In an era when the rituals of the remixing desk and the sample-heavy intensity of Afrocentric rap claim their place at the cutting edge of current black music. you could be forgiven for thinking that the tradition of the blues had been pensioned off to the archives or hijacked by Eric Clapton for his own immensely profitable devices. Certainly the efforts of smooth young pretender Robert Cray in turning the old 'woke up this mawnin’ 12-bar routine into a soundtrack for the sexual angst of today‘s urbanites have won him a crossover success unparallelled for a blues-based player in recent times. Yet there's a growing feeling of late that Cray‘s rather studied. increasingly formulaic manner is a little lacking in the full-blooded emotional clout of the old school from whom he takes his inspiration. Enter Detroit-based Larry McCray. a bullish 28 year-old Mike Tyson lookalike who could be set to combine his near-namesake‘s
THE FAT LADY SINGS
I suppose they did have to put Dublin‘s The Fat Lady Sings on the George Square stage seeing as its theme is Glasgow handing over the City ofCulture laurels in 1991. But The Fat Lady Sings is hardly Ireland personified. Their visceral. melodic rock has little to do with the blustery ﬂag—waving anthems of U2 and even less to do with the pallid pretensions to genre of the Wets or Texas. Besides. it‘s far too original to be the victim ofcareless regional comparisons.
In fact. Fat Lady singles like ‘Dronning Maud Land‘ and
‘Arclight‘. with their impressionistic.
non-linear lyrics and piano flourishes. are more reminiscent of The Blue Nile than any Irish band I can name. Songwriter and vocalist Nick Kelly's incandescent. fervent delivery recalls Mary Margaret O‘Hara rather than Van Morrison. But Nick is unconcerned about being compared to the slew of bands emerging from Dublin. ‘1 think what
contemporary user-friendliness with the kind of uninhibited downhome integrity you thought they'd phased out when BB King went showbiz. McCray just reeks ofthe right stuff. Originally an authentic country boy from Saginaw just offthe Arkansas/Louisiana state line. he
the way I sing and the songs I write don‘t particularly relate to Ireland. and we‘ve certainly never asked for any favours being Irish.‘ he says. The Fat Lady Sings began in 1986. the same year Kelly and drummer Robert Hamilton moved to London from Dublin. They have released four critically-lauded independent singles and have headlined and filled London's 'I own and Country (‘lub and Dublin’s National Stadium. playing to over 2.000 people. No mean feat fora currently unsigned band. Don‘t expect them to stay that we do sounds substantially different. The way my songs are constructed.
came to Motortown to seek his musical fortune and ended up toiling at General Motors‘ pleasure while building a name for himselfin the clubs. Indeed. it was only after he'd started recording his album in a local lo-traek basement studio that he eventually gave up his job on the
Next year. in Dublin's Year of Culture. more media attention will be focused on the city's music scene than even now. Nick‘s thoughts‘.’ ‘If you ask in an absolute about whether I think good music will result from it. I‘m very suspicious.‘ he says. ‘At the moment. Dublin is buzzing with A&R people. and there seems to be this Manchesterisation thing starting about how Dublin produces all this great stuff. Basically. the music business needs to sell the idea that there‘s some magic formula connected with a particular place. But I think all art. creation. or
production line. ﬂ
The results of those sessions on McCray's acclaimed debut longplayer Ambition (an auspicious inaugural release for Virgin's new blues label Point Blank) showcase the big man‘s songwriting versatility. With recognisable inﬂuences from 70s funk and 80s retro nuevo soul nestling alongside ()tis Spann and Albert King covers. the album highlights a gravelly voice and powerhouse guitar that drip with all the grits‘n‘gravy cred even a purist could ask for. ‘()nc thing the blues teaches you is that you don't have to be anybody but yourself.‘ reflected Larry in a recent interview. ‘I‘ve seen people back in Saginaw jumping on all the trends from Detroit. whether it was platform shoes or long coats. Me. I've always stayed the same. I never wanted to forget home.‘ (Trevor Johnston) Larry McCray plays the Custom House Quay stage at The Big Day on Sun 3 June and returns for another date at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut on Sat 9June. See Rock listings for further details.
musicalcraftisessentiallymaverick 5 activity. It's not because they all live in the same city. 5
‘I think every time somebody comes along and says Dublin is the , place. it makes our artists there actually lazy. Because they think that all you have to do is stand there and be glorified for your (‘elticness or whatever. Firstly. creation is international. And secondly. it is completely lonely. bizarre and i unplannable.‘
Frankly. I think The Fat Lady Sings would have fitted in better on the People‘s Palace stage with Hugh Masekela. Nanci Griffith and Les Negresses Vertes. for sharing these artists' independent spirit. And onstage Nick is a sweaty. bewitched. whirling dervish fronting a group with songs. moods and arrangements worthy of a veteran band. and exhibiting a skill. honesty and depth lacking in most newcomers. You may not have heard of them now. but you will in the future. (Tracey Pepper)