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Everything Changes
Artist:  Will Tang (
Label:  Zen Music 
Length: 13 tracks / 44 minutes 
I caught Will Tang at the Greenbelt Festival’s Underground venue, where he was playing a one-man gig, because I was drawn by the programme’s assertion that he had established himself as the “number one blues harp player in Asia”- which is quite a claim. Walking in, my first impressions were that both his haircut and guitar tuning were a little suspect, but when he sang, he lived the songs in a way that showed he had real quality. He showed more presence there than many that I have seen on far bigger stages.
My impressedometer was starting to spin round quite fast, only to speed up even more when he started on the harp. I felt that he could do with a bass drum to stomp, as the music had that true blues force. (A guitarist would have been good, too, to set him free to concentrate fully on vocals and harmonica, so it was pleasing to hear that he often works with a band.) Several mainstage big timers at the festival failed to keep me watching the whole set, but I was not leaving Tang’s before he had finished.
Tang is Anglo-Chinese and it was spending time in Hong Kong to investigate his roots that led him into music. He ended up as a session player for Jackie Chan, among others, and cut a few albums of his own, which explains why his UK début is so accomplished.
The disc is quite surprising in that it takes several tracks for the blues to even make an appearance, and the title track can be distracting if you also can’t quite work out what song the verses remind you of (try “No Woman, No Cry”). Tang’s voice is highly versatile, and he has a bit of Rod Stewart there along with the hint of Bob Marley, while on “Love Bites” it shows a strong Paul Rodgers element.  Although the disc is rarely flat, it lights up when the blues arrives – just try YouTubing ‘Will Tang The Other Side’ and you’ll see what I mean. The relentless guitar riff growls, helped by some low Hammond, and the harp fits right in.
Perhaps it’s Tang’s multi-ethnicity that give him such a natural blend of styles. Despite the name, “Red City Blues” is as much reggae as blues, as there is a huge chunk of funk in “Something Special,” a song about his daughter wanting him to bring something back from a trip away. Much of the collection is acoustic, but with Geoff Holroyde’s constantly confident drums driving proceedings, it has plenty of energy. Tang finds 90-odd seconds to give us some solo harp before two bonus tracks close the disc. I was particularly impressed with the main mix, but my favourite track is an Andy Votel remix of “Travellin’ Man” (with a title like that it has to bring out the Paul Rodgers again). Votel majors on the percussion and turns the groove knob round to eleven.
This is highly playable and I happily recommend investigating his songs.
Derek Walker


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