Friday, 23 January 2009

Geraint Watkins - The Celtic Cajun

Geraint Watkins is the embodiment of the journeyman musician. He'sthe perfect guy to have in your touring band, he's always engaging onstage, full of good humour and to top it all, he's a damn good player.His work on piano and accordion has been heard on more tracks thanyou'd imagine, as well as being an integral part in the careers of twoother fine Welshmen, Dave Edmunds and Shakin' Stevens. I know we're a bit incestuous here and there's a lot of in-breeding, but Geraint has managed to work with a few foreigners as well!!

Born Geraint Meurig Vaughan Watkins in Abertriwr, South Walesin February 1951 his music career began in the early 70's with localWelsh language bands as well Buck Dancer, Juice on the Loose andRed Beans & Rice. He did a session for Stuart Colman's It's Rock 'n'Roll radio show and was included on the second volume of the show'salbums. Similarly, Charlie Gillett's Honky Tonk radio show and Demosalbum. He made a name for himself as a fine session player and overthe years has worked with such artists as Rory Gallagher, AndyFairweather Low, Sting, George Harrison, Status Quo, Eric Clapton,The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Paul Young, Mark Knopfler, The BluesBand and Box Of Frogs (featuring ex-Yardbirds). As well as Edmunds and Stevens he's also played on many a rockin' album including CarlPerkins, the Stray Cats, Frankie Ford, Restless, Matchbox and yet another Welsh band, the great Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers.He played on the five albums by the good-timey roots/cajun pub band,The Balham Alligators.
Recent times have seen him work with Nick Lowe, Van Morrison andBill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. As well as all this he's also released a coupleof solo albums, the first one, GW and the Dominators coming out in 1978.Anyone who caught Johnnie Allan's great shows in 1992 couldn't havefailed to be enthralled by Watkins. He was part of a blinding backing bandand really seemed to enjoy himself on backing vocals on Running Bear.He was also a part of the superb Carl Perkins and Friends RockabillySpecial. With ten guitarists on the go, GW still manages to keep his rolling piano up in the mix. Apart from the Balham Alligators, his most prolific timehas been as a member of the Refreshments. If the UK had it's own A-Team of musicians, Geraint Watkins would be the equivalent of Pig Robbins orFloyd Cramer. There aren't many Dave Edmunds produced sessions where he doesn't call on Geraint, even flying him to Texas for a Fabulous Thunderbirds album. As an aside, I was just playing Honeyboy Hinkling's Wonderful Night and the woman opposite me said, "that sounds like Dave Edmunds with that squeezy thing". I didn't say she was bright! But she did recognise the accordion of our man Geraint, so it does prove the point. I must confess to not having any of his solo releases but I've got two self explanatory bootlegs called The Sessionman Vol's 1 and 2. They perfectly demonstrate how his piano and accordion can bring a new dimension to a song, adding just the right amount of sparkle.
Here's a butcher's dozen to tap your feet to:
Dave Edmunds - Run Rudolph Run or Dear Dad - GW's piano plays theJohnnie Johnson to Dave's CB.
Shakin' Stevens - Oh Julie - almost a cajun rocker thanks to GW's accordion.
Crazy Cavan - Both Wheels Left The Ground - stomping JLL piano poundingfrom GW, and CC and the boys follow suit. Brilliant.
Southside - Don't Lie To Me - great GW boogie intro.
Nick Lowe - True Love Travels On A Gravel Road - to be honest GWis fairly restrained on the organ here, but what a version.
Memphis Bend - Choo Choo Ch'Boogie - driving accordion.
Refreshments - Veronica - I love Ronnie Dawson's version but this kicksass as well.
Mason Ruffner - Baby I Don't Care No More - sounds as much like DaveEdmunds as DE sounds like Chuck Berry!!
The Balham Alligators - Gotta Have Money - does ever have a boring session?
Honeyboy Hinkling - It's Over - nice moody piece with some tasty brass andguitar.
Willie & the Poor Boys - Saturday Night - GW takes the vocals on a stonkingversion of the Roy Brown rocker.
Juice On The Loose - The Blue Flames Boogie - hot rocking boogie babywith GW in fine fettle.
Stray Cats - Look At That Cadillac - last but not least. GW works in fineunison with Mel Collins' sax. A romp.

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