John Fairhurst – Band

Released 18/10/2010 (Debt Records)

By Chris Gilliver

BandIn popular music time is nearly always against you. Most genres lend themselves to younger musicians. The apolitical/anti-political sentiments of the punk movement would have sounded lame and childish if they’d been sung by OAPs (though The Sex Pistol’s are immature regardless), and Westlife would never count legions of screaming, braindead female fans (and Wayne Rooney) if they were older – surely even they know that their music isn’t up to much. Time also gives too much public space for successful musicians to say something stupid (racist in Morrissey’s case), or appear in some fucked up advert (e.g. butter-supremo John Lydon), which decimates their credibility. Alcohol, drugs and sleeplessness accelerate the aging process. Time is your enemy…

That is unless you’re a blues/folk roots singer. Whiskey, cigars and too much good living gives musicians such as Muddy Waters, Mark Lanegan, Tom Waites, and John Fairhurst a deep growling gravitas, imbuing their music with a profundity unachievable by other methods. Isn’t it nice to know that there are some professions that lend themselves to bad living and self-destruction?

Though he’s a Wigan man, John Fairhurst’s cracked, bourbon smoked voice emanates from the Mississippi delta. Still, to say that Band is a simple blues records would be to underplay the underlying complexity of the music, and conceal the fact that this is an immensely fun listen. ‘Daylight’, for instance is a rip-roaring foot stomper, with the single aim of getting people to dance. ‘Lost My Mind’, with its chugging, driving rhythm, and chorus of, “See me standing here on the barren ground”, is charged with the exploding joys of life. This is blues by name but not by nature.

Presumably influenced by his time in the Far East, ‘Pay Day’ has a peaceful, oriental lilt hiding just beneath. It is this ability to subtly subvert and tweak blues standards that lies of the heart of Fairhurst’s charm. By doing so he creates his own land and makes his own traditions with a freshness that is breathtaking. That and the fact that his voice sounds like he grinds up glass, and chucks it in his morning porridge every day.

Fairhurst is both a masterful musician and songwriter, who carefully intertwines music of varying ethnicities into one roaring whole. Band is the result of that extraordinary talent, and it makes Seasick Steve’s three stringed blues sound like the two-dimensional ramblings of a penniless hobo. And now in his thirties, and unlike the people mentioned at the beginning of this review, he still has his best days before him.

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