Errol Linton – The Blues, with Reggae Vibes

Tuesday 30 May

Three times winner of the British Best Harmonica Player of the Year Blues Awards, Errol Linton is a harmonica wizard from Brixton (of Jamaican descent), a singer, a songwriter, a painter and the hero of the London Underground, where he has played his unique and highly original blend of blues with hints of reggae for 30 years!


Sweet vocals and stomping harmonica from Errol Linton as he leads his band to blend blues with the influences of his Jamaican heritage into an inspiring and intoxicating mix.


  • Petar Zivkovic: piano/keys
  • Lance Rose: bass
  • Ritchey Green: guitar
  • Gary Williams: drums
  • Errol Linton: harmonica/vocals

Hard as it is to believe but Errol Linton has been playing the Brixton blues for nearly thirty years. Initially a busker on London streets and metro, Errol was noticed early on by John Walters – John Peel’s celebrated producer – who would film Errol in 1990 for a BBC documentary (it’s on Youtube). But even during that era of mega-CD sales, no record label dared take a chance on the Lambeth youth who sounded like no one else. Still, those listening to contemporary blues paid attention: I first encountered Errol at The Station Tavern in Ladbroke Grove in 1996. He was leading a ragged ensemble of musicians and, with nonchalant ease, they tore the roof off what was then London’s foremost blues pub. No one from that evening’s performance remains in Linton’s current band – truth be told, they weren’t of the calibre of today’s lineup – but in that packed, smokey pub I witnessed the future of British blues.

What do I remember of my first encounter? Errol was, then now, wearing a cap and possessed a laconic cool. For a band leader, he appeared quite shy, preferring to let the music do the talking, but gracious when addressing the punters. I’d heard blues played everywhere by all kinds of people – by Maoris and Romanians and Scots, in Chicago’s Southside bars and deep in the Mississippi delta – but Linton had his own take on the genre, playing a reggae-inflected electric blues free of histrionic soloing, and nothing sounded forced. The music was warm, loose, very Caribbean – think how the mighty Mississippi River flows into the Gulf Of Mexico just as the music from Texas to New Orleans filtered through to Jamaica via radio stations and sound systems – and Errol’s songs personified a down-home black British experience, wry and lyrical, sad and angry. A humble, weary blues unlike any other British blues artist I could think of. I stood there, soaked up the music, then, when he finished playing, went up and shook his hand and told him he had played the best blues I’d heard in a long time.

Almost a quarter century on and nothing has changed my mind. Certainly, there are many other very talented UK blues musicians – the scene receives almost no media coverage (beyond Cerys Matthews’ championing on her respective BBC radio shows) – and is far healthier than many might expect. But no other player on these damp isles has the individuality, the looseness, the beauty and wit, that informs Linton’s best music. And No Entry certainly is Linton at his very best. Here, on album number 6, he and his band of merry men demonstrate what a rich musical blend they create. This is blues as informed by soul and jazz and myriad Jamaican flavours. It’s very much a London blues album, songs shaped by the Smoke. And it is beautiful to listen to. After all these years of following Linton, I believe No Entry is the album he was born to make.

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