For various reasons. I found myself in New York the other week, and in a resiliently unhip part of Williamsburg at a bar called Don Pedro. The opportunity had come up to see one of my favourite artists of the past couple of years, a firebrand piano man called Hans Chew, whose debut solo album, “Tennessee And Other Stories”, was a surprise entry at the sharp end of Uncut’s 2010 Top 50 (Lots more on that here).
To recap very briefly, Chew emerged from the fertile roots/avant scene that clustered around the late Jack Rose, and has subsequently hooked up in various ways with the likes of D Charles Speer & The Helix, Hiss Golden Messenger and Arbouretum, and consequently been mentioned ad nauseam on this blog.
For all his leftfield chops, however, Chew is a pretty conventional player when left to his own devices, a barrelhouse honky-tonk figure with heavy debts to Nicky Hopkins, Leon Russell, James Booker and many more players at that historically resonant interface between R&B, country and straight-up rock’n’roll that’s not visited so much these days (though there are some definite correlatives with parts of Jack White’s “Blunderbuss”, more of which soon)..
Anyhow, Chew and his current band The Boys (featuring drummer Jesse Wallace, son of the producer/mixer Andy Wallace) were playing Don Pedro at the bottom of a bill a couple of Friday nights ago, and immediately revealed themselves to be pretty much the bar band of my dreams. I can think of few songs I’ve played so much in the past few years as “The Heart Is Deceitful” (Chew’s contribution to the Jack Rose tribute project, “Honest Strings”), and the shitkicking version that opened the show identified that – along with the terrific guitarist Dave Cavallo – Chew is currently skewing more towards the blasted kind of rock’n’roll the Stones favoured in the early ‘70s, albeit with that roistering, dissolute piano to the fore.
A clutch of new songs confirmed as much, along with a yowling version of Booker’s “Junco Partner”; to get a taste of where he’s moved in the wake of “Tennessee”, I recommend hunting down the “Live At The Earl” download EP, with Cavallo well to the fore. Or maybe you could grab the free download of “Mercy” first taste of what will end up as Chew’s second album proper, from http://www.hanschew.com/mercy/.
“Mercy” starts off with one of those patented “Werewolves Of London” rolls, but soon enough reveals itself to be more or less an impassioned homage to “Sweet Home Alabama”. The rhyming of “tutti frutti” and “cutie” makes me flich occasionally, but Chew is so marinated in rock tradition, so evidently transported by the exuberant possibilities of this sacred old music, it’s hard to know how much he’s noticed what he’s doing. The beauty is, of course, that it doesn’t really matter. Good times.
Oh yeah, UK dates imminent. Please try and check him out; I think he’s at SXSW this week…
Wednesday, May 2nd- The Greystones, Sheffield
Thursday, May 3rd- Chapel Arts Centre, Bath
Friday, May 4th- Eden Project Café, St. Austell
Saturday, May 5th- Miss Peapod’s, Penryn
Sunday, May 6th- Crane Lane Theatre, Cork, IRL
Tuesday, May 8th- The Windmill, Brixton
Wednesday, May 9th- The Palmeira, Brighton
Thursday, May 10th- The Bicycle Shop, Norwich
Friday, May 11th- Korks, Otley
Sunday, May 13th- King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
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