REVIEW – Jon Amor @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes

Triumphant Home-Town Gig

Andy Fawthrop

I think it’s fair to say that both Jon, and a lot of the audience last night, had been looking forward to this gig for quite a long while. No surprise then that a packed room was there to witness one of the gigs of the year.

Support act was Thomas Smurthwaite, an artist I’d not seen before. But it didn’t take the guy long to impress me and the rest of the room. An imposing, grizzled and bearded figure, he seemed slightly dwarfed by all the equipment set up on stage around him. But sound-wise he punched well above his weight with voice, guitar, harmonica and stomp-box. His set was confident, laid-back and bluesy. In a short 30-minute set he won the crowd over, finishing with a great singalong version of Janis Joplin’s “Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz?”

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Then on with the main act, and the reason we were all there. Jon, stick-thin and suavely suited & booted, was there to tour his latest album “Colour In The Sky”, and he was joined on stage by an impressive band of old friends and great musicians – Jonny Henderson on keyboards, Mark Barrett on drums, with Little Geneva’s Dave Doherty on guitar, and brother Chris Doherty on bass.

From the first number, “Faith Reborn” we were in for a treat. Thereafter Jon picked his way through several numbers from the new album, carefully interspersed with many favourites from his back catalogue of albums and bands. The rhythm section, as you might have expected, was solid and strong, laying down a great platform for Jon to let rip with some great solos. The keyboards added that bit of extra depth and texture to the songs. And they were proper songs too, not just excuses for long rambling improvisations, with clear beginnings and endings, Jon’s vocals stringing it all together. This gave the band plenty of opportunity to show off different styles, moving from rocky to bluesy and back again.

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Jon was on great form, clearly relaxed, laughing and joking with the crowd between numbers. There was no doubt that this was a home-town gig, and there was plenty of love in the room. And deservedly so. Jon is a world-class artist, and deserves it for the crowd to let him know it.

Highlight of the night for me was “Juggernaut”. This was the first time I’d heard it played in full-band format, and it was worth waiting for – heavy, driving, and really solid – a real classic.

Absolutely great gig, wonderful night out.

If you haven’t yet bought Jon Amor’s album “Colour In The Sky”, you need to get a copy!

And if you haven’t yet made it to Long Street Blues Club (at The Conservative Club), it’s time you made the effort – world-class blues & rock entertainment in a great atmosphere at an absolute bargain price. Tickets for future gigs from Devizes Books, Sound Knowledge (Marlborough) and from the club itself.

Upcoming gigs at Long Street Blues Club are:

• Saturday 2nd Nov Big Dez Blues Band
• Friday 8th Nov Ian Siegal Unplugged
• Saturday 30th Nov Gerry Jablonski Band
• Saturday 21st December John Coughlan’s Quo (support from George Wilding)
• Saturday 28th December Pink Torpedoes


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Numb Tongues, Kings and Dukes

If you like your soul and blues with an authentic vintage feel, look no further than this new Bristol group, The King Dukes…. 

 

If Bristol wasn’t the birthplace of a “new cool” through electronic blues in the nineties, with the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead, it certainly led the way. I have to take a deep breath, fetch my pipe and slippers; this is a new era of anti-pop, an era of retrospective tendency, where traditional instruments override our technological desire of the pre-millennium. An era where technology is used only to market, allowing sounds to hark back to a time before drum loops, rap, and the DJ as king.

The king is dead, long live this exciting renovation, and long live The King Dukes. I’m honoured to give you the low-down, about their new journey. Formed in Bristol in April, a merger of a variety of local bands, including Crippled Black Phoenix, Screamin’ Miss Jackson and the John E. Vistic Experience, The King Dukes combine said talent and experience to create a unique, authentic sound, dipped in a heritage reuniting contemporary slices of British RnB with a dollop of Memphis soul.

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Set to unleash their debut album ‘Numb Tongues’ on October 25th, I’ve had a listen or ten, and can plainly see why it’s been picked up by UK label, Paratone, as well as French label QSounds Recording. Chatting to guitarist and frontman, Marc Griffiths, I asked him what’s in a name, predicting it might relate to Duke Ellington. While pondering he sent a YouTube link of a track not on the album. This song, titled King Cyrille, is Hammond organ boss reggae, akin to Harry J’s Allstars. It’ a tribute to West Bromwich Albion player Cyrille Regis. “The team used to come out to Liquidator,” he explained, “it’s in conjunction with West Brom, for their podcast, so we did something similar.” Momentarily contemplating the name possibly nods more to Duke Reid, Marc cleared it up, informing me they had a residency at the Old Duke in Bristol, “but that’s named after Duke Ellington.”

I can see why, aside this one-off tune, Numb Tongues is not only dependent on a classic RnB sound, there’s sprinkles of jazz, blues, yet formulated like Stax or dare I say it, Motown. It rolls out in a manner able to slip its tunes into a set of old-time soul unnoticed. Caril-Anne, for example, is up-tempo soul, beguiling through that recipe of yore, simplicity. Kid Gloves is another lively number, foot-stomping soul with a subtle nod to rockabilly akin to The Big Bopper. This one reminded me of Jack and Elwood Blues marching back and forth.

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But if this four-beat soul formula rings through tracks like I Gotta Go, and Gone, Gone, Gone is stepping, handclapping doo-wop reliant, Rub You The Right Way hooks into a blues riff taking me to Howlin’ Wolf, and True, True, True nods to bebop. This one has a sublime vocal by April Jackson, who holds a note like Etta James. Generally, the vocals are as polished as the aforementioned soul legends, yet grittily Caucasian, like Jim Morrison’s finest hour.

As a whole there’s much going on here, but whether there’s echoing vocals like the ballad, Dying Man, with a breezy jazz-come Otis Redding passion, or, like Marlo Cooper, it’s a blast of instrumental groove, comparable to Stax session musicians Booker T & the MG’s, it’s all stylised and flows superbly. In fact, it was mention of an Otis Redding post on their Facebook page which got Marc and I chatting; glad I did now.

With Marc and April, there’s drummer Dan Clibery, bassist Mandrake Fantastico, Henry Slim owning that Hammond Organ and Harmonica, and a fiery three-piece brass section with Joss Murray on Trumpet, Rebecca Sneddon on Tenor Sax and Sarah Loveday-Drury handling the Trombone.

Together they’re a force to be reckoned with. Throwing modern recording techniques aside and using methods for a fifties-sixties sounding album, such as recording a section with multiple instruments all at one time, and playing period-specific instruments, The King Dukes have captured perfectly this raw, vintage backline on ‘Numb Tongues.’

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We’ve seen a similar blueprint around our way with the brilliant Little Geneva, and if this is the trend then I’m in, hook, line and sinker. Although, naturally, those ol’ time classic soul songs never wane in appreciation, sometimes looking further afield to the rare grooves, like Northern Soul aficionados, often the tunes never make equal approval in production and quality. Numb Tongues meet this notion in middle; The King Dukes deliver fresh material with honours, and if heard in 1965 would surely be considered classics.

You can pre-save a copy of Numb Tongues here, there’s an album launch on December 7th at the LeftBank in Bristol; I’m keen to hear of anyone willing to bring these guys local for a gig. As you know Devizine doesn’t usually cover Bristol, too much going on and not enough hours in the day, but when it’s this good…….


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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The Malone-Sibun Band and Joe Hicks at the Long Street Blues Club

A cracking night for our blues club last night, which I managed to finally appear at!

After publishing a run of awesome reviews from our man Andy, and with a flimsy hunch he wasn’t going to make it Saturday night (though he did,) I figured it high time and a good opportunity to break my Long Street Blues Club cherry; can’t let him have all the fun.

If I only popped my head around the door towards the end on a previous occasion, it was plentiful to note in our preview of their new season that, “there’s a lack of background noise at Long Street, the audience don’t chitter-chatter through the act like the backroom of a pub, it’s a fully entrancing appreciation society.” In fact, upon entry I was thanking Ian Hopkins the organiser, only to be shushed by a member. Who shushes at a gig? At least one in a hall chockful of blues aficionados captivated by the music, that’s who!

After pondering out loud, feasibly too loudly for this attendee, if this blues club needs a review at all, being it’s marked with exceptionally high-regard on our music scene and the hall of the Cons Club is bustling, I took heed of Ian’s reply, “any publicity is good publicity,” and tiptoed to the bar as if in a Christian Science Reading Room.

With family ties to Devizes, we’ve mentioned the support act on Devizine in the past, and it was good to finally meet him, even better to hear him perform live. Newbury-based answer to David Gray, Joe Hicks is wonderful, simple as. At ease with his surroundings he chats enough only to tune and give a modest synopsis of the following song, or to praise Livewired, for his last gig at the Electric Bear in Bath. He delivers his original songs with appetite but no strain, and aptitude which he makes look like child’s play. Among others, we were treated to his new single, Swim and another spellbinding comfort song called Rest Your Head. Mildly dreamy rather than sombre, his chants sublime, making a perfect cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere so apt for a finale.

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Now for the main act, you know how levels of cool range? I mean, there’s that mate in the pub with the amusing party-trick, he’s pretty cool, right, but compared to someone like Hendrix, he’s a total nerd. Smoothly Detroit’s Marcus Malone frontstages, oozing cool from his gaze to his fingertips like the lovechild of aforementioned Hendrix and Lenny Kravitz. His talent replicates his persona, and combined with a tight band, and Devizes-own electric blues guitar-legend, Innes Sibun, this is loud, proud and quite simply, mesmerising.

I realise now, witnessing the brilliant Beaux Gris & The Apocalypse, and Mr Amor, I was only a fraction engulfed into my epiphany of contemporary blues, the Malone Sibun Band completes it. Innes may appear more like that air-guitar playing headbanger at school who was asking for bullies to pick on him, drawing metal band logos on his army surplus bag in biro and all, but this guy wows and visually loves that he’s wowing, probably sighting a said school tormenter in the crowd, rocking out! The quality of this duo, this collective, is second-to-none, and their music takes no prisoners.

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It was rock, harking back to times of yore, when the blues influence was prevalent, yet more refined than psychedelic sixties, edging more towards traditional Delta or jump-blues than even Cream and Hendrix did. In contrast it was gritty, persistent and never waived from its ethos. Whether leisurelier tempo or all-out detonation, it was not experimental, rather a tried and tested formula. It neither clichéd or borrowed from previous works, it never waited for you to compare it, it was entirely unique, and it was full on in your face. There was no sing-a-long section, popular covers, there was no idle chatter; they came, they saw, they blasted their labour and treasured every minute of it.

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I was left entranced, my jaw hanging low and my mind whisked away, as said noise restrictions of the club crumbled, and its preconceived barriers collapsed, there was no associating the Long Street Blues Club to a library any longer. In all, this club may attract an older majority, but if you’re thinking fuddy-duddies you’d better think again! Next up, Jon Amor, his full band, on the 12th October, but you’d have known that if your read our preview! Yep, in it I did speculate The Long Street Blues is “simply addictive. Hook line and sinker,” I feared, “they’d have me in the palm of their hands.” It’s confirmed now.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any im ages or text is forbidden.


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The Twelfth Season of Long Street Blues Club

With the dependability our gallant roving reporter, Andy will attend The Long Street Blues Club and send us a review to make me jealous, I ponder if I’ll ever make have to make it down there. Thing is, the Club which is about to launch into its incredible twelfth season at the Devizes Conservative Club this Saturday, is simply addictive. Hook line and sinker, they’d have me in the palm of their hands.

Yet there’s good reason to succumb, I did pop my head around the door once, to find a hall chockful of blues aficionados captivated by the act. This is nothing rare, there’s a lack of background noise at Long Street, the audience don’t chitter-chatter through the act like the backroom of a pub, it’s a fully entrancing appreciation society.

Enough said to state, these guys know their blues, claiming for their opening night on Saturday 21st September with the merger of two forces of nature Marcus Malone and Innes Sibun, “we’ve been inundated with requests to get them back.” Coveted by Motown records, Detroit-born Marcus worked on demos with some of the biggest names in the business, before being moved to LA by Ike Turner’s management team and signing with United Artists Records.

He opened for Bob Seger and Iggy Pop, now adding BB King at the Albert Hall to his impressive résumé. Marcus has written, produced and recorded seven albums on the Redline Music Label since relocating to the UK, the magnum opus being “A Better Man.” In all, it was hearing BB King which inspired the twelve-year-old Innes Sibun to pick a guitar. Legendary producer Mike Vernon produced his first band, Blues Explosion’s debut album. By 1993 he joined Robert Plant’s band for his “Fate of nations” tour, spurring a prolific musical career.

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Joe Hicks

I’m glad to hear incredible Newbury singer-songwriter, Joe Hicks will be supporting, blending his pop, blues and folk influences which Linda Serck at BBC Introducing critiques as “absolutely smashing it!”

If I needed to bio these musicians, you’ve not been indoctrinated into the contemporary blues scene, something Mr Hopkins and his crew will be able to help you with. But the name of the second night at Long Street needs no introduction. You can source blues on an international market, as they do, but Saturday 12th October is owned by the man who put Devizes on that map, Jon Amor.

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Jon, image by Nick Padmore

He brings the group; Mark Barrett of the Hoax, the Doherty Brothers, who’ve been enjoying a successful run as the band I can’t get enough of, Little Geneva, and keyboard genius Johnny Henderson. The Jon Amor Band, out to promote the critically-acclaimed album Colour in the Sky, will be a homecoming gig after his national tour, and you can rest assured they’ll be on top form.

 
Like Jumping Jack Flash, the blues club steps on the gas with a duo of gigs within a week. Saturday 2nd November Larry Miller band’s bassist Derek White joins the Cinelli Brothers, a project born form of a common passion for the electric Chicago and Texas blues from the sixties. It comprises of brothers Marco and Alessandro, Music Republic Magazine nominated Marco Cinelli as Best Guitar Player of 2018.

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The following Friday, 8th November the club presents a solo, unplugged show from Ian Siegal, who Mojo credited as “one of the most gifted singers & writers in contemporary blues,” and Long Street claim it’s “simply a must.” The date unfortunately squashes a huge blues-related clash in our bustling town, with Chippenham’s Triple JD Rock Band playing the Southgate, The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra at The Wharf Theatre, and the highly-anticipated arrival of Georgie Fame as a special Devizes Arts Festival evening at The Corn Exchange. While it’s clear, Devizes has an appetite for the blues, and the choice we have of live music is astounding for a town our size, this is one overloading Friday night. I only hope the best for all these great bookings, and that we have the capacity to fill them.

But business as usual for the Long Street Blues Club, it has a truly dedicated following, and this season’s line-up of shows confirm it’s standing as a benchmark for our county’s blues scene.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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REVIEW –Watermelon Slim – 28th June 2019 @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes

A Fruitful Night

Andy Fawthrop

Final gig of the current season at Long Street Blues Club, and we went out with a bang with two great acts.

First up was local bluesman Andrew Bazeley. Having made this style of music his life-long hobby, I’d go so far as to say that what this guy doesn’t know about Delta Blues just ain’t worth knowing. He lives and breathes this stuff, and this is reflected in his playing – soulful, bluesy, stripped-back, atmospheric. His introductions and between-song patter are a delight for anyone who wants to know something about the songs they’re listening to – informative without being preachy. He told me before the gig that he was nervous, but it didn’t show one little bit. And afterwards said that it was probably the biggest audience he’d ever played to. No worries – the boy done good.

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Then the main act. Two sets of howling, rasping blues from the trio fronted by Watermelon Slim. We started off, very unusually, with the main man introducing his band – before a note had even been played! But after that it was down to business. Slim himself alternated between playing his guitar lap-style on a table and his trusty harmonica, but always ably supported by solid drums and bass. The vocals were howling and husky-voiced, the playing effortless. The banter was self-mocking (“almost 50 years now”), drawling and laconic, betraying the man’s Deep South origins. Frequently Slim came off stage and into the front of the crowd to let his howling harmonica do the talking. And he talked a lot, and with laid-back humour. At times the performance felt a little hammy and hackneyed, pushing all the usual I’m-a-great-bluesman buttons but – hey – he IS a great bluesman, so who’s complaining? The audience certainly weren’t, lapping up both the chat and the music.

The start of the second set was my highlight – leaving his buddies backstage for a while, his opening number featured just acapella voice and that screaming harmonica – absolutely sublime.

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It was a great finish to the current season, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. Ian Hopkins was very happy to discuss his forward booking plans and mentioned a few names, but I won’t steal his thunder until the new season is announced in full later in the year.

Great club, great venue, great artists and superb entertainment. A real advert for live music in our town.

 

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Devizes Nights: At the Southgate, Jon Amor, One and All

Images by Nick Padmore

In that year of the breakdancing fad waning my brother went off and bought Born in the USA, and we became Boss fans overnight. So, he nipped out and bought Nebraska too, and we were like, “oh…”

It took some time for my infantile mind, accustomed to pop, to appreciate acoustic, but as I listened to those dark portrayals, I saw the worth of the simplicity of just a person, a guitar and maybe a harmonica for good measure. I understood now, if a musician can strip back his music to the bear minimum and still captivate, they were among the most highly accomplished.

As Jon strummed the most popular song on his Colour in the Sky album, Red Telephone, singing “why don’t you call me on red telephone,” then adding “it’s 01380…” it produced a belly-laugh. I doubted it would elsewhere, being the audience recognised it as their own area code. I then considered if I need review this gig at all.

For Jon Amor is to Devizes as Springsteen is to New Jersey. He was among natives last night and with stripped back versions, some amusing covers and local banter, all knew what they’d come for. Do I really need to elucidate his excellence on a website with a commonly Devizes demographic?

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Do I need to outline how great the evening was and what great company we were in, being over the last year and half, the Southgate has become widely known as Devizes haven for live music and friendly, grassroots atmosphere? It’s rough and ready, it makes do with what it has, but the Southgate is, simply, the best pub in town for music, through dependability. You can scroll through Devizine to see what’s going on locally, don’t let me put you off that, but if you’re ever stuck for something to do, you need not, just head down there, because nearly every Friday and Sunday, and defo each Saturday you’ll find a cracking band or solo artist doing their thing without regulations, without pretence.

During the week it’s either quiz night or an acoustic jam Wednesday, we know what Deborah and Dave have blessed us with, need I really go on? It is Sunday, for crying out loud! I left only a two-word note on my phone for this review, “Word Up,” a reminder that Jon did a comical cover of. The rest of the time was spent catching up with friends amassed for Mr Amor, for free, as that is the ethos of the Southgate. So, do I really need to review this evening, when everyone who is anyone in Devizes attended, even both Devizine’s roving reporters? Maybe I could delegate the task to Andy?!

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Do I even need to whip out my little… (wait for it) … camera, when our own Nick Padmore is stood at the front with his sizable lens? Ack, I suspect you’re thinking now, lazy bugger; probably hungover. But truth be told, after walking uphill to town from my village for the past few weekends, I couldn’t face it this time, so I drove. Proof with the cracking combination of Jon Amor and the Southgate, with this blagger’s addition it was free, and so many gathered to chew the ears off, I needed not to intoxicate myself to have a blinding night. Shit, does this imply I’m mature? Bugger, I need to make up for lost time and have a Sunday afternoon drinkie. That’s me out of here, and no doubt unconscious on the sofa right after dinner!

Yet one thing you can be sure of, you need not feel sorrow if you missed it, The Southgate, check it out on our event guide, will continue to bring us many a grand and memorable night with Devizes written all over it, even if the enormity of Jon Amor is rare, you’ll never not be entertained by brilliantly sourced live music. Amen.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


 

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REVIEW –Skinny Molly – 21st June 2019 @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes

Sweet Home Devizes

Andy Fawthrop

Just when you think the current season is over at Long Street Blues Club, Ian Hopkins sneakily adds a couple more gigs.

First up on tonight’s Friday gig, playing support, was local troubadour Vince Bell who delivered his usual thoughtful and well-polished set. Vince doesn’t always play the most cheerful or upbeat songs but, as he remarked later, he tends to go with the flow of whatever mood he’s in at the time. The audience didn’t give too much of a toss about that, judging by the well-deserved applause he received.

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Then Skinny Molly, a Tennessee-based four-piece, hit the stage to thunderous applause and got straight down to work. From the very first minute we were in rock territory, with heavy driving bass and drums, fronted by a pair of hot guitarists who meant business. This was loud-and-proud, take-no-prisoners rock and roll. And the guys looked the part too – plenty of black leather, hats, long hair, tattoos. Sounded like a rock band, looked like a rock band. All boxes ticked.

A couple of numbers in and the band hit Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road at full speed, an absolutely belting version of this great song, quickly followed by the band’s own If You Don’t Care, complete with squealing guitar solo. The crowd was getting warmed up now and we knew we were in for something special. The Devil In The Bottle served up all the standard licks, followed by a stunningly good version of Free’s Wishing Well.

Only after this did the band rein it in a bit to draw breath and to indulge in a little chat and audience participation. But then we got lots of good stuff about “the look” and how their wanderings around Devizes earlier in the day had gone down with some of the locals. Sainsbury and Poundland will never be the same again.

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But then we were back to the music – including Sweet Home Alabama (what else from the children of Lynyrd Skynyrd??) which turned into a bonkers dance-floor-filler. Following rapturous applause we got a double-number encore, culminating in (what else?) Freebird, which morphed into a belting long jam of a number before everyone retired to a darkened room to have a quiet lie-down.

Great band, great gig.

Tickets still available for next Friday’s gig at Long Street Blues Club – Watermelon Slim, one of the blues greats.

 


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow/Andy Fawthrop)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


 

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