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Gary Moore, The Sage

Belfast-born blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore arrives at Newcastle City Hall on Monday.

Belfast-born blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore arrives at Newcastle City Hall on Monday.

A reputation built over years with bands like Skid Row, Thin Lizzy and Colosseum (2) will ensure a big crowd.

However, Moore will have a particularly interesting bluesman performing the support slot. A man that US Guitar Player magazine described as "arguably the most relevant blues artist of our time".

The man is Chicago's Otis Taylor, who has amassed some 11 WC Handy nominations (the blues "Oscars") and was Living Blues magazine's Best Blues Entertainer in 2004.

The thing which sets Taylor apart, though, is his journalistic eye for his subject matter and his use of mandolin, banjo, lap-steel and a range of guitar textures to construct his sound, a blues amalgam which incorporates bluegrass, folk and more.

His latest release, Definition Of A Circle (Telarc Records), includes all of the above with guests like Gary Moore, needless to say on electric lead guitar, and the harmonica of Charlie Musselwhite.

I spoke to Otis at his home in Colorado and asked how he and Moore first met. "I met him at Brighton at one of my shows. He just came down and we started talking."

Did he get up to play with you, I asked. "No, not that time. He did the next time I was in town." So, he obviously knew who you were? "No, he didn't ! That's why he came down. He'd seen an article and came to check me out. He's a very gracious person."

Taylor, who was almost signed to the Blue Horizon label when he lived in London many years ago, once played in the T & O Short Line with the late guitarist Tommy Bolin (of Deep Purple, James Gang, Billy Cobham etc.).

He left music for a while but came back with acclaimed albums Blue Eyed Monster and When Negroes Walked The Earth.

His other releases won yet more praise, including the Downbeat Critics Poll. With songs like Rosa, Rosa (about civil rights activist Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat to a white man, back in 1955) and They Wore Blue (Hurricane Katrina), Taylor is no formulaic writer.

If he is not the future of the blues, he is most certainly one of the few to be trusted with the present. Ticket info on (0191) 261 2606.

BEFORE then there are two more nights, both at the Cluny, of high-class US artists. Saturday sees the arrival of Chicago-based country performer Robbie Fulks.

Performer is probably the most apt word, too, because despite his disdain for over-produced, mainstream country, he is likely to pepper his show with obscure country gems, dazzling guitar runs and personalised versions of pop tunes, liberally sprinkled with his wry humour.

He spent time in a bluegrass band Special Consensus (Grammy-nominated in 1989) and has released serious non-country albums like Couples In Trouble.

Opening the gig is the country-soul singer Jeb Loy Nichols, late of Wyoming and Austin, Texas, but now resident in Wales.

The next night, Sunday (27th), there is another double bill at the Ouseburn venue. Eliza Gilkyson and Robert McEntee provide the music.

Eliza, with 13 albums to her name, has played the area numerous times. She may have inherited her talent from her songwriter father, Terry, who penned Memories Are Made Of This (Dean Martin) and songs for Walt Disney's Jungle Book, but her material is distinctly more serious. Cluny tickets on (0191) 230 4474.

ON THE jazz front there is also plenty of choice. Courtney Pine is back in the region tomorrow night when he heads for Durham's Gala Theatre for a night which will feature material from his current Resistance album.

On Tuesday night, the twin alto-sax driven Led Bib, take to the Cluny stage. Just to complete the picture, the next night, again at the Cluny, you can catch Gerry Richardson's Big Idea. If traditional jazz is more your thing then the Monday night guests of the Vieux Carre Jazzmen at the Corner House is Gavin Lee.

FOR fans of guitar music, The Sage (Hall Two) has French-Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan teaming up with jazz-bassist Michel Benita on Sunday night.

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