Female of the Species Blow the Roof of The Assembly Hall, for Carmela

Entertainment events in the county blossoming out of lockdown came to a pinnacle this weekend. We were spoiled for choice, and without cloning technology the decision would’ve been a toughy for me, if it hadn’t had been for the no-brainer; the sixth annual outing of local supergroup, The Female of the Species at Melksham’s brilliant Assembly Hall.

From the moment I was pinged the lowdown on this event my heartstrings spasmed, five band’s fantastic frontwomen in their own right united for the rare, Community Civic award-winning, fundraising bonanza which has become somewhat equal in legend around these parts as a Spice Girls reunion. And perhaps what is more, the proceeds this year were directed at another personal superheroine, Carmela Chillery-Watson.

Super-heroic is a term I don’t use lightly, and not out of sympathy for Carmela’s rare strain of muscular dystrophy. Over the past two years I’ve followed the progress of Carmela and her family’s fight against this muscle-wasting condition, since mum, Lucy sent Devizine a fundraising event poster and I figured I could do more, which consequently saw me take to my milk-round dressed in my Spiderman onesie! For, now at seven years old, Carmela’s zest for life and amiable charisma is an inspiration to everyone she meets. I found it rubs off on you with immediate effect, something hordes of international celebrities have also now discovered.

Bringing this celebrity herself now back home to Wiltshire for a fundraising event, I was not only delighted to meet her and her family again, but mightily impressed with her handling of fame. Carmela responds accordingly to mounting attention, never excluding or shunning any individual yet finding the time to address them all equally; a skill many a celeb could learn from.  

With a bombardment of unfortunate planning episodes, Jools of the reggae-ska band Train to Skaville confessed, “it was a nightmare trying to get this event off the ground,” it truly became a sense of it’ll be alright on the night, and the party went off with an explosive boom. The amalgamated wealth of experience, proficiency and professionalism of The Female of the Species shone through; they are deadlier than the male.

Dedication too, to overcome obstacles, apexed by performer and musical director, Nicky Davis of bands People Like Us and the Reason, who took a fall during rehearsals to personify the performance idiom, break a leg. Frustrated by her vocal restrictions slouched at the keyboard, the second half of the show proved too tempting, and Nicky manged to make it onto her feet to sing behind the keys, rather more like Jerry Lee Lewis than Elton John in style!

But we are getting ahead of ourselves now, for full credits have to be awarded to support act, Melksham-based Plan of Action. Unbeknown to me, this male trio with a female bassist took me by surprise. Based on previous FOTS supports, I was expecting soothing acoustics, yet Plan of Action done what it suggested on the tin, and executed said plan in a hard rock fashion akin to the Foo-Fighters covers they blasted with certain precision. They then beseeched their benchmark, rather than redefined their style, to cover Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally in hard-edged blues fashion, and finished more retro than they started with rock classics such as Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.

Not only did they fire up the audience superbly in preparation, but their fanbase also resolved the terror of who would be first to break the dancefloor reservations. Now there was no stopping the crowd, as Female of the Species drummer, Pip Phillips of People Like Us was first to appear, foot-peddling the bass drum to build anticipation while the girls came onstage under an impressive light show.

Second tune in, Nicky Davis led them in an accomplished cover of Hotel California, and solo soul singer Julia Hanratty followed lead on Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, as is the Female of the Species code of conduct; memorable pop covers ranging the spectrums of their individual tastes. That said, we had none of the two-tone of Jools’ Train to Skaville, although she did an outstanding lead on Deacon Blue’s Real Gone Kid.

With affections towards uncompromising rock, Charmaigne Andrews’ AC/DC Highway to Hell boosted the crowd, but not before an early highlight for me; Julia’s absolutely outstanding cover of Aretha Franklin’s Respect, something I’d not advise any singer to attempt, as with Nicky last time, who gorgeously portrayed Heard it Through the Grapevine, Julia clearly knocked this one clear out of the park.

Claire Perry of Big Mama’s Banned not only brings range to the repertoire, but witty if saucy repartee to the show, unsurpassed during the break where Carmela joined her to announce raffle prize-winners. Sporting Wonder Woman headgear for the second half, they raised the roof of the Assembly Hall, as much as they raised serious funds for the cause.

Aforementioned, Nicky stood for the second half despite her plastered leg, as they played through memorable covers, dancefloor fillers, and perfected songs you’d be excused from thinking, oh my, they’re covering that? Bohemian Rhapsody, Grease Lightening, Oh, Sweet Child of Mine, and Jacko’s Beat It for examples. Jool’s cover of Kirsty MacColl’s New England, Claire’s I’ll Put a Spell on You, Charmaigne leading on Republica’s Ready to Go, the show continued past my bus time, but I could faintly hear Mr Blue Skies while I waited!

Yeah, here’s a thing I hadn’t thought of before; escaping the Devizes westwards for the evening is surprisingly possible via public transport, and it wasn’t a drunken fallout zone, like the Boot Hill All Star’s hilarious song, Night Bus, which I imagined, rather a mediocre and tranquil bus journey!

The last bus on the 273 route leaves Bath at 11:30, and gets to the Sham at ten-to-midnight; blooming marvellous, for Melksham have a real gem with the Assembly Hall. Drinks are affordable, the service well-staffed, the atmosphere is hospitable and they’re continuing to bring outstanding shows and events to the Sham.

All in all, this show was professional yet communal, absolutely fantastic and spellbindingly electric; if another comes along, I suggest you don’t miss out. But I must finish in thanking the Female of the Species and all involved for supporting such an amazing cause, and local girl; and to Carmela, you are a superstar.


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Boo! Spooky Halloween Happenings for Everyone!

Fantastic and spooky image of St Johns, Devizes, used with permission from Simon Folkard Photography

I say everyone, but it’s the inbetweenies always at a loss during Halloween, I tend to find. Too old for patronising trick or treating, only a handful of idiots, sulking at their lack of Harbio, who opt for the terrorising old folk kind, which spoils it for them, and for younger kids too, when everyone under the age of eighteen is tarnished with the same witch’s broom.

Yet too young to attend adult Halloween parties, which we all know, generally end up as mindless drunken satanic orgies, full of naked chicks pouring the blood of scarified male counterparts over themselves in a hellfire pit of inequity to the sound of evil giggling, and thrash metal roaring from the rafters…. at least, in my mind it does.

What?! I’m speculating, I wouldn’t know whether they break out the leather, or not. I grew up in a household where the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain was considered American commercialisation, and since escaping the nest I built my own, whereby on All Hallows’ Eve I don a beanie and wander aimlessly in the background, as “protector” parent of hyperactive children, getting ecstatic about being out under street light.

I awkwardly grimaced at housekeepers like a vagabond, as neighbours loaded their pumpkin-shaped buckets with cheap confectionary they don’t like anyway. We’d join chains of other trick or treaters, my watchful duties waning with each grouping; safety in numbers I’d suppose perfunctorily, as I tire and they run off in merriment and sugar-fuelled frenzy. Responsibility is a bitch.

I’ve got cheap, Wilkos luminous paint on my jersey from a leaking zombie, whose mask is sagging where they broke the elastic, otherwise I blur into the background and children organise themselves, until one genuinely gets scared, and I get to return home, ignore door-knocking and slope on the sofa, groaning like a headless horseman, wishing one day they’ll grow out of it.

And before you know what’s what, they do, and you pity the complaining, realise you miss the thrill in their eyes, and await the welcomed subsequent phase, grandchildren, when you hope them to provide the perfect excuse to get back out trick or treating again; by this age you need no mask or makeup, but you can return them sugar-bursting; mwahahaha!

Anyway, enough of my problems, you came here wanting to hear about all the spooky events and monster mashes going down over the Samhain, and that’s what I’m about to do, just, you know, had to get that off my chest.

Although if I’ve missed yours, I can always add them, if you liked, just message, email or howl under the full moon when the wind is blowing my direction, but the first “halloweeny” type event we’ve found, is All Cannings’ Pre-School Half term Halloween Trail, starting on 23rd October and running until the 30th. Take your little ones to All Cannings, buy a trail map from the village shop and walk the village looking for clues to spell a spooky word! Put your completed maps into our box at the back of the village hall for your chance to win a Halloween prize.

Leading up to the Halloween weekend, Crazy P’s Ron Basejam brings some Halloween disco to Komedia on Thursday 28th, but Saturday is when the spookiness really comes out to play….

In Devizes, the trusty Cavalier have a children’s Halloween fancy dress disco, with prizes for the best dressed boy and girl. You’ll need a £3 ticket, available here.

Forgive me if I’m wrong but I believe wonderful DJ, Holz Stone will be on the spooky wheels of steel for the Halloween fancy dress disco at the Wyvern Club. There’ll be hot dogs, burgers and sweet bags, a novel hook-a-skull game, guess the weight of the pumpkin and what’s in the box, as well as best dressed prizes. This one’s £2 per child, on the door.

For Devizes grownups, over 21s, there’s a DJ set from Houses of Joy Soundsystem at The Muck & Dundar’s Zombie Cocktail Special night. Free entry, walk-ins, favourably like a zombie, and feel free to dress up or down. I think they’ll need an exorcist like me, to purify those spirits!

And of course, the traditional Krazee Devil Halloween Karaoke Disco will be down the The Pelican, Devizes. Only numbers are limited this year, so if you want to Party Pelicano style this Samhain then shout Sarah-Jane on (01380) 723909.

The Truzzy Boys welcome fancy dress at their Halloween Party at the Churchill Arms in West Lavington, also on Saturday. Honey-Street’s Barge have a monster mash rock ‘n’ roll Halloween party, with Little Miss Blue Bass, Mutley and Rockin Rich. Best dressed wins a £20 bar tab, which beats a bucket of Freddos. They want only £6 off you for the pleasure, tickets here.

Meanwhile, over misty graveyards and ancient burial mounds to Bradford-on-Avon, where the Three Horseshoes host Strange Folk for a Halloween party. If you checked them out last weekend at the Southgate, or read our review, you’ll know this will be a great, and very apt Halloween venture. It should go without saying by now, its fancy dress, with a prize for best dressed.

In spooky Swindon, The Swiss Chalet have one hell of a show from 2pm onwards. Train to Skaville, The DayBreakers, Hip Replacements and Mark Colton bring the skalloween tunes, all in aid of the fantastic Big Yellow Bus Project. Door tax is just a quid, with mac n cheese and a chance to win a Nintendo Switch!

Vampires and zombies of Frome only need head to The Cornerhouse, where they’ll find the highly recommended Back Wood Redeemers, with a dark country, twisted blues and religious fervor eve of Halloween. Expect special guests and they’ll be introducing the MagiGant Ska Sound System. There will be dancing afoot! Bring your relevant body parts and dress up should the whim arise… you’ll be in good company.

But not everyone wants dancing afoot, and for a relaxed meal-type Halloween event, Rowde’s legendary George & Dragon have a Rocky Horror Tunnel Party, in, as the name suggests, their secret, aptly spooky, tunnel. Dress up in your favourite horror costumes for a three-course BMF supper, and a party to follow.

And on the Sunday, the 31st, The Roebuck Inn, Marlborough, has a Halloween Open mic Night, while over in Market Lavington’s Green Dragon, there will be all sorts of spooky bonkers things going on all day, perfect for kids and grown up kids alike; with the fantastic People Like Us playing from 8pm.

I’m sure that list isn’t exhaustive, and I’ll add your event if you tell me about it. Otherwise have a grand Halloween, and as I say, I’ll be maxing relaxing, safe in the knowledge my kids now consider themselves too old for the trick or treating fiasco. I mean, I’m not naming and shaming, but one of my nippers must be the only person who can lose a tooth bobbing for apples, for crying out loud into the cold night air!


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The Devizes Eisteddfod for November; Closing date for Entries is Tuesday

Closing date for Entries is Tuesday 12th October, for The Devizes Eisteddfod, a five-day competitive festival of music, drama, speech, dance, writing, art and photography for people of all ages, who may enter individually or through a school or group. Entries are still open for the Music, Speech, Drama and Pre-adjudicated classes at the 2021 Eisteddfod, Thursday – Saturday 18th – 20th November 2021. Entries to made on their website: https://www.devizes-eisteddfod.org.uk/

The Devizes Eisteddfod In its 75th year, and is back for November 2021, the program of events looks like this:

Thursday – Saturday, 18-20 November

2021 DEVIZES EISTEDDFOD

Music, Speech & Drama Classes

Devizes Town Hall

*

Saturday, 4 December 2021 at 7pm

2021 FESTIVAL CONCERT

Devizes Town Hall

Admission Free – Retiring collection

*

Sunday, 30 January 2022 at 3pm

CLASS WINNERS CONCERT

Devizes Town Hall

Admission Free – Retiring collection

*

Saturday/Sunday, 5/6 February 2022

2022 EISTEDDFOD DANCE FESTIVAL

Lavington School

Admission £5 (students £2) per day

(Dance Entries open 25 October 2021)

*

Saturday 19 March 2022 at 7.30pm

SHOWCASE CONCERT

Bishops Cannings Church

Admission Free – Retiring Collection

in aid of the church

*

Saturday 9 July 2022 at 7.30pm

SHOWCASE CONCERT

Seend Church

Admission Free – Retiring Collection

in aid of the church


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Barry Reviews Strange Folk at The Southgate!

Well, what can I say? They might lose a couple of brownie points for the singer continuously referring to me as “Barry,” but Somerset-Hampshire psych-folk rock four-piece, Strange Folk, who graced Devizes’ Southgate’s little magic box last night can afford to!

Aside an acoustic set in Crewkerne, it was their first electric gig post-lockdown, and the first time they’d played at Devizes answer to the O2, though some may cast their minds back to a brighter sunny day when they showed us what they’re made of at Pete & Jackie of Vinyl Realm’s alternative stage at DOCA’s street festival. It was on the grounds of this outstanding performance which summon me to the Gate, not forgoing the awe-inspiring tune they sent us for the Julia’s House compilation. Which, in turn would’ve substituted any lost gold stars for the Barry banter!

A small price to pay to ensure they played Glitter the very song they kindly contributed, a request which took them by surprise, being recorded during lockdown, they were unprepared, and hadn’t yet played it live. Still, as was the entire gig, they made a grand job of it, and I’m about explain why.

It’s David Setterfield’s sublime electric and acoustic guitarwork coupled with the awe-inspiring power of Annalise’s voice, which bounds their sound beyond the confounds of the usual gothic-folk rock genre. So soulfully captivating is this voice, and is the gifted guitar, at times there’s a natural nod to electric blues, particularly of the late psychedelic sixties sort. In fact, I was praising them to someone, Bran Kerdhynen, I believe, one half of the Celtic Roots Collective, by suggesting they remind me of “White Rabbit,” which they indeed later covered, along with the other Jefferson Airplane anthem “Somebody to Love.”

If I could think of no other cover so apt for their particular and inimitable sound, covers of T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy, Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac, and the Stones at their most enchanting with Gimmie Shelter, also fit the bill perfectly. Tainted Love being perhaps the outside chance, but very much based on Soft Cell’s version, I’ll give them that too, for the goth perspective.

Similarly, though, as I said about Frey’s Beer’s Beast album a few days ago, the professional finish and hauntingly alluring female voice, rather than the gritty vocals common with said genre, despite not being the black hair dyed and leather friendship bands type, I devoured, because Strange Folk sweep the arena of All About Eve, into System of a Down and Blind Melon, to blend Fairport Convention with Jethro Tull and Hendrix. And I was born out of time, loving to have hitchhiked to San Francisco with a flower in my hair.

Yet at times covers at the Gate last night felt pushed, as to appease a perceived audience, compared to their own original compositions; they were the icing on the cake and truly ushered you away on a petite mind-trip. The coupling of David and Annalise would be bare without the proficient bassist, Ian and drummer, Steve tucked in the back of the skittle ally, and they rocked through their own songs more so. For future reference, unlike many a pub gig, originals are encouraged here.

Talking of here, it was lovely to be back at the Southgate after gallivanting somewhat to bring news of other venues in our rural precinct, for while they do exist, for me, just like Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, except, it seems for the lead singer on this occasion! I mean, Barry, for crying out loud; do I really look like a Barry to you?! Rhetorical, you don’t have to answer that.

The canopies over the beer garden have become locally legendary, a testament in our town, to upholding live music throughout this era, and Deborah and Dave have created this haven, where you’ll see no drunken squabbles and feel no bad vibes.

Nice to hear their communal acoustic jams have respawned on Wednesday evenings, and next Saturday is the time for The Blind Lemon Experience, Billy and the Low Ground following on the 23rd October.

Meanwhile Strange Folk have three singles, an EP from 2014 called Hollow Part 1, and a debut promo EP from 2004, which are very worthy of your attention. Around our way again at B-O-A’s Three Horseshoes for Halloween, their sound is a gorgeous gothic-folk crossover professional enough to captivate even those with a passing interest in the genre.


Nought to 60 with the Near Jazz Experience

Fooled by my own fool proof system must make me more of a fool than I give myself credit for. It’s an elderly memory malfunction thing, becoming commonplace. Like my lockdown skinhead idea. Skinheads fair as well as a bobcat on us elderly, what with hair sprouting from ears.

The ingenious strategy to create a word document called “albums which need reviewing” botched by forgetting I’d previous had the same plan and executed it, leaving me with two documents of the same idea differing information. So it goes, like a historic homework excuse, on the previous version I’d simply typed “NJE,” without the usual brief explanation, thinking that’ll warrant me not forgetting this. Rather, I’d forget the whole document and started from scratch, leaving me oblivious to what NJE was supposed to mean upon rediscovering it.

Abbreviation resolved, ‘twas the Near Jazz Experience mini-album “Nought to 60,” overlooked since June; I stated my defence and I’m sticking by it. Annoying thing is, as anything with the name Terry Edwards attached to it, it’s smoothing right up my street and blowing a saxophone loudly at my front door.

Near Jazz Experience sees Terry team up with Higsons bandmate Simon Charterton and Mark Bedford from Madness. Names on the tin, you get four lengthy modern jazz pieces of rapture, reminding me somewhat of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, in a mod style. Remember throughout; brass is class.

The opening ten minute-plus master-jam of cool, Spirit of Indo, pays homage to the London pub birthplace of the NJE, where they played a monthly residency for nine years. Like ambient afro-funk or cumbia it’s got that deep loop running through it, Bedders programmed, Simon embellished the groove, and Terry added the toplines, sliding effortlessly from one horn to another, as is his wont. There’s a real sense of improv here, and it spellbinds you to groove, man.

The second tune is a moving tribute to David Bowie, an instrumental cover of Five Years, and Simon’s minimalist cymbal-work sustains this fragile melodica melody, it tingles the very innermost of your soul.

The tempo moves up one notch, for the third track, Tizita, and I immediately call in the spirit of New Mexico jazz with this almost tin solider drum, rolling over the top, yet a little research reveals this is inspired by Ethiopian jazz-legend Mulatu Astatke, who Terry had the pleasure of working with a few years back.

Shows you how much I know, but I do know what I like, and me causing to ponder the wonder of Miles Davis’ influence, as the finale title track builds in layers to funk, seventies cop show score fashion, with Terry’s sax just freestyling over Teutonic beats on electronic Wave drum, and a Motorik bassline, it’s some seriously cool jazz; very nice indeed, though expected, just annoyed with myself it got mislaid in my inbox till now. Ah well, better late than never.


Freya Beer’s Beast

Driving my inner-goth, I’m comfortable with this, because London-based Freya Beer’s voice is hauntingly alluring, similar to Nina Persson of The Cardigans, or more obviously, Siouxsie Sioux, rather than the gritty vocals common with arch art-rock. So, despite not being the black hair dyed and leather friendship bands type, I devoured this long-awaited debut album, Beast, with the emotive response it evokes, and thoroughly deserves cathedral-sized praise.

Beast is out today, 7th October 2021, via her own Sisterhood label. I’m going to nail it to a few words after only an initial listen prior to this review, lyrically it needs time to fully digest with the clarity it warrants, but I can appreciate the echoing expression and exceptionally grafted narrative of disheartening passion. Savour it, this is a keeper.

It’s perhaps the crashing drums, almost the Burundi style slued upon eighties post punk pop by Malcolm McLaren, through Bow Wow Wow and Adam & The Ants, added with Fuzzbox frenzy, which gives it this welcoming retrospective tangent, or the mainstay All About Eve feel of the aforementioned sublime vocals, like Kate Bush at her darkest moment.

Yes, Beast is all these things, yet a contemporary, calculated record of primal power and animalistic instinct, carnal; hence its name, I guess!

Expressing her joy at finally setting her first collection of songs free, Freya Beer said, “it feels really exciting that I’ve released my debut album. I would never have been able to achieve the album without the incredibly talented people I met and worked with along the way. At my upcoming live shows, you can expect everything you hear on the album because my band is bigger now.”

Recorded between studios in Manchester and London, ‘Beast’ features longstanding drummer Owain Hanford on percussion, Arnoldas Daunys on bass, and lead guitars from Peter Hobbs (The Boy Least Likely To), who also produced the album. Additional contributions come from Dave Fidler and Andy Hargreaves. The album artwork was photographed by Paul Johnson (Say Goodnight Films), accompanied by Jupiter – the Sphinx cat.

Swiftly following the album’s release, Freya will be embarking on a major UK tour throughout November and December 2021. Full dates and details on the website. Closest to us is The Lanes, Bristol on Wednesday 10th November, or on Sunday 5th December at The 1865 in Southampton.

It conjures visually like Hieronymus Bosch, literate, a tangle of Edgar Allan Poe, but through sensual masochism, felinely elegant but eerie, all unpromising, like goblins will materialise out of inimical misty woods to corrupt your most emotive moment, or, something like that!

Website: http://www.freyabeer.com

Facebook: @freyabeerofficial

Twitter: @freyabeer

Instagram: @freya_beer


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REVIEW – Jon Amor/ King Street Turnaround – Southgate – Sunday 3rd October 2021

Busy Day For The Hometown Boy

Andy Fawthrop

Sunday saw me drifting up Long Street once again to The Southgate.  Dave & Debs have been doing a fantastic job to make everybody welcome over the last few weeks since Lockdown ended, not only by getting their garden into shape with umbrellas, gazebos, and marquees, tables and chairs, but by opening up the front of the skittle alley to accommodate a wide range of performers.  Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays have variously been used to field an eclectic programme of live music, including Tim Manning, Lewis Clark, Howlin’ Mat, Daydream Runaways, Eddie Martin, Innes Sibun, Barrelhouse, The Hoodoos and The Celtic Roots Collective.

I try to get up there as often as possible, but I definitely wasn’t going to miss this one.  Today it was a hometown gig for local hero Jon Amor with his band King Street Turnaround.  Normally a four-piece, they were shorn of their keyboard player due to Covid isolation restrictions, so they simply cracked on as a trio.   It was their second gig of the day, having played earlier in the afternoon at The Bell Inn in Bath.  And for drummer Tom Gilkes and bassist Jerry Soffe however it wasn’t even over yet, as there was to be a third gig later in the day at The Old Duke in Bristol with Eddie Martin.  Busy day!

Jon was in his usual ebullient and inspired form, cracking out some splendid guitar work, his vocals sparse and to the point.  Once he’d conquered drooping mike syndrome, there was no stopping him.  Two powerful sets of soulful, bluesy rock ensued, with the large crowd absolutely loving lapping it up.  The band display that wonderful quality of being at times loose and relaxed, giving each other the time and space to play their solos and improvisations, and then tightening it right up when they need to, in order to close out each song with a flourish.  Highlight for me, again, was Juggernaut, a song and a riff that I can’t get out of my head, and one which seems to be heading towards becoming a worthy always-there number in the set list.

The band played for as long as they possibly could, but finally it was all over, and that quick sprint out to Bristol lay ahead.  Another superb gig, and a pleasure to be there.

So if you want to support live music, be part of a great atmosphere, and have a few drinks with friends, get yourself up The Gate one of these coming weekends!

Future Gigs @ The Southgate:

  • Saturday 9th October – Strange Folk 9pm
  • Saturday 16th October – Blind Lemon Experience 9pm
  • Saturday 23rd October – Billy In The Lowground 9pm
  • Sunday 24th October – Jack Grace Band 5pm
  • Friday 29th October – Grizzly Rhys Morgan 9pm
  • Saturday 30th October – Celtic Roots Collective
  • Fri/ Sat/ Sun 29th – 31st October – Beer & Cider Festival

Win 2 Tickets HERE!

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REVIEW – Jimmy Carpenter – Long Street Blues Club – Saturday 2nd October 2021

Long, slow sax in the evening

Andy Fawthrop

I think we’re all partial to some casual sax when it’s on offer, so it didn’t take much persuasion to get me back up Long Street to the Con Club for the next date of Long Street Blues Club’s winter season.  Tonight it was the turn of Las Vegas-based Jimmy Carpenter and his band, and the Devizes date was the first night of their UK tour…..

But first things first.  Acoustic support act for the night was Lewis Clark, shorn of his Essentials for the evening – just the man, his voice and his guitar.  Lewis played mostly his own material, and a lot of the songs were new.  These were often raw in emotion, but still strong on melody, with some intricate guitar playing and soaring vocal work.  He did play one cover – John Martyn’s I Don’t Wanna Know, and a damned fine job he made of it too.  Lewis is a talented guy, and the crowd clearly appreciated it as a great start to the evening’s entertainment.

Then it was onto the main man – Jimmy Carpenter.  The man came highly recommended on the back of his new album (Soul Doctor) and his Blues Foundation 2021 award for Best Instrumentalist.  The guy is a saxophonist, singer-songwriter, and arranger and has been in the music business for over 35 years – and it showed.  I was new to the guy’s music, but was totally won over by the end of the night.

The 5-piece band played two 50-minute sets and it was the mark of how darned good it was that it seemed to slip by in half that time.  Jimmy was in total control of his band (including a bassist brought in at the last minute due to a possible Covid scare) and, after a few numbers, in control of the crowd.  The sets featured several original tracks from the album, including a really superb rendition of the eponymous Soul Doctor, together with a seamless leavening of carefully selected covers.  Just as I was beginning to think of comparisons – Van Morrison, Southside Johnny, Junior Walker – up came the latter’s Shotgun.  We also journeyed through Peter Green’s Need Your Love So Bad, Otis Clay’s Trying To Live My Life Without You, the Rolling Stones’ Shine A Light, Freddy King’s Surf Monkey and Eddie Hinton’s (of Muscle Shoals fame) Yeah Man. 

All of this was played with enormous panache and great energy, effortlessly working through Memphis soul, boogie-woogie, rock & roll, and blues.  And not content with blowing some wicked sax and putting out a great line in gravelly vocals, the man kept flipping over to lead guitar “just for a rest”.  What a performer!  Needless to say the crowd lapped it up.

Great night’s entertainment, and what good quality live music is all about!  Best sax I’ve had in ages!

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

  • Saturday 30th October – Climax Blues Band (at Devizes Town Hall)
  • Saturday 20th November – Focus (at Devizes Corn Exchange)
  • Saturday 27th November – Antonio Forcione Quartet
  • Saturday 18th December – Kossoff: The Band Plays On
  • Friday 14th January 2022 – Chicago Blues Allstars

WIN 2 FREE TICKETS HERE!

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The Evolution of Kirsty Clinch

“The only thing disappointing about Kirsty Clinch’s Evolution is, it ends.”

It’s a generation X thing, I’m suggesting, which levels me to downloading an album as the last port of call to actually “owning” something anywhere near physical, against this era of streaming music, sourly missing the fondness of holding a piece of vinyl for all its crackles and jumps. Because owning an album was like a piece of treasure, the cherished keepsake sense you don’t get with streaming, and in review today is exactly the sort of album to be such a cherished keepsake.

Nevertheless, Wiltshire’s adorable country-pop virtuoso, Kirsty Clinch has mastered the art of marketing, and with a drive to succeed, knows precisely through social media, how to gain and keep engaged a modern audience, equally to her exceptional gift as a musician and singer-songwriter. Yes, you could’ve guessed it, her new album Evolution is a masterpiece. The finale of which being aptly a tune called Social Media, which expertly reflects on the image one projects online against the hidden imperfections of reality.

But the ingenuity of marketing is a miniscule element as to why Kirsty manages to reach the fourth position in the iTunes charts in under a few short weeks of releasing her debut album, against the much larger reason that this is the sort of music which doesn’t require pigeonholing, because whatever the angle of your personal taste, you’ll emerge from it thinking; you know what, I like country-pop now.

So, I bite the bullet, stream it on Spotify, like a fledgling, mottled boss, ignoring the invasion of adverts for the sake of hearing an album I’ve held in high anticipation, since she mentioned it to me quite a while ago. If it’s taken time, it’s primarily Kirsty being a perfectionist, and it shows. Nothing here will disappoint or make me doubt the faultlessness of the composition of this album, and in turn, Kirsty’s talent, her picture-perfect balance, in such a way, it’s impossible not to love.

Around and Around’s modest drum makes this song an irresistible introduction, if the astute song writing, complimented by Kirsty’s rich and warming voice, doesn’t, oh but it does. Water’s Running Low continues the quality, confirming you’re in for a beautiful journey, ten tracks strong.

Fit The Shoe, the single we’ve fondly mentioned prior, is hauntingly divine, like William Orbit’s production of Madonna’s Frozen, with a theme of who the cap fits, which is followed by the title track, again, wonderful. Uplifting is the keyword throughout, maintain the balance of sombre yet jubilance. I am Winning, a song of faith in your accomplishments, being a grand example, it drifts over you, as if it’s always been in your life.

Previously there’s always been an obviously and well played out taste of country’s female giants clearly influenced in Kirsty’s songs, of Tammy or Dolly, but here, now, this is wholly Kirsty, it sounds freshly awakened to the junction whereby one day, not far away, reviewers will cite her influence on newer folk artists; that much I’m certain. 

Perhaps the memorable, yet not as quirky as the title suggests, No Cornflakes makes me sigh, are we past the halfway mark already? The only thing disappointing about Kirsty Clinch’s Evolution is, it ends.

But not before I Am Me, a rejected romance theme, breaths the most heart-warming narrative of all, with a trialling drumbeat imposing you to realise her style is contemporary, rather than the genre’s archetypal nostalgia. And three more tunes which never faulters the experience, the catchiest of them being Down, and it ends with the aforementioned Social Media.

In this finale you get the confirmation behind the stunning, echoing voice lies honesty in the song writing, from the heart and soul. And that’s it’s worth, in a nutshell, you feel as if you’re getting a little piece of this performer, who is the whole deal, plus one. Self-managed, produced, save the odd tip and mastering from Pete Lamb, marketed, Kirsty even drew the cover illustration. She puts the young students of her newly opened music school before that of promoting this album, she surely shines, and if you heard her previous songs, seen her perform live, you’ll remain convinced this album, is Kirsty indeed evolving into a shooting star you cannot ignore.


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Sonny Vincent’s Snake Pit Therapy

Here’s me doubting using the phrase “traditional punk rock,” because wouldn’t punk castoff anything deemed traditional? Yet I feel the term punk is loosely thrown about these days, compared to its original ethos. Much of the sneaker and drainpipe crowd-surfing youngsters barely relates to the sound and attitude of the Pistols or Ramones.  

While I’m a little behind, and smell like one too, Svart Records released Snake Pit Therapy on 17th of September, legendary NYC rocker Sonny Vincent is something we have to mention, because it’s loud, dangerous and pretty much nails the aforementioned oxymoron, “traditional punk rock.”

Born in New York City and raised on its streets and in its clubs, Sonny Vincent is infamous from NYC punk early fire-starters Testors, who from ‘75 to ’79 were attitude-laden fixtures on the CBGB and Max’s Kansas City scenes. An extraordinarily prolific artist, active since the late 60s, Sonny has released numerous albums collaborating with members of the Stooges, Dead Boys, The Damned, Husker Du, The Replacements, Rocket From The Crypt and releasing four albums with the Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker. He recently collaborated with Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling in the new supergroup The Limit, whose Caveman Logic album was released in the spring.

Snake Pit Therapy maintains the rawness of real-deal blazing protopunk with heaps of psychedelia and hard rock, all taken to the edge with Vincent’s naked aggression, passionate voice and his trademark caustic guitar. Yet scrupulousness rides this razor-sharp rock n roll testament, because Vincent’s life and antics are more than legend; they are real, as documented in his recent memoirs, bearing the same title as this very album.

In and out of homes for bad kids, committed to the psych ward for observation and forcibly conscripted into a tour of duty in Vietnam courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corp, Vincent’s experience of wild and tough living has awarded his songs hardness with humanity. Sincerity without mawkishness, Snake Pit Therapy is glorious rock ‘n’ roll with an edge that’ll slice your finger clean off.

For this, I’ll say, at first it was a hard pill to swallow, blasting it straight in your face when I was in somewhat of a laidback mood, rather Snake Pit Therapy grows on me like a wart with each listen, and if you’re looking for rage without cliché or irrationality, you’ve come to right album.

It was ten tracks into this fifteen-track indestructible primal scream when I was smitten, Japan Mofo, has the start stop of blues-riffed rock n roll, while retaining the ferociousness of previous tracks. Yet it’s the earlier driving rock tune, The End of Light which is the first single released, Never Tired follows, which a heart-ripped-open chorus, is having it.

Note, if you’re expecting it calm down, you’ll be disappointed until the final song, Forest offers a slightly mellowed psychedelic tenet, in comparison with the rest, still though this is verging on metal at times, inline with his recently formed heavy punk-metal band The Limit, featuring Bobby Liebling of Pentagram, and garnering glowing reviews worldwide.

So yeah, while a tad weighty for me, I still see it’s quality and know there’s a lot of people who are going locally who’ll love this, and I do too, when I’m in the raging like of mood, which has been known to happen for anything as long as thirty seconds! In the past, I reached for Iggy Pop, he now will have competition.


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Arts in Calne; October sees the Calne Music and Arts Festival

Calne Music and Arts Festival (CMAF) is a community celebration of music and the arts, which takes place during a ten-day period at the beginning of October each year, and this year is of no exception.

The festival aims not only to provide entertainment for the people of Calne and surrounding villages, but also to promote local musical and artistic talent. It was inaugurated in 1974 and has grown substantially over the years, showcasing some exceptional talent, whilst reaching a wide cross section of the community.

Starter for ten, there’s an art exhibition at Marden House, home to most of the festival. The exhibition presents hundreds of pieces from beginners to internationally exhibiting artists from in and around Calne. Opening times: Saturday 2nd: 10:00am – 4pm – Please note the Family Day will be in progress. Sunday 3rd: 10:00am – 02:00pm & 04:00pm – 05:00pm. Monday 4th to Friday 8th: 10:00am – midday and 01.15pm – 05:00pm. Saturday 9th: 11:00am – 02:00pm – Free Artists Talk 10:00am – midday.

There’s a Festival Club, a wine bar at Marden House, open before evening events and for interval drinks. Light lunches, snacks and drinks will be available throughout the Family Day, Saturday 2nd October. Coffee and cakes are also available on weekday evenings after the main event when there is a free late evening concert. Light lunches will be served following the weekday lunchtime concerts.

So, it starts off on Saturday 2nd October with a Family Day at the Pocket Park, and the evening sees Calne based family trio, The Shelburne Ensemble, comprising of Laurence Davies, French horn, violinist Siân McInally and pianist Helen Davies. Laurence until recently has been principal horn for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, of which Siân is still a member.

Lorna Davies

The shows, exhibits and events come in thick and fast, see the program here. Highlights include guitar teacher at Marlborough College, Mark Willcocks with a classical guitar and Renaissance lute, and an evening with Will Blake and the PSG Choir, both on Monday 4th. Returning jazz favourite, Catherine Sykes on 5th, Bath-based folk quartet Concrete Prairie on Thursday 7th and The Bonfire Radicals on the Friday.

Concrete Prairie

Info and Tickets Here


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Captain Rico’s Forgotten Memory of The Beaches

As much as I enjoyed Django Unchained, I’ve not seen the other Tarantino spaghetti western pastiche yet, but I think I should cap it until such a time ol’ QT hires Captain Rico and the Ghost Band to score it.

Echoes of a gothic Ennio Morricone in his darkest hour shudder through this epic instrumental album, transporting you to an alternate reality where The Shadows came after Hawkwind.

A realm where rock history is suffering the same fate as Benjamin Button, created as Britpop, slowly working its way back to rock n roll, and we’re about halfway; USA in the mid-sixties, hardcore surfing with the Beach Boys. Indeed, the sound of The Forgotten Memory of The Beaches,’ which was unleashed last Friday on Spider Music, is inspired by the classic surf-rock sound, pioneered by the likes of The Shadows, The Beach Boys, and The Ventures, yet it’s heavier, man, like vintage psychedelia heavier.

For this, I have to say, amidst sonic blasts, flares of garage fuzz and dark post-punk drumming undertones, there’s nothing really definable as in-your-face heavy metal here, more Chuck Berry’s Gibson ES-355 taken for a journey by Dave Murray, and for this it’s completely unique; a warlock’s cauldron in which he adds a tablespoonful of Duane Eddy and a pinch of The Cramps.

This incredible sound of sixties Southern California has been recaptured and reshaped by a trio based in the South of France, guitarist Damien Ricaud, Yves Manceau on percussion, and bassist Ludovic Timoteo, and it’s a breathless race. Given the psychedelic swirls of space rock at the beginning, you assume you’re in for a mellow trip, assume as Pink Floyd, there will be peaks and troughs, but through a magnitude of twelve relentless three-to-four-minute tracks, it rarely comes up for air.

Neither does it poke a standalone track at you, given it’s completely instrumental, without the hint of sampled spoken word, it flows right through as one masterpiece of mind-blowing nuanced mayhem, causing you wonder what the heck to listen to, or even do next. But for me, makes it tricky to nail a few direct words about it, to pick it apart, reason enough to love it.

On our local circuit, guitar heroes Innes Sibun jamming with Ruzz Evans might come somewhere close to capturing something similar. Should they choose to, because despite these sixties’ surfer influences cited in its press release, The Rivieras, for example, would’ve reacted like the crowd at the Under the Sea Dance scene in Back to the Future, when Marty blasts Johnny B Goode, or in reality, the impact Hendrix had on music. Captain Rico and the Ghost Band really are, this exciting.


Fun & Food at Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market

Crowds gathered in Devizes Market Place today, for the pushed back grand market and street food festival, all part of the fantastic Devizes Food & Drink Festival, a fabulous start to the series of events happening over the coming fortnight. It’s been a great success, most events sold out already, but as this is a freebie provided by the organisers for many townsfolk it’s considered the icing on the cake, pardon the pun!

I’ve always enjoyed this day, food and festival being two of my favourite things and to combine them is music to my ears; this year’s was no exception. It was the usual bustle of stalls either selling street food, drink or things to take home. Yet the operative word is usual. Perhaps it being later in the year due to obvious circumstances, but I felt stalls were lesser this year compared to previous ones, and, more importantly, there was nothing which hadn’t appeared before.

Gin was the order of the day, drinks wise, and predictably Wadworth sold the ale, Rutts Lane brought the cider, the ever-popular Cosy Kitchen attended with their fantastic gyros, but all these are stable elements to the market, including the Chinese food stall, bratwursts and Coal’s smoky barbeque, the latter of which rustled me up one darn fine lamb & mint burger. The previous year had more choice, the baozi stall so popular in the past wasn’t there, neither was a number of others. I recall with fondness innovative stalls, such as the guy selling ravioli, because it’s a rare thing to have as a street food, and that is what makes the market interesting.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen being something I was looking forward to, (to take home for the kids you understand!) but from Poulshot Lodge, only Holychocs attended, fabulous though they are. Likewise, last time the Muck & Dundar mobile bar stole the show for me, but their absence wasn’t missed, as I wandered down the Brittox for a quick rum from their new bar, which was just what the doctor ordered!

Quick Mount Gay rum at the Muck & Dundar!

Another unpreventable shame being Daydream Runaways had to pull out of playing some music, due to frontman Ben having lost his voice. Agreed Frome’s eclectic-influenced folk four-piece, The Decades made for the perfect entertainment, but again, they were the same band which played there in 2019.

I’m sorry to be the burden of bad news, though tis but a niggle, but as great as it was, it felt “samey.” I do hope next year’s will provide some different stalls, be progressive, as the amazing effort which goes into organising such a fantastic annual event on our calendar thoroughly deserves it.

We should though, consider the market is only a small part of the overall Devizes Food & Drink Festival, and there’s many other events still to come, from craft cider making to teddy bear’s picnics, and at the end of it all, the grand finale being The World Food event, free at the Corn Exchange on Sunday 3rd October from 12.30. There you can explore the globe on a plate. An event for all the family, where local residents with far flung roots invite you to sample a family favourite from their homeland. Basically, you get little taster portions for 50p a pop. Such a novel idea, and wonderful way to end the festival, one I’ve not yet tried, so I’m certain it will re-raise the bar.


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Gull Able

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

The Great Rock N Roll Swindon; Anarchist Artists Unite

October at The Post-Modern Gallery, on Swindon’s Theatre Square, sees an irresistible exhibition for punks, general music or art aficionados, and devotees of the curious and unusual, The Great Rock N Roll Swindon. Running from the 2nd – 10th, it’s a free art show, the name of which was inspired by the Sex Pistols film and song, The Great Rock N Roll Swindle, and is part of a touring group exhibition organised by punk artist, David Apps.….

From 2012 over a six-year period he had staged six exhibitions a year, always with his artwork dominating the exhibition. From London, Essex and Cambridge to Newcastle and Berlin, he staged exhibitions, built up a large following and returned the following year, until opening his own successful gallery in the summer of 2017.

With Brexit and then the world closing down shortly after, sadly David had to close his beloved gallery in December 2020. “Lost and not knowing what to do,” he explains, “I decided to book an exhibition a month and go back to how I started out, booking venues and art galleries and taking the artwork on tour.”

The exhibition is made up of a plethora of artists from the original punk movement, alongside some extremely interesting artists and friends who David has worked with over the past seven years, including legendary singer of punk band the U.K Subs, Charlie Harper. Two Brixton based artists, Dalis & Angel, aka DnA Factory, who produce provocative and slightly wrong bright pinks!

British punk icon Gaye Black, AKA Gaye Advert exhibits too, a bassist with the Adverts, who hated being the female icon of the band. Her work has dark themes as well as the use of press images of herself and the band in her work.

Others include renowned artist in his own right and son of the artist Lucian Freud, David Freud, Mr Ben Art from Worthing with music-related and punk icon images made from old magazines, papers and paint under a thick resin; sounds real punk-paste. London based T-shirt designer, Sexy Hooligans, specialising in duplicate original Malcolm McLaren & Vivianne Westwood’s SEX design T-shirts and the Anarchy shirts worn by the Sex Pistols.

Two of the artists are originally from Swindon, Michelle Mildenhall, a Latex artist now based in Hastings, who’s work contains themes of bondage, face-gags and iconic faces, and Hammer Horror influenced gothic, Saffron Reichenbacker, with fun but angelic designs, Brighton based.

There’s also Northampton based artist, Monet Shot, with limited edition prints using consumerism themed products as his influence. World renowned mosaic slogan artist, Carrie Reichardt, of whom we’re advised it’s “well worth taking a look at her mosaic house in West London on Google.” Carrie will only be showing small works in the exhibition. Plus, a second mosaic artist, CuriousiTeas, who’s thought-provoking and humorous slogans are put onto custom-made teapots.

But the most interesting and topical sounding of all this bizarre collective, just when you think you’ve heard it all, must be Linda King, who creates large, decorative flat wooden Crows, of beautiful design, to hang in windows to stop birds flying into them. And Hastings based artist, Sassy Luke, who uses religious icons with a twist, and has a wide range of both religious and Covid design knickers.

And with the thought of religious and Covid design knickers I believe it’s best to leave it there. If you’re intrigued by any of this, such as the aforementioned Covid designed knickers, as much as I, you really need to take a peek into this, more works on display can be seen by following David’s Instagram account. I mean, who hasn’t tried wearing their facemask as undergarments for some light relief during lockdown? …. oh, just me then!


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Onika Venus Smooths Trowbridge Town Hall

A truly wonderful night was had at Trowbridge Town Hall with soul-reggae artist Onika Venus and band….

Agreed, you may have to sift through wildly nerdy debates over Kirkby and Buscema’s cross-hatching, or season 12 of the Fourth Dr Who against season 13, but one great thing about socialising in the comics industry, unlike the mainstream music one, is level-pegging. The fact everyone gets paid peanuts no matter if you’re inking for Dark Horse or small pressing under a broken photocopier, means no snobby hierarchy, and this compares to local music circuits too, something I wrongly didn’t expect it to be like last night.

The arrogance and haughtiness of the pop star is historically documented. If I go above my station, it usually ends in disappointment, because I’m not wearing a Rolling Stone stage pass. I check ahead this weekend, because Onika Venus responded with gratitude when we reviewed her wonderful album, and on the strength of it alone, I made Trowbridge Town Hall my mecca for my evening’s intake of quality music. The message simple; make door-staff aware to allow me backstage if you would like to say hi.  

Now I’m sitting in a modest room of the Town Hall, with a slight crowd of approximately forty, rather than the grand ballroom and mass gathering I was expecting, and husband half of the duo, Mark Venus comes to thank me for the review, joking, “it’s okay, I’ve cleared your backstage pass!”

Why my assumptions? Not alone the prestigious connotations of “Trowbridge Town Hall,” but the sheer quality of Onika Venus’s album, Everything You Are. Her rich, beautiful vocals commands superiority, as if she’s pre-famed internationally, rather than the veracity; she’s upcoming, gigging together for the best part of twelve years on their local music scene around Bristol and the Forest of Dean, fans of which travelled to attend in support.

Reason enough to cry her name from the hilltops, which I intend to do, because last night was absolutely fantastic, and if everyone knows Macy Grey, Erykah Badu, or even Ariana Grande heaven help, everyone should know the music of Onika Venus.

I could ponder why until the cows come home, and conclude imminent attention aside, there’s a unique crossover with this singing duo making it tricky to pigeonhole. Husband Mark very much has the style of acoustic country or easy listening, a passionate James Taylor quality, whereas Jamaican-born Onika belts out a naturally sublime soulful voice where reggae is ascertained.

In a world where traditionally, husband and wife duos are unified in style, from Abba to Sonny & Cher, or Johnny Cash and June Carter, this blend is welcomingly unique, and I have to say, works so, so well. Critics should also take heed this little-known fact, historically as well as blues and RnB, country music bears a huge influence on the Jamaican recording industry pre the era of their homegrown radio stations, where folk would hear the sounds of US stations.

I discussed this with the pair, Mark acknowledged Onika’s mother back in JA sung country songs. In turn this also revealed, like many Jamaican musicians, music is in her blood. For while soulful, there’s nothing diva about Onika, coming across reserved and shy. Reflecting in the passion of her voice, on stage she shines like a beacon, with the joyfulness of female reggae artists of yore, particularly that of Marcia Griffiths, who always held an esteemed cheerfulness in her sound.

So, amidst this modest audience, accompanied by her husband Mark on acoustic guitar, and two other members, a percussionist on snared cocktail cajon and multi-instrumental brass player, they played out tunes from their album with a perfection spectators held in awe, then took a break.

This was not before the brilliant oddity of a comical support act, namely Big Tom, a friendly Londoner with a warming smile and penchant for original music hall. Whom covered the age-old bawdy parody of the nursey rhyme, “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be,” where seven old ladies were locked in the lavatory. This took me back to the cockney songs my own nan would sing, and I told him so within this surprisingly communal and outgoing environment.

It also gave the opportunity, said environment, to chat with Onika and Mark, the latter suggesting his eclectic influences included mod revival and two-tone ska as well as country-rock. This came to an apex in the second half of the show, whence after playing a few more songs from the album, and introducing us to some new songs they’ve been working on for a follow-up, the four-piece burst into a lively finale of reggae classics. From Dandy Livingstone to the more obvious Toots and Marley, this medley gave the crowd the incentive to dance, making for a celebratory and memorable culmination.

But if this felt essential given Onika’s origins, it certainly wasn’t pushy, and with equal joy Onika sang the songs which blessed reggae into international recognition as she did their own compositions. Yet it is in those originally penned songs where this band all gleam, the album is a must-have. I adhere to this notion so much, I’ve a CD of said album to give away, see below.

For now, though, know this was a wonderful evening, with Sheer Music’s Kieran at his beloved control tower, Trowbridge Town Hall intends to break barriers and offer a variety of events for all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Not forgoing, Onika and her band were astounding.

WIN A CD OF EVERYTHING YOU ARE!

So, if you want a copy of Everything you Are by Onika Venus, it’s on Bandcamp, or you could win one (if you live in the Devizes area so I can deliver it!) Please ensure you’ve liked our Facebook page, and Onika’s too. But I’m not making it that easy, you will have to give me, via Facebook comment, a great example of where country music influenced reggae, post a YouTube link to the song, and let’s get educating! Winner will be the one who picks my favourite example, by chance!


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REVIEW – Creedence Clearwater Review – Long Street Blues Club – Saturday 18th September 2021

Up Around The Blues Club

By Andy Fawthrop

Well, it’d been a long old time but finally – finally! – we were back after 18 months to Long Street Blues Club, hosted by The Con Club.  The original artists for this gig had been the USA-based Billy Walton Band but, once one or two other dates on their European tour had been cancelled due to Covid restrictions, found that the tour as a whole had become unviable.  Hopefully they’ll be re-scheduled for 2022.

Which left Ian Hopkins needing to scrabble round fairly quickly in order to fill this date for tickets already sold – and what a great job he did at such short notice.  He found two very competent acts to step in, and the gig could go ahead, even if not quite as originally planned.

Kevin Brown

Support for the evening came from an old mate of mine, Kevin Brown.  He of the oil-can guitar, the blues slide guitar and, when playing on the local pub and festival circuit, Shackdusters fame.  This was his first appearance at the club, playing solo.  His laid-back, humorous, self-deprecating style quickly won over a large audience, who listened in rapt attention. Kevin writes his own material, based on his life experiences, so that the man and the music blend almost seamlessly. His JJ Cale tribute number was particularly impressive.  A very winning performance, which elicited fulsome and well-deserved applause – so let’s hope he’s invited back in the future.

The main act, Creedence Clearwater Revival arrived with a “show” – a pre-programmed set, introduced by, and intercut with documentary voice recordings by members of the original band.  Early on the band explained – if explanation it was – that their rhythm guitarist “couldn’t make it”, so they were doing the show as a trio.  An odd start, but then they got on with ticking the hits off the list – Up Around The Bend, Rocking All Over The World, Heard It Thru’ The Grapevine, Midnight Special, Because You’re Mine, As Long As I Can See The Light, Bad Moon Rising, Born On The Bayou, Proud Mary, Have You Ever Seen The Rain.  The show – delivered as two fifty-minute sets – was performed with confidence and aplomb.  By the end we had singalongs and quite a few folks up dancing at the front.

And yet. And yet…..and yet it left me rather un-moved.  I grew up with the music of CCR and John Fogerty, so I’d like to think I’m a bit of a fan of their material.  So I was surprised to find the show rather unexciting.  The band were professional and competent and captured, to some extent, the “feel” of CCR’s bayou-based sound. Yet somehow, something of the original CCR’s drive and energy was missing.  It felt a bit “CCR-by-numbers” if you get what I mean? I thought perhaps I was being a bit super-critical, so I consulted a few people whose musical opinions I respect (as well as a few whose musical opinions I don’t respect) and there seemed to be a clear consensus – it was OK: the band were good, but not great.  My own acid test on these things is – would I pay money to go and see them again?  Sadly, my answer would be in the negative.  It felt a bit one-dimensional. There wasn’t a whole lot of audience engagement.  They’d come to play a show, and they played it.  Job done. No criticism whatsoever of the great job done by Ian, but not every band can float your boat, can it?

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

  • Saturday 2nd October – Jimmy Carpenter
  • Saturday 30th October – Climax Blues Band (at Devizes Town Hall)
  • Saturday 20th November – Focus (at Devizes Corn Exchange)
  • Saturday 27th November – Antonio Forcione Quartet
  • Saturday 18th December – Kossoff: The Band Plays On
  • Friday 14th January 2022 – Chicago Blues Allstars

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Song of the Day 39: Kirsty Clinch

Song of the day this fine Friday evening… got to be Kirsty, enough said! And that’s my song of the 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.


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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.


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