Danny Bryant has been a stalwart on the European blues scene for over 15 years, having carved a name for himself the old-fashioned way – he’s now played over 2000 shows around the world and now has a sizeable and loyal fan base. He’s been hailed as a “National Blues Treasure” by Planet Rock and has received glowing tributes from Walter Trout and Joe Bonamassa to name but two fellow musicians.
Danny’s had a big year musically, with 2018’s “Revelation” being hailed as the Blues Rock album of the year (Classic Rock), followed by a major tour, then his fifth studio album “Means of Escape” released last month (20 September) with the current tour showcasing this. He’s clearly not one to let the grass grow under his feet!
Real Time Live is a new venue for me, and I have to say it’s a good space with great facilities. Capacity is around 250 but a wet and windy Thursday in Chesterfield looked to have deterred folk. Those who braved the weather however, were treated to a great evening of quality blues-rock.
First up was local lad Ben Miles, who performed 7 or 8 numbers on his own, ably assisted by his “Logjam stomper” (foot-board)! Ben showed off some lovely guitars, a hand-built steel guitar being particularly sweet-toned. For a one-man act, Ben creates a lot of sound and was thoroughly deserving of an appreciative audience.
Danny Bryant is touring as a four-piece band this time around, having taken a BIG band around Europe last year. Although Danny himself treated us some outstanding solos and “noodling”, this is by no means just about Danny – the band is more than skilful as a unit. Paul Mallatratt on bass and Dave Raeburn on drums are a solid rhythm section whose enjoyment of playing is obvious and infectious, and the unit is completed by Stevie Watts on keyboards, who alternated between electric piano and a wonderful Hammond sound-alike organ that drenched key songs with that lovely swirling tone reminiscent of Jon Lord. Eeeh!
The band opened with a blistering, although unknown (to me) barnstorming slab of blues, wailing guitar and honky-tonk piano gelling superbly. A great foretaste of things to come. Second on, by complete contrast, was Guntown, much slower, a wonderfully atmospheric track soaked in a swirling organ with stunning guitar work including a breath-taking solo in the middle section. The gig was worth it for this track alone!
The core of the show was a run of six songs from the new album, starting with Tired of Trying, another slab of full-on blues rock with raucous riffs and flamboyant licks. Next was the title track, Means of Escape, which for me encapsulates that area where the blues merge with classic rock to produce just great music. Bluesy guitar with rock riffs underpinned by timeless rock rhythmns.
Nine Lives had an extensive verbal introduction – Danny, bless’im, loves his cats – it being a chugging traditional four-bar blues track with a classic riff. This is followed by another change of mood, the beautiful slow instrumental Mya. It’s poignant and timeless, just dreamlike with a heart-achingly gripping guitar solo threading through it. Wonderful playing.Warning Signs (In Her Eyes) is next, another “old-school” four-bar blues number that chugs satisfyingly with searing licks driving over the top of a meaty rhythm.
Which leaves you open and unprepared for the raw emotion of another slow, smouldering epic in Where The River Ends. It’s a ballad played with raw feeling and emotion, soaked in the Hammond Organ and with guitar work and vocals that give you goose-bumps. This singer is putting heart and soul and fire and depth into seven minutes of pure emotion.
Danny changes the mood again after this, inviting guest blues guitarist Rudy from the Blues Boy Kings for an impromptu jam session on another chunk of classic blues before continuing with an old favourite Heartbreaker in the same mould, a pounding number which is a vehicle for introducing the band and features organ solo, bass solo and drum solo. Next comes Hurting Time, another brooding old-school blues track with shimmering slide guitar and big, almost rag-time, piano work. Absolutely timeless.
And then the finale. The studio version of Painkiller is already a beautiful love-lorn ballad, full of feeling and strong vocals. But tonight’s live version is a stunner, featuring a soulful extended piano intro that paints the scene before Danny sings his heart out. Piano-based bridgework unleashes a wailer of a guitar solo, there’s so much emotion on Danny’s face as he plays this, he’s got that magic touch of making each song sound fresh from the heart as though it’s the first time he’s worked through it. And I do mean worked – he’s a craftsman but it feels like he’s shed blood tonight – and last night, and the night before….. He plays with an intensity as strong as anyone I’ve seen , and he does it night after night.
Danny has amazing talent, not just as a blues guitarist but as a singer, as a song-writer, from his fingers, heart, soul, down to his toes. He lives and breathes and plays the blues in an intense way that must see him drained afterwards. And what’s more, he’s a genuinely nice guy, with an equally warm set of characters in the band. I’d not heard of him until a month ago which is weird – he should be absolutely massive. Go see and be amazed!