Chicago Blues brought to Edinburgh by Mud Morganfield and Lurrie Bell. That’s what we were promised, and that is what we got. Although this was a show in two halves – Lurrie Bell on guitar and vocals with Willie Hayes on drums, then Mud Morganfield and his band, it was really one show with guests, as musicians from Mud’s band were on stage for both sets.
I have an admission to make here before I run into this review, and that is my very limited knowledge of “The Blues”. I say that now because although I have loved listening to blues music for a very long time, I am a long way from being a “blues aficionado” and many of the people in the audience tonight will have been more familiar with some of the music and many of the musicians than I am. To balance this up a little bit, I had a blues guitar playing friend with me to give this review a better balance and spot some things that I would have otherwise missed...such as the classic vintage Gibson guitar that Ronni Boysen was playing. Also, when you have musicians like we had on stage tonight who were either born into the blues or are great blues musicians, it seems almost impertinent for a reviewer of my limited blues knowledge to be making any comment at times, but that is what a reviewer does.
Lurrie Bell (son of Carey Bell) opened along with blues drummer Willie Hayes (resplendent in a great blue suit). Both were backed with Ronni Boysen on guitar and Ian Jennings on double bass from Mud Morganfield’s band. Both of course were on later. From the very start, Lurrie was unapologetic – “We are a Blues Band – this is what we play”. Starting with “Everybody Wants To Win”, Lurrie pretty much never stopped playing guitar the whole first set (I think he could just have kept on playing all night). This set was a bit of a double act with Ronni Boysen on guitar, and the two contrasting styles were interesting to listen to. For myself, I would have liked a little break between songs and to have been told maybe a little bit about the songs themselves. The blues is such a worldwide sound now and the sound of them being played on guitar is so much part of that sound that it is easy to forget the fact that there are some great lyrics here in the songs that often tell real stories and events.
Keeping the rhythm going all through this set was Willie Hayes on drums and more obviously up front Ian Jennings with some great double bass playing.
The first set was, however, the start of some issues as somewhere along the line a few things seemed to happen that took what should have been a sharp audio edge off this show, and that was mostly the sound quality at times. From where I was sitting, it was really hard to make out many of the vocals at times...not to use a pun here, but they often sounded “muddy”. There also seemed to be a few issues with guitar amps, and the on-stage frustration with that was a little obvious at times. This is however an ensemble of hugely talented musicians and in true professional style they just played on and delivered “The Blues”.
Set two was Mud Morganfield’s though and we had his full European band on-stage consisting of Ronni Boysen (guitar), Steve Weston (harp), Eric Ranzoni (piano), Ian Jennings (double bass), and Mike Hellier (drums). This is a truly international ensemble of gifted musicians.
The sound issues of the first half continued in the opening of the second half with a few members of the audience telling Mud that they could not hear him. That was sorted a bit, but not completely.
The first thing that you notice when Mud walks on-stage is his physical size, the second is his immediate connection with an audience. Mud slowed the pace down a little (which I liked) and talked a bit to the audience, joked with them and gave us a few thoughts on life with a famous father (Muddy Waters). There were some classics in Mud’s repertoire ‘such as “Same Thing” and “I’m Ready For You”, but the best seemed to be saved for last with Mud and Lurrie doing “Mannish Boy” (anyone remember a group called “The Mannish Boys” with a young David Bowie in it?).
I actually want to find out a lot more about some of the people in the Mud Morganfield band as their different styles blended into a unique sound at times and I need to catch up with them next time any of them are in town.
Ronni Boysen on guitar I want to hear a lot more of. I also took a great liking to the at times almost rockabilly sound of Ian Jennings on double bass. Steve Weston was also great on harmonica.
Mud Morganfield, Lurrie Bell and Willie Hayes were the obvious “Chicago Blues” stars of the show, that is not in doubt, I just want to hear more of the great musicians that they brought on stage with them too.
If like me you want to learn more about the people playing tonight, you might like to visit these links as most have their own Facebook page or website.
Ian Jennings I could not find a Facebook page for, but there is a great interview with him at
Please note that this interview is copyright Alan White & Ian Jennings and I direct you to it for further information only.
Also for Lurrie Bell and Willie Hayes go to
A bit of an odd show tonight in parts mainly due to some sound issues, but the one thing that is not in doubt is that a packed audience at The Festival Theatre seemed to be having a great time.
Review Tom King