Blues In Britain Magazine

John O'Leary & Sugarkane

The Liverpool Marina 31st March 2011

John O’Leary’s Sugarkane comprises one of the very best ensembles of blues musicians in the UK. In addition to the man himself on warm-toned harp, the band boasts the superlative keyboard skills of Jools Grudgings, the spell-binding magic of Roger Inniss on bass guitar, the newly returned prodigious drumming of Joachim Greve and the sublime guitarmanship of local favourite, Steve Wright. It was no surprise therefore that the Marina was crammed full with an eager crowd of fans.

The programme opened with a splendid delivery of “Born In Chicago” and Junior Wells’s funky “Snatch It Back And Hold It”, which afforded Roger Inniss his first opportunity to display his prowess with a terrific bass solo. “Early In The Morning” featured phenomenal dexterity from Jools Grudgings and Steve Wright and a drumming masterclass from Joachim Greve. Steve Wright then assumed the vocal mantle for “Help The Poor” and added some tasty guitar licks for good measure. John O’Leary then returned to the fray to close the first set with a fine rendition of “Little By Little”.

The second set leaped into action with Kenny Burrell’s upbeat instrumental “Chitlins Con Carne” before “She’s 19 Years Old” was considerably embellished with some beautifully mellow harp work. Nat Adderley’s jazzy “Worksong” led into the vibrant finale of the show, starting with a marvellous version of “Black Cat Bone”, which ably showcased the instrumental talents of all five band members, and culminating in a fabulous amalgamation of “Help Me” and “Look On Yonder’s Wall” that transfixed the delighted audience with a mesmerising wall of sound.

This is a group of musicians who never resort to simply going through the motions and their obvious enjoyment of performing is guaranteed to evoke an appreciative response from their audience. Great entertainment.