Song of the Day 35: The Jamestown Brothers

With tracks for the charity compilation album coming in thick n fast, time for me to take a break, sit with the family to watch the Jumanji rework, again. Hum, Ruby Roundhouse….But before my mind wanders too much, here’s my song of the day.

It has no video, best guessing it doesn’t matter, you’ll feel preoccupied with footstomping and guzzling cider from a plastic gallon container. Americana meets west country folk, scrumpy & western, this is nothing but a carefree enjoyable bop, done with bells on.

Looks from here like they’re a staggering nine-piece, suspect fibbers about being brothers, but two seconds into this beauty and even that won’t matter, even if you did bring ya mama, who’d probably just complain about her feet the whole way through.

Go give em a Facebook like, for more info on the shindigs you’ll hear them pluck their geetars at, and based on this tune alone, you know it’s going to go off.

And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on….


Song of the Day 34: Jon Amor

Here’s a thing, did you know the Michael and Janet Jackson duet “Scream,” is cited as the world’s most expensive music video, totaling a cost of $7 million? And Wacko dished the cash out of his own pocket?

Despite critical acclaim at the time, reaching number 3 in the UK pop charts, and the retaliatory nature of the song against the tabloid assault on Michael after sexual abuse accusations, I thought, and always will think, it was a bit shit, to be perfectly frank!

Look, I mean, okay, bit harsh were the allegations, so MJ thinks, I know, I’ll bag myself a B-movie spaceship, take my sister off the planet, buy us both matching knobbly jumpers, dance about in zero g, and cough up seven million dollars for someone to film it, that’ll convince the fans I’m not a complete fruitcake.

They didn’t even save enough pennies to get it filmed in technicolor. Input sad face emoji.

Compare and contrast to Devizes-own Jon Amor, who, with just the creativity of Lucianne Worthy, a big chunk of inspiration from Jim Henson and some snazzy blue loafers, pulls off this absolute beauty for the track Rider from the latest album Remote Control.

Smashed it, guys, and it’s in colour too. Proof you don’t gotta do a Wacko Jacko and push the boat out as far as Mars to accomplish something all together entertaining.

And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on….


The Ruzz Guitar Sessions; Going to the City

Driving home through Devizes last week, it’s only 10pm but I contemplate, it could be three in the morning it’s deathly silent. Our once lively little market town, like everywhere else, has lost a sparkle due to the pandemic; hope it can rekindle is all that is left. And now, the Facebook memories fires a bittersweet reminder at me, for even if you paint only a rose-tinted view of your life on the social media giant, a memory still pops up which is kind of sad on reflection.

Musically, blues is apt.

Thought was fairly stable that evening proved wrong. That memory was a wobbly video of the absolutely blinding night when Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue blew, or blue, perhaps, the roof off the Sports Club, aided by a supergroup of Innes Sibun, Jon Amor and Pete Gage. It was in a word, treasured. The sadness being, at the time it was only speculation it could be the final night of live music, and I didn’t want or care to digest that notion at the time, but it was; way to go out with style, though!

Now we’ve come around to the anniversary of that moment, with a prospective reopening light at the end of tunnel, primarily being only a possibility. Yet the world turns on its axis, and music has, like so many other arts, been forced to change methods of distribution. The live stream, the Zoom recording session, and, for an extremely short summer stint, an afternoon solo session in a socially distanced pub when we were disillusioned into believing the virus was on its way out, have become the norm.

As many others, Ruzz Guitar has adapted, and a Facebook group called the RG Sessions aims to launch a new style of assemblies, producing the exceptionally high-quality electric blues we’ve come to expect from the Blues Revue. You can buy them a virtual pint, and you can grab this gorgeous name-your-price single, which features all the musicians as on that fateful night. And in a way, it’s so good it near makes up for the depressing notion of this live music loss.

With the expert gritty vocals of keyboardist Pete Gage, “If You’re Going To The City,” also features our homegrown guitarists Innes Sibun and Jon Amor, with Ruzz’s proficient Blues Revue members, drummer Mike Hoddinott, bassist Richie Blake and Michael Gavaghan on sax. And with that said, I don’t feel the need to review it, take it as red, they’re the ingredients for perfection.

After the previous spellbinding single with Peter, Ain’t Nobody’s Business, we live in hope this faultless coupling will be retained for more of the same. But what surprises these Sessions will magically pull from their sleeves next will keep us guessing; I’d advise you follow the page for updates.


Make Headway for Ariel Posen

Try this: think of some tunes of the decade you were born, songs which you like but don’t know why, songs which, for some reason, ring alarm bells at you as characteristic of the era. Your taste screams no, you shouldn’t like these, but you do. Then check the year they charted. I wager many of them were in the year you were born, the previous or following.

I remember liking, at the time, and I’m not proud but in the name of science I’m going to confess, Brotherhood of Man’s Save All Your Kisses for Me! Oh, while we’re there, Abba’s Dancing Queen too! Thing is, I know why. They were in the charts in 1976, when I was three, the sort of excruciating pop mush anthems a toddler graduates to after the Wheels on the Bus. However, I cannot put my finger on why I’m engrossed with glam rock songs, such as Gary Glitter’s I’m the Leader of the Gang, The Sweet’s Blockbuster and Slade’s Cum Feel the Noise, when the genre makes me generally quiver.

Any doubt I was born in the 70s cleared up with this family photo; I’m the baby!

Why flower-power sold out and hippies took to wearing kipper ties and platform shoes with goldfish in the heel is beyond my understanding of youth culture vicissitudes. Still, when I hear the aforementioned glam rock screeches, they stir something vague inside, indications of a life obscured by cognition. Coincidence they all charted in 1973, the year I was born? Or could the sounds around you, as a baby, implant permanent scars?! If so, I’ll be dammed, deeply archived Little Jimmy Osmond’s Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool!

Though you should never condemn an entire decade for its pop chart. Given you’ll throw Sonia, Jason & Kylie, even Blacklace at me, and tell me to shaddup my face. Despite the lack of technological advances of the seventies when compared with the eighties, there was numerous classics. I’m drawn to the cherished saxophone riff of Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, but surprised to note, it broke my theory and wasn’t until ‘78.

The research was stirred by Canadian singer-songwriter, Ariel Posen’s forthcoming album, ‘Headway,’ released on 5th March. Oh, yeah, I am coming to an eventual music review, excuse my waffle. There’s something retrospectively seventies about it, my mind sees a Ronco record label revolving on the turntable of a seventy’s mahogany music centre. A quick flick through the tracks suggested motives not to like this are manyfold. Yet, akin to why I cannot put my finger on why I like those glam tunes of my birth year, I’m finding it tricky to reason with this too, but I do like it, a lot.

With magnificent guitar riffs which nods subtly to country and heartland rock & roll, combined with smooth, blue-eyed soul vocals, there’s something very Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, or Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever about this potential electrified Americana rock classic.

The harmonious and tenderly sensual soul of Coming Back, against the folksy- blues guitar picking of the single Heart by Heart suggests there’s a vast melting pot, but Posen meticulously stirs it into one seriously chilled groove, David Soul styled, which will leave you causally drifting through till the end. Hence my reasons for pondering my little science experiment while listening. Again, comparisons to seventies music, here’s an album to listen to complete, afar from youthful trend of flicking through Spotify playlists like time is against them.

Upon first impressions I was dubious about a Springsteen comparison, contemplating the subjects are generally of romance, and perhaps simpler than the Boss’s interweaved wordplay, yet again humbler Beatles’ pop formulas clearly influence it greatly too. Harder listening conjured a progressive prose of evolution in life, love, and all points in between. They’re poignant and beguiling, combined, you just have to dive a little deeper.

Two years in production, Posen began recording Headway in December 2019, a week after wrapping up an international tour in support of his acclaimed debut, How Long; the effort shows. The gigs received standing ovations, and Rolling Stone dubbed him “a modern-day guitar hero.” Music Radar listed him as a fan voted top 10 rock guitarist of the year, and the Western Canadian Music Awards nominated him for Breakout Artist of the Year.

So, yeah, this is worthy of your attention, and if I attempt to lambast the seventies again, remind me of the current sate of my lockdown coiffure; I’ve got the big hair of a middle-aged Caucasian from 1976. I’m going out on my Raleigh Chopper now, mum, call me when my mince in gravy is ready!

Artic Roll for pudding? Hunky dory!

Pre-order Headway HERE


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Song of the Day 28: Kevin Brown

Launched today, ‘Square Peg in a Round Hole.’ How’s that for efficiency? I know, I’m not usually this quick off the mark, must be something in the water!

But yeah, but no, though; you’ve got to hear this beauty of blues-folk from Kevin Brown, it’ll take you away with it, and we all need to get away; who’s been living in their Jimmy-jams for months?!

A song inspired by, Kevin explains, “people living on the edges of society, in and around Bath in the mid 80’s… people who don’t quite fit in.”

We’ve chosen some stunning photographs by Steven A Chandler for the montage – they really capture the mood of the track.” And emotive it is. I’ll use the term emotive rather than ‘moody,’ if you don’t mind, Kevin, as it has a subtle uplifting hint, and it’s simply gorgeous.

Subscribe to the man’s YouTube channel, here. I’ve stressed this before, and reinforcing it by subscribing to as many as I find. It’s crucial for all musical artists that you do, gives them possible revenue, if they get to a certain amount of subscribers, but they do a LOT of them to get there. Whereas, a “YouTuber” podcasting a hoard of bling and clothes, or playing Minecraft while chatting nonsense, can elevate to stardom in a matter of milliseconds. Such is the way of modern life.

Anyhoo, that’s my song for the day, very good, carry on…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Devizine’s Review of 2020; You Can’t Polish a Turd!

On Social and Political Matters……

For me the year can be summed up by one Tweet from the Eurosceptic MEP and creator of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. A knob-jockey inspired into politics when Enoch Powell visited his private school, of which ignored pleas from an English teacher who wrote to the headmaster encouraging him to reconsider Farage’s appointed prefect position, as he displayed clear signs of fascism. The lovable patriot, conspiring, compulsive liar photographed marching with National Front leader Martin Webster in 1979, who strongly denies his fascist ethos despite guest-speaking at a right-wing populist conference in Germany, hosted by its leader, the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler’s fiancé; yeah, him.

He tweeted “Christmas is cancelled. Thank you, China.” It magically contains every element of the utter diabolical, infuriating and catastrophic year we’ve most likely ever seen; blind traditionalist propaganda, undeniable xenophobia, unrefuted misinformation, and oh yes, the subject is covid19 related.

And now the end is near, an isolated New Year’s Eve of a year democracy prevailed against common sense. The bigoted, conceited blue-blooded clown we picked to lead us up our crazy-paved path of economic self-annihilation has presented us with an EU deal so similar to the one some crazy old hag, once prime minster delivered to us two years back it’s uncanny, and highly amusing that Bojo the clown himself mocked and ridiculed it at the time. I’d wager it’s just the beginning.

You can’t write humour this horrifically real, the love child of Stephen King and Spike Milligan couldn’t.

Still, I will attempt to polish the turd and review the year, as it’s somewhat tradition here on Devizine. The mainstay of the piece, to highlight what we’ve done, covered and accomplished with our friendly website of local entertainment and news and events, yet to holistically interrelate current affairs is unavoidable.

We have even separated the monster paragraphs with an easier, monthly photo montage, for the hard of thinking.

January

You get the impression it has been no walk in the park, but minor are my complaints against what others have suffered. Convenient surely is the pandemic in an era brewing with potential mass hysteria, the need to control a population paramount. An orthornavirae strain of a respiratory contamination first reported as infecting chickens in the twenties in North Dakota, a snip at 10,400km away from China.

Decidedly bizarre then, an entire race could be blamed and no egg fried rice bought, as featured in Farage’s audacious Tweet, being it’s relatively simple to generate in a lab, inconclusively originated at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, rather spread from there, and debatably arrived via live bat or pangolin, mostly used in traditional Chinese medicine, a pseudoscience only the narrowminded minority in China trusts.

Ah, inconsistent pseudoscience, embellished, unfalsifiable claims, void of orderly practices when developing hypotheses and notably causing hoodwinked cohorts. Yet if we consider blaming an ethos, rather than a race, perhaps we could look closer to home for evidence of this trend of blind irrationality. Truth in Science, for example, an English bunch of Darwin-reputing deluded evangelicals who this year thought it’d be a grand and worthy idea to disguise their creationist agenda and pitch their preposterous pseudoscientific theory that homosexuality is a disease of the mind which can be cured with electro-shock treatment to alter the mind inline with the body’s gender, rather than change the body to suit the mind’s gender orientation, to schoolchildren!

Yep, these bible-bashing fruit-bats, one lower than flat earth theorists actually wrote to headmasters encouraging their homophobia to be spread to innocent minds, only to be picked up by a local headmaster of the LGBTQ community. Here’s an article on Devizine which never saw the light of day. Said that Truth in Science’s Facebook page is chockful with feedback of praise and appreciation, my comments seemed to instantly disappear, my messages to them unanswered. All I wanted was a fair-sided evaluation for an article, impossible if you zip up.

Justly, no one trusts me to paint an unbiased picture. This isn’t the Beeb, as I said in our 2017 annual review: The chances of impartiality here, equals the chances of Tories sticking to their manifesto. Rattling cages is fun, there’s no apologies I’m afraid, if I rattled yours, it just means you’re either mean or misguided.

Herein lies the issue, news travels so fast, we scroll through social media unable to digest and compose them to a greater picture, let alone muster any trust in what we read. I’m too comfortable to reside against the grain, everyone’s at it. I reserve my right to shamelessly side with the people rather than tax-avoiding multinationals and malevolent political barons; so now you know.

February

If you choose to support these twats that’s your own lookout, least someone should raise the alarm; you’d have thought ignoring World Health Organisation advise and not locking down your country until your mates made a packet on horseracing bets is systematic genocide and the government should be put on trial for this, combined with fraud and failure of duty. If not, ask why we’re the worst hit country in the world with this pandemic. Rather the current trend where the old blame the young, the young blame the old, the whites blame the blacks, the thin blame the fat, when none of us paid much attention to restrictions because they were delivered in a confused, nonsensical manner by those who don’t either, and mores to the pity, believe they’re above the calling of oppressive regulations.

If you choose to support these twats, you’re either a twat too, or trust what you read by those standing to profit from our desperation; ergo, twats. Theres no getting away from the fact you reep what you sow; and the harvest of 2020 was a colossal pile of twat.


Onto Devizine…. kind of.

For me what started as a local-based entertainment zine-like blog, changed into the only media I trust, cos I wrote the bollocks! But worser is the general obliteration of controversy, criticism and debate in other media. An argument lost by a conformer is shadowed behind a meme, or followed up with a witch hunt, a torrent of personal abuse and mockery, usually by inept grammar by a knuckle-dragging keyboard warrior with caps-lock stuck on; buy a fucking copy of the Oxford Guide to English Grammar or we’re all going to hell in a beautiful pale green boat.

We’re dangerously close to treating an Orwellian nightmare as a self-help guide, and despite fascists took a knockdown in the USA and common sense prevailed, the monster responded with a childish tantrum; what does this tell you? The simple fact, far right extremism is misled and selfish delinquency which history proves did no good to anyone, ever. Still the charade marches on, one guy finished a Facebook debate sharing a photo of his Boris “get Brexit done” tea-towel. I pondered when the idiot decided a photo of his tea towel would suffice to satisfy his opinion and convince others, before or after the wave of irony washed over his head in calling them Muppets.

I hate the term, it’s offensive. Offensive to Jim Henson’s creations; try snowflake or gammon, both judgemental sweeping generalisations but personally inoffensive to any individual, aside Peppa Pig. I wager you wander through Kent’s lorry park mocking the drivers and calling them snowflakes rather than tweeting; see how far you get.

So, the initial lockdown in March saw us bonded and dedicated, to the cause. We ice-skated through it, developed best methods to counteract the restrictions and still abide by them; it was kind of nice, peaceful and environmentally less impacting. But cracks in the ice developed under our feet, the idea covid19 was a flash in pan, akin to when Blitz sufferers asserted it’d all be over by Christmas, waned as we came to terms, we were in it for the duration.

Yet comparisons to WWII end there, lounging on the sofa for three months with Netflix and desperate peasants delivering essential foodstuff, like oysters, truffles and foie gras is hardly equivalent to the trench warfare of Normandy. Hypocritical is me, not only avoiding isolation as, like a nurse, my labour was temporarily clapped as key worker in March, I figured my site would only get hits if I wrote something about Covid19, and my ignorance to what the future resulted in clearly displayed in spoofy, ill-informed articles, Corona Virus and Devizine; Anyone got a Loo Roll? on the impending panic-buying inclination, and later, I Will Not Bleat About Coronavirus, Write it Out a Hundred Times…

The only thing I maintained in opinion to the subject, was that it should be light-hearted and amusing; fearing if we lose our sense of humour, all is lost. Am I wrong? Probably, it’s been a very serious year.

It was my first pandemic-related mention, hereafter nearly every article paid reference to it, no matter how disparate; it’s the tragedy which occupied the planet. But let’s go back, to oblivious January, when one could shake hands and knew where the pub was. Melksham got a splashpad, Devizes top councillors bleated it wasn’t fair, and they wanted a splashpad too. They planned ripping out the dilapidated brick shithouses on the Green and replacing it with a glorious splashpad, as if they cared about the youth of the town. I reported the feelings of grandeur, Splashpad, I’m all over it, Pal! A project long swept under the carpet, replaced with the delusion we’ll get an affordable railway station. As I said, convenient surely is the pandemic.

So many projects, so many previews of events, binned. Not realising at the time my usual listing, Half Term Worries Over; things to do with little ones during February half-term… would come to an abrupt halt. Many events previewed, the first being the Mayoral Fundraising Events, dates set for the Imberbus, and Chef Peter Vaughan & Indecision’s Alzheimer’s Support Chinese New Year celebration, to name but a few, I’m unaware if they survived or not.

March


On Music……

But it was the cold, early days of winter, when local concerns focused more on the tragic fire at Waiblingen Way. In conjunction with the incredible Liz Denbury, who worked tirelessly organising fundraising and ensuring donations of essentials went to the affected folk, we held a bash in commemoration and aid down that there Cellar Bar; remember?

It was in fact an idea by Daydream Runaways, who blew the low roof off the Cellar Bar at the finale. But variety was the order of the evening, with young pianist prodigy Will Foulstone kicking us off, opera with the amazing Chole Jordan, Irish folk with Mirko and Bran of the Celtic Roots Collective and the acoustic goodness of Ben Borrill. Thanks also has to go to the big man Mike Barham who set up the technical bits before heading off to a paid gig. At the time I vowed this will be the future of our events, smaller but more than the first birthday bash; never saw it coming, insert sad-face emoji.

We managed to host another gig, though, after lockdown when shopping was encouraged by In:Devizes, group Devizes Retailers and Independents, a assemblage of businesses set up to promote reopening of town. We rocked up in Brogans and used their garden to have a summer celebration. Mike set up again, and played this time, alongside the awesome Cath and Gouldy, aka, Sound Affects on their way to the Southgate, and Jamie R Hawkins accompanied Tamsin Quin with a breath-taking set. It was lovely to see friends on the local music scene, but it wasn’t the reopening for live music we anticipated.

Before all this live music was the backbone of Devizine, between Andy and myself we previewed Bradford Roots Music Festival, MantonFest, White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert, Neeld Hall’s Tribute to Eddie Cochran, and the return of Asa Murphy. We reviewed the Long Street Blues Club Weekender, Festival of Winter Ales, Chris O’Leary at Three Crowns, Jon Walsh, Phil Jinder Dewhurst, Mule and George Wilding at The White Bear, Skandal’s at Marlborough’s Lamb, and without forgetting the incredible weekly line-up at the Southgate; Jack Grace Band, Arnie Cottrell Tendency, Skedaddle, Navajo Dogs, Lewis Clark & The Essentials, King Street Turnaround, Celtic Roots Collective, Jamie, Tamsin, Phil, and Vince Bell.

The collection of Jamie R Hawkins, Tamsin Quin and Phil Cooper at the Gate was memorable, partly because they’re great, partly because, it was the last time we needed to refer to them as a collection (save for the time when Phil gave us the album, Revelation Games.) Such was the fate of live music for all, it was felt by their newly organised trio, The Lost Trades, whose debut gig came a week prior to lockdown, at the Pump, which our new writer Helen Robertson covered so nicely.

For me, the weekend before the doom and gloom consisted of a check-in at the Cavy, where the Day Breakers played, only to nip across to Devizes Sports Club, where the incredible Ruzz Guitar hosted a monster evening of blues, with his revue, Peter Gage, Innes Sibun and Jon Amor. It was a blowout, despite elbow greetings, I never figured it’d be the last.

It was a knee-jerk reaction which made me set up a virtual festival on the site. It was radical, but depleted due to my inability to keep up with an explosion of streamed events, where performers took to Facebook, YouTube sporadically, and other sites on a national scale, and far superior tech knowhow took over; alas there was Zoom. I was happy with this, and prompted streaming events such as Swindon’s “Static” Shuffle, and when PSG Choirs Showed Their True Lockdown Colours. Folk would message me, ask me how the virtual festival was going to work, and to be honest, I had no idea how to execute the idea, but it was worth a stab.

One thing which did change, musically, was we lowered our borders, being as the internet is outernational and local bands were now being watched by people from four corners of the world, Devizine began reviewing music sourced worldwide. Fair enough, innit?

The bleeding hearts of isolated artists and musicians, no gigs gave them time on their hands to produce some quality music, therefore our focus shifted to reviewing them, although we always did review records. Early local reviews of 2020 came from NerveEndings with the single Muddy Puddles, who later moved onto an album, For The People. Daydream Runaways’ live version of Light the Spark and Talk in Code’s Like That, who fantastically progressed through lockdown to a defining eighties electronica sound with later singles Taste the Sun and Secret.

We notified you of Sam Bishop’s crowdfunding for a quarantine song, One of a Kind, which was released and followed by Fallen Sky. Albums came too, we covered, Billy Green 3’s Still in January, and The Grated Hits of the Real Cheesemakers followed, With the former, later came a nugget of Billy Green’s past, revealing some lost demos of his nineties outfit, Still, evidently what the album was named after.

Whereas the sublime soul of Mayyadda from Minnesota was the first international artist featured this year, and from Shrewsbury, our review of Cosmic Rays’ album Hard to Destroy extended our presence elsewhere in the UK, I sworn to prioritise local music, with single reviews of Phil Cooper’s Without a Sound, TheTruzzy Boys’ debut Summertime, Courage (Leave it Behind), a new single from Talk in Code, and for Daydream Runaways’ single Gravity we gave them an extensive interview. This was followed by Crazy Stupid Love and compiled for an EP, Dreamlands, proving they’re a band continuously improving.

April

Probably the most diverse single around spring though was an epic drum n bass track produced right here in Devizes, featuring the vocals of Pewsey’s Cutsmith. Though while Falling by ReTone took us to new foundations, I ran a piece on the new blues sounds locally, as advised by Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore. Sheer, like all music promoters were, understandably, scrambling around in the dark for the beginnings of lockdown, streaming stuff. It wasn’t long before they became YouTube presenters! The Sheer podcast really is something special, in an era leaving local musicians as dry as Ghandi’s flip-flop, they present a show to make ‘em moist!

Spawned from this new blues article, one name which knocked me for six, prior to their YouTube adventures, was Devizes-own Joe Edwards. I figured now I was reviewing internationally; would it be fair to local musicians to suggest a favourite album of the year? However, Joe’s Keep on Running was always a hot contender from the start, and despite crashing the borders on what we will review, I believe it still is my favourite album of the year.

Other top local albums, many inspired from lockdown came flowing, perhaps the most sublime was Interval by Swindon’s reggae keyboardist virtuoso, Erin Bardwell. The prolific Bardwell later teamed with ex-Hotknive Dave Clifton for a project called Man on the Bridge.

Perhaps the most spacey, Devizes’ Cracked Machine’s third outing, Gates of Keras. Top local singles? Well, George Wilding never let us down with Postcard, from a Motorway, and after lockdown reappeared with his band Wilding, for Falling Dreams and later with a solo single, You Do You. Jon Amor was cooking with Peppercorn, which later led to a great if unexpected album, Remote Control.

There was a momentary lapse of reason, that live streaming was the musical staple diet of the now, when Mr Amor climbed out onto his roof to perform, like an ageless fifth Beatle. Blooming marvellous.

Growing up fast, Swindon’s pop singer Lottie J blasted out a modern pop classic with Cold Water, and no one could ignore Kirsty Clinch’s atmospheric country-pop goodness with Fit the Shoe.

Maybe though it wasn’t the ones recorded before, but our musicians on the live circuit coming out with singles to give them some pocket money, which was the best news. I suggest you take note of Ben Borrill’s Takes A Little Time, for example.

I made new friends through music, reviewing so many singles and EPs; Bath’s Long Coats, and JAY’s Sunset Remedy. Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman, guitarist Ryan Webb, and unforgettable Paul Lappin, who, after a couple of singles would later release the amazing acoustic Britpop album The Boy Who Wanted to Fly. Dirty and Smooth and Atari Pilot too, the latter gave us to cool singles, Right Crew, Wrong Captain, and later, Blank Pages. To Calne for End of Story and Chris Tweedie, and over the downs to Marlborough with Jon Veale’s Flick the Switch. I even discovered Hew Miller, a hidden gem in our own town.

May

But we geographically go so much further these days, even if not physically much more than taking the bins out. Outside our sphere we covered Essex’s Mr B & The Wolf, Limerick’s Emma Langford, London’s Gecko, and from the US, Shuffle & Bang, and Jim White. Johnny Lloyd, Skates & Wagons, My Darling Clementine, Micko and the Mellotronics, Typhoidmary, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass, Mango Thomas, Beans on Toast, Tankus the Henge; long may the list continue.

Bombino though, the tuareggae artist really impressed me, but I don’t like to pick a favourite, rather to push us onto another angle. I began reviewing stuff sent via my Boot Boy radio show, and covered a ska scene blossoming in South America. But as well as Neville Staple Band’s single Lockdown, The Bighead, the Bionic Rats, and Hugo Lobo teaming up with Lynval Golding and Val Douglas, we found reggae in Switzerland through Fruits Records, the awesome Cosmic Shuffling and progressive 808 Delavega.

So much music, is it going on a bit? Okay I’ll change the record, if you pardon the pun, but not until I’ve mentioned The Instrumental Sounds Of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue, naturally, Sound Affects’ album Ley Lines, Tunnel Rat refurbing their studio, and Bristol’s freshest new hip hop act The Scribes. Ah, pause for breath.

Oh, and outside too, we did get a breather from lockdown and tiers, all Jamies for me, Mr R Hawkins was my first outing at the Gate and followed by Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective. Sad to have missed Two Man Ting and when The Big Yellow Bus Rocked the Gazebo, but hey, I thought we were out of the deep water.

June

Splashed straight back in again; “tiers” this time, sounds nicer than lockdown. Who knows what 2021 will bring, a vaccine, two vaccines, a mesh of both despite being ill-advised by experts? Just jab me, bitch, taxi me to the nearest gig, if venues still exist, by spring and I’ll shut up about it.


On Arts…..

Bugger, I’m going to need Google maps to find my local boozer. But yeah, they, whoever they are, think we’re all about music, but we cover anything arts and entertainment, you know? We previewed Andy Hamilton coming to Swindon’s Wyvern, Josie Long coming to Bath, The Return of the Wharf Theatre, and the county library tours of Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age. Surely the best bit was being sent a private viewing of a new movie, Onus, by the Swindon filmmakers who gave us Follow the Crows.

I shared poems by Gail Foster, and reviewed her book Blossom. Desperate for subject matter I rewrote a short story Dizzy Heights. I featured artists Bryony Cox and Alan Watters, both selling their wares for the NHS, Ros Hewitt’s Glass Art open studio, Small Wonders Art Auction in aid of Arts Together and Asa Murphy published a children’s book, The Monkey with no Bum! I dunno, don’t ask.

July


On Food…

Despite my Oliver Twist pleads, we never get enough on the subject of grub. January saw us preview Peter Vaughan’s Chinese New Year dinner party in aid of Alzheimer’s Support and with music from Indecision, we covered DOCA’s Festival of Winter Ales, and looked forward to the Muck & Dunder’s Born 2 Rum festival, which was cancelled.

From here the dining experience reverted to takeaways, and I gave Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen at big shout, and thought it best to wait until things reopened before singing Massimos’ praise, but I guess for now I should mention their awesome takeaway service next.

The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen supplied my welcomed Father’s Day gift, even nipped over to Swindon, in search of their best breakfast at the Butcher’s cafe, and recently I featured vegan blogger, Jill. Still though I need more food articles, as restaurants should take note, they’re extremely popular posts. Sadly, our while self-explanatory article, “We Cannot Let our Young People go Hungry; those locally rallying the call to #endchildfoodpoverty,” did quite well, at third most popular, the earlier “Eat Out to Help Out, Locally, Independently,” was our highest hitting of all; giving a sombre redefining of the term, dying to go out.

Back to my point though, food articles do so well, I’m not just after a free lunch, or maybe I am. But here, look, the fourth most popular article this year was our review of New Society, which was actually from 2019. Does lead us on nicely to the touchy subject of stats this year.

August


On Stats, Spoofs and the Future….

As well as an opportunity to review what we’ve done over the past year and to slag off the government, I also see this rather lengthy article which no one reads till the end of, a kind of AGM. It should be no surprise or disappointment, being this is a what’s-on guide, and being nothing was actually on, our stats failed to achieve what we hit in 2019. Though, it is with good news I report we did much better than 2018, and in the last couple of months hits have given me over the stats I predicted. Devizine is still out there, still a thing; just don’t hug it, for fuck’s sake.

I did, sometime ago, have a meeting with the publishers of Life In, RedPin. You may’ve seen Life in Devizes or various other local town names. The idea to put Devizine into print is something I’ve toyed with, but as it stands it seems unlikely. My pitch was terrible, my funds worse. If I did this it would cease to be a hobby and become a fulltime business, I’d need contributors, a sales department, I’d need an expert or ten, skills and a budget for five issues ahead of myself, and I tick none of those boxes. A risk too risky, I guess that’s why they call a risk a risk, watching the brilliant Ocelot reduced to online, publications suffer, the local newspaper house scrambling for news and desperately coming up with national clickbait gobbledygook, I know now is not the time to lick slices of tree with my wares.

So, for the near future I predict trickling along as ever. Other than irrational bursts of enthusiasm that this pandemic is coming to an end, I’ve given in updating our event calendar until such really happens. And it will, every clown has a silver lifeboat, or something like that.

September

Most popular articles then, as I said, desperation to return to normal is not just me, “Eat Out to Help Out, Locally, Independently,” was our highest hitting of all, whereas “We Cannot Let our Young People go Hungry; those locally rallying the call to #endchildfoodpoverty,” came in third. Nestled between two foodie articles our April Fools spoof came second. As much as it nags me, I have to hold up my hands and thank Danny Kruger for being a good sport. He shared our joke, Boris to Replace Danny Kruger as Devizes MP.

We do love a spoof though, and given a lack of events, I had time to rattle some off, A Pictorial Guide to Those Exempt from Wearing a Facemask, Guide to Local Facebook Groups pt1 (never followed up) The Tiers of a Clown, Sign the Seagull Survey, Bob! and Danny featuring again in The Ladies Shout as I go by, oh Danny, Where’s Your Facemask?! all being as popular as my two-part return of the once celebrated No Surprises columns, No Surprises Locked Down in Devizes.

Perhaps not so popular spoofs were The World’s Most Famous Fences! and Worst Pop Crimes of the Mid-Eighties! But what the hell, I enjoyed writing them. 


On Other News and Miscellaneous Articles……

I was right though, articles about lockdown or how we’re coping were gratefully received, and during this time, a needed assurance we weren’t becoming manically depressed or found a new definition of bored. Devizes together in Lockdown, After the Lock Down, Wiltshire is not Due a second Lockdown, the obvious but rather than bleating on the subject, how we celebrated VE Day in Devizes & Rowde, the Devizes Scooter Club auctioning their rally banner for the NHS, Town Council raising £750 to support the Devizes Mayor’s Charities, DOCA Announce Next Year’s Carnival & Street Festival Dates, DOCA’s Window Wanderland, and a Drive-In Harvest Festival! to boot. Town Council making Marlborough High Street a safer place, all came alongside great hope things would change, and pestering why not: The State of the Thing: Post Lockdown Devizine and How We Can Help, Open Music Venues, or Do They Hate Art? Opinion: House Party Organiser in Devizes Issued with £10,000 Fine.

 If Who Remembers our First Birthday Bash? Saw me reminiscing, I went back further when raves begun to hit the news. Covered it with Opinion: The End and Reawakening of Rave, and asked old skool ravers Would you Rave Through Covid? But we also highlighted others not adhering to restrictions With Rule of Six and Effects on Local Hunting and Blood Sports, it was nice to chat with Wiltshire Hunt Sabs.

October

Controversy always attracts a crowd, but couldn’t help myself highlighting misdoings. From internet scams, like The Artist Melinda Copyright Scam, tolocal trouble, Rowde Villagers Rally in Support of Residential Centre Facility, for instance, Sheer Music’s MVT Open Letter to Government, Help Pewsey Mum on her Campaign to free her Children from Abduction, important stuff like that. We try to help where we can, honest.

Most controversial though, me thinks, was our poor attempt at coverage of the international BLM issue. I’ve been waffling enough already to get into how I feel personally; been writing this “summary” for what feels like eons, time to shut up and advise you read these articles yourself, because no matter how you fair on the argument, xenophobia affects us all, even in the sticks. We therefore had a chat with BLM in the Stix and did a three-part look at the issue, the third part a conclusion and the middle bit, well, that came in light of Urchfont Parish Council turning down a youth art display; what a pompous notion highlighting the issue on a local level.

But campaigns and fundraising came in thick and fast, despite nought cash in anyone’s pockets to follow them up. I understand, but we featured Go Operation Teddy Bear, Devizes Wide Community Yard Sale, Hero Wayne Cherry Back in Action! Lucie’s Haircut Fundraiser for the Little Princess Trust, Crusader Vouchers, Julia’s House Gameathon, Devizes for Europe launching “Say #YES2ARealDeal” campaign, and of course, our superheroine Carmella’s ongoing campaigns.

November


In conclusion….

It has, in conclusion, been a hectic year, without the need for live music reviews, though some might’ve been nice! Here’s to a better day. We reserve our right to support local arts, music, and business, whatever the weather, and pandemic. We offered you, on top of the aforementioned; Father’s Day; Keeping Ideas Local, Floating Record Shop Moored on Kennet & Avon, Devizes Town Band Comes to You for Remembrance and Zoom Like an Egyptian: Wiltshire Museum Half-Term Activities! to name but a few in the wake of our move to online events, although they’ll never stream as effectively as being pissed in a pub alcove unable to find the loo.

We also did our easy-reading list type features which are the trend; Top Twenty Local Music CDs For Christmas and Fairy-Tale of New Park Street; And Better Local Christmas Songs! I went on my Devizine Christmas Shopping Challenge, and tried to tweak the website to include podcasts to fund our musicians.

Yeah, that one is put on hold, I couldn’t do it as I saw able to, but it needs work and I’ve another plan up my sleeve, just takes a bit of planning is all, which I guess is why they call it a plan in the first fucking place! You did blag a Free Afro-Beat, Cumbia and Funk Mix out of the deal. Maybe I could do more, but upwards and onwards, Devizine is now operating as both international music zine and local affairs. I maybe could separate them, but this means building a new audience and starting over. I like it as it is, and besides, I’m open to feedback, love to hear what you reckon, and will promise to act on suggestions, which is more than I can say for this fucking, cockwomble-led government; just leave it there shall we?!

The only gripe is that I ask that you have to believe in what I’m trying to do and supply me with the news, what you’re doing, creating or getting narked about, else I don’t know about it; hacked off with Face-sodding-Book, see?

Sure, you could put your trust in a real journalist through all their generalizations and unbiased writings, and grammar errors, or you could try here, where we deliver more than just a pint of semi. Look now at the going back to school debate, you know, I know, we all fucking know, senior school kids can stay at home because they can look after themselves while parents go to work, whereas primary kids can’t, so have to go back to school. It has nought to do with the spread of the virus, and everything to do with what’s best financially, and that, my friends, is not only the way this government have applied regulations throughout, but also not the kind of truths you’ll be reading in the newspapers.

All hail Devizine then, please do; I’m trying my fucking best amidst the wankology of Britain’s governing regime. I’m planning to rock on for another year, trapped in Blighty with flag-waving, panic-buying tossers until we’re queuing for bread or waging war on France like the good old days, namely the dark ages, let’s see where it gets us; with or without loo roll.

No, I’m not bitter; just slightly narked at the difficulties made in making people laugh by these idiots, so I find it apt to aim my satirical guns at them.

December

Jon Amor’s Remote Control

Pop is pop for a reason. Without sounding like a government soundbite, what I mean is, pop, as in the music, is popular for good reason; the catchiness often in the simplicity, which consequently sells. And if it sells, it’s pop, regardless of the many subgenres and youth cultures which an era carries pop along, it’s always continued this ethos. It’s only a particular “genre” for the time being. I use the term as loosely, then, as it should be used. Feel free to shudder at modern commercialisation, but that’s been building for decades and you shouldn’t let it put you off; you’ll miss something special because you preconceive its popularity is a hallmark from a polluted industrial mechanism.

The above annotation I write because I don’t want you to run off with the idea, I’m talking contemporary chart hits when I use the term pop. Out of the assortment Devizes’ legendary bluesman Jon Amor offered on his last major album two years ago, Colour in the Sky, I tended to cherry-pick those deviating from his traditional electric blues style, and they promptly became the standout tracks, Illuminous Girl and Red Telephone. He need not appease his devotees; they follow this modification with bells on. Because, fundamentally it’s more “pop,” in so much as it’s appealing for this beguiling ease.

This transitory, perhaps, shift for Jon was stamped on the last single, the incredibly addictive Peppercorn, a lively upbeat and Elvis Costello fashioned rock, without the leftist post-punk political angle of yore. Now the single has been followed up with an album, Remote Control, impulsively launched without the need for the usual pe-hype. All the tunes follow the aforementioned style of Peppercorn, the penultimate track on the collection. Dammit, this is good, but you knew it would be.

News of it literally arrived via Facebook post yesterday, “this year,” Jon posted, “I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends recording some songs, and I appear to have made an album.” And as if by magic, today (27th November) it’s a thing. So, was it as spontaneous as it sounds, a result of lockdown?

“I suppose initially it was the result of lockdown,” Jon replied, “yeah, I was working all week and had nothing to do at weekends!” If there’s only one good thing to come out of all this, I noted, thinking Erin Bardwell’s Interval album in particular, is that artists have had the time to write and create, and there’s good material flowing from all genres. Then I waffled some similarities in a piece I was reading about the great plague, where it modernised and revolutionized both folk and classical music, possibly gave birth to the renaissance.  

“I think a lot of people embraced the spare time and the isolation and turned it into a positive,” Jon added. “Now I’m picturing video conference calls and zoom quizzes in the 1600s…”

While Jon is clearly experimenting, dabbling this more pop sound with Remote Control, it’s also temptingly raw and punchy. There are some retrospective glances, the opening tune Song and Dance is a catchy three-minute Merseybeat blast, whereas If a Million is demarcated Curtis Mayfield funk. 03 57961 (That’s my Number) bounces like a quirky ZZ Top, whereas Robot Skin follows, using the guitar like white noise, overridden with a Gecko styled rap.

I’m intrigued now, wondering where this will take me next, and even if Next plays out the downbeat trip-hop style, akin to Portishead meeting Costello, it remains definitively Jon Amor. Just a Bomb booms power pop, with a singable chorus after just the one listen. We’re one track down before Peppercorn, you’d be mistaken by the title that this is locally-themed, Moonraker, is Bowie spacey and maybe a reference to the Bond movie rather than a Devizes pond fable.

Image by Nick Padmore

The finale rings with everything we’ve suggested at the start, this is poptastic for catchiness. Do Bop-Bop is staunchly irresistible. Exotic bongos, Californian beatnik surfer goodness; ideal daydream for wintertime locked down in England!

In conclusion, I need not convince Jon’s lifetime fans, they will buy it and love the fact they have. For others, this is an interesting progression with great prose, it’s joyful and quirky and explores styles without selling-out or shifting the central pivot point, which is Jon Amor, da man rocks! All the above basically adds up to; this is highly entertaining on the ears and persuasive on the feet to tap.