AmericanaFest UK Showcase: Live review – John Oates *****

I don’t think any of the couple of hundred people or so who were lucky enough to be in the Moth Club could quite believe that they were about to see John Oates, one half of the biggest-selling duo of all time, Hall and Oates who headlined BluesFest at the O2 Arena in 2017. Yet here he was, playing to a fraction of that number in Hackney.

Oates was in London for the Americana conference and a 1-1 with Bob Harris. Last year he released his seventh solo album, Arkansas, which began as a tribute to Mississippi John Hurt and, according to Oates, “it’s like Dixieland dipped in bluegrass and salted with Delta Blues”. Talking about the album he said “the music started over here, went to the USA and now it’s coming back again.

Kicking off with Carolina which he wrote with Jim Lauderdale , Oates astounded with amazing finger picking guitar. He then played a couple of Mississippi John Hurt Tracks; Stack O Lee and Spike Driver Blues. This was awesome country blues and the audience lapped it up with reverence.

It was a privilege to see Oates playing the music he loves and grew up with. There was a version of Jimmie Rodgers’ Miss The Mississippi and You, Arkansas, Edge Of The World that Oates wrote with Mike Henderson and a cover of the 1969 track Them Dance Hall Girls by Fraser and DeBolt.

To finish Oates played She’s GoneI’d like to sing the very first song we played in England in 1972, the song that’s defined my career. I don’t know whether it qualifies as Americana, but I don’t think I’ve ever given a concert without playing it” Nobody cared if it was or wasn’t Americana, the audience appreciated the passion, quality and skill on display.

Words and Live Photo by Chaz Brooks.

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