The 2019 International Blues Challenge will be the 35th year of Blues musicians from around the world competing for cash, prizes, and industry recognition. The world’s largest gathering of Blues acts represents an international search by The Blues Foundation and its affiliated organizations for the Blues Band and Solo/Duo Blues Act ready to take their act to the international stage. (http://www.bealestreet.com/international-blues-challenge/)
Milena Barrett and her band – Wolf Mail (Guitar), Steve Giubin (Keys), Rosscoe Clark (Drums) and Stan Mobbs (Bass) hope to represent NSW at this international competition with the other 260+ acts that will perform.
The gig tonight is at The Harmonie German Club in Canberra, Australia and is both an opportunity to showcase themselves and to fundraise to help with associated costs of attending the Blues Challenge which is held in Memphis from 22nd – 26th January 2019.
Tonight Barrett and band were supported by a local Canberran identity in the Blues genre “Ali Penney”. Penney opened the show with songs from her own regular repertoire and drew us into her world with some blistering runs and mood highlights/lows on keys. It was a great one hour set as an introduction and warm up for those Blues fans in attendance.
After a short interlude Barrett and her band took the stage. The first song starts with an energetic riff from Mail in unison with some heavy beats from Clark and some thumpers from Mobbs. This heightens the crowds expectations and we were not disappointed.
The mic is held at waist level yet the power of Barrett’s voice is such that it sounds as though she has her lips pressed against it. The sound is big, supercharged and crystal clear. The strength of delivery in Barrett’s voice is impressive and she is aptly supported by a very tight band whose wealth of individual experience is evident.
As the night progresses I learnt to read the language of the performers, the looks and gestures which the band took as cues from each other. This installs in me the feeling that these guys are already a Blues family and this strategy will help them in their performances in Memphis.
There are two sets in total from Barrett and band and both were exceptional! We are treated to originals such as “Hello” (Wolf Mail), “Cry”, “Digin’ Ya”, “Hot and Cold” and “Spring”. These will not be the originals they take to Memphis and those are under wraps as they continue to work on them between gigs in preparation for 2019.
Tonight we’ve experienced some really classy Blues tones and modalities which one would expect from within the genre.
I found that Barrett and Mail were effective as a tandem musically and likewise with Barrett and Mobbs for entertaining the crowd with light hearted quips between songs. Wolf Mail has shown his mastery through gritty hooks and slick fretwork taking on solo’s with gusto and delivering a very solid performance. Clarks percussion was crisp and clean and Mobbs bass playing was rhythmical and instinctive.
Steve Giubin on keys was unfortunately obscured from full vision by speaker placement but I did manage to see him provide runs and progressions on the keys from time to time. His presence within the body of the tracks was evident as you dissected sounds on listening and there is appreciation of his input as it’s clear the structure of the musical composition would have suffered had it not been so.
The end to the night provided opportunity to purchase an EP by Milena Barrett and Wolf Mail entitled ‘Lazy Bones’ and I was happy to contribute to the trip of a lifetime for an outfit that has huge potential to travel far in the competition they are entering.