Song of the Day 15: The Emertarians

Anytime is a good time for some roots reggae, Sunday morning, doublely so.

Enter one of my favourite current reggae bands, from Madrid, the Emertarians.

They always remind me of an occasion, at a festival in Andalusia. I watched this great French reggae band. The slighty rotound frontman looked rather like the late, great Jacob Miller. After the performance I noted he was standing close to me, watching the following act. I went over in hope of telling him how much I enjoyed their music, praying they spoke English.

I momentarily regretted my school French lessons, which I spent making homemade comics out of text books, as he replied with an adamant no upon asking if he spoke English.

All the vocabulary my intoxicated mind could conjour was “tres bien,” so I repeated it perpetually in true Del-Boy fashion!

Otherwise the meeting was the awkward silence of communication breakdown, in which I suspected they thought I was completely nuts. Not so far from the truth.

So, I namedropped Jacob Miller and suddenly we had understanding and mutual respect for the man. My point is, sometimes the Emertarians sing in Spanish and sometimes English, often the Spanish ones more emotive, but reggae has no language barriers, because it’s spiritual meaning and uplifting ambiance is universal. As with the French Jacob Miller-alike, we were on the same song sheet….

Naturally at that conjunction, I rolled a joint.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Wiltshire Rural Music to Stream Gigs from Trowbridge Town Hall

Wonderful Trowbridge-based music charity, Wiltshire Rural Music revealed an online programme project, Live at Town Hall, today.

In collaboration with Trowbridge Town Hall, they plan to stream full concerts of our outstanding local musicians, starting in February. I hope to have more information for you, when dates and acts are announced.

Wiltshire Rural Music do an outstanding job supporting and enabling local communities and individuals to realise their musical potentials and fullfilling their ambitions. They provide room hire, give bursaries and work closely with Alzheimer’s Support, taking music into care homes and schools across the county.

More info on the work they do here. Follow them on Facebook for details of the streamed gigs.


Around and Around, and Hitting a High; Kirsty Clinch on Top Form

You can give it to me straight and agree, I’m old. Though as much as I hold dear the hours browsing record shops for a seven-inch slither of vinyl, the stream’s advantage is manyfold. Perhaps none more than the increased availability and distribution of home-made wares.

Vinyl junkies were restricted to what the music industry decided. While DIY music was around then, it was a needle in an underground haystack, obscured by a lack of prior knowledge of counter culture distribution, and even if you were aware, still they cost post and packaging.

Send a SAE in good faith, and when the musician finally finished his last bong, made it off his scabby sofa to the post office, you’d receive your cassette, only to find out it wasn’t as good as you’d been convinced it was by the crazy fractal advert in a punk-paste zine. We’ve come a long way, folks.

Local independent, country, singer songwriter, Kirsty Clinch posts on Facebook, one of the many social media platforms she tweaks to promote her music. Her latest single, Around and Around has reached a staggering 2K Spotify streams in just five days, managing to peak at number four in the iTunes country chart. It’s an achievement made mostly on her own, but does it prove the value of DIY rather than aiming to be signed by a label, can anyone with social media savvy achieve it, or is simply that it’s a great song from an exceptionally talented musician?

It’s certainly that much. Dreamy and evoking, Around and Around sees the ever-enlightening Kirsty at the ultimate perch in her career, in line for the forthcoming album, it leaves you dripping in anticipation for more. “Around & Around is all about catching your dreams,” she explained, “taking chances and not getting stuck in ruts; that’s just what I’m doing right now.”

A smidgen punchier than her previous release, Fit the Shoe, and perhaps even more beguiling than that beauty. To hear it is to engrossed in its pensive narrative, as all classic country should. But its Americana influences are subtle, it never references peripheral subject, as much UK country artists feel impelled to mention boxcars, dustbowls, and things you wouldn’t expect to find in their English suburban hometowns. No, Around and Around, like, Fit the Shoe is romantically topsy-turvy themed, flexible for a wider, international audience and contemporary sounding.

That said, Kirsty is no stranger to authenticity, travelling and performing in Nashville at venues such as the Blue Bird. Aside the clear influence of country’s leading ladies, the likes of Parton and Wynette and modern folk-rock artists, KT Tunstall and KD Lang spring to mind, Around and Around evoked memories of Kate Bush more than any other tune I’ve heard of Kirsty’s, in its haunting atmosphere rather than vocal arrangement. I put this to her.

“I don’t get the Kate Bush thing; my voice is not as squeaky!” she laughed, “I’m not a big fan of hers, which is weird as you’re not the first person to say it either. She’s huge though and loved for what’s she does, so I won’t complain!”  I had to explain I meant more the whole ambience of the sound rather than squeakiness of her voice, but we needed to move onto the immediate success of this particular tune, and where she hope it will lead.

“It won’t go higher,” Kirsty predicts, and I hope she’s wrong. “Only slowly hides away after that, the famous people take over sooner or later! But songs can always come back, so [I’ve] just got to keep hustling.”

I took Kirsty back a couple of years, sitting chatting on the lawn at BromFest, we discussed the hopes of an album then; best things come to those who wait. Aside her nonchalant social media persona, I perceive Kirsty to be a perfectionist on the quiet, certainly shows with these two singles. “Yes, I have one more coming out hopefully before May, and then I’ll drop the 14-track album,” she announced, “That’s why it’s taken so long, it’s a big one, but for a first timer in online sales, I had to do it to catch up!”

I’m aware Peter Lamb had a hand in this remarkable achievement, so I name-dropped the local legend, “all produced by Pete?”

“I did the whole thing in my bedroom studio by myself,” Kirsty replied, adding an angel emoji. “Pete added the bass, and then corrected my mixing and mastering mistakes at the end, as I got frustrated on the last bit! So, I’m pretty proud of it for that reason.”

It must be a relief to get an album complete, but the hard work is only halfway there, getting out and promoting it follows. Which part does Kirsty favour, despite psychically getting out and launching is impossible at the moment?

“I like all of the process,” she chuckled. “Gigs will come back, I’m just making the most of the situation and working with what I’ve got for now, there is always a way around things when you’re creative.”

Returning to my opening notion, due to developments in tech and a motivation for independence, a professional sound can be achieved at home. Kirsty furthered that she did the artwork and music video for this track all by herself too, due to lockdown.

“The album launch is not so essential,” she pondered, “when I can promote it just as good online anyway now.” As I said, Kirsty has a sturdy online presence, accomplished at building a YouTube audience, but is that more important to her than an album?

“It’s equal. All my fans are excited for the album! But the social media side of things mean they get to know you more, which is essential for selling music in the first place. Loads of people sell music, the marketing is the part that makes them what to listen to yours.”

And her secret?

“Get to know your story etc,” Kirsty elucidated, “and connect with the music; if you just say ‘buy my single’ and that’s all your social media is about, you won’t get many results.”

For the end of our chat, we dithered and pondered if the angle of this piece should focus on the song or herself. I’m of the opinion, when the creative open themselves up to releasing art, a part of creator is revealed through it, so practically, they’re similar. You are the song; the song is you; be one with the song! It’s why naïve teenage fans really believe they know a popstar enough to fall in love with them, and perhaps is augmented with homemade product. There’s a huge connection between the singer and the song, though, I put to Kirsty.

“Yah, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and they would have all the details anyway!” I suggest you do, as the interconnection is all-encompassing, the song is awesome, and likewise, so is Kirsty Clinch.


Carmela Wins Points of Light Prime Minister Award

A huge congratulations to Carmela and the Chillery-Watson family of Lavington, who knew nothing about the Points of Light awards until Carmela was rewarded with one this week. “We are absolutely bowled over with pure happiness at this surprise award,” mum Lucy said.

First established in the USA by President George Bush in 1990, UK Points of Light was developed in partnership with the US programme and launched at Downing Street in 2014. Since then, hundreds have been named Points of Light by the Prime Minister, highlighting an enormous array of innovative and inspirational volunteering across the length and breadth of Britain.

Points of Light are outstanding individual volunteers; people making a change in their community, and after her 300km challenge last year, we couldn’t think of anyone more suitable and deserving than our lovable Carmela.

Diagnosed at the age of three with L-CMD, a progressive muscle-wasting disease which weakens every muscle over time, Carmela is now six and has come a colossal way in raising awareness and funds for Muscular Dystrophy, and continues to be an inspiration to us all.

“Thank you, Boris,” Carmela said, “this is awesome news, I can’t believe it, it’s so amazing. Thank you so much.” Although the prime minister is just another celebrity notched on Carmela’s campaign trail, meeting with the likes of Beverly Knight, Frank Bruno, Jimmy Carr, and even Harry Duke of Sussex. Oh, and not forgetting last September when Wonder Woman actress, Gal Gadot, donated over £3K to Carmela’s fund. Face it, between Boris and Gal, I know which one I’d rather meet!

It’s a wonder, excuse the pun, if Carmela remembers the morning when she helped me on my milk round at all. I hope so, as it was a pleasure to meet her, Lucy and dad, Darren, and an occasion, I’ll always hold dear; even if I was a little tired and smelly!

CEO of Muscular Dystrophy UK Catherine Woodhead congratulated Carmela, and added, “everyone at MDUK is thrilled that Carmela’s outstanding fundraising efforts for the charity have been recognised by the Prime Minister. To date, Carmela and her family have raised nearly £50,000 for MDUK.” Which is simply, amazing. Well done Carmela.


Trending……


Candidate for Wiltshire Police & Crime Commissioner barred from Volunteering to Administer Lateral Flow Covid Tests

Is it campaign point-scoring, as the authorities seem to presume, or concern for health which encouraged Wiltshire PCC candidate, Mike Rees to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests? Whatever, the bottom line is discouraging anyone from attempting to help out during this crisis is bureaucratic nonsense.

And besides, just a brief chat with Mike recently, throughly convinced me his motives are genuine. He’s an open minded, authentic and down-to-earth guy, with experience in the field and a passion for the role.

Mike explains: “It’s with great surprise and disappointment that I have to let you know that I have been stopped, and apparently barred, from becoming a volunteer in the police effort to combat Covid19.

As a retired police officer I put my name forward for volunteer duties last year when the pandemic struck.

Mike Rees

This month I answered another call to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests to police officers and staff. I had a training session earlier this week and completed the online NHS assessment and passed to certificate my competency for the task.

Today I was expecting to attend a ‘dry run’ session however I’ve now been told I cannot attend as they have to investigate the ‘rules’ as allowing me to volunteer may suggest bias on their part because I’m a candidate for the role of Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner.

I’m disappointed and dismayed to be denied the opportunity to volunteer to support the police, a force I worked in for 30 years.

I’ve asked for the ‘rules’ to be clarified as I see no possible concerns.

For your information, I do not agree with this decision to bar me from volunteering. 

I’m standing as an independent candidate, not aligned to any political party and volunteering was a personal decision.”

Mike is fast becoming the outside chance of becoming our PCC, and we’re backing him fully here on Devizine after his Malmesbury boxing club recently helped out the homeless, appealing for  donations of sleeping bags , food and clothes from locals and delivering them to the OpenDoors support agency in Devizes.

Plus, this is, by far, not the first charitable thing Mike has engaged in.


Song of the Day 14: King Hammond Meets Death of Guitar Pop

Great things about ska are many fold, but a topper most one has to be collaboration. Rather than set groups, as with most mainstream music, musicians uniting for projects is common and has always been the ethos of ska and reggae since day dot. Perhaps being the very reason it’s so lively and communal.

Another great thing about our song of the day, where Islington’s ska legend Nick Welsh, aka King Hammond, teams up with that crazy Essex duo Death of Guitar Pop, is the ska style displayed, near enough mimics the jump blues “shuffle” on which ska is originally based.

But history aside, let’s just enjoy this new track for all it’s worth. DoGP are fast rising in rank on the UK ska scene, with a carefree “Nutty Boys” fashion, it’s easy to see why.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Join me every Friday night at 10pm on www.bootboyradio.net

Song of the Day 13: Antoine & Owena

Congratulations go to folk duo Antonie & Owena for winning the G.S.M.C award for Best Album this year. Yet it’s not their first award, winning best duo at last year’s GSMC, and others. Here’s Something Out of Nothing, which I think explains all you need to know about how and why they won it!

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Rise of the Snowmen!

Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for…. or maybe not. This isn’t the Greatest Showman, this is the greatest SNOWman! Yes, we held a little snowman competition, and here’s how it went…..

Two things didn’t occur to me upon posting a picture of our snowman on our Facebook page, offering others to do likewise in a competition fashion. Firstly, the colossal response, but I guess Sunday’s snowfall was a golden opportunity to get out of houses and have a little social distanced fun. Alas, now the power of the sun and rain has reduced the white blanket to the odd splatter here and there. We will always have photographic memories of our once proud sculptures, and a carrot on the front lawn. Here comes some now……

Secondly, how to actually go about judging a snowman competition, never having judged anything of the sort before. I gathered some thoughts to criteria, I Googled and found some rather serious rules from other such competitions.

Jonesy McSnow and Lucy (age 10)

Certain I wasn’t intending to make it half as serious as these, their judgements were much as I anticipated. There are factors to consider. Creativity for starters. Originality, tradition, competence, and dedication are equally important. Size is good, but it’s, as you know, not everything, when building a snowman that is.

Towering over the playpark on Devizes Green, Bally Bongo’s Bob stands at over 6ft 2. By
Archie(8) Blu (4) and a little help by the parents!
This snow Kong at the Henly’s has sacred everyone back inside!
The Russell Family’s got an outie belly button bigger than the average snowman!
The Waterman’s daughter’s first snowman is huge!
Stay back, he’s got a taste for meat, or is that a twig?!
From the tall to the small, it doesn’t matter, he looks happy!
Don’t, don’t, don’t you, forget about me!

Many were divided into age groups, which I figured awkward. Building a snowman is usually a group activity, it’s about families, all ages contribute. Kids run around trying to construct the starting ball, dads get the backbreaking task of rolling it up and taking half the grass and autumn leaves with it, while mums usually stay in the warm sourcing carrots and hats; it’s a communal experience for sure! Okay, I’m generalising for artistic license and know it’s not really like that, trying to be funny, when really, judging a snowman competition is snow joke (see what I did there?) But making a snowman has no boundaries or conditions, any age, and race and gender, everyone together, getting creative….

Amazing!
Best buddies!
Hide your carrots, there’s a snow bunny about! Pictured with it’s creator; grand job, Faith!
The apple of Pingu’s eye! Well done Willow & Jonah!
Very retro, Kiana!
Shiver me timbers!
Mange tout, Hoffman, you plonker!

He made snow chicks, cats and dogs….

Arrow through the head??!
Great rocket ship, Isacc…. oh, you’ve sledged away!
Shark invasion in Sam’s garden!
And a hoodie in Kev’s yard!
Buddha in Urchfont!
And some lounging about!

But part of the beauty of creating a snowman is the feeling of togetherness. Here is an art where anyone can be the artist, provided they’re willing to get wet gloves. And in that notion, where some strive to be original, often the traditional method is tried and tested. A good snowman doesn’t need to be carved by Henry Moore with flawless features; he needs a carrot for a nose, he needs two pebbles for eyes, twigs for arms and an old hat and scarf. We live in a traditional county, after all.

Tracey and Sara Whatley did the hard work, the horses reaped the benefits!

Then again, there’s something striking when creative genius gets to work and original ideas bend the theme. Some can be topical, facemasks a common theme this year, or culture based, whereas some can be funny, others damn-right rude….

The Barter family make use of their brussels sprouts after Christmas!
Zeb’s snowman has a snow booty!
Ol’ broccoli eyes is back; Guardian of the wheelie bins!
Either they tried to put wellies on this snowman, or it ate a small child!
Facemasks on, here comes the foreman tree inspector!
Dog photobomb at the Diskett’s!
Somebody call the snow doctor!
Anyone seen the funnel bit to mum’s vacuum cleaner?!
Take two bottles into the shower? No, I just wash n snow!
Anymore snow coming, I need a friend? Not for you, sprout-face!
Got to look your best when doing a spot of gardening…
Hit and run snowman attack!
Skateboarding on ice is dangerous, but when else can a snowman hit the half-pipe?
I’m all for gender neutral snow people, but this one has lady’s assets and a six-pack!
You’re only ever one jacket away from being a goth!
I thought about making this the winner; they’ve got to win something after all!
Office party, you know how it goes…..
Jimmy Saville goes skiing?

Rudeness I can take, live by it; but at least drag yourself away from Babestation for a few minutes to get out and actually build a snowman, rather than, as some did, Google “rude snowman” and share the first image which pops up. Sad, but true, spoils it for the kids, of all ages.

Rule Britannia, we shall, we shall never stuff a whole loaf in our mouths at once?
Heavy night, anyone got a paracetamol?
I’ve had enough of this, I’m off to live with the wolves…..
Will you be my friend?
I am robo-snowman!

Can I pick a winner?

Drum roll…… Tricky. I’ve narrowed it down to my ten favourites, and here they are. I apologise, I tried to source a snowman type of prize, but they’re a tad out of season and this was a spontaneous idea. I think a bit of future planning, for next year’s snow storm, being the idea was so popular, and we could have prizes. For now, winners can print off my certificate here, and a colour-me-in sheet, if they like that sort of thing! Thank you all so much for letting me see your brilliant snowmen, I loved looking at them all, having a penchant for snowmen, I admit unashamedly!

Oh, and if you do colour them, I’d love to see your fine colouring skills!

Never over-complicate the objective. Matrim Vaux, age 6 knows less is more with Bill the snow owl.
Leo, age 5, and Hallie, age 2 looking a tad cold, but like they’re having so much fun!
Topical from the Collins family, but he looks awesome!
I just love this picture, Casey, age 6 looks so proud as she strikes a pose, but Archie, age 3, seems distracted by something else happening elsewhere; it’s a guy thing Casey!
By Justina Hams and her seven year-old. Because he’s so smooth and grand looking!
Rob Jobson understated his snowman, saying “it’s the taking part that matters!” No mate, he’s superb in his simplicity!
A team effort from the Lake family, and a grand job made of it!
Marc Spartacus Fleming and Leia (2!) This is Steve the snowman, and he just works!
Are you in competition with your snowman for the best hat, Ava-Mae?! A grand effort, you look proud and so you should be!
Just to put a hat on her snowman wasn’t enough, Alison Sinclair (45!) carved it, and all other features so brilliantly!

Song of the Day 12: Darla Jade

Even portions of expressive contemporary pop, the ambience of post-goth and downtempo electric blues of trip hop makes this Staffordshire singer, Darla Jade really someone to watch. With a haunting uniqueness about her voice and style, there’s shards of Evanescence fused with Beth Orton. It’s somehow individually chartable but would also appease alternative rock or goth aficionados alike.

Subscribe to her YouTube channel, hear her own stamp on Radiohead’s Creep, and realise, her talent is so very special.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 11: Dakka Skanks

No video to this one. Do we need visuals? Not when it’s this good; my favourite track of Brighton-based contemporary ska heads, Dakka Skanks.

They’re lively, diverse, lots of fun, and I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the near future.

If the Duallers have reached a pivotal point akin to the Specials, and Death of Guitar Pop are providing the tongue-in-cheek Madness equivalent, I believe these guys could be The Beat of this era, as there was a band unafraid to experiment.

Dakka Skanks are majorly ska, but throw a lovable but carefree punk attitude, and a wide range of other influences, such as soul, into the melting pot, and concoct something uniquely entertaining.

Very good. Carry on….


Skates and Wagons: Path of Condie

If I’d one criticism of Britpop, during its heyday, least that which the pop charts threw at us, was, in an era of progressing technological electronica, embedded deep in my psyche, Britpop, to me felt regressive. I argued at the time, if The Beatles were still together, in their prime, they’d be producing techno or drum n bass, for they were trailblazing, innovative and progressive. Whereas, picking on Oasis, particularly, being they seemed to strive to be a Beatles tribute as far as I could see, were relapsing to a previous generation.

Then the crossover crossed back over. If waning was a heady dawn of the nineties where rock fused electronica on the Madchester scene, towards the end of the decade The Prodigy were advancing with an almost punk slant, and Noel Gallagher was lending his vocals to the Chemical Brothers. To pick the era apart now is futile, no one remembers what the fuck was going on most of the time!

Let’s agree to disagree, put it in the past and note today, retrospection is big business, and there’s nothing wrong with songs which hark back to the sixties, for it was pioneering but more importantly, divine and inspiring. Particularly when, rather than regenerating cover songs, but acting as a base of inspiration. We see a lot of this; from the sixty’s British blues scene to bubble-gum pop, but perhaps not produced with as much passion as Skates & Wagons.

Skates & Wagons

They sent me a link to their album, Path of Condie on Boxing Day, so apologies it was put on the backburner but I had Scrabble tiles to lay and Quality Street to puke. The EP I reviewed previously appears to be taken down, and I’m unsure why. The album, is akin to all I mentioned about the EP, only more so. If regenerating Britpop is tiresome and monotonous to you, you need to check this Oxford duo, because they manage it with the precision, innovation and splendour of classic pop-rock and blues of that sixties period, with bells on.

I mean sure, it opens with an interesting approach, Chevron Waltz proves this is going to be no everyday indie-Britpop ride, it is indeed as the name suggests, a waltz. If we’re going to revel in compassions, I’ll cite The Kinks or Small Faces, The Spencer Davis Group, The Troggs, but predominantly the Beatles, more than Oasis. Plus, we’d need to break it down with the fab-four’s individual preferences. Opening then is experimental, merging traditional styles of music is certainly McCartney, yet the majority, like Indian Summer rolls smooth, like the later Beatles, Sane Again is anthemically mellowed; very George Harrison.

But this is an album which builds progressively, just like the sixties did. The earlier tunes, initiate sixties pop, and sit at radio-friendly three-to-four-minute timings. Mr Wake Up, for example, explains how it’s going to roll for the time being, beat-based shards of classic pop-rock. But things liven up at Conversation with God, the walt reprise towards the end nuances the album is progressing the entire decade and we’re midway. Waste of the Sky is subtly psychedelia, like the opening to the beatnik period.

It’s this equidistant section where Skates and Wagons really shine, it’s as if we didn’t need the 1980s, we were fine where we were. Catchy tracks like The Man Who Never Sleeps and All the Love mirror the advancing changes of the middle of the decade, and bring us in line with classic seventies rock bands like Genesis and ELO.

It leaves you dripping for the concentrated, lengthier compositions the trend which followed via Floyd and Hendrix et all, and Skates and Wagons deliver. As Path of Condie develops it builds to more ending with a beautiful eight-minute composition, Yesterday’s Love. It’s beguiling and timeless splendour, catchy as pop, definitive as classic rock.

If we’ve seen a relived trend with scooterists and mod culture recently, these guys are a hot contender to front such a movement, as opposed to a Britpop throwback band going through archaic motions. Though there’s often a dispelling, or more, overlooked aspect with the current trend, in the interesting and natural progress to the late-sixties beatnik and flower-power movements; scooterists don’t go for that, and while there’s nothing so “way-out” as Zappa on offer through Skates & Wagons, it does reflect those initial, optimistic changes of the mid-sixties. And in this notion, is what divides the duo from the bulk standard; yeah, fab, love it!


Trending…..

Graham Steel Music Awards Online Tomorrow

Join the GSMC on Friday 22nd January at 8pm for a celebration of grassroots music as they present this year’s GSMC Music Awards Live Online on YouTube, where they will announce the Winners of all 12 categories and will include live and pre recorded music from some of the nominees as well as a look back at the year and celebrate all those people that helped keep the grassroots music scene alive in 2020.

GSMC Music Awards Night will be streamed live from YouTube on Friday 22nd January at 8pm, the link for this is below:


Song the Day 10: Summit 9 Studios

Funkin’ for Devizes. This lockdown project from Tom Harris, Dan and Ross Allen and Rich, Summit 9 Studios has just been given a funky lift with this blinder, Change Change Change, bang on cue for me hunting for a song of the day.

Saucy effort guys, love it!

Very good. Carry on….


Song the Day 9: Emily Lockett

Facebook memories posts a year ago this week we rocked up in the Celler Bar raising money for the Waiblingen Way Fire fund, and makes me stops and think about the years I’ve been smashing out articles on Devizine. So many artists and bands we’ve mentioned, I rarely forget about them, this one I admit I nearly did. Most likely because I didn’t get the opportunity to attend Stoke-on-Trent’s teenage country sensation Emily Lockett’s gig at Dean’s Country Club, then operating at Devizes Cons Club, later at the Cavalier.

So, nice as it is to discover new talent, equally important is to recap. Emily must be nearing her twenties now, and as a musical prodigy from aged 5, her expertise shines through in a matured sense now. This track, Front Porch says it all.

And that’s my song of the day for today.

Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 8: Mansion of Snakes

The deeper I delve into Afrobeat the more gorgeous it gets, and I’m discovering bands closer to home. Nubiyan Twist, for example, who are from Oxford rather than the Sudan as it might sound. I’m loving this sound, and got to get a review down of their forthcoming album.

Today though, check Leeds ten-piece behemoth, bone-shaking afrobeat collective, Mansion of Snakes. These devil-funk and cosmic jazz 
serpents give it their all, and there’s stuff, cool stuff to download as name your price on their Bandcamp page. Say no more.

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 7: Mr Tea & the Minions

Sunday off, broke my promise to post a song of the day, everyday. Allow me to make up for it. Bristol’s Mr Tea & the Minions with a lockdown themed song. See how sublimely they fire a frenzy of folk and Balkan styled ska-punk into festival proportions. I think they’re the hottest bands around these parts, and fondly reviewed the album, Mutiny a while ago. Just a reminder today then, these kids have it.

I made enquiries, wanting to bring them to Devizes. It’s no cheap option and obviously currently off the cards.

The reservation is that just because I’m loving this style, it might too radical for a Devizes audience. So, I’d appreciate some feedback; would you have paid a purple one to see them play in our town?

Fingers crossed, we live for a better day. But I believe lobbying a large Devizes venue to bring contemporary music direct to us, just occasionally, is crucial to the culture diversity we should be delving into.

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


“Nobody has Wanted to Talk about Hunting, Other than Trolls!” Says PCC Candidate Jonathon Seed

Busy day, chatting to Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidates and The Wilts Hunt Sabs; something is conflicting…

In 2012 five members of the Avon Vale Hunt, including the master huntsman and Wiltshire councillor, Jonathon Seed appeared in court charged with breaching the Hunting Act 2004. Though they all denied the breach before magistrates in Chippenham, Seed made a statement released to the Wiltshire Times, “This is a private prosecution by the RSPCA and I believe that it has been commenced for political reasons, as their stance against hunting is well known and it is of great significance that Wiltshire Police, after advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, declined to take this case forward. These proceedings are an abuse of the private prosecution system, which needs to be addressed in due course.”

And how best to address said abuse? Elect to become Police Crime Commissioner, that’s how. Perhaps it’s an episode the councillor wishes would disappear, going on the rather defensive attitude he put up when I chatted with him about his campaign this morning. And for what’s it’s worth, he provided some great ideas and valid points on subjects he attempted to divert me onto, but I was wondering where he actually stood on hunting, being, you know, it’s illegal, and he’s wants to be Police Crime Commissioner, just felt, well, a tad conflicting.

“Okay, so, not about the campaign then,” he started.

But I think it’s relevant. “Hunting is illegal,” I pointed to the seemingly obvious, “surely we would want a PCC who upholds the law?”

“Are you suggesting that I wouldn’t want the law upheld?” came Jonathon’s reply. Had to say, far from suggesting anything, the question was built behind the datum the huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt appeared in court with allegations he broke the law. And upon experts in the field, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs, who seemed convinced laws had been broken that day. “The badger sett incident,” they confirmed, “it’s clear evidence they were illegally hunting. It’s illegal to use terriers underground (the exemption is in relation to birds, which isn’t relevant on a hunt.) There can only be one reason for sending terriers to ground and that is to flush a fox.”

“You were,” I checked, “huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt at the time?”

“You will already know that I was,” Johnathon stated, “the allegation against me that was unfounded was dropped and is covered in the blog.”

Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claimed, “it wasn’t unfounded at all, the current Huntmaster (Stuart Radborne) was found guilty of interfering with the sett. The fact they couldn’t prove hunting act charges is yet more evidence that the law around hunting needs tightening.”

“Do you have anything to ask about the campaign,” Johnathon inquired, “or are you just interested in the Avon Vale Hunt?”

Yes, I do. So, I asked him, “if successful in the post, would you therefore discourage police to act against hunting offences? I mean, I understand, because they’d be personal friends engaged in something you firmly believe in. Also, would you support a turnaround of the law to allow hunting?”

And thus, came the jaw-dropper.

“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.” Rather than be labelled a “troll,” by Tory boss-cop I allowed myself to be side-tracked. Jonathon was keen to lobby government for further funding, “Wiltshire is the third poorest funded force per head of population in the country, it needs overhauling and I will work with government to achieve this.”

“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.”

Funds would put more officers in our communities, and offer better support for training and officers and staff’s mental health, and I cannot argue with this, though I pondered why it should be; are we all so better behaved in rural Wiltshire, so we don’t need as much policing as an urban area? I know I am!

“Historic underfunding of the force will continue to be an issue due to the way the funding formula is weighted towards some areas,” Johnathon explained, “The current PCC has done nothing to improve the situation and I believe the public deserve a PCC who will lobby the heart of government for better funding.”

I overlooked the oxymoron; “heart of government.”

In true Conservative fashion he blamed Labour, because fourteen years isn’t enough to up a budget. “The formula was created under Blair so naturally favoured labour voting areas,” he reckoned. “Getting the central government funding addressed has to be a priority. Just because we are a rural county doesn’t mean we don’t have sophisticated criminals operating in our towns and villages; domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, county drugs lines all affect our communities….”

“And fox hunters?” I added!

“It’s a shame that without knowing me or talking to me you would assume I would actively seek to have the law overlooked,” Johnathon asserted. “I do not and would not want our police to do this for any crime. The Chief Constable has my full backing to ensure that the law is upheld. There is no picking and choosing who the police ‘police.’ Operational policing isn’t the responsibility of the PCC.”

On the front seems Johnathon has good policies, but they’re undoubtably all politically motivated. Do we need a local councillor in the role, or someone who has been actively in the field, policing? I also spoke to independent candidate Mike Rees, passionate about delivering a quality police service for the people. And have to admit, it was akin to chatting to eager musicians when interviewing them. In fact, if there’s irony in voting for a police candidate suspected of breaking the law, the only similarity is that Mike is in a heavy rock band called “the Lawless!”

He told me of annual fundraising gigs at Level III with a plethora of other bands, which has raised £13K for his own charity “Fatboy’s Cancer Charity,” which aims to bring a smile to children who are suffering from cancer or have other life-threatening illnesses. He was also adamant he loved animals, and aside his respect for traditional aspects of rural life, more needed to be done to enforce the Hunting Act. Mike went as far as telling me he’d like to set up a hedgehog rescue centre in his retirement.

“I know there’s a difference between what the boss says and what the police see, I’d like to see a happy workforce, not demoralised.” He expressed a want to improve the service, the relationship between officers and the bosses, and the public, as he’s been on the beat in Swindon, working up through surveillance and CID to counter-terrorism, called in to help during the London bombing. “No wool pulled over my eyes,” Mike added.

“We’ve seen year on year increases to the policing precept, yet no tangible changes or improvements to the service the public of Wiltshire receive,” Mike stated, “seems evident to me and the many people who I speak with, that the Police sometimes do not have the resources to deal with many of the basic responsibilities that we expect; and all too often we see the cracks of struggling service delivery being papered over with a slick marketing campaign, or dare I say it, a social media post!”

“I know that savings can be made, and I also know how tax-payers money is sometimes squandered by Police managers,” he continued. “A politician who doesn’t understand policing can be told that something is required or best value, and will just accept what they are told. I know whether it is actually nice to have or need to have. Spending needs to be scrutinised very closely and I would look to do that to ensure money is diverted to the right resources and needs.”

Though Mike said Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently. To my knowledge, I am the only independent candidate for Wiltshire so his comments are clearly directed to me!” But “the last thing I want to do is get involved in a continual slanging match with any of the other candidates.” Which is just as well for them, as an amateur boxer, I wouldn’t argue!

Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently.”

He compared his own campaign budget to Johnathon’s on the precept he doesn’t mind if he doesn’t get the job, estimating Seed has “about £50k to spend on campaigning, I’ve got about £50, and I begrudge paying that! Money is squandered when it should be to improve services.”

The hunting issue will always be a touchy subject in any rural settings with opinions so divided. But the law is the law, and if anyone upholds it, it should be Police Crime Commissioner. Though while Mr Seed’s blogposts call for his innocence, they also state: “Millions of people in this country engage in perfectly legal fishing, hunting and shooting pastimes and should not be demonised and bullied by a small but vocal minority who do not approve of these pastimes,” and “It is utterly irrelevant to the vast majority of the electorate whether or not a political candidate had a lawful interest in country sports along with millions of other law-abiding people.” Left me wondering how defending wild animals under lawful methods, could possibly deemed demonising and bullying.

“If you wanted to ask me something sensible about fox hunting,” Johnathon said, “rather than the usual stuff that has been well rehearsed and I know doesn’t resonate with rural voters, ask me my views on the change to trespass and who it will apply to.”

But I didn’t like to ask, changing rules to trespass blatantly is there to halt operations from protesters. The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs said, “we’d love to know if he still hunts, we haven’t seen him out with the AVH, but there was a rumour he may go out with the Tedworth. I suspect he has paused for the election. It’s interesting he calls concerned members of the public “trolls”. How arrogant do you have to be to think that regular members of the public aren’t interested in his background as a fox hunter!”

I’ll let the hits on this article decide, and leave it there. I’m all for deciding the next Police Crime Commissioner based purely on a doughnut eating contest, might be easier, might even win myself! Then you’d all be buggered!


Song of the Day 6: The Simmertones

It’s getting late now and I’ve only just got around to posting our song of the day. Had a piece to write and the obligatory family Scrabble game. Nearly missed the deadline, meaning my promise to post a song each day didn’t quite last a week, but alas, I’m here last minute to seal the deal.

What better then, than the pride of Devon, The Simmertones. They’ve fast made it to a lead name in the UK ska scene, and with their lively shows and crazy ska cover of the Dr Who theme, a personal favourite, it’s easy to see why. A tad more tender, here they are…..

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


Choo-Choo; Dreams of Devizes Railway Station

I know what you’re thinking, I’m a naughty boy; why hasn’t Devizine shared news of the survey about the Devizes Park/Gate/Safe-Way railway station proposal yet, the one on the “official” Devizes website? Well, I’ve been deliberating. But before you judge me, I ask you hear me out.

When I took a bus from the Leigh end of Southend-on-Sea to Shoeburyness, at the other end, which I’d estimate being the equivalent of Devizes to Melksham, it cost one pound. The bus was bustling with a wide demographic, it cost the same across the entire city.

Live in a village just two miles out of Devizes and it’s £2.50 for a single on the bus. Given Devizes Parkway would be a similar distance out on the other side of town, I’d wager it’d be much the same price. Let’s take a family of four from their village for a nice day out to London; a tenner to get town, a purple one just to get to this imaginary station for an overpriced train ticket; not including inflation.

Okay, I’m playing devil’s advocate. Everyone wants a station, including me. Back, long before Devizine, and Danny Kruger could pinpoint Devizes on a map, I put a poll on Facebook for my satirical rant column on Index:Wiltshire, asking what, if you could have anything which was once in Devizes but no longer, would you like to see returned. The top answer was unanimously, a railway station. And I agree. I agree with you all, from young and old, fat and thin, from Tory to leftie and beyond, everyone would like to catch a train from Devizes, even if only to escape!

The argument of education, getting students to colleges, and employment, getting them to work, rather than relying on a rural bus service and of course lessening the environmental impact of commuting are, of course, valid and ample justification. The idea it will attract visitors, helping our local businesses and economy is slightly more dubious, an untested valuation. Simply because they can get here doesn’t mean they will, especially if there’s nothing here to entice them. A view of Monument Hill and the Clock Inn Park are nice, but are hardly an exciting hive of activity.

I cannot help but feel, just as Brexit, and these grand and glorious schemes, a futurism-fashioned Festival of Britain, money saved from being in the EU to help the NHS, vaccinations for everyone by March, a high-speed train to gain three and a half minutes off the journey time from London to Birmingham, or a tunnel under Stonehenge to prevent erosion and people from seeing it without paying, the right-wing majority are suffering delusions of grandeur in a country potentially at it’s knees by the time these under-budgeted dreams will become anywhere near reality. I’m sorry to have to see it this way, but the system is crumbling under our feet because our leaders are only in it for themselves.

Oh, need a relevant example? Boris Johnson only proposed this £500m fund to reopen some of the passenger rail services axed in the Beeching review to win seats from Labour prior to the 2019 general election.

To bring it back to local affairs, feels to me like the potential railway station is only on the cards because Danny Kruger wants to get to Westminster quicker, and Hornby enthusiasts are rallying to kiss his ring. And yeah, as I said, it’s a great idea, for all the reasons stated. But given there’s surely far more important things we could spend the money on in this dilapidating town to improve it for everyone, you know what I’d like to see first and foremost? If we have spare cash to build a Lego station, I’d like to see our poorest, our youngest, eldest and people in care being supported.

I don’t want to see homeless being cleared out from camping in the woods so dog walkers can be free to roam and tie poo-bags to trees. I want to see projects being put into reality which would cost far less than a station, give them a hostel. I’d like to see our playparks and green spaces maintained better, youth clubs and facilities reopened, providing activities which kids actually want to go to.

At the beginning of year, when Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes said yeah, we could that too, but, as I forecast at the time, it was brushed aside. I’d like to drive on flat local roads, rather than negotiating potholes like it’s a lunar landscape. I’d like better road planning, infrastructure and affordable public transport, to avoid congestion. I want to park somewhere without taking out a bank loan. I want to see markets and The Shambles bustling with life, smells of street food and music. I want a free-thinking, flatpack and proactive council, funding sporting events and arts, and not idly watching as so-called charities throw folk with learning disabilities out of their homes.

And once we have achieved these, yes, I’d like a railway station, ta muchly. Not asking for much is it? Tee-hee, yeah, I’m hearing you, life isn’t so simple, this is Devizes, not Shangri-La. That said, I’m uncertain if Shangri-La has a railway station, still, it manages, as we have done since Beeching waved his wand, to get by without one. My family of four, twenty quid down just getting to the station, now they’re looking at train ticket prices. Have you seen train ticket prices recently? Remain calm, but they do often come in triple figure sums. I’ve seen aeroplane tickets to Barcelona cheaper than a return to Paddington.

The big question is, then, how much will it all cost and who is footing the bill? Did we get this grant, and what was that for? I asked Tamara of Devizes Gateway Railway Station steering group.

“The Restoring Your Railway grant from the DfT is for the cost of the Strategic Outline Business Case only and is being supplemented by Wiltshire Council,” she informed me. So already we’ve all put some cost into it through our council tax. “Thereafter, funding would need to be secured for the rest of the Business Case process (Outline Business Case and Full Business Case) and then for the capital costs to build the station.” Tamara added, “we are at the beginning of the process, but the fact that we have secure the grant monies from the DfT puts us in a good place. We now need to prove the business case.”

From there I was directed to a presentation made to the Devizes Area Board in November, which doesn’t explain where the dosh is coming from. I’m only opting for a station if they promise I can drive the train! Just once. But more importantly, I honestly look forward to a time, if I make it to 2025 without Thomas the Tank Engine shooting me, when we could smash my piggy bank for a train ticket, I really do, but the bottom line is, it has to be affordable, for all, especially if the public is footing the bill to build the thing.

Answer the survey, with your thoughts, if you wish. But the jury is still out with me. It’s on the site where a certain member, who shall remain nameless, accused me of spamming when I first launched Devizine, and mysteriously moments later I was in Facebook jail. Of which, such general pettiness is neither here nor there, but I feel worthy of mentioning. I know what you’re thinking, I’m still such a naughty boy!


Trending….

Song of the Day 5: Gecko

Okay, so I’ll be brief; we’ve mentioned Gecko quite a lot recently and I wouldn’t want him to get big-headed! Can you imagine? That was a joke by the way, because in some light one could describe what Gecko does as rap, and could you imagine, in your wildest dreams Gecko being conceited? He’s got to be the most unpretentious rapper ever, though that’s not saying much; narcissistic is the occupational hazard of the average rap star.

If you ain’t got something nice to say, rapper…… Ah, that’s why Gecko is a breath of fresh air. if you need any more proof of how good he is, here’s yesterday’s released video of the title track of his album. Over and out. Have a good rest of the day. Carry on….

Trending Now…

Gull Able

Ah, hope you enjoy my new Sunday series, something a little different…. To Be Continued………


Are the Fire & Rescue Service Cutting Vital Flood Equipment?

Concern mounts after a petition was launched claiming vital flood equipment and training is being planned to be moved from fire stations from Chippenham and Trowbridge to Dorset, and Stratton in Swindon. You know me, usually I jumped at the chance to expose a transgression by authority, but on this occasion, as a response from Assistant Chief Fire Officer James Mahoney suggests the service is merely aligning the way in which all stations operate interchangeably, the jury is out on this one. I know right, impartiality; is this the new me?!

Not really. It gets rather technical, and I don’t do technical. The last thing I will do is belittle the fire service for the grand job they do. So, as I’ve been asked to share news of the petition, like a real reporter, I’ll give you the low down from both sides of the argument, and it’s up to if you choose to sign it; righty then?

Becky Montague, who started the petition argues, “members of the public will have to wait an hour to be rescued safely, instead of eight minutes in the River Avon area, because Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell has decided to remove vital equipment from Chippenham and Trowbridge stations to Dorset, and Stratton in Swindon. This will put the lives at risk of people caught in flooding in an area Mr Ansell knows to be of high risk.”

“Removing equipment and training from the firefighters means that they will respond but be unable to rescue people quickly and with the right tools. Rather than watch people die, they will be forced to carry out dangerous rescues without the vital safety equipment they need.”

“There is no flood risk in Swindon like there is in the Chippenham, Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge areas. Mr Ansell will put residents of Wiltshire at risk and put firefighters in danger.”

This sounds like cause for alarm, and I’m grateful for our reader bringing to my attention. They’re concerned and angered, “We don’t distribute emergency equipment based on geography we do it based on risk otherwise we would have a fire station in the middle of Salisbury plain, we don’t do that because there’s no risk there,” they informed, “The flooding risk is in the river Avon area not in Stratton in Swindon. They’re going to put the council tax precept up again this year, what are Wiltshire residents going to get for that, other than the grateful thanks of Dorset residents for part-funding the service that they provide from the fire service?”

However, Assistant Chief Fire Officer James Mahoney had this response; “A strategic review of the technical rescue provision of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has been carried out. This considered risk and demand across the whole Service area; evidence from historical incident data; geographical station locations; and neighbouring Service capability. A decision on the placement of these facilities is now being considered internally.”

 “Technical rescue includes technical search, rescue from swift water, rescue from height, bariatric rescue, confined space rescue and large animal rescue capability. There are currently six stations providing differing aspects of technical rescue across the two counties of Dorset and Wiltshire. In addition to these technical rescue stations, all fire stations have initial water safety equipment and training, and a large number of our stations also have wading team capability. The provisions at these six stations are not consistent, and most stations do not provide all of the capabilities listed above. As a combined Service, this is neither effective, efficient or resilient.”

 “Whilst technical rescue is not a funded statutory duty for the Fire and Rescue Service, we recognise the importance of having this capability commensurate with the risks faced within our communities across the whole of Dorset and Wiltshire. We are looking to enhance, not diminish, our capability, allowing us a more strategic approach to the positioning of the key elements of technical rescue – which will also add greater resilience by aligning the way in which all stations operate interchangeably.

 “Staff and representative bodies have been briefed, and given the opportunity to contribute their views throughout and engage in this process, and we will be carrying out public consultation on our draft Community Safety Plan for 2021-25 from 17 February to 13 May 2021.”

If I remember rightly, when our estate flooded some years ago, a fire service came from Yeovil to help, stating Wiltshire forces were preoccupied elsewhere. Understandably, this took some time for them arrive, but had it not been for the fire services to be integrated, it may not have happened at all. On the other hand, the dubious line from the Assistant Chief Fire Officer’s statement, “technical rescue is not a funded statutory duty for the Fire and Rescue Service,” concerns me. What constitutes a technical rescue? And if it’s not a statutory duty, why call yourself Fire and Rescue Service?

And, as the Gazette reports, “Summerham and Seend Wiltshire councillor Jonathon Seed, who is also running for the Police and Crime Commissioner post, has pledged to take the case up with MPs saying the decision is outrageous,” well, something is iffy with it; deffo.

Being a man of the people, who I’d like to hear the views of is an actual local firefighter. Your anonymity will be respected if you contact us; but we need the opinion of the men on the ground. In general, I’m at my tether’s end with bureaucratic nonsense from pen-pushers, and I urge any firefighter concerned to please do let us know.

Here’s the petition, should you decide to sign it: https://www.change.org/p/dorset-wiltshire-fire-authority-stop-the-removal-of-vital-rescue-equipment-from-wiltshire-fire-stations


Song of the Day 4: Girls Go Ska

Hi, yeah s’me, keeping up the Song of the Day feature like dedication was as word I know the definition of!

No excuses not to, I mean I am of the generation when Roy Castle clasped his trumpet weekly, ready for the signing off of “Record Breakers.” No, it’s not a euthanasim, Google it whippersnappers.

Might also explain my fondness for brass. Brass is class, and a vital element of ska. Yep, four tunes in and I couldn’t resist sharing some ska with you.

It’s a commonly misguided notion that ska is a retrospective cult here in England. It tends to convey a bygone era of Two-Tone records, boots and braces.

Yet today, while said stereotype has a grounding, ska is an international phenomenon, particularly in South America. I did write a piece about this region’s love for ska, and how it’s roots out of Jamaica bare a different tale from our own.

To show you how fresh it can be elsewhere in the world, and it’s not a reminiscence for a
load of overweight balding pensioners as perceived in the UK, here’s all-female bar one Mexican band, Girls Go Ska, who I’m secretly in love with, (so secret they don’t even know themselves….until they use Google translate!) doing an instrumental jam.

Girls and ska; what’s not to like? Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


  • Real Cheesemakers go Head-to-Head with Professor Elemental in Chippenham

    So, you’re planning to go out-out, the decision rests on music or a night of comedy. An unnecessary dilemma, no need for a crystal ball, tarot cards or Paul the psychic octopus, you can do both in the land of chips n ham. In fact, if you happen to own a psychic octopus, this will be right up your street.

    I’ve been waffling on the subject of comical music of recent, reviewing release from Monkey Bizzle, Death of Guitar Pop, Mr B, and Scott Lavene, but here’s an evening not to be missed for your dancing shoes and funny bone alike.

    Professor Elemental

    Lord of whimsy himself, Brighton’s steampunk chap-hop artist Professor Elemental, who’s been in a friendly feud with the very same Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, goes head-to-head with Calne’s nonsensical Real Cheesemakers, and the ref will be Chippenham’s own legend and Edinburgh Festival favourite Wil Hodgson in a night not to be missed or dissed.

    The Real Cheesemakers

    One randomly selected lyric of Professor Elemental might whet your appetite, “this one’s for the crusty festivals and shows, where a fan tries to hug me and I get a dreadlock up my nose,” and honey, he’s got rhymes you haven’t heard yet. Expect hilarity at the Old Town Tavern on 16th October, demand trousers, horses and dinosaurs, tickets are eight quid, a brown one on the door. Facebook yo bad self, tell ’em you want in.


    Win 2 free Tickets HERE
  • Spearmint’s Holland Park

    As spacey as Spaceman 3, I get a whopping chunk of cleansed retro Madchester with the opening of Holland Park, the new album from one of ‘Britain’s best kept secrets’, Londoners, Spearmint. The album drops tomorrow, September 17th, on WIAIWYA Records, and is produced by acclaimed journalist and musician Rhodri Marsden, known afor playing in Scritti Politti.

    Story checks out, with there’s a clear Scritti Politti influence going on here, The Boo Radleys, Belle & Sebastian comes over in waves too. The follow-up to their acclaimed 2019 album Are You From The Future? This is one rich, uplifting record.

    It mellowly plods but picks up with the third tune, Walk Away From Hollywood, only to be followed by a strings-based honour to Bowie, in a kind of Mike Berry’s Tribute to Buddy Holly. Shirley Lee, frontman of Spearmint explains the meaning behind the first single released from Holland Park, “Since Bowie Died isn’t about David Bowie, it’s about the rest of us. I remember hearing the news at the start of 2016: it didn’t seem real. Then as things came to pass that ear and since, I felt like our world had become a harsher place from that moment on, as though it had ‘opened the floodgates’. I know others felt the same way, so we wanted to capture this feeling in the song, but add some hope too.”

    The spirit of Bowie courses through the record as a leitmotif, and hallmarks their typically sublime mellow brit-pop infused melodies. A record that “explores what it’s like to be in a band, what it’s like to have walked away from being in a band, what music means to all of us, and how it feels to lose your heroes.”

    A concept album in the vein of the subject it depicts, Holland Park has a running theme of a seventies rock group who never quite hit the big time, based on the singer Shirley’s father’s band. It comes to its apex at The Streets of Harlesden, the following title track with an everyday chit-chatty quality, similar to Scott Lavene we reviewed yesterday, and a striking instrumental called Black Vinyl. All mood setting like a slumbering Who rock opera. There’s a dreamy but uplifting ambiance here, and it’s beguiling.

    Once it winds back to the mellow Britpop for a few tunes, the penultimate is the oddity, a sudden blast of sonic punk, called She Says She Wants to Save the Pigs, and it returns with its hallmark for an uplifting romantic finale.

    Spearmint plan to premiere the album live in London in November, followed by shows in Brighton and Bristol, with further gigs being planned for 2022.


    win 2 tickets here
  • Help Choose a Charity For A Fundraising Music Event in Devizes….

    A prestigious live music gig is being planned for Devizes. Top secret, if I spill anymore beans about it they’d be forced to shoot me, and I know you wouldn’t want that…..would you?

    I thought not, not even if they just skimmed my kneecap with a spud-gun?

    But what you can help the organisers decide is, what local non-profit charity would you want this event to fundraise for, should it go ahead?

    I’ve added some worthy charities, but you can add your own if you wish. Please give us your feedback asap, takes a second, thank you! And yes, I’ll tell you all about when the time comes, just, like push me, man!

    https://poll.fm/10921261

  • Sheer Music to Host Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls UK Tour at Bath Forum

    Featured Image by Clair McAllister

    Little doubt Frank Turner is the top of his game, the prolific indie-rocker’s ninth studio album, “FTHC” is highly anticipated….

    The previously released lead single, “The Gathering” only gives a small insight into the new direction of the record. Though Frank is not only able to feature guest appearances from Muse, Nine Inch Nails, Biffy Clyro and more, the supporting tour allows him to cherry-pick venues and promoters.

    Frank will be doing a unique tour playing all thirty-nine English historic counties, plus nine districts of Scotland, eight counties in Wales, six in N. Ireland and a further eight counties in Ireland. The ambition is to reach all of his fans with his new record and play where most artists will not go.

    Sheer Music is the obvious choice for the west country, and promoter, Kieran J Moore is delighted to have been asked. Frank has chosen The Forum in Bath for his Somerset date, which will be Friday 18th February 2022.

    The beautiful art-deco Forum gave Frank one of his last shows from his previous album tour, just prior to lockdown. The venue remains a firm favourite with artists and fans alike. It will be Sheer’s first show at the historic venue, Mr Moore says, “it’s an opportunity we’re truly honoured and excited about being given!”

    Image: Clair McAllister

    Given the nature of the show and the current climate, (it’s as if no one was allowed out for a year or more!) tickets will be snatched quickly, so a heads up for Turner fans, that tickets will be available in the following structure;

    Album Pre Order for Pre-Sale: Tuesday, 21 September @ 5PM BST

    Album Order Pre-Sale: Wednesday, 22 September @ 12PM BST – Friday, 24 September @ 12PM BST

    Promoter Pre-Sale: Thursday, 23 September @ 12PM BST

    General On Sale: Friday, 24 September @ 12PM BST


    WIN 2 TICKETS HERE
  • Scott Lavene’s Milk City Sweethearts

    We’ve had a spate of comical albums coming in for review, what with Death of Guitar Pop, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer and now this, which is by far the darkest, consequently most poignant. Songwriter and raconteur Scott Lavene returns this Friday (17th September) with Milk City Sweethearts, an album of new material…..

    There’s intelligent and thought-provoking arch-beat poetry chatted here, an amphetamine-induced self-evaluation of an ordinary Essex boy, delivered passionately with a witty edge you cannot ignore. Something of an oddity at times, random prose seemingly slotted erratically fall into place with a running theme of this hopeless romantic, as the album progresses.

    Behind a variation of backbeats, often being post-punk, as is Scott’s roots, yet fluctuating through new romantic electronica and eighties mod revival, are honest and blunt chronicles of love, loss, coming of age, in effect making for a memorable kind of album, border-crossing Ian Dury with Sleaford Mods; a Mike Skinner of The Streets in the Bowie or Jam era, or a psychedelic Gecko.

    Humbly wry, the observations of his imprudent past come back to haunt him, as he retells heartfelt autobiography. The Ballad of Lynsey being the particularly touching example, telling of a potential everlasting love, but lasting only year due to differences, with the revealing chorus, “I choose amphetamines over you.”  

    If I’ve made this sound despondent and somewhat depressing, while yeah there is that, Scott’s witty charisma teeters atop at even the gloomiest synopsises with clever wordplay and metaphors. And besides, not every track is quite so melancholic. In fact, it begins very much with the aforementioned mod revival style. Upbeat opening tune, Nigel, is especially comical, expressing the strangeness of individual’s choice of “kicks.” Likewise, The First-Time reels off an amusing list of first experiences with the annotation, “one day there’ll be a last.” It’s all very Essex lad Talking Heads, Phil Daniels chatting on Blur’s Parklife, etc.

    Art-pop carries over when the mod revival moves over for a new wave electronica feel as the album progresses, by the third tune, The Earth Don’t Spin, it’s very much more Stephan Tintin Duffy than Weller. For all the credentials and comparisons mentioned, there’s no cliché, everything here is uniquely composed and written originally, and Milk City Sweethearts isa listener, not the sort of long-player you can pause and pick up again, you’ll be impelled to digest it one sitting.

    A master storyteller astutely aware of when and how to evoke the correct emotions, and find unusual thoughts to everyday scenarios. The farewell to deceased finale, Say Hello to Zeus, is as Bowie, simply inimitable and inducing. Whereas halfway through gives us the laugh-out-loud Walk Away is Essex humour at its very best.

    Closest you’ll get to see him to here is Bath’s Komedia on the 12th December, for now this masterful album, out via Nothing Fancy Records, is interesting, to say the least, an essential item for enthusiasts of the quirky and unusual, making the world seem that much smaller, and amusing, for lonely hearts.

    I’m quite happy, thank you, but loved it nonetheless, cos it ain’t always been that way. And that’s it, right there, I figure it’s not only my association Scott is from my motherland, but there’s something I think anyone with a heart will identify with here, and that’s something really rather special.


    WIN 2 tickets HERE
  • Chop Chappy with Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer

    Fancy a break from the serious side of life? Tired of bolshy reactionary keyboard warriors blotting facts and illogically splicing political car crashes into positives? Or maybe it’s just that bastard tap in the upstairs bathroom, dripping, and the only thing the bimbo at the call centre is filing is her fingernails.

    You need some Chop Chappy time, a dose of which is available from Bandcamp. Some name-your-price craziness from Mr. B, The Gentleman Rhymer spawned yesterday, and chockfull of jolly, pythonesque hip hop lockdown cabin fever rejoinders, it’s what the doctor would recommend; the madcap scientist type.

    Lessons from Double Dee & Steinski I’ll give you, but no album is going to wax lyrical Michael Palin fashion over the Grange Hill Theme, throwdown Grandmaster Melle Mel’s Message over the Charleston, or bite LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out with a Wurzels-fashioned backbeat, usually.

    And we’re only five tracks into Chop Chappy, inspired by the tunes of his lockdown “niceolation” parties, every Tuesday, on his Mixcloud. Though, since its dawn, the likes of The Treacherous Three, Doug E Fresh or Ron & the DC Crew sprinkled comedy into hip hop, and today even locally we’ve Goldie Looking Chain, Monkey Bizzle, Corky, and more, it’s only cliché if you fail to find an original angle. Mr B subtitles his angle, The Gentleman Rapper, and with mock pomposity it does what it says on the tin, granting said tin should be authentically displayed in a museum of curiosities.

    Lounge style Casio keyboard Bowie, a gangsta version of Presley’s cover of That’s Alright Mama, a Chas n Dave skanking Pistol’s Pretty Vacant, are just some of the actions, but while there’s always a gentlemanly vintage edge, it’s not all vintage sourced.

    As well as old skool, contemporary rap acts go under Mr B’s sniping tool, one revealed to my outdated knowledge to be Cardi B, apparently. Called in E-troops, Shazam recognised it despite the fairground organ pasted atop. One, namely Flat Beat, even tested the app, admitting ‘this is tricky’ and it expanded its search to find a remotely similar track. I knew what it was, couldn’t put my finger on the title. Yet others are instantly recognisable as you dally through its crafted mosaic, from Daft Punk to a sample of Bojo’s bus model making waffle.

    There are few occasions, like Nearly Robin, where Mr B raps original lyrics, and that’s most definitely the funniest parts. But to face facts, nothing here is desert island discs, hip hop is throwaway, music caught in the moment, and not repeated. This said, it makes Mr B hugely prolific, sixteen releases strong on his Bandcamp page since 2008.

    So, rather than expect a stairway to heaven or bohemian rhapsody, accept, for a while, you’ll be bamboozled by Mr B simply mucking about and mashing up, and then, and only then, will you see, this is about as much fun you can have with two turntables, mic, sampler, and gramophone 78s; and for that much alone, it’s highly entertaining and amusing.


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  • REVIEW: Devizes Town Band – Proms in Hillworth Park –Sunday 12th September 2021

    Sun Shining & All Is Well with The World

    Andy Fawthrop

    Does anybody else feel like things are starting to roll again?  I mean like “normal”? – not the “new normal”, not the “old normal”, but just “normal”?  Just me then?!

    After snuggling up with the BBC on Saturday night to witness the old “last night of the Proms”, with a cup of warm Horlicks and a packet of McVities digestives, and remembering that this was what it’s always been like at this time of year, I came over all nostalgic.  You know what I mean – the slide into Crimbo & the New Year via “putting the clocks back”, Halloween, Gunpowder Plot (and Thanksgiving if you’re of a Yankee persuasion).  And the “it must be Autumn because Strictly’s started up again”.  Yeah – all that.  Soon be snow on the ground, blah, blah, blah…

    Well, Sunday in Hillworth Park proved that there’s still a bit of life left in the old Summer yet, and it’s not quite time to pull out the long-johns and big coat.  A large group of D-Town citizens turned out with camping chairs and picnic blankets to be royally entertained by Fantasy Radio (broadcasting live), the talented young singer Chloe Jordan, and the massed might of the Devizes Town Band, with their version of Proms In The Park.  Children played, dogs scampered around, people ate ice-creams and queued for the loos.  This was England!  This was Summer!  All good traditional stuff.

    Chloe Jordan

    We were treated to a wonderfully varied programme of songs and music, ably MC’d by Mark Jones of Fantasy Radio 97FM, and under the direction of the enthusiastic Sharon Lindo.  There were great solos from Jim Keenahan and Bruce MacDonald, ensemble and orchestral pieces, and of course the traditional rousing coda of Sailor’s Hornpipe, Rule Britannia, Jerusalem (beautifully rendered by Chloe), and the National Anthem.  We had everything – clapping, singing, dancing, flag-waving – from the enthusiastic crowd.  If anyone was feeling a little blue after months of Lockdown, no-one had told the hundreds of people who were out to enjoy themselves.  And they rewarded the performers with a pretty darned good ovation at the end.  Perhaps we ought to ask the Town Council to build us a bandstand?  Just a thought. (Yes Andy, I suggested this too; Ed!)

    A really cracking way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

    Next Devizes Town Band concert – Sunday 31st October in the Corn Exchange

    Future Events in Hillworth Park: Party In The Park – Fantasy Radio – 2pm to 5pm 19th September 2021


    WIN! Two tickets to Gary in Punderland @ The Corn Exchange
  • Signs and Wonders of The Burner Band

    Popping immediately into your head with fun songs you’ll be singing for the rest of the week, while breaking out in denims, Leeds’ The Burner Band kick off their debut album, last week, Signs and Wonders with a rock n roll blinder, but that’s not all they’ve got in them.….

    The subsequent tune to Blues Came In, though, Block out the Sun, suggests, rather than mellowed blues, the blue is here cowboy-boot-tapping bluegrass, with spurs. A fast-moving fashion which continues throughout the album, fusing all Americana influences, and yeah, it sure is above snakes catchy.

    As a solo artist, vocalist and guitarist Lewis Burner has supported the likes of Bob Log III, The Coal Porters and The Legendary Shack Shakers, appearing at Broadstairs Folk Week, Orwell Bluegrass Festival and Strummer Camp, and released two albums. Here he collaborates with Ian, absent surname, to create the duo The Burner Band, and it certainly does burn!

    Company Man is acoustic goodness, nods towards Simon Garfunkel’s more upbeat moments; deep-rooted Celia, for if as their PR document suggests punk is an influence as well as bluegrass, and rock ‘n’ roll, it’s coming through remarkably subtle, typically folky. I say this because there’s a professional feelgood factor to The Burner Burner, rather than the rawness and unskilled tenet of punk; the simple country pop sound of it Takes Two, four tracks in, is enticingly gratifying, yet afterwards, this album takes serious themes, without losing the appeal.

    You, the Devil and Me deals with grief, Search Deep, Find Out assesses morals and judgements. There’s subjects of mental health and murder, but it retains, above all else, it’s catchy charm and slither of flippancy, just by the upbeat nature.

    Voodoo Queen, seven tunes in, being the most diverse with its Latino undertones, whereas with Pray for the Light, the folk-punk is now coming across, and it’s welcome to. Thing is, even suggestions of blues, as in Too Much Blues, is only in topic, sound-wise it’s rock n roll, leaving one to ponder if The Burner Band are capable of mellow! Though maybe they just held out for the memorable title track at the very end, with its Springsteen-esque narrative.

    It’s certainly lively, filled with exhilaration and excitedness. It also sounds sincere Americana, even when dealing with satirical themes; Liverpool’s campaign to rid the city of The Sun, being most poignant. Penned wise, though, I loved Don’t Have To Listen the most, reflecting on teenage ignorance against the face of authority, for secretly in my own mind, I’m still a adolescent tearaway, and maybe, in a nutshell, that’s the appeal here; forget skin cream, this entertaining, quality toe-tapping bluegrass rock n roll merger will knock years off you!

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  • REVIEW: Devizes Musical Theatre’s “A Gallery Of Rogues” @ Lavington Community Centre –Saturday 11th September 2021

    Yes M’Lud!

    By Andy Fawthrop

    It’s not often that you’ll get me schlepping down to a Community Hall in the middle of nowhere (well, OK, Lavington) on a Saturday night for a dose of Light Opera, but…well…it seemed like a good warm-up for the BBC Last Night of the Proms which was due to be broadcast later that night – and so it proved to be.

    Devizes Musical Theatre (DMT), in their wisdom, had chosen this slightly out-of-the-way place to perform “A Gallery of Rogues” as their 2021 production (their first since 2019 following Lockdown for most of last year). And thus, breezing my way past the various posters for WI and other local events, I found myself in this rather modern and well equipped hall.

    The evening was in two parts – the first being a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial By Jury”, a one act comic opera, and the second being the company performing a number of well known songs from many different musical shows.

    “Trial by Jury” is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced in 1875, at London’s Royalty Theatre, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit. The story concerns a “breach of promise of marriage” lawsuit in which the judge and the legal system are the objects of light-hearted satire. As with most G&S operas, the plot of “Trial by Jury” is ludicrous, but the characters behave as if the events were perfectly reasonable. This narrative technique blunts some of the pointed barbs aimed at hypocrisy, especially of those in authority, and the sometimes base motives of supposedly respectable people and institutions. The success of “Trial by Jury” launched the famous series of 13 collaborative works between Gilbert and Sullivan that came to be known as the Savoy Operas.

    In this production, using mostly modern dress, no scenery, and virtually no props, the guys and gals from DMT had nowhere to hide. Using only a simple piano accompaniment, it was down to the strength and quality of the voices only. And, after a slightly nervous start, they pretty well nailed it, with each singer growing in confidence as the play progressed. The call-and-response choruses, so beloved of G&S fans, were used to great effect and the whole production swung along with very few flaws. Of particular note were Naomi Ibbetson as The Plaintiff, and Tom Hazell as The Defendant. The supporting roles, especially the three bridesmaids, were also strongly played to great effect.

    The second half consisted of a series of songs from various musicals including “Cats”, “Oliver” and “The Wizard of Oz”, culminating in a full-cast version of the Lockdown classic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Not a dry eye in the house.

    For me, it was a good evening of entertainment, and well worth the trip out to Lavington. And I’d say the rest of the audience agreed, as the applause was hard and long. However, I’m still mystified as to why a concert that clearly took a lot of time and effort to be produced was only to be given this single performance, and why at such an out-of-town venue. Surely more people would have gone to see DMT in action if this had used a more Devizes-central location?

    Future DMT productions:

    The Wind in the Willows – 3rd to 10th April 2022 at Dauntsey’s School


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  • Some Reasons Why I Enjoyed Jesus Christ Superstar at The Wharf

    One reason why I enjoyed Jesus Christ Superstar at Devizes Wharf Theatre yesterday evening, is similar to why I like sci-fi and fantasy genres.

    No, hear me out, long winded it maybe, but there’s a point! With sci-fi you can take an earth-bound concept, and moving it from its usual perimeters, see it for what it truly is, without being predetermined via propaganda or personal opinion. Example; racism. Take a green coloured race of aliens fighting with a blue race, and from outside looking in you can see how completely meaningless and rash it is.

    Jesus Christ Superstar throws out preconceptions of this renowned Easter story, bought about by biblical re-enactments and more commonly accepted adaptions. In essence, it’s a rock opera, opera is tragedy, and rock music is modernised, least it was when Tim Rice and Andrew Llyod Webber created it.

    I often wonder what it was like for Michael Jackson, in the limo to the show, mobbed by obsessive devotees throwing themselves unashamedly at him. In a way, the tragic desolation and isolation of fame is more the subject in question, rather than the biblical Easter story. Just like our sci-fi scenario, it never suggests a religious connection, never states definitively that Jesus is the son of God. It takes the story out of the usual context and reconnects the dots.

    The set is deliberately void, mostly of black backdrop, and props are minimal. Rather than a school play’s amateurishly painted scene, the darkness leaves the setting to your imagination. While Nazareth and Rome are mentioned, there’s no depiction of it. The concentration is flowed into the characters and music. For Jesus here is unlike another representation; in fact, I’d argue Brian from Monty Python’s “Life of” is closer! Played convincingly by Jordan Overton, if this was intentional, I found Jesus actually quite irritating. Far from blasphemous given the circumstances, for here he’s unforgiving, frustrated at the mounting iconic hysteria surrounding him. Probably more likely how it would be, especially in the modern era.

    If Jordan made a grand job of it, more so did the surrounding characters, for Judas is Jerry if Jesus is Tom, the tension between the two the narrative. Arguably Peter Assirati’s performance is passionately executed greater, the focus on his despair is equal pegging, as Judas feels overexposure will be Jesus’s ruin. Like washed up rock stars or actors in the modern era, we know from tragedies like Marylin Monroe, to Whitney and Kurt Cobain, the feeling is real. In a way then, the lines between protagonist and antagonist are blurred, another reason why I liked this piece of musical theatre.

    More general is the third reason; the Wharf is such a splendid asset to Devizes. This historic shoebox theatre central to town is so welcoming, if the doormat was curled at the edge staff would lie over it so you don’t trip. Chat in the auditorium is not of condescending theatre-goers and thespians, rather an almost family ambience with an age demographic to match. As with most venues, lockdown flogged this theatre, kicking it while it was down. Those who can, bearing in mind ticket stubs here are far more reasonably priced than city playhouses, are dutybound to help it to its feet. I witnessed said devotion firmly in place already, as Jesus Christ Superstar plays to a full house.

    The fourth reason I enjoyed it is simply the surprise element. I went in critical, didn’t expect to actually like it, given the theme tune’s school playground variant of yore, set to ridicule it with Yamahas and dustbin lids, was wedged in my mind. Anyone younger will have to ask Alexa about this; I’ve exposed my age enough already!

    I tip my hat to the performances of additional characters, Pete Winterton casted perfectly for the seventies-fashioned game show host version of Herod, breathing one humorous element to the tragedy, at least! Francis Holmes as Caiaphas made for the textbook managerial role and convincingly bellowed his solo with professionalism.

    Emma Holmes and Chris Smith’s recitals of Simon and Peter, respectively, being especially poignant. None so much though as Mary Magdalene, played by Cassy Swann, who, with her astute expressions of woe and loyalty, her superior voice commanded the stage above all else. In this, full credit has also to be awarded to Victoria Warren, music director, and the band, Jennifer Cardno, Bob Ball, Claire Borovac and John Joy, for limited to a four-piece, amalgamated the show to epic and euphoric proportions.

    You should note, if you go see this, at the time, amidst the hullabaloo surrounding its controversial subject, it took the best part of decade to alter from rock opera album to the stage in London, and only because of its success in the USA. True music fans will recognise this more as an album of music than a play, ergo the dynamics of elaborate stage effects are deliberately stripped back, the opening of Jesus Christ Superstar rightfully displays the band playing the overture prior to actors taking their stance. But go see it you should; decide quick and seize a ticket post haste. It’s only running at the Wharf Theatre until this Saturday, the 18th September, and last time I checked, tickets are up for grabs weekdays, Saturday is sold out.

    Please buy our compilation album of local music, all proceeds go to Julia’s House, thank you!
    WIN 2 tickets to Gary in Punderland @ Devizes Corn Exchange by clicking on the poster!

Song of the Day 3: Harmony

Look, right, I’m not at the top yet, but it’s in clear sight. A round number, of the half century kind, awaits me atop the hill, and there’s no stopping the ride to get off.

I guess reaching these milestone ages causes you to analyse your life somewhat, and if there’s one thing I do know in all my years, it’s that I’ve told some colossal pork pies. Some real stinkers. I don’t know why, other than occupational hazard as a journalist, I’ve no excuses, not one which will wash with you clever lot.

Whether it be for the prestige, the glory, or, sometimes just for the sheer hell of it, just because the golden opportunity arose and I couldn’t stop myself, they just slipped out.

I’m not proud, just saying, you know, get it off my chest. Not compulsively, though, I’d go as far to say the majority of what I say is true.

Why do people say, “I’ll be honest with you…” ? Well duh, I sincerely hope you do anyway, it should go without saying. But the phrase immediately raises the alarm; I’m guessing a whopper is on its way. I never use that phrase on principle. The principle I don’t trust myself to keep to it.

See, what with the whopper, the real damaging kind of fib. I consider my track record on that quite good, I tend to lie to big myself up, but not to put others down. I tend to lie to make light of a situation, rather than darken the notion. I tend not to lie to anyone I trust not to lie to me, and I’ve seen too many of them backfire anyway, so, I’m done with lies, filled my quota but retain decency in not being overly destructive with them; quantity not quality!

And anyway, I don’t lie here, cos I trust you all, I really do. This isnt a tabloid, this is me. Clearly you get what you see, which might be a waffling clown but, hey.

So, Harmony, from Chippenham, on the subject of liars; she’s not singing about me, no sir, not when I say with all the honesty left in me, this young singer-songwriter I’ve discovered via Sheer music, has got something really special. And even if I was lying, which I’m not, I’ve shared the video, to prove it.

And that’s Song of the Day, for the third day. It’s become a popular feature, overnight, honest.

Should you choose to believe that!

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….

Ain’t Nobody’s Business but Ruzz Guitar and Pete Gage’s

I’ve said it before, said lots of what I’m going to say before, in fact, but I reserve the right to say it again. And you can’t blame me, it’s this Groundhog Day thing, this exasperating lockdown. I perpetually revert my mind back to the last night of live music I attended, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue at Devizes Sports Club with Peter Gage, Jon Amor and Innes Sibun. How I suspected walls could come crashing down, but didn’t want accept it, neither at the time acknowledge it would be so soon. Still, optimistically, what a blinding night; least we went out with a bang.

I mean, I know and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who acted to do what they could immediately after the first lockdown, the afternoon sessions at the Southgate, and our own outing for Devizes;IndieDay, but as good as they were, as Ray Charles said, the night time is the right time. Ode to the gig, the gathering and the celebration, how we miss it so. Are you with me? You are, right?

Faced with the unwelcome likelihood of the first anniversary of the occasion coming around and still, no live music, I have to ponder how far to the light at the end of this gloomy tunnel. And to rub salt into the wound, Ruzz has released a new track, featuring the very same blues legend Peter Gage! But as far as salt goes, upon hearing this tune I’m like a halophile (a salt-loving organism; look it up, people) living on the back of a saltwater crocodile, basking at the shore of the Dead Sea.

A cover of Jimmy Witherspoon’s tune Ain’t Nobody’s Business, Ruzz explains, “we’ve taken the B.B. King and Freddie King versions, mashed them together and added an RGBR flavour into the mix! We’ve been working hard on this track since Christmas and we’re all very excited to release it.”

And so, they should be, it’s sublime, as ever. Habitually, I favour Ruzz and the Blues Revue when they work up a frenzy, but this is smooth, this is blues, the kind of blues you need contemplating the anniversary of the gig ban, and if you attended, it will remind you of it too. If not, it doesn’t matter, it just breezes over you, as all virtuous blues should.

I mean, right, the guy was from The Sloane Squares, headhunted by Shadows bassist Jet Harris upon them supporting Hendrix, and that’s just the beginning of his extensive profession. Pete’s proficient vocals, gives it that edge of aforementioned BB King influence, the arrangement and tightness of this collaboration are like the chimes of seamless bellringing, here’s the Blues Revue on top form, adding guests of calibre and concluding as perfection; quid well spent.


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Stonehenge or Bust; Duck n Cuvver Scale the Fence!

The last thing Robert Hardie wants is to be portrayed as villainous, or condoning mass trespass, though he accepts some might interpret breaking over the fence at Stonehenge as such. Chatting to this veteran on the phone this morning, he described the exhilaration and sensation of wellbeing, wandering between Wiltshire’s legendary stone pillars, but expressed he doesn’t wish to encourage others to follow his example, only to raise awareness of his crusade.

Frustration with English Heritage was the prime motive for taking the leap, displayed in his video doing the rounds on social media. But one half of Salisbury folk-rock indie duo, Duck n Cuvver has been fundraising for over three years to be able to shoot the final part of a music video inside the stone circle. “Initially,” he said, “English Heritage said it would cost £750, then they suddenly upped it to £4,500.” I asked Rob if they gave an explanation, a breakdown of what the costs involved to them would be. He replied they hadn’t.

My musing wandered over the occasion two years ago when local reggae band, Brother from Another pulled a publicity stunt recording themselves atop Silbury Hill, to wide criticism, but how The Lost Trades recently played around Avebury stone circle without trouble. Rob and Ian cannot call a compromise though, being the subject of the song, Henge of Stone, is as it says on the tin. As he explained to the Salisbury Journal back in 2019, “This video will make history – singing about Stonehenge in Stonehenge.”

Clearly enthusiastic about covering our ancient local landmarks as song themes, Rob told me he’d written about Avebury too, and how he played them to the solstice crowd there. This part of our conversation ended with him reciting a few verses in song, and expressing the feeling of joy as the crowds sang them back to him.

While he didn’t rule out this was a publicity stunt too, we discussed the necessities of the project. Rather than being a colossal movie production, with the atypical entourage, trailers and crew, all that’s needed is his partner in crime, Ian Lawes, and possibly the accompanying musicians, Chris Lawes, Jamez Williams, Louis Sellers and Paul Loveridge, a cameraman and a few instruments. The mechanics of shooting the footage would be simple, it’s unplugged, being there’s no electricity on site, and Rob explained how mats would be provided to protect the grass. Besides, if EH’s concerns were for the welfare of the site they’d simply say no, surely, not put a price on it.

There’s therefore no justice, in my mind, really, on the exceptionally high price tag. Only to assume English Heritage is out to profit. Contemplating on recent outcries concerning activities around Stonehenge; the solstice parking debacle, closing for winter solstice and of course the tunnel, which we mutually dismissed as ludicrous on the grounds excavating there would obviously turn up some ancient findings and archaeological digs, and protection rights would whack the project way over budget, it feels the quango run agency is not the best method to protect our heritage sites, if the conservative ethos is revenue driven rather than insuring it’s splendour is for all to enjoy and savour. As Rob points out in the film, “Stonehenge belongs to fucking us!”

Ah, story checks out; even English Heritage states similar on their website, if not quite so sweary! “Th