|Independent artist release
Balding and Croft - 40-40 Blues
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Not many people understand the importance of weather in your appreciation of the blues. On the day I reviewed this CD it was nine degrees, the sky was a dirty shredded grey and the rain was splintering down in icy needles. That’s when you are supposed to listen to the blues. Either that, or it has to be so porch-baking hot that sweat drips off your nose into the remnants of your home-brewed beer.
In 2007, blues veterans Gerry “GB” Balding and Ian “Croft” Beecroft recorded this collection of tracks at Croft’s bush property at Molesworth, with musician and mixer Malcolm Brooks engineering the live recording onto tape. The result is thirteen tracks of raw, natural and unpretentious blues, cutting a fat slice across this genre.
Balding handles the vocals on all tracks but one, and his laconic, somewhat world-weary delivery is a great vehicle for the fatalistic optimism (if that’s not a contradiction) of typical blues lyrics. Beecroft accompanies on blues harp for most of the tracks, switching to flute on “Catfish” and “Bulldoze Blues”. Beecroft takes a lead vocal role on “Prodigal Son”, and provides some surprisingly solid harmonies on a number of other tracks, brilliantly, in fact, on “Let Me Go Home Whiskey”. I say ‘surprisingly’ because my experiences in listening to acoustic blues suggest that vocal tightness is generally an optional extra.
On this CD we have two accomplished musicians playing music they love, and the respect and integrity they have for it is evident on every track. Balding’s guitar work throughout is excellent, and it has been recorded with crispness and clarity. I hear some wonderful slide on the slow and steamy “Girl I’m Lovin’”, my favourite track. There is variety in the styles played, and we get to hear Croft’s versatility on the harp, as well as his multi-instrumentalist skills with a kazoo solo on “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down”.
With a concentration span of small South American rodent, I often have difficulty maintaining listening concentration for more than a couple of minutes, but I was totally drawn into the seven-minute front porch laziness of “Catfish”. This is the perfect song for a hot sticky night on the verandah, with moths fluttering around a naked globe covered with spider webs, while cicadas and frogs serenade somewhere in the indigo of the night. On the other hand, the infectious rhythm of “Poor Boy A Long Way From Home” had me tapping my feet, and I felt an urge to grab a bass and play along (which I did and discovered it was in F#. I wasn’t expecting that!).
I wasn’t so keen, however, on “Bulldoze Blues”, which seemed uncharacteristically looser than the other tracks. The flute parts reminded me too much of something Canned Heat did, and the additional lyrics weren’t convincing. That doesn’t mean it was bad; just not my favourite. This is a great CD, rounded off eloquently by the “Sporting Life Blues” (which, in an allegorical way, seems to sum up the whole genre), and would make a wonderful addition to the library of any blues aficionado. - review by Mike Raine 2008
sleeve notes: It's all history now of course, that the 1960s was an exciting periodfor music and life in general - a period of renaissance for sure. Even though Australia was very much considered "The Antipodes",
the happenings "over there", from Liverpool to London to
Greenwich Village eventually filtered through to Down Under.
In a way Australia was a bit of a melting pot for it all - it settled out
here and then got stirred up again - in true Aussie style.
In the early to mid-60s Gerry "GB" Balding and lan "Rolling Croft"
Beecroft both discovered the blues - but they came into that exciting and exotic "Blues Room" through different doors.
Even though Croft had heard Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry before he left high school, it was The Rolling Stones that grabbed him by the ears, especially their harmonica player, the late
Brian Jones. They turned his world upside down. He soon found
]his way back to the Afro-American originators: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Billy Boy Arnold and many more. GB's entry into the blues world was more direct. While Croft was emulating British R&B, he was honing the country blues styles on his guitar. In Melbourne he frequented the legendary
Traynor's Folk Club, interacting with other like-minded enthusiasts there. He moved to Tasmania and became a sheep farmer. When he wasn't farming, he was fusing a guitar style that was inspired by the likes of Robert Johnson, the Rev.
Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White and others. It was to be 40 years before their blues paths met. After they had both conducted workshops at the Cygnet Folk Festival, they got together to play, in order to illustrate the "marriage" of the harmonica to the guitar in the blues. They've been
playing together ever since. They are an annual fixture on New Year's Day at Hobart's popular Taste of Tasmania food and music festival and play regular gigs around Hobart.
These tracks were recorded live at Croft's bush property at Molesworth in early August. With sound man Malcolm Brooks at the helm, a warm and intimate
atmosphere was created and the playing was captured on tape.