Dana Gillespie & The London Blues Band – live at the Temple of Arts and Music, London

July 17th, 2021


Few British blues artists have enjoyed the longevity of Dana Gillespie, who has been gigging and recording in the genre since the 1970s and was around as a folkie even in the decade prior to that. There seems to be some controversy over whether her latest album, Deep Pockets, is her 72nd or her 73rd. But if the evidence of the launch party was anything to go by, it matters little either way.


This was a polished performance from the old stager, backed by a high quality band of musicians who have clearly benefited from jazz training and thus able to take the largely original songs in a variety of directions beyond the common or garden 12-bar grinder. Much of the material was risque, as would be expected from a lady who once released an LP of smutty blues ditties under the title Blue Job. Indeed, both the opener Big Boy and the closer A Lotta What You Got are jump blues numbers from that very collection, with the latter giving all the players a chance to solo.

Funk Me, It’s Hot was delivered in the style the name suggests, but again the double entendre ain’t exactly subtle, and High Cost mulled the morality of infidelity in soulful vein. Too Blue To Boogie was a showcase for keys of Dino Baptiste, a musician with an independent reputation on the jazz circuit, who barrelhoused to his heart’s content. The best vocal performance of the night was the only cover version, Bessie Smith’s immortal St Louis Blues, which closed the first half of the show.

But the real business of a launch party is the work being launched, and we got five of those 12 tracks, all co-written by Gillespie and guitarist Jake Zaitz. Beat Of My Own Drum proved Zaitz’s impressive ability to combine slide and stutter picking while Up Yours was admittedly a throwaway singalong. But We Share The Same Sky, Deep Pockets, The Truth About Lying and When You’re Feeling Blue underline the duo’s songwriterly prowess. For her part, Gillespie proved herself quite the trooper, literally having to limp on stage with a walking stick after an accident knackered one of her hips. Here’s wishing her a quick recovery, and years yet of music of the same standard as this.


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