Felipe Schrieberg and Paul Archibald return to the Fringe this year in an act that delivers a whisky-soaked night of tremolo and bass that walks through the annals of blues classics with the accompaniment of a trio of different whiskies. A round of Johnny Walker Black Label is served, the first of our three promised drams, and with that the duo dive into a bass-heavy rendition of Howlin Wolf’s
A pleasant entry to both blues music and whisky that will leave you merry, red cheeked and singing along
True to the nature of the show, the setup is simple: Schrieberg on vocals and lap steel guitar, and Archibald on a two-cymbal, snare and bass pedal drum set. For a small array of instruments one might be forgiven for initially underestimating the duo, but the night lives to see the pair punch above their weight, particularly on the likes of Walkin’ Blues where the Delta blues number is complimented with the rattlesnake scuffle of a washboard courtesy of Archibald. Schrieberg’s confidence is justified given his talents on the lap steel guitar, evident on the Screaming Jay Hawkins version of I Put A Spell On You, entrancing the audience with a twanging hypnotic slide guitar melody that blends expertly with Schrieberg’s commanding vocals.
As a show, 2 Guys, 3 Drams does well to boil down the complex mash of whisky production to a fine, palpable malt, translating the esoteric, oft confusing terminology that pervades many a whisky tasting when most are content to simply enjoy a drink. Quite fittingly, Archibald and Schrieberg delight in code switching between snobbish jargon and layman phrases in between the musical numbers, comically skewering the connoisseur stock type. As Archibald notes, “It’s good to be pretentious, bad to be snooty.”
This light heartedness carries over into the likes of One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, gifting the audience a comedic and informative mishmash about the differences between the three beverages, whilst on Bo Diddley’s You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover they ramp up the tempo. This fast, foot-tappingly good cover is complimented all the more by an improvised washboard solo by Archibald that sounds like sped-up tap battle between Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. It is around here we are treated to our second dram: Mortlach 12 Wee Witchie, a boisterous tipple that is aptly nicknamed the ‘Beast of Dufftown’.
Our final dram of the night does not fail to disappoint: Lagavulin 16. Compared to its predecessors, Lagavulin is far richer and smokier. It isn’t a peat monster like Ardbeg or Laphroaig, but nonetheless packs a fair, albeit Sherry-kissed, punch. Fittingly, Schrieberg and Archibald invite the audience to sample this smoky, sweet dram at the climax of a drum roll lead in to Johnny Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Boom, synergising the rumbling bass with the tasting notes of the South Islay classic. And if that wasn’t enough, Schrieberg finds the dexterity to play his lap steel guitar with the bottle of Lagavulin itself, before they round off the evening with a boogie woogie rendition of Suspicious Minds that captures the essence of the Deep South.
There are, at times, an inclination to view 2 Guys, 3 Drams more as a set up for The Blueswater members’ larger act The 10th Anniversary Show Blues. And yet they achieve a remarkably large amount in so short a time, especially in the absence of some key blues instruments like a harmonica or a double bass. Of course it is hard, near impossible, to replicate the gravelly timbre of the likes of Bo Diddley or Johnny Lee Hooker. But that’s not what this show attempts to do. Essentially, 2 Guys, 3 Drams is a pleasant entry to both blues music and whisky that will leave you merry, red cheeked and singing along.