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The Urban Voodoo Machine return to the West Midlands with Aled-Wyn Jones (AKA Candy Mountain; no, I don’t know either) and Jo Carley & the Old Dry Skulls in tow. It’s been a while since the UVM had visited this part of the world so it was nice to see them back on the road.

Candy Mountain

First up was Aled-Wyn Jones, otherwise known as Candy Mountain, presenting an acoustic blues set of tunes and at risk of sounding like a rip-off of Fred Astaire’s first review: can sing, can play the guitar, doesn’t dance much. The good, strong Welsh voice was supported by a largely gentle but very accomplished acoustic backing. He didn’t dance at all.

The gravelly tones and light humour gave the modest crowd some much needed entertainment and opened the show very well indeed.

Jo Carley and the Old Dry Skulls

Another band I’d not seen before, and a latecomer to the itinerary, was Jo Carley & the Old Dry Skulls, armed with skeleton-painted double bass and washboard; I don’t think I’ve seen a washboard played in anger since I last saw the Bonzo Dog Band a decade or more ago!

Jo Carley, partnered by hubby, Tim Carley, on guitar and James Le Huray on double bass, played a mix of skiffle and voodoo vaudeville – their definition – which fitted perfectly with what was to come from the UVM.

The band have recently released Voodoo Bones and Vaudeville Blues from which seven of the dozen or so songs played tonight were taken. With Jo’s haunting voice, her staring eyes, the rat-a-tat-tat of the washboard and voodoo-based lyrics all played to a roughly bluesy soundtrack the band provided a most adequate performance which kept the audience on their toes. With song titles such as ‘Little Limbs of Satan’, ‘The Zombie’ and ‘The Bone Readers’ how could they go wrong?

A fine set of music, much of it worthy of the UVM themselves.

The Urban Voodoo Machine

The funeral dirge starts, the cast of the Urban Voodoo Machine march onto the stage, take their places, sway with the music which then breaks into ‘High Jeopardy Thing’, a familiar opener. Paul-Ronney Angel, resplendent in his signature red and black togs, leads the way. Alongside P-R we have Luci Fire Tusk, Tony Diavolo, Slim Cyder, Gary Voodoo, the late J. Roni Moe, the very Reverend Gavin Smith and Harrison Cole; a finer bunch of nutcases you couldn’t wish to see anywhere else.

As usual the songs played span the UVM timeline, many of which have become firm fan favourites.  The funeral dirge gives way to what appears to be the Batman theme tune but is, in fact Police Paranoia and this followed by one of those aforementioned favourites, High Jeopardy Thing. It was nice to see that the pandemic hadn’t slowed down the social drinking skills of the band which carry on unabated throughout the evening. The band pick up the pace with Cheers For the Tears before the gritty blues number Johnny Foreigner slows things back down.

It wasn’t long til we got to Orphan’s Lament where, according to P-R, his father was a sailor and his mother was a whore! An average upbringing in some circles! Crazy Maria came….and went before P-R roped in the audience to ask for divine forgiveness before launching into Help me Jesus. Up the tempo once more with While We Were All Asleep which also included audience participation….sometimes!

The set ends with Love & Addiction followed by Goodbye to Another Year as the band get ready to see out 2021. The band leave the stage temporarily before stomping back with possibly their best song, Pipe and Slippers Man which segues into the a capella I’ll Fly Away as the band leave the stage for good and stroll amongst the audience before trailing out of the door….goodnight all!

Yet another raucous night with the Urban Voodoo Machine is over and so I collar Lucifire and Tony Diavolo to sign some photos. May all your Gypsy Blues be Bourbon Soaked….til next time folks….






Words & images: Reg Richardson

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