A few months ago, a friend I met at the open mics in 2009 posted some great news on her Facebook page: A song of hers had hit second or third on the IBBA blues chart in the UK. This news was so cool that I examined the list a little closer and…I found that at the top of the list was the band of another friend who I had met in the open mics in Paris two or three years after this, and who is now living in the UK.
When I met them, both of these performers were totally unknown, had not yet had any kind of breaks, and how could you guess they would? Except that both were hugely talented musicians. But you meet with a lot of talented musicians at the open mics. So I think that in addition to their talent, what has helped both Emma Wilson, the first mentioned friend, and Marco Cinelli, the second mentioned, is that they are also hard workers, ambitious, and knew how to make the most of circumstances.
I have been meaning to do a post for months about them, but all my other projects lately have been keeping me away from the blog and making me feel guilty about it! Because this is a great story, and fortunately for them it continues to gather power, so I can still write about it.
Both are still appearing on the blues lists, both have just released new albums, and both continue to progress at a steady rate in their careers and musically. In short, I was delighted to hear their latest stuff, which is amazing. I met Emma in 2009 on my first year of travelling the world to perform in open mics. She ran an open mic in London at a bar near London Bridge, called the River Bar, and her hosting was amongst the nicest, smoothest, and fairest of any I know. It was an intimate, basement room in the pub, and Emma made sure that spectators kept silent in order to listen to the performers.
After my performance, she invited me to do a little showcase at the open mic a few months later, and it was a huge moment for me on my first visit to play in the UK since I was a teenager! I have followed her career since then, and found her continuously developing her music, her venues, her breaks and the musicians she gets to play with. Last year she recorded two songs with Terry Reid, who is one of those music-legend Zeligs who has been around forever, playing with everyone, and also remains forever young! (A song he wrote at 14 was played by The Hollies, REO Speedwagon and John Mellencamp!) But the coolest moment from the 1960s has to be when he was invited by Jimmy Page – who was just breaking up the Yardbirds – to become the vocalist of a new band he was forming, but Reid turned it down and suggested he try a guy he knew named Robert Plant!!!
Emma is now being interviewed regularly in the music press, constantly showcased for her brilliant blues singing talent. In fact, this year she won the Emerging Blues Artist of the Year award in the UK. Her new album, just out last month, called “Wish Her Well,” demonstrates beautifully her great vocal and emotional range as a singer. Her voice climbs from the silky quiet to the belting it out hard-edged blues thing. I love this full spectrum of sounds to her voice that sets her aside from so many one-trick poney blues singers. And the album is getting great play around the world now, too, it seems, as it rose to the top of the Roots Music Report list at one point this month, and at the time of this writing is still 12th on the list.
Marco Cinelli was a whole different thing: He had come to France from his native Italy, and was looking for places to play, open mics specifically, and I had already developed my open mic Thumbnail Guide for Paris, so he was consulting me on where to play. We met several times at open mics, and once for a little jam in a park in Paris, and my memories of him are always that of a good guitar player who knew how to do the classic Robert Johnson kind of stuff on an acoustic, and who stood out for his quiet demeanour. Unassuming, and gentle, he would never have struck you as what the French call “a bête de scène,” which is perhaps translated as “a beast of the stage!”
But then I saw this name of this band on the IBBA blues list in the UK: The Cinelli Brothers. And I said to myself, surely there cannot be a whole lot of Cinellis out there doing blues music. I did a search and found that these Cinelli Brothers were indeed Marco as the lead guitarist and singer, and now his brother Alessandro on drums, and Tom Julian-Jones on harmonica, guitar and vocals and Stephen Giry on bass, guitar and vocals. And I found some videos and recordings, and BOOM! A bête de scène is born!
I got in touch with Marco – we had been friends on Facebook for years – and got the story from him and his band’s site, about how from France he had moved to the UK and started up the band and had met with some success. Their first album came out in 2018, and reached No. 2 on the IBBA chart. He told me that their new CD, No Country for Bluesmen, (a title I love for its literary reference to W.B. Yeats and Cormac McCarthy) was just about to come out, and he sent it to me. Wow! The guy has a great voice and guitar licks, and this band really has a sound and feel that while classic blues is also unique. And you have to check out this video of The Cinelli Brothers live at the 100 Club with special guest, the great Matt Schofield on lead:
Like Emma Wilson, they have been featured in the blues music media far and wide, and here’s a nice bit of information from their web site: “The legendary radio DJ David ‘Kid’ Jensen has played a different track from their album on six consecutive weeks of his United Djs radio show, naming them as his favourite blues outfit, and his favourite blues album in many years.”
They tour regularly around Europe and the UK – they played at the Henley festival this month, where Tom Jones also featured – and I can only hope that in another few years, this success grows even more.
Both of these cases got me to reflecting about what it takes to succeed in music, and one of the things I forgot to mention in addition to their hard work and talent, is that always present word whenever we talk about success: Persistence! Both, of course, had started in music well before I met them a decade and more ago. Both have pushed it all to the limits and kept going, despite the times they played to empty rooms and unappreciative audiences. And both are now bringing us all the kind of sounds we love to hear – not to mention the stories!
Check out the Cinelli Brothers too!