Live Review: Big Wolf Band / Chris Bevington Organisation – Bluefunk Rhythm and Blues Club, Poynton – 23 June 2024



The Bluefunk Rhythm and Blues Club has become a beacon for quality blues events in Cheshire since its inception in 2006. The brainchild of Garry White, the idea was simple: bring outstanding blues artists to a musical desert and in doing so build up a loyal family of supporters. Over the years the venues hosting Bluefunk have changed for a variety of reasons, although they have largely remained in the Macclesfield and Poynton locales; but the ethos that has seen them nominated for UK Blues Club of the Year in the UK Blues Awards has remained the same. Currently operating across several venues, tonight’s gig takes place at The Club@142 in Poynton, which is a rather splendid and recently refurbished working men’s club. Unlike the rather rough and ready venues that I am used to frequenting, this is all rather refined, with a two-tiered seated layout around a small dance floor and a good sized stage which will come in handy (more of that later).

Tonight’s show is a double header, with both acts afforded equal time to work through impressive set lists. First up we have the Chris Bevington Organisation, an 8-piece blues extravaganza (hence the need for the large stage!). Formed in 2012 by blues maestro Chris Bevington as a personal project just to have some fun playing a few of the old standards, things became more serious when the original plans for an EP became an album and the glowing reviews began to flood in. Over the years the line up of the band has remained fluid, with some great names including Jim Kirkpatrick (who you will know from FM) and Scott Ralph passing through the ranks as well as collaborations with guests such as Robert Hart, Rebecca Downes and Peter Frampton on the albums. Like many other bands, momentum was lost when the pandemic forced the live music scene to shut down, and there have been several incarnations as Chris has rebuilt the group over the subsequent years. Fortunately he has now found some truly world class musicians who have gelled into an outstanding live unit. The traditional guitar/bass/drums sound is expanded to include keyboards and a brass section as well as luscious backing vocals which really help to fill out the sound.

Kicking off with Got To Know, It Ain’t Easy and No Doctor it’s clear that we are in for some quality blues tonight. The focal point for the band is Jim Hodgkinson on vocals and guitar, with backing singers Ruby Brocklehurst and Loxi Abbott at his side. Although Chris’s name is on the logo, he is an unassuming presence on stage happy to lay down the bottom end and let Jim and fellow guitarist Luke Machin shine on the many glorious solos in their set. The brass section (Ben Oakes on saxophone and Tez Smith on trombone) adds to the big blues band vibe, fleshing out the sound on the funky Boogie Man and She Ran. Deep River, from most recent album Sand & Stone, has got a dirty riff at its heart that really hits the spot and juxtaposes with the sweet vocal harmonies which suggest that butter wouldn’t melt. This is followed by some evocative slide guitar on 61 & 49, bringing to mind the hot, languid swamps of the Mississippi delta. Ruby and Loxi then take over lead vocal duties for I’ll Be Waiting which has a deep soul flavour and a beautifully evocative guitar solo from Luke.

Things start to get funky again for It’s Too Late, with those big brass fills bolstering the sound and encouraging everyone to join in the good times. A new addition to the set, Francis Dunnery’s Kiss Me is slow building blues with a dirty grind at its core. Oozing sultry sex–appeal, the pulsating bass line throbs beneath an increasingly frenzied guitar solo before the final climax. After that we need to cool down to the sassy Better Start Cookin’, built around a traditional walking blues bass line with those horns adding colour once again. A melancholic Already Got The Blues brings the pace down before we come to the end of the main set with the upbeat Comin’ Down With The Blues which leaves the crowd wanting more. Eager to please, the band strike up Someone To Watch Over Me and slowly build the tension as Jim wrings out a truly beautiful solo to draw their set to an end.

Chris Bevington Organisation


After a quick change round, the Big Wolf Band hit the stage with Valley Of The Fallen Kings, one of the stand out songs on new album Rebel’s Journey. Adding a twist to the traditional blues tale of striking a deal with a crossroads demon, it’s clear from the outset that the band are taking no prisoners tonight. Jonathan Earp (lead guitar and vocals), looking cool in wrap around shades, makes the most of the vanity stage at the front which doesn’t go unnoticed by his band mates who take the mickey as they later exchange banter between songs. The pace continues with Living On Borrowed Time which, despite taking a darker turn lyrically to talk about battling depression, has a driving rhythm at its heart thanks to bassist Mick Jeynes and drummer Tim Jones. Jonathan’s guitar tone hits that sweet spot which just makes your cares melt away. Lay It On The Line and Just A Little Bit Of You,both from Rebel’s Journey, are mid-paced tunes which afford the audience a breather with the latter a funky little number featuring Robin Fox on keyboards. Then it’s time for one of the big set-pieces of the night in the form of Darker Side Of You. A slow and mournful tale of a relationship that has turned sour, this slow blues gradually builds towards an emotional, gut-wrenching solo. This is a perfect example of the way that the blues can take you into the deepest depths of despair and yet make you feel so good at the same time.

Tonight is gig 14 of a 30 date tour which runs through to December, so it’s safe to say that Big Wolf Band have firmly hit their stride.  The musicianship is first class and the band are so tight that they have moved beyond telepathy and have reached a zen-like level of communication between the players onstage. Given the trials and tribulations that they have been though over the past 10 years, not least the operation that Jonathan went through in 2019 to alleviate damage to his shoulder which actually ended up making things worse, it should come as no surprise to learn that they can tackle pretty much anything that is thrown at them.

Rhythm guitarist Justin Johnson steps up to take over lead vocals on Rollin With Thunder before Jonathan takes over once more for the epic If I Ever Loved Another Woman. You can hear a pin drop (there is no disrespectful chatter at the bar at Bluefunk) as the song slowly builds towards a truly wonderful solo that simply drips with emotion. Every note counts and every ounce of feeling is wrenched out of the guitar: this is a perfect example of what the blues does best. Heavens Got The Blues and I Don’t Love You pick up the pace and lighten the mood once again before we slow things down for another dark and brooding masterpiece in the form of Standing In The Rain. This is deeply personal song for Jonathan which addresses his battles living with a chronic medical condition and its impact on his mental health. Clocking in at over 7 and a half minutes, it builds and builds towards yet another big tear-jerking solo which spirals around the room reaching ever higher to finally dissipate into the ether above our heads. What else can you say except wow!

After being emotionally drained, we need a pick me up and something with a bit more pace in the form of Six Strings Loaded (another cross-roads demon!), Empire And A Prayer (think open top Cadillacs and big desert skies) and Black Dog Blues. The latter starts off as a traditional walking blues but morphs into a tussle between Robin on keyboards and Jonathan on guitar trying to outdo each other in a call and response battle that features snippets of Guns N’ Roses and Led Zeppelin as well as more traditional blues references. The main set closes with another highly personal song, Darkest Of My Days, which talks about the loss of Jonathan’s son. Capturing the unimaginable pain of every parent’s darkest nightmare, the beauty of the guitar solo offers hope and light at the end of the tunnel as the room echoes with applause. It only remains for the band to treat us to a stirring rendition of Joe Bonamassa’s Oh Beautiful! before the evening is over.

Anyone who loves rock music in all its glorious forms and multifaceted sub-genres should experience the power of the blues when it is played with the power and passion that we witnessed tonight. It is, after all, part of rock’s origin story and is at the heart of everything that we care about at ERB.

Big Wolf Band


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