Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Dennis' Kingskerswell church hall debut - and a great excuse to visit his mum!

DENNIS Greaves is going to church — and Mark 'The Harp' is going with him. But the tunes will be secular rather than sacred when two of the nation's top blues musicians take to the stage. 

Promoters World Unlimited are behind An Acoustic Evening with Nine Below Zero's frontmen Dennis Greaves and Mark 'The Harp' Feltham at Kingskerswell Parish Church. The gig takes place on March 14. 

And for Dennis it's a chance to combine a date of his current live tour with a trip home to see mum, who lives in Torbay. He said: "I have never played a gig in a village church before. I'm really looking forward to it!" 

Dennis and Mark were founder members of rhythm and blues outfit Nine Below Zero in the late 1970s, gigging in London's pubs and clubs and sharing bills with bands such as The Who and Dr Feelgood. 

Plenty of TV exposure around that time included a starring role in the first episode of The Young Ones, where they played Eleven Plus Eleven in the lounge of the flat where the sitcom's main action took place. 

Their first album, 1980's maximum-energy Live At The Marquee, consistently makes the higher reaches of charts of the best-loved live albums of all time. 

More than 20 albums later, the band are being name-checked by a new generation of rockers, with media favourites The Strypes the latest to acknowledge their influence. 

Now Dennis and Mark, whose harmonica playing has seen him work with artists as diverse as Robbie Williams, Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene, are going back to their blues roots for a series of intimate, acoustic concerts as a duo. 

These will be the first 'old style' blues shows the pair will have performed in the 35 years they have been working together. 

Covering songs by blues legends such as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo and Leadbelly, they will also play unplugged versions of well-known Nine Below Zero material. 

Dennis said: "We will continue to play the bigger venues with the whole band, but Mark and I are looking forward to getting up close with audiences who, like us, are fans of the blues. 

"As well as playing the songs, it will also be nice to talk about the artists who inspired so many of the great British Blues Bands of the 1960s, who in turn went on to inspire us." 

The love of the blues began at an early age for both of them. Two of Dennis' uncles were big fans, and both had big collections of blues albums. 

It was listening to these records that encouraged Dennis to first pick up the guitar. 

Mark had an uncle in the merchant navy, who used to bring him back harmonicas from his travels overseas. 

The pair first met in the late 1970s, during punk, when Dennis decided to form a blues band and harmonica player Mark was recommended to him. 

By an amazing coincidence, it turned out they were not only living on the same estate in South London, but also just 14 houses apart. 

Dennis said: "The rehearsals for the duo shows have been brilliant, some of the best ever. 

"We are looking forward to playing this music live. 

"We will be playing all sorts of things we heard as children, real American folk blues from the likes of Hank Williams and Sonny Terry. 

"It's the first time we've really had the guts or the confidence to go out and play these songs this way. 

"It's a tall order too, because that stuff is very difficult to do well. 

"To see Mark perform in this environment is truly a master-class and it's a little daunting for me, to be playing acoustic guitar. 

"There's no hiding behind the Marshall amp!" 

But even if the performance can be a little stressful, there's always a relaxing side to a trip to South Devon for Dennis. 

"I'm looking forward to catching up with my mum!" he said. "It's a lovely part of the world, and I'm looking forward to getting down there for a few days." 


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