Dan Phelps & Matthew Fox
Bullfrog Blues Dockyard Club Southsea - September 3rd
A very cold night followed the Bank Holiday rain but the meagre few who made the effort were rewarded with a fine evening's entertainment.
On only the second night of the tour and leaving 90 degrees in the United States, their guitars needed more fine tuning than usual.
First up was Dan Phelps from Illinois on his lovely rich sounding National with delicate fingering and slide on a series of classic country Blues. The title track of his latest release 'Going Home' led off before a superb piece from Blind Willie Johnson showcasing his powerful fierce vocal delivery.
'Devil Got My Woman' was a real highlight with deft finger picking, stomp and that steely resonant vocal timbre in contrast to the guitar.
Moving back to slide on a splendid 'Rambling On My Mind', Dan then gave way to Georgian, raised in Texas, Matthew Fox.
Both heavily bearded and with the former using a chair, and the latter a stool, there was also a stark musical contrast. Matthew's more mellow nuanced vocal with a slightly husky warble was more suited to his singer songwriter material.
'One Night' a song about cheating that had upset his first wife, was followed by 'New Casey Jones' with a lyric based on the truth behind the legendary train driver.
'Mean Ol Frisco' on his electric resonator brought a fine end to his first set.
The two artists then joined in tandem with Matthew on harp, first with a terrifically atmospheric 'Little Red Rooster' before a Blues medley featuring 'Rolling' and Tumbling'.
The restart, following a raffle where virtually everyone won a prize as there were so few in the audience, saw Dan take up a banjo for an evocative lyric on 'One Kind Favour' before reverting to his national for a real Blues shouter with a true stentorian roar. More compelling and hypnotic banjo playing, with him having to read the lyric, preceded another resonant national stomp before Matthew again took centre stage.
A lazy and lilting 'Sitting On Top Of The World' was followed by 'Limbo' from his EP release about the stage in a relationship prior to the divorce. A jazz inflected piece of singer songwriter was then followed by a traditional take on 'John Henry' with a passion filled delivery.
A final 12 bar Blues with lilting slide and emotive vocal saw Dan join him for the finale. A raucous 'Kansas City' with Matthew again on harp and finally a single encore. A languid and beguiling 'Key To The Highway' with Matthew on lap slide and Dan on his National.
Plenty of easy rapport between the two troubadours and a relaxed interaction with the small but enthused crowd engendered a really intimate ambience. The fine musicianship and variety of material were the icing on the cake. They deserve much better numbers on their whistle stop 18 gigs in 19 day tour.
Bob Chaffey - Blues in Britain Magazine