Son of Dave @ The Hare and Hounds, Birmingham 07.11.13

If you know Son of Dave, you should already know how the large part of this review goes - deep grooves with hoarse overtones all performed by an eccentric Canadian. This withered bluesman has proved himself a master of his unique craft, not least with his latest outing 'Blues at the Grand'.

Nov 7th, 2013 at The Hare and Hounds, Birmingham / By Jack Sibley
Son of Dave @ The Hare and Hounds, Birmingham 07.11.13 The setting was not that of a star. It was a chilly, scantily-populated room above a pub made dizzy by a dismal disco ball, but actually a perfect hovel for the unwilling recluse Benjamin Darvill had created his character from. Stumbling through the crowd clad in what looked like pyjamas and a boxer's robe, the man arrived onstage mumbling unheard complaints just long enough to warm the iron and launch into his first song.

A great facet of Son of Dave's live show is the endings (or lack thereof) he shambles together. Most of the tracks have solid intros and continue with clear structure before he talks a bit over the beat he's built up then lazily taps his pedal whenever his foot lands. This is usually followed by applause. Meanwhile the recipient of this esteem is onto the next thing.

Throughout the set he played only the 'hits' - 'I Just Want to Get High With You', 'Devil Take My Soul', 'Hip Shake', 'Shake a Bone' etc. - with only one or two from the new album. It might seem odd to state this late in this piece that this is almost exactly the same show he has been touring for a number of years. Using the same jokes and only a slightly rearranged setlist, the guy simply hit his stylistic nail on the head years ago and is now only honing the show he knows his fans want to see. He is truly a performer from a classical school - giving the audience what they want with no time to recover between the blows.

After the gig, the question came up of what genre Son of Dave fits into. Described as a blues musician, the man has little in common with other styles of blues other than his harmonica and harmonies (which are co-opted into so many current styles that they can't really be tagged specifically as the blues). So what do we have here? Classic R&B? An invented buzz-word like ambient-roots? With the sporadic addition of singer Martina Topley-Bird, it is certainly arguable that this is a branch of trip-hop with its ambient, raw grooves and hip-hop beatboxing. His music clearly admits many influences but a brief analysis of character and performance reveals a little more.

The 'unwilling recluse' that is Son of Dave's character is a colourful portrait. Even when inviting two members of the audience up onstage and showering them with gifts, he doesn't seem like he really wants them there but is just trying to attain a vision of normality he only half recognises. The reluctant unity with his music is palpable when he dives into a song with perfection only to awaken in the last ten seconds and cut himself short. Everything this guy does is done with a grumble and, just to spite him, the grumble comes out entertaining. All of this smacks of a guy who, many years ago, exchanged a deep part of himself in exchange for something he thought he wanted. Perhaps at the crossroads.

Son of Dave may frame it as a pastiche but the serious quality of his music says that this is no joke. He is a true modern bluesman, maybe the last one remaining, and oh boy does he wail.