HOLLYWOOD SLIM & THE FAT CATS@ Irish Blues Club, JJ Smyths
It was a hot summer's night in Dublin, World Cup fever was everywhere with the familiar battle cry of the grounded, Irish Football supporter to be heard in full throttle in every bar along the way to JJ's.
"There's one Team missing,
In JJ Smyths there was another gathering at the weekly Irish Blues Club session and it was the Lucerne Blues Festival supporters club, past present and future and on stage was the flamboyant Hollywood Slim & The Fat Cats - the perfect band in perfect form.
I got an amazing buzz from this band in the fall of 2005 at a benefit gig for Charlie Hussy's Dublin City Anna Livia 103.2 and tonight they continued to exceed all expectations with a wonderful performance in the cool candle lit ambiance of JJ Smyth's.
Hollywood Slim & The Fat Cats create an atmosphere for me of a swinging hot West Coast juke joint full of shades, Hawaiian shirts and Veronica Lake look-alike cocktail waitresses.
Individually each member Junior Hynes Guitar, Papa Hynes Drums, Rev Priestley Bass, and Hollywood Slim on Harp and Vocals, have a skilful commanding stage presence but the tight knit well rehearsed chemistry of all four members bursts with an energy that lifts their own music and their covers into a brilliant homage to their heroes and influences that is rarely matched.
Diving straight in with some beautifully tempered T Bone Walker followed by the Texas swinging prime of Clarence Gatemouth Brown's Okie Dokie Stomp, Junior Hynes impacts immediately with sublime sophisticated technique on his Fender Strat through ever-reliable tweed Fender Bassman with a hint of additional reverb.
His tone throughout the entire set was a delight, true blue and complemented by an excellent balance from the Bass, Drum and Vocal which, although full of dynamics always stayed within a very comfortable volume range throughout the entire performance.
Hollywood Slim is fun on stage, exuding humour and vocal histrionics in-between swapping harp phrases with Junior's Guitar or just launching into some melt down blues harp flourishes.
The powerhouse cohesiveness turns out two-focussed high intensity Jimmie Rogers tunes reminding many of the blues lovers in the audience of a memorable night in the company of the great blues man up in Whelan's in the 90's with Houndog Taylor's stick man Ted Harvey shaking the foundations.
Junior Hynes is playing out of his skin this weather and his recent trip to Memphis seems to have added a few more colours to his technique rooted in the Texas jump blues of the aforementioned T Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown and the later exponents like Hollywood Fats and much more making him one of the most well rounded blues guitarists on the scene.
Standards like Kansas City are turned into masterpieces of musicianship; a treasure throve of propulsive bass rhythms and the hot and sensitive swinging drums of Papa Hynes on his first live outing since knocking his shoulder out recently yet in absolutely astounding form.
Bobby Blue Bland is treated to all kinds of wonderful dynamic subtleties casting an exuberant spell around JJ Smyths with some fine groovin R n B and rapid clean toned guitar lines.
The evening is full of go for broke upbeat songs catching the groove shooting up the spines in the house, killer tone, speed and bottleneck magic in the summer air.
When a formidable band like Hollywood Slim & The Fat Cats takes on a song like the Hucklebuck then the real dynamics of good interpretation are always a treat, retracing the riff all the way back to Charlie Parker, revelling in Hollywood Slims showmanship and Junior Hynes dizzying speed.
You probably knew this already, but now the idea has the official stamp of science. Researchers compared a group of guitarists recently with a group of non-musicians by tapping their fingertips while scanning their brain for activity (insert obvious joke here). Turns out the musicians brains showed a much larger area of response when the left hand fingertips were tapped with the conclusion that the hours of practice and playing are not only training your fingers but are actually expanding the number of brain cells that send them cerebral and inspiration e-mail.
Hollywood Slim & The Fat Cats have a lot of seasoning in the mix and add appropriate attack, tension balance and release to their respective rolls that is such a joy for a fan of this style of music handed down by T Bone Walker, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Charlie Christian, Duke Robillard, Ray Charles, Django Reinhardt, Sam Cooke, Kid Ramos and of course the Hollywood Fats Band.
They say that if the only tool a tradesman has is a hammer then everything looks like a nail and if that is true then rest assured when you watch these guy’s play you soon realise that they have the whole toolbox with them.
Hollywood Slim has an electrifying presence on stage and reels in the audience with his farmyard boogie, mature and diverse delivery style making the sophisticated technical proficiency; rich tone and tremendous enthusiasm of this quartet look deceptively easy.
Junior Hynes shows enormous growth as a player showcasing impressive improvisational skill and technique who is digging deep into a rich vein of blues turning left on swing and right on inspiration to anyone wishing to witness some sweet swinging chops on the fretboard.
Just like their version of Route 66 any trip down this memorable musical path will bring you into contact with several different styles that swing, are danceable and very well played by the delightfully entertaining Hollywood Slim & The Fat Cats.
Whatever about the World Cup the Blues was on a winner Tuesday night in JJ Smyth’s with the fine performance from Hollywood Slim & The Fat Cats including a double barrel blast in the middle from JJ’s Interval Band featuring Dave on Guitar, Declan on Bass & Vocals, A J on Harp and Irish Blues Club organiser Barry O' Reilly on Drums.
Mick Kenny aka MTW