“The relevance of Bar Gumbo is that my girlfriend, Linda, used to lived in a big, old flat in Chancellor Street and my brother and I would fly to Glasgow to spend Christmas and New Year with the family, before I moved back for good, and we would converge on Russells as it was called then!”
I’d never heard The Brian Rawson Band before our initial meeting on this dreich November night so wasn’t entirely sure about what to expect. I knew they came highly recommended from the other Blues players on the Glasgow scene and the line up looked very interesting. Two time-served veterans, Brian Rawson and Jim Carr on guitar and bass who have an eye focussed on getting the package as slick as it can be…and it is slick!
Brian on Jim Carr – “A lot of players when you say, ‘Blues in A’, they’ll just play the same old bass lines. Jim is different, he looks at every song as a standalone, and avoids the obvious. It’s all about the song !”
These guys are committed and it shows. The third man is Calum Wilson on drums. “I call him Peperami” says Jim, “He’s a bit of an animal”. This was no empty claim. Calum powered through every number with jaw dropping ferocity when required and good solid playing throughout the rest of the set with some really nice touches in the quieter tunes and all in perfect time. Good Blues drummers are hard to find but Calum has a touch and understanding well beyond his years.
Jim Carr on Calum Wilson – “I call him Peperami” says Jim, “He’s a bit of an animal”
Fronting the band is the statuesque Tamira Herrebrugh, a beautiful and stylish vocalist who adds a layer of sophistication that works extremely nicely alongside the raw horsepower in the engine room behind her.
The overall groove, leans towards a “rockier” kind of Blues which is executed flawlessly with great expertise and originality by all four musicians. There are classic blues and soul tracks in the set and these are instantly recognisable but at the same time are stamped with the band’s own identity. When it comes to covers the band always try and look for something that little bit different. “Jim is the man for that! He’ll find obscure stuff that I haven’t even heard of before and we’ll listen to it and then put our stamp on it.”
The venue tonight is small and so is the stage but the performance is massive and worthy of any of the festivals that The Brian Rawson Band have played already.
The crowd grows throughout the gig as people brave the harsh weather outside to get to this cozy Glasgow West End bar and as they warm to the energy and passion on stage, the guys proceed to whip up their own particular storm.
The Brian Rawson Band @ Bar Gumbo
It’s a great couple of sets and there is an interesting mixture of self-penned numbers scattered amongst the classic Blues, Rock and Soul.
As the tunes progress through “Sittin on top of the World”, “Confidence Man” and the Frankie Miller classic “Double Heart Trouble” Calum fires off an extended volley of complicated syncopated shots and Tamira snakes, Flamencos and spins across the stage in perfect sync throughout the whole fill. Did I just see that? That must have been rehearsed! But it wasn’t and I don’t even think she knew she was doing it because it happened time and again and then I realised that there was that most wonderful of things going on… the telepathy that happens on stage when the players know their craft and they are gig fit.
The guys are working on an album for release towards the start of the new year but Brian is keen to get a taster out before then.
“We were hoping to get the CD finished in time for an early January release but scheduling issues at the studio and work commitments have left us with no option but to release a 2 track sampler ahead of the album which should be done by the end of January. Our first festival of the year is at the end of that month so it’s essential we have something to promote at that event.”
The festival that Brian refers to is the “Great British Rock & Blues Festival” in Skegness, which is headlined this year by Otis Grand, Colin Blunstone, The Animals & Friends, Dr Feelgood, Nine Below Zero and a whole host of other world class acts. There are 3 stages at the festival: The Rock Stage, The Blues Stage and The Introducing Stage, which is the one that Brian and the band will be playing on.
The first set you just did there had some cracking original numbers. What’s the mix between originals and covers in the album?
“It’s probably about 90% original and we’ve tweaked the arrangements of the cover versions so that they dovetail with the original material. We’ve recorded a track by Andy Fraser, you heard it earlier and the rest are all original. I’ve been working with Jim for the last 4 years and, even though Calum and Tamira only joined the band less than 8 months ago, it feels like we’ve all been working together from Day 1.”
Brian has a wealth of playing experience across multiple genres over the years and has taken some pretty big moves to follow his dreams over that time…
“The Brian Rawson Band has been going for 4 years now. Prior to coming to Glasgow, I lived in The States for about 14 years.
I’d been playing in a band in Belfast before that. We did some great gigs around Northern Ireland, and I was reading Guitar Magazine one day and saw an article by Eric Johnston, who was relatively unknown at the time, and he was saying how healthy the music scene was in Austin, Texas. I had a cousin who lived in Texas so I sold everything and headed over there and bought a ’62 Daphne Blue strat for $600 from Rockin’ Robin Guitars in Houston which I wish I’d kept !”
How did that pan out?
“Intimidating initially, the standard of guitar players out there is staggering. But I hooked up with a band, flew to LA for an audition that never happened and spent my last $80 on a flight to San Francisco and stayed for 13 years. I took guitar lessons from a G.I.T graduate to try to get close to the standard of players I saw locally. You could see all the local players like Joe Satriani when he was in The Squares, Brad Gillis, Mark Magee, Atomic Tommy McLendon ( UFO) and a load of players who aren’t famous but were equally as good. That was the inspiration to constantly practice…or give up!
You’ve been playing for quite a while, what are some of the other bands you’ve played in?
There have been lots of different bands over the years. I played in “The Tearjerkers” signed to Phonogram and we toured with Thin Lizzy, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Rachel Sweet and Doll by Doll. I was the guitar player in “Sweet” (Brian Connolly’s band) and did a British tour with them. I played on Jon Lacabanne’s album, “Amen” in the States, an album with Deidre Cunningham in Ireland and recorded with Jim Lyttle (Rogue Male) in London with Jimmy Bain( Rainbow/Dio)producing and playing bass which was a great experience.
I’ve done a lot of different types of music over the years but I love what I’m doing now.
There’s some great arrangements in there, you’ve all obviously done quite a bit of work on the material to make them your own?
“Yeah well, we rehearse once a week in Berkeley. When we go into the studio with the band, we refine the songs I bring in. Everyone works hard in the three hours we’re there, we try out all ideas and if it makes the song better …it stays.
We’ve all played with so many bands where the solos are the main feature of the song and for most listeners it’s too much. We keep the solos short and the arrangements tight so that there is something going on all the time. If we do a cover, it has to be something a bit different. “
So where do you want to take the band now that you have a good stable line-up?
“Now we have the right line up, I’m going to push to get us as far as we can go and I’m confident, having listened to the rough mixes of the album, that it will raise the profile of the band.”
Brian is pushing hard for the better gigs and the band have been knocking up the miles in the process.
“Well it’s the people that make the gigs great. We’ve made goods friends of the people we’ve met and bands we’ve played with in Liverpool, Wales, Aberdeen, Berwick, Arbroath, Dundee, Derry and Norfolk to play the Dereham Blues Festival, loads of places in fact. It’s all about loving what we do and the commitment to do it and we all have that. Nobody complains. There are great gigs and not that far from Glasgow either. The Falkirk Blues Club and the Barrels in Berwick are good examples. They really like their blues new and old. It’s a great venue and make new bands feel really welcome. They’re well worth the mileage !”
There seems to be a big Blues resurgence going on across the UK at the moment. I’ve read a few articles recently about the wealth of new talent. What’s your take on that?
“Well you’ve got acts like Aynsley Lister, Simon McBride, Danny Bryant, Laurence Jones, King King it just seems to be that there’s a lot happening at the moment.”
Some of the newer material I’ve been listening to is a lot heavier and some of the other artists don’t sound like your typical Blues at all but it’s great stuff. Gary Clark Jnr for example.
“I think there might be a bit of a backlash going on at the moment, you know, moving away from the Stevie Ray Vaughan sound, which, when it’s done well, is great. Bands that have been a bit more on the rockier side of blues like Gary Moore, Free, Humble Pie are bringing more people to the party.
Regardless, we’ll keep working hard on our own blues sound, and writing good songs..
There are a number of good blues acts up here drawing attention to Scotland like the GT Boos Band, and a lot more promoters are willing to take the chance on blues , so everyone benefits”
You’d better watch your time Brian
“Yeah right enough. Thanks Kirk, I’ll catch you later…”
Brian heads off to start the second set and I’m left sitting on the sofa facing directly onto the stage. There is nobody in front of me and I’m barely aware of anyone else in the room as Tamira’s voice soars through the band’s brand new PA in a completely unique version of Crossroads . For a surreal moment it feels like I’m sitting in somebody else’s living room with the band all to myself, but the roar of appreciation from behind me at the end of the first song shatters that illusion and I’m back to reality.
Note: Brian is sponsored by fx amplification and the amp head shown in Brian’s portrait at the top of the page is well worth checking out. An incredible tone is delivered from the 20w head…yes 20w! Check out the website for more information.
Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikon 24-120
Focal length: 46mm
Exposure: 1/125 sec at f/6.3
Time of day: Half past midnight
Lighting: Hand held Westcott 36″ translucent white umbrella with Nikon SB910 on Commander mode from on-board flash.