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Blues in Britain - January 2021
This album from Fran McGillivray & Mike Burke has been around a little while, but it’s worth catching. Fran and Mike did a few online gigs during the lockdown with their usual full gig listing on hold and must surely have gathered several new fans. To this album – it’s Mike’s guitars, Fran’s bass, and Roger Nunn bringing in drums, djembe, percussion and vocals, and a few special guests that include Alan Glen on harmonica (who seems to guest on so many releases these days, one of our very best though), and Mike Paice on saxophone, while Martin Smith adds his lap steel guitar and a nice touch of Hammond organ on one song.
The eleven songs here include just one cover, a very laidback version of Robert Johnson’s Walkin’ Blues that rounds off the album. The rest are new songs by Fran and Mike. This is not an album of hard rocking blues, but one that is just a pleasure to hear, some sound like that nice laid back shuffle you’d get from some of JJ Cale’s songs. Mike’s guitar skills need little introduction to those who’ve seen the band play live, he is one excellent musician whether playing slide or finger style guitar, or adding his mandolin and vocals, bringing everything he does alive with such fine and creative playing. Then there’s Fran, this fine lady of the blues is one of those vocalists that easily bring any song alive.
The opening shuffle of “Hard Working Woman” sums up many women who put so much into everyone’s everyday lives. Then to “Mister Blues”, a song that just takes you along with it, and the shuffle on the title song “Midnight Call”. One that was outstanding on the lockdown gigs appears here, all about memories, things that go right and sometimes go not so good in “When When When”, one of the outstanding songs on the album. “Love And Regret” sums up most folks’ lives, but again Fran’s voice just gives this song the warmth and purpose it deserves. Every song on this excellent set could be worth a review in itself but taken overall here is an album in the laidback style of blues that will lift every day again and again. Do check it out, one of those beautifully timeless albums that never dates.
Buy with confidence and do go catch Fran & Mike live.
Fancy a break from endless SRV licks and cranked-up tube amp riffing? In the mood to explore the more melodic and laid-back side of the blues? Maybe you are even a secret folkie who hides sweaters and sandals at the back of your wardrobe? Check out the Fran McGillivray Band, a south London three-piece fronted by So Long Angel founder Fran herself on vocals and bass. Acoustic instruments dominate throughout, allowing the intelligent lyrics to shine through, while the singing is a million miles away from the hip shakin' mama side of things.
Ten of the 11 tracks are original compositions by McGillivray and fellow band member Mike Burke, with a range of Americana influences often to the fore. The obvious comparator for opener Hard Working Woman is Bonnie Raitt with dramatically reduced slide content, while Blood On Your Hands is a strong condemnation of domestic violence. Missed My Chance With You is a country song that applies the usual lost bet gambling metaphors to failed romance. Mister Blues shows conclusively FMB can also do jazz when it so chooses.
The set closes on a familiar note, with a run through of Robert Johnson's Walkin' Blues. It goes without saying that Burke's guitar and mandolin work is of uniformly high standard, as is both Roger Nunn's drums and percussion and various guest contributions. As the title implies, Midnight Call is definitely one for later in the evening, and none the worst for it.
Amazon Review: The best music of their career! So far!
5.0 out of 5 stars: Their fourth, it's a superb album in all aspects. Great choice of material, very well recorded and produced with arrangements that allow all important space for the songs to breathe within a nicely warm, bluesy glow.
At the top of their game now, this trio, now in their prime, are producing the best music of their career. It's just sheer class all the way from start to finish, never faltering, with Fran's soulful delivery excellent on this showcase of their own compositions with lovely rich toned guitar solos in a variety of styles from Mike Burke and their ace drummer, Roger Nunn, keeping perfect time in the engine room throughout!
And it's not just an exquisite blues album but also a blues album you can dance around the kitchen to! Even funky in some places! An ideal companion to 2015's much lauded "Some Luck", "Midnight Call" is magnificent, nicely packaged, too (take a bow, Gary Brady!) Recommended without reservation, buy this, I guarantee it will not disappoint! Except that you may find it's over all too soon!
Dusty Sunbeam on Amazon on 22 August 2017
Wasser Prawda Germany
Blues, Country and more – the musical borders of the new album, "Midnight Call" from The Fran McGillivray Band, exist only around the edges. In the center of things, are the songs, co-written by British musicians and songwriters, Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke, which can almost be described as musical short stories.
Right away, one is aware of a soft melancholy. The opening track, "Hard Working Woman" already puts you in a "Midnight Mood", as it were. It certainly isn't about "party time" or a put-on, false happiness. Rather, the more often dark and somewhat cloudy reality found in the songs of Fran and Mike. Songs about love and regret, missed chances, the toughness of the daily grind, or the wait for the call that pulls you out of your routine in the middle of the night.
Like on their recording, "Some Luck" the guitar playing of Mike Burke is the musical center point. Sometimes Jazzy, sometimes with a pure Country sound or also playing Blues lines. One hears in a second how tight McGillivray and Burke play together and have understood each other musically for many years. The singer, with her bass, together with drummer Roger Nunn, lays down a very solid foundation for the songs. Sometimes a Blues harp or a Hammond organ are also present on the recordings, but, for the most part, the Trio itself is all that is needed for the musical performances on the songs that McGillivray and Burke have written for the album.
Someone looking strictly for a Blues album, would maybe be disappointed. But if you are on the lookout for forcefully impressive songs, full of restrained passion, which are performed with musical versatility, then you should absolutely check out this record.
"Midnight Call" is the perfect album for quiet, late night listening.
Alone, and with a good whiskey.
Radio 68 Belgium
"Midnight Call" is the new album by The Fran McGillivray Band, to be launched in London on 7 January (at Brook's Blues Bar, new location at The Seven Dials Club, www.brooksbluesbar.co.uk ). After two albums as a duo with a rather spare sound, the band returns as a trio and now comprises Fran McGillivray (vocals, flute, bass), Mike Burke (guitars, mandolin, mandola, vocals) and Roger Nunn (drums, percussion, djembe, vocals). This line-up is augmented with a number of renowned guests, namely Alan Glen (harmonica), Mike Paice (sax) and Martin Smith (steel guitar, Hammond), resulting in a more swinging, fuller sound. As expected though, The Fran McGillivray Band doesn't come anywhere near the current blues sounds of wailing guitars and we are all the happier for that.
With ten originals out of eleven tunes, Burke and McGillivray have repeated and fine tuned what they do best: gentle and loving blues with feeling and emotion without getting sentimental, and their are messages nicely wrapped up so they are bound to sink deeper ('Blood On Your Hands'). Like before, the band have avoided the blues templates that have become commonplace and often boring, reaching back to their jazzier times as So Long Angel, adding a twist of folk here and country there. The steel guitar on 'Midnight Call' pushes the song towards country, but that's just fine. Burke and McGillivray are fine song-writers who love the blues and expand its possibilities rather than sticking to a limiting formula.
Blues in Britain Magazine
Freshly released in January this is the blues/folk/rootsy trio's follow up to Some Luck. Midnight Call comprises of eleven songs, ten of which were written by Fran and Mike. For those a tad unfamiliar with these folks, they are: Fran McGillivray on vocals and bass, Mike Burke on guitar and vocals, glued together by percussionist Roger Nunn. All play a multitude of varying musical accompaniment too, so plenty of colour and pastiche here. Adding to this pallet are those well known troubadours: on harmonica Alan Glen, Mike Paice on sax and Martin Smith on Hammond. Over the years the band has become well known on the circuit they inhabit and their vibrant empathy not only the live arena, but also in their material shines through on this CD.
All the songs on this album exude a warm comforting glow, exemplary executed, mostly mid paced, with Fran's velveteen feel and phrasing dripping over the mostly mellow proceedings. Fran exudes Bobby Gentry on Love and Regret, a lovely Mississippi effused song with not a Tallahatchie Bridge in sight! Mike's sax hangs really well on Blood on Your Hands. All the solos and added fills etc. are really economically played which do enough to keep the feel and the listener captivated. Guitars are big on the mix of acoustic slide and un-pushed electric finger picking. Each song is well placed in the listing and not overly angular. The genre range has been encompassed: ie like the country tinged "When, When,When" and "Missed My Chance with You", then there's the smoky jazz bluesy swing on "Mister Blues"; be prepared to click the fingers! The deep rooted Americana genes are allowed to influence too, so nearly something for everyone. Don't expect an overly challenging listen; the key to Midnight Call is the whole.
Something to slide into the player on the long drive home, warm, homely and comforting. The best time: just around when midnight comes calling.
Mike Paice, Fran McGillivray, Mike Burke, and Roger Nunn at the CD launch show, 7th January 2017