Darren Watson


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No-one plays the blues like Darren Watson. Over the better part of three decades he has developed a style that, while touching on all of the greats who inspired him, is personal, powerful and identifiably his own. Watson gained national fame in the 80s as the young front-man and guitar-slinger for ‘Chicago Smokeshop’. The band made two albums, had several radio hits, opened for numerous international blues legends and toured tirelessly, earning Watson a place alongside the likes of Midge Marsden, Hammond Gamble and Rick Bryant as one of this country’s best blues interpreters.

Bugged By The Blues – NZ Musician, 2015 (Vol:18, No:7)

Since Smokeshop’s demise he has made a series of solo albums, which show his development as a musician and songwriter. In 2009 he took 1st place in Nashville Nashville’s prestigious International Songwriting Competition for ‘All Going Wrong’ from his album ‘South Pacific Soul’. He has shared stages with a long list of music legends – including Jimmie Vaughan, Billy Boy Arnold, Koko Taylor, Robert Cray, Doctor John, George Thorogood, Emmylou Harris, Eric Burdon, Tony Joe White, Keb Mo, & Mavis Staple’s guitarist Rick Holmstrom.

‘All Going Wrong’ has made the finals of the prestigious International Songwriting Competition…

Moments Like These – NZ Musician, 2009 (Vol:15, No:1)

For the album, ‘Saint Hilda’s Faithless Boy’, he has returned to his core business – the blues – with a clutch of classy original songs and the hottest band in the land. However, the live-in-the-studio recording is not the album Watson first set out to make. Like so many musicians these days, he had built up a home studio and, over the past few years, become proficient at making his own recordings, playing every instrument himself. The results were impressive, and the original one-man-band version of this album was scheduled for release last year.

Standing Up For The Blues – NZ Musician, 2003 (Vol:10, No:6)

Then two things happened. A song from Watson’s previous album, ‘South Pacific Soul’, was featured in a well-known television soap opera, bringing a small but timely windfall, while a new band of old colleagues assembled around the guitarist and began to perform some of his latest songs. Drummer Richard Te One and keyboardist Alan Norman had both worked with Watson in ‘Smokeshop’, while bass player Elliotte Fuimaono (Southside Of Bombay) featured on South Pacific Soul.

As Watson’s new group – which he named The Real Deal Blues Band – conquered crowds in the Capital, the guitarist realised an even better record could be made if he simply took his current combo into the studio and performed the songs, the same way they played on stage. ‘Saint Hilda’s Faithless Boy’ was the result. Watson wrote all the songs but one: a bold acoustic reading of the Willie Dixon/Otis Rush classic ‘My Love Will Never Die’. The rest ranged from shuffles to funky grooves, urban blues to country-soul. But it is all infused with Watson’s deep feeling for the blues.

Darren Watson and Matt Langley join Music 101 host Kirsten Johnstone in the studio to perform live…

‘Introducing Darren Watson’ is the long-awaited follow-up to Darren Watson’s critically acclaimed 2010 album ‘Saint Hilda’s Faithless Boy’. Recorded by Andrew Downes and Watson over the last year or so, then mastered by Munki Studio’s specialist Mike Gibson, it features ten new performances from Watson and a core band that features ex-members of legendary blues band ‘Chicago Smoke Shop’, ‘The Warratahs’, and ‘Southside Of Bombay’.

The album features eight new original songs that span the gamut of ‘blues’ styles. There are also two songs penned by Wellington-based songwriter Bill Lake (‘Mammal’, ‘Pelicans’, ‘Windy City Strugglers’) including the beautiful, introspective masterpiece ‘Thought I’d Seen It All’. Here it is given a sparser, more intimate treatment by Watson than the almost breezy original feel on Lake’s 1996 album ‘Home Truths’. There’s also a rocking version of ‘I Wanna Be With You’, surely now a NZ blues standard, having also been covered on record twice by the venerable Midge Marsden.

‘Introducing Darren Watson’ is anything BUT your typical bar-room blues album. You won’t find long, drawn out guitar solos for their own sake, and while Watson certainly tips his hat to the great Stax, Hi, and Chess productions of the 60s, you won’t just find a re-tracing of the great blues music from the past. What you get is original, engaging Kiwi rhythm & blues. Tight, intelligent writing. Great playing. Real performances.

Nick Bollinger reviews Darren’s latest album on ‘the Sampler’…(Begins around 13 minutes in)

Cover image

Cover image

From RNZs ‘Upbeat’, June 2015. Darren talks to Eva Radich about his current tour and plays some songs live in the studio…

Cover sourced from Bandcamp. Text sourced from Amplifier, Bandcamp & Darren Watson. Used with permission.

Last edited: 18.06.18

From AudioCulture

Whanganui and the Hutt Valley are a long way from the Mississippi Delta, but they both have rivers, and stories. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Darren Watson grew up in these places and caught on to the blues as a teenager in the early 1980s, after seeing Muddy Waters in the movie The Last Waltz. Watson was already plodding out blues and rock in high-school bands, but something in Muddy’s performance and guitar playing inspired the budding bassist (and trumpeter) to take up the electric guitar and develop his singing style. Buying records was out of the question for the teenage Darren and his mate Terry Casey, so in those pre-internet days they hit the Wellington Public Library blues section and took home supplies of Muddy, and the three Kings – BB, Freddie and Albert – stuffed tightly into green canvas library record bags. Read moreProfile from Audioculture, available under a Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence

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