Malt was full of love last night for their weekly Malted Shake live music event. The love came from Leo Castro, who made this evening possible, and his love of the Blues; the love came from Big Joe Louis, there to showcase the music of the legendary Lightnin’ Hopkins, deemed to be ‘the greatest single influence on rock guitar players, and the love came from an audience of blues aficionados there to witness a legend paying tribute to a legend, writes Michael Holland.
After Leo gave Big Joe a heartfelt introduction the band kicked in with the first of several great Lighting’ Hopkins numbers. Straightaway you knew that these were great musicians and that this was going to be a good night.
Matt Radford seemed to simply slap away at his double bass to produce magic, and Jim Russell, channelling the no-nonsense style of the late and great Charlie Watts, made playing the drums look easy, but the music cognoscenti knew that making it look easy was a skill that not many drummers possess.
A full house enjoyed the craft ales, the rather luscious pizzas, and, above all a mix of Blues music that offered up boogie-woogie and gospel along with the 12-bar variety, with Big Joe providing excellent vocals that gave a flavour of black music from a hundred years ago.
Yes, the lyrics were all about drinking and women doing you wrong, and leaving on the morning train, and we lapped it up as we nodded along in agreement with the beat. The interval came too soon but this tight trio needed refreshments.
In the second half, Big Joe played songs from other Blues legends and some that he had written himself, but the only way of telling the difference was that instead of spending dollars and dimes Joe would be handing over pennies to keep his woman.
Part II also included two surprise guests. When they came on stage I could tell by the cheer that went up that they were very obviously known by the crowd. Plus, they were introduced by only their first names, giving another clue to their popularity. First was Ben who played the Blues harp like he had spent his formative years on a chain gang, and next was Aisha, who had a big, ballsy voice that the audience wanted a lot more of, but this was just a teaser for when she comes back to perform with her own band.
Alas, the night had to come to an end and for an encore Big Joe Louis gave an a cappella performance of a gospel song that he sang with feeling, from the heart. I would guess that this was an old classic tune once sung in churches across the Deep South. The Blues is in Big Joe’s blood, and we felt lucky to have him sharing his passion with us on this special night.
It was like the music we heard was played by musicians flown in on a 747 from the Mississippi Delta, but this was true home-grown talent. When we left, we left a lot of love there for the next Malted Shake.
Malted Shake is a collaboration between Castro’s Barbershop and new bar, Malt. It is a weekly mix of Roots music including Blues, Jazz, Country, Rhythm & Blues, Rockabilly, Skiffle, and more, every Thursday.
Malt, Arch 46, Ropewalk, Maltby Street, Bermondsey, SE1 3PA
More details of future events: https://www.facebook.com/castrosbarbershoplondon