Still on a buzz from watching the England footy game, I hot-footed it on a cold, rainy night to Kensington to witness It Bites frontman and Robert Plant guitarist Francis Dunnery with his new blues incarnation aptly named Tombstone Dunnery.
Tombstone Dunnery – Nell’s, London – 21 November 2022
Words: Sara Harding
Photography: Eric Duvet
Suited and big hatted to the hilt, the five-piece came on stage to rapturous applause. Only recently put together for this very special tour, Dunnery has recruited the crème de la crème of British blues players to perform with him.
The band kick off the gig with Poison Woman, with nods to Howlin Wolf and Leadbelly. This first song leads the normally seated audience to rush to the front of the stage and experience this full-on blues explosion.
With Dunnery’s stellar voice and serious guitar skills, we were all wondering why he hadn’t done this before. This opener is packed with all the blues DNA but with a modern Francis Dunnery twist.
The Grass Is Always Green’ is where Frankie brings out his newly learnt and very slick slide geeeetar! As the song comes to an end, the applause is off the hook. Dunnery smiles, “you lot are at the beginning of a brand new inception. What’s the Wales score?” We all laugh and shout 1-all.
Phil on drums gives us a lovely blues ditty skiffle intro to the song Broken Down, which really suits this venue – after all, it is called Nell’s Rock n’ Blues, and with its Jukebox Joint vibe, this really is the place to enjoy some blue notes. Then the band switch into a wondrous Boogie Woogie jam, and we are all clapping and dad dancing along.
Never someone to do the norm, Dunnery leaves the stage and walks into the heart of the audience for a unique experience. We all gathered around him, and the atmosphere became so much more intimate. Francis Frikkin Dunnery is in the crowd with us, with an incredible acoustic blues number, In My Kitchen, and encourages all to join in with the chorus, which we wholeheartedly do so.
Francis remains in situ for the next toon, Riding The Blues Train. A fine masterpiece class in blues riffage and songwriting, this will be an anthem when the album comes out – guaranteed.
Dunnery leaps back onto the stage and joins his band for more action. And can I just say how amazing these players are? The tinkly keyboards/harmonica from Dan Burnett, with a tight backline and extra guitar, provides a deeper level of bluesiness.
Slidey Man is up next and is a lesson in how to play the slide guitar – I felt like I was back in Louisiana near the Bayou at the House Of Blues with a cherry cola. Francis has been working hard on the setlist and, this evening, debuted his slide guitar chops. “It’s really fucking difficult to play slide,” he laughs. But master it did tonight.
Dunnery is no stranger to the blues, having played guitar with the legendary Led Zep frontman Robert Plant. “I basically got my Blues education from Robert Plant,” Francis told me in an earlier interview. “He was always telling me ‘listen to this artist or that from Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins to BB King. There is nothing Plant doesn’t know about the blues.”
Dunnery & Co. then burst into Hard To Love A Woman, and as he introduces the song, Francis tells us how his inspiration was Robert Johnson and how he played into the note, giving us an insight on how we learner guitarists can gain some blues chops.
I Don’t Wanna Bring You Home is the penultimate song, a real doozy of a tune with hints of Clutch and heavy blues. The buzz in Nell’s is electric.
The band finished with an epic encore, Call Me The Comeback Boy, another soon-to-be blues anthem and everyone, I mean everyone, was dancing, singing and being in the moment.
Tombstone Dunnery took us on a complete blues journey from the Chitlin Circuit, via the Cumbrian delta, up to modern-day rocky blues.
I can’t wait to hear these songs again on the upcoming Tombstone Dunnery album, which Dunnery says should be out around April.
Of course, Francis Dunnery’s It Bites tour is in January, which, of course, we at MetalTalk will be covering.
Huge thanks to Dave Hill at Tenacity PR and Stewart Savage.