Laurence Jones // Blue Nation // Live Review // The Cheese & Grain // Frome
Blue Nation at Frome Cheese and Grain, 7 Oct 2023
It’s an unseasonably warm October evening and a predominantly older crowd in the Cheese and Grain assemble for what feels like a low-key evening. Openers Blue Nation take the stage, just a two-piece tonight with frontman Neil Murdoch wielding a 12-string acoustic and Luke Weston on bass and backing vocals, with a thumping electronic kick drum thrown in here and there.
They rip into set-opener ‘Hand me Down’ which takes us into a memorable half-hour of blues-rock with friendly, warm, and funny banter from the Birmingham-based band. An appreciative and welcoming audience nod their heads as the gig stomps its way through an all-too-short half-hour set encompassing songs mainly from their 2018 album ‘The Kaftan Society’, including ‘Cold Night’, a track requested by a member of the crowd. Neil jokes that Laurence Jones will be happy to just cut 3 minutes off their set to fit it in.
Neil swaps to 6-string acoustic for the Every Single Time track and shows off his effortless vocal shifts into falsetto. The band certainly fit their own ‘euphonic blues rock’ description; every song is pleasant, soulful, from the heart and played superbly. Neil makes a heartfelt plea for the audience to look after each other, then brings the set to an end with ‘Down by the River’, leaving the crowd wanting more.
Laurence Jones at Frome Cheese and Grain, 7 Oct 2023
An air of anticipation leads to cheers as Laurence Jones takes the stage. Laurence immediately shows his confidence as the three-piece launch into ‘You’re not Alone’ as his trademark, almost manic smile presides over a storm of blues rock riffery, augmented by a rock-solid rhythm section of 6-string bass player Jack AlexanderTimmis and Alan Taylor on drums.
Laurence breaks out the wah-wah pedal for ‘I’m Gone’. It’s blues, it’s loud and it’s heavy. As he solos, he never makes it look easy, there’s no Steve Vai or Joe Satriani-esque whizzing around the fretboard showing off their histrionics, he makes it look like it’s an attack on the guitar, it’s hard work and his face shows every emotion the guitar conveys. Every solo ends with the beaming smile, almost as if he can’t believe what he wrestled out of the guitar and is not afraid to show his delight at the result. The audience is appreciative and nodding along as ‘Lost and Broken’ slows down the pace, Laurence cajoles the crowd into a ‘hey!’ at the end of each solo phrase.
‘Are you ready for the blues?’ asks Jones as he launches into ‘Don’t you Leave me this Way’, again gets the crowd singing along then treats us to a fast and frenzied guitar solo before playing ‘In too Deep’. A broken string while soloing doesn’t faze him, he finishes the song and jokes ‘who needs six strings anyway!’ as he takes a moment to grab his spare guitar.
Laurence takes a moment to thank Mr Kyp – Mark Kyprianou, the proprietor of the famous club ‘Mr Kyps’ in Poole for his support over the years before launching into ‘Out in the Distance’ then a stomping ‘Woman’ which gets the crowd clapping along. Jones’ vocals are superb throughout, they match his guitar perfectly, in turn heartfelt and gravelly.
Before we know it it’s the end of the set with ‘What’s it Gonna Be?’ and Laurence signs off with a rousing appeal, ‘keep real music alive!!’. The audience demands an encore which starts off with a blues jam, then into ‘Anywhere with Me’ and the crowd show their appreciation of a rock-blues maestro as he leaves the stage. Jones then shows that his friendly demeanour isn’t just stagecraft as he mingles with the audience, chatting away and providing autographs. A great gig by a superb rock-blues band.
‘BAD LUCK & THE BLUES’ out now on Marshall Records. Be sure to catch Laurence Jones live this autumn . A full list of date and info can be found below.
Thu 16 Nov – P60, Amstelveen, NL
Fri 17 Nov – De Pul, Uden, NL
Sat 18 Nov – Heyhoef Backstage, Tilburg, NL
Sun 19 Nov – Iduna, Drachten, NL
Wed 22 Nov – Paard, Den Haag, NL
Thu 23 Nov – Flux, Zaandam, NL
Fri 24 Nov – Crossover, Gent, BE
Sat 25 Nov – Bibelot, Dordrecht, NL
DECEMBER 2023 Fri 1 Dec – Porthcawl, Planet Rockstock, UK Thu 7 Dec – Southampton, The Brook, UK Thu 14 Dec – Milton Keynes, The Stables, UK Fri 15 Dec – Sheffield, The Greystones, UK Sat 16 Dec – Kendal, Brewery Arts Centre, UK FEBRUARY 2024 Sun 4 Feb – Bury St Edmunds, The Apex, UK Fri 9 Feb – Newbury, Arlington Arts Centre, UK Sat 10 Feb – Rooetackle, Shoreham-by-Sea, UK APRIL 2024 Sun 14 April – Sheffield, HRH Blues Festival, O2 Academy, UK AUGUST 2024 Sat 5 Aug – Buxton Blues Festival, UK
Sat 19 Aug – Swing Wespelaar, BE