It pays to explore those CDs that get stuck to the front of magazines.
Earlier this year, Mojo were interviewing Jimmy Page about his latest go at scraping the Zeppelin barrel dry. Attached to the magazine was a version of “Physical Graffiti” with each song covered by a different artist. The version of “Trampled Underfoot” caught my attention. The strident funk of the original had been replaced by an almost Robert Johnson take on it (ironic given the source of so much of Zep’s material). I blogged about it here.
The artist in question was Aaron Livingston aka Son Little. Son is literally the son of a preacher man from Philadelphia. He was exposed to his father’s music collection – lots of classic soul plus Miles, Weather Report etc. He’s absorbed these influences, collaborated with some interesting people such as the Roots and Mavis Staples and is now forging his own path. He released his debut EP “Things I Forgot” last year and his self titled debut LP is now available.
I took a trip over to Hackney to see him at the Moth Club. More of the venue later though, we’ll start with the main attraction. Son fronted up a three piece and arrived on stage rather too warmly dressed for a mild December evening. He quickly shed his scarf, gilet and lumberjack shirt as the heat in this compact little venue built up.
The line up exemplified how a small band can create a big sound whilst maintaining an economic touring unit. The bass player played some keyboards (a little portable thing plugged into what looked like an iPad). The drummer had a small keyboard and electronic drum pad to widen his sound. This allowed the three piece to use loops and samples to create some really interesting rhythms.
Opening with “The River”, a real gospel flavoured favourite from both EP and LP, it was clear that Son was playing to a homer of a crowd. He’s a good looking lad and the crowd quickly took a shine to him, especially some of the female contingent who added some suitably swooning backing vocals. This really took Son aback and on a couple of occasions he had to catch himself on when delivering his vocals above the backing of the newly formed Littlettes. It was really sweet and enjoyable to be at a gig of this size where there was an obvious and direct relationship between the artist and the audience.
Son’s got a lovely tenor. It’s a dry and gritty Southern sounding voice, blending Otis from the 60’s, Terence Trent Darby from the 80’s and Drake from the 10’s to create his own sound. In fact, one of the highlights was an impromptu version of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” – paired down, minimalist and far more intimate than the original version.
The band offered up angular arrangements to go with Son’s versatile guitar playing. Whether smooth and mellow, acoustic or processed with treatments, it always added to the song.
The set was studded with highlights. “O Mother” in particular brought the great Otis to mind. “Go Blue Blood Red” was long and moody. “Lay Down” was a hit with the young lovers around me. “Your Love Will Blow Me Away” was spiritual and spine tingling.
It reminded me of the recent Eska gig that I wrote about here. She and Son use the space in their work to great effect. To paraphrase Miles, it’s about what they don’t play rather than what they do play. I truly hope that both of them continue to plough their own furrow as I’m sure it will be a way to success and happiness.
A few words on the venue then. The Moth Club is in the centre of Hackney, just across the road from the Empire. It’s an ex-servicemen’s club that had fallen on hard times, the veteran’s priced out by the artisinal coffee shops and generally the passing of time. MOTH stands for Memorable Order of Tin Hats. It’s a network of members’ clubs for military veterans originally set up in South Africa.
In one sense, it a bit of a shame. There are poignant signs on the walls like:
All Children To Be Off The Dancefloor By 930pm.
by order of the Committee
My Aunt (god rest her soul) used to run a local church hall in the Black Country with my uncle. Growing up in the 70’s it was a community hub with dominoes during the week and cabaret and dancing at the weekends. It was THE destination. But time passed by, and the volunteers necessary to run it drifted away.
Whilst it’s a shame that the Moth Club couldn’t continue in its original guise (there are plaques on the wall for Parachute Regiment and the Rotary Club of Stoke Newington), it is better that it being put to good use rather than being redeveloped.
Back to Son Little for a moment. Here’s a couple of highlights.
“The River” in all its glory.
And a particular favourite – “Your Love Will Blow Me Away”
Check him out whilst he is still playing these intimate venues.