Monday night, the house was on fire. Billy Branch and The Sons of Blues band brought the windy city to Valencia on their way to perform on July 4th at The Cazorla Blues Festival. The groundswell opening chords noodled briefly as if warming up the engines…then a sharp stop. “We ARE the Son of the Blues!” Branch proclaimed. Enter the crashing upbeat jump-style tune Son of a Juke. And the rest of the night was at full speed.

An instrumental number, Branch carried the melody as he weaved in and out of continuous improvisation, while collectively he and the band punctuated backbeat notes. Branch, holding a second harmonica, was ready to swap them for a quick key change midway through the song. Truly impressive. Branch is a marvel to watch. One can get winded just watching him bend notes, carry melodies, and riff across octaves. His breath-control must be from the beyond.

“Thank you so much! Thank you for coming. Glad to be back in España, Valencia. Yeah!” Branch’s welcome was grateful and heartfelt. He had been here many times and seemed to truly love playing to his Valencia audience. They continued on with the old blues standard Nobody But You. The quartet was as tight as a veteran combo could be. They played masterfully; looking like it was effortless while intricate with much nuance.

“Boom boom boom boom, I’m gonna shoot you right down.”

Performed at a noticeably faster tempo, The Son of the Blues’ took on John Lee Hooker’s gritty classic Boom Boom. It was a well-received part of the set.

Delving into the depths of emotional pain, Little Walter’s Blue and Lonesome hit as hard as the blues gets. The slow walking bass was the canvas for some incredible guitar wailing and solo licks by guitarist Giles Corey.

Longtime bandmate, pianist Sumito Ariyo Ariyoshi took lead vocals for Windy City Chicago. Ariyoshi could really flex his chops for this fun, jazzy, barrelhouse number about the city they are so proud to call home.

Settling into a slow, bluesy, rhythmic groove, Branch started singing the familiar lyrics “Please allow me to introduce myself…” as the band revealed their  haunting version of the Rolling Stones song ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. The crowd was quick to pick up on it and joined in with the “Ooo, who, who” back up vocals.

In 2018, Branch, along with Buddy Guy, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Johnny Iguana and other Chicago blues all-stars recorded a 12 track CD covering classic Rolling Stones songs to pay homage back to the band who honored the Chicago blues for decades. There is even a Mick Jagger cameo on a track and Keith Richards plays on another track too. Sympathy was one of the fruits from that project: Chicago Plays The Stones. Branch had LP copies of the release to purchase after the show. A rare acquisition for interested fans.

Closing the show, Branch invited opening act, friend, local Valenciano and killer harmonica player Danny Boy (Sánchez) for a fitting finale.

This three-time Grammy nominated artist is a true master. Having played the blues harmonica professionally for fifty years, his early start was as a member of Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars. Unquestionably, a living blues legend.

Be sure to check him out next time he comes to Valencia. He will be back.

Report by Phillip Solomonson

Article copyright 24/7 Valencia

All photos copyright Phillip Solomonson / ‘24/7 Valencia’

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