BluesWax Spotlight On
The Queen’s Head
September 27, 2012
By David Scott
Photos by Andy Craig Photography
It was appropriate that the former Lindisfarne legend should return to Rothbury Roots, as he was a founder member of this project to keep music live in 2001 along with the landlords of the Queens Head, Terry Wilson and Bill Brown. If there is a better, more intimate, and atmospheric venue for roots music in the UK, I have yet to find it.
Rod Clements found fame as bassist with one of England’s most successful folk/rock bands for 35 years, but it is his solo albums and performances since the turn of the millennium which will prove to be his greatest legacy. Clements has never lost touch with his earliest influences, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, and despite the versatility of material and playing styles over the years, he is as passionate as ever about the blues.
The set opened with Cyril Tawney‘s poignant song about a sailor’s lost love, “Sally Free and Easy” with Clements’ effortless finger-picking acoustic guitar complementing his melodious vocals. “Train in G Major “was another love song, “for a special woman who became my ex-wife” explained Rod, and his slide playing was superb as he anguished, “You can leave me tomorrow if you just tell me what for.” A track from his Stamping Ground CD entitled “The Roads Of East Northumberland” traces the decline of the coal mining industry: “The windscreen wipers beat a rhythm, the years roll back across the plain, And the ghosts of the men are going to their destiny, Heading for the backshift in the rain.”
Clements is a magnificent wordsmith verging on the poetic, responsible for memorable songs like “Road To Kingdom Come” and “Meet Me On The Corner,” which he performed to tumultuous applause on the night. Blues was well represented with Oscar Woods‘ “Evil Hearted Woman” and “Old Blue Goose,” the latter a tribute to the 1930′s slide guitarist who frequented that building which doubled as a hardware shop and brothel!. “Back in the days when the railroad ran, The bootleg liquor and the big-time bands, They would knock ‘em out and they would turn them loose, And they’d all go rockin’ down the Old Blue Goose.”
The repertoire included folk, (Guthrie’s “Hard Travelling”), ballads (“Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”), country (“Stamping Ground”), and more blues, including Ledbetter’s “Bourgeois Blues,” finishing with “Whisky Highway” and a warning that “it’s a do or die way”. Blues had a baby and they named it rock ‘n’ roll, according to Muddy Waters. Well, 65-year-old Rod Clements has come full circle, starting out as a folk and blues singer, and finding his roots again back in Rothbury, Northumberland, which is now his home after a long and illustrious career as a rock star.
Dave Scott is a contributing writer at BluesWax
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