REVIEW: Electrifying evening full of feel-good tunes in Coolham

Ben Waters
Ben Waters

Ben Waters, featuring Tom Waters and Tommy Hare, Coolham Village Hall, Friday, June 6

After a night in the company of Ben Waters and Tommy Hare, it’s clear that the Coolham Live Music Club is now truly up and running.

Tommy Hare

Tommy Hare

From beginning to end Friday evening at Coolham Village Hall is a thrilling night full of passionate blues tunes.

First up is Tommy Hare with his rowdy acoustic guitar numbers and somewhat self-deprecating sense of humour that easily charms the audience.

Before the show, Tommy tells the County Times that his style is a kind of “rocking country soul” with influences from blues and bluegrass music.

Tommy, who started playing sax when he was nine years old, took up piano and guitar when he realised he wanted to sing. “I figured I wasn’t going to be much of a singer with a sax in my gob,” he jokes.

It seems like he made the right decision. His powerful, raw-edged vocals go well with his furious guitar playing. Tommy also gets in some piano numbers, starting off with a straightforward but soulful piece, which leads into a jauntier song. The livelier tune sounds old fashioned in a good way, and Tommy even attempts what can only be described as “blues yodelling”, which gets a laugh.

Mike Dorian-Smith provides excellent accompaniment on electric guitar, skilfully picking out plenty of slick melodies that weave their way through the music.

After a break and some fish and chips, it’s time for the headliner – Ben Waters.

But before his appearance, Ben, whose musical influences include Fats Domino, Ray Charles and Jools Holland, talks to the County Times about playing in Coolham.

“Some 20 years ago I used to play all around this area,” he explains. “The place is full of old friends. I used to play in their pubs or I used to get up and play guitar. In fact, I think there are about four guitarists who are going to get up and sit in from us jamming about 20 years ago, so it’s a really nice atmosphere.”

Ben says his aim is to create a feel-good vibe, which he does very easily with crowd members singing along from the start and some even dancing in the tiny space available at the front of the packed venue.

Ady Milward – who we’re told is celebrating his 40th this evening – keeps the beat nice and funky and even takes over singing duties for a superb version of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury.

The multi-instrumental Richard Hymas, who’s bass playing keeps the music rumbling along, gets to sing as well.

Being one of the best boogie-woogie pianists around, Ben clearly knows how to provide musical thrills with his frenzied and ecstatic playing, which always stays precise and coherent.

The softer numbers – one written during the Great Depression – also work well, as Ben performs with a lightness of touch that leads the audience through the music’s sorrowful emotions.

Overall, though, it’s a lively affair, with Ben putting in a good physical performance, occasionally hitting the keys with his feet and, at one point, actually playing while standing on his stool.

However, the most memorable performance of the night comes from Ben’s 13-year-old son, Tom Waters, playing a saxophone given to him by one of the sax players with the Rolling Stones.

Tom’s certainly putting this gift to good use, wielding his instrument throughout the gig with stunning skill and confidence.

The main reaction from the audience seems to be “wow, this kid can play” as Tom firmly takes control of the music for a couple of sax led numbers.

The event ends on a light hearted note as Tommy Hare, Mike Dorian-Smith and some musicians in the audience are invited onstage for a chaotic but fun finale.