Dorset Blues Society
Dorchester Arts Centre
Saturday, 18th September 2004

Gig Review - Lewis A. Harris - BluesNights Reviewer

The sixth season of BluesNights started with a very good turnout and an excellent musician. Michael Pickett, Canadian of origin, is practically unknown in the UK but judging by tonight’s concert that should change quite rapidly. Using two guitars – a 1930’s National Steel and an early ‘70’s Gibson flat-top - plus a rack harp, he set about showing us what he is about. Michael has a thirty years background playing blues and roots music. He has travelled widely around North America with occasional forays into mainland Europe, and has met a number of the older blues musicians such as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. He started his first set with the National and one of his own compositions “Rosalie”, very energetic. There was a good mix of slow ballads and hard driving Delta style. A gentle instrumental followed and then came “World In An Uproar” – a very personal view on the state of society, and heavily riffed. Terry and McGee’s “”I Got Fooled” had just got going when - “ping” - a broken string! These things happen; as he fitted the replacement string, so he quietly conversed with the audience. Michael was dogged throughout the evening with having to retune his guitars. I put this down to the fact that it was very warm and humid and that affects stringed instruments. Like the consummate pro that he is he takes it in his stride and turned in a sterling first set, finishing with a superb rendition of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “Yonders Wall”.

In the second set Michael really got going and the musicianship was outstanding. Excellent harp, nicely understated slide playing, evocative vocals. One particularly memorable number was Willie Dixon’s“Wang Dang Doodle”; powerfully delivered with vigorous strumming absolutely superb. He has worked closely with the American lyricist Gary Nicholson and played a composition called ”Rita”. This was a blissful folk ballad featuring the softer side of Michael’s strong voice and some beautiful chord changes. Very mellow indeed! A wide variety of styles were on display in this second set, exemplified by a fast paced and very polished ragtime number. Ragtime always fascinates me with all those fingers going at once. The next one was quite an eye opener; Leadbelly’s “Lining Track”. Performed a capella with just hand clapping and boot tapping accompaniment, which got a very well deserved round of applause. Then one of his own compositions, “Blues Is A Friend of Mine”. This built wonderfully and showed why he has been the nominee for or winner of so many songwriting awards in his native Canada. He rounded off the set with a true barnstormer, harp and slide to the fore. We could not let him go so he obliged with a vocal and harp solo– ‘Lose your money’ - that set the seal on what had been an excellent evening. My assessment was that we saw and heard a superb concert; Michael Pickett is certainly deserving of a wider audience. Go see him when he next returns to BluesNights!


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