Uncle Nef - Blues in Britain 2018 10 01 - Gig Review 16x9 for web.jpg

Blues In Britain

Gig Review

Uncle Nef 100 Club, London, August 8th, 2018

“It's not often a New Orleans drumming great struts into the 100 Club armed only with drum sticks and a fantastic blues guitarist by his side, and lets rip a raw, tour de force set featuring Leadbelly, Nirvana and Louis Jordan, tinged with heartfelt originals. Uncle Nef ‘King of The Treme' Shannon Powell and guitarist Darren Hoffman, stunned the crowd with a heart-stopping set full of pathos, including a so-stripped-down-it-was-barely-real 'St. James Infirmary', alongside swinging originals that had the crowd Lindy Hopping with reckless abandon. In a city that has produced some of the world's most revered drummers, Powell stands tall in the lineage of New Orleans' rhythmic giants: a torchbearer of the city's culture with rich vocals evoking the spiritual churches, street parades and jazz clubs he has clearly been immersed in. Powell's honeyed drawl set the scene immediately "Hey where y'all at baby? Eh las bas...We gonna get loose with some of this good old blues, alright?" Kicking off with a shot of John Lee Hooker's 'Shake It Baby', the rollicking duo headed straight into bold territory with a raw guitar-led original 'That Was That' about the most joyous of themes... heartbreak. Having voyaged from Mississippi to New Orleans, it was onwards to Seattle with the most unexpected of tracks, Nirvana's 'Tourettes' was pure emotion on a plate. Hoffman's influences shone through most on 'Jelly 292' fusing Hendrix with Duke Ellington. Ever the storyteller, 'Beat to Eat' (penned by Hoffman) refers to "beating a drum to make a living, a metaphor for physical labour," he told me backstage. "Shannon's been drumming since he was 10! I took this life lesson of discipline and wrote the main riff for him to tell his story." A huge contributor to traditional and modern jazz idioms, having worked with Danny Barker, Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis, Powell is also a veteran of New Orleans' rich rhythm and blues scene (backing up such greats as Snooks Eaglin and Dr. John), their last track was the gorgeously mellow Fats Domino 'Sick And Tired' given a blues twist. An unlikely duo, once student and teacher, now collaborators: Powell, a proud African-American kept call-ing the younger, white Hoffman, "My nephew", perfectly embodying the spirit of cross-pollination and refusal to accept boundaries, racial or musical, so common in New Orleans. The chemistry crackled between them, talking to each other through reverb and frenetic kick drum gesticulation. In one of their first gigs outside the US, the sound was a complete contrast of jangly guitar riffs and honeyed Southern R&B vocals; Powell's shuffling backbeat a perfect counter to Hoffman's deep, fat tones and lyrical soloing. The 100 Club is no stranger to anarchy, as the pictures peering down of The Sex Pistols and The White Stripes attest: somehow this was the perfect setting for Uncle Nef and their experimentation of sonic pathways and possibilities.”

-Kate Pieroudis