The Revelation Games of Phil Cooper

Crouching beside me at our IndieDay outing last month, one third of our local folk trio, The Lost Trades, Tamsin Quin explained she’s slowly working toward her second album but a lot of time is spent concentrating on progressing the Lost Trades. I supposed here is an advantage to DIY projects, as if The Lost Trades were signed to contract it’d likely be an order to focus entirely on the group.

In pop we’ve seen the pressure put on bands to collaborate equitably, and the result usually causes a split in the end. Major record companies in tough competition don’t do enough to discourage this. Note drama sells in Simon Cowell’s ‘show-me-how-easy-it-is-to-manufacture-a-pop-star’ dressed-up karaoke television show, and hear the boos as he obstinately and impassively divides a prearranged group. He sells the tears of the rejected and the tension as young friends split. You could blame Yoko Ono, if you must, but bands breaking up is, sadly, no new thing.

Hence the accord and friendship between unsigned bands is a delightful contradiction to the harsh realities of the music industry, and I sense an unequalled unity in The Lost Trades, and deep respect for each other’s solo work. Cue another third, Phil Cooper, the binding, organised element of the Lost Trades, and his new solo album, These Revelation Games due for release by Infinite Hive on 30th October. It’s great, I’d expect no less, and Phil’s fanbase too, but it’s varied content would also serve as a taster for newcomers to his repertoire.

Historically it’s been over a couple of years since he sent me his Thoughts & Observations album to review, which does what it says on the tin, largely acoustic-based annotations and judgements. But I focus on a particular night down the Southgate when Phil was accompanied by his Slight Band. Man, he was on fire, loudly and proudly rocking our legendary live music tavern with unsurpassed esteem and passion.  Make no mistake, These Revelation Games contains many a track comparable with Thoughts & Observations, they’re observational and sometimes quirkily humoured. But this new solo album takes no prisoners, and blasts its doors clean off their hinges from the off.  

Yeah, while so the opening tune, House of Mirrors explodes rock, and dare I say it, has that impact of the sixties Batman theme, it shouts the riff at you, second up Phil returns us to the mellowed aural breeze we’re more accustomed to with his recorded material. So, it’s a mixed bag of astutely written and perfectly executed songs with Phil’s joyful aura and defining style.

Eleven songs heavy, the early tunes creep us slowly back to the up-tempo as it progresses. Without a Sound particularly adroitly manages to raise that notion, and Keep Your Hands on the Wheel is a prime example of how Phil ingeniously twists metaphors of the simplest of everyday things. Leading us onto the quirkiest song, I am a Radio. Akin to Robots on the Lost Trades EP, Phil makes a heartfelt connection to an inanimate object, yet here using sound effects to create the idea his voice is operating on shortwave. It’s by far the most interesting and experimental, also absorbing his electronica work under the title BCC.

For marvellously prolific and diversified is our Phil, performing as solo, as The Slight Band, his electronica side-project, or what it’s now concentrated on, the outstanding folk harmonies of The Lost Trades with Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin, Phil never slacks off or confines himself to one sound. “I wasn’t planning a new album this year,” Phil expressed, “but then, all plans for 2020 went out the window six months ago. So, I spent my time in lockdown writing and recording a whole load of songs that explored influences I’ve never explored before.” Therefore, as a solo album, bought about by lockdown, don’t expect it to remain in one place.

It rocks without reference to this folk avenue, for sure, but stretches to every corner of rock. There are surprisingly heavy guitar riffs. Fervent ballads like the particularly adroit Into the Void, whisking Lennon-like. And there’s ardent electric blues, Changing Times perhaps best example of the latter. It polishes the experience off with a Clapton-fashioned smooth blues finale called The Horseman Rides Tonight.

With a plethora of new music being produced, lockdown it seems did have one benefit, and These Revelation Games in a varied taster of a concentrated Phil Cooper at his peak. I look forward to the progression of the Lost Trades, but love this aforementioned freedom to produce solo work too. I mentioned my chat with Tamsin to Phil, about the time and effort dedicated to the Lost Trades, but the joy of the flexibility of freely venturing off to work solo, thoroughly supported by the other members of the trio. “You’re far from the band in the Commitments film,” I noted!

“Yeah,” Phil responded, “having a record label release it has helped keep the balance between solo and Lost Trades stuff. The Lost Trades has always been built on mutual respect for each other’s work, so we’ll always support each other.” Which kinda wraps it up aptly, the ethos of the trio is like this album, nice. Nice one Phil, nice one, son!

Details on Phil Cooper and These Revelation Games, here.


113 Mile walk to London To Help Free Angel & Maya

We’ve covered Tanya Borg’s ongoing campaign in the past, now she is taking a 113-mile walk to London. For five, long, earth-shattering years, Tanya Borg has fought in vain to be reunited with her beautiful daughters Angel and Maya. Maya will be turning 9 on the 24th October, the 5th birthday without celebrating, seeing or speaking to her Mother.

In 2015, Angel, then 15, and Maya, then 3, were snatched by their father under the guise of a short holiday to Tunisia to see their grandmother. Instead, they were whisked across the border to Libya and have been held against their will and away from their mother, friends and family.

Despite judges in both the UK and Libya granting in Tanya’s favour and their father jailed for non-compliance of court orders in the UK, the girls’ grandmother has kept them secretly locked away, with Tanya not even having spoken to ‘her babies’ for over a year.

With the British Embassy in Libya closing in 2015, Tanya has been given no assistance in her plight from the UK Government. Police have refused to reopen the case, meaning Interpol are not involved.

On 23rd October, 2020, Tanya will be setting off on foot from her home in Wiltshire to walk 113 miles – across five days – to 10 Downing Street in London, to help raise awareness of her fight – and deliver a petition asking Prime Minister Boris Johnson for political assistance. In 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown intervened in a similar case, speaking personally to Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi to help reunite six-year-old Nadia Fawzi with mother Sarah Taylor after her abduction by her father.

Although now a different political sphere, Tanya and her family are imploring Boris Johnson – a new father himself – to similarly intervene and attempt to help them, also. Please, if you can, support Tanya’s walk and Go Fund Me Appeal. All donations will be spent locating her daughters’ whereabouts in Libya and on solicitor fees, in her attempts to finally bring Angel and Maya home.


Rule of Six and Effects on Local Hunting and Blood Sports

Rapping with Wiltshire Hunt Sabs, about new rules, the possible return of hunting, and their battle against badger culls….

After a rant in the week, concerning Danny Kruger’s either forgetful or mediocre disregard to the facemask rule extended to an all-purpose bleat questioning the true motives of many of these everchanging Covid19 regulations, I bought up this exemption for hunting and shooting wildlife from the rule of six. For seems to me to be symbolic of this notion they’re using Covid19 as an excuse to return us to an era of yore; tally ho! Let’s go butchering innocent wildlife again what what.

Exemption depends solely on Boris’s personal preference, and he loves to shoot a grouse or three.

With the Mendip Hunt Sabs reporting a demonstrator was seriously assaulted just yesterday, when rocks were thrown at vehicles, surely, it’s advisable campaigning against cruel sports is best done by safety in numbers. Ergo, the rule of six makes protesting the hunting either illegal or risky for the individual, so I contacted Wiltshire Hunt Sabs and we had a nice chat. They agreed; “along the lines of exempting hunts from illegally gathering, so they can carry on illegally hunting,” they replied. “So, effectively turning the law banning hunting on its head. Which is what the conservatives have wanted for ages.” Bingo.

It took a few days to touch base with the sabs, as it’s badger culling season, and they were out. They excused my ignorance on the matter, explaining while grouse shooting is the news, it doesn’t happen in Wiltshire. “Grouse shooting normally happens on moors, they shoot red grouse,” they told me, “grouse aren’t reared, they live on moorlands. Loads of pheasant shoots around here, though.  Pheasants are bred and reared for purpose.”

But pheasant doesn’t cause agriculture a problem, I’m going to find an angle on this tricky disco, as they shoot them for food, and I’m far from vegan; love a bacon butty, me! “With pheasants,” they explained, “despite what they claim, huge swathes of them end up in stink pits, they kill far more than they can possibly eat. I’ve seen one with my own eyes.”

Yep, my suspicions check out; bloodthirsty carnage dressed up as an obligatory pageant, the lot of it. Still, I’m in the dark about the Hunt Sabs’ priorities, and how they go about their operations. The concentration of our chat centred on the badger cull, a practise which can be avoided if funds were available for vaccination; like yeah, magic money tree you might cry. The Wildlife Trust reports the tax payer coughed up £16.8 million on the culling of 2,476 badgers between 2012 and 2014, equating to £6,785 per badger. By contrast, in the same time period, vaccination would cost just £293 per badger.

It also goes onto say cattle-to-cattle transmission remains the primary cause of outbreaks of bTB in cattle, and culling badgers’ risks making the problem even worse. “The Government has undermined the scientific credibility of its own research,” the Wildlife Trust explain, “by repeatedly changing targets and methods. As a result, no definitive scientific conclusions can be drawn from the pilot culls, as the scientific evidence used to justify them is highly selective.” The badger cull does not have the support of scientists, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) or the public; so how to go about protecting our wildlife?

“The cull is licenced by Natural England,” the Sabs tell me. “The licences last four years, although they are only authorised to shoot between certain dates; usually a 6-8-week period which begins in September. There are groups who protest and groups who take direct action.  Obviously as sabs we take direct action, but will also undertake other forms of protest too.”

And the direct action is to what, get in their way or disrupt the shoot, I asked. “Well usually it involves looking for cages as well,” they enlighten me, “there are people who deal with them.  Shooters can be dealt with by protestors too, simply being present on a footpath in a field they intend shooting in is enough to stop them.”

I plead they excuse my ignorance, not knowing they used traps. It must piss the cullers off, protesters wandering the footpath. I wondered if they ever get violent as we’ve seen the fox hunters do. “Not really,” came the reply, “they are generally better behaved because they have firearms.  Any aggressive behaviour on their part would lose them their licence.” Being the only justifiable reason for killing a badger, I can see, is a trigger-happy obsession akin to a redneck with a Biden supporter on his dude ranch, I can see taking away their toys might be a preventative. Unless of course, you can rationalise otherwise, given the Wildlife Trust’s evidence?

Technically then, with a badger cull here in relative placate Wiltshire, the good news is, at least, they don’t need “safety in numbers” and could abide by the rule of six. “We usually work in twos or threes as we can get more ground covered,” the Sabs say.

How can people help? You could buy Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs a coffee, see here. But what if you found a cage on a walk? Should you damage it, or take it home to trash? The sabs advise against this. “I personally wouldn’t recommend just asking people to trash cages,” they instruct. “They aren’t easy to trash, and it’s a criminal offence. Better that people contact the page if they find one and take a 10-figure grid reference or what3words.”

Badgers are nocturnal, like me; they’re my work buddies. Traps, I cry, lightweights. If it is a sport, as they claim, it should therefore be a fair challenge and they should drag their malicious and over-privileged arses out of their beds in the wee hours to chase them, rather than have a pop at them during their bedtime. That’s like the ref allowing Arsenal to wait for Tottenham to get back on their coach before aiming for top bins!

Save badger culls though, wildlife protectors still have the legal upper hand, and police will attend and arrest those flouting the law. Wiltshire Police made an arrest during an operation into bird of prey persecution in Beckhampton and Pewsey on Wednesday, for example. PC Marc Jackson of Wiltshire Police Rural Crime Team, said, “following an extensive search of both locations, we have recovered the remains of a number of birds of prey, including red kites and buzzards. The recovery of these remains presented a number of complex challenges and we are grateful for the support from other agencies. If anybody has any information that they think could support our investigation, please contact us on 101.”

Inspector Liz Coles, Tactical Lead for Rural Crime in Wiltshire, said: “Today’s warrant shows that we take all aspects of rural crime seriously and we will proactively work with partners to protect wildlife and our rural communities. Last week saw the introduction of the new dedicated rural crime officers to the team, and this is a prime example of how they will help us moving forward. We continue to develop more intelligence-led policing in relation to prevention, detecting criminal activity and proactive operations.”

While it might not look good for Natural England’s preposterous project to reintroduce hen harriers to southern England, the struggle to uphold our preservation and protection for wildlife against a government which appears to warrant a return of fox hunting and blood sports sadly continues. And if other’s concern for animal welfare enrages you enough to throw your toys out of the pram, sadly social distancing measures will follow.


Daydream Runaways and their Crazy Stupid Love

There’s no fooling me, no quixotic baseball-wielding delinquent is going to sway me in giving my honest opinion on Daydream Runaway’s forthcoming single; it’s just a drawing, guys!

It might well be coming a cliché on Devizine, that Daydream Runaways send me over their latest single, tell me they think it’s their best yet, I agree and tell you it’s their best single yet. But I’m at a stalemate, because I’m likely to say once again, the new single from Daydream Runaways is their best yet, for the simple reason, the new single from Daydream Runaways is their best yet!

Ah, sure sign of natural progression from a young band always striving to improve, Crazy Stupid Love is out on Friday 2nd October on streaming platforms and it will be the first single from their upcoming EP. Given this strength of this song, and inclining it’ll have a running narrative, I’m highly anticipating the EP, with bells on. Meanwhile I have to concoct some words on why I think it’s their best single yet, rather than just repeating the same sentence. Well, technically I don’t have to, but I will because I want to.

Image by Van

I wouldn’t have to if you could hear what I’m hearing, that’s the fluky bit about doing this. While it’s not always this seamless; I occasionally receive tunes which make me shudder, though delight when these guys message me as I can guarantee it’ll be a non-shudder experience.

So, if I called their second single Fairy Tale Scene, “catchy melody, pop-tastically, with slight eighties, pre-indie label overtones,” Closing the Line as “a progressive step into local topical subject matter. An emotive and illustrative indie rock track akin to Springsteen’s woes of factories shutting,” and I said Gravity, “pushes firmer towards a heavy rock division,” then Crazy Stupid Love is the counterbalance, calibrating the best elements of their previous singles and weighing them equally. In this feat, it defines a forming style, a signature, I reckon, in which to base future releases.

Image by Van

Inspired by characters in a hit Hollywood film of the same name, which I’ve not seen, the guys claim “the song is set to be the sound of a Post-Lockdown world.” I hope so, but it fondly reminds me of a time of yore, pre-nineties indie and Britpop, back to the days of Simple Minds and U2; no bad thing. For, just like the moment Judd Nelson sticks Molly Ringwald’s earing in his lughole, these bands were beguiling, memorable and emotive. Crazy Stupid Love is like them, infectiously uplifting, and with a coming-of-age narrative, articulating moods of a youthful, verboten romance, it suits.

Surprisingly dicey too, it also creates a mysterious character within the narrative, namely Chad, intended to market the single with a hashtag #whoischad. We can’t see his mug on the cover, but the likelihood it’s Brad’s alter-ego, just because he rhymes with Chad and he’s wearing the same baseball jacket in the accompanying photoshoot is slight. With a penchant for fireworks he carries a baseball bat to a fairground, and anyone who does such is surely asking for trouble. But, I dunno, Brad just doesn’t seem the type!

Image by Van

This self-produced nostalgic nugget has those swirling harmonies, chiming guitars and an infectious chorus hook, to compare it to those eighties greats. But akin to what Talk in Code are putting out, it retains the modernism and freshness, acting as a nod to influences rather than a tribute.

In mentioning this to the Talkers they hadn’t heard of Daydream Runaways, but now I’m pleased to hear they’re supporting Talk in Code for an exclusive gig at Swindon’s Vic in November. Did I connect this, guys? Because if so, it makes me proud, sound wise I believe it’s a perfect match. Though BBC Wiltshire’s Sue Davis also has taken a big shining to the Runaways, asking them back on the 3rd October. Just, you dark horse, you, leave the baseball bat at home, Brad, I mean Chad. In my experience the Beeb pay for your parking if you ask, so no need to get nasty. Tut, always the quiet ones!

Super single, guys and look forward to catching up with you soon.


Atmospheric Country Goodness Fits Kirsty’s Shoes.

Subscribe on YouTube to local independent country, singer-songwriter Kirsty Clinch and you’ll receive a selection of wonderful pop-driven covers with a country feel, lots of chat videos where she explains her thought processes and announces news, provides advise and even beauty tips. Catch Kirsty live and she’s unplugged, expressing the same dedication to her music but as an acoustic performer. Either way, she is a pleasure to hear, a smooth silky voice and accomplished guitarist.

It is also the very reason I’ve been in anticipation of this debut single, to hear which way Kirsty will take it, lean more on her matured live acoustic sets, perhaps, or the pop-inspired subtlety of her videos. I’m pleased to say, Fit the Shoe balances both equally. Though far from bubble-gum, it uses a sublime bassline behind her country guitar-picking to create a wonderful and emotive sound. This is contemporary country, combining pop’s ambient-influence of William Orbit and blending it with the vocal range and narrative of classic Dolly Parton, enough to make Madonna blush.

Yet there’s another side to Kirsty, a fervently astute entrepreneur with clear direction on how to market a vocation through projecting the perfect appeal and disposition. Yet none of these reasons, I suspect are the sole reason why Fit the Shoe, is shooting up the streaming sites after being released only today, rather an amalgamation of them all, but mostly, because it’s gorgeous and immediately lovable.

Our fiery redhead instinctively knows where the goal is, shoots and next thing you know the net is pulsating with the shock. “My main goal is to touch the hearts of many though my art and spread awareness that a positive attitude leads to better paths,” she explains. “I already achieved my first goal by travelling and performing in Nashville at venues such as the BlueBird.” Nashville is something Kirsty regularly brings into conversation, who wouldn’t. But it’s here, in collaboration with Peter Lamb, providing bass and mastering, in the atmospheric splendour of this single that we see a true star shining.  

“As an independent artist,” Kirsty Clinch speaks her motivation, “you must have 100% faith in yourself and your worth, you must work hard to gain all your goals and dreams you desire and I have a lot of energy to still give to the world, so I’m going hard or I’m going home.”

Stick this on your playlist and freeze in awe.

Man on the Bridge: Erin Bardwell teams up with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton

Local reggae a rarity around these backwaters, but when it does rise you can trust Pop-A-Top Records is a watermark of quality. Since prolific Swindon Skanxter keyboardist, Erin Bardwell’s amazing solo album, Interval, he’s rubbed his unique style into a collaboration with Hotknives co-founder, Dave Clifton on this sublime project called The Man on the Bridge.

A double-A EP was out in April, followed this week by a six-track album A Million Miles. There are chilled echoes of rocksteady and traditional boss reggae blended with slight roots and dressed with a garnish of Bardwell’s inimitable take on the genre. Naturally, there’s a splinter of Two-Tone reggae too, which works on so many levels.

Dave Clifton

The Hotknives are best known for their live albums, but did release one studio album The Way Things Are. Formed in Horsham, back in 1982, they principally play ska. Guitarist Dave Clifton was among the original line-up. He left in 1993, but with a slimmer roster the band still perform today.

Opening tune to A Million Miles, Don’t Blame Me, is immediately likeable rocksteady, and wouldn’t look out of place on a classic Trojan Tighten Up compilation. Looking over the Land plods securely, resonances Erin’s band the Erin Bardwell Collective and is just simply beguiling.

Erin Bardwell

Just Dreaming though dubs, is as at sounds, dreamy, using flute, by another ex-Hotknives, Paul Mumford of Too Many Crooks, it connotes that eastern dub vibe of Augustus Pablo. Yet with Believe we return to chugging boss, with sublime horns, also by Mumford, and Dave’s picking guitar riff. The guest vocal is a refreshing change, provided by Pat Powell of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Proof, as I’ve said, ska is an international thing, and the Melbourne Ska Orchestra are pushing boundaries on the other side of the world.

Title track, A Million Miles again deviates, fusing a slight English folk influence, it reflects memories and cites Dave and Ansell Collins and the O’Jays in a theme of a lost romance. Never Say Never raps up the journey you don’t want to end, with a plonking fairground twist; as if Madness worked with UB40. With Erin’s dream team, Drummer Pete O’Driscoll, Pete Fitzsimmons on bass, except Looking Over The Land where long term friend from The Skanxters, Vinny Hill features, we’re in capable hands, and this is a memorable collaboration producing a superb and varied mellow reggae vibe. You need this right now!


Ros Hewitt’s Glass Art Open Studio

Stained glass and mixed-media artist, Ros Hewitt takes stained glass to contemporary levels. Using fused and sandblasted glass techniques, her designs are refreshingly modern and graphically stunning. She opens her studio in Great Bedwyn on Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th October. 11am-5pm.

Working as a graphic designer in the field of scientific illustration, it was a quirk of fate which embarked Ros on a new artistic career in stained glass, initially while living in Sydney, Australia. On returning to the UK, she took a course in traditional stained-glass painting with Paul San Casciani, (author of The Technique of Traditional Stained Glass) in Oxford.

Ros has been using her lockdown time experimenting with capturing air bubbles within glass, and reflecting on her residence in Wiltshire, she has a new collection of bestselling Wessex White Horses, painted and fired onto glass.

There’s also a collection of acrylic paintings of local bird life, something that has long been a favourite subject; professional scientific illustrator graduate, see? As I said! Yes, I did!

Might be the perfect opportunity to buy some lovely, local, artisan gifts for Christmas, they really are quite special. No appointment is necessary to see the artists’ work, and you can meet Ros, discuss techniques, equipment and discover her inspiration.

Due to Covid-19, all visitors are required to use anti-bac gel provided, wear a mask, and enter the small studio one at a time. Parents/guardians can enter with their children. For details:  http://ros.glass/index.html Email: ros@ros.glass Phone: 01672 871 025. Location: Ros Hewitt Glass Studio, Great Bedwyn, SN8 3LT


Crusader Vouchers to the Rescue!

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, just shopping I’m afraid, but a marvellous idea to help small businesses locally!

With a striking superhero comic-book themed corporate identity, a small group of marketing agents from Westbury have donned cloaks and set up a voucher system in support of our local high streets.

Claire Rowlands runs Fundraising in the Community, a local company dedicated to supporting businesses in Wiltshire, whilst helping schools, groups, charities and organisations raise funds. They plan to launch Crusader Vouchers as a subsidiary to FITC Media. As it sounds, it’s a voucher-based concept akin to the website Groupon, but for local small businesses, the ones hit hardest by the lockdown.

Fundraising in the Community is a quality, professional service that offers a unique platform with a tailored audience to help drive prospective new business through the doors of local companies; whilst helping schools, charities, clubs and organisations within the community fundraise for their good causes.

Their voucher idea launches this October, and asks you to “put on your mask, grab your vouchers, support local businesses and bag yourself the best deals in town!” They have a website, but the majority of action is via Facebook, so like their page, where you’ll be able to access monthly vouchers for independent shops and small businesses throughout the South West.

These crusaders of independent shopping say, “the offers that we provide are free for everyone to enjoy, no catches, just straight forward vouchers to take advantage of each month for local small businesses and independent businesses. Due to Covid-19 our businesses need us more than ever so we’re appealing to you to put your mask on, grab your vouchers, buy local and bag yourself the best deals in town!”

Since the successful IndieDay in Devizes, I’ve noticed many similar schemes in local towns but here’s something truly original but like any new scheme, it’ll only work if people get behind it. So please do, everyone loves a voucher!


The Ladies Shout as I go by, oh Danny, Where’s Your Facemask?!

On the day the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance predicts 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October in the UK, leading to over 200 deaths per day a month after, still the rules are being flouted, and we shamelessly play the blame game, because we’re encouraged to grass up our friends and neighbours by a government who aren’t playing by the rules themselves.

Two days into the facemask covering law, my eagerness to grab some Derick’s Deals saw me headlong into the Spar shop without a facemask, I confess. We’ve now had two months to get used to it, and for me, like all of us, it’s become routine, a habit. It is also, because not wearing one in indoor public places meets a £100 fine. A fine Danny Kruger needs cough up, if a local university student whose party got uncontrollably out of hand faces a £10,000 fine.  

Oops a daisy, and other timid posh-boy idioms for I’m pretending to care, our local MP was pictured on the train without his mask. For the entire London to Hungerford journey it didn’t cross his mind, bless. Because, as he explained, he forgot, the train carriage was empty. Obviously not empty enough for someone to snap a photo, though, to which his reaction, according to Wiltshire 999’s was, “If the person had reminded me rather than taking a photo and posting it on social media, I would of course have put on my mask then and there. I do apologise for my mistake.”

He said this, in a country with standards and decorum so high most are uncomfortable pointing out minor transgressions, like not wearing a facemask, in case the perpetrator is exempt. They may be suffering a medical condition or severe anxiety, and be subject to enough harassment from so-called do-gooders. Last time I did bag me some Derick’s Deals there was a facemask dissident in the shop, did I growl at them? No, I have basic manners.   

He said this, working for, as I said, a government who encourage us to report such misdoings, precisely what the photographer did. It’s not under the control of the photographer if a social media witch hunt ensues.  

Predictably, Priti Patel said she’d dog in her neighbours, as if living next door to the home secretary wouldn’t be traumatic enough. Boris waffled, as he does, something about only grassing if it’s an “animal house,” party complete with a hot tub. Uncertainly looms if he referred to the National Lampoons movie, or animals really need to be present at the party. If so, this leaves David Cameron’s idea of fun questionable, if he was still around of course.

Oh, but he is, magically popping up like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn this week to tell us all his forbidding austerity cuts prepared the UK for the pandemic, despite we were the single most unprepared nation in the developed world, and are consequently reaping what we sowed. Just what the NHS needed, cuts, keeps the staff on their toes, doesn’t it? The ones still alive that is.

What an absolute crock-of-shit, of which, unfortunately, Danny Kruger’s blatant flouting of the regulations is trivial, but relevant to the undeniable feeling building in this country, that it’s one rule for them and another for us. Given Danny’s last newsletter to his constituents reads, “I detest the rule of six, the compulsory facemasks, the Covid marshals and the snooping on your neighbours (not that we’re doing that in Wiltshire, I’m glad to say,” it doesn’t look as if wearing his mask is top priority for him, which is a shame, I bet he’s got a really fancy one.

Though I suspect the issue will fall into the archives after the social media assault mellows. He’s conservative, so every conservative will defend him, and those not will sneer. We make political point scoring out of a deadly pandemic, then wonder why we’re suffering the worst.     

I’ll confess, I found myself disagreeing with left-wing rags, painting a picture of a stressed and exhausted Prime Minister, forecasting the end of both his teether and reign. Aching to show him in a bad light, selective photography; the guy had more getaways than Judith Chalmers, missing vital Cobra meetings about an impending pandemic. Having financial difficulties, now he is; Earth calling Boris.

Do you ever get the uneasy feeling our Prime Minister is rubbing his hands together behind closed doors, sniggering like an insane Bond villain? Logical steps are indisputable; it’s unavoidable if we ease restrictions, more cases will occur. Yet daily it feels more like an ingenious trap. Conservatives crave traditionalism, whether the public feel rudiments maybe outdated, oppressive and intolerant or not.

A Matrix red pill revelation, are they using the pandemic to maintain control, make their prejudicial vision a reality, Morpheus, and as an excuse when it goes economically tits up on their watch? The tranquillity of the initial lockdown trashed as they encourage us to shop our neighbours, because that’s how their own backstabbing agenda functions. Face facts, it’s up the swanny because day-to-day they move the goalposts and confuse all, abuse their own loopholes and encourage every cluster of the public to blame another while nipping out for a Nandos. Ha, there was me thinking the buck stopped at the top.

Hancock’s Half Hour has never been so dreary, as the health secretary blathers “follow Covid rules or they will get tougher.” Surely a case of do as we say and not as we do?

Clamping down on the reappearance of illegal gatherings; they’ve craved this since illegal gathering begun, yet freedom to jet around the world is fine and dandy. Pubs shut early, like the good ol’ days, because drinking at 10pm rather than 11 makes a massive difference. Places of worship get special attention, unless you’re a pagan. Then consider this exemption for hunting and shooting wildlife from the rule of six regulation, symbolic of this notion they’re using Covid19 as an excuse to return us to an era of yore, tally ho. Exemption depends solely on Boris’s personal preference. 

If you want your hobby or interest exempt from the rule of six, be like Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross and slip Boris £15,000 for a winter break in the Caribbean. Or is it coincidence the guy owns two grouse moor estates? This bothers me, enough to warrant contacting our local hunt sab group. What did they say? That’s for next time, folks, stay tuned; I’ve waffled enough over something trivial; politician is a stressful occupation, I wouldn’t want it. Forgiveness is a virtue; apology accepted, Danny, get your wallet out and let’s move on with the next inconsistent contradiction from our leaders.


Emma Langford Sowing Acorns

If I’m majorly disappointed by all the planned events and gigs this year done gone cancelled, probably the biggest of all was when I badgered Devizes Arts Festival into booking Limerick’s folk singer-songwriter Emma Langford. It didn’t take much convincing, just a song or two, and if you hear her new album Sowing Acorns, released yesterday, I guarantee your arm will be twisted too.

Sowing Acorns is everything I’d expect and much more. A spellbinding composition of intelligent lyrics reflecting on past, a place or observation, Emma’s mellifluous vocals and enchanting folk melodies. A magnum opus for this award-winning emerging artist who I’ve followed the progress of for many years.

It’s an album which will transport you to an Irish coastal path, a gentle zephyr as you peer out to the ocean. Port Na bPúcaí perhaps the prime example, with its chilling cello merging into the drifting poetic title track. It’s a whisk of untamed Andrea Corr blending Clannad to Mari Boine, yet somehow completely inimitable. Yet there’s astute honesty within these pieces of musical jigsaw, tales of family woe or enriching scrutiny of a lifecycle. There’s enough going on here to pull to pieces and discover alternative angles with each listen, but allowing it to drift over you is recommended, like waves upon said ocean.

But while Sowing Acorns opens acapella and drifts into traditional acoustic folk, it doesn’t rest, rather merges styles, and by the time you get to Ready Oh some nine tracks in, there’s a blithe soul pop feel, teetering do-wop, similarly the Latino marketable feel of Goodbye Hawaii. Towards the end it returns to the thoughtful prose of Emma’s sublime acoustic and feelgood Irish charm, and it ends with an ambient trance remix of the title track by Avro Party. But each and every segment, every journey this album takes you on, darker or uplifting, is expressively awe-inspiring, as if Emma pushed everything she has into this release; the definitive Emma Langford.

It is, in a word, utterly gorgeous, a definite contender for album of my year, and one I’ll be submerged in its mesmerising portrayals for a long time yet.

Click to download from Bandcamp

Hew Miller; Does Something!

When I started Devizine it was an exploration, knowing next to nought about local performers and artists. Nowadays I consider venturing further afield, figuring I’ve successfully mapped our region of musical talent. But whenever I do, I find an area of unchartered territory, a Devizes resident lurking undetected in a dusty shed. Literally this month, it’s Hew Miller, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and mix engineer living among us.

Upon hearing his uplifting and breezy pop-rock latest release, Let’s Do Something (but nothing at all) I figured, I’m going to hassle this guy for an article and expose any inhibitions he might have about his talent, as it’s common for an artist to shy away from shameless self-promotion. I warned him what we do here, and how scrupulous we are. He replied he’s a reader but “the reason you haven’t heard of me is that I’ve been pretty backwards in coming forwards!”

None of that matters, you see, backwards or forwards is all the same to me because I never know which way I’m going. It’s not so much about allowing me to spread wild gossip about him, rather I haven’t seen Hew listed for a gig locally either. Does he like playing live?

“I haven’t played live for quite a long time. I tend to focus on writing, producing and recording,” he explained.

Hew Miller

Hew has three singles released on Bandcamp, the earliest, Upside Down World (We’re fine in here) was this April. It’s a stomping Peter-Gabriel-fashioned pop-rock observation on the tranquillity of lockdown. And in the middle, it’s not over yet, causally breezes with equal skill, a trumpet and quirky romantic reflexion. That one was released in July, but you’ve only got to listen to the competence in song writing and production to assume Hew’s must have been making music long before that.

“I played in bands when I was younger but then moved down to Devizes for work and never found the time or musicians to start up a band,” he tells. Hew’s been in the Vizes since 2002, moved from Nottingham.

“I’ve been a recording and mix engineer mainly as a hobby for many years; it was an underground thing but I’ve been wanting to get more exposure for my own music and to expand on the producing, mixing and mastering sides.” Hence his nom-de-plume, Hew, “because there are loads Matthew Millers and the name has already been taken on Spotify.”

Ah, story checked out. I found a Hungarian one on Bandcamp, among others, who by his profile pic, bears an uncanny resemblance to Elvis Presley.  “Definitely not me!” he expressed, as did the rest of our chat retain a witty and light-hearted angle. Flicking through his Facebook page I paused on an image of an amazingly plush tree-house styled studio, and given he’s called his studio Dusty Shed Studios, I figured this was it. “No,” he owed up, “I wish…. I went there for a weekend! Mine is less grand…. it literally is a shed!”

“It was in the middle of a fields away from everyone. No-one to complain about the volume of the drums,” Hew enlightened, but I changed the subject, fearing it might get like a Monty Python sketch continuing discussing his shed! “Yes,” he agreed, “well when I was young, we lived in a cardboard box…”

On the subject of boxes, Let’s Do Something was recorded at Real World Studio in Box, and his own studio, said Dusty Shed. “I’m open for mixing/mastering and recording projects,” He informed. Hew works a DIY ethos, all instruments and production are his own. I like this, freedom of creativity an all; judging by these singles, he knows his way around those buttons and switches.

“You said you were in some bands back in Nottingham,” I asked, trying to unearth a possible heady past of thrashing metal or punk, “what kind of genres?”

“Yes,” he replied, “I guess it hasn’t changed that much; its indie pop/rock.” No juicy gossip there then, I thought I’d inquire about Hew’s influences. “They range from David Bowie to Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian to The Psychedelic Furs to The BareNakedLadies.” Hew seems at ease with where he is with his music, a quiet hidden gem, and as the tranquillity of lockdown subject of his first single, Upside Down World, might suggest, he’s happy mixing and producing in his dusty shed; it’s a guy thing!

Just as lockdown tore down borders of what we’ll feature here, Hew found it a rather fruitful period, “as everyone is getting into playing music,” and continued to say about some tunes he’s mixed for some American rappers and another international artist, “which I probably wouldn’t have done without lockdown. Hopefully we can now get back to some normality and live music can flourish with more musicians.”

True, for his easy-going amiable sound would be great for a Sunday session at the White Bear, or an afternoon in the Southgate’s garden, but even if we cannot prise Hew from his dusty shed, you should check out his discography. On Bandcamp, here. And his latest, Let’s Do Something (but nothing at all) is released on the streaming services on 25th September.


Blank Pages of an Atari Pilot

This extensive belter of eighties-fashioned high-fidelity pop waits for no man, a sonic blast opens it, and the riff wouldn’t sound alien appearing in a John Hughes coming-of-age eighties movie. Visualise Jud, Molly, Emilio et all, dancing around a school library to this latest track from Swindon’s Atari Pilot.

After our glorious appraisal of their previous single Right Crew, Wrong Captain in July, they reckon I’m going to be fair on them again, but really, there’s nothing to dislike about Blank Pages. A review in which they quoted me suggesting, “this sound is fresh, kind of straddling a bridge between space-rock and danceable indie.” Here though, save the strong bassline, the space-rock element is lessened and retrospective synth-pop chimes in a racing beat, twisting this into a real grower on the ears.

Press release aptly cites “everything from Springsteen to Daft punk, Kathleen Edwards to Love,” as influences. As if Daft Punk would work with Springsteen, but if they did, I’d imagine something rather like this. And that alone, makes for an interesting sound, again akin to what Talk in Code are putting out locally, perhaps more so for this single. While we could hinge on an inglorious comeback from an eighties pop star and be thoroughly disappointed by their timeworn platitude and fame induced narcissistic attitude, nostalgia has never been so energetic and fresh when it’s channelled as an influence rather than comeback or tacky tribute act.

There’s a backstory about Atari Pilot, I may have mentioned before but worth reminding. After their debut album “Navigation of The World by Sound” in 2011, a long hiatus took in a serious cancer battle for Onze. But getting a second chance at life gave him the inspiration to get back to writing, and Atari Pilot reformed in 2018 with an acoustic set at the Swindon Shuffle. Reforming the band was actually planned from his hospital bed.

With this in mind, Onze describes the thinking behind this great song, “Blank Pages, like the other songs for the struggle, were inspired by being diagnosed with and recovering from cancer. The songs reflect the highs and lows of life and the struggles we are faced with and have to overcome to reach where we want to be.”

There’s a heartening theme of struggle in the face of change, “it’s also about trying to recognise that we can’t escape ourselves, and asks whether we can use our history and baggage to fire a brighter future,” Onze explains.

It’s a DIY production, recorded and mixed in Onze’s home studio by using Logic Pro X, but sounds stunningly professional. Atari Pilot are Onze (vox,) Paj (bass,) Frosty (guitar) and drummer Andy, and we look forward to hearing more from them. I even managed to review this one without mentioning retro-gaming:


The Bighead!

“The Truth is Hard to Find celebrates their unique but retrospective style with a passion for pop-reggae, an uplifting beat, chugging ska riff and beguiling two-tone vocal harmonies….”

Far from what the name suggests, and common generalisation of the genre, I found Northampton’s six-piece reggae/ska band, The Bighead, not in the slightest egotistical and very approachable! Thus, I’ll be spinning their tunes on Ska-ing West Country on Friday, and for the foreseeable future.

That said in this era where a plethora of bands like the Dualers and Death of Guitar Pop have breathed renewed energy and a fresh approach to the UK two-tone scene, which otherwise risked falling into a diehard cult of seniors on Lambrettas who spent their pension on a pair of cherry Doc Martins!

Though nothing with Bighead is as the frenzied ska blended with delinquent-filled punk of yore. They tend to flow maturely, with rocksteady and roots reggae, while attire the fashion akin to the two-tone era. I’ve no issue there, through the furious ska thrashings of The Specials, the downtempo Ghost Town is likely cited foremostly, and on the island of origination, the short rocksteady age between ska and reggae was undoubtedly the most creative musical period in Jamaican history.

Seems while previous decades hugged youth cultures which devoted to a sole variety of Jamaican music, newly formed bands, like Bighead in 2008 by Da Costa, follow a similar ethos as what we discussed when Trevor Evans’ Barbdwire came to Devizes Arts Festival. They select the benefits and choosiest elements of ska, rocksteady and all subgenres of reggae, and fuse them with sublime results.

There’s a plentiful gap to fill, and it’s all trilbies and shades for Bighead. Their May single, The Truth is Hard to Find celebrates their unique but retrospective style with a passion for pop-reggae, an uplifting beat, chugging ska riff and beguiling two-tone vocal harmonies, signifying an optimistic new era for the old genre. In contrast, the other two brilliant tunes Da Costa kindly emailed me, Step Up and Try Me Again, rely on roots reggae and doo-wop rocksteady respectively.

The Bighead are no strangers to the festival and club circuit, have headlined and supported original 2-Tone acts such as the Beat, The Selector, Bad Manners and a 2013 show with Madness. They’ve played over Europe and are regulars on the Berlin Reggae scene.

So, polish your boots, snap on your braces and follow Bighead; not that I should really be flattering a band who are already self-confessed big heads!


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The Return of the Wharf Theatre

Word on the towpath is our wonderful theatre, the only theatre in Devizes, The Wharf Theatre is preparing for curtains up in October, starting with an amateur production of My Mother Said I Never Should.

Since being forced to close in March the team have been working tirelessly to keep East Wiltshire’s best loved and only theatre afloat. There was a time, in June, when the future looked rather bleak for the little theatre. After the renovation three years ago, surplus funds were already low, then lockdown happened. The Gazette reported it may have to close due to a £30,000 shortfall in income. Celebrity patron Christopher Biggins praised and promoted a campaign, at the time they hoped to reopen for 2021. So good news is, we’re some months earlier you can enjoy the Wharf productions once again.

While it’s great news for entertainment in town, be aware and be quick to book. Only thirty tickets are available for each performance, in line with current guidelines. They can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm

Last years’ Chair, Oli Beech says: “Break out the bottles, the phoenix of theatre does rise from the ashes and soars high above Devizes! Our dear little theatre is back in the black after a close encounter with disaster! The call went out and boy, was it answered. We’ve had donations pouring in, generous members and locals passing the hats around, bake sale proceeds, even an overwhelming donation of £10,000. We are so thankful to everyone who has helped us either financially or with their many words of support and encouragement….”

During their enforced closure the team hosted three costume sales to raise further funds; completely updated their website and launched a YouTube channel to keep people entertained with specially filmed monologues and some short behind the scene films.

The Wharf also welcome a new Artistic Director, Debby Wilkinson. “Restrictions are beginning to lift but with social distancing still very much in place,” Debby said, “anything we do in the theatre itself will be limited. However, we are very proud to launch the first three plays of our Autumn/Winter season.”

Whilst social distancing restrictions remain in place please continue to refer to their website for the latest details. But I’m happy to announce the new performances will be:

My Mother Said I Never Should

Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October 2020 7.30pm each evening

Written by Charlotte Keatley and Directed by Debby Wilkinson       

This rehearsed reading is scheduled to run on October 16th and 17th.   First performed in 1987, this play breaks with convention in that it doesn’t follow a linear timeline.  The text is now studied for both GCSE and A level and tells the stories of four women throughout several periods of their lives. It explores the relationships between mothers and daughters along the themes of independence and secrets. It is a poignant bittersweet story of love, jealousy and the price of freedom through the immense social changes of the 20th century.                   Copyright: this amateur production is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd on behalf of Samuel French Ltd concordtheatricals.co.uk


 Tickets: £10/£8 concessions.

Adam and the Gurglewink

Friday 13th and Saturday 14th November

7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee

Written and Directed by Helen Langford

Three rehearsed readings of an original play by the Wharf’s own Helen Langford.   Adam is planning to run away when he stumbles across The Gurglewink, a childhood toy who has come to life in the attic.  They form a reluctant friendship where reality blurs and magic happen. They meet Rainbowgirl who challenges Adam to a dangerous quest which will depend on his ability to keep going when things are not always what they seem.

Suitable for children 6-12 years and their parents. Tickets:/ £8/£6 concessions


Collected Grimm Tales

Monday 14th to Saturday 19th December       7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee

By: The Brothers Grimm     Directed by: Debby Wilkinson

Familiar and lesser known stories are brought to the stage using a physical and non-natural style of performance.  These stories journey into the warped world of imagination.  We will meet Hansel and Gretel, Ashputtel, Rumpelstiltskin and others, performed by a small adult cast, on a simple set.  The audience will need to use their imagination and fully embrace the living power of theatre. Suitable for children and adults.

Copyright: this amateur production is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd. On behalf of Samuel French Ltd concordtheatricals.co.uk  Adaptor Carol Ann Duffy Dramatised by Tim Supple and the Young Vic Co.  Tickets: £14/£12 concessions

The Scribes: Totem Trilogy

Getting snowed under here at Devizine Towers, but speedily need to push this to top priority, ahead of tonight’s (Saturday 12th) gig at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate from Bristol hip hop outfit, The Scribes. I whopped up a quick preview of the event, but as I pressed publish an email popped up with their latest EP The Totem Trilogy Part 1, made in collaboration with Chicago raised producer Astro Snare. Should fans of UK hip hop hear it, they’d be planning to head to the Gate for this free gig, by hook or by crook.

The Scribes are a multi-award-winning hip hop three piece based in Bristol consisting of lyricist/multi-instrumentalist Ill Literate, rapper Jonny Steele and beatboxer Maestro Lacey. In 2013 they signed with US label Kamikazi Airlines, co-owned by Dizzy Dustin of legendary hip hop act Ugly Duckling and released two albums, The Sky Is Falling and The Scribes Present Ill Literature worldwide to critical acclaim, garnering the group a sponsorship deal with ethical clothing company THTC, alongside artists such as Ed Sheeran and Foreign Beggars.

By 2016 they had signed with Reel Me Records, releasing a sonically challenging 16-track album which thrived on a perfected blend of poignant lyricism, A Story All About How, and the apocalyptic concept album, Mr Teatime & The End Of The World, winner of the UndergroundHH.com “Concept Album of The Year” award. Last year The Scribes received global recognition, upon releasing Quill Equipped Villainy, featuring Akil the MC from Jurassic 5, TrueMendous and Leon Rhymes from Too Many T’s.

My personal affection for the genre though, goes back to the old skool. Prepped by Kraftwerk’s influence on eighties electronica, rolled with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte’s production on Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, and still nothing equipped me for the eureka moment I first heard Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock, on a journey to Asda in my Dad’s Cortina! Only lingering in the underground less than a year, the US hip hop and breakdancing movement swept the UK, and it was inevitable we’d develop our own brand.

As hip hop spread through the States it distorted to hackneyed fashion far from the original blithe ethos of revelry. Pretentious bling, hoes and pimping one’s ride, and of course gangland rivalry were never on the original agenda. While some during the later eighties, like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, strived away from this tenet, recapturing hippy, carefree roots, the east-coast/west coast rivalry and vehement bravura dominated and hallmarked the modern preconception of hip hop.

Meanwhile, by a method akin to rock n roll some twenty years prior, the place to hunt for creative and innovative progression of the genre was neither east nor west coast, but here in the UK.

Because hip hop was never supposed to be uniform, shaped by urban multiculturism it’s naturally a melting-pot of genres and an experimentation in fusion, always has been. Given Caribbean roots and common affection for reggae, it’s inevitable those influences would have a profound effect on UK hip hop.

Full-circle in actual fact, considering pioneer of the genre, Kool Herc was a young Jamaican NY immigrant with a sound system, who altered from dub to disco and funk as residents didn’t favour reggae. And, in a nutshell, and to wrap up my waffling, that’s precisely why I love this EP; it’s like The Scribes dipped a colander into said melting pot, and extracted only the very best ingredients.

It’s a non-commercial, bundle of heavy beats not relying on a single subgenre. Opening with I’m Back, for example, fresh, dripping with early east coast scratching and rapping. Yet Mighty Mighty follows, leaning on dub akin to Roots Manuva with brass, subs and a contemporary dogmatic theme comparable to Silent Eclipse, albeit this was divergent towards John Major’s government (apologies for my archaic comparisons, it’s an age thing!)

By the third tune we’re back to nonchalant fun with Rock This; I’m in awe, this is lyrically composed with a witty genius parallel to the Fu-Schnickens. Heart Breaks though swaps back to east coast; sublime rap harmony with a R&B slant, pensive piano chops and soaring strings with a definitive Bristol angle, as if a Tribe Called Quest came out of St Pauls!

Keep Bouncing ends the ride, and I’m left pondering Dizzee Rascal’s influence, yet tougher, as Rodney P, this is fresh, possibly the most marketable sound given today’s impact on the scene. The Totem Trilogy Part 1 is the first of a 3 EP series featuring the stunning artwork of renowned illustrator Chris Malbon. The absolutely gorgeous cover designs of the 3 EPs will link together to form one image of the titular totem. With guest vocals from both AstroSnare himself and founding father of the UK hip hop scene MC Duke, here, clearly, is something imminent, a rise of The Scribes, a method grasping an evolution for UK hip hop, yet firmly aware of its roots and unafraid to exploit them.

http://www.quillequipped.com

http://www.facebook.com/scribesmusic

http://www.instagram.com/thescribes

Can you Help Lucie with her Haircut Fundraiser for the Little Princess Trust?

Most girls want wireless Mpow headphones, an iPhone 11, a Himalayan salt lamp, or something like that for their fifteenth birthday. Maybe Lucie Green of Devizes does too, but in an awesome act of kindness, her focus is on having twenty inches of her hair cut off to donate to the Little Princess Trust.

The Little Princess Trust is an amazing charity which provides real hair wigs for children suffering from hair loss. When a child loses their hair to cancer or another condition, the Little Princess Trust provide a free, real hair wig to help restore their confidence and identity.

They also fund research and say, “we won’t stop until the research that we fund ends childhood cancer forever. Promise.” Though the Trust relies solely on the efforts of enthusiastic community fundraisers, and receive no formal funding.

Can we help her raise money for this worthy cause? Even the smallest donation is greatly appreciated, and all the money will go towards the cost of making a wig, which can be up to £500.

You can donate via Just Giving, Here.

Wishing you the very best of luck, Lucie. Maybe we could get a before and after picture?! For more information on the Little Princess Trust: www.littleprincesses.org.uk

A Modern Reggae Classic: Wonderland of Green

On first hearing Wonderland of Green, I was like, yeah, that’s as sweet as a sugarcane field. But it’s moreish; every listen it approves all elements, everything I love about reggae, and why I love it.

Fruits Records may be based in Switzerland, but their dedication to authentic Jamaican roots reggae is paramount. This latest release featuring the Silvertones is a prime example, a sublimely balanced one-drop riddim with all the hallmarks of reggae’s golden era; the roots sound of the seventies, Black Ark, the legendary studio of Lee “Scratch” Perry, and the Roots Radics rub-a-dub riddims of the early eighties. These traditional styles echo through this 7” EP; the heavy bass, the offbeat guitar riff, and the traditional female backing vocals as passed into mainstream by the Wailers’ I-Threes.

Yet it also pounds contemporary at you too, fresh sounding, with a version, Living In A Wonderland, toasted by Burro Banton, an incredibly gritty-voiced DJ popular in the late eighties and nineties dancehalls of Jamaica. Even the subject matter of Wonderland of Green is timeless, as it suggests, it’s earthy and ecological, a tenet inherent in Rastafarians long before it became trendy.

The band behind the riddim is the 18th Parallel. Produced, composed and arranged by Antonin Chatelain, Léo Marin and Mathias Liengme, and recorded at Geneva’s Bridge Studio by Liengme. There’s an instrumental on the flipside, and an extra killer dub mix by French wizard Westfinga, who retains the retrospective ethos using the traditional dub values set by King Tubby.

Burro Banton

But what makes it so thoroughly beguiling is the vocals by The Silvertones. A legendary vocal harmony trio from the early ska era, originally, Keith Coley, and Gilmore Grant, with Delroy Denton joining early in their career. Delroy’s individual baritone and guitar skills saw him quickly become the frontman. Though he migrated to the States and was replaced by Joel “Kush” Brown.

Though the only remaining member is Keith, who takes lead, that’s just technicalities, as the modern line up rests with Norris Knight and Nathan Skyers on harmonies, both of whom have solo careers in their own right.

Westfinga & The 18th Parallel’s Wonderland of Dub

Recording at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, they interestingly triumphed in Jamaica with their debut single, a ska re-creation of Brook Benton’s “True Confession,” a track producer Duke Reid would also have the early Wailers record, but the Silvertones is indisputably more poignant. They also recorded under guises The Gold Tones, The Admirals, but most popularly as The Valentines, prevalent with the skinhead’s ska revival era was a tune called “Blam Blam Fever,” denouncing the rude boy’s gun culture.

The Silvertones

Through the late sixties they enjoyed success recording for Reid’s Treasure Isle label and Clancy Eccles, as vocal harmonies became more significant during the rock steady era. Yet their dominant period was the early seventies when they stepped into the converted carport which was Black Ark.

The eccentric amplifier genius, Lee “Scratch” Perry is renowned for getting the best out of any artist, he shaped the way we view Bob Marley & The Wailers. With penchant for outlandish, heavyweight psychedelic sound testing, he was the experimentalist who would pave the way for dub pioneers like King Tubby.

Historically then, Wonderland of Green slips right in as if it’s been there all along, but prominent now with its environmental subject matter, it’s gorgeous. I look forward to blasting it on my Boot Boy Radio show this Friday, maybe blending versions together, even if they’re live from the Skinhead Reunion, and who’s punters would favour boss reggae!

Wonderland of Green is newly released this week, as download, or on regular black wax 7” vinyl and on a beautiful limited and numbered picture sleeve edition with opaque dark green vinyl; how apt!

Streaming: http://hyperurl.co/wonderlandofgreen

Vinyl records: https://fruitsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/wonderland-of-green


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Our IndieDay at Brogans!

Images by Gail Foster

Coming from Essex where shopping is religion, you’d think I’d be impartial to the duty. But no. To be bluntly honest, as I believe I mostly am, I find nothing entertaining or enjoyable in sauntering a continuous stream of mundane chain stores aimlessly, other than to spend money I haven’t got on crap I didn’t want or need in the first place. Blessed we are then, in Devizes, with an array of original, charming and interesting independent shops, which make shopping endurable for whinging cronies like me! An ethos celebrated, kind of, this Saturday by the group Devizes Retailers and Independents who, in order to return commerce to our wonderful and lively town, held an “IndieDay.”

MP Danny Kruger opened the event, I missed that, loads of shops got involved and opened their doors to a festivity-fashioned celebration, missed that too. Donkeys and more, I missed. Far better for me to contribute by loitering outside Brogans café, munching on a bacon roll and taking credit for Mike J Barham’s hard work!

I arrived late, The Devizes Rotary Club arrived long before to lend us a grand gazebo, and Mike too, he set up a PA, he managed the PA, he hosted the event with his charming and entertaining charisma, and everyone came up to me and thanked me; result!

Honestly, as I’ve said, I have to give a massive thanks to everyone involved for making it such a special day, and in this day and age it was indeed even greater. Mike Barham for one, aforementioned contributions, but two, for rocking both the opening and finale with a plethora of his own work, such as the lively Bowser’s Castle, and thoughtful prose through downtempo blues, to the thundering satire of a west-country-styled Top Gun theme, Danger Zone! The guy is a one-man machine, the best of the best, of the best.

So yes, breakfast to a late lunchtime at Brogans got lively, as people filled the plot outside and the carpark, in the sunshine. It was something until late last night I feared would fail, with gapping gaps between the confirmed acts. Sadly, and for various reasons, Archie Combe and Tom Harris had to cancel, and our opening act, Pewsey singer-songwriter, Cutsmith was also unable to attend. The worry took me until 10pm when I unleashed a masterplan; Tamsin Quin cropped up on the book of face, to thank me for reviewing the new Lost Trades single, and so, whammy, I dispatched note of my concern and asked nicely if she would be able to grace us with her presence, and naturally, sing us a song or three.

I highly suspect they’re secretly superheroes, Tamsin, Jamie and Phil, and if not, they certainly saved my skin, more than once before. Tamsin dragged Jamie R Hawkins along, and as their alter-egos with no need for superhero costumes, they did it again. Thank you both so, so much. Tamsin gave it her all, which needs no surprise, her confidence and professionalism doesn’t preside her charming grace and skill to entertain. Jamie accompanied her brilliantly on cajon, claiming to be “getting into it now!” after just two songs in.

Then Cath and Gouldy rocked up on their way to the Southgate, to play as their folk duo Sound Affects, which was, as ever, blindingly awesome. All originals and finishing on Mr Blue Sky and Come on Eileen covers, it was superb. So, a massive thanks to them.

The finale then, was rocked by Mr Michael J Barham, which I’ve said already, but needs another mention. Thanks to everyone who turned up and made it really special day, including our photographers, Ruth, Nick and Gail, writer Andy and all the supporters. Thanks to Brogans for having us, I trust we behaved, least it could’ve been worse, believe me! It’s times like this which make Devizine feel more than me clonking on a keyboard, and rather a thing of community, of spirit and substance. Though now I’m back clonking, vainly bigging up our own gig, which I justify by noting it’s not about me, or my bacon roll, and more about the good folk who regularly contribute to make this website function, the musicians, writers and photographers, and supporters. Here’s to more, I want more!

This is not an act of vanity, but a condition Gail set forth in order for me to get permission to use them! Thanks Gail, it takes a highly skilled photographer to capture me smiling!

Bristol Hip Hop Group, The Scribes Coming to Salisbury

Described by The Evening Herald as, “raw and exciting, honest and sensitive, a soulful brand of rap,” Bristol’s trailblazing hip hop outfit, The Scribes play Salisbury’s The Winchester Gate, on Saturday September the 12th.

The Winchester Gate is a community pub just on the out skirts of Salisbury city centre which heralds live music, particularly supporting reggae and hip-hop culture. The event is free, The Scribe planning to begin at 7pm.

The Scribes are a multi-award-winning hip hop trio, whose unique blend of beatboxing, off-the-cuff freestyling and genre-spanning music has created a critically acclaimed live show quite unlike any other on the scene today, with appeal ranging far beyond traditional hip hop fare.

The Scribes at BeCider Festival

They have consistently proven to be an impressive and engaging live act with 2019 festival appearances at Glastonbury, Wilderness Festival, Shambala, Boomtown Fair, Bearded Theory, to name but a few, and have toured extensively across the UK and onto Europe.

The Scribes are also proud winners of both the Exposure Music Award’s “Best UK Urban Act” and the EatMusic Radio Award’s “Best Live Act”, and have provided original music for BBC and Channel 4 television, as well as being featured regularly on both national and local radio and media including BBC 1Xtra and BBC Radio 1 Introducing.

Hotly tipped as one to watch, The Scribes have shared stages with the likes of Macklemore, Wu Tang Clan, Dizzee Rascal, Kelis, Rag N Bone Man, Example, Lethal Bizzle, The Wailers, Jurassic 5, Sugarhill Gang, KRS One, De La Soul, MF Doom, and Souls Of Mischief, and are steadily establishing a growing following across the continent to add to their already significant fan base at home.

Check out their new EP, The Totem Trilogy Part 1 here.


Two Man Ting Bring Sunshine to the Southgate Today

Winding up their “mini tour,” after last night’s gig at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, world/reggae duo, Two Man Ting appear at Devizes Southgate for an afternoon session from 4 to 6pm.

Midlands Jon Lewis and Sierra Leonian Jah-Man Aggrey, are a branch of world dance collective Le Cod Afrique, who play a cheerful combination of multicultural roots-pop. A welcome addition to the Southgate’s continuing mission to provide a diverse range of live music to Devizes; and a grand job they’re making of it!

With Aggrey’s bright, chatty vocals and bongos, and Lewis’s acoustic guitar picking, this promises to be something great and wholly different around these waters. They’ve done the festival scene from Womad and Glasto to the Montreux Jazz Festival & Glastonbury, and their acclaimed album “Legacy” has been much featured on BBC Radio 3 & BBC 6 Music.

Should be a good ‘un!

Opinion: House Party Organiser in Devizes Issued with £10,000 Fine

Daniel Jae Webb reports for Wiltshire 999s that the organiser of the house party, in Wick Lane, Devizes on Friday night, has been issued a £10,000 fine by Wiltshire Police, for ignoring a police warning.

Officers were called to the house and requested the party was be shut down in line with COVID-19 regulations, and claims their pleas were ignored. A spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said, (which I’ve had to amend the basic grammar of, like a primary school teacher): “As we continue to navigate through the COVID pandemic, we all have to take personal responsibility for our actions and adhere to the regulations.”

“Despite a warning, the organiser allowed the gathering of 80-100 people to continue, which is in clear breach of the current restrictions. Which states that ‘no gathering of more than 30 people may take place indoors, which would constitute a rave, if it were outdoors; amplified music, at night and due to loudness, duration and time it would likely cause significant distress to locals.”

Partygoers were dispersed and the hefty fine was issued. It’s a substantial amount for anyone to digest, the website stated, “there is no discretion given to set a lower amount.” Job done police, story dusted and archived. In my opinion, though, I’m afraid it feels far from over and arguably raises a number of questions.

I feel impelled ask then, firstly, was it shut down for safety reasons, due to the pandemic, or as the Wiltshire Police spokesman clearly states here, “amplified music at night would likely cause significant distress to locals?”

I cannot help but agree in this era of the pandemic we all must consider the risks and act accordingly, but the environment must be attained for people to want to do this, and take action appropriately, rather than feel they are being forced by law. Yes, the organiser and everyone who attended was putting their own health and the health of others at risk, and were foolish to do so. And when the officers attempted to engage with the group, they should have taken heed. Yet they should have wanted to do this of their own free will.

The harder the law, the more likely the rebellion toward it, though it may be important for the law to be enforced, an unaffordable fine such as this is draconian. It’s likely to have an adverse effect from the youth, who understandably see their lives disrupted in the same manner as everyone else, yet with no clear indication of ideas are being pitched to support them.

We’re casting our children out into the riskiest easing of lockdown ruling since it began, by returning them to school and college, and though you may deem it necessary, can you not also see they must feel like lab rats?

From all ancient philosophies and all of history we see a continuous pattern; people wishing to gather and celebrate is ingrained in our psyche and culture. And let’s face it, the conservative ethos set to stamp out partying long before this pandemic.

The breakup of the trend of the free festival scene in the eighties, only constituted a bigger problem to attempt to outlaw, the raves in the nineties. Retrospective youth cultures we can reflect back on now, and realise and agree the occurrences of these events were not only ground-breaking for artistic progression, and memorable for the attendees, but in reality, harmless fun.

Regulating and eventual normalising of the Criminal Justice Bill, saw something far worse; a political and social rejection of society, and a fight between police and people; a disgruntled conflict.

The psychological effect of lockdown is only just beginning to be felt, as we venture away from it. You feel isolation for the elderly was difficult, how was it for our younger generation who, by the illusion of timespan, six months feels far longer? The need in younger people to party must be recognised, as I’d imagine older generations reflect upon their youth misdoings. Rather we’re stamping our authority around and closing individual cases with a pat on the back and a job well done. We should, as a society in the dawn of change, be considering how we can arrange and organise celebratory events and parties sensibly and safely.

We have managed to adopt and implement new systems for shopping, for eating out, travel, and all other activities older generations wish to engage in, we should now focus on ways to keep the younger satisfied too. I don’t profess to have the answers, but believe by thinking together, and frankly, giving a hoot about our entire population, we can work out methods to accomplish it. Furthermore, if ideas were suggested and implemented so parties could go ahead safely, the need and want to break the law will surely lessen.

Break up the party, yes indeed, as we’re far from out of the water, but chuck people a paddle. They need a release; they need party and celebrate now more than ever in these trying times. If not, issue 10k fines to all who break the regulations; every grandad who forgets and leans over you in a supermarket, every businessman internationally jetting around the world, anyone, I dunno, who felt like driving across the country during lockdown to visit a castle, perhaps?

The Lost Trades on Cloud 9

New song from our local purveyors of the perfect folk vocal harmony trio, The Lost Trades. Out for another Bandcamp Day, today, Friday, where the website drops it’s fees and gives the artists 100% royalties; and darn it, if this isn’t worth a quid when it constitutes a mere quarter-cup of coffee from a posh café these days, I dunno what is.

The origin of the idiom, cloud nine is largely debated. Explanations relating the US Weather Bureau of the 1950s denoting fluffy cumulonimbus type clouds, or the penultimate stage of the progress to enlightenment for a Bodhisattva, are mostly debunked. But who needs a debate when you’re in a definite state of blissful contentment anyway?!

All you need know is this tune will land you on said cloud as if you were the monkey-god Sun Wukong on a mission. We are blessed with all the hallmarks of a Lost Trades signature tune; the calming tingle of xylophone, the gentle sway of acoustic guitar, the heavenly vocal harmonies, and uplifting lyrics to boot.

As Pink Floyd, around the Meddle era, after a bout of heavy space rock, when it suddenly drifts into thoughtful acoustic mega-bliss, this song just drifts akin, without need of heaviness, of Simon & Garfunkel, perhaps, meandering along a river on a gondola, thinking; hey man, let’s, like, sing; and it’s gorgeous, as we may’ve come to expect from this Trowbridge-Devizes trio. I wonder if we’re looking at a track from the highly anticipated album, yet, even if no, it’s the perfect display of progression for the newly-formed trio, who’s exceptional solo careers combine to create just as the title suggests; sitting on cloud nine.

With Tamsin advancing with her album, and Phil some way in front, teasing us with a cover design for his, titled Revelation, it’s clear the solo side projects will continue, but as a trio they bounce perfectly off each other, though it’s hardly a shove, more mooch.  Download it here.