Music: Triumph of the backroom boys

Written By: Cary Gee
Published: July 11, 2017 Last modified: July 11, 2017

The Tex Pistols

Nells Jazz and Blues Club, London

Billed as a celebration of Americana this Independence night gig is really a celebration of the fundamentals of great rock n roll. Take six of the very best old session pros, ostensibly reunited to raise money to fight prostrate cancer, then sit back and see what they conjure up from their centuries of collective musical memory. The result is exactly what you would expect. A free-flowing highlights reel that showcases the evolution of rock itself.

Country and western, bluegrass, punkabilly and the deep-fried southern rock of Barefoot Jerry and the Allman Brothers. It’s all here and makes more sense than frontman (pictured) Phil Rambow’s claim to be 67. I can only imagine he keeps a graying portrait of himself in his guitar case.

I say frontman, but in reality everyone on stage has a legitimate claim to that title, not least fellow vocalists Paul Riley (bass) and Geraint Watkins, whose honky-tonk keys on Train Kept a Rollin’ threatened to breach fire and safety regulations. Watkins’ own Deep in the Heart of Texas proves that music this good has no frontiers — Watkins is from Caerphilly — and Kenny Roger’s Lucille makes you wonder whether she was all that in that in the first place.

Whether playing songs by Ricky Nelson (Stood Up ) or George Jones (White Lightening), guitarist Martin Belmont opens his strings and plays licks like Duane Eddy, and for the afficianados in the club — these guys are musicians’ musicians and the crowd is populated with familiar faces — the sound he produces is pure heaven.

The Tex Pistols clearly remember the time when musicians performed for the audience’s entertainment as well as their own, which is considerable. None is having a better hoe-down than supreme fiddler Bob Loveday, whose chopping of his instrument, punctuated by the ‘double stops ‘ typical of bluegrass gives the impression that there is actually more than one of him. In fact the sheer amount of energy generated on stage would be phenomenal, regardless of the mean age of the performers.

Then again there is a reason why, between them, the Pistols have been hired to play with a veritable Who’s Who? of rock n roll greats (Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, Nick Lowe, Jeff Beck, Elvis Costello to name just a few). Perhaps one of their most memorable collaborations was with the much-missed and uttery wonderful Kirsty MacColl. That Phil Rambow generously credits There’s a Guy Works Down The Chipshop (which he co-wrote with MacColl) to her alone is as much a sign of the guy’s class, as it is a tribute to his skill, not just as a musician, but as one of the finest singer/songwriters out there. Together the Tex Pistols have succeeded in making Tuesday nights Great Again.


About Cary Gee

Cary Gee is a freelance journalist and Tribune columnist