WHEN Paul Jones and Dave Kelly take to the stage of Burnley Mechanics as a duo next Friday don't be fooled by the relaxed nature of the show from two of Britain's premier blues performers.

For the pair look on the intimate shows they do away from The Blues Band as a key part of the creative process.

"Yes, the shows are more relaxed than a full band show," said Paul, "as often the venues Dave and I will play are smaller. But it's not just a question of us having a laugh together.

"As a musician and a performer it does you good to challenge yourself at every opportunity and one way to do that is to play with different people and in different ways.

"With Dave and I, we really enjoy the shows we do together. We don't really have a set list as such. The closest we get to that will be us conferring before the show to decide what song we will start with. After that pretty much everything goes.

"It's a great opportunity to recharge the batteries and to have a few new challenges. It is very stimulating. We do have a shared repertoire with a number of songs we perform with the Blues Band, but being just the two of us, we do them in a very different way."

Paul is full of praise for Dave, with whom he founded the Blues Band in 1979.

"Dave is such a talented musician," he said. "Even though I have worked with him for so many years we can be on stage and he will play something in such a way that it still surprises me.

"He has this ability to quickly discern what an audience wants and respond to it. He claims it's something John Lee Hooker taught him but I think it's a natural intuition. I don't know too many people who have such a sensitivity to their audience."

For many fans, one of the highlights of the more intimate shows is the between-song banter.

"Oh, there's plenty of that," said Paul. "It's usually because Dave takes so long to re-tune his guitars!"

Paul has been making and championing the blues since the Sixties, first as lead singer with Manfred Mann and then with the Blues Band. He is also the voice of the blues in Britain via his weekly show on BBC Radio 2.

So he is in an ideal position to comment on the current state of the music he so clearly loves.

"I think it is in a very strong position," he said. "There are a tremendous number of young artists coming through."

The blues has always been one form of popular music with a tendency to do itself down with the infamous 'blues police' being reluctant to embrace change.

"Thankfully I think the idea of the blues police is getting less and less," said Paul. "I think a number of people who have been fans of the blues for a long time have always tended to be slow in recognising the talents of someone new breaking through on to the scene. It has almost been as though you have to prove yourself for quite some time to be accepted.

"Thankfully musicians are continuing to experiment and the music is evolving. I think people are more adventurous in what they will listen too.

"I think with music of any type, you have to be broadminded - the thing to remember is, if it isn't any good, people will soon stop listening."

Paul Jones and Dave Kelly, Burnley Mechanics, Friday, January 8. Details from 01282 664400.