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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The Mystery of Nigel G Lowndes

Must have been about fifteen or so years ago, random folk in a pub told me they were off to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was surprised to hear it was still going, and had it in my head its writer, Richard O’Brien had passed away. I pointed this out, and they refuted the fact. Someone pulled a mobile phone out their pocket and, in a flash, proved me wrong. With a virtual reference library at one’s fingertips the lively debate which would’ve, in previous times, circulated around the boozer, was kaput, the potential conversation starter settled, and the pub fell silent.

In the interest of truth, provided it’s a trustworthy source, fact checking is no bad thing. Obviously, I wished no malice on Mr O’Brien, just an incorrect piece of trivia I’d picked up. But it was the first time it occurred to me, sadly, as well as the art of spreading urban myths, we live in an era where any mystery is immediately solved. I mean, loads of money was wasted hoping to find the Loch Ness Monster, but if an Android app actually proves it either way, the myth is ruined. Bristol-based Nigel G Lowndes nails this unfortunate reality in the title track of new album, Hello Mystery.

But whoa, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Mystery is the eighth track of this varied ten track show, released tomorrow (26th March 21.) To commence at the beginning, the direct boomer, Boring screams Talking Heads at me, and I’m left thinking this is going to be an easy ride, one comparison to art-pop and I’m done. But, oh no, far from it. And it’s all because Nigel is a one-man variety show. To conclude there’s elements of tongue-in-cheek loungeroom and easy listening, akin to Richard Cheese or The Mike Flowers Pops, although there largely is, is not to have listened till end, where the finale Always Leaving London, is an acute folk-rock acoustic masterwork.

Track-by-track then is the best method to sum up this highly entertaining album. As I’ve mentioned you’ll start by contemplating he’s a 21st century Talking Heads without the punk edge of the era. But the second song, Tell me Tomorrow would confirm this if it wasn’t so much more vaudeville than the risky titled Boring, (as all of it is far from boring) but it’s becoming clear not to take Nigel too seriously.

When a relationship breakdown, caused by the partner’s affection for some critter-like pets he buys for her is the subject matter for the third, bluegrass parodied song, Furry Little Vampires, it’s become laugh-out-loud funny. Country and doo-wop merge afterwards, but the fifth track, Bubble, has a Casio keyboard samba rhythm with a floating romance theme. What are you doing to me, Nigel?!

As randomly foodie based as Streetband’s Toast, we’re back to uplifting art-pop with the very British notion a cup of tea will sort all your problems out, even psychosis. But random as this is, White Roses, which follows, is a more sombre nod to Nigel’s appreciation of country. Stand alone, it’s a gorgeous ballad; Nigel recognises the need to know the rules in order to break them. As he does by the very next song; Shoes follows country-rock again, but with a sillier, nonsensical subject.

The album plays out on the country tip, its influence seems to build throughout. The aforementioned obituary to mystery is as wonderful in thoughtful narrative as a country classic, and then we’re treated to Always Leaving London. Despite its skipping variety, nothing on Hello Mystery will, as the beguiling opening track shouts, bore you, that much I can guarantee.

If you’re looking for dopily swaying while holding your elongated black and sapphire dyed fringe under your hoody, as a melancholic indie-rock icon miserably recites his teenage anguish with a whining semitone through his nose, then avoid this. For everyone else, Nigel G Lowndes is very worthy of your attention; a sparkly beacon of showbiz, more surprising than a contemporary David Byrne with a Stetson, and when it comes to diversity, it puts The Mike Flowers Pops back on the shelf in the garden centre. Hello Mystery is as it says on the tin, and for this I give it full marks. Johnny Cash pastiche meets Tonight at the London Palladium; love it!


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Spotify Link to Nigel’s singles from the album, released tomorrow, 26th March 2021.


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Three Times Better; The Lost Trades @ The Southgate

From Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads to bipolar bank robber George “Babyface” Nelson, there’s so many Americana mythologies and folklore veracities apropos in the Cohen Brother’s “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” I could draft a lengthy essay. One I’m reminded of last Sunday down our trusty Southgate, was the scene depicting the Carter Family singing “Keep on the Sunny Side” at a governor’s election rally. Reason; there’s something simplistically bluegrass about The Lost Trades, matchless vocal harmonies, ensuring the circle is unbroken, even in a distant Wiltshire.

It was only a whistle-stop to wet my whistle, and when I did arrive the trio I’d came for where on their break. Tamsin was selling handcrafted spoons and lesser original band merchandise such as t-shirts and CDs, Phil was lapping the pub chatting enthusiastically and Jamie was having a pint with his family. None of this really matters, as individuals, we’ve rightfully nothing but praised these marvellous local musicians. When they formed a more official grouping and the Lost Trades were born, we broke the news. Neither did it matter, at the time, that I would be unable to attend their debut gig at the Village Pump. I had my new writer Helen offer to take my place, and what is more, I knew I’d be catching up with The Lost Trades in due course; couldn’t have predicted the impending lockdown the following week.

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Yet prior to Sunday I had ponder if there was anything else to write about these individuals we’ve not covered in the past, but I was wrong. The angle can only be the difference between them as individuals or periodically helping one another out at a gig, to the trio The Lost Trades. Because, when they did everything was very much adlib, with the Lost Trades three minds are working closer than ever before, and if two brains are better than one, three is not, in this case, a crowd.

It wasn’t long before they resettled, and huddled in the doorway of the skittle room playing to the crowd in the garden, as is the current arrangement for these brief acoustic sessions at the Gate. They joyfully toiled with a cover of Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere.” This was followed by my favourite track from Tamsin’s album Gypsy Blood, aptly, “Home.” Topped off with a sublime version of Cat Stevens’ “Moon Shadow.” But I did say it was a whistle stop.

In consolation I picked up their self-titled debut EP, something I should have done months ago. With this beauty in hand I could take a little of The Lost Trades home with me; it’ll play perpetually through those thoughtful moments. Recorded in session at The Village Pump, “because we really like the acoustics in there,” explained Tamsin, here is a recording oozing with a quality which, despite predicting, still blew me for six. As I say, it’s the combination of these three fantastic artists in their own right, as opposed the jamming we’ve previously become accustomed to, which really makes the difference.

Five tunes strong, this EP equally celebrates these three talents and harmonises them on a level we’ve not heard before. The acapella beginning of the opening tune, “Hummingbird” glides into stripped back xylophone and acoustic guitar, and is so incredibly saccharine, it trickles like some beatniks performing on a seventies Children’s TV show. Yet, it works. In true Simon & Garfunkel manner, it’s not mawkish, just nice.

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Hummingbird serves as a great introduction, but is by no means the template. As is commonplace, from the Beatles to The Wailers, The Trades, I detect, conjoin the writing effort but the lead singer seems to be the one who plucked the idea. “Good Old Days,” then, screams Jamie at me, who leads. It has his stamp, ingenious narrative centred around thoughtful prose. “Wherever You Are,” likewise is a Tamsin classic, wildly romantic and wayfarer.

“Robots,” follows, the quirkiest and perhaps erroneous after an initial listen. Yet through subtle metaphors the satirical slant charms in a manner which nods Phil Cooper, and why should one stick to a formula in subject matter? Because the sound is authentically Americana of yore, Robots superbly deflects the notion it’s lost in a bygone era and cannot use modern concepts, and Robots ruling the world is, however much a metaphor, still fundamentally sci-fi, and that makes for an interesting contrast. With that thought in mind, this could be the track which stands out for originality.

As in this review, we’ve returned to the unbroken circle. In full circle the final song, “Wait for my Boat,” is a sublimely cool track, casting a direction the trio are clearly heading. For although Jamie leads, there’s elements of all three middle tracks combined in this sea shanty sounding song. It’s metaphorical, romantic, with sentimental narrative. It wraps up the EP perfectly, leaving you hanging for the album they’re working on.

Yes, the Lost Trades is a live group you need to see in person, but this EP really is way beyond my already high expectations. It’s combination of talents is honest, bluegrass-inspired acoustic gorgeousness you need in your life.

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