In lieu of a legit Red Devils sophomore album, fans should look to live performances such as 1993’s outstanding “2 Meter Sessies” recording to fill the void.
The 2 Meter Sessies is a Dutch radio series, a live-in-the-studio “unplugged” session. Performers over the years include Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Cranberries, Blind Melon, J.J. Cale, Jackson Browne and many others. Of course, the Devils didn’t unplug at all, giving one of their essential performances — all caught on tape. (Read more about the Sessies on nl.wikipedia.org.)
The Devils’ performance was recorded May 3, 1993, at Bullet Sound Studios in the Netherlands, just two days after their infamous Moulin Blues Festival appearance. This time, the band sounds rested and ready; it’s just as compelling a performance as Moulin, but without the debauchery. It sounds like a hardworking blues band on top of their game.
The set is typical of the band’s show during this period, a solid mix of “King King” favorites and other choice picks. Several of the songs were earmarked as possibilities for the band’s full-length follow-up to “King King.”
What sets these recordings apart is the superior audio quality to most Devils boots online, as well as the in-studio approach, letting the band focus on the songs rather than a “performance” for an audience.
After an intro in Dutch by presenter Jan Douwe Kroeske (who gets the song title “Blackwater Roll” phonetically mangled as “Like a Water Roll” — never mind that the cut is actually “The Hook” from the EP “Blackwater Roll”), the band launches into the standard “She’s Dynamite,” a warmup shuffle if there ever was one.
Things really heat up on the familiar boogie “Your Time to Cry” (or “Backstreet Crawler” or “Your Turn to Cry” or one of any other number of mislabelings on Devils’ boots). Driven by Bill Bateman’s hyperspeed rockabilly beat and Paul Size’s manic guitar playing, the song is a masterclass in rowdy dynamics — the boogie is one long buildup, with a seismic release. The band plays with ESP, Bateman’s short snare rolls pushing the band’s intensity level. Lester Butler’s vocals sound subdued by comparison, but his harp style was built for riffing on a number like this.
Next up is an essential find for Devils’ fans, a live rendering of “Louisiana Blues” or, actually, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit a Crime,” in groove and lyrics. It’s a departure for the band, as it is the least rocked-out blues tune on the set. It sounds damn near traditional compared to the rest of the set. But the midtempo, one-chord shuffle is the perfect palate for Butler and Size to trade licks — Size standing out for his Hubert Sumlin-style licks.
A three-song “King King” section follows, notable for the exotic take on “I Wish You Would,” opening with Butler’s harp and Bateman’s Billy Boy beat. “Cross Your Heart” is an eight-minute platform for serious blues by Size, and reverb-drenched singing by Butler, sounding as desperate as a man can be — “you’re not supposed to tell a lie.” The Devils National Anthem, “Automatic,” is played with a funkiness that is accentuated without crowd noise; a YouTube video from the program shows just how much fun this song can be to play.
The set closes with “Like a Water Roll,” but we’ll correctly call it “The Hook.” It’s the most rocked-out number of the set, having no particular classic blues origin, though it certainly owes a debt to Buddy Guy, and plays a bit off the “Killing Floor” lick (albeit on acid). Butler testifies, “I’m just a bad old man, I’m not afraid to die; if you mess with me, I’ll make your mama cry,” before jumping up with a frenetic harp solo that is just all groove.
Size takes the reigns again in the last two minutes of the eight-minute jam. Here he cuts loose in a way that begs the question: Why isn’t this guy a capital G Guitar God? Why aren’t kids begging for “Guitar Hero: Paul Size Edition”? The playing is that damn good.
- Intro (0:46)
- “She’s Dynamite” (5:00)
- “Backstreet Crawler” (labeled as “Your Time To Cry”) (5:32)
- “Commit a Crime” (labeled as “Louisiana Blues”) (4:03)
- “I Wish You Would” (4:11)
- “Cross Your Heart” (7:54)
- “Automatic” (5:40)
- “The Hook” (labeled as “Like A Water Roll”) (7:59)
The Devils’ “2 Meter Sessies” ranks as one of the most-searched items on nofightin.com.
There are several videos on YouTube with cuts from the session, and bootlegs for this one are relatively easy to find. The trick is to also search for The Red Devils and Bullet Sound Studios, as one of the most popular versions of this set comes with that name.
Note: This story was first published May 26, 2009, and updated on Aug. 27, 2021.