On Tuesday evening (10th April), I travelled into central London for an old friend's gig. Raphael "Raph" Callaghan, pictured above, was playing his first London gig for a while at the Islington - a café bar close to the Angel tube station. I have known Raph for a number of years and worked with him on a number of projects. I know him to be an outstanding performer, guitarist and harmonica player, an knowledgable exponent of the blues and an all-round good guy.
Well, now - do I need to write more? Well, fortunately, yes, otherwise this would be a very short blog entry. Most of Raph's songs were taken from his latest cd "Said and Done" which is selling well, has impressed reviewers and been played a number of times on the radio, including Paul Jones' blues programme on Radio Two.
Raph's songs fall into three broad categories: Personal/reflective, Gospel and songs by artists he admires, and he performed a selection of all three. "Sugar no More" is typical of the first category, which he describes on his cd inlay as: "...a bitter sweet song of regret over a break-up". Great song, but lacking in bitterness, which is probably explained by the fact that Raph has been in a happy relationship with his partner, Christine, for 47 years, as he said on Tuesday evening. His memory of his last break-up must be nearly 50 years old. He showed his tender side with his performance of "Silk for Skin" and his social consciousness side with "Too Much Rain, Too Much Water", which expresses his anxiety (and ours) about global warming.
Now, it's an established fact that many of the older blues singers (not so much the modern blues rockers like Robert Cray and Joe Bonamassa) included gospel songs as part of their sets. Raph followed in their footsteps by performing two of his own compositions: "Do You Know What Time it is?" and "Don't Let the Devil Drive" (has he passed his test? - sorry, couldn't resist it). On a reflective note, I have always smiled at how blues singers can sing gospel songs in the same set as songs about the pleasures of the flesh (Keith Richard once said that when he first encountered blues music, he was delighted to find "Hey! This is about gettin' laid"), but they do, and do it well. Raph is no exception.
Raph included a number of songs by other artists for whom he clearly has enormous respect. He speaks with special warmth of the preacher blues man, Skip James, and sang James' "Special Rider Blues" with conviction. You can hear the original HERE. I especially enjoyed Raph's version of the old Marvin Gaye classic"Abraham, Martin and John", which Raph sang to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King. On a personal note, I was disappointed that Raph did not sing "The Storm is Passing Over", one of my favourites of the songs in his repertoire.
To sum up, this was a great gig which was hugely entertaining for what Raph himself has described as a "small, but perfectly formed audience". As for The Islington, I hope it stays in business, as there were only four people in the bar, and two of them were staff. Keep rollin' on like the blues, Raph, and may you enjoy many more gigs, radio plays and cd sales - you deserve any success that comes your way, and thanks for all you have done for me and my projects.
Spot the young Raphael! Both photos pinched from Raph's website.