Halloween, Mwhahahaha! If you’re not venturing out tonight, armed with a sugared-up face-painted youngster, lucky you! Perhaps you’d like to lounge on the sofa with a scary story. Here’s one I wrote, back when I wrote stories and Devizine didn’t occupy my every waking minute!
Wrote in 2016, only a novelette size, but creepy enough. Blindfold is the telling, first person, of a professor of science, now in a care home, and his story of how he got there.
“Ghosts are a figment of the imagination, we proved it here today.”
If you’ve an ereader or tablet you can download the book here at Smashwords. If you buy it, use this code XG89W and it will be free! Happy Halloween!
Andy’s usual Sunday stroll around Devizes, hunting live music, took a different turn this weekend, as I interfered! In order to save time, treat this article as a roundup of all that happened to us both; a kind of music relay race!
Andy spent the early afternoon down our trusty Southgate, I met up with him on my maiden voyage to the White Bear. There is no apparent reason for my never having been to the White Bear, and now I realise neither was there an excuse. I immediately got my feet under the table; proper gorgeous pub, and what is more, George Wilding, sat in the alcove, doing his thing. But before that, here’s Andy’s start, before he handed the baton to me. Double-whammy, you lucky, lucky people!
REVIEW – Paul Cowley @ The Southgate, and George Wilding @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 27th October 2019
Fantastic Afternoon’s Entertainment
Sunday afternoons have been a happy hunting ground recently, and this week was no exception.
First up to the Southgate to see bluesman Paul Cowley. Originally from Birmingham, Paul now resides in France. He was paying the UK a visit with a few dates, so would have been a shame to miss him. What we got was a singer, a songwriter and a guitarist playing acoustic fingerstyle and slide guitar. Playing a mixture of his own compositions from his recent album “Just What I Know” and a number of Delta blues covers (from such luminaries as Lightnin Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Son House and the Memphis Jug Band), Paul served up the perfect afternoon of laid-back, moody and melodic blues. There was always a nice driving rhythm from the stomp-box and guitar, accompanied by a gravel-voiced lyric. And there was a good crowd to appreciate some fine entertainment.
Nice vibe, nice atmosphere, nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
But there was still more to come. Next on to The White Bear to listen to the incomparable George Wilding. George will probably be familiar to Devizes audiences, but I personally never tire of listening to the guy. Every show is completely different, since George tends to feed on the atmosphere in the room and requests from the audience for his next song, rather than relying on anything as mundane and organised as a written set-list. And I think he’s getting better as he goes along. He’ll have a go at just about any song (whether or not he knows all the words), and there’s no style he won’t cover – pop, rock, blues, easy listening. His rapport with the audience is genuine, and would be a great lesson to many other performers. His wry, sardonic and self-deprecating humour goes an awfully long way towards winning people over.
On this occasion it was also great to hear him singing a few of his own songs, mostly in response to requests from the audience, which he often puts in the background in favour of covers. Personally, I think he should be more confident in his own material, and serve up more of it.
Suffice to say, long before the end of his set, he had the whole pub singing along, and the calls for an encore were fully deserved.
Another great atmosphere and superb, great-value entertainment.
Future Gigs at The Southgate:
• Friday 1st November John E. Vistic
• Saturday 2nd November Alabaster Queen
• Sunday 3rd November Kent Duchaine
• Friday 8th November Triple JD Rock Band
• Saturday 9th November Jamie Willians & The Roots Collective
• Sunday 10th November Phil Cooper & The Slight Band
Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:
• 10th November Wade Merritt
• 17th November Ian O’Regan
• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell
Yep, agree with Andy’s words, yet I expect no less from George Wilding. His charisma and charm, coupled with passion and natural ability will satisfy an audience no end. I feel the confidence point is part of George’s appeal, almost a hallmark. George plays on this bashfulness, always with an excuse why this particular performance may not be up to his usual, then knocks it out of the park! While he nods appreciation to other’s songs, he wished he written, many anticipate the moment he’ll perform his originals.
Audience participation, isn’t it? He never shies to a request, even if he doesn’t know it. A question was fired at him, what’s his guilty pleasure? He confessed a liking for the song-writing of Abba, even if he deplored the production, expanding he never dared play one, as it was uncool. Dancing Queen fell forth, he owned it as well as other spoofy adaptations he’ll willing crowd please with. No other so apt this specific Sunday than Swing Low Sweet Chariot; the audience yelled along.
Devizes in the Round @ The Cavalier Community Hall
I thought I’d complete the evening with a journey to the Cavy, where Dean held a “Devizes in the Round;” a country music play-off between a selection of his favourites, all in aid of Lupus UK. The event only come to my attention hours beforehand. Melon twister as to how I missed it, gave Dean the usual spill about ensuring we’re alerted, he told me he had; shucks, many apologies to him.
Never an easy task, a niche, country, a Sunday night in Devizes too. Sadly, turnout was not great. Something crossed off my perpetually increasing to-do-list, to see how Dean had transformed the just adequate pub function room, into a club; but he has, and it’s impressive. There’s a secondary bar in the hall, and the stage is ample.
Here’s a Devizes gem you may’ve missed, and if country music is not your thing, although it’s Dean favourite, it’s still only a small section of all that goes on here. The Family Club ethos is that of the Northern working clubs, where variety is blessed by a pragmatic atmosphere. Tribute acts abound, Dean informs me the UB40 one, Johnny 2 Bad went down particularly well.
Do yourself a favour and keep an eye for future events at the Cavy, it’s a community-fuelled pub, as it ever was, and striving to provide diversity, and very often for a worthy cause.
All said and done, our heroine Tamsin Quin appeared. Playing to a slight crowd in her hometown, now she’s booked throughout the southwest and beyond, is a little shameful, Devizes. Nevertheless, Tamsin gave a stunning performance, as ever. I also welcomed a chat about her progress, and how a trip to Nashville inspired her.
This Nashville subject arose again when shuffling my chair across to meet another two acts, Josh Beddis and Danny McMahon, they told me of their customary pilgrimages and how well they’re received there. Both tremendously gifted fledgling acoustic performers in this field, blasts the erroneous stereotype country is for an older crowd. These guys treated us to a spectacularly sentimental set of originals, as country music will, alternating songs between them. Such, I was informed, was the nature of this “round” idea!
In the same light, Tamsin stepped forth after the break with another of Dean’s favourites, Zenne. Zenne’s talent knows no bounds, a matured confidence saw a worthy corporation with Tamsin. Country music may not be my favourite, but I was satisfied, and held spellbound by the music and lyrics of all these acts.
If we’re spoiled for choice on a Friday and Saturday in town for live music, I think we’ve proved it continues till Sunday too. Sometimes it needs a little support though, understandably being Monday looms, I’m guilty too, but hats off to the Southgate, White Bear and Cavalier for extending the weekend; bit less drizzly on Sunday too, wasn’t it?!
Carmen is an opera in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet, based on an original story by Prosper Merimee, first performed in 1875. It is written in the genre of opéra comique, with musical numbers separated by dialogue, and it shocked its early audiences with its breaking of social conventions. Nowadays it is one of the most popular, and frequently-performed, operas in the classical canon. And, of course, it features two very famous arias – the Habanera, and the Toreador Song.
It is set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous torero Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial at the time.
So – what have White Horse Opera done with this absolute classic of an opera? First up they’ve kept it simple. There are just four backdrops to represent the four locations of the four acts, the costumes are modern and unfussy, and there are very few props. This allows the music, the singing and the acting to speak for itself. It’s also sung in English to keep it very accessible. Even the orchestra is a stripped-back unit of only seven musicians + conductor.
Stand-out performances came from all the leads – there are no weak links here – Paula Boyagis as Carmen, Phillip Borge as Don Jose, Jon Paget as Escamillo, Barbara Gompels as Micaela, Brian Brooks as Zuniga and Graham Billing as Morales. But the cast has strength in depth, with some fine support work from Jess Phillips, Bryony Cox, Lisa House, Stephen Grimshaw and Robin Lane. The only wooden thing on the stage (making a key contribution to Act 2) was one of the benches from The Vaults!
I enjoyed the production a lot. It had pace, passion and a great freshness. Why wouldn’t you? – the story involves love, smuggling, jealousy, seduction, and death! Definitely worth the trip out to Lavington School.
Yesterday spent wisely, at the wonderful Little Eco; Devizes first zero-waste shop…..
Shopping bags are in the boot, but when I’m on my own I forget. Damn, buy another bag, it’s just one after all. Last supermarket visit I figured no, as I had my daughter’s help; I left her to scan the items at the self-service checkout, and made haste to the car to fetch them. Yeah, double-whammy; I jogged, part way!
I’ll confess I’m guilty, but at least I’m willing to. Rapidly aging, stuck in my ways, yeah; the stereotype Greta scorns at. Yet I don’t care who is warning me, it doesn’t patronise me what age they are. The younger they are the more they’ll have to face the consequences, ergo if you lambast youth for telling you that you need to do more, shame on you. The irony is some take it personally, insecure with guilt and try denial. This current wave of ecological outcry addresses world governments, rather than the individual. Still, personally taking as much action as you can pushes that little bit towards the good.
Here’s a little slice of that good, recently arrived in Devizes. The Little Eco shop is lovely, and as it says, little, but the grand step in the right direction our town needs. Situated in that yard, Wharfside, on Couch Street, I popped into our first zero-waste shop, to meet owner Jeni. A number of customers browsed the delightful array of dispensers, scoop-bins and glass jars. There is also a central feature with organic gifts and accessories.
Few customers had been here before, and bought containers with them. For the rest, glass and recycled tubs and containers are available, along with paper bags. The vessels are tared in, and they’re free to shop, many asking for assistance to dispense items; this innovative process is in the making of becoming normal practise. Even the receipt is an email, if required.
While this store may not be a hypermarket, its quaint surroundings harbour a surprisingly vast array of goods. There’re cleaning liquids, of which I profess to know nothing of such matters, erm, washing-up liquid, and erm, that washing powder and soap stuff! Now, onto the tucker, which I can do; they’ve got organic maple syrup, and there’s pasta, rice, cereals and organic maple syrup, flour, herbs, dried fruit, chocolate, and erm, so much stuff, did I mention the organic maple syrup?
The Little Eco Shop has been open since September; Jeni acknowledged the prospect of little acorns. Perishable goods, I think, will make or break it. Still, the like of this needs to be a supermarket, it needs to be central in town, in every town, and it needs a comprehensive fresh range; veg, bread, milk (yeah, I mentioned that!) But at this early stage, what it really needs is your attention first and foremost.
Aside David Attenborough’s influence, we chatted about supermarkets mostly. I referenced how my Nan would tell of pre-supermarket days, when you took your butter dish to the shop, your salt shaker, and they filled them. Without realising they had the carbon footprint of a beatnik amoeba. It’s only since our thirst for efficient consumer self-service, we’ve accumulated this mountain of waste packaging and terrible throw-away ethos. The final straw for me came a few years ago in a petrol station, upon noticing a single orange wrapped in a hard-plastic container; it’s a bloody orange for crying out loud, nature provided it’s packaging.
The greatest dilemma facing Jeni is the progression of supermarkets towards reducing waste. I have to hand it to McDonalds, taking heed of eight-year-old Jacob Douglas, from Basildon, and a small number of other children, and have banned Happy Meal plastic toys. If they listen to what the future generation tell them, surely so can you. Yet, so can and will the supermarkets given time, and if so, Jeni’s self-built business is at risk, but her ethics have had a profound effect.
“If anybody’s sceptical,” I asked Jeni, “it’s over convenience; could you serve the town as quickly as a supermarket?” Negatively she replied but retorted with the notion it’s the personal feel at Little Eco. Jeni expressed the turning trend in the desire to shop at the butchers and greengrocers, who will greet you at the tingling of the bell. Supermarkets steer away from human contact, but if the change to self-service checkouts can be turned around in such a short space of time, a move towards a doable solution to zero-waste on a mass scale could too, by these clever-clogs, if they so wished.
For now, though, we have this gorgeous and friendly shop, yes, it takes a little longer to shop, but I encourage you to try it out; I’m not accepting freebie banana chips, this is not an advertorial, I don’t spew that baloney on you. Crunch time comes down to price then, as ever, and I think you’d be pleasantly surprised it’s competitive and kept at a minimum. Filled a paper bag with my beloved banana chips and was impressed it was just pence, so got myself another scoop-full!
We wish Jeni and the Little Eco shop all the best of luck with this venture, and in order for it to work, the town must show its support, after all, they’ve got a giant cask of organic maple syrup, if I failed to mention it!
DOCA’s Lantern Buy Back Scheme
Along with The Town Hall and The Healthy Life, Little Eco also has a scheme in conjunction with DOCA, where old lantern lights that you may have stowed away from previous parades can be recycled. It’s a lantern light amnesty! Turn your lights into reception at the Town Hall, The Little Eco Shop and The Healthy Life Company. For every working lantern returned you will receive 50p, no questions asked!
The scheme will be running from 11th November to 14th December 2019.
DOCA state, “We can all play a part in making this years festival events greener, but we need your help to reduce the impact of our events on the environment, returning lanterns is one way of doing this!” More information here.
After a hushed couple of months for Daydream Runaways, they return with a topical smash single, Closing the Line……
I observed in awe the multitude, at least for Devizes, squeezed between the Town Hall and Vinyl Realm. Ah, what with the perpetual drizzling, wish it could be summer again; street festival time. The highlight for me was undoubtedly Pete and the staff at Vinyl Realm’s second stage; what a totally awesome job.
I did one of my live, wobbly Facebook vids of a band I held in anticipation to finally catch, which earned a comment, “who are they?” Coupled with loitering local musicians inquiring, I was astounded that this dynamic indie Swindon-Devizes four-piece were still fairly obscure. But as the sun shone, I think this photo captured perfectly that the moment of elation was communal, and confirmed everyone present will not forget the name, Daydream Runaways.
Just to make certain, they rocked the Southgate at the end of August, and what with appearances on BBC Wiltshire Radio and It’s All Indie Spotify playlists, their Facebook page has been quiet recently, save a swanky new logo. On a separate note, the threat of closure at Swindon’s Honda plant looms over its employers. I don’t want to argue the toss, and I think neither does the band, let whatever bias newspaper you believe squabble if this is the result of Brexit, or not, it’s not going to help those losing their livelihood. Such is the passionate subject of Closing the Line, the Daydreamer’s forthcoming single.
Here then is a progressive step in their building discography, which is already teetering with quality, into the realm of local topical subject matter. Personifying the shockwaves felt by a community, this emotive and illustrative indie rock track is akin to Springsteen’s woes of factories shutting. Closing the Line kicks off with an industrial noise effect, which abruptly ceases and this striking riff explodes post-haste. Vocals wail eloquently, questioning if you’ve ever tried with all you’ve got, and you’ve given up with ardent prose, continuing the leitmotif of pending gloom. It’s all very U2, but this street has a name, it’s the Highworth Road out of Swindon.
If it’s not the dejected subject of a current and local topic which drives this potently catchy tune, what fills me with enthusiasm about Closing the Line, due for release this coming Friday (25th October,) is it matches the excellence of their previous singles and wiggles towards a maturity in sound and production. In an era where pop shies from the expression of political and social stock, favouring to warble about bad relationships and who has the tightest buns, it’s an advancement the band should be very proud of achieving.
For just a year into their journey, self-recording, producing and mixing their singles, Daydream Runaways are never fearful to experiment with different production and song writing techniques. I reckon with this one, they’ve just found a niche. I hope this could encourage an album which would be as characteristic as Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever. Yet amazed, pondering what took Petty ten years of playing with the Heartbreakers to achieve, the diligence and motivation of Daydream Runaways means they could nail this less than a quarter of the time. Then, the world is ready for these kids, and bloody good luck to them.
Cutsmith derives his moniker from being the Wordsmith from the Cut (canal). Aka Josh Alej Bowes, he describes his music as “imagine Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Jamie T, John Martyn and Lauryn Hill jamming by a fire pit on the towpath”. Fittingly perhaps, he had played a gig the previous night at The Barge at Honeystreet, a place with which he was intimately acquainted, having been brought up in the area immediately around the pub.
I’d not seen him before, so thought I’d give him a look-see. Overall, I think I’d describe my experience as a mixed bag. On the positive side there were some soulful, heartfelt lyrics with stories based in personal experience (as you might expect from a singer/ songwriter). There were some nice spoken parts, almost dub-style, over the top of the guitar, which added some welcome texture. I was even minded of a slowed-down Arctic Monkeys at times.
On the less positive side, I felt his set lacked any particularly stand-out songs. Quite a few seemed to merge together at times. The only one I specifically remember was in fact a cover of Gershwin’s “Summertime”, which lacked the song’s normal haunting quality. Cutsmith is not the strongest singer I’ve ever heard, and there was nothing particularly outstanding in his strumming guitar style either. And – it maybe me (don’t judge) – I found his in-between song patter a little grating at times. Whilst friendly and outwardly engaging, some of it felt a little forced. Just my opinion of course, and I realise that he’s probably crossed me off his Christmas card list, but others might find him more to their liking than I did.
Competent and engaging, but not particularly outstanding. But, as they say, you can’t like all of the people all of the time, and Cutsmith wasn’t really my cup of tea.
Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:
• 27th October George Wilding
• 10th November Wade Merritt
• 17th November Ian O’Regan
• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell
Put the kettle on; Balkan gypsy ska here in Bristol, Mutiny, the new album from Mr Tea & The Minions is a favourite for my best album of the year, with a top hat on.
Impressionable, I creaked the door on a near-expired student party, where a cocktail of Cinzano and shrooms polished off the amateur bassist, and he hung unconscious half off the edge of a sofa in his own puke. I witnessed scholar deprivation; comatose youth, crusty dreadlocks matted into a teetering Christmas tree, and a random arm draped over a guitar amp, howling feedback. I gulped, no partygoer standing, but an erratic noise of a “Red Roses For Me” cassette whirling. Sounds blessing such a character-building eye-opener makes you reconsider your loathing for a particular genre of music.
Until then, my presumption of folk music was pruned from an overwhelming desire to hold primary school sweetheart, Trudi’s hand, and the only foreseeable method to achieve it; to opt for country dancing. Ever frustrated to find myself partnered with dowdy Emma instead, I guess it rubbed a revulsion for frumpy folk music, with its delicate romances of falling autumn leaves and daisies dancing in a spring zephyr. It can be nauseating, symbolic of my failure to caress Trudi’s nail-bitten digits.
The epiphany dusted, I bought the Pouges long-player, shaking my preconception solo until crusties like The Levellers came onto the scene, boiling the realisation folk doesn’t have to be frumpy, in fact, it’s an epoch, a people’s music, and the roots of all that followed owe it. But if that era of recklessly launching yourself around, knocking down parent’s ornaments and calling it dancing has come of age, and if the Pouges are now acceptable, seasonally, (they stole the best Christmas song slot from a band in tartan trozzers and platform shoes after all,) I say unto thee, Mr Tea & the Minions; it’s my new favourite thing.
It’s not an awkward mesh of Despicable Me and the A-Team, rather a contemporary Bristol based, female-fronted six-piece ska-post-punk-folk Balkan-inspired riot, and their new album, Mutiny is beyond blooming gorgeous. Constructed out of lead vocalist and controller of “shaky things,” Elle Ashwell, drummer Fabian Huss, guitarists James Pemberton, James Tomlinson and James (Fold) Talbot on bass, with manager Lucy Razz on violin, they formed six years ago through James’ love of Balkan music. With the edges polished by collaborating with DJ Howla, and James’ professed love of tea, Mr Tea & The Minions was born, a name which they say was “a joke that was never meant to go so far.”
As Balkan, it’s fresh, electrifying and wonderfully danceable. Elle’s gritty shrill is apt and uplifting, the theme is often invitingly saucy, awakeningly tangible, sometimes metaphorically current affairs, but it hardly wanes in energy, and if it does you know it’s building to something. Mutiny is ten songs of splendour, drizzly evening enriching with a gypsy spin. It’s a warm musky pub of yore, where a furtive crusty band jams and you spill your cider on a scraggy dog. It also riffs like ska, boils like The Levellers and rinses fresher than Shane MacGowan on his best hair day.
The Eye of the Storm, like the title track, and Pandemonium are the Fruit Pastels, breezier tempo tunes like the beautifully crafted The Spider and The Fly stun you in anticipation of the melody, but no single tune stands alone, there’s a flow of prog-rock, and if it starts and ends with a little “meow,” it’s never completely nonsensical. Lyrics are sublimely executed, mostly evocative, but dashed with fun. There’s really nought bad I could say about this unique album, I’ll be dancing to it for the foreseeable future, maybe even look up Trudi on Facebook, she can’t still bite her nails.
Somebody local book these, pl-weaseeee; the Southgate or Barge would suit to a, pardon the pun, tea. Yet times are looking good for this madcap band, on the verge of another spectacular festival season and numerous gigs on tour, our closest to date is the Prince Albert Stroud Nov 22nd, Bocabar in Glastonbury on the 9th, or recommended homecoming at the Old Market Assembly, Bristol on 30th Nov. Failing this, try the Mutiny for size.
Well the weather had been pretty wet all weekend, and Sunday afternoon was no exception. Good excuse then to hunker down in the White Bear with a pint, and listen to one of the best singer/ songwriters in the South West.
Phil King hails from Bristol, and is now (despite his still-youthful looks) a veteran of the SW live music scene, having played pubs and clubs all over the region, together with festivals, and stints with touring musical theatre productions of “Jane Eyre” and “To Kill A Mockingbird”. So this guy definitely knows his way around a song and a guitar.
And I’ll declare an interest here – I’ve been listening to Phil for several years now, and I’m a complete fan. There was no way I was going to miss this one.
His latest album is The Wreckage, and he was keen to showcase several numbers from that record, but thoughtfully mixed in with several numbers from his back catalogue (The War I Cannot Win, Do Not Surrender, Black Wind Blowing and When Will I Ever Learn), and some beautifully-reworked covers (Merle Haggard’s Sick, Sober & Sorry, and even If I Only Had a Brain from The Wizard of Oz). His opening gambit was Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm”, a comment on the weather outside perhaps. And thereafter we were treated to two sets of incredibly beautiful songs, each one tenderly and carefully delivered. Phil’s voice is smouldering and smoky, distinctive and an instrument of great subtlety, switching effortlessly from a haunting, gentle whisper through to a full-throated howl of pain. His guitar-playing was careful, intricate and beautifully crafted. There were no loops, no stomps, no gimmicks – just the man, his guitar and the very occasional use of harmonica.
The whole performance was simply mesmerising, and there were times in the crowded pub when you could have heard the dropping of the proverbial pin. The audience was an interesting mixture of people who had never seen/ heard him before, together with obvious fans sitting mouthing the words to the songs. It made for a great and appreciative atmosphere.
“Superb”, “amazing”, “sublime” and “extraordinarily good” were phrases I heard around the place. Not my words, but the comments of people around the room. To be honest, it’s actually difficult to define what a singer/ songwriter could possibly do to give a better performance.
Absolutely fantastic afternoon of class entertainment.
There are more Sunday Sessions to come at The White Bear, so watch their Facebook page and, of course, here on Devizine.
If Devizes’ thriving live music scene lacks one thing, in my humble opinion, it’s ska. I got to get over my grumpy, staying-in head-state for fear Celebrity X-Factor is the best mainstream telly can thrust upon me, drive to the Sham, if only for a pint. Ska will force my hand if nothing else will.
The Foresters Arms is a new one for me, but it’s immediately attractive, in a humble way. Functional, even for the eight-piece ska-cover maestros known as Train to Skaville. They fit comfortably; Devizes needs something like this, a reasonably sized pub-venue for a brass section to bounce, and a landlord wearing a Fred Perry and cherry Doc Martins. Proof was in the pudding; we are missing out.
It’s a welcoming and friendly community spirited pub, with ample space to skank rainy blues away. Amidst bustling crowd of young and old, male and female, black and white, there was a point when the landlord was up having a jig himself, for jolly example. And a band, if whose appeal seems to fizzle east of Bromham, are welcomed with open arms here. I can’t drum this point any further, Train to Skaville are brilliant.
If doing this ska show on Boot Boy Radio has taught me one thing, it’s that this division is far from an aging retrospective minority who can’t shake their Two-Tone youth culture, rather an international burgeoning scene where bands under a “Ska-Family” banner aspire to create new and original tangents. The foundation of which, though, is that classic period where the Windrush generation gifted us this offbeat sound for us to exploit to the max, and Train to Skaville embrace this. They are not out to be the next best thing, rather to supply an audience with the benchmarks they know and love, and to get them off their seats. They do this, with bells on.
Propping the foyer of the Foresters during the break, I laughed that although it was raining, it was nicer to be huddled inside, rather than the last time I caught this act, on a drizzly St George’s Playing Field supporting Neville Staple. Jules of the band remarked happily that they could play Specials covers too, which were crossed out of a setlist prior to Neville wanting to understandably do them. Train to Skaville did just that this time; Ghost Town, Rat Race, Gangsters, you name them, they covered them with unique panache, a cut above the average ska covers band. Alongside typical Madness and Bad Manners floor-fillers.
But it doesn’t stop there, their repertories know no bounds, as they break it down to reggae anthems, owning Bob Marely’s “Is This Love,” Marica Griffith’s “Feel Like Jumping,” and Tim’s heart-warming rendition of Ken Boothe’s “Everything I Own,” a tribute to his mum who he recently lost. There were tears, but veneration as the band played through. Our respect and condolences go out to Tim and his family.
I find though, even greater than knocking out known ska classics, or bouncing to boss reggae, when a ska band can produce ska versions of pop songs. Sometimes amusing, sometimes out of admiration of another genre, but for a ska-fan, often better than the original. Train to Skaville also have a line which branches out here, as a skanking Echo Beach rang out towards the end of the first half of the show.
A great night, great surroundings, and sure sign for me that Devizes needs to skank it up a bit!
I think it’s fair to say that both Jon, and a lot of the audience last night, had been looking forward to this gig for quite a long while. No surprise then that a packed room was there to witness one of the gigs of the year.
Support act was Thomas Smurthwaite, an artist I’d not seen before. But it didn’t take the guy long to impress me and the rest of the room. An imposing, grizzled and bearded figure, he seemed slightly dwarfed by all the equipment set up on stage around him. But sound-wise he punched well above his weight with voice, guitar, harmonica and stomp-box. His set was confident, laid-back and bluesy. In a short 30-minute set he won the crowd over, finishing with a great singalong version of Janis Joplin’s “Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz?”
Then on with the main act, and the reason we were all there. Jon, stick-thin and suavely suited & booted, was there to tour his latest album “Colour In The Sky”, and he was joined on stage by an impressive band of old friends and great musicians – Jonny Henderson on keyboards, Mark Barrett on drums, with Little Geneva’s Dave Doherty on guitar, and brother Chris Doherty on bass.
From the first number, “Faith Reborn” we were in for a treat. Thereafter Jon picked his way through several numbers from the new album, carefully interspersed with many favourites from his back catalogue of albums and bands. The rhythm section, as you might have expected, was solid and strong, laying down a great platform for Jon to let rip with some great solos. The keyboards added that bit of extra depth and texture to the songs. And they were proper songs too, not just excuses for long rambling improvisations, with clear beginnings and endings, Jon’s vocals stringing it all together. This gave the band plenty of opportunity to show off different styles, moving from rocky to bluesy and back again.
Jon was on great form, clearly relaxed, laughing and joking with the crowd between numbers. There was no doubt that this was a home-town gig, and there was plenty of love in the room. And deservedly so. Jon is a world-class artist, and deserves it for the crowd to let him know it.
Highlight of the night for me was “Juggernaut”. This was the first time I’d heard it played in full-band format, and it was worth waiting for – heavy, driving, and really solid – a real classic.
And if you haven’t yet made it to Long Street Blues Club (at The Conservative Club), it’s time you made the effort – world-class blues & rock entertainment in a great atmosphere at an absolute bargain price. Tickets for future gigs from Devizes Books, Sound Knowledge (Marlborough) and from the club itself.
Upcoming gigs at Long Street Blues Club are:
• Saturday 2nd Nov Big Dez Blues Band
• Friday 8th Nov Ian Siegal Unplugged
• Saturday 30th Nov Gerry Jablonski Band
• Saturday 21st December John Coughlan’s Quo (support from George Wilding)
• Saturday 28th December Pink Torpedoes
The Invitation Theatre Company presents an evening of Christmas music, featuring the Fulltone Music School Voices, and we all love Christmas music, at Christmas that is! Fortunately, it’s on 14th December at St Johns Church, which is plenty time to wash the Christmas jumper and check the reindeer nose lights still work from where you spilt eggnog down it last year.
Tickets available online and Devizes Books, are £6, raising money for Frontline Children and Action for Children. “Each year,” TITCO elucidate, “is a sumptuous evening of music, from classical pieces through to popular Christmas toe tappers – brought to you by the most wonderful singers! It’s just the BEST evening!”
For the very first time Wiltshire Museum will be borrowing from major National Museums to bring an international standard art exhibition to the County. They’ve confirmed important loans from the Tate and V&A, as well as private lenders. They are also liaising with the Imperial War Museum, British Museum, National Museum of Wales and the prestigious Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, as well as private lenders, to secure a significant range of evocative watercolours for the display.
This ground-breaking exhibition celebrates watercolour artist Eric Ravilious, and his fascination with the sweeping downland landscapes of Wiltshire and Sussex. His watercolours have such a spirit of place you can almost feel the wind on your cheeks and hear the birds above. Wiltshire Museum say, “it will appeal to art lovers across the country and to local people who love the iconic local landscapes.”
The exhibition is masterminded by guest curator, James Russell. James created the enormously successful Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2015. He will also write an illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition.
The importance of the downlands to Ravilious is well documented, but this exhibition will be the first to be dedicated solely to this subject. It will explore this area of his work and relate it to the national fascination with downland landscapes, mythology and archaeology, which gripped Britain between the wars. The exhibition will include darkly menacing war-time views of the coastline, including the famous ‘White Cliffs’ of Dover.
Items from the museum’s designated collections will be included in the exhibition. A highlight will be a sketch book Ravilious created in 1939 for the ‘Puffin’ series of children’s books. Although never published, it contains delicate pencil drawings of chalk hill figures, ancient monuments and prehistoric earthworks in Wiltshire. The idea behind the series of books was to promote patriotism in the youth of England as the Second World War loomed.
Though Wiltshire Museum need your help to bring this important exhibition to life. You can support the appeal by clicking here. donations will provide invaluable match-funding for grant applications to make the exhibition possible. They have already had donations from private individuals and are seeking commercial sponsorship.
We will also be organising an events programme linked to the exhibition. If you are interested in bringing a group to see the exhibition, having a guided tour or a lecture to your group, then please get in touch with the museum.
I’m adiaphorous to Crowded House, I confess, probably due to timing. Late eighties, early nineties and like many-a-teenager I was gurning in a field, revelling developments in music technology. If I couldn’t dance like a puppet on fast forward to it, well, you know, some good things pass you by. This is not meandering off subject, it’s a point I’ll return to, after a heartfelt apology to the man who, this week, has produced a fantastic cover of their song “Falling at Your Feet,” and is long overdue some updated attention here on Devizine, Mr Phil Cooper.
So, it was a compare and contrast job, flicking to YouTube to hear the original, and back to confirm this Trowbridge singer/songwriter’s version, not overlooking the added harmonies of Jamie R Hawkins, is equally sublime. The only difference being Phil’s stamp, which is never a bad thing. There are occasions, such as Eric Clapton’s I Shot the Sheriff, which opens someone’s eyes to the original artist, so maybe this, alongside People Like Us who regularly cover Weather with You and make me smile, will shake me up to the songs of Crowded House. Prior, if handed them on the three-in-ten finale of Ken Bruce’s Pop Master, I’d get Weather with You, and then epically fail. Always wanted a pop master t-shirt over a DAB radio anyway (fib.)
Feeling it hugs the original pretty tightly, with a passion in Phil’s vocals which nods to the respect he obviously holds for Crowded House, there’s not much more I can say on the single, other than encouraging you to take a listen. Oh, and I hope it’s not Phil’s Red, Red Wine moment. You know, after that hit, UB40 transformed into a cover band (one reason I cringe with irony when tribute bands take on a name of one of their numerous cover versions.) Because, well, Phil’s song writing ability is first rate and, with or without the trio of aspiring local musicians; Jamie and Tamsin Quin, his input would be greatly missed.
Leading me neatly onto why I started with an apology to Phil, as fallen to the bottom of my dusty in-tray was the promise to write something about a previous project. Double-whammy then, this one dates back to summer, when I thought Phil had a new album called Nine. Whisking him a message it became clear via the reply, Nine was an older project. “I’ve decided to release it on streaming sites for the first time to celebrate it’s ninth year, nine month and nine day anniversary,” he explained.
The Nine Album was originally recorded on 9th September 2009 (09/09/09.) He wrote nine songs between the 1st and 9th and started recording the album at 9am on 9th. The album was completed that day and released at 9pm that same day, which I think clarifies the title adequately! But it coincided with a complete reworking of the album by his indietronica alter-ego, B.C.C, titled “Nein.”
Maybe, I figured, its title’s conversion to German nods to the pioneers of electronic music, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, as BCC is Phil’s ambient electronica side-project. Now this intrigued me, note my promise to return to my point of the rave days of yore. My love of dance music obviously holds dear to its roots in electronica, often retelling the occasion of first hearing Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock in 1982 as the epiphany of said era. Yet through all the technological changes from the punks turning new romantic, to the birth of hip hop, the development of house, techno and drum n bass via the rave scene, and the thousands of offshoots since, Phil’s BCC stays close to the simplicities of early electronica, rather than do a Damon Albam and push new boundaries with Gorrillaz. So, it’s nice, yeah, it’s breezy and experimental for Phil, and if you like his music, it’s essential to check this out, but still, I dunno, may be it’s an age thing, because if you asked me which one of Nine and Nein I favoured, it’d be the original.
Blast, I’ve hung up my whistle, posse! Fetch my pipe and slippers.
For Nine is like what The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle is to Springsteen, if Thoughts and Observations, an album which I think was the first I ever gratefully reviewed on Devizine, is his Born to Run. Relishing in the roots of a musician or band I love, discovering early works, and for this, Nine is fantastic, it captures Phil at his rawest, most ambitious, and if it fails to be as polished as Thoughts & Observations, that’s its charm. Tracks like Cloud Nine, Where I Belong and You are wonderfully composed, beautifully written. However, the BCC project might put an interesting, electronic spin on it, worthy of attention, some things, I feel, are best left the way they are.
But that’s the package you get with Phil, what a prolific genius who cares not about defining a distinct style, though has crafted an excellent one, rather ventures out there, to experimentation, to stripping back or developing a track. You have to hand it to the man, for this works on his marketing side too, a DIY enthusiast who’ll do radio but live stream shows, release on all online sources but still strive to produce a CD, a blogger who maintains an honest, familiarity with his fans, and as a promoter and producer for the trio he has done astounding works with Jamie and Tamsin.
So, if it’s solo Phil Cooper you’re listening to, or if Jamie or Tammy assist him, or if it’s a track of theirs he’s produced, or as BCC, or Get Schwifty – Phil and Jamie’s cover duo nom-de-plume, you know it’s been stamped with Phil’s distinctive style, and it’ll sound great. Which brings us full circle, and is darn good reason to check out this Crowded House single, because if Phil wants to do a cover, he will, and make it sound awesome. But for the full package, I advise you like his Facebook page, follow his Bandcamp page, subscribe to his YouTube, and naturally catch him live (next gig on 8th November at the Southgate, Devizes, Jan 23rd at The Tuppenny, live stream this Sunday at 6pm; the guy never stops for a cuppa and a garibaldi.
Images used with the kind permission of Steve Ullathorne
I’ve been a admirer of the pragmatic Mark Thomas and his satirical cutting-edge comedy since his days guesting on The Mary Whitehouse Experience at the dawn of nineties, end of this month he’s at the Swindon Arts Centre; could you ask for a more apt date?!
I recall with fond nostalgia how he ridiculed and enraged his local McDonalds, or gambled the entire ten grand profit from the previous show on a hopeless outsider at Doncaster, thanking Michael Grade, chief executive of Channel 4 at the time, for allowing him to waste his money. The notion, he stated, was that it was an exhilarating thrill of washing someone else’s money down the toilet, and likened it to the how the Queen must feel at races.
But it’s been a while since stumbling across his name. Hearing this self-dubbed “libertarian anarchist” comedian is heading to the Swindon Arts Centre on Thursday 31st October as part of a work-in-progress tour, before the real thing kicks off in the New Year, I did a little YouTube catching up type research, and found a decade old stand-up show where he the tackles the fox hunting ban, Tony Blair’s move to the right, and the Islamic extremism hot on the world’s lips. He takes no prisoners, dares to go where other comedians would quiver.
I have to ponder if the current affairs of a hare-brained conservative ruling, shifting towards nationalism and abandonment of a unification of Europe, simply to maintain billionaire’s tax-free offshore accounts whist politically dividing the country through media-bias, propaganda and blatant fabrications, thus creating a hatred of alternative thinking which even lambasts the very extinction of all life on Earth simply because it’s voiced by a teenage female, is enough ammunition for this cheeky-faced comedian.
The blurb suggests though, his new show, 50 Things About Us will go beyond this, “Mark Thomas combines his trademark mix of storytelling, stand-up, mischief and really, really well researched material to examine how we have come to inhabit this divided wasteland that some of us call the United Kingdom.”
“He picks through the myths, facts and figures of our national identities to ask how we have so much feeling for such a hollow land. Who do we think we are? It is a show about money, history, songs, gongs, wigs, unicorns, guns, bungs, sods of soil and rich people* in the vein of The Manifesto-meets-sweary History Channel.
*(not the adjective Mark has chosen)
It sounds like age and the writing of award-winning plays has only in heightened his crusade and hilarious radical sarcasm. I think we can take it as red; he isn’t going to do a Morrissey on us just yet. With a full tour of this show happening next year, here’s something worthy of your attention for the 31st October, what else you going to be doing on that date, eh? Kowtowing Boris Johnson whilst stockpiling baked bean tins before your meds run out?
With an 12+ Age Restriction, tickets are £15.50. Concessions: £2.00 Off, from here.
Wet play project, can’t be bothered to go out. I’ve complied the best-loved videos documenting our crazy lil’ town, yet it can be updated if you know of a better one? And not one of your barbeque party where cousin Billy lost it on the trampoline; I’m not Harry flipping Hill and you won’t get two-hundred and fifty quid out of me, lucky to blag 10p. Let the arguments commence, but I’ve tried to top twenty the best, based on historical fact, entertainment value, general nostalgia and quantity of eighties short-shorts.
1- I was fascinated to watch this near on half-hour 1956 silent film, A Small Town Devizes. Made by cameraman David Prosser, from a series of similar Small-Town shorts. It features the lives of people in Devizes during Carnival Week August 1956. In the YouTube notes there’s an extensive list of people and companies which featured in the film. If it brings any notable points of interest it must surely be lobbying DOCA to reintroduce the drag-your-wife-along-in-a-pram-attached-to-a-motorbike race, methinks.
2 – Lion in the Hall! Courtesy of BBC Points West, the day in 1980 when escaped circus lions paid Devizes School a visit during the lunch hour goes down in history. Were you there, are you showing your age, and did you try feed the lion your mate’s school tie? What about today’s pupils, do you think Mr Bevan should reinstate this lion, maybe give him a TA job? Would your teacher benefit from fighting a lion, it might help to maintain the pupil’s interest in the lesson?
3 – Boto-X clip 1986. See, my Devizes born and bred better half told me about this strict health & safety regulated event and, if it hadn’t been Devizes, I’d probably have branded her a liar. Delighted to see Caen Hill Locks dig up a clip of this incredibly brilliant Boto-X from 1986. Stop! Win a Colour Telly!
4 – Oh get off my back, I’ve read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, just not any other of ol’ Tom Hardy’s books, it’s not like he’s going to hassle me about it. Far From The Maddening Crowd was his first major novel, and had four film adaptations. John Schlesinger’s 1967 MGM version was part filmed in Devizes, and Bill Huntly of Devizes Television loses his shit about it like it was Casablanca or Star Wars; bless. There are some great clips of the film in this interview, of people drunkenly singing and dancing in the Market Place; something you don’t see every day, eh? Yeah, I know, right, not that far from the maddening crowd at all really, wait for the bin to kick out.
5- Out of all Simon Folkard’s gorgeous aerial shot films, last year’s snow-covered town and canal was undoubtedly the most breath-taking. Oh, that Beast from the East, looks beautiful from above, but just to think, I was wheel-spinning a milk-float down there somewhere, holding on to me gold-tops for dear life.
6- While we’re on the subject of the milkman, here’s Madness disciple Mark’s moment in the spotlight as BBC Wiltshire focus on Plank’s Dairy. It has to be nine below zero before he puts his long trousers on, no one needs to see those knees, Mark. Ask him to whistle a Thin Lizzy tune on his round, I double-dare you.
7- 19 36- Last Train From Devizes. Post-punk poets, Browfort, ingeniously fuse synth-pop and local history in this video about The Beeching Axe and the last train from Devizes in 1966. There’s some great railway footage, mixed with their performance at The Bell on the Green. There’s no evidence to suggest the band will reform as Julia’s House to pay tribute to the first train from Devizes Parkway, when…. erm, if it happens.
8 – If you’re considering shoplifting for camera film in town, watch this early-eighties adaptation of the story of Ruth Pierce by Devizes Cine Club, and you’ll quickly be bored into submission. It really is so bad it’s good. I need not mock it, the acting, production and deviation of facts does it for me. Just to say though, is it me, or does the lead role sound a little like Claire Perry?!
9- We love our whacky historian John Girvan, the only man to enter the Town Hall lock up and live to tell the tale, save for feasting food festival fanatics who failed to note there’s the far comfier Peppermill across the road. But did you know, rather than most men whose interests lie more on what’s inside them, John confesses a love for brassieres? So, if your bra goes missing from the washing line, you know who to point the finger at.
10- Proof that either the legendary ghost of Room 4, or stranger still, the Black Swan’s window cleaner has five fingers. In 2014 the Visual Paranormal Investigations team trucked their mystery machine into our town and, without the great Dane and giant sandwiches, set up an experiment to find out if the ghost broadcasts on FM, like Ken Bruce.
11- More actual evidence in this charmingly narrated clip, this time of the Muppetry of the new traffic light system on London Road. Evidence the road planning department of Wiltshire Council are, and I quote, “retarded!” Classic, don’t hold back Truthseeker. I don’t know who you are pal, but you’re defo not Philip Whitehead.
12- There’s countless musical performers I could include here, but perhaps the widest known and appreciated is blues legend Jon Amor. Here he is, at the International Street Festival 2015 with a lengthy but worthy song, Even After That.
13- Talented Arthur Plumb, the Juggling Unicyclist at Sidmouth Street Festival 2015. While there’s a vast amount of street acts posted to YouTube, from our street festivals and carnivals, if I could only pick one it’s this entertaining Devizes TV presentation of a rather youthful Arthur Plumb. Three years ago, Shambles trader Bill Huntly was fast becoming our town’s TV host, where did he go, someone nick his cravat? Seriously though, hope you are well Mr Huntly and wishing you all the best; we loved your short films.
14- Usually reserved for the still camera, Nick Padmore is a man loved by our local music scene, for capturing the essence of its performers. Here though he videos the man, Vince Bell at Sheer Music in the Fold. Not intending to post too many music-related videos here, this 2017 performance is a must, if not just for Ship of Fools, but his amusing ditty about Devizes, Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive, right at the end of this film.
15- If you ever wondered why Tesco shut its Devizes metro branch, this may go some way to explain why. Yep, never had a lick of paint applied to it since the release of Michael Jackson’s album Thriller. The staff were friendly though!
16- Set the captives free! No really, I think they’d have moved convicts before blowing Devizes prison to the ground to make way for housing in 1927, wouldn’t they? Or did they move into the houses? Might explain a few things. British Pathe have millions of videos on their website, search Devizes and you’ll find a carnival parade of the 1920s and an Army Football Cup final from 1955, to name a couple.
17- There’s nothing sarcastic I can comment here, even I wanted to, which I wouldn’t, cos I’m not like that; a gorgeously edited film of Devizes at Christmas by Chris Watkins, accompanied by a song written and performed by the equally wonderful Kirsty Clinch, makes my bells go all jingly…I said my bells!
18- Well done Paige Hanchant, for the only Harry Hill style clip I’m going to allow; capturing this amusing moment on the canal, just when it was going so well too; who ordered the chubster? Awl, bless.
19- No one interrupted the march to nip into Greggs for a sausage and bean melt in 1983, not in this pleasant three-minute video of the parade at least.
20 – Moonrakers Fable. Vintage poem narrator Alan Doel puts on his best Wiltshire accent to recite Edward Slow’s 1881 telling of the Moonrakers fable, and illustrated with postcards and emblems, makes a fair job of it. Yet the tale is known only too well in Devizes, it be rioght gurt lush to ‘ear it read in ye olde Wiltshire dialect, ewe.
That’s all folks, well, I’m sure there’s many others, but these were my favs. Not to blow my own trumpet, but Devizine does have its own YouTube channel, mostly I create wobbly musical performance clips, with a cider in the other hand and standing far too close to the speaker to do the band or musician justice, but they seem like a good idea at the time. So, subscribe at your own risk. I set it up primarily to capture this meeting with local street magician Raj Bhanot in Café Nero last summer, and here he is for a bonus vid.
Perhaps, if we get another rainy day, which is doubtful, I’ll find another set of videos based in Devizes. If you know of any which should be included then do send the link. Saucy ones to my personal email though, please.
Have you ever loved a show so much that you wished you could kidnap the actors, keep them in your basement and get them to perform it again for you? No? Just Rupert?
After a successful three week run at the Miniver Theatre, a troupe of young actors are ready and willing to let go of their most recent production and move on to bigger and better things, but Rupert isn’t going to let that happen. He loves the piece to the point of obsession and can’t let their show die. There are a few things you should know when trying to save a play from death. Thing number one: the actors aren’t gonna like it. Trapped in a basement, forced to rehearse and fearing for their lives, there is only one way for the performers to gain their freedom.
They must act their way out…
The intriguing new drama-thriller work, At This Stage is on at The Shoebox Theatre, Swindon on Saturday 12th October at 7.30pm. Suitable for ages 14+
Tickets are £10 from HERE
Monday 21st – Saturday 26th October sees the next Wharf Theatre production, Living Together, by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by Mervyn Harrowven.
When the Norman Conquests (named after the plays leading character, assistant librarian Norman, as opposed to the Kings William and Harold!) burst onto the theatre-going public in the early 1970s, they were a revelation. Here was domestic comedy that spoke to everyone; intelligent, well-observed and extremely funny. Today they are regarded as possibly Ayckbourn’s most ingeniously constructed set of plays.
The second in the trilogy, which features the same characters in the same house during the same weekend, Living Together takes place in the living room. Here we are introduced to incorrigible womaniser, Norman, his wife’s family and a vet.
Certain liaisons have been arranged but when plans change, and Norman drowns his sorrows in a bottle, the scene is set for the testing of married relationships and the comic dissection of middle-class morality.
Tickets (£12/under 16s £10) can be purchased from Ticketsource at: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-wharf-theatre/events or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366. To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a new Autumn/Winter brochure which is available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes. Tickets for this year’s panto, Cinderella are being snapped up, so get in quick!
If you like your soul and blues with an authentic vintage feel, look no further than this new Bristol group, The King Dukes….
If Bristol wasn’t the birthplace of a “new cool” through electronic blues in the nineties, with the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead, it certainly led the way. I have to take a deep breath, fetch my pipe and slippers; this is a new era of anti-pop, an era of retrospective tendency, where traditional instruments override our technological desire of the pre-millennium. An era where technology is used only to market, allowing sounds to hark back to a time before drum loops, rap, and the DJ as king.
The king is dead, long live this exciting renovation, and long live The King Dukes. I’m honoured to give you the low-down, about their new journey. Formed in Bristol in April, a merger of a variety of local bands, including Crippled Black Phoenix, Screamin’ Miss Jackson and the John E. Vistic Experience, The King Dukes combine said talent and experience to create a unique, authentic sound, dipped in a heritage reuniting contemporary slices of British RnB with a dollop of Memphis soul.
Set to unleash their debut album ‘Numb Tongues’ on October 25th, I’ve had a listen or ten, and can plainly see why it’s been picked up by UK label, Paratone, as well as French label QSounds Recording. Chatting to guitarist and frontman, Marc Griffiths, I asked him what’s in a name, predicting it might relate to Duke Ellington. While pondering he sent a YouTube link of a track not on the album. This song, titled King Cyrille, is Hammond organ boss reggae, akin to Harry J’s Allstars. It’ a tribute to West Bromwich Albion player Cyrille Regis. “The team used to come out to Liquidator,” he explained, “it’s in conjunction with West Brom, for their podcast, so we did something similar.” Momentarily contemplating the name possibly nods more to Duke Reid, Marc cleared it up, informing me they had a residency at the Old Duke in Bristol, “but that’s named after Duke Ellington.”
I can see why, aside this one-off tune, Numb Tongues is not only dependent on a classic RnB sound, there’s sprinkles of jazz, blues, yet formulated like Stax or dare I say it, Motown. It rolls out in a manner able to slip its tunes into a set of old-time soul unnoticed. Caril-Anne, for example, is up-tempo soul, beguiling through that recipe of yore, simplicity. Kid Gloves is another lively number, foot-stomping soul with a subtle nod to rockabilly akin to The Big Bopper. This one reminded me of Jack and Elwood Blues marching back and forth.
But if this four-beat soul formula rings through tracks like I Gotta Go, and Gone, Gone, Gone is stepping, handclapping doo-wop reliant, Rub You The Right Way hooks into a blues riff taking me to Howlin’ Wolf, and True, True, True nods to bebop. This one has a sublime vocal by April Jackson, who holds a note like Etta James. Generally, the vocals are as polished as the aforementioned soul legends, yet grittily Caucasian, like Jim Morrison’s finest hour.
As a whole there’s much going on here, but whether there’s echoing vocals like the ballad, Dying Man, with a breezy jazz-come Otis Redding passion, or, like Marlo Cooper, it’s a blast of instrumental groove, comparable to Stax session musicians Booker T & the MG’s, it’s all stylised and flows superbly. In fact, it was mention of an Otis Redding post on their Facebook page which got Marc and I chatting; glad I did now.
With Marc and April, there’s drummer Dan Clibery, bassist Mandrake Fantastico, Henry Slim owning that Hammond Organ and Harmonica, and a fiery three-piece brass section with Joss Murray on Trumpet, Rebecca Sneddon on Tenor Sax and Sarah Loveday-Drury handling the Trombone.
Together they’re a force to be reckoned with. Throwing modern recording techniques aside and using methods for a fifties-sixties sounding album, such as recording a section with multiple instruments all at one time, and playing period-specific instruments, The King Dukes have captured perfectly this raw, vintage backline on ‘Numb Tongues.’
We’ve seen a similar blueprint around our way with the brilliant Little Geneva, and if this is the trend then I’m in, hook, line and sinker. Although, naturally, those ol’ time classic soul songs never wane in appreciation, sometimes looking further afield to the rare grooves, like Northern Soul aficionados, often the tunes never make equal approval in production and quality. Numb Tongues meet this notion in middle; The King Dukes deliver fresh material with honours, and if heard in 1965 would surely be considered classics.
You can pre-save a copy of Numb Tongues here, there’s an album launch on December 7th at the LeftBank in Bristol; I’m keen to hear of anyone willing to bring these guys local for a gig. As you know Devizine doesn’t usually cover Bristol, too much going on and not enough hours in the day, but when it’s this good…….