Blue Cee Recordings
CD: 14 Songs, 53:13 Minutes
Styles: Mellow Acoustic Blues and Folk
“Acquired taste.” “Niche market.” “Subgenre.” What do the following three terms have in common? Depending on one’s personal preference in blues, they might describe the kind of music Liverpool’s Raphael Callaghan plays on his new album Said and Done. A more-than-forty-year veteran of this magazine’s main focus, Raphael presents fourteen mellow, low-key acoustic offerings. Many might (rightly) call this a folk album, as Ms. Wetnight has previously called the Von Howlers’ debut a thrash-rock release. Several of Callaghan’s original songs, like “Too Much Rain, Too Much Water,” “Keep Calm and Carry On,” and “Skip’s Kokomo Blues” truly belong in the folk genre. They don’t have the rhythm or edge that blues has – or, at least, as purists recognize it. Instead, these renditions flow like quiet rivers, and Raphael’s mellifluous voice adds to the pacifying effect. Blues fans, don’t slip this CD into your player if you’re having a raucous party involving alcohol by the bottle, not the glass. Rather, give it a listen when you want a relaxing spring evening at home, maybe sipping a cold one out on the deck.
Callahan’s vocal style is far more John Lennon than John Lee Hooker, tailor-made for most of Said and Done’s songs. How did this England native come to love an American-born art? He comments on his webpage: “So it’s 1964, I’m 14 or 15 but look much younger, gearing up for dreaded [O-level exams,] missing John Lee Hooker and SBW at the Cavern because they’d never let me in! So I try a Saturday afternoon session at another Liverpool basement club, Hope Hall, where Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc. are playing regularly, and it’s a life-changing experience. Blues Inc. have a featured vocalist, Herbie Goins, who’s great on James Brown and jump-blues numbers. But it’s when Alexis takes lead vocal that I hear real, deep blues singing up close and personal for the first time. And his killer guitar. And what’s this? Electric double bass! What a sound, what a player. Of course, it’s Danny Thompson.
“Before the year is out I see the band half a dozen times at Hope Hall, twice at the Cavern, once at the university and become friends, particularly with Alexis and Danny. Then it’s Howlin’ Wolf with Hubert Sumlin at the Cavern and Big Joe Turner at Reece’s Ballroom – and that’s IT. The blues has got me and will never let me go.”
Callaghan is an understated wizard at acoustic guitar, vocals and harmonica. Alongside him are Christine Purnell on bass guitar, “Tom” on dobro, banjo, and mandolin, and Paul Owens on sequenced drums and bass.
The best, most traditional blues song on Callaghan’s latest is also one tinged with gospel:
Track 11: “Don’t Let the Devil Drive” – If life is a journey, even one comparable to one you’d take in an automobile, then Raphael has a warning for you: “Keep your foot right down to the floor, but keep on the right side of the law. Don’t let the Devil drive. Don’t let the Devil drive. Keep your hand on the wheel. Don’t let the Devil drive.” All of Callaghan’s key talents and elements are top-notch here: vocals, harmonica and thrumming acoustic guitar.
When all is Said and Done, Raphael Callaghan plays a melodic set of low-key folk blues!