Rough Kutz, The Raven, 23/11/2008

Rough Kutz Photograph © Stephen Harvey

The Raven seemed like an unusual choice of venue for Stoke on Trent’s seminal rude boys, The Rough Kutz. The pub is situated on the outskirts of Cobridge, and it is not one that I have come across before to be perfectly honest, but I had seen them play before many years ago, and I knew there would be some faces I would recognise in the crowd.

I made the right decision going along, and it turned out to be one of the best gigs I have seen so far this year. That’s quite a compliment with it being both late in the year, and the sheer volume of bands I have met on the Stoke music scene this year.

The room was packed to the rafters with enthusiastic punters waiting to dance to some original ska. The eager following from Chell Heath was in full residence as usual, although I did speak to some skinhead girls at the end of the show who had travelled from as far away as Chorley on the back of a scooter. The band somehow managed to fit themselves on the small stage provided, which was in itself a good trick given the numbers involved and that full sound was achieved beautifully, and the crowd was dancing throughout the show, me included.

The Rough Kutz have delivered this full sound and show for over ten years now, I was informed by some members of the audience who were keen to pass on their knowledge. There have been some changes in the line up over the years, but they have always stuck to their principles of playing their own original music and songs was the general opinion, and they were obviously life long fans.

They have never slipped into that trap of becoming ‘just another cover band’ playing Madness and The Specials, which is sadly what happens to a lot of good musicians in this business, and I applaud them for sticking to their principles of being original. The Rough Kutz are anything but a cover band, and they obviously have no respect for other such bands given their comments on their own myspace page.

The influences of their sound are the same ones that have influenced the above mentioned bands and include the sound of Prince Buster, Kingstonians and Stiff Little Fingers. They have even recruited the talents of Roddy Radiation from The Specials on the video to their now classic anthem ‘Chell Heath’.


This highlights the respect that they have gained not only on the local circuit but nationally, and their army of fans continues to grow on the strength of their commitment to creating good original songs from scratch. Tracks like ‘Teenage’ and ‘Popstars’ show they know how to craft good bouncing dance tracks. my personal favourite was ‘What Did You Take Me For?’ which had me digging out my own collection of vinyl.

Memories of Tunstall Town Hall disco came flooding back listening to this track that reminded so much of early Madness, and my own roots in music.

I would recommend any music fan to get along and see the Rough Kutz live and experience their sound first hand. This is dance music at its very best. This is SKA.

By Stephen Harvey – also published here

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