Club band or concert artists?

Aug 2018 Club band or concert artists?

THE BLACK funk music sounds of six off-white Scottish musicians has been arousing a deal of enthusiastic comment.

By Richard Green

IN TERMS of hard work, the Average White Band must be near the top of the big league lately.

Almost exactly a year ago they were invited to America to back Bonnie Bramlett on her solo album, they began gigging in Britain, playing almost every night, went to the Continent for a strenuous tour, which included three festivals in one day, and came back home to continue the never-ending motorway trekking.

“We all love to play, that’s really it,” said drummer Robbie McIntosh when he, guitarist/vocalist Hamish Stuart, tenor and soprano saxist Malcolm Duncan and I met for mid-morning drinks on the roof of the band’s London record company.

“We had to work very hard on the Continent,” he went on. “You can imagine what three festivals in one day is like. They are total disorganisation, not the right circumstances for a musician to play in. We do the best we can under every circumstance.”

Their brand of music owes a lot to James Brown, a fact which they readily admit. There is, however, a strong injection of the powerful gut music that is so often delivered by Scottish musicians.

It would be unfair to describe them as a soul band, though black funk music has been an influence.

“We’ve always liked that kind of music, but until we all got together, we didn’t have the chance to play it,” said Malcolm in between pulls at a can of lager. “Some of us knew each other years and years ago, and just jammed on occasions. We all went our separate ways and didn’t come together again until two years ago.”

Bass guitarist and lead vocalist Alan Gorrie and lead guitarist Onnie McIntyre played together in a band called Forever More which gained a good reputation.

Onnie re-joined Alan and Robbie was recruited. Robbie came direct from Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, where he had ended up via the Senate and backing American soul shows on the Continent.

Hamish had been with the Dream Police and Logo before joining the others, and Malcolm and Roger Ball — Roger plays alto and baritone sax and electric piano — had been known as The Dundee Horns, working on sessions for people like Stone the Crows, Mama Cass, Family and Johnny Nash.

Malcolm and Roger met at college in Dundee and have worked together for seven years. Apart from doing the horn arrangements, Roger writes most of the band’s material with Alan.

The visit to America to work with Bonnie was a big influence on the band who play on the tracks titled “Able, Qualified And Ready”, “Got To Get Down” and“Good Vibrations”. They have reason to be grateful to one of their roadies for getting that gig. It seems he was on holiday in America and had with him some of the band’s tapes. He played them around and when Bonnie heard them she asked the lads over.

“That was good experience,” Robbie pointed out. “America pushed us forward over a year. It gave us confidence. I’m sure that if we hadn’t gone there and played, we wouldn’t be as far advanced as we are now.”

Describing themselves as a club band rather than concert artists, the Average White Band are anxious to get back to America as soon as possible.

Malcolm explained: “We would like to go to America to do clubs and colleges, rather than doing the whole pop star bit. We’ve got to find out what is right for us in America. We know clubs are okay, but we don’t know about big audiences, huge out-of-doors events, things like that.”

Robbie agreed. “We are a club band, we like to get a feeling going with our audiences and that’s always easier when you are in closer contact with them. At festivals there’s always this great gap between the edge of the stage and the audience.

“Luckily, we don’t really play many bad gigs, in fact I can’t remember one. If something starts to go wrong on stage, it only takes one of us to laugh or fall over or something, and we’re okay again. There’s a very fine line between losing your temper and laughing on stage.”

Like most bands, this one wants to get down to making a new album as soon as possible to follow “Show Your Hand” which was released in June. Despite not showing in the charts, on the day that I met with the lads, a guy from the record company told us it had sold 1,000 in one day the previous week. So sales could well be picking up. But before the album, a single is likely to be released.

As a pointer to the amount of work the band puts in, and to bear out Robbie’s claim that the band loves playing, it is interesting to note that, while they were making their first album at the RG Studios in Wimbledon, they were still on the road.

“That’s bloody difficult,” Robbie insisted. “You get in the studio and get a nice balance, that feel, the atmosphere, then you’ve got to pack up all the gear and go to a gig and set it all up again when you get back in the studio.”

They did it, however, and the album got good reviews from the rock critics. The musical press seems to be behind the Average White Band almost to a man and that, is a good omen. Cynics are not easily hoodwinked, and in this case, there is no attempt at wool- pulling.