Billed as an “official bootleg” and recorded in Aberdeen in July, Live At The Blue Lamp is a fine addition to the catalogue from the award winning married couple, Rob and Sarah Skinner, who have the distinction of being feted by both the blues and country fraternities. With Rob on guitar and drums and Sarah on sax and blues harp with both singing they inhabit a country blues world that in the UK started off with skiffle before being taken up by the beatnik community who all moved to Cornwall singing Josh White and Jesse Fuller songs. While Chicago heat was the primary fuel that fired the 60’s blues boom bands like McGuiness Flint and even Mungo Jerry kept the skifflish side alive. Live it seems the Skinners sit on this side of the fence with the sax adding a Dixieland touch to several of the songs. The album features songs from all of their three studio albums and while the “warts and all” one take capture means that the sound is slightly on the harsh side with the spoken introductions to the songs booming somewhat it does convey the sheer sense of fun and enjoyment that the band bring to their audiences almost as if this were a hootenanny.
They set up their stall on the opening Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses which features the pair at their best, harmonising well while the song sashays with a Southern spiritual swing. Up All Night is more of a holler with a stomping beat while Girl In A Truck takes on the stereotypical chest beating bro country formula without the bombast with Rob declaring he doesn’t want a girl all dolled up, just a girl in a truck. There’s an odd detour next as they deliver a cover of Bowie’s Space Oddity, admittedly a very fine cover but at odds with the surrounding material. They also cover Dylan’s Forever Young which does fit into the canon but one gets the impression that these are primarily opportunities for Sarah to shine on the sax (she did win Instrumentalist of the Year at this year’s British Blues Awards) and it’s telling that both covers pale in comparison to the rest of the album.
Able to be tender on the likes of Lay Me Down they can also stoke the fires with a rousing Got My Mojo Working with Sarah channelling the last of the red hot mamas on breakneck sax and throaty vocals while Stuck is a sassy spurned lover rant. They close the album with the very fine countrified Browns Ferry Blues and the risqué romp of Hot Tamales which allows Sarah Skinner plenty of space to vamp on the sax.