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Catfish Keith - Live at the Half Moon

Fish Tail Records

75mins 30 secs

This is a CD of two legends. The first is the venue. The Half Mon is a pub in south west London in the suburb (many Americans would call it a subdivision) known as Putney. It is one of London’s best known and longest established live music venues and has over the years hosted every one from Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, the influential blues artist Champion Jack Dupree and Arthur Crudup to the Stones, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Alexis Korner, The Yardbirds – and as they say, many, many more; Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, Taj Mahal, Frankie Ford, Memphis Slim and Eddie Floyd. The list goes on.

The second legend is the musician himself. Do they still call people ‘guitar heroes’? If they do Catfish Keith is definitely one of them.

Playing a National Resophonic baritone guitar, a custom made (Flammang) parlour guitar and using a stomp board throughout, Keith plays and stomps his way through thirteen tracks the outstanding of which is the medley Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground / By And By I'm Going To See The King, a kind of tribute to Blind Willie Johnson which echoes, but does not slavishly copy the originals and is stunning in both its simplicity and its power. Beautiful is a word that springs to mind.

Other outstanding tracks are Mr Catfish’s Advice, which is a rhythmic masterpiece (played on the custom parlour guitar) and stunning version of You To Move which is a serious re-working of the old gospel original that is both simple and complex. (One of the strange things about the guitar is that things that sound simple are often very hard to play and things that sound complex are also difficult to play!) Check out the Blind Willie McTell Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning for proof of that. That one has one of those moments where the audience is stunned to silence for a couple of micro-seconds after the music stops; always the proof of a masterful performance.

Adaptations of music/songs here from Jessie May Hemphill, Rev Robert Wilkins, Rev Gary Davis, Skip James, Fred McDowell, John Hurt, Bukka White and (no lie here) Jack Teagarden.

The whole gig was recorded on DAT and transferred to CD. The is a nice ambience in the venue that reminds me a bit of the live echo achieved by John Hammond Jr when he recorded a whole CD in a church in New York city. Perhaps that should not be a surprise as the venue is like hallowed ground to many of us.

This is Catfish’s 15th CD. It is IMHO, one of his very best!.

Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South ( a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM  in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific).

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