Review: Huey & The New Yorkers
Venue: The Duchess, March 11, 2013
Huey & The New Yorkers is the new band formed by Fun Lovin’ Criminals frontman and much revered BBC 6/Radio 2 DJ Huey Morgan. Their album Say It To My Face sees Huey reunited with his old buddies from New York, a gang of friends making music for no other reason than just because they can, and it’s all the better for it.
No record company pressure has seen Huey return to his roots to make an album that is rich and focused on sweet, contrified blues music. Lyrically deep and personal, his songs about the human condition warm to the soul reminding me of Brixton’s own Alabama 3 at their most mellow and heartfelt. Embarking on a small intimate tour of the pubs and clubs of the UK sees these five men from New York come to play in old York.
For some reason I was expecting Huey to be suited and booted, yet he leads the band out on to The Duchess stage on this freezing and snowy March evening dressed casual in jeans and grey hoodie with the word Marines emblazoned on it. First things first, ever cool, he introduces his friends one by one to the audience before even a note is played. He is obviously excited to be able to bring is friends out on the road with him, there is much smiling and hugging and patting on the back throughout the set tonight.
Opening proceedings with the album’s lead track Stick It To The Man gets things upbeat from the off. The band are tight, guitarist Chris Scianni his Telecaster slung low, trades riffs and licks with Morgan who nods approvingly at his friends guitar work. Suited bassist King looks like he could pull a flick knife at any moment, and Pete Levin on keys and vocals completes the front row. All the while fellow FLC drummer Frank Benbini keeps the solid beat at the back.
Huey seems to have a smile permanently etched on his face: he smiles at band and audience alike. Nodding as he makes eye contact, he leads his band through effortless versions of songs that are rich in blues and country roots, yet have a rock ‘n’ roll streak throughout them.
It has been made pretty clear there are to be no FLC tunes on this tour and that’s the way it should be, this is a new band with songs that shine on their own merits and there is no need to push past glories tonight. Yet that said, Dirty Bird is a song that definitely tips its hat in that FLC direction, and it’s a good ‘un.
The album is pretty much played in chronological order, and first single Let My People Go is an early highlight, upbeat with an ultra cool hook, it goes down well with the crowd, as does the following Shaniqua, a countrified tale with some tasty slide guitar, told in Huey’s own unique, smooth and charming way.
Huey seems thankful and humbled by the response and the fact that people have bothered to come and see the band on this cold night, and Christmas By The Side Of The Road seems quite fitting tonight as the snow settles on the streets of York this evening.
Tonight, Huey & The New Yorkers brought their own brand of laid back, New York Blues to warm our souls, and they more than succeeded. More than just a solo project this band have released a very strong album that has much to offer and have the ability and experience to pull it off live in a seemingly effortless fashion. Come again soon guys please. More enjoyable than making snow angels in the dark.