When a Texas bluesman is persuaded to perform with a local blues outfit a memorable occasion is on the cards. And so it transpires in Paul Bisson’s novel . Echoes of the great Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments, the author’s personal experience as a performing musician, both combine to produce an excellent portrayal of a day in the life of a band.
But this is a slow burner, no pandering to the truism that a novel should hit hard from the outset. Bisson’s setting is a damp, gritty Jersey that the tourists don’t get to see. His characters are ordinary, unremarkable locals. Each has hopes and dreams both as individuals and as members of the band. Charlie, the band leader, who hopes that rubbing shoulders with Coyote Jack will catapult The Bluebirds beyond the local scene. Laid-back drummer Oz. Talented lead guitarist Rupert who harbours personal ambitions which threaten to destroy the band. The troubled Anne Marie who completes the rhythm section.
The story gathers pace as the St Helier pub venue puts up the ‘sold out’ signs on the promise of the legendary guest star. But Coyote Jack is a puzzle and doubts grow as showtime nears.
The book really hits its straps with the way the gig unfolds. The author’s musical knowledge comes to the fore and the description of the music is such that you can almost hear it. Stuff goes on behind the scenes but amazingly The Bluebirds, minus their main talent, produce the show of a lifetime. This is a lovely piece of writing.
And there are twists still to come. Coyote Jack is unmasked but retains the reader’s sympathy. The Bluebirds are intact – just – and I imagine we’ll be hearing more from them in the future.