3 August 2018, Common Room, Hastings by Ian Thomas
It’s a sold out show. Common Room’s famously warm embrace holds us closely. We stand at the back, in front of the bar, and look across a sea of grey hair peppered with various colours. Tickets have been snapped up by a cohort of guitar blues fans. Notwithstanding its roots the blues has been cool since before anyone in the room was born and it’s kept very much alive among other genres by guys like Lloyd Spiegel. Not that there are many guys like Lloyd. His back story is the stuff of dreams. After discovering a Brownie McGhee album in his dad’s record collection, Lloyd accompanied his father to blues gigs, picked up the guitar, won a talent show at the age of ten, started playing pub gigs in Melbourne the following year, sent a recording to Brownie, Brownie invites him to the US, sixteen year old Lloyd accepts the offer and goes to live with, and learn from Brownie. That’s just the start of the story.
Jumping forward to the present, Lloyd has eight albums to his name, he tells us that he has won every Australian blues award, apart from best female artist. We’re in the presence of a funny guy.
Lloyd picks up his Cole Clarke guitar and settles himself on a stool. The Blues ensue. Stories of love won, love lost, and love in vain, of Road, Dirt and Rail. The tale of the guy he sat next to on a Greyhound bus: A tear rolled down the strangers cheek as he told Lloyd that he’d been married for thirty seven years. The conversation between the two spawned the plaintive blues ‘If I killed ya when I met ya I’d be outa jail by now’. We are treated to a solid set of well written songs. Eloquent lyrics like “The man that I was killed the man that I wanted to be” embroider Lloyds compositions. The audience is enthralled.
Lloyd’s music isn’t confined or constrained by his one-man-one-instrument status. “Every year I have a fifteen minute period when I don’t want to be a blues guitarist and I write a folk song. This is this year’s” He says. Besides the acknowledged folk song there are touches of folk, country, and American pop in small measures throughout the play list. I wonder if I heard a Bluegrass inflection at one moment. We’re taken on a journey during which the pace changes from softly sung ballads to powerfully voiced blues. Whether it’s rasping guitar which evokes the R n B of Hendrix or the country folk style strumming of Dylan, nothing is gratuitous in the well organised set. It’s all one hundred percent Spiegel. Lloyd isn’t a mimic. He covers Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ but the arrangement is such that it’s not immediately obvious as Bob’s tune. I didn’t spot any other covers. We’re in the presence of a craftsman; both stage and musical craft. His sound is much bigger and more intricate than seems probable from a guitar and a stomp box and a rich voice. Spiegel plays over two hundred shows a year and has done so for many years. He’s living his dream and we are the recipients of its bounty.
Time passes quickly. As the lights come up at the end of the show the crowd are visibly enlivened and delighted. We’ve enjoyed a the four pronged talent of songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, and entertainer.
Lloyd played and was interviewed by Jessie Mulligan on Radio NZ. Good listening.