The parallels between Old West gunfighter and guitarslinger are obvious. Both have fast hands and both take the stage. The calling card of British-American blues-rock guitarslinger Colin John sums it up nicely, with the phrase, "Have blues, do travel."

Musically, Colin John is a bona fide triple threat. His singing is full-bodied and soulful, delivered with a passion and intensity hardly matched by most and doubtlessly exceeded by few. His guitar playing is freewheeling and intense but firmly grounded in the blues idiom and his songwriting skills are complex and mature.

The Colin John Band appeals to both rock and blues audiences around the world due to their energy, command and passion for rock with a deep understanding, love and respect for blues artists past.

Live at the New Crawdaddy Blues

Any visit to the Crawdaddy by Colin John is always going to be one not to miss but with the added ingredient of Michael Hill then this is a dish which becomes essential. And so it was this particular Thursday evening. A fine opening set from resident band the Heaters who really are well worth catching if you have not seen them for a while, set the stage for the main event. The slight disappointment that Michael & Colin were not going to treat us to any acoustic numbers from their superb 2004 CD, “Acousticland Lady”, was soon dispelled as they launched into their first number, a driving and pulsating version of “Are You Ready For The Blues” which gave Michael the opportunity to dazzle with some fine slide playing whilst Colin used his great FX pedals to stunning effect creating a multitude of different sounds.
The tempo slowed dramatically for a glorious slow & moody blues, “Soul is Doing Time”, which Michael dedicated to the innocent in the audience (I could not see any candidates!). As Michael suggested in his introduction to the next number, the blues is about telling stories and his strong political beliefs were very much on show as he castigated George Dubya for the war in Iraq (Bush comes in for more criticism in Michael’s track “By George” on his most recent release “Black Gold & Goddesses Bold”) The song “Black Gold” which also appears in a very different arrangement as “O.I.L.” on “Acousticland Lady” points to the root cause of the US invasion of Iraq and contains such great lines as “I worry ‘bout ecology/But drive around in an SUV” and “We can fee people near & far/But their freedom won’t start my car”! This arrangement of the song is really funky and again featured some great guitar work from both Michael & Colin.
Next up was a smashing cut from Colin’s most recent release “Voodoo Surfing From the Beachland” a live recording made at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio, Colin’s hometown. The track was “Hoodoo Voodoo”, a funky guitarfest to end all funky guitarfests which also gave us the first solos from Colin’s superb UK rhythm section comprising Chris Page on drums and the on stage menacing Jeff Walker whose bass playing is awesome and is accompanied by grimaces which would put the fear of God up a bunch of haka performing Maoris!
Next up was another driving powerhouse of a song which was prefaced by Michael Hill inviting the audience, particularly the ladies, to free themselves of inhibitions and rip their clothes off! The song, he said, was about satisfying your women and that the men in the audience should listen carefully, a comment met with many a knowing nod from the ladies in the audience! The song, “Undercover” spoke of the joys and pleasures of oral sex and certainly should be one that is included on any CD called “Blues to Seduce your Lady”! Now there’s a compilation it could be fun to put together, especially the research!
Much to our amazement we were heading to the final numbers and were treated to a wonderful number the title of which I did not catch but which started out very sotto voce and turned right down with Colin playing some guitar which I described in my notes as “orgasmic”, (was I still “Undercover”!?) and built superbly, yes, to climax with Jeff playing a three string bass as he managed to snap one! Glorious stuff indeed!
A final encore which again featured great guitar work from Colin & Michael as well as further stunning solos from Chris & Jeff and it was all over. As Johnny H who does the light said to me, “I could have gone on listening to that all night!” and certainly there was an unwillingness ob the part of many of the audience to go home, so unwilling were they to break the spell which Colin, Michael, Chris & Jeff had cast. Thank you guys, hurry back soon and next time give us some acoustic magic too and we will be your slaves for all time!!!

Surfing Safari

His friends aside, Colin John figures that most of the dinner crowd at Fat Fish Blue on a recent Friday night probably aren't here for his band as much as for the crawdads and Corona. With more than a decade of bar gigs -- from southern Ohio to New York to Memphis to London -- under his belt, he's got a strategy in place. The hotshot guitarist and his rhythm section will navigate both the patrons' detachment and the room's bus-depot acoustics with an opening set geared to cut through. He'll grab ears right away with a fleet-fingered instrumental opener. He'll toss out some easygoing blues grooves and make a jam affair out of some Al Green. He's more strongly connected to the Green sound than most players -- but more on that later.
Chopswise, John can hang with virtually any guitarslinger who fits the ever-widening present-day definition of blues. A sampling of his third self-released CD, Live Voodoo Surfing, shows John to be not just a formidable technician, but also an exciting and fiercely inventive player. He sounds as if he absorbed the uninhibited self-expression that Jeff Beck brought to blues.
Besides what's in his fingers, Colin John sports singer-songwriter skills on a par with those of Joe Bonamassa. His roots range is easily a match for that of North Mississippi All-Stars' Luther Dickinson. The All-Stars, in fact, are an outfit to which John's band is frequently compared -- something he doesn't mind.
John's guitar career began when he injured an eardrum in a neighborhood football game, thereby ending his tenure as a trumpeter in his junior-high band. The band director moved him to double bass, and by his junior year, John had completed the transition to guitar. Thanks to some PBS television broadcasts, he encountered "pure" blues players, such as Son Seals and Mighty Joe Young, in addition to the customary guitar idols: Hendrix, Clapton, Page, and Beck. This diet of blues traditionalists and rock greats is evident in much of John's solo work, which is equal parts roots and flash.
"I've never been a straight-ahead blues person or straight-ahead rock and roll. I listen to everything -- jazz, blues, R&B, funk, soul," John says. "I think that instills itself in my playing and in the sound of the band."
After graduating from Ohio University, John turned pro. Answering an ad in The Village Voice, he landed the guitar spot with the N.Y.C.-based Little Mike & the Tornadoes, listed as "Colin Jr. Green" on the band's 1990 debut disc, Heart Attack. While he had to share the spotlight with guest heavyweights, such as Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin and Ronnie Earl, John represented himself well in his solo spots with some clean journeyman's work.
"I was really lucky," John says. "I just went to B.B. King's [Blues Club] for like one jam, and it turns out that they needed a new band for Saturdays. I was literally there for like two or three days, and I got offered that gig."
Again, the guitarist would be consorting with major roots-music figures -- and not just backing them up. His Memphis band included such celebrated session men as Howard Grimes, on drums, and Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, on rhythm guitar. (Teenie is the one playing those sweet chords on Al Green's hits.) "We played a lot of blues, but a lot of soul as well, because of Teenie and Howard," John recalls. "[Teenie's] the one who really taught me about songwriting and rhythm guitar."
John's own prowess impressed an English promoter, who offered him work. His having a British father made getting a passport and work visa easy, and John headed for the U.K. in 1992 to form the first version of the Colin John Band, which included onetime Clapton drummer Henry Spinetti. Gigs over the next decade brought him through most of Western Europe, working with plenty of new mates and landing periodic guest shots for some of his American friends, including Hodges and Buddy Guy's younger brother, Phil.

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