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The Al Morrison Blues Experience, York Theatre Royal, August 17
2:41pm Friday 17th August 2012 in Music news and reviews
Just A Quickie with… York guitarist Al Morrison, leader of The Al Morrison Blues Experience, tonight’s 11-piece band at The York Mystery Soul Festival
What drew you to the blues and your choice of instrument, Al?
“I started out as a singer in a choir at junior school and as an actor in school productions in secondary school. One of the productions had a band playing and a student a year below me was playing the guitar. It looked and sounded amazing (I’d never seen an electric guitar before), plus he seemed to have a flock of girls round him.
“We hung out and he taught me a bit and lent me two amazing albums, one by Big Bill Broonzy and one by Eric Clapton called Time Pieces, Live In The 70s, which is full of some incredible blues guitar playing.
“I still play it today and the Blues Experience cover Rambling On My Mind From it. That’s what got me into the blues.”
What was the first blues gig you saw and where?
“I saw Rory Gallagher play at the Hexagon Reading in 1988. It was amazing. I’d never heard of him before but my friend got me tickets. We were at the back of the venue and Rory was using a Marshall amp and a Vox AC30 plus his famous battered Fender Strat. It was so loud! My ears were ringing. I have an old Vox AC30 and was going to use it at York tomorrow but it’s like bringing a rocket launcher to a fist fight.”
Which gig had the most influence on you?
“I saw BB King at the same Reading venue a few months later with his band. This gig is the reason I started the Blues Experience. He had a band with a horn section and rhythm section. They all wore suits and sounded great. BB’s voice is beautiful and his guitar playing is lyrical and soulful.”
What took you from Reading to Leeds to York five years ago?
“I was very fortunate to be awarded a full scholarship to study at Leeds College of Music in 1993 from Berkshire County Council. They paid my fees and rent for four years; I don’t think I would have been able to go without them helping.
“After graduating, I stayed in Leeds as I had a few teaching jobs and met my future wife, Clare. We moved to York five years ago as Clare is the head of music at Archbishop Holgate School.”
It’s hard enough keeping a four-piece band together. What’s it like running a full-blown, 11-piece blues revue band?
“Fairly expensive but great fun. The feeling when you play guitar over a full horn section, rhythm section and backing vocalists more than makes up for it. It makes us fairly unique in the UK, I think, and that sometimes scares off venues but I’m always flexible with a deal!
“I’m lucky to work with some great musicians who are all committed to it 100 per cent and help with arrangements, etc. Most of them are ex-Leeds College of Music students and I’ve known some for almost 20 years, apart from vocalist Sarah Brickel, who went to LIPA in Liverpool.”
How did Working Week’s Juliet Roberts become involved in your blues revue?
“I was looking for a new vocalist and a friend of mine had worked with her and suggested Juliet. I rang her and she said ‘Yes’ straight away. She had never been in a blues band before, so I think that appealed to her.”
What’s coming up for you in the rest of 2012? Tours? Album plans?
“We’re going to be playing in York again at Spurriergate on October 19 and then we’re writing and recording the next album. The idea is to record in Memphis or Chicago next Easter, funding permitting, and the album will be mostly originals.
“Apart from that, I’m working on getting gigs and a tour for late 2013. If anyone knows of any venues or wants us to play, you can contact me at Alanmorrison@hotmail.com”
On a different tack, as the York Mystery Soul Festival is a spin-off from the York Mystery Plays 2012, have you seen the Plays this summer?
“No, but I’m going on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it.”
- The Al Morrison Blues Experience play The York Mystery Soul Festival at York Theatre Royal tonight at 8pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk