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Dick Dale, Joe Louis Walker, Bill Sims Jr. & The Harriet Tubman Double Trio

Dick Dale, Joe Louis Walker, Bill Sims Jr. & The Harriet Tubman Double Trio
Martin Longley By

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Dick Dale
The Jewel
October 23, 2011

What could be a more appropriate venue to witness the heady spectacle that is a Dick Dale show? The Jewel is one of the cruise boats operated by the Rocks Off promoters, here in collaboration with the B.B. King Blues Club. So, at last, the unchallenged king of surf rock guitar actually got to perform on the waves, or at least the sometimes quite pronounced undulations of the East River. The Rocks Off concept is to pretty much kidnap its punters, imposing a strict boarding and sailing time. After that, for around the next three hours, the crowd is imprisoned on the pirate seas, surrounded by loud rock 'n' roll, beer 'n' shots and a homemade buffet—a certain recipe for disaster! Fortunately, it took only a short while to reconcile booze, fodder and a general bobbing motion. The DJ's booming classic rock selection set the tone as the boat seemed to circle aimlessly around the East River, with no particular destination in mind. The audience could choose between staking out a seat in the surprisingly small below-deck space, or flapping in the breeze up above. It didn't take long for the crowd to work itself up into a suitably eager mood, and by the time Dale hit the small, low-level stage, most seats were abandoned in favor of a frontal crush.

Playing with his son Jimmy on drums and Sam Bolle on bass, southpaw slinger Dale kept the assault direct and driving. All he needed was a wall of vintage Fender amplifiers and a cranked-up guitar, shunning effects pedals and similar tomfoolery. Nevertheless, his multihued sound was larger than most lives, aggressively picked out with a stinging attack. Dale's sound lies directly at his fingertips. At 74 years-old, and following a recent battle with cancer, he remains the embodiment of ultimate rock 'n' roll vitality. Few guitarists are capable of building up such sustained excitement.

This was not without considerable dynamic support in the bass 'n' drums department. Bolle and Dale Jr. are certainly no shadowy sidemen. This was a more expansive set, compared to the only other time catching Dale, as his unflagging stream-of-surf hits piled up into an inexhaustibly advanced medley of instantly recognizable melodies. "Misirlou," "The Wedge," "Mr. Peppermint Man," one tune slamming into another. No egotist, the man mingled his own choice gems with the regular interspersing of classic songs, including chestnuts from Johnny Cash (" Ghost Riders In The Sky," "Ring Of Fire," delivered with a suitably gruff vocal), Jimi Hendrix ("Third Stone From The Sun") and even his biggest guitar competitor, Link Wray ("Rumble"). There was also, most amusingly, Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water."

Besides the core trio propulsion, the set also took curves into a harmonica-blowing set piece for the leader, as well as Dick joining Jimmy for a bout of double-drum thunder, then playing on the bass with his sticks. Dale dealt well with the cruisin'—remarking that he was unaccustomed to performing whilst experiencing an authentic surf-motion sensation. There was no sign of any adverse effect on his reverberant string-ecstasy.

Joe Louis Walker & The Nighthawks
October 26, 2011

The bad news was that veteran bluesman Hubert Sumlin wasn't feeling too well, and had pulled out of his two-nighter at the Iridium on Broadway. The good news was that the club had managed to secure a suitably impressive replacement to guest with The Nighthawks. Californian singer/guitarist Joe Louis Walker took over, bringing along his regular sideman Murali Coryell. Yes, he's the soul-blues son of Larry. Veteran of the R&B scene, The Nighthawks formed way back in 1972, fronted by harmonicist Mark Wenner, from Washington DC.

Over the course of two substantial sets, the repertoire wasn't repeated, as the songs slid from blues to soul, and from boogie to rock 'n' roll. The Nighthawks opened up each set with a clutch of its own numbers, beginning in semi-acoustic mode, then building up the power. The full force was felt when Wenner started blowing his amped- up harp. When Walker hit the stage, he didn't always crank up his accustomed heat. He made it clear that he also digs the slow 'n' subtle blues; he likes to slink. Walker is a master of the dramatic pause, and the dynamic swoop from sparseness up to explosiveness.


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