Kyla Brox Band – Saturday 2nd March @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes
Back up the road to the Con Club for Long Street Blues Club’s latest presentation – The Kyla Brox Band. And it was definitely worth the hike.
Yet again Ian Hopkins had managed to get one of Britain’s top blues & soul bands in front of a Devizes audience on a Saturday night, and the crowd lapped it up. Winner of the 2018 UK Blues Challenge, Kyla’s reputation preceded her. And we were not to be disappointed -an outstanding performer with an incredible pair of lungs on her, knocking out some soulful, smoky and gritty lyrics. Her voice covered all the bases, from the cool, sexy drawl, belting through the mid-range rock chick style, to the high-end screaming wail of soulful pain. And the band behind her were as tight as a tourniquet.
The three-piece featured the fluent guitar work of Paul Farr, some inspired bass playing by Danny Blomeley and tight drumming by Mark Warburton. Farr, in particular, impressed with some of his inspired solos, drawing wild applause from the crowd.
The absolute highlight for me was the final number in the first set – one of the best versions I’ve ever heard of the classic Etta James song “I’d Rather Go Blind”, with Kyla pulling out all the stops to press every emotional button. To say that she completely nailed this number would be something of an under-statement – worth the entrance money on its own. The material throughout varied from up-tempo, high-energy blues through to low and slow, crooning soul, and it was great to hear these different textures through the two sets. The band’s ability to turn up the burners, and then cool right down, number after number really demonstrated their versatility.
The only time I felt that the band put a slight foot wrong was the choice of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for the first encore – can this song that has been one of the most-ever covered pieces still having anything else left to give? – the answer, sadly, was a No from me. Fortunately there was a great up-tempo number to finish the evening off, and the minor damage was thus quickly repaired.
All-in-all another beltingly good gig, and a great night out.
• Saturday 6th April Billy Walton Band – electric blues & Memphis soul
• Saturday 4th May Shemekia Copeland – passionate Americana roots & soul
• Friday 10th May Tom C Walker – young virtuoso guitarist
• Saturday 25th May Kossoff…The Band Plays On – fine, high-calibre tribute band
If Devizes folk have a love of blues, with a slash to rock, and all this I find a beautiful thing; Long Street Blues Club, the origins of Saddleback and of course our own legend Jon Amor, there have been occasions when a portion of visiting bands I take with a pinch. There’s cliché, whereas roots of blues are strictly raw, these convey the conventional, an earnest shot to commercialise to a middle-aged tolerable market, which in a way is fine and dandy, there’s clearly a thirst for it and historically such progress is natural.
You see where I’m coming from? At a time, Elvis was unacceptable, was edgy, now the rock n roll audience is pensioner age, consider it classic. Marlborough’s popular Jazz Festival fills with hoity-toity yet the rags of Scott Joplin at the time of their conception could only be heard in bawdy New York brothels. Similarly, I hear a once subversive, outrageous noise of nineties rave as a children’s TV cartoon theme tune.
From the crashing drums and thrumming guitar opening blast of “Key to Love,” there’s no doubt barriers have been stripped back. Echoes of raw energy from a time of yore rip through you, its two and a half minutes of screeching harmonica and growling vocals place you in 1967, under a blanket at an LA love-in. Little Geneva maybe newly constructed, but resonance images of The Animals, of Steppenwolf and the Stones with a truly proficient edge.
Putting my point to them, they agreed, “we feel very similar to you mate, very similar indeed… which is why we made those recordings, and, in the stripped back/vintage way we did.”
This EP satisfies retrospective mod-culture and beatniks more-so than contemporary indie fans, I’d say; imagine punk didn’t happen. “All Your Love” slides you into the smooth classical/jazz stimulus of The Doors, yet “Yer Blues” harks the blues which would’ve inspired these aforementioned legends. “Someday After a While,” again breezy melancholic blues sound of Cream or The Animals. Five tracks on this EP, but from the first note I was hooked.
Bristol-based, Little Geneva, name coined from a Muddy Waters track, only formed on the eve before 2019, conceived during a conversation between the Doherty brothers, Dave and Chris. Partisans of the UK contemporary blues scene for over a decade, they felt a need to get back on stage together, as part of a truly great live band; thus, Little Geneva spawned. Once the seed was sown, recruiting additional members didn’t prove a problem.
Chris, 32, and Dave Doherty, 36; both gifted guitarists, holding players such as B.B King, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton in high regard, headhunted Rags Russell, 32, (vocals/harmonica) who fronts the youthful and energetic band with an emotive and soulful vocal style. Zak Ranyard, 27, (bass guitar) and Simon Small, 33, (drums) provide the rhythm section’s high level of energy and power, driving the band.
Having completed this blinding EP, the band is set to record their first album at the beginning of March, as they look for clubs and festivals dates across Europe. But the bestest part of it all, the album launch gig is based right here, in Devizes. I had to ask them, the connection.
You may know already, you see that’s where Devizine differs from being our town’s Time Out magazine, it’s a learning curve for me. There’s history behind this band, as individuals, Little Geneva members have opened shows for Ray Davies (The Kinks), John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Mud Morganfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Also sharing festival bills with The Red Devils, Jimmie Vaughan, The Hoax, B.B King and many others. But three members of the band began their musical relationship in Devizes, back in 2004. Chris, Simon and Dave went to Lavington Comprehensive.
“We all lived in Devizes at the time our first band formed,” explained Dave, “and we were quickly recruited by other older stalwarts of the scene. We helped create a thriving music scene at The Bell by The Green around this time and it was, for a time, a great little scene.”
“They go right back to the beginning of Sheer,” Sheer’s creator Kieran Moore informed, “Check out a band called Hitchmo; that’s where it started.”
“That early band came to an end around 2008,” Dave continued, “and the three of us went our separate ways, musically speaking. We all met other musicians, worked with other producers in different genres and countries. Chris now lives in Cornwall, as does Zak. Rags lives in Bristol, as did I when I met him. Simon and I now live in Devizes, where we feel rooted. Bristol is the hub of our activities; it’s obviously a more connected place than Devizes. Devizes is our home though, and all three of want to come back here for our first show, and smash it out of the park!”
It’s Little Geneva’s deep respect for, and knowledge of what made those early British blues recordings so energised, and exhilarating, coupled with the soulful spirit with which all members express themselves, that will make an unmissable launch date at The Cellar Bar on Saturday 23rd March. Initial reaction to this retrospective goodness was wow, great booking Kieran, but I see now, what’s news to me is a reunion, to a degree, for Sheer and aforementioned scene; indisputably making the gig even more poignant than simply this absolutely rocking sound.
I shit you not, it’s like being bought up with Neil Sedaka and suddenly discovering The Faces. Oh, and if you need more convincing, Jon Amor supports…. supports, I know, right!
Dave & Debbie have done a really great job in putting The Southgate back on the Devizes musical map since they took over the pub last year, booking a wide range of great acts from Friday nights through to Sunday afternoons. These gigs are all free entry and, with a comfortable & welcoming environment and all beers at only £3 a pint, it’s a no-brainer to get one’s arse up there to enjoy the musical fare on offer. Sunday afternoons in particular have become one of my favourites – a view obviously shared by the local cognoscenti – for the place was again packed with happy customers.
This Sunday last we were treated to a fabulous session from Kent Duchaine, a man described by Mike Harding as “a legend in his own lunchtime and a REAL bluesman”. I use the word “treat” advisedly, as the man turned out to be one helluva all-round entertainer. Not only did he play some wonderful stripped-back delta blues on his 1934 National Steel guitar Leadbessie, he also connected absolutely with his audience. Every break between songs, every intro, every outro, the man was talking, talking, talking about his life, his travels, his experiences, his deep love of the blues, the music he loved, the blues players he had met an known. And not without a good dose of self-deprecating humour. It was an education just listening to the man. Fascinating. And what a voice! The guy obviously gargles with lumps of granite in his throat! Whether talking or singing, to hear him, (and to look at him) I guess you’d say he’s “well lived-in”, and a well-travelled troubadour.
Lots of Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, and all the rest of the great bluesmen, just flowed out of him all afternoon. Kent spoke and sang; Leadbessie drawled and crooned. The punters lapped it up.
Absolutely perfect laid-back blues for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Perfect entertainment.
If you’ve not been up The Southgate lately, time you checked it out!
• Saturday 2nd February Drew Bryant
• Friday 8th February Clock Radio + The Jelas Live
• Saturday 9th February Tim Manning
• Friday 15th February Fake Walnut Dash
• Saturday 16th February Guilty Pleasure
Back to the top of the hill to The Conservative Club aka Long Street Blues Club to catch the last date of the UK tour by Californian band Rick Estrin & The Wildcats.
The advance billing was impressive, and the short UK tour had had several sold-out dates. Not sure this gig was technically sold out, but it was certainly pretty rammed in there.
Ian Hopkins had written: “Overflowing with talent and bursting with bravado, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats have created one of the blues’ most instantly recognizable sounds and no-holds-barred styles. With the world-class talents of harmonica master, songwriter and vocalist Rick Estrin, guitar wunderkind Chris “Kid” Andersen, keyboard wizard Lorenzo Farrell and dynamic drummer Alex Pettersen, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats serve up sharp and incisive original blues and gritty roadhouse rock ‘n’ roll.”
So there was much to look forward to, and a lot to live up to. The room was packed and buzzing with anticipation. The crowd were royally entertained by local singer/ songwriter Joe Hicks (always good value for money), and suitably warmed up. Finally, after what seemed a longer gap than usual, the band took to the stage and belted out the first number.
Estrin himself cut an impressive figure at the front – smartly dressed and coiffed, leaning into the mike, and delivering a high-energy performance. Within minutes there was the trademark howling harmonica, backed by driving keyboards and rhythm section. The band were always tight and well-drilled when the songs needed it, but not afraid to cut loose in the breaks either. Think growling, witty, street-smart vocals – often reduced to almost a gravelly whisper, occasionally a haunting drawl – then lashing back out into a full-force vocal delivery. The band itself dropped the sound back at times allowing Estrin to strut his stuff and to paint his pictures, but then returned in full force, producing a wonderful dirty, muddy noise of driving California blues. Yet this was far from being a one-dimensional blues band – we had some great jazzy/ improve passages, and a longish monologue from Estrin himself at one point. Technically impressive, laid-back, grooving and absolutely whip-smart stuff.
And the crowd – not surprisingly – absolutely loved it. As did I – another great night at Long Street Blues. If I had one minor criticism it was that the set was (compared to many bands I’ve seen at the venue) relatively short – just over the hour. I think we could all have done with a bit more!
The band’s latest album is Groovin’ In Greaseland, which I think I’ll be checking out shortly. https://rickestrin.com/
I’ll come clean, resisting the urge to write a piece for Devizine for the past few days, being toothache is depressing me and fear if I do start writing I’m going to take my stress out on the subject. Had some awesome new music to review recently from our local heroes, been so positive, because it’s been thoroughly deserved. Much as I’d like to break that chain, yearn to be overly critical and lambast some poor soul for little reason, I unwittingly refrained. If you’ve nothing nice to say Worrow; no sorry, doesn’t wash with me.
Then, Devizes numero uno and worldwide blues legend, Jon Amor, only goes and pings over the highly anticipated album, Colour in the Sky. Released digitally tomorrow (28th Nov) on his website, and he hopes on iTunes, Jon signs off his message: “good luck at the dentist!” Grrr, I’m gonna listen to this right now! Oh…. why can’t teeth be more like Mr Amor; there’s zilch to be critical about here, and certainly no pain inflicted?
From blast off, Colour in the Sky confirms what all local musicians state; he’s Captain Numero Uno alright. Though opening tune, Faith Reborn is a rocket, it’s quite what I expected, definitive frenetic electric blues. However, the missile proceeds into something else, something which scales Mount Marvellous and shoots high into the orangey glow of tremendous troposphere, and the pain killers haven’t even kicked in yet.
Diversity ensues, while Elephant slides equably into the room, up-tempo Illuminous Girl reminds me of the catchy, amusing teaser we had of this album last month, with Elvis-Costello-fashioned, Red Telephone, which, chronologically, you’ll wait until closer to the end for, but this is funkier, even more potent.
The rocket blasts over Andalusia, with a flamenco, Latino track, reminiscent of Santana at his coolest, across the Southern States with rolling rhythm and blues, to New Orleans, with a smooth, big band jazz number to make Nina Simone blush, and crash-lands up my path, banging on my front door. I’m left gobsmacked by track seven, only halfway through this twelve-track musical marathon, darn it’s uplifting; toothache, what toothache?
When The Weather Turns Cold, (as it has) has a stirring country riff, February Tree mellows agreeably, aforementioned Red Telephone is quirky pop-rock, Scandinavia stalwarts fans, and the finale Sentiels is lovably sentimental, concluding my pondering; even the toughest-to-please Jon Amor fan will be blown off their feet with Colour in the Sky.
So, short of time, as it’s released tomorrow, I’ve taken a long scan over this album, and it’s expectedly a keeper. Some months ago I was standing outside the Devizes Sports Club my first unofficial meeting with Jon, when he supported Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse, he promised me a preview of this and I’ve admit I’ve hyped it up in my mind since; it does not disappoint.
I just hope the dentist tomorrow is equally professional, but I doubt it.
Your creative sorts usually appreciate music, but, stereotypically, entertainment for “sporty-types” would rather be waving fists and hurling abuse at a team projected to them via a widescreen TV, seemingly oblivious; television is a one-way communication devise. It’s not until someone puts “Eye of the Tiger,” on a jukebox, or Bonnie Tyler croaks she’s holding out for a hero, that they get all sweaty, and start flexing biceps in a dance comprising of getting friends in a headlock and rubbing knuckles atop their cranium.
It couldn’t be further from the truth for the Devizes Sports Club, and anyway, my generalising just a witticism in hope the lady’s rugby team might fulfil my daydream and chase me down the street! The Sports Club, enthusiastic for the remaining month before their Saddleback Festival, are serious about presenting the town with an exciting and professionally organised festival.
It’s the music festival’s second innings, after the sun-drenched blues event last year, and they’re determined to up their game…..not a lot, no point in running before they can walk, but enough to make this, in my opinion, our most anticipated event of the year.
For starters, they’ve dropped the “blues” tag from its title, making it less specialised. While the concentration on blues music still sturdy, it’ll be joined predominantly with rock, acoustic and folk.
Certain other moves are to be introduced, I’m at the British Lion, having a pint with organiser, Mirko Pangrazzi, to find out what they might be.
I suggest they could drop the “music” label too, add a comedy tent, or possibly street theatre. Mirko considers, but stops at the idea of a “dance” tent. Their chosen genres equate to a family-styled event. A mass of fledgling “ravers” descending brings its own issues.
There’s an air about the conversation which leads me to believe the organisers value quality over quantity, with no intentions of expanding to Glasto proportions. We laugh as Mirko recalls people last year leaving, only to return with chairs in which they would switch the angle of to face their chosen stage; that is sooo Devizes and surely associates this family ethos.
Mirko is keen to show me a list of activities they’ve organised for children; a fun bus, inflatables, face painting, a bungee run, Striker game, slot machines and of course, a sweet stall, to name but a few. Plus, it goes without saying it’s at a sports club with abundant space to kick a football till you drop.
For here’s a thing, I’m convinced no one is to get fleeced at Saddleback, the food stalls enter freely, organisers only asking for a donation to chosen charities; Julia’s House, Wiltshire Air Ambulance and others, while punters get value with a wealth of talented acts for a reasonable twenty-five quid, and their kids under 13, well, they get in for FREE and for 13-17 it’s just a fiver.
Mirko introduces me to John, a newcomer to the committee but with a wealth of experience on the festival scene. What John doesn’t know about coordinating a festival could be written on the back of a matchbox, with diagrams, pie charts and a few dirty doodles on the bottom.
Having worked on littler-known events like, say, Glastonbury and Boomtown, John is a welcomed asset to provide a fully professional team, determined to make this work wonders. There’s more than meets the eye to arranging such an event, a note others need take heed of in these cliché days of any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Harry’s pet dog attempting to hold one. They’re delighted to have halted construction plans for a new pipeline running through the site, due bang on the 14th July when Saddleback takes place. For when music promoter Mirko and Sports Club owner Rick get going on a project, they’re the sort who work tirelessly to make it the very best they can.
It didn’t matter of the success of last year’s, though Mirko was pleased with the result, they’ve assigned themselves to this ongoing project and intend to make it an annual event.
So, the second major change is camping. People will be able to set up a tent this year, from Friday to Sunday, for a tenner, or just fifteen smackers to bring their campervan on site. This will add an extra dimension to the ambience, with visitors able to mingle with locals. Add this to the real ale and cider bars, prosecco, Pimms, wines, soft drinks, and craft beer from Devitera, merge it with a wide assortment of food stalls, such as Happy Hog Catering, Asian cuisine, obligatory barbeque and a tea/coffee and crepe bus, I think they’re building the perfect recipe for a blinding day which will go down in Devizes history and will firmly put our town on the festival map.
Notwithstanding an unforgettable line-up, with blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Marcus Bonfanti, rockers Bad Touch, ballad-esque pop-rockette, Mollie Marriott, daughter of Small Faces and Humble Pie singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, Devizes-own blues/alternate rock deities The Jon Amor Band, Bradford’s legendary John Verity, Blues/Rock guitarist Innes Sibun and Avebury’s own George Wilding.
If you need further proof of the authenticity of my recommendation, bear in mind it was a great thing when George Wilding won his place at the festival at the Battle of the Bands earlier this year and said he’d do it, if the other contestants could have the opportunity to play too. But it’s an even greater thing when Rick and Mirko took heed, and before we knew what was what, a third “acoustic” stage was added, introducing local heroes and heroines Mike Barham, Jamie R Hawkins, Alex Cash, Sally Dobson and Clare, who was coincidently serving at the British Lion at the time!
She smiled when we chatted, not realising who I was she said, “but I’ve known you for years!” That is what’s special about Devizes, that is what Saddleback will adhere, and that is also what’ll make Saddleback a knockout.
So, don’t miss out, leave a comment on a local Facebook group, giving it, “whats that wonderful music I can hear from my garden?” – there’s tickets on the gate, or in advance, here.
Deadlier than the male, The Female of the Species is an amalgamation of female musicians from various local bands who team up to host charity gigs; what’s not to like?
Nicky Davis from Warminster based People Like Us and The Reason, Glastonbury’s Julia Greenland from Soulville Express & Delta Swing, Frome’s Claire Perry from Big Mamma & The Misfitz, solo artist Charmaigne Andrews from Melksham, and Julie Moreton from Trowbridge’s Train to Skaville and Jules & The Odd Men, form the supergroup again for “Live on the Night,” at the Melksham Assembly Rooms on Saturday 30th September.
Seriously not to be missed; Beginning by showcasing two young performers; James Dempsey and Laura Jane Burt, giving them stage time and experience. The show then continues with People Like Us. The finale, Female of the Species sure to be the icing on the cake. Blending their influences in a mash-up of reggae and ska, soul and Motown, blues and rock, how on Earth do they govern what genre is coming next?
I thought I’d hassle Jules of Train to Skaville for an answer. “Each of the girls chooses three or four songs from their band’s set list,” explained the self-confessed rude-girl, “and then we add in the stuff we sing together.”
The Female of the Species first formed for a one-off gig at the Civic Hall, Trowbridge in 2014 for the Hope Centre in Southwick, a charity for adults with learning difficulties, “but it was so successful,” Jules continued, “we had no choice but to do it all again….and again.”
This news nugget keeps getting better though, as this year they’re fund-raising for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. The previous appearance at the Assembly Hall in Melksham, back in 2015 raised £2,920 in aid of WILTSHIRE M.I.N.D Mental Health Charity. The founding gig at The Hope Nature Centre in Southwick in 2014 I previously mentioned, raised an amazing £3,395.
While the next Train to Skaville is boarding from the White Swan, Trowbridge, Big Mama and the Misfitz only coming as close to us as The Fox and Hounds in Colerne on 4th November and the next People Like Us gig being a longer bus journey to Bath, at the Westgate on 22nd, here’s something in easy reach and all for the greatest cause. Tickets at just a tenner can be snatched from the Assembly Rooms or online here.