Blues Beyond Borders Mitch Woods

By Matt MacDonald
September 2015

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In 2012, Mitch Woods released a live album recorded in Istanbul during the 2010 Efes Blues Festival tour of Turkey. Blues Beyond Borders includes a CD of one of his twenty-six performances as well as a DVD recording of the same show, broken up by short video entries chronicling different aspects of the band’s Turkish experience, as narrated by Woods. The DVD also includes extras in the same travelogue vein.

The set list is a mixture of Woods’ own compositions and New Orleans and jump blues classics. He’s backed by his main band, the Rocket 88’s, hailing from the San Francisco bay area and New Orleans. They have a ton of experience and their professionalism and musicianship is front and center the whole way.

This is shown most clearly in “Lambaya Puf De”. When first looking at the track listings, I thought that this was a Cajun tune. However, hearing its Middle Eastern, minor key progression, and seeing the response of the very large, very enthusiastic, very young crowd to guitarist Adam Gabriel’s vocals, I realized it was Turkish. Woods confirmed in one of the extras that they decided to learn this famous Turkish song at the suggestion of one of the organizers and then work it into the middle of “In The Night”, one of their regular tunes. I don’t understand Turkish, but it sounded good to me. Judging from the audience response, it sounded good to them, too.

Aside from that, all of the songs on this CD are part of Woods’ current repertoire. So, even though this was released a few years ago, it’s a good representation of how he’s sounding these days. The concert video also gives a good indication of his festival act, which has an ever so slightly different vibe from his club act. Of course, although not obvious, you need to take into consideration that, on this DVD, he’s playing for a foreign audience with a language barrier.

The DVD was as enjoyable for its cultural aspect as much as for the music. It also brought out Mitch’s warm, friendly spirit. But the thing that really got me about the video was the crowd at the show. On the CD, you can hear its enthusiasm and that’s great. But on the DVD, you can see it and, for me, that was a little bit startling in a good way. The concert hall was packed full of mainly university aged people, most of them really getting into the music and thoroughly enjoying themselves. It made me think that this is, in fact, blues beyond (our) borders… at least in some places. And I, for one, found this to be very encouraging.

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