Slick in a black suit, white shirt, shiny black shoes and bowler hat, Tom Attah sits with a mic in front of him. Starting as he means to go on, he loudly laughs to check he has sound.
“As you can see I am a gorgeous black man and I have big wood in this place,” he jests before breaking out into the woeful head-shaking and foot-stamping ‘How Long’. Candles in old wax covered bottles act as spotlights for the Sheffield-based blues man.
Not content with merely musically entertaining, Attah serves up educational blues, informing us: “Blues is about movement and machines – this next song is about a man on a train” – and he’s not joking as he later goes on to introduce another song about a car. His strong acoustics send powerful tickling vibrations through the wooden furniture and he prepares to get his hands dirty by removing the distinctive hat. His soulful tones transport the audience momentarily to a porch somewhere in the Deep South, until he proudly admits between songs: “I’m from Barnsley and it’s a wonderful place.”
Fighting against the drunken background roar, a cheeky charismatic performer, Attah stops mid-play to wave at extremely loud talkers before dedicating ‘Can’t Wait to Get Back Home’ to a friend and making us all wish we lived where he does: “Can’t wait to get back home where the sun is nice and warm… it’s freezing out here…”
Punctuating his rich vocals with plenty of characteristic bluesy barking wails and screeches, Attah warms us up in preparation for the multi-instrumental blues three-piece, Mojo 57. The Mojo boys and two others lean lazily against the wall, intensely looking on, accompanied by Attah’s gravelly goodness as if they are straight out of a Levi’s advert.
Ever vocal, Attah teasingly jokes “blues was invented in 1986 by Eric Clapton” and then proceeds to pay homage to a man who is clearly a personal hero and great influence, not just musically but also in attire – Robert Johnson. Occasionally laughing manically or stopping to compliment an audience member’s hair, Attah is a lively and versatile singer with real range and a Hendrix sound at times. Delivering ‘I Can’t Stand Up’, his vocals bizarrely rather suddenly take on an Elvis Costello quality before he promises his last two will be “dancy tunes”.
After frenzied final playing, both directly before and after the encore, Attah thanks his audience and bustles himself out into the night with two guitars, resembling an extra from The Untouchables but with a refreshingly cheery disposition. Belting out straight-up blues with a heart and sense of humour, Attah’s a real performer and facial contortionist.
Tom Attah performed at Sandinista on 26 August
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