Michael Roach at The Gala, Durham – review, video

I was able to interview Michael Roach for last week’s Blues Show, and he was kind enough to send me his latest CD Innocent Child. I played a few tracks on last week’s show, along with the interview, to promote last night’s gig at The Gala Theatre, in Durham.

When we arrived there weren’t many people there, but by the time Michael took to the stage I would say the room was full to capacity. This was Michael’s third vist to The Gala and clearly some of the audience had seen him on his previous appearances.

A dapper figure in his suit, tie and hat, Michael is an authentic American bluesman. Though he has lived in the UK since the mid-90s, he was born in Washington DC, and learned the blues as a late developer at the feet of some of the remaining living bluesmen such as John Jackson and John Cephas.

All photos and video by Alan Walton

 A very adept fingerstyle guitar player, with a mellow, resonant voice, Michael opened with some songs from his new album Innocent Child, and then over the next 2 hours took us on a journey through the blues, stopping off at workcamps, churches and, er, nursery rhymes! The founder of the European Blues Association, Michael is filled with historical information about the blues, and shared that information with us in an engaging style between songs. He also proposed that, rather than Mississippi, Virginia should be the home of the blues – I’ll let you find out why when you go to see him play.

Clearly a spiritual man, Michael gave us several spirituals, as well as his moving tribute to his mentor John Cephas, “Remember Me”, shown above. But Michael is whimsical too – he had us suggesting and joining in on blues versions of nursery rhymes, and at the end of the night moved to one of the more “risque” songs of his repertoire.

All in all, a very relaxed evening of authentic blues, in the company of a man who knows what he is singing about – a guitar player’s guitar player too. Highly recommended!

I’m seriously tempted first of all to join the European Blues Association, and secondly to sign up for one of the residential blues weeks that Michael organises at the University of Northampton. Michael chatted after the gig about these great weeks, and how people just choose not to go to bed for the whole week, just stay up and play the blues – sounds like heaven! I look forward to seeing Michael again, and hopefully doing some playing with him too – we chatted about jamming next time we meet.

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