Brooklyn based blues alchemists; Daddy Long Legs are making their mark on the UK this spring with a series of dates to introduce their new album Lowdown Ways. Lovers of Americana, down ‘n’ dirty Blues and Southern Gothic; this may well be your new favourite album, but nothing can compare to hearing this collection of songs live, doused in gasoline and struck with a match.
For those London gig-goers who have never been to 229 The Venue in the rather well to do area of Great Portland Street, they are missing out. I bijoux club with a stage and a bar located underneath international student accommodation, it serves as the location for Le Bespoke Beats curated music festival; a mix of rock, mod, rhythm ‘n’ blues, surf and rockabilly bands with a late night dance floor for northern soul to keep you on your feet into the small hours.
In a brief chat with the band ahead of the gig they admitted that they never play the same set twice, to keep an extended tour fresh they like to mix in older numbers with the latest release. Unlike many other bands, the audience truly will never know quite what they are going to hear. Opening with a stomp-a-lomping blues track, the audience get their hair blown backwards by their first taste of frontman Brian Hurd’s harmonica playing. On Glad Rag Ball it becomes clear what a sharp, tight sound trio can create.
Hurd cuts a formidable form, poised and ready to sink into a harmonica solo, casting his hand to the air while the other shakes a pure sound from his harp. His knees knock in time and the music is driven up his thin frame like an undulating wave. His voice on this track and across the set is deep, with a gravel rasp, recalling revival tent preachers of the southern states.
Mornin’ Noon & Night, a catchy new track from current release Low Down Ways, drummer Josh Styles, taps on the drum skin with maracas. The technical playing and performance quality is nothing short of badass. Hurd creeps ghoulishly across the stage in a Nosfaratu pose. To add to the atmospheric performance, the drumming finishes with a brief rattlesnake shake of the maracas.
Peppering the set are echoes of classic numbers from the past, no more so than on Castin’ My Spell a revved-up tune with the same shaky, jaunty percussive sound as Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away. Just as Buddy Guy’s Got My Eyes on You hides beneath heavy rocking number Evil Eye, the vocals growled out in the same canine manner. Hurd switches up harmonicas from a huge box perched precariously on a pinheaded stool for punk country driven Winners Circle. This song is a sneak preview treat, not yet available but offered a taster of the new album, given extra live flourish with Hurd’s harmonica gymnastics.
Sticking with a faint country sound comes the lilting Back Door Fool, all about being done wrong. Hurd appeals to the crowd, “You needed one ballad, right? Let’s keep on boogin’ and woogyin!’” What happens next is a runaway train of music, bone-rattling skiffle blues. The textured close harmonies between exceptional guitarist Murak Akturk and Hurd are maintained as everything else descends into a big rowdy party. Styles steps out from behind his kit, placing a snare front and centre, pours a beer over it, and smashes out a primal beat on the soaked skin, liquid spraying up in a plume with every strike. Akturk scratches out dark riffs under a call and response between Hurd’s harp and vocal.
Hurd interjects, “I’m gonna put down this harmonica and pick up this guitar” we’ve heard what he can do with a harmonica, what the heck can this guy do with a guitar?! With a big call out, he tears into pure rock ‘n’ roll number, new album track Bad Neighbourhood. It has a micro-moment of Foghorn Leghorn vocals in amongst the pattern of the boogie which reminds the listener that despite a powerful technical ability, Daddy Long Legs aren’t asking to be taken too seriously. After that, they stamp out a loked up rockabilly number, Hurd’s eyebrows expressing in double time singing about the wolfman, complete with resplendent howls. He swigs a beer before jumping to his knees angling the mic dramatically and puffing in faux exhaustion faking an early finish to the song.
Akturk calls to the sound desk, ‘Gimme some feedback’ which replaces the fuzzy mic and harp for a quaking number which pushes forth a clean blues riff for single Pink Lemonade. It takes incredible command to make a sound this tight playing live. Ready for the next song, Hurd holds up a tiny harmonica, “Remember this guy?” He blows out a steady slowing train rhythm, ahead of Dwayne Eddy style riff spiced with fills and raucous, chunky harp blasts and proselytising gospel vocals.
This is a surprisingly clean sound devoid of gimmicks and full of musicality and fire. As the song threatens to finish, Hurd casts of his coat – it seems he is just getting started with fire ‘n’ brimstone. Towards the back of the crowd folks start to break away and partner dance, shaking and swinging, jiving spinning, whilst people at the front are transfixed slack-jawed, head bobbing in a state of wonder.
After a quick farewell to the audience, the band agree to stay on stage, it’s very classy to avoid the faking the end of the show when the crowd are already begging you to stay. Hurd warns the audience, “We’re gonna take y’all to church right now.” Frankly, I’m scared.
Styles once more abandons the site at the back of the stage this time to join Akturk at the mic for a smooth acapella gospel vocal to serenade the crowd before blasting everyone sideways with barking harp/drum/guitar cacophony. When asked “Wanna boogie some more?” there is only one conceivable answer. Dark and slinky blues with twanging vocals for a much-loved cover of Eddie Riff/Jimmy Reed/Etta James/Elvis Presley classic, Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby.
Final song Motorcycle Madness is literal and figurative madness. Once released from its grip I hear a woman on her way out proclaiming in a throat sore squeak about how the energy they generated was ‘Crazy!’ Yes, squeaky lady, yes it was.
Live review by Sarah Sievers and photography by Pauline Di Silvestro of Daddy Long Legs at Venue 229 19th April 2019
Lowdown Ways is expected for UK release on 10th May 2019.
Daddy Long Legs continue their tour across continental Europe and the UK: –
THU 2 MAY – Berlin, DE – Auster Club
FRI 3 MAY – Dresden, DE – Beatpol – Tickets on door
SAT 4 MAY – Munster – Gleis 22
MON 6 MAY – Paris, FR – Black Star
THU 9 MAY – Glasgow, UK – Audio
FRI 10 MAY – Belfast, UK – Black Box
SAT 11 MAY – Dublin, IE – The Sugar Club
SUN 12 MAY – Manchester, UK – Night n Day
TUE 14 MAY – Newcastle, UK – The Cluny
WED 15 MAY – Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
THU 16 MAY – London, UK – Rough Trade East
FRI 17 MAY – Norwich, UK – NAC
SAT 18 MAY – Bedford, UK – Esquires
SUN 19 MAY – Southend, UK – The Railway Hotel
TUE 21 MAY – Rouen, FR – Les 3 Pieces
WED 22 MAY – Groningen, NL – Vera
FRI 24 MAY – Amsterdam, NL – Melkweg Upstairs
SAT 25 MAY – Den Haag, NL – Sniester Festival
SUN 26 MAY – Weert, NL – De Bosuil
TUE 28 MAY – Montpellier, FR – Secrete Place
WED 29 MAY – Valencia, ES – 16 Toneladas
THU 30 MAY – Alicante, ES – Stereo
FRI 31 MAY – Malaga, ES – Velvet Club
SAT 1 JUNE – Granada, ES – Planta Baja
TUE 4 JUNE – Madrid, ES – Funhouse
WED 5 JUNE – Lierganes, ES – Los Picas (Tickets from Discos Cucos, Tiendas Tipo and Los Picos)
THU 6 JUNE – Oviedo, ES – El Fauno Club – Lata de Zinc (Tickets from El Ultimo Mono and Discos Ata Fidelidad)
FRI 7 JUNE – Alcalá de Henare, ES – Alcala Suena
SAT 8 JUNE – Vitoria , ES – Helldorado
SUN 9 JUNE – Capdenac, FR – Derriere-le-hublot Festival
MON 10 JUN – Orleans, FR – Blue Devils