Christchurch Folk Music Club

‘Pulling the Ton’: The Muddy Mama Blues Band

22 March 2015

At 9:30pm the satiated audience rose to its feet as the encore of St Louis Blues faded away. The somewhat staid interior walls of the Irish Society Hall had rocked all evening to, at times, a 10-piece band intent on remaining loyal both to Mama Judi Smitheram and to the eras and genres it had explored.

Such energy and output would have challenged most bands over the course of an evening, however, so Mama Judi devised a first half in which band members were introduced individually song by song. In this way we witnessed them take flight and add colour in a way not possible within the spectrum of the entire ensemble. This was Judi the Blues Mama, leaning into God Bless the Child, caressing Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man, belting out Blues in the Night, gems and rarities one and all by Maria Muldaur, my old favourite the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and Billy Holiday.

Mama Judi was on fire from the opening bars, occupying centre stage in terms of delivering vocals and patter, but also the dominant force in energy, enthusiasm and presence. We gladly went along with her for this delightful evening’s entertainment.

There was a second Mama this night, this one ostensibly on keyboards but whose reach extended far beyond. Showing decades of working concerts, shows and television, and effortlessly leaping from her beloved chamber music to the challenges of modern electronica, Mama Mary Rushton was the one who set up the flow for this concert, scoring all the arrangements, setting the beat, and embellishing the back-up singing and brass with all manner of engaging rhythmic and melodic motifs. Her playing was totally sympathetic and such a joy to listen to.

The middle section represented by These Boots are made for Walkin’ was a bit too commercial and ho hum for me but for the final stanza, the band raced into toe-tapping 1960s Motown: Walk, If it hadn’t been for Love and Change Gonna Come – music ripe for the horn section and which pressed the audience’s nostalgic buttons. This was show time for Motown’s White Mama. And did they Pull the Ton? 100 hours of rehearsal for nearly 100 minutes of concertising (27 songs), advertised by possibly 100 publicity emails were rewarded by my count with just over 100 pairs of ears, many new to the Folk Club, who were happy to pay just over 10x$100 at the door. The answer was a resounding Yes.

Judi is to be complimented on her vision, networking and organisational ability.

More, please.

by Tony Hale 

Fingerpicking Delights VI

Fingerpicking Delights VI, 7 November 2021 Reviewed by Russell Dann   Tony Hale’s sixth edition of Fingerpicking Delights began inauspiciously with a sound glitch which held up the start of the concert. Happily, all was soon well as the sound men expertly got...

read more

Lindsey Shields: Singer/Songwriter from Dunedin

Lindsey Shields Dunedin based singer and songwriter with her own take on things personal and political, on topics as diverse as Harrison Ford brought her warmth to a cold night to warm the spirits of the audience. More Reviews

read more

BottleLake Junction – 21st March 2021

Thank you to everyone who turned up and supported BotteLake Junction at the Christchurch Folk Music Club concert. A full house is a true recognition of the esteem these three consummate musicians are held in, a great audience and a hard-working band is always a good...

read more

The Lesser Bob Tits: Dames Do Dylan – 23 May 2021

This very special tribute concert, produced by Eileen Reid, brought tunes to commemorate and celebrate the 80th birthday of Bob Dylan. Bringing together a group of fabulous women from a range of musical backgrounds, Isabella Miller Bell, Susan Grant, Lynette Díaz,...

read more

Hillbilly Hoedown – Barndance/Ceilidh 11th July 2021

Brought to you by Gary Elford, supported by the Port Hillbillies and Andrew Redepenning. The music was cheerful and lively, jeans and plaid adorned the room, Appalachian and Bluegrass rhythms intertwined with jigs, reels, polkas and waltzes, and the packed room...

read more

Fingerpicking Delights V

Fingerpicking Delights V 8 November 2020 By Russell Dann The fifth edition in this concert series was a cracking good concert with great artists delivering superb music in a well-balanced programme. It was compered with engaging geniality by Izzy Miller Bell with...

read more

Adam McGrath and Esther Swift Friday 21st February 2020

Adam McGrath and Esther Swift a night of contrast and exceptional musicianship. Esther from the Northern hemisphere brought grace, exquisite techniques that highlight her talented compositions juxtaposing against the raw energy of the Southern hemisphere boy, who...

read more