Good Times in Ireland

Diz Watson An Beal Bocht
By Ray Comiskey

Fresh from the country blues festival in Clifden, Diz ‘Honey Bear’ Watson brought his authentic yet distinctive rhythm and blues piano style to the Beal Bocht last week. Accompanied by Tony Uter on congas, he ran the gamut of his vocal and instrumental influences before an appreciative audience, which was treated to some of the most elegant blues piano heard here for some time. Elegance may seem an odd word in the relatively raw context of blues, but Watson’s touch, time and sense of idiom, as a pianist, combines control with no dilution of emotional content. As a vocalist, he has a firm grasp of a variety of styles which, allied to an exuberant personality, makes for immediate rapport with the listener.

Stylistically, he comes from New Orleans: the influences, apart from Fats Domino – recalled in the almost obligatory “Blueberry Hill” – include Cousin Joe and Professor Longhair, both of whom were mentioned in the evening’s programme. But there are also touches of such boogie greats as Jimmy Yancey, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis in his piano style: a fine “Honky Tonk Train Blues” (or as he announced it “Tonky Honk”) epitomised his grasp of boogie. And humour was evident in his send up of Stephen Foster with “Swanee River”, which gravitated through “Around the World” and “Salt Peanuts” inserts to “Margie” done in Fats Domino’s vocal style.

Aided by the superb conga drumming by Tony Uter, he also gave some Mardi Gras music à la Professor Longhair, a Caribbean “Rum and Coca Cola”, a rocking medium tempo “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and a variety of slow blues by such as Archibald, Dr John and Champion Jack Dupree.

Irish Times 1991


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