Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Ian Siegal: One Night In Amsterdam (Nugene Records)

Ian Siegal CD Cover Pic



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UK release date 09.03.2015

I’m not a big fan of live albums. Recording and production quality is usually naff, or it has been messed about with for weeks in a studio after the event, overdubs galore and bearing little resemblance to the actual live gig recorded.

Plus, inebriated people clapping and cheering, a whooping and a hollerin’ is not my idea of a great listening experience. Rarely does a live record capture the excitement, the heat, the sweat and the energy of a live gig – or the audio quality.

But British blues and roots hero Ian Siegal has delivered a benchmark live album recorded in Amsterdam at one gig, which means the title “One Night In Amsterdam” is spot on! It tells you exactly what you are getting for your money. Well, not quite…………

What we do get is a powerful, commanding, mighty and magnificent performance from undoubtedly one of the most important blues artists this country has ever produced. He’s a triple threat too; as a distinctive vocalist, a sharp slide guitarist and a very, very classy, classy songwriter. Changing his line-up in 2013 after a decade, this album captures that exciting new band and Ian at the absolute top of their game. The Dutch-German contingent, with an average age of 23; Dusty Ciggaar (guitar), Raphael Schwiddessen (drums), and Danny Van’t Hoff (bass.) There’s real chemistry between the band and Ian, and they spur each other on to go that extra mile methinks. It makes for an exciting set where nothing is predictable.

Ian leaves the lead licks to a real find of a player, the awesome Dusty Ciggaar. A young guitarist whose Telecaster skills are quite frightening. He’s a bit of a throwback to the 50s, but at the same time, the likes of modern day Nashville "A Team" member Brent Mason has cause to worry. He kills it on pedal steel too (look out Paul Franklin!) This record is worth the dough, if just to catch this uber-cool “Master of the Telecaster,” in action. Man he’s good.

This is Ian’s first full-band live album, in an eight album catalogue. While Siegal’s 2014 album “Man & Guitar,” showcased him as a solo acoustic troubadour, “One Night In Amsterdam,” flicks the power switch, marking Siegal’s first live album with a full-throttle electric band.

His consistent envelope-pushing work has seen him showered with trophies; seven British Blues Awards in five categories and even more impressive, he’s the only Brit ever to receive two nominations at the U.S. Blues Music Awards - consecutive nominations in 2012 & 2013 for Contemporary Album of the Year – the Grammy equivalent for the blues. That deserves massive respect, sincerely.

Three songs into his set recorded at the North Sea Jazz Club in April 2014, Siegal halts the band to give the Dutch crowd the menu for the night’s tasty offerings: “We’re going to play some new songs, some old songs, and some songs by great heroes of mine, who were influences on me in my early days, back in the 1930s…” In reality, Siegal is now in his early-forties. But he has the presence, the confidence and the conviction of an artist double his age. The songs are the stars here, as much as the players and Ian himself. A wonderful mix of styles and feel. Several of these tracks have never been played live by Siegal before. Before the crowd’s welcoming cheers have subsided, the fabulously addictive Siegal-penned “I Am The Train,” races out of the blocks, perhaps even more urgent here than when Siegal tracked it in Mississippi for his acclaimed 2012 album, “Candy Store Kid.”

Elsewhere, true to his promise of “old songs”, the bandleader digs deep. He pulls out the funk-blues strut of “Kingdom Come,” (from 2009’s “Broadside.”) He revisits the evergreen “Brandy Balloon,” (from 2005’s “Meat & Potatoes,”) and dusts off “Queen of the Junior Prom,” and "Early Grace,” (from his 2002 debut “Standing In The Morning.”)

The atmosphere at this one night stand in The Netherlands was electric. Ian describes recording a live record as like “trying to catch lightning in a bottle.” Well, they did it. Bravo. His rendition of Tom Russell’s classic cockfighting fable, “Gallo Del Cielo,” is a wonderful example of musical story telling, and he takes us on a trip down memory lane to Nottingham, where local legend Harry Stephenson entranced the crowds. “I just really wanted to do one of Harry’s songs,” explains Siegal, before launching into Stephenson’s gutsy rocker, “Writing On The Wall.” A highlight of the set and a great song. For the final two tracks of the album Ian is joined on vocals by siblings, Joel and Tess Gaerthe, from the popular Dutch indie band, Ashtraynutz.

He may be best known as a bluesman, his early days spent doing a pretty good Chester Arthur Burnett impression (I don’t mean that literally, by the way folks!), but Ian is a very versatile artist. You can file him under Americana, roots, country, blues or a clutch of other genres, and he’s just as at home.

He was born in 1971 in Hampshire. He dropped out of Art College in the late eighties to go busking in Germany. From the streets of Berlin he progressed to clubs around Nottingham, then to London and ultimately to major stages around Europe. His career really got under way in 2003/04 with two successive European tours as the opening act for ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings (Wyman also invited Ian to record with the Rhythm Kings). This was followed by UK tours as a duo with Big Bill Morganfield (son of Muddy Waters). During this time, Siegal was also capturing the hearts of audiences in Holland, Belgium, Austria and Hungary. In 2005, he topped the soul/blues/jazz charts in Holland.

As yet another example of his versatility, in a twist to his career, Ian performed for several years (2009-12) with France’s Orchestre National de Jazz in a program of Billie Holiday songs entitled “Broadway in Satin.” Backed by a 12-piece orchestra of young hand-picked musicians and accompanied by the French singer, Karen Lanaud, "Broadway in Satin," has performed at major festivals across France, South America and East Africa.

Many artists call themselves stars, especially in the blues world where mediocre talent is bigged up all over social media. Much of the parochial music press go OTT for a so called "star" breaking wind in the right key. Most of 'em about as celestial as 10-day-old road kill. Ian Siegal IS a star, and has earned that accolade; worthy of far wider recognition for his talents and his achievements, especially as he's “one of ours.” This album more than proves that.
• Ian hits the road for a 12 date UK tour throughout March , including a show at London’s Jazz Café.

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