An Evening With Albert

Of all the blues songs in all the world, one of my favourites is ‘Who Do You Love’. Written by Bo Diddley and first recorded in Chicago in 1956, it is one of the most copied and re-arranged with notables such as Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (later known as The Band), Quicksilver Messenger Service, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Juicy Lucy and The Doors all recording versions.

 South Africa’s blues-rock maestro Albert Frost also does a version, well a couple of versions. With Rider From the Storm it is a full-blast rocker, while as part of his solo (or near solo) set it gets more of a blues feel with all the freedom in the world for Frost to criss-cross guitar boundaries and make each rendition almost unique.

The best part is you have to wait. As the pre-encore closer for his show there is a great feeling of anticipation as he works his way through a mix of his own music (‘Catfish Blues’) and classics such as ‘Help Me’, ‘Same Thing’ and the like.

Part of the opening line of ‘Who Do You Love’ kinda sums up what Frost is all about – “I walked forty-seven miles of barbed wire,……”

Like Shotgun Tori and so many other local musicians he spends months on the road playing small and larger venues, festivals and country shows with little or no support from the industry at large or from radio stations, these tours involving moving, setting up and taking down their own equipment and most often all on the same night before hitting the road again.

The barbed wire walk started back in the 90’s when, as a fifteen-year-old kid, he joined the Blue Broers as guitarist – in itself an interesting mix as his father, Frank Frost was the drummer. Sadly, Frank died in 1999 and it was nearly the end for the band that used to rattle the pipes in The Pump House on Cape Town’s Waterfront.

Fortunately, the band recovered and is currently completing a new album. However, in the interim, Albert went on to work with the likes of Arno Carstens, Koos Kombuis and Vusi Mahlasela. He is currently part of the band The Gods, who released their first studio EP Devil & Gods in 2009, as well as being a regular member of Riders From the Storm with Mel Botes, Nathan Smith, Piet Botha and Valiant Swart.

On his current tour, he is travelling with fellow Somerset West resident, Keenan James backing him on drums.

The Albert Frost show is quite special. Using four or five guitars, both acoustic and electric, he records loops and then plays over them – there are no backing tracks. It is all Albert Frost and his mastery of the guitar makes every set whizz by all too soon.

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts always maintains his job is to be the “engine room” of the band, providing both rhythm and guidance. In this, Keenan James is a follower.

“I love his style,” says Frost. “He goes so far beyond just providing a backing and becomes part of the music, making it possible for me to be a bit experimental and vary the interpretation of what I’m doing. He helps make the music fun.”

And that, really, is what it is all about.

He has shared stages with The Rolling Stones, R.E.M. and Simple Minds and performed for Nelson Mandela. Alongside Arno Carstens, he shared the stage with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and the Pixies.

He’s played all major festivals in South Africa as well as having had the honour of performing solo at the famed Isle Of Wight festival, where he also did a collaboration with James Walsh from ‘Starsailor’.

Right now, he’s playing a venue near you

. Don’t miss it.

Live at Rock Bottom, Umzumbe
Live at Rock Bottom, Umzumbe
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Colin Windell

Colin Windell is an apprentice retiree, petrolhead, rock music addict, lover of fine food and has been writing about cars for more than 40 years.

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