Ladies and Gentlemen: Ian Siegal has entered the building. If you know the name, but not the game, it’s high time you made his acquaintance. He’s the multiple British Blues Awards winner, BMA nominee and hot tip of everyone from Mojo to Classic Rock. He’s the songwriter whose recent CD releases sound like career peaks, but are only the start. From one night to the next, he might be a solo acoustic performer or a blood-and-thunder bandleader. Siegal is known as a bluesman, but it’s just one shade in the palette of an artist who slips between continents, eras and expectations. They say you can’t sing the blues until you’ve lived the life, and when Ian Siegal steps up to the mic, you can hear the slings and arrows. Recent years have seen the songwriter catch fire, with British Blues Awards raining down and consecutive nominations in 2012 & 2013 for Contemporary Album of The Year in the Blues Music Awards - in effect, the Grammys of the Blues.
THE EARLY YEARS
It has been said that had Siegal been around in the sixties he would today be accorded the same reverence as artists such as Van Morrison and Joe Cocker. Instead, he is a child of the seventies who dropped out of art college in the late eighties to go busking in Germany. From the streets of Berlin Siegal progressed to clubs around Nottingham in the UK, then to London and ultimately to major stages around Europe. Siegal’s forte is playing to an audience. He takes command of the stage in a way very few artists alive today can match. Sweat, passion, humour, balls-tothe- wind slide guitar and a soul-infused voice big enough to fell trees! It has won him an ever-growing following of fans and a horde of female admirers. His career got under way in 2003/04 with two successive European tours as the opening act for ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings (Wyman also invited Ian to record with the Rhythm Kings). This was followed by UK tours as a duo with Big Bill Morganfield (son of Muddy Waters). During this time Siegal was also capturing the hearts of audiences in Holland, Belgium, Austria and Hungary. In 2005 he topped the soul/Blues/Jazz charts in Holland.
His 2005 album Meat &Potatoes has been universally praised and gained a maximum four star excellent) rating in the Penguin Book of Blues Recordings – Ian is one of only two living British Blues artists to gain this distinction. Meat & Potatoes was later re-released as a limited edition together with a DVD of his stunning performance on the main stage at the North Sea Jazz Festival.
That was followed by Swagger his 2007 release, which again received universal praise, “No less of a testament to the talents of one of the most innovative, gifted and engaging blues performers on the planet today.” MOJO magazine ranked Swagger as their no.2 Blues album of 2007. Siegal is equally accomplished solo as he is fronting his band. In response to fans requests for an acoustic album The Dust was released at the end of 2008. A collection of new songs and some old favourites (with noted pedal steel guitarist B.J.Cole appearing on a few tracks), the CD quickly entered HMV’s roots chart, and again made No.2 in MOJO magazine’s Blues album chart – this time for 2008.
His Oct 09 release Broadside finally gave Ian the top spot in MOJO’s annual Blues album chart.
Siegal’s May ‘11 release The Skinny is an album recorded in north Mississippi with Grammy nominee Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars as producer. A band was assembled from musicians in the area including Gary Burnside, Robert Kimbrough and Rodd Bland, all offspring of notable bluesmen.
Ian returned to north Mississippi in May 2012 to collaborate with another dream-team of local legends that he collectively coined The Mississippi Mudbloods. Joining Ian and Cody Dickinson were Cody’s bother Luther Dickinson, and Alvin Youngblood Hart. Ian first met Alvin during The Skinny sessions, when the Grammy-winning guitarist swung by the studio and ended up tracking some guitar and backing vocals. The end result of this second visit to the Zebra Ranch Studio is Candy Store Kid (Oct. 2012), which quickly reached no.1 in the iTunes UK blues chart and garnered a swathe of awards in the UK and nominations in the USA. That was followed by Man & Guitar (May.14), showcasing Siegal’s supreme ability as a solo performer and his force-ten charisma. Recorded by the BBC at the Royal Albert Hall London Bluesfest, it is Siegal at his belt & braces best – a world-class performer bleeding into his favourite songs. This album scored Siegal another top spot in MOJO’s blues roundup on 2014. 2015 has seen two releases in close succession: an unplugged album The Picnic Sessions and alive recording with his European band, One Night in Amsterdam. The Picnic Sessions (Feb.15) is the product of yet another visit to North Mississippi, when he played at the 2013 Hill Country Picnic and an opportunity arose to record. It has Siegal collaborating with the Dickinson brothers, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Jimbo Mathus (with whom Siegal toured in Europe as a duo in the fall of 2014).
The intention was to create a “back porch” session and wonderfully demonstrates what happens when live talented musicians with a love of Blues & roots Americana get together and play and sing, with no pre-‐determined idea of the outcome.
One Night in Amsterdam (Mch.15) has Siegal in full electric mode charging through a collection of new and old songs in front of an audience at The North Sea Jazz Club in Amsterdam. His band of young Dutch and German musicians back him up superbly and the recording captures the power and
charisma of an artist at the peak of his game. Ian has become established in Europe as one of the most natural, exciting and vibrant talents on the scene today. Each year the stages get bigger, but what sticks most in Ian’s mind is his guest appearance with then 92-year old Pinetop Perkins and some of the other remaining members of Muddy Waters’ band. This was at London’s Jazz Café in 2005 to a packed house. Then later at a festival in Norway, in a role reversal, these legends of post-war Blues spontaneously joined Ian on stage for what turned into a memorable hour long set.
In a twist to his career, Ian performed for several years (2009-12) with France’s Orchestre National de Jazz in a program of Billie Holiday songs entitled “Broadway in Satin.” Backed by a 12-piece orchestra of young handpicked musicians and accompanied by the French singer, Karen Lanaud, Broadway in Satin has performed at major festivals across France and as far afield as South America and east Africa.