Beggar Joe
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Beggar Joe

Manchester, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

Manchester, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Alternative Blues

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"Beggar Joe"

My geography skills may not be the most accomplished, but last time I checked, Manchester was nowhere near the Deep South. Salford has in no way been twinned with New Orleans. Now I know this, and you know this. But I don’t think anyone’s told Beggar Joe. Please, for the sake of British blues, don’t enlighten them.

Everything on this gloriously stripped back and earnest record is drenched in steel guitars and harmonised vocals, but that doesn’t mean that every track is straightforward blues. More like Delta blues given a heavy dose of English folk music in the lyrics, and just enough pop sensibility to take advantage of their catchy hooks and inventive musicianship.

Puppet King is a low-key gem of soulful vocals and minimalist guitar. Beggar Joe have landed their slower tracks on that fine line that comprises what’s considered heartfelt blues, rather than pop pretension or yawn-inducing self-indulgence. The quirky Zabba is one of those simple piano riffs that seem simply plucked out of the air; so simple it’s obvious. Yet it sounds unique, blending into the mix a sharp swing sound and steady groove. The offbeat feel continues with the standout No More Revelations, a heady mix of jazz piano and drums, with a gorgeously sleazy bass riff.

Don’t get me wrong, not every song’s an instant classic. There’s a fair bit of filler, such as the uninspired Mind Strays and more pop-oriented cocktail bar sway of Time Is Now. But even filler on this album is infinitely better in every possible way than almost every album I’ve heard this year. The music is vibrant, bursting with creative rhythms and note-perfect vocals. The worst accusation that could be levelled is that it’s got radio-friendly tunes. They’re not the best tracks on the album, but have the potential to allow the band to gain mass appeal in addition to their current indie credentials.

You can hear Beggar Joe being an album pumped out in some cosy darkened bar because it’s guaranteed to get everyone’s feet tapping under the tables. It’s a tight, musically accomplished album from a band who have the potential to achieve remarkable blends of sound and emotion. Long may it last. - The Music Magazine


"Beggar Joe Showcase - Ronnie Scotts, London"


Here at EF we like to be at the forefront of spotting new musical talent. We’re not content with bandwagon jumping or following the pack; instead we prefer to bring to you the best in new talent before anyone else. It’s with that pleasure that we can present to you Beggar Joe. The five-piece blues/jazz band invited us to their album launch at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s for an intimate showcase and an opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about.

Shortly after 7pm Beggar Joe took to the stage whilst the crowd gathered eagerly around. As the music started, everyone waited with anticipation to see if this Manchester quartet could deliver the goods we’d been promised. Thankfully the answer was yes as the band easily worked their way through several numbers influenced heavily by old-school blues and soul with a healthy does of jazz. Evil Overcomes had a dirty New Orleans’ bassline with a hint of country, Zabba (one of the set highlights) was authentically jazz whilst Ain’t No Way introduced an element of funk into the band’s usual bluesy sound.

Two things struck us whilst we watched Beggar Joe perform. Firstly the band played together incredibly tightly. Secondly vocalist and frontman Jon Kenzie has one of the most incredible voices we’ve heard in donkey’s years. With the ability to from gruff to powerful in a matter of seconds it was his voice that provided the main attraction. Every syllable, every vowel and every moment of vibrato rang clear as he lead the melody with relative ease.

Beggar Joe really surprised us and that’s why we don’t hesitate in recommending them to you, our loyal EF followers. Check out some photos from the launch below and get yourself a copy of the band’s self-titled album now - Entertainment Focus


"The Music Fix"

ReviewBeggar Joe - bringing it on home.

One of the amazing things about Manchester music is the diverse spectrum of acts who've plied their trade here, few of whom sound exactly alike. The latest recruits to this illustrious scene is Beggar Joe, a five-piece band who honed their craft on the Manchester busking scene. Their self-titled debut album feels a bit like a street performance with its lively mix of folk, blues and jazz, as if trying to please whoever may be passing by. And please it does. This is a lovely, laid back offering that may not map out any uncharted musical territory but will make wherever you happen to be a much nicer place.

Like the classic old blues songs, these 13 tracks take their inspiration from the traditional themes of that genre. There is much talk of wicked men, faithless women, and the evil that gets into a man’s soul. The album begins with the quiet unease of the Iron and Wine-tinged ‘Puppet King’; “A world ruled by a puppet king, with wooden glazed eyes only hollow within.” Jon Kenzie's throaty, evocative voice adds beauty and menace to these lyrics about corruption and manipulation while the music takes a backseat, gently pushing the action along.

‘Sleeping City’ 's slide guitar opening and Kenzie’s smoky vocals is reminiscent of classic Allman Bothers but with a bluesier feel. “With one ear to the floor I can hear the winds whisper…making my body shiver, down into my soul it creeps.” The song starts off slow and easy then transcends into a glorious foot stomping, hand clapping romp. ‘Evil Overcomes’, with its steel guitar, rolling piano and pulsating stand up bass, is jazzier and punchier. “What has this good world done to deserve the horror men serve? While we sit in our towers, assuming something will be done.” Kenzie’s vocals are almost heckling while the misleadingly upbeat music belies the cynical message within.

‘Rely On’ is a complete departure. It opens simply with acoustic guitar and Kenzie’s beautiful voice with the rest of the band eventually joining in, wisely keeping the vocals centre stage. “He needs to be someone he can rely…that he can be proud of.” ‘Zabba’ is a bit of a disappointment. If you have a voice as good as Jon Kenzie you shouldn’t try to sound like someone else. Kenzie’s Louis Armstrong impersonation is a bit grating and the lumbering uninspired music does little to help.

Fortunately the gorgeous ‘Mind Strays’ comes to the rescue, the soft jazz-infused music leaving Kenzie’s voice free to roam where it will; "What is this place that fills my eyes with beauty and grace?" ‘Time Is Now’ has a Cuban feel to it while ‘Aint No Way’ sounds like Jamiroqui mixed with classic Doobie Brothers; “Woman what do expect from me, to come back to you after you made me look a fool.”

The rest of the album returns to the blue-folk of the opening tracks. ‘No More Revelations’ is like a breath of fresh air with its refreshing simplicity and Kenzie’s powerful and passionate vocals;"I can no longer see straight, my vision has changed into a haze." The instrumental ‘Walk Away Pat 1’ starts with a Spanish guitar intro setting the scene for ‘Walk Away Part 2’, quiet, haunting and exquisitely beautiful, the band’s subtle and elegant playing showcasing Kenzie’s astonishing voice; "As I'm sitting here, I see in my eyes, that I'm lying to myself." The ethereal ‘Misbehaver’ sounds like a lullaby with Kenzie singing softly in your ear; “Oh misbehaver, what mischief is this?” The album ends with the gentle and lulling ‘Can You See’; “If you had some of these things, you’d be floating free.” The song’s stripped-down sound blends well with Kenzie’s dreamy delivery.

This is an impressive first album with an interesting mix of styles that never seem to stray from the band’s own identity. It will be the perfect record for winding down to after a long hard day.
- www.themusicfix.co.uk


"Click Music"

It seems fitting that this band-on-the-way-up should have returned to their formative city for two gigs in one of the most musically historic bars in town. Taking the small stage of the bar once owned by Factory Records their unassuming entrance belies what is about to begin. From the first Jack Daniels chords to the last hoe-down crescendo, the quintet showed that this kind of roots-blues influenced indie is very much alive and well a few thousand miles away from the Mississippi. Jon Kenzie, providing the vocals and guitar, may look like butter wouldn't melt but his voice sounds like Southern fried grit.

To place them exclusively within the blues canon would be unfair, and tonight's performance proves this. In their most melancholic, 'singer-songwriter' moments (such as 'Rely On') they could break more hearts than Casanova. What's more, it is here their maturity is made obvious. Their downbeat moments are understated enough, but retain a fullness that is expected from five guys playing loud, bar room music. Looking around four or five tracks in and the small crowd - initially made up mainly of industry types and a few randoms - has grown to three times its original size, with all heads bobbing on the bodies gathered at the stage.

As is the way with such things it was all over well before time, but not before the deal-sealer 'Sleeping City', with its big intro dropping into a dirty head nodder of a rhythm. Sucking the captive audience into some dark, mysterious place, the track's repetitive hook strolls on and on until we're left with nothing but a guitar lick, then runaway train percussion, before keys, strings and skins all drop into a frenetic minute or so of pure heads down, dancefloor genius. Walking out there's only one thing on everyone's mind, and that's how surprising it is that the debut LP is still three months away.

Martin Guttridge-Hewitt - www.clickmusic.com


"All Gigs"

Beggar Joe - Beggar Joe Album Review

Beggar Joe
Image: linkAlbum Review
Hot, hot, hot.

If you're gonna do a debut album, it might as well be impressive. This is exactly that from Manchester quintet Beggar Joe.

Known locally as the cool Street Soul Guys, this tag streamlines their repertoire far too much. Beggar Joe is a unique amalgam of musicians with various musical backgrounds.

Singer-guitarist Jon Kenzie began playing guitar when he was 10, though it took a local blues guitarist to get him fired -up leading to busking stints in the city and local bands. Keyboardist Justin Shearn took his cues from listening to his dad playing intricate blues guitar, though he turned to his passion towards keys. Bassist Andy Brown taught himself to play upright bass having a member of heavy metal bands in his youth. Percussionist Rome Mosabbir lived in Malaysia for 10 years, also studying Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian, Cuban and Samba styles adding another slant to Beggar Joe's eclecticism.

Finally, drummer Chris Butler took early inspirations watching his uncle drumming in a blues band.

By definition, this is a pretty heady mix of styles all delivered with a confident swagger as they glide through the styles with an urban cool provided by Grammy award-winging producer Al Stone, who worked on Jamiroquai's hit album Travelling Without Moving.

His touch is all over the sublime ballad No More Revelations with Kenzie pulling out the stops on an impressive vocal a la Jay Kay.

It's the blues that opens this musical box of delights though, featuring the delicate finger picking he learnt early on. Bassist Brown unleashes a funky groove that drives the piece towards a world blues template favoured by Eric Bibb, and you're hooked.

Steel guitar riffs open an explosive Sleeping City that's full organic flavours bolstered by Kenzie's throaty vocals, keeping things nice'n'edgy, giving it an Allman Brothers texture. After a prolonged four minute laidback format it explodes into a Led Zep blues romp.

Via rolling piano, things take a jazzier mood for the restrained Evil Overcomes, though their blues tendencies emerge due to the steel guitar picks with Mosabbir's percussion adding a menacing touch.

They shift mood and style for the gentle Rely On. Filigree guitaring and soft tones make this a magical track with Kenzie's exquisite voice just kept in focus.

No doubt Mosabbir's experience is given centre stage on the Brazilian -flavoured Mind Strays. The jazzy bass and shuffling drums and percussion give this Latin textures allowing Kenzie to open those cultured tubes, and striding rhythms of Time Is Now give it a Cuban. Lead -off single Ain't No Way has all the funky splashes of Jamiroquai, deserving attention from A-list compilers across the nation's radio stations.

Tinkling guitar unveils ethereal Misbehaviour while Kenzie does his immaculate crooner-thing, again nodding towards Bibb's worldier vision. Nifty picks and lightweight percussion lay the foundation for Kenzie to add his swooning vocals.

Oh...and don't forget to miss out on the ambient hidden ending to the 13 minute long Can You See?

The verdict - A must buy.
- www.allgigs.co.uk


Discography

Double 'A' side single c/w 'Ain't No Way' and 'Sleeping City'
Album Self Titled 'Beggar Joe' Released October 12th.
DRS3, Switzerland A list playlist (chart entry number 1 download iTunes blues albums)
Radio 2, England (chart psition number 4 iTunes UK blues chart)
BBC Radio Manchester
7Digital
Spotify
iTunes
www.myspace.com/beggarjoe
Youtube "Beggar Joe"

Photos

Bio

In a musical world forever dominated by passing fad and fickle fashion, Beggar Joe cannot help but stand out as something special, the real thing even, a blues and soul powerhouse so steeped in the roots of the genre they could be the offspring of pure Mississippi Delta stalwarts. There are five of them, they are in their late 20s and early 30s, and they hail, for the most part, from Manchester. Upon the imminent release of their self-titled debut album, they might just become your favourite new band.
Produced by Al Stone (Jamiroquai, Bob Dylan, Corinne Bailey Rae among countless others) and inspired by BB King, Curtis Mayfield and James Brown, but also with echoes of an acoustic Paul Weller here, a reinvigorated Gomez there, "Beggar Joe" is one of those rare things, an album so assured of its time and place in the world, of its understated power to move, that it sounds as if it has been around forever. It very likely will be.

Their story starts five years ago, at Manchester University, where four of them were studying music.
Singer and guitarist Jon Kenzie had been a music fanatic since the age of 10, more in awe of, say, Muddy Walters than he was anything in the current pop scene. Within five years, he had found the perfect sandpaper voice to go with his passion, and never looked back. Keyboardist Justin Shearn had picked up his father's love of the blues from an early age, and passed many hours, days and weeks sitting at the piano steadfastly honing his craft. Bassist Andy Brown, perhaps one of the few tree surgeon/heavy-metal fanatics, realised, by his mid 20s, that blues inspired more in him than metal ever did and turned, almost instinctively, to the double bass, rarely listening to Metallica again. And drummer Chris Butler was so passionate about his own instrument that drumming is all he has ever done. He even set up his own custom-made drum business. Business is brisk.
Each member gravitated towards one another through a shared love of the greats, and spent the next several years playing together, learning from one another and gradually becoming the most solid of foundations.
But three years on, they decided they were still missing one key component. Enter Rome Mosabbir, whom they didn't pluck from Manchester Uni at all. Mossabir, who is 39, is an astoundingly gifted percussionist who has travelled the world via music, studying, and perfecting, Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian, Cuban and samba styles. When he arrived into Beggar Joe, the band were complete. They were good now, properly good. And they knew it.
"And so it was only a matter of time, really," says Jon Kenzie, "before things at last started to happen for us."

Never the kind of band to become an overnight sensation, Beggar Joe instead continued to grow organically. They built up quite a local following, performing regularly on the live circuit in Manchester and, from time to time, even busking on the streets.
Given their strong local reputation, they were regularly spotted by management teams, each of whom had big plans for the band. One of them flew them out to Texas, to gain experience and play live, while another afforded them songwriting sessions in Italy. They were even, once, invited to play in the southern Chinese town of Canton, where they performed alongside local bands as well as, Kenzie recalls with a grin, "magicians and tap dancers."
Which brings us back to where we started, the introduction to Beggar Joe, a modern-day blues and soul powerhouse, your favourite new band.