Watching Steve Whalley perform is like having all your anxieties and emotions torn from you and tossed into the wind — like confetti — then patiently and kindly stuck back together, with paste and water, by the good-hearted musician himself, on mandolin and guitar.
He is the master of cathartic liberation — not hokey or schmaltz.
Always in charge. Always ready to create reality and grit. Always able to inject a slice of humor. Inevitably, he will tear your emotions apart — before putting you back together like a paper mache doll.
Songs like the Tom Waits number “Downtown Train” (Rod Stewart’s cover got to number 3 in the charts in 1989 ) contain the same manly confidence as the original. A little cheeky. And very smoky. At Staines Whalley also managed to capture the same elegant shimmer of guitar that was heard on the “Rain Dogs” version.
Speaking of virility, Whalley loves to show off his unwearied masculine spirit.
He made several naughty comments during the set. When he introduced the crowd at the Riverside Club to Mose Allison’s “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy” he could not help but leer and drool — sticking out his tongue like a puppy trying to reach for an ice-cream …
He explained that he first saw this song performed by Bonnie Raitt. “Cor!”
This song is a slow-stomper with Whalley employing his acoustic guitar to pick and slide as well as use it as a rhythmic instrument. Thus he is able to dramatically get across the main point of the number “Everybody’s Cryin’ peace on earth…” by pounding the body and striking the strings. His voice was gravelley one moment, liquid silver the next. An amalgam of softness and pain.
Other stand-out songs were the sparkling “Big Love” and “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” from Dylan’s 1966 album “Blonde on Blonde.” This song allowed Whalley to confess that good shoes get him turned on. “My fantasy is that hot girl in the Special-K commericals … You know the one who wears a skin-tight red dress and shiny red heels…”
We travelled all around the States with Whalley too. From Chess Studios, Illinois to way down below The Mason–Dixon line. “Where it’s hotter than a whore’s drawers on Navy Day…”
The best of these musical excurions led us to Atlantic City, New Jersey for Bruce Springsteen’s “escape movie” song “Atlantic City.” This number allowed Whalley to examine another of his regular themes — facing death — and wondering aloud what will become of us: “Maybe everything that dies someday comes back…” This was particularly pertinent on the night we saw Whalley perform because the world had just been informed (a few hours earlier) that Prince was dead.
When we saw Steve Whalley’s show in Staines he was accompanied by the British actor Tat Whalley on bass guitar. “Tat has eclipsed my accomplishments many times over…” Steve told the audience “But above all, I am most proud that he is my son…”
On drums was the versatile “Bruvvers” Drummer [ Lonnie’s too, as a matter of fact] Chris Hunt. This trio played together with grace and fluidity — the numbers never seemed hasty… yet the musicians were always fully absorbed.
This was another excellent night of high-quality music down at the Riverside Club in Staines. With some dramatic soul — bordering on frenzy at times — and a lot of sophisticated guitar-play plus a voice so earthy you could almost grow your vegetables in the nutrients…
We saw Steve Whalley with Tat Whalley and Chris Hunt performing at the Riverside Club Staines on April 21st 2016.
If you like this, why not check out the Crawdaddy Blues Band…
Saturday 23rd April at the Riverside in Staines
Words & Images: @neilmach 2016 ©