Review by Woody, photos by Rob Stanley
The Robin is one of the go to venues in the UK for blues acts so stepping out of my comfort zone and I thought I’d tag along with Rob Stanley to check out Irish Blues trio Crow Black Chicken.
I’ve seen opening act Ali Clinton before but as a solo acoustic performance rather than the full electric band that we see tonight. I have to admit that initial performance didn’t overly inspire me as it was too laid back, although I did think he had a decent vocal. Tonight though was a jaw through the floor performance; I was thinking where the hell did that come from and it’s amazing what a difference can be made to songs between electric and acoustic versions. I was totally blown away by this young guitarist’s performance and songs. He may perform the blues but it was a lot rockier than I was expecting and that was where he won me over. The songs had a tight groove and an infectious energy and Clinton’s deep emotive blues gravel vocals had a major impact on me.
The positive buzz surrounding this young guitarist is well founded and he has a good collection of blues powered rock tracks that are sure to appeal to a wider audience than he’s playing to tonight. The only criticism I could throw on the fire is the band don’t really do much on stage. Clinton has a commanding, albeit static, stage presence which does tend to make him the focal point for everyone in the audience but there is very little life shown on stage. This may be because they are young, I don’t know. I know the blues isn’t known for extravagant stage performances usually so maybe I’m being overly critical.
Irish Blues trio Crow Black Chicken sure have some major beardage going on; they could definitely give ZZ Top a run for their money. I did approach tonight with an open mind but Crow Black Chicken play very traditional blues with a strong smoky southern twang, and the music doesn’t quite hit the spot for me and I’m left a little lost. As I look around at everyone else and I see heads nodding and feet tapping, I quickly realise that my opinion on the music is very much me myself and I. If I was to judge tonight’s performance based on the audience’s responses and not my own feelings, this would be a positive and gushing with applause review. I could appreciate that these guys are a solid live act and I can understand why the blues audience really loved this performance, I just don’t get it personally.
I think what made the night for me was vocalist Christy O’Hanlon’s sense of humour; he kept popping up with these random and often unrelated anecdotes that just had everyone laughing throughout the night. I think the Irish humour is what endeared me to them and appreciate them as musicians.
Some of the tracks did have a cool beat and O’Hanlon has a great voice for the blues and whilst they weren’t an overly visual band and there some dips in momentum, I do have to applaud the band as whole for putting on a little bit of performance like bass player Stephen McGrath refusing to stand still and of course O’Hanlon injecting some humour into proceedings.
I have to admit that I spent most of the evening looking for the keyboards; hell, there wasn’t even a Hammond organ in sight, but I did approach the show with an open mind.
It was a quiet night at The Robin, so there weren’t many people about so as I left I spotted a fox in the car park happily munching away on an abandoned bag of fish and chips. Now I’d had a few pints and was thinking hmmmm fish and chips, so I squared off against said fox and before things got nasty I explained that I was too tight to go and buy my own bag especially when there was a perfectly good bag lying right here, so we agreed to share and got a bit of ginger love going on. It’s these little bits of extras that can turn a normal night out into stories to tell the grandkids, although I’m slightly concerned I may now have rabies.