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Burgess, Nicol and Kemp

Venue: The Atkinson
Town: Southport
Date: 14/06/2018

The term “supergroup” is used to describe a band which is made up of musicians who have previously achieved success as members of other bands. Obvious examples are Emerson,Lake and Palmer and Crosby,Stills,Nash and Young. More recently, we have seen the emergence of the superb Bennett, Wilson,Poole.

Tonight ,thanks to the good offices of promoter Jim Minall of Friends of Folk, we at The Atkinson were fortunate to witness the birth of a new “supergroup” consisting of three of the country’s leading folk/rock musicians , namely Burgess, Nicol and Kemp , who were playing only their second “proper” gig.

This folk-rock power trio is made up of long-time 10cc rock drummer Paul Burgess ; superb lead guitarist Ken Nicol ,formerly of The Albion Band [1998-2002] and Steeleye Span [2002-2010] and, completing the trio , Rick Kemp who was bass player for Steeleye for more than 30 years up to 2017 [ I understand that he was also briefly a member of King Crimson!].

Having played together in Steeleye for many years, Ken and Rick decided that they wanted to put a band together in order to play their own music, as both are prolific songwriters. They needed a drummer and decided that there was no one they wanted more than Paul who, happily, agreed to join them.

This evening ,the trio were augmented by pedal steel wizard Steve Conway [ formerly of Red Moon Joe] and Ian Matthews [no, not that Ian Matthews] on bass and keyboards.

A novel touch to tonight’s show was the use of a video screen onto which were projected images [often humorous] which related to the music.

Clearly, Ken and Rick have a wealth of material between them and the setlist was made up of some old favourites and some new songs.

From Rick we had such thought-provoking songs as “Special” [“Everybody’s good at everything these days”]; “Sign Of The Times” [a reflection on modern life]; his near hit “Deep In The Darkest Night”; the lovely “Lowland Sky” and “Where Are They Now”[“The high ideas of a thousand years all lost on the breeze”]. Rick also gave us a lovely version of his best-known song “Somewhere Along The Road” which has been recorded by twenty seven different artists. Steve and Ian beautifully embellished Rick’s performance , with pedal steel and piano respectively.In contrast was Rick’s heavy blues-rock number “Brampton To Roadhead”.

Ken Nicol is unquestionably one of this country’s best guitarists, both on acoustic and electric guitar. Tonight we were treated to both ,as well as Ken’s wry songwriting skills. Ken gave us songs about drinking [“Insobriety”]; money [ the superb “For Love And Money” from his album “The Bridge”]and possessions [ “Things”], which featured an awesome string-bending blues guitar solo. Ken’s song about his cat “Mavis”, turned into a Flying Burrito Brothers -style country-rock workout ,courtesy of some searing pedal steel from Steve Conway.

Ken’s impish sense of humour came to the fore on the hilarious “Two Frets Away From The Blues” which relates his experience of teaching guitar –“His heart was saying something that his fingers couldn’t play”. In total contrast ,Ken gave us two brilliant solo acoustic guitar pieces , a ragtime tune from his latest album “Days Of Reason” and “The Bridge” , a fantastic baroque-style piece which demonstrated his amazing skills.

The large crowd demanded an encore and were rewarded with a rousing rendition of Steeleye’s trad.rock hit “The Hard Times Of Old England”.

Although Burgess,Nicol and Kemp are just starting out as a band , in the words of the Steve Allen song , “This could be the start of something big”.

Peter Cowley

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