Ian Siegal and Ben Prestage

Live Review | Fibbers, York | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Fibbers provided a feast of blues tonight from both sides of the Atlantic courtesy of British bluesman Ian Siegal and Florida-born one man band Ben Prestage, who between them brought the newly refurbished York venue alive with the sound of tastefully selected rural blues and country-flavoured songs from the backwoods.  Ian Siegal has gained a reputation as a first class British bluesman, both as the leader of his own energy-driven blues band and as a soloist.  His current album Broadside has been named Mojo blues album of the year, the first such accolade for a non-American artist.  Straddling the boundaries of blues and country music, Siegal finds himself equally at home with Hank Williams as with Muddy Waters; “they’re all bluesmen” he insists.  Re-releasing the acoustic album The Dust (2008) especially for this current tour, which reflects the sort of material played during these solo shows, Siegal chose “The Silver Spurs” from the album as his opening number tonight.  With a fine cross section of songs mixing up country ballads such as Guy Clark’s “The Cape”, Kris Kristofferson’s “Silver Tongued Devil” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley” with Muddy Waters’ “Nineteen Years Old” and the traditional “Mary Don’t You Weep”, Siegal manages to keep his audience enthralled as he growls, howls and serenades in equal measure.  Making up for several nights of unfulfilled Tom Waits requests, Ian performed a fifteen minute medley, which included “Hold On”, “Jockey Full of Bourbon”, “Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night”, “Rain Dogs” and “The House Where Nobody Lives”, paying homage to an obvious personal favourite songwriter.  After an impressive warm up set from the young York-based singer/guitarist Mark Wynn who kicked off the night, Florida’s Ben Prestage brought the stage alive with his single-manned mini-orchestra, playing guitar, bass, harmonica and drums simultaneously, using each of his four limbs to the fullest extent in the process.  Performing songs predominantly from his current Real Music album, the one man orchestra delighted the audience with his energy and dynamism, starting with “Downtown Strutter’s Ball” from the album as well as including material from the likes of Jesse Fuller and the Reverend Gary Davis throughout his all too short set.  Immediately and without hesitation, Prestage honoured audience requests as they were shouted out by audience members already familiar with the bluesman’s repertoire, such as Catfish Blues coupled with Howling Wolf’s “Back Door Man” and Dave Carter’s infectious “Crocodile Man”.  Prestage kept up the energy to the final few bars of 2:19, famed for the use of his home-made cigar box guitar, essentially an electric guitar made out of an old cigar box.  Prestage also included the Hank Williams classic “Lost Highway”, again indicating the close connection between country music and the blues.  The extended applause and calls for a well-deserved encore at the end of Siegal’s set saw both bluesmen return to the stage to finish the night off in style, the pair bringing the night to a thrilling climax with Chuck Berry’s “Nadine”, the traditional gospel song “Revelator” and finally Prestage taking the lead on a storming version of “Big Fat Mama”.  A great night for music fans in general, but especially for those with a taste for the combined forces of country and rural blues music.