Giles Robson, master blues harmonica player, played the first of two small and intimate shows at the Voodoo Rooms tonight (Wed 13th October) with the other show tomorrow 14th October. If you have not yet heard of his name, the chances are that somewhere you have heard his music as Giles Robson has for the last few decades been building an enviable reputation as a musician and has worked with many of the major names in the Blues music genre. Many people, both musicians and audiences worldwide, consider him to be one of the finest exponents of blues harmonica today, and his passion for his music, his knowledge of its history, and respect for all who have gone before him is obvious and an essential part of his performance on stage.
The Blues, perhaps more than any other musical style, has over the years surrounded itself with many myths and legends, some are true, some are false, some we are best never finding out which they are. One myth is that The Blues is the music of endless sadness and stories of woe, and whilst this is undisputedly true of many songs, the music is also full of warmth and humour, and it is this same personal warmth and humour that Giles Robson so effortlessly brings to stage with him to put his audience at ease and connect with them immediately. The music is all too often over-looked as an often valuable historical record of the times with people recording their own life experiences in words and music, but also often expressing the very landscape around them in sound, and again Giles’ deep understanding of that history and his pleasure in sharing that with his audience gives extra depth to what he chooses to play.
With Giles Robson on harmonica/vocals and the equally impressive talents of Sandy Tweedale on guitar, this was Blues music as it was meant to be heard – in a small bar setting, close to the audience, not on a huge stage where the audience are small shapes on some distant horizon.
The set opened with the appropriately named GR Blues, and soon Giles was mixing contemporary songs, music from his 2016 album “For Those Who Need The Blues”, along with classics of some of the great names from Blues history including Sonny Boy Williamson and Nine Below Zero. Music from Memphis Slim and Junior Wells was also on the set-list.
Why is the blues-harmonica so interwoven with the history of railroads? That is a question I have often asked myself, and tonight Giles gave us all the answer to that question, and I am not going to tell you that answer in this review. I just hope that if you are reading this and make it to tonight’s show that Giles chooses to share that answer with you too.
Another enduring myth that has for some reason gained more popularity as the years have gone by is that the defining musical instrument of The Blues is the guitar, and somehow the harmonica has all too often been omitted from its true place in history as one of the defining sounds of The Blues, and tonight Giles Robson more than corrected that assumption with a virtuoso display of just what a range and depth of music and emotion the blues-harmonica is capable of in the right hands. Giles also is a fine blues vocalist, and for me it is always the human voice that is ultimately the defining sound of The Blues.
Revieew by Tom King (c) 2021
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