"Live In Nottingham" liner notes by Dave Kingsbury
Family Style have made many friends during their tours of Britain in recent years. They are great guys, of course, but the secret of their success is phenomenal live playing. Their gigs are technical masterclasses and, just as importantly, joyous celebrations of a music they so clearly love – the natural blues. Whether performing distinctive and thoughtfully original material or sensitively interpreting the work of others, they reach out to their audiences who never fail to return the embrace by the end of the evening.
We first saw them at Nottingham’s Running Horse pub and were so captivated that we drove to Spalding a couple of nights later and watched contentedly as they cast their spell on a capacity crowd. Another tour brought them to Cleethorpes, where their headlining set at the Blues Club Festival quickly turned into a good old-fashioned ‘knees-up’. Guitarist Enrico Crivellaro - good to hear him on the bonus track, Franco’s exquisite version of Big Walter Horton’s “Easy” - was the more-than-capable replacement for an unavailable Marco on that occasion. But we were delighted to welcome back the elder Limido when he took his seat on stage for this gig. An injured leg meant he had to sit down but there was absolutely nothing sedate about his playing that night - as you will hear!
We are spoiled for marvellous music from Europe and the States at the Running Horse, thanks to owner Barry Middleton’s immaculate taste and firm policy of only booking the best. But I had no hesitation in naming the gig on this recording Best Of 2004 in my blues column for the Nottingham Post newspaper, alongside storming sets from Otis Grand and Lightnin’ Willie. And you can imagine my delight when Franco suggested I write these liner notes. It was a magical night and soundman Dave Stephenson has managed to capture that atmosphere, as well as the peerless performance of a band on tip-top form.
And so to the recording. It opens with the whomping boogie of “Lookin’ For A Woman”, a band original, and Franco’s cry of ‘Take me to Chicago, brother!’ just before the gritty sting of Marco’s guitar break kinda says it all – you could be sat nursing a shot of bourbon in some West Side bar. Hear the subtle enhancement both harp and guitar lend to each other’s solos, the drama added by a responsive backline and the warm audience rapport. This is followed by the Eddie Boyd “She’s Real”, a tough-as-nails fast shuffle delivered with an almost telepathic combination of laid-back looseness and explosive togetherness. And you can’t mistake the sincerity in Franco’s spoken intro to the next number - Peter Green’s “Looking For Somebody” - or help but notice the passion in those perfectly-executed heartbeat rhythms, dropping the audience into a profound silence. Marco’s keening guitar arpeggios are at once a homage to the master and entirely his own, and the exquisite interplay with Franco recalls Greeny’s talent on harp. “Diving Duck Blues” is a vehicle for Franco’s own harmonica mastery with Junior Wells style kiss pops, an echo of Jimmy Reed in the high register blow bends and hand effects recalling Sonny Boy Williamson II.
The first half ends with a triple whammy: the autobiographical “Pocketful of Nothing”, with Gigi showing his all-round percussive prowess; the New Orleans style rumba of “Get Rid of You”, its poetically-pained lyrics underscored by Davide’s resonant basslines and Marco’s ringing slide guitar; and then a stomping version of “Walking Blues”, the perfect marriage of bottleneck guitar and tough Chicago harp.
“Body Painter”, with its wry lyric, is suitably slow and sleazy apart from one uptempo gearshift, T-Bone Walker style. There are more changes of pace in the Freddy King style instrumental “Cannonball”, featuring sweet soloing with a delicious jagged edge from Marco. The band stretches out on the self-penned country rocker “Jack Daniels”, its tight ensemble ending giving way to the boogie of Rice Miller’s “Keep My Business” with some fluent acoustic harp. Franco gets everyone singing along on the anthemic “I Walk All Day”, a final reminder of the warm spirit in the room.
They played over twenty numbers that night and it must have been hard to choose the final selection. They have chosen well, though, and this CD gives you the essence of a great band doing what they do best – getting an audience on its feet and dancing the blues away. Oh yes, we were jumping around alright and so were our Italian friends on stage. A few snapshots for you - Franco jettisoning his leather jacket and holding the microphone out over the audience, Marco swaying on his seat lost in the music, Davide performing a Chuck Berryish duckwalk, Gigi hitting every single surface on his drumkit. You can’t beat live music, can you, and what better way for Family Style to celebrate their tenth anniversary than with this magnificent live recording? Gracie mille, fellahs!
Blues In Britain Magazine
It is still a rare occurence for Continental blues acts to garner much of a following in Britain but thanks to some excellent live shows this Italian outfit has etsablished a strong reputation in the UK over the last couple of years. Similarly, the Running Horse in Nottingham is now well known as a venue for first-class blues. Put the two together and the relust is a rtelease worth investigating.
Dating from 2004, when Family Style was celebrating its anniversary, this hour long CD opens with “Lookin’ For A Woman”, a very fine Chicago styled number with somer exemplary musicianship – a wonderful start. The band’s respect for the British blues sound comes over loud and clear on the cover of Peter Green’s “Looking For Somebody”, with Franco Limido’s vocals and subtle harmonica work, Marco Limido’s impressive and expressive guitar work and the rhythm section of bassman Davide Bianchi and Gigi Biolcati on drums all combining to create that eldritch feel that was the trademark of vintage Fleetwood Mac at their best. The original “Pocket Full Of Nothin’” is a heavy, Howling Wolf inflected slab of muscular blues-rock, which contrasts strongly with the subtle T-Bone Walker-ish original “Body Painter”.
There are no poor performances here but space constraints limit me to mentioning that elsewhere there are echoes of Robert Jr. Lockwood, Junior Wells, Freddy and Albert King, Sonny Boy “Rice Miller” Williamson, and on “Easy”, the final bonus track, recorded in Belgium, Walter Horton of course – to name a few, but also there is plentu of Family Style. Note too that the longest track clocks in at just over six minutes, so throghout things are tigh and focussed.
Have I any criticisms to make? Well, omitting the audience participation number “I Walk All Day” would not harm the CD and I do find the over-growly vocal on “Diving Duck Blues” a little off-putting. Even in this latter case though, there is some compensation offered on the same number by the presence of some exquisite Jimmy Reed styled high register harp playing.These guys do know their stuff.
Family Style is a 4 piece Italian band that has been around the live music circuit for a number of years now. Already 2 CD’s have been produced, 1999’s live album "Live Style" and in 2003 the album "Walk". Now, in 2005 the live CD "Live in Nottingham" has emerged into the light of day. The band itself maintains a very nice and good looking website, in both Italian and English, and this “good look” carries over into the new CD “Live in Nottingham”. All the tracks on the CD were recorded during a gig at The Running Horse in Nottingham with as a bonus Walter Horton’s harmonica piece “Easy” recorded at Caproen, Bredene, Belgium on January 2004. On the album there are 7 covers and 6 original songs. The originals are mainly written by the Limido brothers, except "Cannonball" which is a Franco Limido song.
Indeed all the beautiful singing is all done by Franco Limido who is also responsible for the harmonica parts. The CD is filled with wonderful Jump & Jive songs with a real “Good Time Music” sound. This sound is mainly the result of the well arranged and very well performed bass and drums. No world shaking stuff, no experiments - this band wants to play music we can dance to, clear and simple! And, in fact, that is exactly what they do here. Family Style know their way around Blues, Boogie, Swing, Jive ...but before everything they are a band - therefore no endless solo’s or things like that by individual members. They are all good musicians who stay within the boundaries of the style and control their playing without an endless number of licks. Listen to some of the, in my opinion, most catchy songs such as: "Lookin' For A Woman" this is an ideal opener for a live gig with fine guitar playing and a harp that covers all of the song. After the Eddie Boyd boogie “She’s Real” there is another Fleetwood Mac/Peter Green song “Looking For Somebody“ a song the band plays at every gig because of their passion for Fleetwood Mac music. A passion that has led them to feature on a Fleetwood Mac tribute CD.
With the New Orleans rumba styled track "Get Rid of You" - its dance time again. To me this is one of the best songs the Limido brothers have written, with again excellent slide guitar by Marco. "Walking Blues" is an excellent song too, the perfect marriage of bottleneck guitar and Chicago harp, just grand! When Family Style sounds live as good as they do on this CD then this is a truly great band! In short: A drivin’ harp, flashy guitar, and a very steady rhythm section make this CD a feast for the ear and indeed one cries out for more! I think there will be another offering because without any doubt this band is one that can be categorized as “Hard Working”. Make them top of the bill of any festival and in my humble opinion you’ll need nobody else!
"Live in Nottingham" is with no doubt a success. A very professional CD with a very high Swing-Feel to it!