Rockabilly, Country, Blues & Roots Music

Press/Reviews

Press and Reviews for John Lewis

Steve Lamacq BBC radio 6 ” this could catch on you know”
Tom Robinson BBC radio 6 ” Fantastic energy and passion there”
Adam Walton BBC radio Wales “The tunes excellent really authentic and raw” “incredibly really really good” “Great great music”
John Lewis & His Trio – ‘Sanity’
Release Date : 8th Sept 2014 / Atomic Cowboy Records ACR004
“Rockabilly has never sounded as good as this.” (Maverick)
“He’s amazing! A real treasure” (Imelda May)
Welsh rockabilly hero John Lewis returns with the brand new album ‘Sanity’ on 8th August 2014. Dedicated to everyone who has supported John over the many years of relentless touring and tearing it up around the world, the album is another exciting instalment of 11 distinct originals and a couple of inspired re-interpretations. Three years since Lewis’s much celebrated ‘Billy Banks Sessions’ which received rave reviews, ‘Sanity’ provides further proof that Lewis can hold his head up high amongst the greatest exponents of ‘Rock’n’Roll and Rockabilly to ever emerge from Wales.
Kicking things off with gusto, opening song ‘Flat-Top Cat’ is for Mac Curtis the legendary original Rockabilly who sadly passed away last year. Also released on a limited 7” vinyl single by German Record label Migraine it’s already been gaining substantial radio air play all over Europe. The title song ‘Sanity’ features some wonderful ‘doo wop’ harmonies from The Jets while other songs span the many different styles of Rock’n’Roll. From the rawest Rockabilly of ‘It Hurts’ to ‘Please Don’t Let Me Love You’, (a Hank Williams demo turned into a jiving dance floor hit) John Lewis and his Trio – featuring the amazingly talented Stuart McIlroy on piano, Paul “Woody” Woodmansey on double bass & Billy Duval on drums – display a compelling energy and that thrilling sense of urgency so essential to this music.
Even the traditional Welsh song ‘Sosban Fach’ gets a dramatic re-interpretation as John displays his impressive guitar skills. Split into three different sections it begins in a ‘Merle Travis’ finger picking style, before ending in the kind of twangy Dick Dale style surf guitar playing that has proven so successful for fellow Welsh ‘Surf Guitar’ band ‘Y Niwl’ recently. Along with the Clive Arms skittles team who contribute some spirited backing vocals, expect to hear this newly invigorated ‘Sospan Fach’ used on TV and Radio throughout the forthcoming Rugby season.
Recorded live over just two days at Wood St. Front Room Studios in South Wales and mastered at Hafod by Gethin John & Donal Whelan, this is John’s 2nd trio album but 17th album in total including award winning Rimshots albums, to 4 as ‘Johnny Bach’ with Imelda May guitarist Darrel Higham. John has already headlined some of the major festivals on the ‘Rocking scene’ this year from Moscow to the UKs Rockabilly Rave performing alongside legends like Wanda Jackson and Deke Dickerson. With a busy schedule ahead including more festivals and an 18 day European tour later this year, there’s just no stopping this ‘Welsh king of Rockabilly’.
For more information, promo requests or interviews please contact penarthsrrc@ntlworld.com or contact www.therealjohnlewis.com
“Its Rock’n’Roll Jim but not as we know it”
Q magazine
Described by the Meltdown as “International rockabilly legend as frontman for the Rimshots, and solo an electrifying performer combining dazzling guitar with a glorious life-soaked voice which brings heart and depth to both classics and his own impressive songs. Be mesmerised by the missing link between Johnny B Goode and Johnny Cash”
Paul Clark Meltdown
“ As well as being a superb versatile performer John Lewis is all ways a joy to work with
and always a true professional”

 

Dan Nichols Cardiff Event Development
“It’s a well know fact that the Welsh Valley are home to of the finest…  Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and of course John Lewis!
When I first heard John’s unique vocal delivery I thought it was incredible. I’ve heard it for Many years since an it really is exceptional. Judge for yourself”
Jerry Chatabox Rockabilly Rave USA Las Vegas
”John Lewis a living legend in the Rocking scene is an icon in song writing and playing old and new Classic to bop, waltz, Jive and stomp too!”
Rocking Around Turnhout festival Belgium
“It’s almost unbelievable but true; one of the most successful and legendary Rockabilly band of all times will hit the stage at this years hangar rockin’ 2010! We fly these gentlemen’s asses to Switzerland where they will perform for the first time in more than 10 Years! We know you love the John Lewis Trio and Johnny Bach but the Rimshots are a goddamn musical hand grenade and this is exactly what you’ll get. and nothing less!”
 Paul Burkhalter Crazy Eventik Switzerland
“The Welshman with the invading voice has been quiet for awhile. Don’t worry – he’s back! As front man for the Rimshots and Johnny Bach he’s still all over the place and here we get another fine band from Mr Lewis – John Lewis Trio.
The new album is in the pipeline and music wise is drifting between the Rimshots and Johnny Bach. These 8 preview songs are pure rocking at its best and John shows again that he has managed it perfect to pack his musical talent, brilliant sense of humour and song writing in every song on this album. It doesn’t matter if its Hillbilly, Rockabilly, Country or Folk –  he mix’s everything and creates tunes that are real ” ear catchers” and make you move around. Anyway I got this 8 track preview CD – I can say – I can’t wait for the whole album – just to “Waltz around the Kitchen” which is my favourite song on this preview”
Olaf Haspel Mad House Jump Magazine Germany
In America they called it “soul”, In Wales we call it “hwyl”, singing with heart felt emotion. commitment and passion. Penarth’s very own Retro-esque Indie musician /singer/songwriter John Lewis has it in spades. John is one of the organisers and founder of the near legendary Penarth Pilot Sunday night jam session. His former band the Rimshots made a huge splash across Europe. John has recorded for labels in Holland, Japan, Australia, London (the oh so cool Vinyl Japan), and Germany – a made in Wales Hank Williams Tribute that won a prestigious British Music Award as album of the year. As well as backing and recording with many of his heroes, rock and cult legends on weekend festivals all over the globe. John also headlined many London gigs where stars came to watch the messianic eyed charismatic lead singer and chief songwriter in action.
Under his alter ego name of Johnny Bach, he has four CDs available, recorded along with Gretsch Twangmeister Darrel Higham, last seen touring with the Amazing Imelda May, which John has supported many a time solo
Haven’t seen him, where can I catch this local treasure before St Fagan’s grabs him? Weeeeeeeeell John Lewis tours Solo or with his Trio all over. He also can be seen doing the odd Johnny Bach and The Moonshine Boozers gig and Rimshots re-union. As well as  session work and playing guitar with Pontchartrain, So no excuses

Review; The Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek; Thursday February 23rd – John Lewis

‘Well, I said hello to the spirit of 1956,

Who was stationed in the bushes next to ’57….’

Thus sang Jonathan Richman on one of the dozen best songs ever recorded, ‘Roadrunner’.

I encountered the same spirits on a soggy Thursday night in Leek. It’s not what you expect, really and I would have appreciated fair warning but there it is.

A modest but politely enthusiastic audience was more a reflection of the night rather than ‘the turn’. Leek, one of the highest towns in England – ‘Queen of the Moorlands’, baby – was sloshing about in the remains of the tropical storm which had brought a well – morphed spirit of the Caribbean many miles away from source. This exotic and fantastical weather ‘bomb’ was well named by the time it reached these climes.

Doris. Queen of the wet and windy.

So one for the hardy, very local or true believers.

First up, support from a local musician and leading light in the Leek Blues Fest – end of last week in September 2017 for those of you young enough to believe in the idea of forward planning – Mike Gledhill, an affable singer – songwriter who played an amiable bunch of self – penned songs, one of which he entertainingly claimed he wrote with J.J. Cale….”he just doesn’t know it yet…!” all of which amounted to a pleasant enough starter – upper.

John Lewis is, in his solo incarnation, a revelation from the second he hits the strings. Within the first four songs it is pretty obvious we’re in the presence of something a bit special here. His repertoire wanders with total comfort between 1956 rockabilly skeletons, Hank Williams – esque country painfests, straight – ahead four on the floor R’n’B – tinged rock ‘n’ roll that Chuck Berry made his own, and the prehistoric pop sensibilities of Buddy Holly. How does he manage this?

Well, for a start, this guy has A Voice. And it’s usually the voice which lets down a perfectly acceptable ‘Americana’ (hate the term – but bear with me) act, especially the blues. But this guy has got the whole thing going on. I find it incredible that one bloke’s voice can capture the essence of the pained ache of the aforementioned Hank Williams (done badly it just sounds like mawkish sentimentality – and John Lewis doesn’t appear to do mawkish sentimentality), the tremulous, vulnerable majesty of Roy Orbison, the mean, gritty swagger of some of the other Sun – era originals like Sonny Burgess, Charlie Feathers et al, and the popped – up sweetness of Buddy and yes, at one point, Elvis and of course, Johnny Cash. Not only that, he is positively expert on a range of guitars that look like they really ought to be nailed to the wall in a museum in Nashville or used as agricultural instruments.

Here is a man who is on top of his game, big style. You don’t have the likes of Imelda May helping out on his beautiful celebration of dadness, Waltz Around The Kitchen, or The Jets providing back – up on some of his recordings without knowing your chops. What I find similarly astonishing is the authenticity which having a ‘stamping board’ – which looks like a heavily – modified pallet – as your rhythm section. And to keep that going with metronome precision throughout a set which requires a variety of pace changes mid – song can’t be easy, not to mention physically exhausting.

What is it about the Welsh? Why do they produce such brilliant rock ‘n’ rollers? Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers; the much – maligned Shakin’ Stevens; Geraint Watkins; Ricky Valance (first Welshman to have a UK number 1 hit; ask your grandma.) Even Sir Thomas The Jones started out with beat – group derivatives of old – school r and r. And John Lewis sits fairly and squarely in the middle of this tradition. Already. And you feel there’s still plenty to come.

Perhaps the best compliment you can pay an artist who features a number of ‘covers’ in their set is that the originals are not fillers you sit through politely before he chucks in a crackling, impatient ‘Help Me’ or an incendiary ‘Baby Please Don’t Go.’ By focussing on the fundamentals, family relationships (‘Waltz’) paying the bills or not (‘Money Troubles’) or social exclusion (‘Not Quite The Not’) his own stuff sits in perfect context with a whole range of classics which span early skiffle, work songs, blues and country. Modern sensibilities, mark you; ‘Money Troubles’ is a beaut, naming the beast in a direct and modern setting. I mean, if he was writing ‘baby left me and mah mule got lame, lost mah money in a poker game’ you’d wonder quite what the point was. So he doesn’t.

And that quite stunning voice enables him to interpret an old and well – worn song with vision and flexibility. I mean, ‘Always On My Mind’ sung by Elvis always sounds to me like ‘I may not be perfect but regarding our relationship I’m always Elvis Presley.’ Sung by Willie Nelson, it sounds like ‘I’m nowhere near perfect but regarding our relationship, this is the about the best I can manage.’ Here is an interpreter of other people’s songs who thinks about what they mean to him, not just his own material and that isn’t necessarily a given.

Note to self; go and see The Real John Lewis, as the microphone stand proclaims, as a trio and see how that changes the dynamic of things. I’d imagine that freed from having to be his own personalised rhythm section there’d be some real pyrotechnics then. And also, must go see him in an over – full, sweaty cave somewhere filled with the drunk and the raucous rather than the sparsely – populated but admittedly lovely high ceilinged Victoriana of the Foxlowe Centre.

I stop mid-gush to voice two slight concerns. Firstly, regards old rockabilly and rock n roll, (I flatly refuse to use the term Americana as I hate it with a vengeance) virtually the entire world is looking in a direction away from the original source of music as we know it at the moment. How is this phenomenal talent to break out of the limitations of the genre? And secondly, what exactly IS the genre? And DON’T say Americana, I will not be held responsible for my actions. Sooner or later, a ‘breakthrough’ airplay track may well compel The Real John Lewis to define himself a little more precisely than his talent would probably feel comfortable with. At that point The Real John Lewis – or a version of – might be forced to stand up. (At which point the rhythm section will fall silent, ‘cos you can’t do the stomp rhythm thing unless you’re sitting down.)

But neither of these things are the artist’s problem and neither are they particularly within his control, either.

And the latter might be a nice problem to have. It would be no less than his talent deserves.

New acoustic album ‘His Other Side’ comes out on February 26th, I’m told. Website www.therealjohnlewis.com

Five stars

Steve Jenner 24/02/17

 

One thought on “Press/Reviews

  1. Wayne radley

    Hi John, Hope you’re well. I’ve just about worn out The Billy Banks sessions, still getting requests from it though. Any chance of a promo copy of the new one.

    A.T.B.

    Wayne
    Lincoln City Radio

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