Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Live in England reviewed by Mark Thompson

Live in England

Hamilton Loomis
Ham-Bone Records
14 tracks/72:50

Local blues fans have been able to watch the growth of Hamilton Loomis as a musician and a performer through his frequent appearances at Big Cities Lounge over the last few years. Loomis proved he could handle the larger stage with his dynamic set on the Left Bank stage at last year’s On The Waterfront festival. Now all of his fans can have a prime example of Loomis and his band in full flight from recordings done at two venues in England.

The band storms out of the gate with the instrumental “Pull Strings”, with Stratton Doyle heating up the crowd with his outstanding tenor sax solo followed by Loomis firing on all cylinders on his guitar. The rest of the program features highlights from Hamilton’s last three studio recordings and a tribute to his mentor, the legendary Bo Diddley.

Highlights include a rousing version of “Workin’ Real Hard” with a shout-out to Stevie Wonder – and the funky humor of “Best Worst Day”. Loomis displays his skill on harmonica on “What It Is”, an extended piece that features some nice harmony vocals from the band and another sweet sax solo from Stratton. “No No No” slows the pace but Loomis lays down an impressive, heartfelt lead vocal that maintains the emotional intensity.

The band turns in another lengthy performance on the crowd-pleasing cover of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s classic track, “Bow Wow”, which keeps the funk quotient at a high level and provides Loomis the opportunity to showcase his prodigious ability on guitar.

The Bo Diddley medley rocks hard thanks to the pounding beat from drummer Jamie Little and Kent Beatty on bass.

The set closes with “Get My Blues On”, a tune that really epitomizes what makes Loomis such a special musician – funk and blues expertly mixed into a tight package, delivered by a soulful singer with the vocal range to do whatever he wants to. The added bonus track reaches back to Hamilton’s first recording for “Turnin’ Heads”, with Loomis singing the praises of a woman beyond compare.

Released without any touch-ups or overdubs, Live in England serves as a fine career summation for Loomis and his talented cohorts. The cuts crackle with extra energy and excitement. And Loomis once again proves that he is a rare performer, able to captivate an audience while offering a new perspective on the blues tradition.

* Don’t miss Hamilton Loomis – appearing on Monday, Jan. 25, at Big Cities Lounge.*

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