Urban Lions Champion the Sound

Back at the Lionheart Studios, our local reggae forerunners Urban Lions have rinsed an alternative style for the single from their forthcoming debut LP,  it’s out today, and a sound system killer.

Some tunes launch themselves at me, instant like, Champion Sound is a grower, creeps up on me after a couple of listens. This doesn’t make them any worse, just sometimes there’s an innovative modification in style which takes ears some adapting to. Unlike Urban Lions’ steppa dub tunes we’ve reviewed in the past, ‘See Me Rise’ and ‘Forward to The Sound’, this one partially retains the fashion, but the riddim nods heavily to dancehall.

Rather akin to when Dreadzone released Once Upon a Time in 2005 and I confessed I’d lost track of their progress somewhat. Upon first listen and expecting the loops of nineties charged techno-dub crossed with creative sampling, I was like, oh, it’s got a dancehall edge. Yet I think Champion Sound’s direction is justified, particularly around these waters where what little reggae we receive is archetypical, what we’d consider “traditional one-drop reggae,” as when Bob Marley and the Wailers ruled the day. Elsewhere reggae has moved on, dramatically. Full points to those Urban Lions for pushing us up to date!

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Publicity shot by Siobhan Boyle Photography

Unacquainted, the sparse beats of raw dancehall can feel alien to us aging country bumpkins, vocally lending closer from Jamaica’s folk music, mento, than the ska sound which belched this preconceived model at us through the punk and skinhead cultures. Yet contemporary pop wouldn’t be the same without it. Splicing brief toasting solos into a pop tune, like Little Mix featuring Sean Paul; such a cliché since The Soup Dragons gave Junior Reid an indie platform in 1990. With that thought in mind, isn’t it overdue to give dancehall its fuller affirmation, to start to mould an independent inspiration from? You don’t need answer that; yes, it is!

Yet Urban Lions don’t overkill the angle, retaining their style, and not considering hiring a dancehall rapper to guest or some such puerile concept, gives it a unique edge and something which feels more like home than attending a Top Cat V Capleton soundclash in Rae Town, Kingston. Yeah, it’s exceptional and affable; love it and can vision it lifting a festival marque or ten this summer. For the more outdated crusty-heads, there’s a melodica dub cut on the flip akin to Augustus Pablo, which rocks, rockers style.

Champion Sound will be up on all the online stores today and limited edition dubplates can be cut to order.

Bandcamp Link Here, just a couple of quid digital


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Purple Fish on the Dark Side of Lavington

Who thinks I’d make a good job replicating Clare Torry’s orgasmic vocal improvisation on Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky?! Don’t all jump at once; Purple Fish’s bassist Roger Marsh suggested tight trousers may help, I reckon a vice or at least some mole-grips would be more appropriate!

It can’t be an easy section to reproduce live, of an album that can’t be easy to reproduce live, yet local rock covers band Purple Fish have already done it, five times. Originally to celebrate Dark Side of the Moon’s 40th anniversary, they bring their tribute of this stunning and timeless album to the Market Lavington Community Hall on Saturday December 28th. Face it, the Quality Street tin will be filled with just empty wrappers by then, and you’d have had it with cold turkey sandwiches.

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On another night, Purple Fish cover rock classics, a seamless five-piece, female-fronted function band, who cite Pink Floyd, Rush, Dream Theater, Doobie Brothers, and Heart as some of their influences. They also have a couple of side projects, namely this Pink Floyd tribute and amusingly titled Mick Jogger & The Stones Experience. Tricky Sunday quiz time, I’ll leave it up you to decide who that’s a tribute to!

Roger, who’s been Purple Fish’s bassist for the past four and a half years, informed me guest musicians and singers are pulled in to enhance the show, which includes all the sound effects from the album, plus a background projection which, although might not be possible for this gig, completes the effect usually. There may well be other Pink Floyd songs added in too, for your money’s worth!

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The Great Gig in the Sky vocal then, is okay, no need to recruit me after all. Roger explained it’s performed by a trio of girls who were originally pupils of lead singer Adrienne’s, when she taught at their school. Tickets are £15, in aid of Alzheimer’s Support. Best of luck to them all with this project, one of my all-time favourite albums, and I’m sure you’ll agree no easy feat to replicate live…. already said that bit, didn’t I?!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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An Interview with Green Party Candidate Emma Dawnay; from Dinosaurs to Economic Bubbles!

Ah Silbury Hill, mound of mysterious meaning. Yet most plausible, visually, is the pregnant belly of Mother Earth. A burial mound akin to the womb-shaped West Kennet Long-Barrow, both symbolic of the body returning to the earth, at a time when we worshipped the physical things we could see; the sun, moon and Earth. Science proves we decompose; we’re a product of the planet. Yet with climate change we argue if we’re responsible, or nature; as if we’d sue if she did it! Why have we detached ourselves from nature, it cannot be justified by the laws of man? Why are we even wasting time debating this while implementing doable solutions should be the priority? Is there something we could learn from our ancestors? I put it to my elevenses invitee, it’d be a no-brainer for ancient pagans, they’d vote for The Green Party!

Poor Emma Dawnay, our Green Party candidate, she thought she’d come to New Society for a standard campaign interview, instead she got my insane ramblings! But she nodded, “yes, most people, I think,” she approved, “feel we’ve disassociated ourselves with nature, that we can somehow control nature and manipulate it, but actually that’s not the case, we are part of it, and if we don’t change our ways, it’s going to get the better of us.”

I’m liking Emma already; she accepted my folly. After an hour of discussing environmental issues on both international and local levels, I reckoned I could’ve chewed her ears off for another few. I even took it to the next level in suggesting if dinosaurs could’ve known their fate, and had the means to prevent the asteroid hitting Earth, they wouldn’t think twice, or argue about it, they’d stop it, because that is nature’s way, a defence mechanism. It’s as if humans have lost that basic mechanism, we have to sort this problem out regardless of the political things, or costs in our way.

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“We managed to develop the scientific understanding of how things work enough to see we now have a problem. We have solutions, it’s so frustrating we cannot implement them,” Emma reacted, “we have been doing a little, but not enough. With the 2015 Paris agreements, those commitments needed to be five times higher to stay below the 1.5% warming, we’re not on track to reach our 2023 target.”

So, let’s rewind this back to the beginnings of our interview, because we’ve received a few whinges that Devizine is getting political, despite you know no one locally will cover this election in quite the same bizarre manner. And I apologise for not attending the husting, through fear of either dosing off or spouting some rubbish about dinosaurs! I’m not politically motivated, you see, but confess I’m enjoying one-to-one chats with our local candidates; let’s see how I fair with Danny next week!

So, it’s another cuppa with another candidate; I’m such a political flirt! Emma though, from a hamlet near Marlborough is perhaps the most intriguing character among our chosen four. For I spend our time trying to decide if it’s politics or environmental campaigning which drives her motivation most.

 
The extent of my scrutiny was to breeze through their manifesto, from it I asked Emma if when the party makes such claims as they’d have 70% of the electricity via wind power by 2030, have they been researched fully and ensured it’s possible. “Yes,” Emma responded, “We absolutely believe that we need to decarbonise as soon as possible, and the IBCC reports have given us lead when this needs to happen by, we need to turn the economy around in the next ten years. We have some amazing experts to work out what we need to do, they are looking at what’s possible offshore and on shore. I think the big problem is going to be training up enough people to do the work. You can’t just say let’s build, without the people trained to do it.”

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Does Emma think any of the other parties will achieve the needed targets. “The other parties are either totally thinking the old way of thinking, that we can only do it if the economy is working, or else they’re, like Labour, coming around to our way of thinking,” Emma replied, stating she was unsure if they were “completely there yet. The Liberal Democrats want to make sure the deficit stays down. If we only do what’s possible from the economy point of view, you end with climate destruction. We think we need to do what we need to do from the climate, or planet’s point of view, so we don’t get devastation, and if that means more borrowing then so be it. But let’s make sure the future of the planet is saved, rather than an economy.”

Unsure how she’ll take my notion that in an ideal world we shouldn’t need a green party at all, that all parties should be putting environmental issues as top priority. Not worth having policies if you’ve no planet to conduct them on; that’s the logic. Emma was concerned Labour have “watered down” their targets, once similar to the Greens. I asked if this was pressure from the oil and gas companies. “Might be pressure from the unions, worried about losing jobs in old industries,” Emma interjected, “but our argument to that is actually, the amount which needs spending on building renewables, insulating people’s homes and electrifying transport, that is going to generate many new jobs.”

We talked over lack of funding for companies creating renewable plastics. “We want to get more localised banking enabling lending to these sorts of enterprises, because that’s really important too.” I asked Emma if she’d like Claire Perry’s job, or if it’s a scapegoat position! I mean, it’s not for me to sing Claire’s praises, as she sings her own on these apparent climate triumphs, then she signs off fracking, but I wonder how much her arm was pushed to do that, from these companies. Emma agreed, “a lot of the large donors to the Conservative party have interests in fossil fuels, and that makes a difference. She had meetings with the fracking companies off-record, what’s that about?! Why are we allowing these companies access to our governing ministers, it doesn’t make sense to me?”

Still unconfirmed if she’d like Claire’s job (!), but my aim for asking was building to the question of coalition. I mean, if, god forbid, I was in charge, I’d reason The Greens are the climate experts, allow them to take that ministry role. Emma explained they don’t have a whip, their MPs are allowed to vote with their conscious, probably making it difficult to join a coalition formally, because I can’t imagine our MPs following a Labour whip. So, we’d certainly support any party which is doing what we believe is important to do, but it’s more likely to be informal.”

 
Keen to know if Emma cringes when the focus is on other issues, like Brexit. After all, Mother Nature is not going to spare us if we leave, or if we stay in the EU! “We’re wasting so much time discussing Brexit,” Emma clarified, “when we should be turning our economy around, to be low carbon. It is such a pity, and horrible the way it’s made people so polarized. It is a big distraction. Personally, I think if it happens, and the Conservatives are in power, we’ll end up losing sovereignties to the United States because we’ll be making trade deals. They’ll insist on us accepting their agricultural products which are made with much more pesticides and hormones, and lower animal welfare standards, and also insist we sell our NHS, and it’s all very well at the moment as we have the Conservatives saying, of course we won’t do that, but actually, they’re a big economy and if they say they’re not going to sign on the dotted line until…. At least with the EU we do have elected MEPs who could do something about it, in the US we wouldn’t.”

We rapped about influencing on a grander scale within the EU, Emma pointed out the Green Party is strong there, the third block of about seventy MPs. “We can actually do stuff there, which we are doing, we are pushing to ensure big companies pay their taxes, which is far easier at an EU level than a national level.” The scale of the operation concerns me, I mean, how important is it, really, that I fish out one plastic bottle that I’ve accidently thrown into my bin, as that’s trivial compared to the massive issues with Greenland controlling their waste, and if you can fit Britain into just Texas two and a half times, well it doesn’t bear thinking about coping with the global operation necessary.

Still though, I note some locals’ harsh reactions to Extinction Rebellion, seemingly taking it personally, or patronised by Greta, when surely, it’s an attack on the governments of the world to make it easier for the ordinary person to adapt to the changes? “In reality for most people,” Emma said, “so busy in their lives , put under such financial stress, because inequality is getting worse, lack of wage increases, they don’t have the money or time to work out how best to do things, therefore it needs government regulations to come in, to enable people to do the right thing.”

Emma accepted organic produce is more expensive, I added while the wealthier have driveways to park and plug in an electric car, if you live central in a town or city, you’ll consider it lucky to have found a spot to park, let alone close to a charge point. This got us nicely onto local issues, lack of public transport, electric charging points were key to the tangent. How does Wiltshire compare with other counties in reducing our carbon footprint? “I think we do fairly well on solar,” Emma enlightened, “obviously we’ve got lots of trees, on some measures we do well, transport is essential.” I pointed at the garden waste, well, not directly, not in the café! It’s an extra cost we cannot afford, and recycling in other counties is much more efficient. We need a food waste bin; I can’t eat it all!

Emma highlighted the Westbury incinerator plans sends out the wrong motivation, “to make it finically viable, it’s venturing into wanting to go on producing the waste, otherwise it doesn’t work and waste will be shipped in from other places. So, having huge incinerators means there’s no pressure to change, or it becomes too expensive to run it otherwise.”

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It was a lovely and meaningful chat, not helping with my dilemma of where to put my X; can I do two at least? Need I also spoil it towards the end by stating if there’s one greener change I cannot bring myself to consider; becoming vegan, not while the smell of a bacon butty wafts my direction?! I asked Emma how important veganism is, and was pleasantly surprised to hear she is not a vegan either, but stressed how she has been trying to eat less meat, and said she thought that was adequate; phew!

Not surprised that Emma seemed unaware of Hollywood’s stab at an environmental catastrophe in the movie 2012, where, conveniently the ice age seems to envelope the area marginally slower than our heroes can run, making for a dramatic escape in the nick of time! It seems to me at times the consequences of climate change are out of our sphere of understanding, consumed by fictional apocalyptic scenarios and dystopian themes, I wondered aloud if it has to take a monumental disaster to finally wake the masses up to the seriousness of the issue. “I hope not,” Emma gulped, “statistically we’re likely to see more of it, and I hope without it getting to a catastrophic level, we’ll start to think actually we do need to do something about this. To me, what’s so frustrating is the measures we need to take to change things are slight; we can still live happy prosperous lives, it’s not that we have wear hair shirts or something!”

That’s the positive message Greta was suggesting in the last video I watched, if you subscribe to her channel, you’ll see a different side to her the mainstream media simply doesn’t portray, she does smile, with every new tree planted! But, aside, what else could we expect from a Green Party?

Emma added, “we’re suggesting there should be a four-day working week, allowing people more time to do things outside their jobs, and we offer a universal basic income, trying to relieve financial stresses.” Now here’s a policy which when I first heard of, I thought it was too radical even for me, but given thought, I’m warming to the notion. Yet it’d take a compete rehash of our way of life, of capitalism. So, despite it being an intense and fascinating chat, that’s when I started waffling about prehistoric man and dinosaurs!

Yet through it I never nailed down if Emma comes from an environmental motivation or a political one, they seemed to merge for her as one and the same. “My training,” she enlightened, “was originally as a scientist, and then I became fascinated by economics since the year 2000. I was working for a successful company in the dot.com bubble, which went to nothing in the end, making me think there’s something wrong with these economic bubbles. The way the predominate economic theory was, was that if we have growth everyone will be better off, but you know, this simply hasn’t happened. You find things are going really well if you’re in the top five of wealth, despite the economic crisis, but it isn’t working for everybody, wages are not going up. We even have hedge fund managers who are billionaires saying, look here, this existence isn’t working. And, I think because of the pressures put on everybody, that meant that people don’t have the capacity to worry about climate when everything else is a struggle. That’s the really sad thing, this economic theory that we’ve bought into, in the eighties and nineties, has led us up a garden path, making us incapable of looking at the real problems, and that’s the real tragedy of it….”

“And that’s what,” I finalised, “you aim to turn around……”

“Absolutely!” Emma laughed. With the tactical vote still locally confused, Emma entreated we voted with our hearts, and with that notion, you could do a lot worse where you put your cross on December 15th; be like the ancient pagans, I reckon they had better ideas than us!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Ah Shucks, The Southgate’s gonna get Fuzzed on Friday!

The Southgate’s going to get fuzzed, groovy garage and grungey punk tomorrow (Friday 22nd November) when Bristol’s Shucks Promotions invade the red carpet. Three for the price of none, The Idle Silence offers noisy, spikey rock flavours of punk, blues, grunge and flange. While the Mighty Magic Animal brings fuzzed up, riff-rocking grunge, and I’m taking a listen to The Leathers’ new released EP, Class Action as I write.

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Bristol-based duo formed in 2017, The Leathers may be the surprise element between the grunge, far too boogie for my preconceived notion of grunge, which I reckon is best. I dunno, age may obscure an affection for grunge, that and soul. The Mighty Magic Animal EP, Guts certainly rocks out, it’s all three-minute max Nirvana blast, proficiently produced, if it’s your cuppa it’ll be a strong one, no milk!

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The Leathers though I warmed to, it’s garage all right; proficient and groovy, I’m thinking Primal Scream getting rockabilly, Leathers duo Chris Mitchard and Ed Calvert likened it to the Stooges meets Booker T. Nice stuff, bound to be another class and active night.


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REVIEW – Thompson Smurthwaite @ The Southgate and Ian O’Regan @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 17th November

The Afternoon After The Night Before

Andy Fawthrop

After the utter chaos, madness and mayhem of the previous night at The Southgate featuring the totally bonkers 7-piece Back Wood Redeemers (see the review by esteemed colleague Mr Worrow), I thought I’d start my musical Sunday afternoon back at the same venue to see if there was anything left standing. Surprisingly all previous traces had been removed, and occupying the red carpet of musical fame was the small, lonesome figure of Mr Thompson Smurthwaite.

I’d last seen Thompson play a few weeks back at Long Street Blues Club, supporting local legend Jon Amor. On that occasion he’d played a wonderful set, if anything slightly over-awed by the size of the crowd and the great warmth of the reception to his playing. But I’d been impressed by what I’d heard, and was looking forward to hearing him in slightly more intimate surroundings.

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And I was not disappointed. Thompson has a lovely laid-back, casual, self-deprecating style of talking to his audience, as if chatting to just a few friends. And indeed he was among friends this afternoon. Guitar, voice and harmonica were all employed to great effect to deliver a wonderful set of self-penned smoky-sounding blues. His material is often personal, and reflects his experience of life, both on the canals and elsewhere. His playing style is relaxed, unfussy and genuine. Most songs are slow, rolling, rambling numbers – and all delivered with a thin, reedy, drawling vocal. And the crowd received his sets with warmth and genuine appreciation.

It’s a great tribute to the Southgate that Dave & Deb continue to provide such a diverse range of free musical entertainment every weekend. You really couldn’t get a greater contrast between last night’s rollicking 7-piece band and this afternoon’s laid-back solo blues artist. And yet both worked so well in the pub, and provided superb entertainment.

Then back down into town to The White Bear for their latest Sunday Session. Big shout-out to Georgie & Marc too, who’ve just celebrated their first year of being in Devizes, and who have already made a difference in terms of pub dining, craft beer and musical entertainment.

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This afternoon’s offering was the return of the very versatile, and very talented, Ian O’Regan. Ian had impressed so much on his first visit a couple of months ago that they got him back again. This time, although I’ve heard Ian many times, was probably one of his very best performances. Newly-refreshed (or tired) from his recent trip to Nashville, Ian was on top of his game. As usual, he reeled out number after number from across the musical spectrum, hardly pausing for breath. Ian is a chatty, friendly soul, but once he picks up his guitar, he’s off and running. Again we got two sets of perfectly-crafted, superbly-delivered music. Great versions of John Martyn’s “May You Never”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and even Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune” were interspersed with the occasional O’Regan original. His playing, and his vocals, as ever, were absolutely spot-on. The crowd loved it, and dispersed into the late-afternoon murk of Devizes, with smiles on their faces. Great gig.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

• Friday 22nd Nov The Idle Silence, The Leathers, Mighty Magic Animals
• Sat 23rd Nov Jamie R Hawkins
• Friday 29th Nov Duskers
• Sat 30th Nov Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Review

Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:

• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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Bromham Girls Help the Homeless This Christmas

A commendable effort by two Bromham girls to give fifty goodie bags to the homeless this Christmas is quickly growing worthy attention. A massive congratulations goes to these kind year 6 girls, Greg and Al, for such a wonderful thought and their determination to organise this.

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Still, they need donations of many items on their homemade list, including cosmetic products like toothbrushes, deodorant and soap, to warm clothes, torches and treats such as chocolate! In fact, I think they’ve thought of a number of valid items most us probably wouldn’t have!

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They’ve set up a Facebook page for their campaign, with details on how to donate. Collections are possible, but the girls have set up donation stations at St Nicholas in Bromham and at Beezes in the Ginnel, Devizes. They also sought other possible places for these stations in various local villages.

So, can we give this wonderful idea a boost? I know we can! Start by giving their Facebook page a “like,” and see what you are able to donate, please. Thank you! We wish all the best with this brilliant idea, girls and hope that you will tell us how it went after Christmas; you are both on the good list, that’s for sure! Remember though, have a great Christmas yourself too!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Back Wood Redeemers Squash into the Southgate

Yet another blinding night’s entertainment at the Southgate, as Frome’s Back Wood Redeemers came, saw and kicked ass….

 

His banjo to one side for a beer break, Flounder Murray perched on the step as I defined the live music scene in Devizes as thriving. As most Saturday nights we were spoiled for choice; People Like Us, I explained, popular locally, playing the Three Crowns, and there’s Britpop trio Billy Green 3 heading the Crown, rock n roll at the Rotary’s sixties-themed Presidents Night at the Cons Club, an Elvis tribute at the Cavalier and a gin and bourbon festival at the Corn Exchange. Not even touching upon various village gigs, such as Splat the Rat who played the Cross Keys in Rowde. I really need a clone, or five!

The area’s population is approximately 31,000, I’ve researched now, but returned the question on the night with a blank stare. Inevitable if you’ve not heard of Frome’s Back Wood Redeemers, this one passed you by. Alas, you missed out on what was a no-brainer for me, since Flounder last appeared here as part of the band The Boot Hill All Stars and blew the roof off with an original blend of grinding, upbeat folk and gypsy ska. It was one sweaty night. Though a quieter Saturday at the trusty Southgate didn’t damped the atmosphere, just rather more intimately contained.

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An altogether unusual seven-piece band squeezed into the tight space, I expected no less then crusty beards, the circus attire of vintage suits, bowler hats, clown trousers and stripy tights and anything goes. Armed with an electric guitar, harmonica and drums, nothing unusual there I’ll grant you, but throw in a banjo, two, yes two double basses, a pink electric mandolin made to look like a mini guitar, and a fellow propped in the alcove with a trombone, might just invoke an appropriate image as to how bonkers it was; might.

Described as “songs of dark country, twisted blues & religious fervour,” BWR did what it said on the tin. The mood on my entry was melodically paced; on asking Flounder the difference between them and the Boot Hills he expressed the hunt for vintage blues or country songs, even gospel and the ethos of twisting them into this west country folk. We talked of ska and how it developed in a similar manner as rock n roll, those rhythm and blues rarities very much standard radio airplay across the Americas. Yet Flounder pronounced the need to cover artists such as Tom Waits and Nick Cave too, and with his archetypical gritty vocals these artists are apt.

Flounder though did not front all the tunes, the band clearly a collective as the double-bass man in tights straddled off his instrument to parade around like Bez of the Happy Monday’s, singing fervently with an expressive dance routine to boot. The second half promised to be dirtier, faster and grittier, and did just this. Through the promised murky country tunes, those Somerset folks threw everything at this original blend. Think of a Wurzels-Levellers combo as a Northern Soul band at the Hacienda’s Madchester era trying their hand at jump-blues, you might come somewhere near! Yet whatever pigeonholes you care to throw at it, in the jest of this band who daren’t take themselves seriously, it’s lively, crazy and highly entertaining.

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Danceable too, once a Nick Cave song finished, the Train to Skaville riff teased the audience, and Flounder bounced into Toots & The Maytals’ 54-46, only for a melody of Tainted Love and the Cure’s Love Cats to follow. Yet aside the crowd-pleasers, it’s the proficient general skulduggery of instrumentation and upbeat sound which fuses the frenzy of the Back-Wood Redeemers and makes them so appealing. The finale Bound to Glory being the icing on the cake, and perhaps more apt for the band’s description than those known pop tunes; but either way, all were executed sublimely and originally. It was, in short, a crazy, crazy night Kiss fans wouldn’t dream of.

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As it’s been said, hats, and many of them, off to the Southgate, who, while the others tend to provide us with safe options of tributes and locally renowned acts, and there’s nought up with that, The Southgate strive to hunt for something different, and bring alternatives to town. With the attitude of providing free live music every weekend, of course, there is also plenty room for our local favourites too and while these make the best and most crowded nights here, when The Back Wood Redeemers are back around this zone, you’d be a fool to miss them.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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How Devizes Constituency Would Differ Under a Labour Flag; an interview with Rachael Schneider Ross

Not wishing to dabble in politics too much, I still think it’s important we get to know our local candidates a little. Hopefully we’ll track down all of them in time, as I invite Rachael Schneider Ross of Labour to be the first under the Devizine cosh……

So engrossed in our chat, I thought the lady on the table next to us was talking to the window; being on the first floor of New Society I didn’t expect anyone to be outside. It was some guys on a scissor-lift putting up the Christmas lights! We both stared out to the view and my companion commented how much she loved Devizes.

I’m not the political sort usually, but in a dilemma with this election, maybe you are too. So, I invite all local candidates to face my interrogation, I mean a chat! Ah, Devizes then, Tory safe seat. I don’t know about you but I’d want some options on the table, I yearn for change. Tactical voting to achieve this is still a grey area locally. While the Lib Dems traditionally do better than Labour, the latter came second last time. Therefore, Labour’s Rachael Schneider Ross is my first victim.

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I’d like to know more about Rachael, her local priorities but start on how she feels about national issues, and Jeremy Corbyn. I asked her outright if she is a “Corbynite,” and if, through the smear against him, ol’ Jezzer remains the right man for the job. Rachael explained she doesn’t think of herself as a label, “I don’t really do labels,” she replied. “I’m just a working mum, who’s come into politics recently, in the last two years. What’s really interesting about Jeremy Corbyn is he has been incredibly successful at bringing young people into the party, and democratising the party.” Rachael enlightened, as an example, a conference in September where all the members decided to increase the ambition around the green new deal. “A decision made by all members, and that feels very democratic.” Impressed with his influence on her children too, Rachael completed the answer with the point, “my kids came into politics, because of Jeremy.”

Does Rachael agree with me, that the voting age should be reduced? I suggested to 14 years old, maybe too radical, but Rachael agreed at 16 most are ready. Kids, you have a cool mum!

And in that, there’s something immediately warming about Rachael’s character, aside being openly consistent and extremely optimistic, she’s not defensive and we spoke on an equal level. This blows my stereotype politician out of the water! She responded to my questions with a heartfelt persona, of family, and a resident, despite my prompts to focus on a national scale. A story followed about Jeremey’s mother who used to live nearby. She gave him a book of her village history some years ago, and upon meeting him recently, was surprised to find he remembered her, and had read the book. “I’m impressed with him; think he has great vision. I think of the whole green revolution, his relationship with the young, and taking it to heart, and to the heart of our policies.” It’s in sharp contrast to Boris Johnson, she noted, and expressed he doesn’t see the importance of those issues.

But the smear of Corbyn is so extensively ingrained. Seems we base our political opinion on the meme with the worst grammar, least they might be more trustworthy than the newspapers. As I said, Rachael is ever the optimist, “I know he has a mixed reputation, I think often, the Labour party, particularly he, is not getting a fair hearing by mainstream media. Sometimes I read things and think, well I was there, and that didn’t happen. Some have a distorted view, but I think he’s the leader of the moment, and he is right to stand toe-to-toe with Boris.”

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We spoke about bickering in Parliament, I compared the charade to a rap battle, it got a laugh. “I’m very impatient about all of that now,” Rachael expressed, “watching it over the past few years, it’s one of things that’s got me involved, to be honest. I just am fed up with exactly that, the nonsense, that echo-chamber going around, as it’s so different from how we get stuff done, in the real world. Which is about cooperating and building bridges with each other, even if we don’t understand or like each other, we have to work together. That’s, in working life, how we make stuff happen.”

Bing, bang, bosh; thus, Brexit was an inevitable subject, I’m going to gloss over it, knowing Rachael is in agreeance with the Labour policy, and the mandates are on the table. Passionate about leaving without any consideration of the negative implications, stick with what we have. Passionate about remaining, despite the referendum result, vote Lib Dem. I honestly feel the most logical solution to the mess is Labour’s; we know no deal is economical suicide, Rachael worries about this. So, obtain the right deal and take a vote, the final answer. If you respect democracy, you should respect people have a right to change their mind over three years and exposure of the propaganda enforced on the campaign. If it really is the will of the people, then where’s the argument? Just one more cross in a box, I’m sure you can manage. If you still believe we should remain, regardless of the millions who voted leave, then maybe, just maybe, that’s not entirely fair either. “I also have a lot of concern and want to understand better,” Rachael summarised, “why people chose to vote to leave, and I think there’s lots of reasons. One thing Labour would do is address the underlying causes of that frustration and anger, about how they felt democracy or government was letting them down.”

Again, Rachael bought up youth, maybe she’s hinting something, aware my greying sideburns worsen daily! “Of course,” she stated, “in the last three years, a lot of young people are eligible to vote who wasn’t, and it’s about their future, isn’t it? It’s our children and grandchildren who will reap the impact of Brexit.” Enough! I feel we need to hear the local angle here on Devizine, and what a Devizes constituency would look like under a Labour flag.

Considering the voting history of the constituency, does Rachael really feel she has a chance in turning that round? “You know,” she answered, “I never say never.” See, always the optimist! “You’re right, there has never been a Labour MP, but we have had some wonderful Labour councillors over the years.” She strives to follow in their footsteps. “We’re in strange political times at the moment, and I think and hope when they weigh up who to vote for here in this constituency, they think about the policies, ask themselves what kind of country do they want it to be, I think that’s fundamental, and also, who will represent and stand up for us best, as a community. I would love to do that; I would love to stand up for the community, and represent us well in Parliament. I have ideas, and strong views about local issues which need much more focus and attention on, and would like to bring that campaigning spirit that I discovered in myself a few years ago, through the Oxenwood and Braeside campaign, that’s what really woke me up, politically.”

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Again, I see this air of positivity shine through Rachael, at a time when the local Conservatives are in turmoil over choice of candidate, in whatever attributes Danny Kruger has, he is not local, and you know, we keep it local here, like it that way. “Wouldn’t it be better, to have a local mum, who knows the area, knows the issues, instead of someone piloted in from London, because he’s Boris’s mate?!”

It brings to the boil my killer question, not necessarily for Rachael herself, but for our consideration, being we don’t like change, we continue to stick with the Tories. If-it-isn’t-broken attitude might now be unfitting; even our affluent community is suffering, open your eyes when venturing beyond, it gets worse. Maybe making a change is not really changing at all, being Rachael is one of us. So, given Rachael lives in a village life between Devizes and Marlborough, I asked what’s the importance, to her, of having an MP who is locally based. “I think it’s absolutely crucial,” she asserted, “I’ve lived here over twenty-five years, bought my kids up here. So, I’ve experienced what it’s like living in a rural community, where there are no buses, of becoming a taxi for your kids! I’ve lived and breathed Wiltshire country air and my feet are firmly planted here; and I love it. You also notice what’s worrying.”

Rachael strapped the local homeless issue onto the youth angle too, proud of her trustee status with two such charities. Her volunteering gives her, “first hand, in-your-face experience of what’s it’s like when things just don’t go according to plan. Each of us are a few steps away from homelessness, and I’ve seen that reality.” Keen to point out the issue of homeless army veterans, evident locally. “Now, someone coming in from London, who has sat at the top table with Boris, and doesn’t know this area, I don’t think he’ll have the same local knowledge and understanding, and why he’d want to care about what’s happening here.”

More tea was poured, she thinks we need to discover our radical roots here, pointing to the population of working class, and told me of Upavon’s Henry Hunt, the radical farmer during the Napoleonic Wars. With a wealth of local knowledge and history, undoubtedly, she is one us, no matter how you feel about voting Labour.

The anniversary of Jo Cox’s death shifted something in Rachael Schneider Ross, she explained, spurring her on to this post. “It took things to a different place; I was getting more concerned with where things were heading. I feel this general election, (despite the bad timing around Christmas) is really important. For me it’s a once in a generation moment to say enough, we don’t want to head further and further to the right, which will be a further division of hatred between people. That will be encouraged by Farage and Boris.”

I pointed toward our prospective development, a possible train station, new NHS centre. Rachael stressed it may be just be talk, while she’d love to be a part of making them happen, concentrated on the issue of affordable homes. “What worries me a lot, talking to people, is they say we just don’t have enough affordable housing, so my kids have to go elsewhere. And you know, there are other issues too; are there enough community spaces for young people?” We talked over Braeside and Oxenwood, closing of our youth centre, “and Pewsey has no youth centre, used to have the Shack.” Thus, cuts of police, schools and public spaces became the subject quickly, and how it creates disorder. “I think the government doesn’t join the dots between reducing police numbers, removing youth workers, or limiting their time significantly. If you close public spaces where young people can hang out, or the whole exclusion and criminalisation of young people, it’s no wonder we end up in a place where we have real problems.”

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With all this mind, my finale interrogation; “if this historic moment happens, what would be the main difference to our constituency?” I got her on this one, but after some contemplation the reply was, “I think, we would look back and honestly think we’d say ‘thank god we voted in Labour in 2019,’ a bit like, post-war, The Attlee era, a time when the NHS was founded. I would like to think we’d look back at this as a ‘see change’ moment. At a fundamental level I would hope for us to be thinking people and planet at the heart of all decisions and policies, right the way through parliament to local councils, rather than profit and privilege. People being central around politics, that’s what I’d like to see for us. I think people are completely fed up with the way things have gone for the past few years. One of the biggest changes too, would be a change to the whole attitude to climate.” Holistically, Rachael linked this with the youth agenda, and we know they go hand-in-hand.

I really don’t care for your preconditioned view of Labour, bought about by the waft of media negativity, I warmed to Rachael, felt immediately like we were old friends on a reunion, and I never thought that would happen with a politician. You know me, I’ll say it how it is, and I wonder what I’ll make of the others, should they take the dare!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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The Soul of Billy Green 3

Nice prolonged mellow murmur of Britpop breezes through my headphones, the Billy Green 3’s last single release of the year, Soul. There’s a mesh of Verve and Spaceman 3 coming across, it’s growing on me fast; do check it out, and bear in mind Billy and the lads are down the Crown, Devizes Saturday night.

Gate-crashed The Lawrence Society of Art’s Annual Exhibition!

Nipped into the Town Hall earlier, imagine, me, in the Town Hall. The Guardians will want me on their head chair before you know it; they should be so lucky! Ah, but there’s milling around The Assembly Rooms, few things still in boxes and a few ends to tie as The Lawrence Society of Art prepare for their annual art exhibition.

I’m informed I’m rather early, all will be running for the preview evening tonight, Wednesday 13th November, where all are welcome, from 6pm onwards. I sneaked a preview; you know me by now, just barge in uninvited, start randomly snapping phone photos and bust out of there like Billy Whizz on a promise, leaving everyone inside wondering “who was that guy with the chin?”

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The show ends on Saturday 16th November, I’d advise paying it a visit, for to my pleasant surprise, the range of paintings are diverse and the standard is outstanding. All local artists, members of the society, with the furthest away coming from over Trowbridge yonder, I’m told. For sale or browsing, I note our good friend Clifton Powell has a selection from his Africa series, and spotted some brilliant sketches from Rowde’s Alan Watters too. But more enlightening was the quantity of contributors I’ve yet to discover. From cubist to landscape, and abstract to fine art, the range is sundry with no apparent theme. I like this approach though, nothing open to interpretation.

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Proudly I’m informed the Lawrence Society of Art was formed back in 1953, and has actively fostered an interest in art with lectures, demonstrations, classes, outings, workshops and this major Annual Exhibition consistently since. The productivity of such an established association shows here today; my few pics will not do it justice.

The other major event of the society is usually in August. Their Art Trail, where participating shops and venues have a trail map, and there are about 30 shops in town showcasing members work, many available to purchase.

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Named after child prodigy Sir Thomas Lawrence, a leading English portrait painter and the fourth president of the Royal Academy, who picked up sketching aged ten while his Dad was proprietor of the Bear Hotel, The Lawrence Art Society has an annual membership fee, for regular meetings and workshops. If you dabble, this exhibition could be the perfect introduction, if you just fancy a browse, I’ll say it’s very worthwhile. The opening times are: 14th November 9.30 am – 5.30 pm, 15th 9.30 am – 5.30 pm and 16th November 9.30 am – 12.00 pm.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Friday at the Southgate; Blues Previewed…

Pop Quiz: The best way to preview what’s on Friday down the trusty Southgate is A: Have me waffling about Chippenham/Devizes based Blues Reviewed with Adrienne Hale, Mark Johnson, Paul Hale, Pete Lamb, Derek Head and Martin Cleverley. Or B: Have a listen to this preview YouTube Vid of four classic covers? Eh? Me, waffling? Oh, right you are then, please yourself, here it is:

Yep, speaks for itself really, but that’s just the start, Frome’s Back Wood Redeemers on Saturday also comes highly recommended; Go Southgate!


 

Phil, a Slight Band and a Southgate

Quick pint before Sunday dinner, and where (roast pork and crackling, yes thank you, it was) better than our dependable Southgate? The live music board is jammed with some great future gigs. We will keep you informed too; you know we will. This Sunday session though comes from Trowbridge’s singer-songwriter Phil Cooper, backed by his Slight Band, namely returning original Jack Moore on drums and Phil’s brother Ellis Cooper on bass; both accompanying vocals.

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Perhaps it’s my autumn lack of enthusiasm to hike up Dunkirk Hill recently, the inability to witness some of Devizes’ live music scene left me craving, or, more than likely, Phil has polished the live act, as in my humble opinion they simply knocked it out of the park, or pub at the least. My account also propped by the notion I’ve only ever seen Phil play live acoustically, faired by Jamie on Cajon, and the backing band really gives him that extra dynamism. Yep, they gave it their all, and came across professional while residentially convivial. It was a comfy atmosphere, as is the Southgate on all occasions.

I arrived one song prior to a well-deserved doughnut break for Jack, when the egg shakers came out and the second half rang through one of my favourites of Phil’s, Road Songs. Yet Phil is so prolific an artist there’s many accomplished songs I haven’t heard, the gig planned to dig into the back catalogue a bit, but there’s probably a couple of new ones knocked out while I write this……hold on, check the book of face…… yep, told you; his electronica sidearm BCC has an armistice day release with Tamsin Quin on vocals! See this here Spotify link.

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Ah good on them, it was an enjoyable gig, particularly poignant was the quasi-political I Don’t Have A Voice, about as radical as Phil gets, subject matter usually retained for emotions and social interactions. I apologise for avidly eyeing your doughnut like a famished Victorian street urchin, Jack, let it be known I had cheesecake waiting at home.

See here, next Friday is Peter Lamb’s Blues Reviewed, I’m looking forward to some twisted folky-blues skulduggery on Saturday with Frome’s Backwood Redeemers, and Sunday bluesman Thompson Smurthwaite gets on his harmonica. Blow the man down, do they ever come up for air?


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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REVIEW – Wade Merritt @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 10th November 2019

Promising Young Talent

Andy Fawthrop

 

Wade Merritt is a young (21) man who is fairly new on the scene, and I’d certainly never seen/ heard him before. So I thought I’d go and give him a listen. Hailing from Warminster, Wade’s offering is largely covers from the 1960s/ 1970s, with occasional forays into the 80s/90s. In other words, all stuff from long before he was born. Obviously he was brought up properly, and it was nice to see his dad in the audience to take some of the credit for that.

We had plenty of familiar singalong stuff from the Beatles, ELO, Queen, Elton John, Zutons and far too many more for me to remember. He played all of these very competently, but hasn’t quite yet developed the knack of putting his own stamp on them. What was very pleasing though was to hear Wade’s own songs, quietly inserted here and there in the two sets. These tended to be fairly upbeat numbers (of which he had a CD for sale) and none of your miserable, introspective singer/ songwriter stuff.

All in all a thoroughly entertaining afternoon, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of this young and rising talent.

Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:

• 17th November Ian O’Regan
• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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Live Album at the Louisiana with Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue

A cheetah can achieve motorway speeds, but not long enough to get off the slip road; worthless trivia, unless you’re an antelope. I like to think cheetahs listen to rock n roll; no, hear me out. Akin to this feline fact, those RnB and rock n roll classics are one short burst of energy. Fortunately for the artists the 78rpm record lasted a maximum of five minutes, and for radio play they’d cut it to little over three, any longer they surely risk congestive heart failure.

As the era passed to late sixties, psychedelia stretched recorded music to live and extended dimensions Little Richard could never maintain. Mellowing tendency matured rock, but arguably robbed its dynamism. Ah, come the eighties twelve inch single and the mega-mix, prompting the question; why didn’t Glenn Close choose the Jive Bunny to boil?

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Image by 
Jerry Tremaine Photography

Rare then it is, to hear a frenzied traditional rock n roll sound encompass ten minutes; welcome to Ruzz Evans’ world. Embodiment of Johnny B Goode, Ruzz can pick guitar like he’s ringing a bell, for an astounding period too. Due for release on 10th February, but available for pre-order from December 1st, I’ve been adoring this album recorded live at the Louisiana in Ruzz’s hometown of Bristol.

Forgive me for sustaining the rock n roll pigeonhole, for Ruzz has the quiff and is photographed in a teddy boy drape jacket. With backing from an incredible band including drummer Mike Hoddinott and upright bassist Joe Allen, the panache of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue straddles rock and its namesake blues. Since 2016, when they added an awesome horn trio to the roster, we can add big band jazz to their style. That’s my thoughts while absorbed in this, of what Miles Davis did to jazz, or Pink Floyd to prog rock, Ruzz does to traditional rhythm and blues come rock n roll; the result is breath-taking.

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Bearing in mind his voice isn’t growling Tennessean, yet neither was Gene Vincent’s, rather quirky Bristolian, the vocals are sporadic, instruments reign. There’s an amusing conclusion to “Under Your Spell,” where 10 minutes of detonating electric blues is broken by a genuinely surprised thank you from Ruzz in said accent. This often amuses me, pondering, no, thank you, mate, I just clapped, you’ve just held me spellbound for ten minutes, the pleasure is all mine!

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In this instance I’m not even there, merely listening on my headphones, but still entranced. While they’re Bristol based Ruzz and his Guitar’s Blues Revue are no strangers here, and you can catch them at the Southgate (Nov 30th), White Swan Trowbridge (tonight 9th Nov) at the R&B bar in March at Devizes Sports Club. I’m quivering, ashamed after hearing this that I’ve not caught them live yet; an offence I will rectify, you would too if you hear this.

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Live at the Louisiana explodes from the off; the two, Hold It and Baby Please Come Home, for starters envelope all I’ve said, lively jump blues come big band rock n roll. Catchy, you’ll be lindy hopping before your first sip. Yet if Movin On groovily notches to allegro moderato, Back Home to Stay boogie-woogies again, and Sleepwalk is as dreamy as it suggests. The last two tunes, Sweet as Honey and the aforementioned Under You Spell embrace all we’ve so far said, making this release, I reckon, a treasure; fantastic!

With two self-released studios albums already under their big rockabilly buckles, and opening for Dr Feelgood, The BlockHeads, Kirk Fletcher and Bill Kirchen and Darrel Higham, they’re stamping an authority of quality worldwide. Ruzz has been honoured by being officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, and that’s what I perceive of him, the kind of obsessive guy who will turn any conversation to his labour of love, but when it’s this proficient, you cannot help but take heed. I’m off to find out what they can do in the studio, but with such a formula I think this live album captures the spirit perfectly.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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REVIEW – Ian Siegel Unplugged @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes – Friday 8th November 2019

Friday Night Blues

Andy Fawthrop

 

I sometimes think Ian Hopkins is just trying to confuse me. Long Street Blues is on a Saturday Night, right? Well, usually, but this week it was on a Friday. So for the second time in seven days I found myself walking up the hill to the Con Club.

Another surprise was that we are usually treated to some 4-star blues featuring a full band. Not tonight though. Ian Siegel, who usually works in a full band format, is currently undertaking a tour to promote his latest album “All The Rage”, playing the songs in a stripped-back, one-man-and-his-guitar format. He’s also thoughtfully separately recorded a 4-track EP with some of those same songs in this current unplugged format.

So down to it. No support act. Just a packed room, and one man and his guitar. And we were treated to two sets of superb, modern acoustic blues and more. Many of the songs were Ian’s own compositions, or those of his friends, or collaborations. Only occasionally was a rock/ blues/ gospel standard thrown in, such as the Delta classic “You’ve Gotta Move”. His guitar style is strong, loud and gutsy, his vocals ranging from loud and expressive, through to slow, cool, gravelly, whispered, half-talked.

He does a good line in inter-song chat too, interacting very positively with the audience with wry humour. We learned many things – he hates Southampton (Scumhampton) and supports Liverpool (I like him already), he advocates positive action against those who’d like to talk loudly through his set, he’s a big fan of Jon Amor and his latest album (hurray!), and he has an interesting theory about Bob Dylan (the guy really can sing – he just chooses not to – he’s messing with us).

At several points in the gig, Ian stopped to say that playing his “big” material this stripped-back way genuinely made him nervous, and wasn’t sure that it would always work. But he needn’t have worried – it all worked superbly and came across well. The audience absolutely loved it. The encore was well-deserved and featured two covers – the traditional gospel/ hymn “I’ll Fly Away”, and Tom Waits’ “The House Where Nobody Lives”.

Another cracking gig, and another great advertisement for live music.

Upcoming gigs at Long Street Blues Club are:

• Saturday 30th Nov Gerry Jablonski Band
• Saturday 21st December John Coughlan’s Quo (support from George Wilding)
• Saturday 28th December Pink Torpedoes


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – Big Dez Blues Band @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes – Saturday 2nd November 2019

Nearly Got My Mojo Working

Andy Fawthrop

Your intrepid reporter had been on the sick/ injured list for most of the past week, and only received his clearance to enter the field of play at the 11th hour after a very late fitness check. Having felt ill, and having suffered the misery of watching England fail to win the RU World Cup, I was feeling pretty low. So what sort of music did I need to fit my mood? Of course there was only one place to head for, and that was Long Street Blues Club.

Not as large an audience as some gigs, but still a very respectable showing. Playing support were acoustic blues guitar duo Mojo Hand, who entertained with a whole string of classic blues covers, including Crossroads, Smokestack Lightnin’, Let’s Work Together, Little Red Rooster, Walkin’ Blues and the eponymous Got My Mojo Working. This was all classic blues stuff from across the spectrum from Chicago right down to the Delta, played straight-up, undiluted and with little fuss and not much chat. Good set from a great pair of musicians.

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The main act were Paris-based Big Dez Blues Band, an extremely tight, competent blues outfit. Of course it was a big notch up on the volume front from the support act, but all the better for that. A great four-piece of drums, bass and twin guitars, this was full-fat, leaded R&B. Both vocals and lead-guitar parts were shared, adding more depth and dimension to the set, which consisted of both originals and covers, again delivered with minimal inter-song chat. The accent was on letting the music do all the talking, and it spoke well. The sound was clean and uncluttered, and the audience certainly warmed to it. The joint was certainly jumping.

Unfortunately, lack of match fitness (and alcohol) on my part led to major fatigue and I didn’t quite make it to the end of the gig, and I had to retire from the field of play. However I certainly felt I’d had my money’s-worth, and wandered off happily to my bed.

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Upcoming gigs at Long Street Blues Club are:

• 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


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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The Queen of Alabaster and a Princess

Double-whammy night as I flipped between Alabaster Queen at the Southgate and Lottie J at the Crown, in search of the perfect evening’s entertainment.

Southgate, ah Southgate; hasn’t failed me yet. While the always excellent Long Street Blues Club will understandably ease the quantity of pedestrians hunting live music on a Saturday night in the Vizes, we’re seated seasonally between mid-autumn and the big C, and weather none too clement, it was a quiet start at the Southgate.

Gave me opportunity to become acquainted with an Alabaster Queen from Manchester, prior to her performance. Enthusiastic about her second visit to our gypsy canal favourite watering hole, claiming she thought she was eccentric until she turned up here. I asked her what’s in a tag, and she described her pale complexion attributed to this translucent form of gypsum namesake. The informative explanation which followed delved into marble imitation, statues being immersed in a bath and gradually heated is a process demanding great care; if the temperature is not measured, the stone acquires a dead-white, chalky presence. Yet the patterns created are diverse, relating back to a previous question when I asked what genre we were to expect, and she replied “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.”

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Solo, the unique Alabaster Queen treated us to a series of elated covers, acoustic cabaret style with an air of positivity, confidence and tambourine. Off the starting block with Sympathy for the Devil and marching into Jolene, this queen delivered distinctively and fervently. Unsure if a song she called Jasper was her own writing, but this one wowed with passion. After a trip to bar, I heard a melody of Sweet Dreams and You Spin me Round (like a Record) flowing interesting into Bob Marley’s Pimper’s Paradise, an interesting choice noted when she surprisingly sang the toasted Damien Marley version, and made a stunning job of it.

With an abrasive voice characteristically resolute, Alabaster Queen is not about to whisk through an X-Factor final, yet made great work of Born to be Wild, and appeared to love every minute of her performance. The Floorshow was confident, the songs flourishing and therefore, this Queen deserves her crown.

I confess though, I sneaked out at this point, double-booked and on a mission to see Lottie J at The Crown. I passed a few groups either heading home early, or more than likely, heading in the direction of the Southgate, so I hope the audience picked up in the second half. Conflicting performance here, where at just 15 years old, Lottie’s voice is as smooth and silky as, well, smooth silk. The only similar aspect being her desire and passion. Chosen to take the keyboard out of the equation, Lottie used her laptop to provide the backbeat and concentrated on her vocals.

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I cannot fault her voice; it’s perfected at such a young age it’s the envy of all others. My issue is with the surroundings, convinced the Crown had upped its previous rep as a rowdy cattle market of twenty-somethings, was quashed. I felt like a pensioner on a Club 18-30, my stubble too grey to be trendy here, amidst these trimmed beard perfectionists.

I’m not attempting to gripe grumpy old man style, The Crown is lively as always, we need this in Devizes, every town does. But I couldn’t help ponder if a plain ol’ disco would’ve been more apt, being Lottie sang so beautifully, profligate over a crowd hardly noticing her presence through chatter and noise. Likewise, Lottie needs to be pitched into an establishment where punters are appreciative and listen. There then is my dilemma, Lottie, in my opinion needs a session band who will take heed of this intelligent and imminent talent, who can cater for her sound and style, then she would be off the scale amazing. Yet, youth is on her side, and I wait in anticipation of her progress.

Outside my reservations were confirmed, as a young fellow angered at his unsolicited elimination and friends demanded he be allowed to return, despite the accusation he puked over the seats. There was an amicable conclusion without kerfuffle, and the chap wobbled away. I felt need of a scratch of the foresaid stubble, fine and dandy for the adolescent, unfortunately not my cuppa. If it wasn’t for Lottie, I’d rushed back to the Southgate, even if the pub Terrier attacked my shoelace!

Such a shame, with a tired Lottie J after a flight from her holiday, she performed immaculately, comparable with the Alabaster Queen, who in all honesty while she’s a well above average pub circuit act, Lottie I’m convinced is worthy of stardom, and time will tell, but really, The Crown is not the venue she should play.

For want of a grand Saturday, I received a mish-mash, to be honest. A great live music pub with a fairly great act, and a raucous glitzy bar with an extreme talent. To combine the two elements, one heck of a night would’ve been possible, c’est la vie.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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From Devizes to Disneyland with MACs!

For want of a feel-good story this stormy weekend, what a marvellous opportunity for the kids at MACS Theatre School, as a group performed a musical melody Halloween show on the main stage at Disneyland Paris this week. “Each and every one of them were absolutely fantastic, and a pleasure to take on the trip,” the Devizes theatre school announced.

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A proud moment for the school, and a memory that’ll last a lifetime for the group. Twelve-year old Evie, who performed, said, “I had the best time with MACs last night, attending has given me the confidence I never knew I had.” Many other parents and children have expressed their delight at the chance. It’s an achievement proving what we’ve said before, “Mac’s Theatre School is refining local drama and putting Devizes on the map!”

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With a high quality of standards, Mac’s aim is to “create and produce theatre that excites, entertains but more importantly inspires. Giving young people a chance to shine, to challenge themselves and exceed expectations,” and I think this news goes to show just that, if you’ll pardon the pun!

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“We’re so incredibly proud of them,” said Emily Dodd, assistant director and Mini Mac coordinator, “the show was a huge success!” Held in anticipation since the wonderful “Our House” performance, I asked if she could give us a hint as to what might be next for MACs, or if it’s top secret?!

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“We’re taking a break from big shows this year so we can spend time with our own little mini Mac! However, we will continue with our full membership groups, which run on a Wednesday and our mini Mac’s sessions on a Monday.” Membership fee is just £15 for weekly workshops. Weekly workshops run as Mini Macs (aged 5-10), First Stages Group (aged 11-13) or the Centre Stage group (aged 14-16.) Places are available, contact: macs_theatre@yahoo.com for more information.

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As for me, I’d risk a roller-coaster ride, but I’m not singing and dancing; no one needs to see that, even Mickey Mouse! I’m just wishing all those involved my very best wishes for the future. Well done to all!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Fireworks at the New Inn, Coate has been postponed to Sunday!

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A Halloween Open Mic in a Cellar

With assorted images kindly nicked from:

Alan Jones, Richard Benham and Deborah Barnett

open6Felt a tap on my shoulder in the Cellar Bar of the Bear Hotel last night, an eerie witch called Tess taciturnly offered sweets from a variety Halloween basket. If it was just a kind gesture, I also saw it symbolic of the evening; variety is the tenet of these regular open mic events.

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Secured on the Devizes circuit as the last Thursday of each month, I wobbled down the steps to witness no end of participants willing to step up. Preconceived judgements of a drunken karaoke, a Saga Britain’s Got Talent or a host begging for acts immediately dismissed. The scene is bustling for a week night, the quality varied but not in any manner amateurish.

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Treated to a great unity and quick turnaround of tens of performances, from either upcoming or matured musicians, there for the love of it really is inspiring, communal and fun.

I swear there were more guitars than people down there, and there was a sound amount of people. Take it as red, a majority were acoustic singers, most with a cover song. Yet some originals were noted, some bought a band, others perhaps jamming via a makeshift group for the evening.

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Variety moulded though, particularly through Neil & his Ukeladies, bringing a taste of the Southgate uptown! Admitted and uncaringly, they trashed Monster Mash and the Addams Family theme in a satirical and seasonal show so drunkenly fun it was nothing short of hilarious. But not without the following poignant, then viciously witty Halloween and rugby themed poems from Gail Foster. While these two acts stick in the mind, through their diversity, or insanity, the standard of all acts was simply superb.

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From Dereck Wood to a pale-face-painted Terry Couchman, and through an Eric Clapton aficionado, to a gorgeous acoustic adaption of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, the evening was exceedingly entertaining and gregarious. Had to ponder if I was the only attendee not planning a blast under the spotlight, though the offer was there, some kind of stand-up routine suggested; yeah, no really!

With little alternative options, it wouldn’t have mattered if Oasis was planning a one-off in the Corn Exchange, it’d still be the best thing to do on a Thursday night in the Vizes, and it was also free entry too.

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Any dubiousness of open mic nights I once may have had were quashed last night. I ponder the necessity of venturing to a different one, in a different town, to compare, if only for an accurate review. But when did I give a toss about accuracy? Considering I was thoroughly entertained, that’s enough, and all you need to know to do a lot worse for an evening then bookmark the next one of these gatherings in your diary.

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Top marks Richard Benham, the organiser and compere, who, with a witty slant on introductions, banded the heavy flow of hopeful performers. We stopped for a short natter, enthusiastically informing how for some it’s a gateway, for others a solace, but all played an important part in this, what essentially felt more like a family gathering. Top marks too, to the Bear; Luke, for a pause in tending the bar to fetch drumsticks, and a welcomed event. After a tough afternoon trick or treating, this was no trick, the highlight of which, amidst all these performers, in my humble opinion, was undoubtedly Laurie Couchman’s spellbinding and apt performance of Eva Cassidy’s Autumn Leaves.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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