Long overdue is the last third of our detailed track-listing for the compilation album, Various Artists 4Julia’s House, like most things on Devizine at the moment. What? I’ve been busy sorting out my wardrobe, throwing out the unfashionable items.
Now I’m left with a completely empty wardrobe, it’s time to give you the lowdown on the remaining artists we’ve not mention yet, who gladly donated an awesome track to put on our awesome compilation; everything is awesome. We’ve raised over £150 so far.
No, it really is, cos, right, if you think I loaded the beginnings of the album with the best tunes, dumped naff ones at the end and it trails off somewhere towards the middle, you’re gravely mistaken. Things had already been firing up on a funky tip, with Andy J Williams, The Dirty Smooth – Seed, SexJazz and Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue. We paused for breath last outing at track 33, the frenzy ska-folk of the Boot Hill All Stars. I’m glad to say that fashion continues…..
34. Mr Tea & The Minions – Mutiny
I have to say, I was over the moon when Bristol’s premiere ska-folk band Mr Tea & The Minions allowed us to use the title track from their 2019 album Mutiny. We fondly reviewed the album back then, haven’t quite gotten over it yet, and continue to insist I spin tracks on my Boot Boy Radio show, Ska-ing West Country. As while I might assume it wouldn’t go down so well with the largely older Two-Tone audience, when I do “folk shit up” there’s never a complaint.
It’s the infectious blend of the irresistibly danceable Balkan ska style, dub, and upbeat folk which does it, resistance is futile, you will bop till you drop, and Mr Tea & The Minions are truly top of this game. United by a love of tea, energetic dancing, cheeky riffs, silly hats, and cake, Mr Tea and the Minions have been unleashing their colourful explosion of musical mayhem on unsuspecting audiences since 2013.
Festival favourites with almost 100 festival appearances including Glastonbury, Boomtown, WOMAD, Secret Garden Party, Shambala, Belladrum, Wilderness, Nozstock, and Goulash Disko, to name just a few. The Independent had this to say; “The Minions seamlessly weave Balkan Beats with ska, dub and swing to create a bouncing set. It’s impossible not to get involved.”
35. Cosmic Shuffling – Night in Palermo
If we’re bordering ska, which you know is the first love in my eclectic tastes, we’re in deep now. While most of our tunes are locally based, I looked further afield for this. Switzerland has a wonderful ska and reggae scene, and Fruits Records produce the classic and traditional sounds with the rare skill level of Studio One. So much so, reggae legends are queuing to record with them, and the likes of the Silvertones and Cornell Campbell have.
Two in-house bands, the 18th Parallel, and Cosmic Shuffling, this track is taken from the latter’s 2020 album Magic Rocket Ship.
They’ve been sending me press releases and tunes to play on Boot Boy, more than worthy breaking the local norms of Devizine to review tenderly. It was only in chatting to studio boss Mathias Liengme about the project, they were keen to donate a tune and allowed me to pick any off of Magic Rocket Ship; I chose this one, it’s wonderful, but not alone on the album, could’ve picked any one of them to be honest; just delighted to introduce you to them.
36. Blondie & Ska – Boom Boom Bang Bang
Returning to local affairs, while ska and reggae are somethings of a rarity around these parts, Chippenham duo, Blondie & Ska have really challenged my pigeonholing of what a tribute act is and does. Not only are the live performances they travel the lengths and breadths of the country to show a unique tenet of a Blondie tribute blended with covers of all those eighties Two-Tone classics, but they occasionally write and record their own compositions. And when they do, they sound like they could be a particularly ska’d up Blondie album track, what’s not to like?!
I spoke to one half, Dave Lewis about all this, back in May. I’m so glad they agreed to donate a tune, but much more than this, Boom Boom Bang Bang is mint, which has been exclusively created for the album. Now, that’s dedication to our cause, for which I’m eternally grateful to Dave and Lorraine for. Plus, it’s a rock steady banger!
37. The Birth of Bonoyster – The Way I Like To Be
To be the finale of our ska section of the album, it’s an all-out indie-ska-punk ride now, from London’s The Birth of Bonoyster. As if Jarvis Cocker fronted The Divine Comedy, there’s breakouts of Britpop, but warmed by being wrapped firmly in geeky-fashioned ska-punker tin foil.
Made friends with the frontman, Stew Simpson, rhythm guitarist and artist, when I complimented his sketch of Dave and Deborah of Devizes’ Southgate Inn, some time ago, and that’s a tenacious link to locality enough to present this amazingly addictive, if not slightly sweary, track, The Way I Like To Be. Aided by bassist Paul Stromdale, Paul Langford on lead guitar, and drummer Stu Soulsby, this nugget is from the album OYSTER, recorded in 2006 but never released until 2020.
38. The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show – Ghosts
With one of those band names which sticks in your mind, THE TWO MAN TRAVELLING MEDICINE SHOW. I’d heard of Dorset’s seven-piece folk bohemians somewhere or other, before they kindly sent this gorgeous track. Formed in 2016, they’re storming the alternative-Celtic-punk-folk scene with their unique, and eccentric sound. Often dark, sporadically upbeat, there’s a flair of lyricism that’s hard to ignore, and a deep sound of country-core; Ghosts proves this, but the band are prolifically releasing EPs, like They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs, Oh Me Oh Mi, A Snake’s Snake, and Weeding out the Wicked, you need to take a listen to, Soundcloud being their favoured platform.
39. Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves – This Time
If the previous tune from The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show cools the tempo, this one melts it. Like it too, it was sent surprisingly, I was completely unaware of Julie and Mel, and left astounded. Such a lovely, sentimental song about getting a second chance. It was written by Mel Reeves and Julie Meikle, a Taunton partnership reconnected from being old friends in 2019, and, together, they write and record their own distinctive material for which Julie creates much loved videos.
Julie Meikle has been a music teacher for primary children for over 30 years. She has sung with the Devon-based rock band Littermouth, and the pop band The Random Frogs. Julie has led many community choirs and orchestras, plays clarinet with the street band The Big Noise and a variety of folk groups.
Mel Reeves has been involved in music since leaving school. Whether it has been teaching guitar, playing in The Threepenny Opera (flamenco version!) or writing film scores for the I.L.E.A – his life has revolved around music making.
He founded the legendary Guitar Studio in Reading with Pete Lincoln (Sweet, Cliff Richard. Sailor, etc.) and Trevor Grant (Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army) where he wrote more than 24 tuition book/cassette packages for rock, jazz and blues guitarists. He went on to write and present more than 20 DVD programmes (Play Now Series) teaching, acoustic guitar, heavy metal, jazz and blues plus keyboard and bass programmes.
A move to Somerset saw Mel resume his teaching work, he also recorded/produced Noel (Windmills of Your Mind) Harrison’s final album and went on to accompany Noel for live performances of Noel’s touring show. Mel also plays in The Deane Big Band, Deftone 17, Big Noise Street Band and a jazz trio with multi-instrumentalist Timothy Milton Hill and bassist Jules Bushell.
40. Meru Michael – Mother Nature’s Boy
Another unbeknown to me before this project, Somerset’s singer/songwriter/sound healer Meru Michael. Meru has spent a number of years in the music business, as an independent label owner, recording studio and artist manager, and is currently co-managing Octopus Studios in Bruton. However, he has always been a player and songwriter and is currently devoted to releasing his own material. Meru currently resides in Somerset in the UK but has travelled widely and spent his formative years in the USA and Canada.
Mother’s Nature Boy is soulfully produced, with an irresistible cool vibe, picking our album up for what’s to come. It’s the title track from his 2020 4-track EP.
41. Cutsmith – Osorio
With his roots in the Canary Islands, Cutsmith now resides in Pewsey, and performs acoustically but largely inspired by urban sounds, hip hop and drum n bass, which he fuses with this “melodic folk and soul from the fields.” Vocalising for Devizes-based drum n bass label, SubRat Records, which he co-founded with Re:Tone, we reviewed the euphoric drum n bass tune Falling back in May last year. This track though, Osorio, sits better defined as hip hop, and is a wonderful praise of his homeland, which Cutsmith skilfully weaves back into love for living here now.
42. The Tremor Tones – Don’t Darken my Door
Cutsmith is the man to wind it nicely into the crucial reggae section of the album. If you know me well enough, you’ll know it couldn’t be complete without some reggae! Yet, locally reggae is harder to come by. I reverted back to a couple of years ago, when Bath-based The Tremor Tones sent me this splendidly gloomy-paced nugget of melancholy back when I started my show on Boot Boy Radio, and I knew I had to have it feature on the album.
But a despatched message to Adam of the band returned with the unfortunate note, The Tremor Tones ceased-to-be before the pandemic. The original drummer on the record passed away and nothing was officially released through a label after covid. Fortunately, suggested, being it was shame not to have promoted the tunes as much as they would’ve liked, it may as well be used for something positive and uplifting. And thus, for part-prosperity, part because it’s a great song, here is Don’t Darken my Door.
43. Big Ship Alliance, Feat Johnny2Bad, Robbie Levi & Stones – All in this Thing Together
So yes, with the absence of much reggae locally, and Erin Bardwell already topper most on our track-listing, I used connections made via Boot Boy Radio to source some tunes. When I first heard All in this Thing Together, I’d come up with idea of having a “song of day” article, something I could quickly post from my phone, without the need to type a lengthy review. I wasn’t expecting the idea to have much clout, at first, but when I realised artists on international levels would share the post, as Big Ship Alliance did, it gave Devizine wider attention.
Newly-formed just a year ago, this Birmingham-based seven-piece reggae collective, Big Ship Alliance started out as possibly the only tribute act to reggae legend Freddie McGregor, but on track to record their own material they’ve teamed up with the outstanding UB40 tribute act, Johnny2Bad for this gorgeous topical debut single, an anthem for lockdown. I’m glad they so kindly donated here, so the notion of unity, bought about by the pandemic, has universal meaning.
44. Urban Lions – We Say I
Of course, while I’m searching far and wide for reggae, there was some under my nose all the time. Urban Lions roar from Pewsey. I messaged them when planning this, we waffled on a variety of subjects, where Rupert Bear for some random reason was where it ended, when it should have been what we were doing about the track! Such is the relationship between them and Devizine, we’ve been reviewing their tracks since day dot.
In the midst of contacting so many artists at one time, I had clean forgotten where we left the decision, so this track was fashionably late for inclusion on the album; I’m so glad it made it.
Urban Lions are the live band from underground homegrown label Lionheart Records, creating and producing contemporary reggae steppa styles, dub and dancehall, and meshing them into a lively show which sees them step onto the world stage.
45. Neonian – Bubblejet
If I’m honest, I wanted more “dance” music, to give the album an unforgettable culmination, but the diversity and blend of styles Trowbridge’s Neonian can lattice into one song is so incredible, I’m content with the two tunes we did get. At times trance-techno, at time chemical beats, Bubblejet is the explosive finale I was hoping for, and it’s another exclusive track produced especially for the album.
Ian Sawyer is the man behind Neonian, his EP Vaxxor we glowingly, with neon, reviewed in March. The brilliance of Neonian’s sound is such it’s conversant to modernism but reflects all which has gone prior in electronic dance music. Ian describes it vaguely but aptly, “I make music, for myself. I can’t really describe it, but it’s mainly made with synthesisers, loops and samples. Influences include New Order, Boards Of Canada, Coil, Pye Corner Audio, Factory Floor.”
46. First Born Losers – Ground Loop
If Neonian cites the post-punk dawn of electronica, groups like New Order as an influence, even more so with this track from Devizes-based producer Robert Pennells, and “outcasts from a number of experimental bands,” aka First-Born Losers.
It’s meaty synth, dark experimental bass music with distorted melodies, effected drums, mangled samples and guitars, akin to the properties of dubstep or chemical beats but as moody as gothic of yore, yet, I don’t know, trying hard to put my finger on it.
I think if Art of Nosie or Yello were still around, they might sound a little some like this. It grinds our album to a memorable halt. They’ve just released a newer single of similar content, Dead Chicken Society, and we await the forthcoming album via “Miasma Records”.
And that’s all folks. It’s been a pleasure and experience compiling this album, and I know there were many others who wanted to contribute but didn’t send a track in time. There’s no point in taking what I’ve learned along this journey without putting it to good use, so a more streamlined process will be used to create a second volume. The concept is, if you have a song you’d like to contribute, please send it whenever and I will gradually build up the list and release it when we’ve enough tracks. Undecided, but I might yet raise for a different charity next time.
I’m thinking the brilliant Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, a preschool for children with learning disabilities. I originally approached them about the project, but they took some time to reply, so I promised it to Julia’s House. As with all the artists who didn’t send me a tune quick enough, unfortunately I was keen to push ahead with haste on this project, as once lockdown restrictions opened up once again, artists and bands would be busy concentrating on gigs and festivals, etc.
And I wish them all the best, so kind under the pressure of the times, they freely donated a tune, and it makes for a diverse compilation, showcasing so many you may not have heard of before. In a year of no festivals, this album, I wanted to do what the festival does, introduce you to some new acts, so please give these guys your support, buy their albums and catch them at live gigs. Of which on the latter, if you do, be sure to tell them where you heard of them before.
Lastly, thanks to you, in considering purchasing this album, it’s a bargain, and for such a good cause; I hope you enjoy the ride!