Last night I saw Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown at the Towne Crier in Beacon, NY. If you are a fan of the blues or of British blues rock of the 1960’s and 1970’s you should, by all means try to see this band live.
The newly reopened Towne Crier at its new location in Beacon is a warm, intimate space with great food, good service and not a bad seat in the house. The sound at this concert was the best I’ve heard in many years. Kim played a Les Paul and a Gibson acoustic through a Fender DeVille and a vintage 1970’s Marshall combo amp with only a Tube Screamer and a Crybaby Wah for effects. The sound of the band was crisp and well-balanced with nothing lost in the mix. This was quite different from the booming, overly processed sound I’ve heard at concerts in recent years.
Kim Simmonds, at the age of 16, founded the band 50 years ago. Their first album, however, was only released in the UK. They became known in the US after the release of their second album in 1968 and gained popularity with their tour of 1969. This timing may explain why Simmonds has been so underrated as a guitarist, as audiences here had already placed artists like Clapton, Beck and Hendrix on a pedestal.
Nevertheless, Simmonds’ playing should have earned him a spot in rock’s pantheon – and he still can play! His timing is perfect, his tone is pure blues nirvana – clear and biting with just enough grit. His fretwork, passionate yet tasteful, keeps your interest throughout the show and leaves you wanting more when the show ends. The rhythm section of bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm was tight and sympathetic.
This band is still the real deal (like the Savoy Brown I saw back in 1972). There were no detours into so called adult oriented rock (or middle of the road music) or misguided attempts to sound contemporary. Also, there were no long drum solos or bass slapping solos, the sonic equivalent of someone groaning and dropping their weights while working out at the gym. This is a stripped down trio with nothing to get in the way of the music. New songs were seamlessly integrated alongside old favorites and both sounded refreshing. Simmonds’ vocals sound remarkably similar to Savoy Brown’s singer from the late sixties, early seventies, Lonesome Dave.
Unlike some of the aloof guitar gods I’ve seen, Kim Simmonds connects with the audience. He is affable and friendly, relating how he learned to write blues songs by backing artists like John Lee Hooker and Champion Jack Dupree in the 1960’s. He also recalled how he wrote the song Sunday Night, from the album Looking In, relating how at the time he was doing “way too much”; performing, writing the songs, producing the albums, and he arrived at the studio on a Sunday night with no material prepared. So, he just started playing and the instrumental tune was born. He then did a killer version of it on acoustic guitar.
As I said, if blues is your thing, don’t miss this tour. You will see a true blues hero, content to be underrated, rising above it all with no rock star pretensions. You will not be disappointed.
Here is a song from the performance