Review: Catfish Keith, Voodoo Rooms

Catfish Keith Voodoo Rooms***

By Sarah Nisbet
Tuesday, 18th October 2011, 10:33 am

Three decades since his acclaimed festival debut, the cult of Catfish Keith shows no sign of abating.

Last night saw the Iowa-born bluesman perform to a small crowd of blues aficionados and devotees – who fell hook, line and sinker for Keith’s country blues style.

Dressed in a brown loose-fitting suit and porkpie hat, the blues raconteur certainly looked the part as he lamented home-grown tales of women, freight trains, devils and relationship woes.

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Keith began the evening’s blistering set with Lead Belly’s On A Monday on steel-bodied guitar, before making a swift switch to his much-revered twelve-string for Rev Gary Davis’ If I Could Holler.

His buoyant treatment of the old-time favourite demonstrated his outstanding musicianship in reinterpreting and reworking traditional blues verse.

Keith’s blues and gospel heroes were honoured throughout the evening, with standards from Joseph Spence, Bo Carter and Blind Willie Johnson positioned alongside original acoustic compositions.

On self-penned Put on a Buzz, the Delta musician showcased his intricate finger-picking and sliding. His bourbon-drenched vocals further serving the guitar’s syncopated rhythm – alternating between a guttural growl and a piercing howl.

The task of transforming the lavish Voodoo Rooms into a dive bar is no mean feat, but as he ploughed through encores When I was a Cowboy and Knocking Myself out Gradually by Degrees, Keith had his audience whooping and hollering – evoking the intimate atmosphere of a Mississippi barrelhouse.