to give him a chance of being heard by the young record buyers/concert ticket purchasers, who I am sure will really dig this stuff. The same kids that buy Kings Of Leon and John Mayer, are gonna just luuurve Mitch Laddie, that is if he sticks to the less heavy rock end of what he is doing. That is his niche - his USP. As I said; no one else is doing this style in the UK right now.

I will go this far; he is the most exciting young blues player of the current bunch and probably the only serious prospect for major global success this country has produced in several decades. You can quote me on that too.

On track five, âWhat Are You Living For?â he turns in a blistering solo. Bass line is superb. It is at about this time I began to think how bloody refreshing it is, not to have to fast forward through SRV/Gary M/Jimi H/Rory G and Joe B licks galore, from a UK blues guitarist. I can hear the Eric Johnson influence in his playing, (and touches of a mate of mine and one of the best guitarists on the planet, Carl Verheyen) but it is not a copycat situation at all. A nod and respect, but Mitch is very much his own man, that is if he avoids the heavier rock mode that is already well covered by anyone under 30 who picks up a guitar these days.

The acoustic instrumental âChanging Tides & Burning Bridges, " is lovely. A nice change of pace, showing his gift extends beyond plugged in pieces of wood with strings on. Sensitivity all over this. On âGoneâ thereâs a hooky riff, strong vocal, a fine and controlled solo and a tapestry of guitars, set upon concrete foundations of bass from the talented Rhiann Wilkinson and solid drums from Lee. Both to be commended for the able support they give Mitch throughout, without fuss or getting in the way.

I am so pleased there is no clutter from additional instruments on this record, other than bass, drums, guitars and Mitchâs vocal. The engineer Steve Rispin and the producer should be congratulated for the attention to detail on âsounds,â tones, audio quality and an even listen. I assume mastering added value too. Who produced it you ask? Mitch did, as well as singing, playing and writing all but one of the 11 tracks. Talented little sod. Shove a brush up his rear end and he may even sweep the floor too!

âGettingâ It Right,â nails the groove nicely, with funk at its core, a great guitar tone in a Derek Trucks/Robert Randolph vibe. I can report; I heard my first Stevie Ray lick on this one, track eight at three minutes and five seconds! He tackles Marvinâs marvellous social commentary track, âInner City Blues,â with passion and bite. Nice choice of cover, and the band set it up nicely for him. It is a good effort on such a big song and following in the vocal footprints of such an icon. Oh, thereâs another SRV riff that crops up on this one too. Only two on an 11 tracker; I think he can be forgiven.

âGive You The World,â slows things down, features beautiful brush strokes on guitar and is probably the best vocal on the CD. I did like the higher end of the vocal register which he should exploit more next time. A stripped down, simple structure to the song and under-pinned by solid bass lines. The track builds and he gives us a lovely solo.

Closer âMr Johnson Revisited,â (spelled wrong on the CD cover as Revisted, as is the word copyrighted!) a tribute to his hero Eric, a classy electric instrumental, with slick jazz licks that Larry Carlton would be happy with. This, like most of the playing on this CD is way beyond his years and way beyond what anyone else on these shores is capable of. No hype required, just listen.

Thereâs elements of rock, folk, blues, jazz, jazz fusion, funk, soul and classical in his playing and the structure of these songs. I think his parents must have had a cracking record collection and perhaps young Mitch bunked off school a few times?

While others may say âTonight Matthew, Iâm going to be Stevie Ray, Gary Moore, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher or Joe Bonamassa; this kid can say loudly and proudly: âTonight Matthew, I am going to be Mitch Laddie.â

The real deal, or he will be if he delivers more of that fusion blues thing like the fourth track here, âWould You?â I hope the answer is yes Mitch. Exciting future ahead if it isâ¦â¦â¦â¦â¦.
Words SIMON REDLEY

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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