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They've got their mojos working.

Byline: Martin Wells

woke up this morning and decided to investigate the South Wales blues scene...

IN front of a dimly-lit stage in a cramped room above a backstreet pub in the heart of Cardiff, there's a man, who'll surely never see 65 again, dancing like a fool.

Roughly in time with the music, he's loose limbed and grooving suggestively with a blonde who, while not quite young enough to be his daughter, is probably not his kid sister either.

On stage, the band is howling and hollering their way through an R'n'B standard that was a staple of all the Blues Boom groups that emerged in the Sixties. Apart from the youthful-looking singer, they're all pushing 50 or 60, too.

Grizzled and bearded almost to a man, they look like the motley crew of a leaky trawler at the end of a long stint in the North Sea.

But, hey, you know what, there's no doubt that, like the words of the song, band and audience alike have all got their mojos working!

Welcome to the Blues Dragon Club, quite possibly the hottest little live music venue in town.

Founded 10 years ago by a group of enthusiasts eager to create a venue just for Blues and R'n'B (the kind you won't find Beyonce singing!), it's located in a long, thin wood-panelled room above the Gower pub in Roath - the sort of place you'd hold a whist drive, or where Captain Mainwaring drilled Dad's Army.

Attendances have fluctuated down the years but on Thursday, to see Captain Birdseye and his pals - actually, an excellent straight R'n'B band called the Fugitives, featuring two policemen from Whitchurch - it was standing room only.

If you're used to the anodyne, anaemic pop churned out these days by reality TV show winners and reformed boy bands, this isn't the place for you, unless you're looking for a cure.

It offers, instead, raw, full-tilt boogie, wailing harmonica, straight-ahead drums, rolling, barrelhouse piano, walking bass and dirty guitar licks from men who, when they're not prefacing every verse and chorus with the word 'Baby' probably hold down responsible and well-paying jobs in the community.

The founder is Colin Broadbent. Now 57, he's a social services worker from Cardiff but also the singer and harmonica player with Jack the Biscuit, one of the growing number of blues band in South Wales, a scene, you suspect, that owes its existence to the Blues Dragon club.

He readily admits it's a labour of love and with his committee he probably spends too much time answering e-mails from bands looking to play the club or enthusiasts looking for information, and booking the eclectic roster of musicians, like Eugene 'Hideaway' Bridges, Crosscut Saw and the Poor Boys.

It's a feature of the scene, a hangover from the Sixties blues boom led by Fleetwood Mac and Eric Clapton, that almost all of them are white, middle class and middle-aged, much like the audience.

"It's Pink Blues," said Colin, "I think you can count on the fingers of one hand how many black musicians we've had in."

His audience is made up, he laughingly remarks, "of a bunch of oddballs", adding, "they're lawyers, travel agents, carpet salesmen.

"When we get the bands, they either love them or hate them. Some people are Blues purists who don't even appreciate R'n'B but some like the wider spectrum.

"We had a band in called Dynamo's Rhythm Aces, a three-piece from Bristol who specialise in doing swing versions of hits by people like the Spice Girls. We were scratching our heads at one number they did that I thought I recognised and then it hit me what they were doing - Black Sabbath's Paranoid!"

So what's the appeal of the Blues, and why does it survive and thrive?

"My nephew said that when you look at it the Blues is the basis for most popular music," said Colin. "Most modern stuff uses the same three chords and it's relatively easy to play but it's difficult to get the feel right and play well at the same time. It can be repetitive but it can be diverse... and it's worldwide."

With that, it was time to get back to the band, refreshed from a drink at the bar and ready to work their mojo magic on the audience one more time.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 16, 2007
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