Lamb and Dickinson

Tammy Moore is cheered up by a night of the blues with founders of Brit blues band, Kingsnakes

Flooded out of No Alibis thanks to a burst pipe, the Lamb and Dickinson gig is moved down Botanic Avenue to the French Village Cafe. It's a good space, but lacks the ambience of Belfast's iconic crime bookstore. The cushions and coffee are consolation.

It's a full house. Standing room only. People perched on the arms of chairs crane their necks to see around pillars. Some of Belfast's own blues-men have turned up to see the duo play.

'He's a master,' Michael Beattie, TV director and harmonica player, says of Paul Lamb. 'There's no one like him.'

On stage Lamb makes the harmonica spit like a cat and mourn like one of the jilted lovers scattered through their Playin' With the Blues set. It's a bold, challenging sound, skirling away from the base line of the guitar as often as following. Lamb's hands dance around the instrument.

Sometimes he slaps or scrapes it, other times his fingers stroke the air just above the silver case. The range and precision of sounds he can draw from the thing is amazing. He's a showman to his bones too, jumping up during one song for a lengthy solo tour of the cafe.

By contrast Dickinson is laid-back, looking almost lazy as he runs his fingers along the guitar strings. He allows Lamb to command the stage for some of the songs, but commands the audience's attention easily when he wants to. His mellow, soulful voice takes on a hard edge during the scolding 'Don't You Lie to Me' and throttles back a mournful sigh during 'Blues When it Rains'.

Playin' with the Blues is a historical tour through the genre. The majority of songs are covers of old blues classics, like 'Hesitation Blues' and the spookily wonderful 'Who do you Love', with the original compositions tributes to the legendary Lonnie Johnson.

Throughout the evening there isn't one bum note, and the crowd stamp and clap and roar their approval. Lamb and Dickinson even throw in a bit of gospel at the end to satisfy the demand for 'Just one more!'

Watching them play together, the give and take between them musically, it's hard to believe they were out of touch for 15 years before getting back together for this tour.
They're both founding members of the Kingsnakes (which evolved into Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes), after which Dickinson decided to carve out a solo career. An out of the blue call from Dickinson got them back together and the rest is history.

They're also both from Northumberland. You'd not know it when they play but you might guess it when they speak. 'All the songs we're playin,' Dickinson says, idly tuning the guitar as he talks. 'They all by folks what are ded.'

For upcoming gigs at No Alibis check out their website and Playing with the Blues is available at the Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes website.