Adrenaline-fueled blues rock swagger of The Commoners and Troy Redfern

Crammed on a stage far too small to contain their blues rock swagger, there are smiles all round from The Commoners. They’ve just finished the seventh night of their co-headline UK tour with Troy Redfern. It’s been an evening of sumptuous musicianship, and all of those wedged into the small Bristol venue will remember it for a long time.

The Commoners / Troy Redfern

The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023

Words and Photography: Paul Hutchings

The Commoners

The Commoners - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
The Commoners – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

“It’s a long way from Ontario,” says bassist Ben Spiller halfway through the set. For a band who are riding high on the back of their excellent Find A Better Way album, it’s the essential grind that is necessary. The Canadians play with feeling and a deep Southern groove that is unashamedly soulful with a hard rock edge. Think The Black Crowes, The Temperance Movement, The Allman Brothers, and Rival Sons and add a soupcon of Blackberry Smoke.

The Commoners - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
The Commoners – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

The Commoners are very much a collective, the sum of the parts adding up to a thrilling and adrenaline-fuelled outfit. In Ross Hays Citrullo, they possess a six-stringer of immense quality. His lead work is organic, fluid and works magically with the band’s overall feel and direction. At times, you find yourself just staring at him as he bends the strings with an ease that should be outlawed.

The Commoners - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
The Commoners – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

He’s not above the homage to Jimmy Page either, playing a couple of intros with a violin bow. Somehow it not only works, but it also enhances the songs. He’s no mean slide guitarist either, on an evening when we’ve had plenty of slide from the co-headliner.

Frontman Chris Medhurst is a natural. His smooth yet whiskey-soaked voice is the ideal companion to the music that rolls forth. He’s adept at rhythm guitar, which he sheds and returns to on numerous occasions. It’s warm, and he’s soon lost the hat and leather jacket to more comfortable jeans and shirt, allowing him room to animatedly express the band’s songs, arms wide in heartfelt gestures.

The Commoners - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
The Commoners – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

The up-tempo songs like Find Aa Better Way, Deadlines and Devil Teasin’ Me get the crowd clapping along, whilst the more expansive, reflective tracks such as Naturally show a deeper side. Utilising the keyboards of Miles Evans to provide greater depth to their sound is a strength that they fully exploit. No one is complaining. A glance around the packed room sees smiles, heads nodding, and people absorbed by the quality in front of them.

The Commoners - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
The Commoners – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

The Commoners slip a couple of new tracks into the setlist. They fit perfectly, and by the time we get to the finale, an extended jam that sees Citrullo excel as the coherent engine room of Spiller and drummer Adam Cannon keep the beat, the room is won.

The Commoners - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
The Commoners – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

It’s only an hour, but quality is not measured by quantity. The Commoners could be huge. They have everything necessary, and with a larger venue tour later this year with Samantha Fish to come, don’t bet on them being in those venues as headliners before too long.

Troy Redfern

Troy Redfern - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
Troy Redfern – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Troy Redfern is another of the rising blues stars in the UK. His latest album, The Wings of Salvation, rightly earnt plenty of admiration upon release, including album of the month from Classic Rock. It’s easy to see why after mere minutes of his arrival on the stage at The Louisiana.

The man is a demon player. In fact, if there was a union which represented guitars, then they’d be calling for a strike against working with Redfern, such is the abuse he dishes out to his instruments. It’s abuse but carried out with a love and passion that few musicians can match.

Troy Redfern - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
Troy Redfern – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

He’s not called Britain’s Slide King of the guitar for nothing. He’s up and down those guitar necks at lightning speed throughout his hour-long set. Sometimes his right hand is a blur as he traverses the frets at pace.

Technically brilliant, he’s also got the personality and the image to go with it. Shirt open to the navel allows glimpses of his body art. His jewellery, leather-cut trousers and hat all make part of the real deal. But this would be nothing without the songs, and he has them. Plenty of them.

Troy draws from both The Wings Of Salvation and The Fire Cosmic but has the confidence to throw in a few new songs. Latest single, The Fever, goes down well, and as the heat increases, so does the fluidity on stage.

Troy Redfern - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
Troy Redfern – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Drummer Finn McAuley is a dynamo, all flailing arms though he never misses a beat, whilst bassist and backing vocalist Kiera Kenworthy keeps the low end sorted. She switches from her five-string to a more conventional four-string after Dark Religion, but that doesn’t detract from her stellar performance. There’s chemistry on the stage, and even though it’s Redfern who is the star, it’s the backing duo who provides the foundations needed.

Troy Redfern - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
Troy Redfern – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Redfern doesn’t just bring the fancy fretwork, though. He has a smoky, rasping vocal style that fits the nature of the songs superbly. He interacts with the audience a little. He asks for more stage lighting, as he’s in almost permanent shadow. To our dismay, nothing happens. “Any reviewers here tonight?” he asks before recalling a recent review which commented on the lack of slide work.

Troy Redfern - The Louisiana, Bristol - 21 April 2023
Troy Redfern – The Louisiana, Bristol – 21 April 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

They must have been blind and deaf, is my conclusion, for Troy’s main weapon is his slide guitar work. He saves the best til last. A rip-snorting Sanctify is the highlight of the set, as the band expel any remaining energy in a blistering workout that leaves the audience and those on stage breathless.

Another major talent, catching Troy Redfern and his band, is a must for anyone who likes blues rock.

Sleeve Notes

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