HARPENDEN PUBLIC HALLS 14TH OCTOBER 2018
Kris Barras, the former cage fighter turned blues wunderkind has had quite a phenomenal couple of years. His acclaimed debut album The Divine and the Dirty gave him plenty of airplay and was followed quickly by his headline shows and support slots of Beth Hart and a new job as the frontman of blues uber group, Supersonic Blues Machine. Now supporting Joanne Shaw Taylor, 3/4 of the Kris Barras band put on on a semi-acoustic set with the focus being on percussion and rhythm rather than showmanship that you’d usually find in their full band shows. Barras plays some equally tasty runs on the acoustic as the electric, and this cleaner sound only heightens his abilities as a lead guitarist. Perhaps it's a hangover from his fighting days, but he never goes in straight with the energy turned up to the max, it's a slow burn but one that is well worth the cookin.' The pumping lead single Hail Mary and Hendrix's All Along the Watchtower the leaves the audience eager for more from one of the UK's most exciting artists.
Headliner Joanne Shaw Taylor is another of the UK's finest blues exports, and she has also accomplished a great deal in a short space of time. With her sixth album
due next year, tonight serves as a reminder for her impressive career so far. Dyin' To Know opens a set that jumps from song to song, solo to solo without ever really noticing the audience are there. Longtime followers will see that she has grown in confidence and her playing is more fluid. Her dirty blues sound dominates her songs with her raspy vocal cutting through to the heart of a track.
There are many moments where Shaw Taylor comes to the front of the stage to let off some steam, but Diamond In the Dirt boasts a particularly impressive and extended solo. Her songs alternate between heavier twists on traditional blues riffs and lighter, more radio-friendly tracks like the impassioned No Reason to Stay and Just Another Word. She sasses things up with some Texas Blues on Bones and ends with the aptly named Going Home and an encore of Mud, Honey.
The blues may have a long history, but with young musicians like Kris Barras and Joanne Shaw Taylor carrying the torch, it's sure to have a long future too.