It all looked rather doomed for BabaJack’s big live album. Initially recorded for the BBC during 2014’s BluesFest at the Royal Albert Hall, the release fell through amid licensing disputes. Still, Beeb producer Paul Long must have liked what he recorded – he hotfooted it to The Cube in Malvern (BabaJack’s hometown) to record them again. The result?
This slick, earthy experience. Gutting though the missed RAH chance must have been, playing on home turf hasn’t done the band any harm. True, singer/front woman Becky Tate has the pipes to fill lofty spaces, but there’s a fresh-sounding intimacy to this small-town Worcestershire show.
The enthusiastic audience cheers lend a rawer, more authentic feel to their rootsy threads. African rhythms and Lead Belly country blues join up with vibrant harmonica flourishes. Progressive folk-meets-early-blues strains create a Mostly Autumn-esque ambience, while tales of following ‘wild geese home’ crop up in the likes of Coming Home.
Traditional 12-bar formulas become playful, light-footed affairs in tracks like Rock ’N’ Roll Star, and Trevor Steger’s harmonica emerges witheringly through slide echoes in* Sunday Afternoon*. Their boho-chic, world-y sensibilities won’t do it for everyone, but with a core of bluesy roots, their appeal remains strong. When Robert Plant gave Led Zep classics a blues/world fusion makeover (with his Sensational Space Shifters), it showed what a multicoloured beast blues can be. BabaJack capitalise on a similar approach, resulting in a free-form blues fest that’s packed with imagination.