Cliff Stevens – Live in Germany
CD: 11 Songs, 52:28 Minutes
Styles: Guitar Hero Blues Rock, Live Album, All Original Songs
What does it take to please a crowd? Does it depend upon said throng, or the one entertaining them? In hindsight, that question is of the chicken-or-egg variety. Musicians love their fans, and fans hire their favorite musicians to come and play live. Montreal’s Cliff Stevens went all the way to Deutschland to record Live in Germany on January 27th and 28th of 2017. He presented eleven live versions of original songs from his first two albums, Feelin’ the Blues and Grass Won’t Grow (the latter having been reviewed in this magazine). As for crowd-revving, Stevens knows the key: guitar, guitar, guitar. Heavily influenced by the styles of Clapton, SRV and Jimi Hendrix, he slings shredder like a short-order cook slings corned beef hash. Piping hot and loaded with screaming spice, Cliff’s instrument of choice takes listeners to their psychedelic “Outer Limits.” For blues fans at home, keep an eye on the stereo if you don’t want the police to show up. These are low-down, throw-down, guitar hero tunes. Does he sing? Yes, but barely.
According to his corner of the ‘Net, Cliff Stevens has been playing guitar professionally for longer than he sometimes cares to admit: circa 35 years. Like so many before him, he spent much of his career displaying his talents in relative obscurity as a sideman with various traveling groups. Crowds ranged anywhere from 14,000 at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, to 1,400 at the Medley Club in Montreal, to 14 drunks in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
He recalls learning to play at thirteen years old, jamming for hours to slow blues in a coffee house in his hometown of Montreal – a hotbed for Canadian guitarists like Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. Other British and American blues guitarists helped to set his life’s course. “Clapton just jammed all night long and I was blown away,” Stevens says of a Cream concert that he attended in Montreal in 1968. “I then saw Johnny Winter in 1970 and memorized every lick I could.” Teachers and preachers say their professions are callings; many ‘musos’ say so, too.
Accompanying Stevens are Serge Dionne on bass and Dan Dyson on drums.
The best song in this live concert’s repertoire is an instrumental inferno that sets all ablaze.
Track 10: “Finger Express” – No, I don’t mean the middle digit, and neither does Stevens. Rather, he uses all ten in such rapid-fire dialogue that yours truly could scarcely keep up with the conversation. Try and play air guitar along with Cliff, and you’re bound to miss a note or two. For four minutes and thirty-six seconds, he holds nothing back, paying homage to the modern masters of barroom boogie. When the song pauses, one can hear the crowd gasp and cheer.
Love SRV and J-I-Mi? Prepared for some high-volume glee? Then check out Live in Germany!