The session began with the trio already playing their instruments as they walked through the audience into the Tin Shed at the rear of the Wheatsheaf Hotel. Once on stage, they stretched into an infectious version of “Columbus Stockade Blues”. That featured a bass solo with a jazz feel which segued into a duet with Williams’ expert guitar picking.
Blind Willie McTell’s classic “Statesboro Blues” was next, featuring Williams on a resonator guitar that he said was fabricated from “an old chicken-shed door” and which had a wonderful sound. Horwood’s bowed bass was a great accompaniment here, adding a lyrical feel.
Williams inserted an entertaining anecdote about Brownie McGhee before launching into “Sporting Life Blues”, during which he rested to allow another tasteful bass solo. Kokomo Arnold’s slow and warm “Shine On, Moon” handed the intro and vocal to Horwood and all three harmonised on the chorus as Mary Trees took to the snare brushes. And then it was Trees’ turn with a Ma Rainey tune, slyly encouraging the crowd to hum but not sing along, presumably due to COVID guidelines.
That was essentially the close of the Georgia part of proceedings before Tommy McClennan’s “Whiskey Headed Woman” took over, the vocal in this song recollecting Canned Heat in Williams’ use of a higher register.
JB Lenoir’s “Down in Mississippi” underlined the hardship of being black in the South. Another bleak song, though apocryphal, was the famous “Crossroads”, allegedly describing Robert Johnson’s pact with the devil to enhance his musical skills. Williams dressed this one with an engaging patter about the voodoo tradition before again singing with a touch of the vocal style of Canned Heat’s Al Wilson.
Ostensibly the final number, Son House’s “Death Letter Blues”, followed, with emphasis on Trees’ percussion and Williams using slide on the resonator à la Ry Cooder on the Paris, Texas soundtrack. And so it came to loud applause, repeated after the band’s encore, their own song, “Honey Child”.
Seeing this thoroughly absorbing performance, one can’t be surprised that Williams has previously received the ARBA Best Blues Soloist Award and been voted in the top three best blues guitarists for the Derringers Music Awards. This is a very entertaining show for fans of the blues and catchy music of any kind.
A History of Mississippi and Georgia Blues will be performed again at the Wheatsheaf Hotel on February 27 and March 6.
Read more 2022 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.