Mighty Mighty; The Scribes Storm the Muck!

Another fantabulous evening at Devizes’ tropical holiday resort, The Muck and Dunder rum bar, where Bristol’s boom bap trio I’ve been hailing since day dot, The Scribes, came, saw, matchlessly interacted with the audience, and tore the place down with a riotous show of incredible skill and talent; secretly, it was foreseeable months ago……

Again, straw hats off to the Muck, just like previous evenings with the Allergies, Jimmy Needles and recently the BBC Introducing showcase, it’s the like we don’t usually see in our humble market town. Something I’ve been excited about before even leaking the scoop, hyping up here till the cows come home, and still, it exceeded my expectations. It did so with one most important element; Devizes showed their respect loud and proud, attending in full force for this sell-out show, and made me honoured to illustrate what I’d hitherto promised to frontman Ill Literate, and even his dad, Literate senior(!); this is our hometown, it punches well above its weight in knowing how to party.

For if there are others of this calibre currently on the UK hip hop scene, I’m unaware of them. The Scribes, I find no quarrel in dubbing “our Tribe Called Quest,” for the similar way they can lyrically interchange and bounce off each other, extend their presence further afield from the niche. They’re about spreading their love of hip hop and rap, using an exuberant and carefree east coast old school ethos, blended with contemporary rap techniques, blessing new audiences with what they’ve got, and aside their addictive and inimitable style, they’re having a heap of fun doing it. Just don’t do like I did, and try to capture a snap of them, they move about like Michael McIntyre on fast-forward!

Tunes played out were tricky to pinpoint, not while jigging and balancing my pina colada! Undoubtedly, they dipped into the vitrine of their latest EP, a forthcoming second in the series of the Totem Trilogy, and I did pick out my dub-inspired favourite, Mighty Mighty. Yet in rap no tune is ever precisely replicated, making an improv live show different every time. What was a highlight of the miscellany was the Doug E Fresh moments of drafting in the single-most amazing beatboxer this side of Barnard Star, which if you’ve never seen the like of in good ol’ Devizes before, it’s equally unlikely you’ve seen the like of anywhere before, if you catch my drift?! What? I’ve had rum!

With the upmost respect for the influence Mel Bush left on Devizes, the legendary promoter who bought Thin Lizzy to the Corn Exchange, I find it fascinating the same year he did, 1973, across the ocean in a Bronx block-party, Kool Herc isolated percussion “breaks” by switching between two turntables via a mixer, to prolong the beat of the track. Yet to many here, what he fashioned that night is still regarded as new-fangled!

Albeit progress out of the ghettos of New York for hip hop was sluggish, at best not arriving on our shores until a decade later, hip hop culture is no new thing. So, while this legacy for electric blues and prog-rock is still felt today, through the likes of Jon Amor, who plays the Southgate this afternoon, Innes Sibun and whenever Robin Davey returns, and this marks a blessing on our music scene which I fully appreciate, rum bar The Muck and Dunder aim for diversity, for daring to present dance, club, and hip hop, perhaps reaching out to the twenty and thirty-somethings wanting more than a standard nightclub. And for this, providing they’ll accommodate my aging sorry existence, I cannot thank them enough!

For me, you see, I loved it since a nipper; the cuts of Grandmaster Flash, the moves of the Rock Steady Crew, the subway graffiti, and right through to Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys, so I believe I’m conversant on the subject to assess the Scribes are the freshest on the block, and I’m glad we showed them what we’re worth in Devizes. Because, here’s my final point, and I feel it’s the most important one, at least in destroying an ill-conceived misconception about the genre which The Scribes highlight with bells on. And that is, the pretentiousness, the bling, guns, and chip on the shoulder stereotype is a product of commercialisation, and is more often than not, an unwelcomed division.

The Scribes circumnavigated the good ship Muck & Dunder prior to the hoedown, chatting enthusiastically with all. To talk with Ill Literate is to find a kindly fellow with definite goals, a positive agenda, and ardent in the direction he needs to take this. Take his recent solo EP, The Shipwreck as a prime example; here’s a rap record on the level of concept album, akin to prog-rock, with a conscious narrative flowing throughout. This isn’t just rapping to make a noise, this is dedicated writing and production, though on a night like last night at the Muck, it’s also about appeasing the crowd, which they did, sublimely. I walked home in the pissing rain, smiling all the way.


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The Scribes on a Journey

In the distressing event of a relationship breakdown some take to drinking their sorrows away, others might venture off to “find themselves,” whereas creative types often channel their innermost moods into their art. Themes of love lost are commonplace, arguably cliché, but where Phil Collins sang, “take a look at me now, there’s just an empty space,” Bristol’s multi-award-winning hip-hop trio, The Scribes, geographically map that space, using the metaphor of being shipwrecked on an island, in a new four-track EP called “The Journey.”

We love the Scribes here at Devizine, but this really is frontman Ill Literate solo and on top form. It’s out today, 2nd September, folks, forming a continuous narrative over four tongue-twisting tracks, the first of which, The Shipwreck is out as a 7″ picture vinyl and has the perfect accompanying music video. Forget the Streets’ Dry Your Eyes, this is a punchy boom-bap emblematic work of art, this is as if Wu Cheng’en teamed up with Emily Bronte and wrote Nas’ Undying Love after being dumped by TikTok video, perhaps add a dash of Robert Louis Stevenson on samples!

As said, the character associates their breakup with being shipwrecked, track one, waxing lyrical like the rolling waves, it’s knee-deep in similes crafted with perfection, and it moves onto the second tune, The Desert, with a snake-charming pungi the condition of lostness beats our poor character down. Then it’s onto the Forest, perhaps the darkest of beats on offer here, as the “pull yourself together” stage takes hold, using a slice of Grandmaster Melle Mel’s it’s like a jungle. The finale elements on “moving on,” rather than revenge, time is a healer, and the Return compiles the previous songs, headlong into facing the future positively. Yeah, he stuck on the island but he’s climatised.

Created with GIMP

This hip hop odyssey is both written and performed by The Scribes frontman Ill Literate and produced by digger and producer Risk1 Beats, from Pontypridd. The EP will be available on Spotify and online retailers from Friday September 2nd, and it is a journey worth making, the quality of hip hop is sublime, of which we’ve come to expect, but the “concept album” complement takes it to a whole new level.


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Against the Grain; Ruzz Guitar at Thirty

South West’s resident Johnny B Goode, Ruzz Evans celebrates his thirtieth birthday with the release of a live album, Against the Grain. I caught up with him for a quick reminisce, and chinwag about the album……

As suggested, it was recorded at Frome’s Cheese & Grain on 19th June 2021, postponed due to lockdown. Such dynamic and regenerating conditions really breath atmosphere into this album, and it captures the mood of a band excited to re-emerge from isolation. Though by now, we’ve come to expect excellence from Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue as standard.

Featuring tracks from the band’s previous releases it also includes tracks from Ruzz Guitar’s recent video series “RG Sessions.” It’s uniquely delivered blues, RnB, rock n roll fusion with feelgood big band vibes, often frenzied and danceable, lengthy moments of extraordinarily proficient jamming, yet, like Longing to See You on this album, there’s always time for a concentrated ballad.

And oh my, if there isn’t Ruzz doing a sublime guitar solo of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World, then joking about breaking a fingernail, but the complimenting talent behind the man is second to none. Blues Revue drummer Mike Hoddinott, bassist Richie Blake and Graham Nicholls on rhythm guitar, with a horns section of Michael Gavaghan on sax, Jack Jowers on trumpet and trombonist Will Jones, and special guests’ incredible vocalist and pianist Pete Gage, who is fast becoming part of the furniture, and breathes real gritty delta blues ambience into the collective, along with sublime harmonica by Jerry Tremaine, who simply wows on Baby, Scratch My Back.

Seriously, this is eight hard-earned pounds well spent. I’d say it’s better than the previous live album, Live at the Louisiana, we fondly reviewed a couple of years ago; Ruzz agrees, a quietly proud perfectionist, I figure.

But I want to get deeper into the psyche of the frontman, find out what drives him, when and how he first picked up that instrument. Firstly though, on this new release, I had to compliment the aforementioned Wonderful World solo. “That reaction is what I was aiming for,” he replied, “I wanted to bring something new to the table and challenge myself. I’m really happy that it came across as I wanted!”

Just checking this recording at the Cheese & Grain was the first live show they did after lockdown, Ruzz confirmed it was, “we had done an online set back in August 2020, and one small gig before all the lockdowns came back in heavier. That show was our first, full band show since the Devizes Rugby Club gig in March.” Ah, yes, what a way to go out that was!

Treated of a number of streams during lockdown, I asked if they considered continuing them. “Definitely. I’ve been trying to think of the right events to live stream to anyone who can’t make it in person (I.e., my international audience). I want the streams to be more than just me sat at home with my guitar all the time,” Ruzz chuckled. “I want it to be as much an experience for people watching the stream as for the people at the live event.”

Jogged my memory of a great stream from his garden, and though it was strange at first, seeing musicians in their home, on their sofas, some even with washing on a clotheshorse in the background, some made an effort to avert from the standard; I recalled Jon Amor climbing out onto his roof like a 5th Beatle! Ruzz laughed, “Jon had some great ones!”

Jon Amor. Image: Nick Padmore

This is Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue’s seven album, and out of them there’s three live ones, including Visual Radio Arts in 2018. Does he think he projects best when live, rather than a studio?

“I love working on music in the studio, but yes, I think this sort of music is best experienced live,” Ruzz answered, though I suspected as much. “It wasn’t a conscious plan to do three live recordings but I can honestly say that this new one is my favourite by far. I feel the band is playing better than ever. I’m always trying to capture that magic on our recordings, whether it’s in the studio or live.”

I wished him a happy birthday and counted it an ideal opportunity to trace his past and discover the very beginnings of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.

“My dad and youngest brother play music,” he answered my family connection to music question. “I got my start into live guitar playing through my dad. Back when I was 16, he put a band together to feature me on guitar; I haven’t looked back since!”

The first time he picked up a guitar? “When I was 15. I had started on bass and drums, around 14, but was shown a George Thorogood DVD and then taken to see him live. After that I decided to learn slide guitar, then Jimmie Vaughan and Brian Setzer came along, and the rest is history.”

Ruzz at 20!

I wondered if they commonly had requests for cliché rock n roll hits, imagining drunk punters asking for Heartbreak Hotel or That’ll be the Day, but would Ruzz appease such appeals, and in that, did it start out this way. “I have played all of those in various rockabilly bands over the years; great tunes, but maybe not quite right for the current band!”

Originals is what you get with Ruzz Guitar, outstanding ones, yet he cites the blues, RnB artists as influences; Dr Feelgood, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. “I try to take from many places,” he laughed, “Wilko Johnson, BB King, Reverend Horton Heat, Steve Cropper; to name a few.”

Anticipated responses, so I thought I’d throw a curveball for the finale. I use the urban myth of Hendrix taking his guitar everywhere, to my kids, as a testament to dedication, and how hard you must strive to perfect something, any goal you might have. It was reported Hendrix took it to the toilet. I asked Ruzz what drives that dedication in him, but not before inquiring if he too, took his guitar to the loo!

He chuckled at this, and for the record answered, “I haven’t gone that far!”

“In all honesty I don’t know. It’s just something that’s felt right since I started learning. It’s been the one constant in my life since I was 15. There’s nothing more enjoyable to me than learning more with it, writing my own music and standing up in front of a group of people and taking them on a musical journey with me… it’s just what I was meant to do with my life.”

Well, at just thirty he’s certainly achieved it, this album is proof. He signed off with “hope to catch up in Devizes in March!” And there’s a thing, 12th March the Wiltshire Blues and Soul Club are indeed at the Corn Exchange with Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue headlining, which we’ve already previewed, here.

The live performance from the Cheese & Grain can be seen on YouTube for a limited time, here.


And Yes, Ruzz Guitar does feature on our compilation album, all in aid of Julia’s House; please download a copy here

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Introducing, Chai For All

Introducing Bristol jazzy Yiddish folk ensemble, Chai For All, who’ve got me reminiscing about how, pre-internet, we used to find new musical genres, much least, we tried!

Remember when record shops presented products alphabetically yet had separate sections for the more, shall we say, unusual genres? You know, for the peculiar customers?! Masses of rock and pop spread across the store, yet it was a quest to find tiny sections of blues, or reggae, even lesser so for jazz, and microscopes were essential to locate the “World Music” section. The remainder of the entire planet’s music stuffed into a five-inch gap and shoved carelessly in the corner with the worst dry rot!

Dare you even browse there, through fear of someone you know sauntering in and questioning your activities? Resistance is futile; conform to pop culture or be ridiculed!

Even Paul Simon’s attempts to make world music “cool” was unsustainable. Therefore, I’d sneak into the public library whereby I could hire cassettes from around the world, and that was my introduction to music from outside pop confounds; my DIY Womad! Praise the internet, where now you can virtually trek the earth, privately browsing and obtaining more information than sleeve notes could’ve ever provided.

But the net has drawbacks. This week some over-zealous nutjob blocked me on Twitter for calling a band “misfits,” when by dictionary definition they’re darn close, and it was far from the “hate speech,” of which they accused me. Meanwhile, I was listening to Chai For All, because I crave the unusual, consider the status quo often tedious, and besides, in my honest opinion, the word misfit was used as a term of endearment, even the band themselves approved; it’s good to be different.

Chai For All, chai being Hebrew for ‘life,’ are a Bristol-based multinational, multilingual ensemble, touring middle eastern and Jewish music sets, and music and spoken word performances both nationally and internationally. Through a tinge of jazz, they breath fresh air into Yiddish song, klezmer and middle eastern music. It’s about as far reached from aforementioned pop confounds as possible, and I love it for that very reason.

Can I even say Yiddish, if I can’t say misfit?! I’m certain someone somewhere will pull me up on it despite, aptly, it’s what the band use to describe their sound. You can’t please everyone; I’ve never felt the need to use the twisted trending word “woke” before, and refuse to start now!

© Claudio Ahlers

Exploration of burgeoning Balkan ska has prepped my ears for this sound, UK groups like Mr Tea & The Minions, The Boot Hill All Stars and the Bomo-Sapiens, inspired by the inclination yet fusing anything from West Country folk to Bavarian Oompah Bands into the melting pot. I don’t profess to be all-knowledgeable on the subject, but I know what I like.

Like, because it glides you to another place, or another time; good music transcends barriers, rather than pop blasé raising them. As a restaurant’s background music embraces its cuisine and creates a fitting ambiance, the emotive middle-eastern folk and powerful Yiddish song of Chai for Life’s repertoire transports you to lands afar. You can visualise rising synagogues above sandy market places bustling with Kaftan-robed, camel escorting, traders when they play their accomplished and wholly entertaining old ballads of soulful, yearning and rousing dance tunes.

© Gina Tratt at Vanilla Visuals 

Never has it been more appropriate to recite the phrase “also available for weddings or bar mitzvahs,” as Chai for All concerts celebrate the rich Yiddish song and klezmer wedding and dance traditions. Its two most recent music and storytelling shows explored the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which led to the creation of the State of Israel, the Palestinians’ loss of their homeland and the unleashing of one of the bitterest conflicts of modern times. Weaving together Jewish, Palestinian and British stories, this is a riveting study of the complexities of history. Such is the subject of their album Longing, Belonging & Balfour, available to download on their website.

Yet singer Marianna Moralis is keen to point out to me this past storytelling album project is not really representative of their upbeat Yiddish set, combining swing, which they perform at gigs, and that’s right up my beer-spilling street.

Overall, and to conclude, their beautiful sound is a magnificent musical journey from the haunted Eastern European shtetls, through the dimly-lit basement bars of tango-crazed Buenos Aires, to the vibrant neighbourhoods of swinging New York. Coupled with tongue-in-cheek banter and audience rapport, you have to admit, around these parts, it’s something completely different, and, I think, would suit a small-town arts festival…. this isn’t Prague or Warsaw, least last time I checked.

Unless, of course, you can locally think of another example of a music and spoken word performance, illuminating the many personal acts of Palestinian rebellion against Israeli repression, from reviving native seed stocks to preserving and promoting traditional music?

No, I thought not!

You can find Chai For All performing at:

 — Chai For All at the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY celebrationThe Grapes, Bath BA1 1EQ
 — Mazl & Brokhe: Yiddish SongThe Hare on the Hill, Bristol BS2 8LX
 — Mazl & Brokhe: Yiddish SongNew Inn, Bath BA1 2AY

Find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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PREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Opera Is Back! – The Elixir Of Love! – Go See This Show! by Andy Fawthrop We’ve said it before, and we feel no shame … Continue readingPREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

The Allergies Rock Da Muck & Dunder House

Images by Chris Dunn of Inscope Design


Got my groove thang on at the Muck & Dunder, Saturday, with help from The Allergies; yeah, I can still cut a rug, just!…….

It was the standout track on Bath’s premiere funky groovers, Stardust Collective’s 2014 Shindig ‘Afterhours’ collection which alerted me to the wonders of Bristol DJ duo, The Allergies.

Drenched with a classic Stax undercurrent, “As we do our Thing,” acts as a go-between, teasing unnoticeable changeovers from archaic soul, which is favoured by my Boot Boy Radio show audience, to modern breaks, which perhaps is not so favoured, but I love to josher. I’ve blended it in with everything from Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds’ Get Down, to Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog, and out into Skint’s big beat anthems from Cut La Roc, or Wall of Sounds’ Wiseguys. It’s a tune which also turned Craig Charles’ head at the time; nuff said.

Saturday night at Devizes’ one and only rum bar, the glitzy without being pretentious Muck and Dunder, and one half of the duo, Roy, aka, DJ Moneyshot had drawn the short straw, while Adam, or DJ Rackabeat, his partner in beats, browsed the exotic cocktails menu.

Lumbered with me waffling this in his ear, and expanding it into an Uncle Albert moment, Roy didn’t seem to mind, least humoured, my “when I was in the rave,” ramblings, on the grounds we had a mutual associate in Stardust organiser Slim Goodgroove, who I’ve not seen since art college.

If some in Devizes would shake negatively at a £15 ticket stub to watch two guys putting records on, when live music is the usual order of the day, they didn’t see what I and the punters of the Muck & Dunder saw. You know, here at Devizine we promote and celebrate live music, and I could go as far as suggesting for many in this area, DJ culture is somewhat alien. Yet hardly new-fangled, DJ Kool Herc delivered hip hop to NYC ghetto bloc parties the same year I was born, Grand-wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash and a handful of others turned mixing records into an art form.

And it’s very much in this ethos and spirt which The Allergies base this show on. Their skills on the wheels of steel are as spellbinding as Miles Davis with a trumpet or Hendrix with a guitar. If it was an honour and privilege to witness this magic here in our humble town, it was nothing compared to the irresistible urge to shake our booties uncontrollably for an astounding two hours, of which these magical master-mixers shaped.

After being smoothed in with RnB jams from Bath’s Graham the DJ, The Allergies went off on one, cutting and scratching with such proficiency they made it look child’s play. I’ve not got my groove thang on like that since the heady days of largin’ it with Norm, Brighton style.

Though comparisons to Fatboy Slim perhaps too meek, if there’s a difference, the squidgy 808s have waned, and the Allergies favour blending seriously intoxicating 45s of classic funk and hip hop with contemporary reworks. The result was an off-the-scale funky jam, the like old Devizes has never seen before, as the duo swapped and changed positions, sometimes passively battling, other times complementing, weaving their enchanted sounds as they used two turntables as a musical instrument.

If crowd-pleasers like Ini Kamoze’s Here Comes The Hotstepper raised the roof, brassy adaptations of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk captured the imagination, but the melting pot was vast, and wrapped in their unique funk revival ethos, ending on a peak with a mashup of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya to the beat of The Special’s cover of Message to you, Rudy; vinyl junkies would kill for a peek into their box of 45s.

Backward caps off to the Muck & Dunder for an excellent booking and most memorable evening’s entertainment, the like we’d usually need to trek to a city of cultural influence for. Here’s a comfy and hospitable lounge striving way beyond ramming a tacky nightclub concept and driving dance music events to Devizes with the matured and sophistication it by now deserves.

While it’s not so easy to review a DJ set as a band, I hope I captured the glorious moment. It needs mentioning, the Muck pulled off something I was interested to peruse the attraction of locally. It was adequately filled, and, as it was in the rave era, the crowd were there to party therefore left qualms and attitude at home. As it should be; dancing is about throwing ones cares aside for the moment, and if you witnessed me gyrating like Sonic the Hedgehog on a gyroscope, it’s because it was impossible not to!

They didn’t mind a joker rearranging letters on their menu board to spell out titillating alternatives, and for every tip you give bar staff comes the promise of giving Boris Johnson a wedgie! A quality night with the tastiest menu of cocktails; it’s a tropical holiday experience in your hometown! Yet while DJ culture will continue at the Muck, there’s a variety of events coming up, including live music Sunday sessions, the first on 19th December, with the brilliant Ben Borrill. Long live the Muck & Dunder, and all those who sail in her.


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Ålesund and Agata at Trowbridge Town Hall

With Andy gig-galivanting the Vizes this weekend, I trekked to neighbouring Trowbridge, to find mesmerising and enriching vibes at the Town Hall, via Ålesund and Agata; hold my hat, there’s a good fellow……

Just as Jim Crow segregation laws spawned juke-joints, the twentieth century is littered with examples of mainstream music venues unable to stay in touch, and consequently underground scenes progressing and pushing musical boundaries. It’s true for the Mods, frequenting coffee bars when pubs closed early and refused to play jazz, for beatnik outlawed psychedelia, and from Jamaican sound systems to bless ghettos of New York with hip hop.

Late eighties and early nineties Bristol reflected a different party from the paisley clubs of London. Leftover reggae sound systems merged dub back into hip hop, and a subversive scene of downtempo “trip hop” was innate, swamping rave chillout tents, and imaged by supplementary graffiti artists. If worldwide recognition for Banksy puts Bristol on the art map, I deliberate the music clearly rubbed off on a new generation, subsequently resulting in Bristol’s paramount cultural scene today.

I ponder this while a youthful Bristol-based four-piece fill Trowbridge Town Hall with blissful ambience. The band is Agata, based upon the Polish-born singer-songwriter’s name, and they’re only the support act, apparently! I’d blue-in-face argue this gig is a double-biller, not only from Agata’s proficiency to perform, but similarities to the headline, Ålesund, complimented them perfectly.

It’s spellbindingly mellow, even if the sound is stripped of yesteryear’s trip hop beats it maintains shards of electronica’s downtempo mellifluousness, of Massive Attack, and is governed with emotively powerful female vocals, riding me back to Portishead on a drizzly Glastonbury stage of yore. Drums prominent on these wholly and uniquely original pieces, bass and lead guitars sprinkle over the electronica soundscape, caressing Agata’s delicate but emotive and elegant voice. I love Salisbury’s Timid Deer for all the same reasoning.

Gavin Osborn, the town hall’s music and performance programmer is Bristolian, ergo he’s bringing a taste of the city to Trowbridge, which itself has a blossoming post lockdown gig map. Yet if the mass appeal of Gary Kemp deejaying eighties’ dancefloor fillers at the reopened Civic this weekend wasn’t your cup of tea, make your Trow-Vegas sojourn the Pump or Town Hall. There’s a continuous programme of exhibitions, arts and music at the Town Hall and musicians queue orderly for bookings at the Pump.

With music performances set in a characteristic yet intimate setting, gigs are a convivial experience here, one easy to interact with the bands, and you come away feeling part of it rather than a face in the crowd. Agata though would make for a perfect Sunday festival act, and have played Larmer Tree, Dot-to-Dot and Simple Things.

Currently touring a lockdown inspired EP “A Thread in the Dark,” Ålesund likewise, but the similarities don’t end there. Again, a Bristol-based four-piece creatively pasting natural soundscapes into a mellowed original repertoire, with upfront drums, female vocalist on keys, and bass and lead guitars adjoining them. The main difference is only a hint more professionalism than Agata, a tad more powerful voice commands, and more prominence on that mystifying Celtic folk-rock of say, Florence and the Machine.

Alba Torriset fronts the band, explained to me the Norwegian namesake is rooted to her father’s side. She cites Florence as a major influence, alongside Bat for Lashes, but she was eager to indicate Kate Bush to me too, as I nodded approvingly, thinking the same, and pointed to the preponderance of drums akin to Running Up That Hill. Also, her ability to use her voice as a musical instrument, results in a striking performance, as her naturally emotive soothing vocals carries you aboard her journey, equally as Kate Bush could.

On this particular occasion, in the usual drummer’s absence, an apt replacement was found, and boy did she give it her all, causing me to reason she must belong to a more hard-hitting rock band, later confirmed by sound technician Kieran J Moore. And in turn, this was a spellbinding performance. Hypnotically pleasing it cradled their new lockdown inspired songs, as Alba expressed her solace to the tranquillity of the moment, in the absence of industry and traffic she focused on the birdsong, and her writing reflected this, a song called Dawn Chorus particularly inspired from the notion, enthused with subtle birdsong samples in the background.

So yes, yes indeed, a memorable and most enjoyable evening at the Trowbridge Hall; both Ålesund and Agata less hip hop than predecessor Bristol scene acts like Massive Attack, less gothic than All About Eve, and less retrospective dejection than The Strangler’s Golden Brown, or 10CC’s Not in Love, but equally capsulating, emotive and euphoric; just with an uplifting contemporary method, gaging and merging aforementioned influences, future-beautiful. If either of these bands play near you, you’d be a fool to miss them.

As for the Town Hall, next Saturday (20th Nov) night proves not to be so laidback, as another Bristol-based band, IDestroy plans to bring a riotous, all-female party-punk live show to Trowbridge. Kid Carpet, Larkhall, Katherine Priddy all lead up to the new year, when 22nd January sees Gaz Brookfield booked, and com’ ere, there’s more……


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Return of Comic Cons

With the recent announcement of two Comic Conventions both hopeful for a date in September 2022, I’m wondering how the comic industry has been affected by the pandemic and what the future of these crucial events for the industry might look like.

Pre-lockdown comic cons became quite the trend, with elements of cosplay aside workshops and talks, it’s both fun and an essential business enterprise for all involved in the industry, from big publishers to those self-publishing “small pressers.” Yet as the tendency boomed out of its niche market, lots of smaller localised events popped up, many without equal knowledge of the subject as they’d let on, often organised by town councils and local libraries. The other side of the coin saw big event businesses cashing in, creating huge events which concentrated on the best method to collect as much money as possible, which is bringing TV and movie franchises with little relation to comics.

Of course, these attract a wider audience, but swamp the attention of real comics, and naturally, those movies and TV shows which relate to comic counterparts. Of the two recently announced events, as a wandering fruitcake once on the verge of the industry, I know the organisers of both are thoroughly and wholly dedicated to the subject, and will create the kind of large-scale events to bless comics with the attention they deserve.

Hopeful the conventions will re-breathe excitement into actual comics as a medium and not just movie spin-offs, wondering if the pandemic and lockdown have created the opportunity of returning to the basics with a clean sheet, perhaps to start again creating comic cons in the true spirit of the industry.

Firstly, ICE, the International Comic Expo, held annually in Birmingham since 2014 is an independently run comic convention which fast became the UK’s flagship convention, our own San Diego. After the fathomable year off, ICE announced its return for September 10th 2022, at a new venue, Edgbaston Stadium. 

Event Director, Shane Chebsey, who previously helped to organise events like BICS and Comics Launchpad has been a lifelong enthusiast and devoted comic fan keen on promoting and marketing the small press in particular. Shane said, “we believe in exposing our visitors to a wide variety of comics from the most exciting new superheroes to the coolest indy and small press books. Our guest list reflects this too with guests from both the big publishing companies and the smallest publishers. When you visit our events, you can also expect to see a wide variety of exhibitors, from those selling collectables to creators selling their own work.”

“You can expect to meet some of your favourite creators at special signings and maybe even walk away with a unique sketch from your favourite artist.” Not forgoing the astonishing program of panels, talks and interviews running through the day featuring many guests, this expo is the true comic fanboy’s calling, yet equally the kind of eye-opener to the wealth and quality of the comic market every hopeful artist, writer or simply just follower of comics has to see for themselves.

And, for me, that’s the nutshell, creating an environment to appease those with a mere fleeting interest in comics as well as devotees of the niche, inspiring budding creative types and in general, causing attendees to appreciate what the French call “the ninth art,” is far from the excessive polarized stereotype of superheroes alone, and as diverse a media as film and books.

“From what I can tell,” Shane enlightened me to the situation of larger comic cons, “most of the big media shows are resuming business as usual now that they are out of hibernation. I have not really seen any change in their approach towards comics related guests and events at their shows.

“Of course, some of the medium sized media events seems to have disappeared altogether, unable to survive the lock downs. I personally know a couple of organisers who had to go and get a day job to feed their families and had to wind up their events businesses. But for every one of those we lost, their are new organisers starting up now who think they can give it a shot. So I suspect we will soon return tot he saturation point we were at before lockdown.”

“But right now we have the big shows who could weather the storm and the small shows who could just stop without a problem as they don’t organise events as their main business. So I foresee a slow start followed by a huge rise in events in Spring text year.”

“However, just before lock down there were certainly rumblings among fans and guests that convention fatigue was starting to set in, which multiple shows happening pretty much every week of the year in 2019 attendance was really starting to diminish at many events and I think fans are starting to look for unique conventions and festivals that offer something a bit different. Whether that’s more online content, more overseas guests or more carefully produced panels and workshops etc.”

“I think the days of just hiring a venue and getting a few cosplayers in, a few movie props, z-list soap actors and a load of Funko sellers isn’t going to cut it any more.

“Comics fans want to see actual comics for sale at comic conventions and they want to meet artists and writers who they’ve never met before. They want that memorable sense of occasion that we used to get conventions before this huge increase in events. So it’s up to me and my contemporaries to deliver what they want in 2022.”

I feel my team and I are up to the task and we’ll be pulling out all of the stops to bring the fans the best event experience they can possibly have within our budget.

ICE happens under one roof in the vibrant city centre of Birmingham and costs just £10.00 when you book in advance. But for one closer to us, the trade magazine Tripwire announced they’ll be hosting a comic convention in Bristol, the weekend before ICE, on the 3rd to 4th September 2022.

Bristol always had a great convention throughout the nineties and noughties, which fell into disrepair, so it’s great to hear Joel Meadows of Tripwire will celebrate the magazine’s thirty-year anniversary by bringing a whole new convention to the city. Again, Joel’s experience and dedication to comics will ensure nothing but greatness for this event.

Guests are yet to be announced, when the website goes live, but it will feature the best in UK, US and European talent as well as editors from major US comic companies and film and TV artists as well. “We are very excited about this event,” Tripwire says, “and can’t wait to tell everyone more when we can.”

As restrictions lift, plentiful comic conventions are popping up again, this month sees MCM Comic Cons in London and Birmingham, November has the London Film and Comic Con and Liverpool Comic Con, and many more. While they’re all great fun, the connoisseur of all thing’s comics will tell you the place to head for is Kendal, for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival which is happening from 15th to the 17th of October. Though for the local of passing interest it’s a trek to Cumbria, these two in Birmingham and Bristol I’ve mentioned will be the crème-de-la-crème, take it from me, yeah kapow!

For information about ICE: https://internationlcomicexpo.wordpress.com/

And Tripwire’s announcement about Bristol: https://tripwiremagazine.co.uk/headlines/tripwire-presents-bristol-comic-con-is-coming/


Trending…..

Everything You Are, Onika Venus

You remember being given some coursework, when back in higher education, with various objectives and your task was to choose one to complete? Not really wanting to do it, you go to the student at the top of the class, and ask them what they’ve done. They reply, “ah, not much,” and this gives you the cue to do absolutely nothing. Then, on the day of handing it in, they’ve unexpectedly produced the single-most awesome project, covering all the objectives in one ingenious combination, and you stand there with zilch, except a jaw hanging and an implausible excuse, which you made up on the bus coming in?!

I’d imagine Onika Venus to be just like that. Now Bristol-based, Jamaican-born Onika plays Trowbridge Town Hall on September 18th, so, given reggae is cited as an influence, I thought I’d check out her debut solo album, Everything You Are, which was released back in March.

The title track was chosen as Songsmith’s Song of the Year 2020, and it’s easy to hear why. I’ve not been this blown away by a female vocalist since discovering Minneapolis’s Mayyadda.

Immediately this pushed my buttons, but if this opening title tune is decidedly acoustic blues, with a distant harmonica resounding in the background, there’s a truckload more going on than the first impressions here.

The premise from the beginning is as simple as, Onika Venus has the prevailing soulful voice to carry whatever genre is thrown into the melting pot, and drizzle it over you like hot sauce. It only leaves you pondering how far she will take it. The second tune I pigeonholed as RnB pop, a contemporary Macy Gray or Erykah Badu, aiming for chart success. When I’m Broken carries this concept to a higher height, and is simply, the model formula of popular music every song should aim for.

Yet, three songs in and here comes the Caribbean influence. Friday Love has a clear mento feel, it’s immediately beguiling, a good-time chugging song in the face the despondent romance theme. This will occur again towards the middle the album with Who’s Been loving You. Again, with Shotgun there’s similar appeal, perhaps the most definable as “roots reggae,” and, for me, they’re the favoured sections.

But it swaps back to the mainstay for track four, steady soul with an orchestrated ambience; Everything has its Season, is the ideal equilibrium to bless that heavenly voice and compose this euphoric moment of bliss. After a surprising modern dancehall intro, we’re back to an acoustic guitar riff for the poignant The Storm, using sax to mitigate jazz. I Need You, though, has kick-ass funk, Ike & Tina Turner in their prime.

With only three tunes to go, just when you think influences have been exhausted, there’s a duet with a male voice, supplied by husband, Mark, Mary, sounds classic Americana, as if Joe Cocker just walked into the studio and said, why don’t you try this?!

To keep you guessing what the last couple of tunes will hold, yeah, folk is strapped onto soul, Reaper Man aches of Aretha Franklin, but by this point you just know Onika Venus can carry this off with bells on. Raising the bar of comparisons is justified, believe me. For when it’s funky I’d give you Randy Crawford, Chaka Khan, and when it levels with acoustic and folk, her voice dishes out notions of reggae heroines, of Phyllis Dillon or Marcia Griffiths, and the gospel finale, yeah, Aretha will be justified, if not Sister Rosetta Tharpe; it is this magnificent.

Yet, unlike all these aforementioned legends, the style here is not monocultured, neither does it jerk from genre to genre without consistency and flow. Onika Venus gives volumes to the eclecticism, and it moulds efficaciously into one melting pot, beautifully. Prior to this solo launch, in a band called Slyde, her voice customised their breakbeat, techno and house style, to great effect, and I can well believe it. The flexibility of her skill is captured here, I’d imagine as comprehensively as she chooses personally, and just as the student who bursts in effortlessly, with the homework complete and to an exceptional standard, Onika Venus makes this look easy!


Win 2 free tickets here!

Trending….

Gamer Heaven in Bristol: History of Video Games Show

What would get your gamer relation, (because every family has one!) leaping out of their game chair, putting their controller on charge and aching to get out into the real world?!

Yeah, I know, right, not much, other than perhaps their favourite savoury snack, and then they’ll drift back towards the console, proclaiming there’s a new level needs completing or something about NPCs trying to eat them. How about a trek to Bristol? Tricky, but maybe if you told them The History of Video Games has every console at hand, a truckload of vintage arcade games and an exhibition they’d pass off a snog with Lara Croft for.

Running now and through the summer holidays until 12th September, on the ground floor of The Galleries shopping in Broadmead, a £12 ticket will gain you access to the video game heaven that’ll make your gamer explode into golden rings upon witnessing. And, I stress, gamers of ALL ages. One Facebook user asked if they had the Star Wars game, presumably they meant the 1983 Atari arcade first-person rail shooter. The answer a definite yes, but it was currently being fixed. Another asked what consoles they have, that answer was simply, “them all.”

They’ve got everything from the Konami Dance Revolution to the Original Sega Rally, the like I could imagine Dads dragging kids kicking and screaming away from their Minecraft servers and forcing them to play Asteroids or Pac-Man.

Divided into three sections, History of Video Games, Replay Board Game Cafe and the Generation Games Exhibition, organisers advise to plan ahead, tickets sell out fast; they’re like the easter egg in Adventure. The days are spread over three sessions with only a capacity of 65; you could be like Jet Set Willy trying to get out of the Attic, if you don’t buy in advance, or am I showing my age now?!


Idiot Music, is the Monkey’s Bizzle

This is isn’t the favoured way to start a review, but this is idiot music for stupid people, if you think this is stupid then you’re a fucking idiot, and that’s a quote, from the opening title tack, which ends on, “oh, there it is, up my bum; can I eat it now?”

If Goldie Looking Chain is all too millennial, but hip hop, for you, should be served with massive chunks of deadpan sauce, west country tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and general silliness, Monkey Bizzle’s debut album, Idiot Music might just be the thing to pick off the menu.   

Through the Pythonesque nature of Idiot Music though, wailing guitars, proficient drumming (from Cerys of the Boot Hill All Stars), and substantial dope beats means this is far from amateurish, and will rock the festival circuit. In fact, the Somerset five-piece sold out the album launch party at The Barge on Honeystreet a fortnight ago; I see why. This drips with Scrumpy & Western charm, like Gloucestershire’s Corky, Wurzels meets the Streets, the elements of “agricultural” hip hop make this apt for our local crusty scene. Yet with wider appeal, it is, simply, parental advisory fun.

Primates tend to be a running theme, a particularly danceable funky signature tune named Monkey Funk, a King Kong themed rap, another including David Attenborough samples. There are also drug references aplenty, the reggae-inspired Heavy, or Doves (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) needs no explaining, but in it, it mocks the chav culture in such a way you may’ve thought only Goldie Looking Chain could. Something it’ll inevitably be compared to, but more so than the humour drafting this side of the Seven, what makes this so appealing is its nod of respect to hip hop rather than mocking it, is greater than that of Goldie Looking Chain, in a similar way there’s was with Beastie Boy satirists Morris Minor and the Majors, if you get as old skool as I!

One thing’s for sure, Monkey Bizzle isn’t to be taken seriously, but for the most part it’s listenable to as a hip hop album rather than pure novelty too, unique rappers Skoob and James make this so, especially as the album trickles on, both CU Next Tuesday and Ha Ha Ha being particularly entertaining, Oi Mate ripples with The Streets’, Give Me My Lighter Back but under a ska riff.

Nothing here is going to become next summer’s banging anthem on Radio One’s Big Weekender, an honour they’re clearly not bothered by or striding towards. To face facts, what you get is a full album of highly entertaining flip-flop and amusing lyrics of daring themes, wrapped by gifted musicians only playing the fools. And for which, Idiot Music has got my name all over it!


Daisy’s Good Luck Songs

If I learned to take heed of Sheer Music chief promoter Kieran J Moore, when he Facebook posts about a new local discovery on a previous occasion, when I had the unexpected realisation outstanding Americana artist, Joe Edwards was virtually a neighbour, it’s paid off again.

The sounds of Daisy Chapman the subject this time, and it’s exquisite.

“How have we only just discovered each other?” Daisy responded. She may reside in Trowbridge but rarely gigs locally, concentrating on touring the continent. I listened fondly to the song he prompted, time for me to cut in on this dance.

Starter for ten, Daisy has an angelic voice of vast range. It could conjure enough emotion to make you tearful over a Chas n Dave cover, if she were to attempt it, which she probably wouldn’t, purely hypothetical!

Orchestral, at times, but dark, folk in another, if unconventional, there’s a thin line between heavenly and infernal here, as a sense of generation X sneaks in too, through conceivably progressive writing. Coupled with poignant narrative in these nine original good luck songs, a waiver away from archetype instruments and riffs of country and folk, and bold genre experimentations and crossovers, makes her third studio album, 2020’s Good Luck Songs something of a masterpiece.

It opens lone on piano, this divine voice, almost liturgical, but layers are building, a trusty cello will become a trademark throughout the album. The title track preps you for something unique, something obviously wonderful.

Into the second tune, Home Fires, and the tender euphoria continues through piano and cello combination, whisking you on its journey, of nostalgic recollections annotating seasonal change, the wordplay is sublime. Neatly layered into the existing recipe, a gothic folk element slips neatly into play by the third tune. Daisy’s voice willingly commands you, captivating you, like a child mesmerised with a campfire fable.

Then there’s Generation Next, a strictly country feel with a delicate fiddle, and brass, accompanying a tongue-in-cheek division, a tale which, despite the Americana sound, nods to gigging on a local circuit, from well-versed experts to the concept their advice is to be ignored by the younger upcoming performers. It is, quite simply, fascinatingly ingenious.

I used to own an Empire is another compellingly written emotional piece; on bonding to face a greater cause, articulated by a crusader boldness against aggrandizement. Through historic references it compares devastating impacts of political cuts, The Beeching Report, Miner’s Strike and even Custer and the Gettysburg Address to the ignorance of Icarus, as the wax of his wings melted from flying too close to the sun. An archetypal subject of leftism maybe, but you’ve never heard such expressed with such academic prose and orientation.

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do! The subjects of Good Luck Songs are concentrated, factual and tangible, emotionally expressed and divinely produced to an exceptionally high standard. But diversity makes it tricky to pin down, there’s a moment, in the haunting ambient opening of The Decalogue, which sounds so soulful, held steady with military style drum riff, yet the following song There’s a Storm Coming has a drum loop and high-hat, akin to a contemporary RnB song, or the country-pop of Shania Twain. Feels like succumbing to commercialisation, but in this, there’s a point; Daisy’s voice is so lithe, it could flex into any given genre or style, and finish on top.

Said versatility was first noticed by UK prog-rock band Crippled Black Phoenix, and since 2009, on and off Daisy has travelled as pianist/BV with the band on tours covering every corner of Europe as well as a short trip to China. Daisy was also chosen as vocalist on their cover of AC-DC’s “Let Me Put My Love Into You.” With a penchant for prog-rock, Daisy shares lead vocals with ex CBP singer, Daniel Anghede in the group Venus Principle.

And anyway, Good Luck Songs finishes with a sublime cover of Tom Waits’ Tom Traubert’s Blues, to confirm Daisy’s dedication to acoustic rock, but as expectable, it strips out the croaking vocals of Waits and replaces it with the pure silk that is Daisy Chapman. Believe me, if you’re captivated by strong female vocals, the kind that could bring a church down, but want for intelligent lyrics, this album will hold you spellbound from start to finish.


Lady Nade; Willing

Americana folk singer-songwriter Lady Nade beautifully attributes her granddad for her traits, in the song Peace and Calm, citing his love of gardening as his mellowed happy place. Wonderfully sentimental, the boot fits, as is this stunningly crafted new album, Willing, released yesterday, and undoubtedly the reason why she plays to a sold-out audience tonight at St George’s in her hometown of Bristol.

Reviewing after just the one listen is usually dodgy ground, but when an album engrosses you as Willing does, it’s all that’s necessary to reverberate the news to you just how fabulous this is.

If Lady Nade has a physical resemblance to Heather Small, she certainly has the deep and soulful voice to match, but any musical comparisons have to end there, unless either Mike Pickering is taken out of the equation or the nineties electronica inclination was mysteriously replaced by Nashville country. For pigeonholing this, it is soulful country, in sound and subject matter.

Written during the pandemic, there’s a secluded ambience echoing through these eleven sublime three-minute plus stories of friendship, love and loneliness lost and found, reflecting the fact it was recorded in multiple studios and engineered by all the musicians in isolation. Yet to hear it will hold you spellbound in a single place, till its conclusion.

With a folk tinge the title track kicks us off, and sucks you in with a romantic notion of loyalty. The slide-guitar fills a tale of faith against missing someone follows, and, lighter, You’re my Number One, trickles euphoria, warmly.

Indeed, mellow is the key throughout, Josette being breezily romantic, while Wild Fire offers a darker, moodier tenet. Whimsically spoken, One-Sided is perhaps the most beguilingly pop-like with a cannonball despondency you cannot help but be touched by. But if identification is what you’re after, Call Yourself a Friend has the sorrowful, trust vs cheating friendship, and accompanied by pedal-steel guitar-picking, traditional country music is honoured.

By Rock Bottom, as the title suggests, there’s a slight rock breeze to it without defiling its roots, Tom Petty style. Then we have the aforementioned, Peace and Calm, an upbeat, jollily ironic Many Ways to Sink This Ship, and Ain’t One Thing makes for a perfect finale, by summing up the perfect person to be in love with. What a gorgeous sentiment to seamlessly end a captivating album from start to finish.

It often perplexes me, how Ray Charles deviating from the jazz-laden soul ABC Records necessitated as the key to his achievement, to release the double-album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was considered so shocking, when artists such as Nashville’s DeFord Bailey was fusing harmonica blues into the more acceptable country style forty years prior. Still, some may be surprised by Lady Nade’s affection for Americana folk, but after one listen the surprise will turn into amazement.

As a form of healing from grief, Lady Nade started writing poems and songs, and performing locally, learning loss and sorrow isn’t something one can recover from alone, and with her music and recipes she creates a communal experience, a calling to connect with her fans on a deeper level. This shows in the sublime dedication she transfers to this, her third album.


Trending….

Ska-Punk-Folk-Whatever, From The Before Times, with Boom Boom Racoon

Blagging biros and stationery from banks and post offices, we’ve all been there, but few driven to pen a song about it. It’s one valid reason to love the righteous but riotous simplicity of Bristol-based anarchistic vegan folky-ska-punk misfits, Boom Boom Racoon.

Those aware, who thought 2018’s album by the trio, Now That’s What I Call Boom Boom Racoon vol1 was off the head, newly released Songs From The Before Times & Some More takes it to a whole other level. Lockdown raw, rougher and more in your arrogant, fat consumerist face than ever before; put that sausage roll down and prepare to be barked at with a charming slice of satire and counterculture commentary.

Now reading that paragraph back makes it all seem so terrible, but under a blanket punk term, which only goes some way to pigeonhole the unpigeonholeable, irony is abound and Boom Boom Racoon are quite the opposite. This is nine three-minute plus enthrallingly exciting rides, and is undoubtedly entertaining to say the least.

Mixing rum and coffee, ie. turbo mocha time, Covid19-related Public Service Announcement 2020, are the lighter, comical subjects.

Whereas tightening border control in States and Nations, laboratory animal testing in Cages, human unecological practices compared to dinosaur extinction, and another anti-capitalist rant on how difficult it is to be sustainable in the modern era, are the more sombre and acute subjects, setting the world to rights.

And the way they work it, the words they’ve planned go against the homemade rawness of the sound. This isn’t off-the-cuff, there’s ingenious wordplay and poignant messages hidden beneath the fun attitude. The abolition, against the psychological effect of imprisonment and a need to sustain numbers by reforming laws to create criminals, for example, Boom Boom Racoon touch on radical notions or campaigns, and are fearless to state their core values.

Anthropocene it, Say it, Sorted probably carries the most poignant message, and is also the only track which has an amusing sample, unlike the previous aforementioned more polished album which has more, from The Simpsons to Harry Potter. And it comes in the shape of a rather stumblingly polite call from Kent Police regarding an animal rights protest, which is highly amusing.

The album ends hilariously on the most brilliant retort from taunts by your average knuckle-dragging homophobic bigot, I’m certain you know the sort, completing the overall contemporary leftism and reformist ethos which, if you tag the piffle term “snowflake” onto, beware, the unity here is compounded into a masterfully literate snowball, and it’s a brown one, and it’s aiming at your face!

Myself, I’d love for these raccoon pests to come trash the bins of our narrowminded community and welcome the opportunity of our more daring venues to book them for a live performance on the theory, well, on the theory, they’d steal the show.


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Devizine Proudly Presents Various Artists 4 Julia’s House; Here’s the Track Listing!

Sleeve Notes for our Album 4 Julia’s House

Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, I hope! The track listing and details of all our wonderful songs presented on our forthcoming album, Various Artists 4 Julia’s House. Read on in awe….

Pre-order album on Bandcamp here!

Released: 29th June 2021

1. Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall – Julie

2. King Dukes – Dying Man

3. Erin Bardwell – (Like the Reflection on) The Liffey view

4. Timid Deer – The Shallows

5. Duck n Cuvver – Henge of Stone

6. Strange Folk – Glitter

7. Strange Tales – Entropy

8. Paul Lappin – Broken Record

9. Billy Green 3 – I Should be Moved

10. Jon Veale – Flick the Switch

11. Wilding – Falling Dream

12. Barrelhouse – Mainline Voodoo

13. Richard Davis & The Dissidents – Higher Station

14. Tom Harris – Ebb & Flow

15. Will Lawton – Evanescence

16. Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective – Dreams Can Come True

17. Kirsty Clinch – Stay With Us

18. Richard Wileman – Pilot

19. Nigel G. Lowndes – Who?

20. Kier Cronin – Crying

21. Sam Bishop – Wild Heart (Live Acoustic)

22. Mr Love & Justice – The Other Side of Here

23. Barmy Park – Oakfield Road

24. The Truzzy Boys – Summer Time

25. Daydream Runaways – Light the Spark

26. Talk in Code – Talk Like That

27. Longcoats – Pretty in Pink

28. Atari Pilot – When We Were Children

29. Andy J Williams – Post Nup

30. The Dirty Smooth – Seed to the Spark

31. SexJazz – Metallic Blue

32. Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue – Hammer Down

33. The Boot Hill All Stars – Monkey in the Hold

34. Mr Tea & The Minions – Mutiny

35. Cosmic Shuffling – Night in Palermo

36. Boom Boom Bang Bang – Blondie & Ska

37. The Birth of Bonoyster – The Way I Like to Be

38. The Oyster – No Love No Law

39. The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show – Ghosts

40. Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves – This Time

41. Cutsmith – Osorio

42. The Tremor Tones – Don’t Darken my Door

43. Big Ship Alliance – All in this Thing Together

44. Neonian – Bubblejet

45. First Born Losers – Ground Loop

I’ll tell you what though, kids. This has been a lot more work than I originally anticipated! Yeah, I figured, just collect some tunes, let the artists do all the hard work and take the credit! But no, mate, wasn’t like that at all. The most important part for me, is ensuring the artists are properly thanked, so, just like those Now, That’s What I Call Music albums, I wanted to write up a full track listing with sleeve notes and links. Please support the artists you like on the album by checking them out, following and liking on social media and buying their music.

But to list all 45 tunes in one article will blow the attention span of the most avid reader, and if, like me, you’ve the attention span of a goldfish, find below the first twenty, and then the next 25 will follow as soon as my writer’s cramp ceases! Just putting them onto the bag was tedious enough, but worth the effort.


To all the artists below, message me if links are incorrect or broken, or if there’s any changes to the details you’d like me to edit, thanks, you blooming superstars.

1- Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall – Julie

Not so much that Julie is similar to Julia, there could be no song more apt to start the album. Something of a local musical legend is Pete Lamb, owner of The Music Workshop, producing and recording local, national and international artists. His career in music stretches back to the sixties, creating such groups as The Colette Cassin Quintet and Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats. Yet it is also his aid to local music which makes him a prominent figure, Kieran J Moore tells how Pete lent him equipment for the first Sheer Music gigs.

Pete Lamb

A wonderful rock n roll ballad with a poignant backstory, Julie was written in remembrance of Pete’s daughter who passed away in 2004 to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was featured on an album for the charity Hope for Tomorrow. The song also features Cliff Hall, keyboardist with the Shadows for many years, playing piano and strings.

Cliff Hall

2 – The King Dukes – Dying Man

Formed in Bristol in April 2019, 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.

Dying Man is a prime example, taken from the album Numb Tongues which we fondly reviewed back in the October of 2019. The brilliance of which hasn’t waned for me yet, and isn’t likely to.

The King Dukes

3- Erin Bardwell – (Like the Reflection on) The Liffey

One cannot chat about reggae in Swindon without Erin’s name popping up. Keyboardist in the former ska-revival band, The Skanxters during the nineties, Erin now operates under various guises; the rock steady outfit Erin Bardwell Collective chiefly, experimental dub project Subject A with Dean Sartain, and The Man on the Bridge with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton, to name but a few.

(Like the Reflection on) The Liffey is an eloquently emotive tune, staunch to the ethos of reggae, yet profoundly unique to appeal further. It is taken from the album Interval, one of two solo ventures for Erin during lockdown.

Erin Bardwell

4 – Timid Deer – The Shallows

My new favourite thing, after noting Timid Deer supported the Lost Trades debut gig at Trowbridge’s Pump. Though self-labelled indie, I was surprised how electronica they are, with a nod to the ninety’s downtempo scene of bands like Morcheeba and Portishead, hold the trip hop element. This Salisbury five-piece consisting of vocalist Naomi Henstridge, keyboardist Tim Milne, Tom Laws on double bass, guitarist Matt Jackson and drummers Chris and Jason Allen have created such an uplifting euphoric sound, hairs stand tall on the back of your neck.   

Taken from the 2019 album Melodies for the Nocturnal Pt. 1, I’m so pleased to present this.

Naomi Henstridge


5- Duck n Cuvver – Henge of Stone

Yes, enthralled to have the song frontman Robert Hardie of Duck n Cuvver refers to as “his baby.” This is Salisbury Celtic roots rock band so aching to film part of their video for Henge of Stone inside Stonehenge, they’ve campaigned for the funds to do it, ending with Rab breaking into the monument to promote the campaign!

With references to the importance of solstice and the pilgrimage to Stonehenge, what other song could be so locally linked?

Duck & Curver

6 – Strange Folk – Glitter

A dark west country folk band in the realm of a beatnik time of yore, with a serious slice of gothic too, Strange Folk came to my attention playing the Vinyl Realm stage at the Devizes Street Festival. Hailing from Hertfordshire, band members also now reside in Somerset, Strange Folk is comprised of four songwriters; vocalist Annalise Spurr, guitarist David Setterfield, Ian Prangnell on bass and backing vocals, and drummer Steve Birkett. Glitter features cello by Helen Robertson, and is a name-your-price gift to fans during lockdown, a wonderful teaser which if you like, and I can’t see why you wouldn’t, you should try the 2014 mini-album Hollow, part one.

Strange Folk

7 – Strange Tales – Entropy

With singer Sally Dobson on the Wiltshire acoustic circuit and the synth/drum programming of Paul Sloots, who resides in West Sussex, catching this duo, Strange Tales live would be a rare opportunity not to be missed. Though their brilliance in melodic, bass and synth-driven goth-punk is captured in the 2018 album Unknown to Science, in which our track Entropy is taken.

Their songs relate baroque cautionary tales drawn from the murkier corners of the human psyche, while retaining a pop sensibility and stripped-down, punk-rock approach. Fans of the darker side of eighties electronica, of Joy Division and Depeche Mode will love this. You can buy this album at Vinyl Realm in Devizes.

Strange Tales; Paul Sloots & Sally Dobson

8- Paul Lappin – Broken Record

Imagine George Harrison present on the Britpop scene, and you’re somewhere lost in Lappin’s world. Paul hails from Swindon originally, but resides mostly in the Occitanie region of the south of France, where he wrote and recorded the mind-blowingly brilliant album The Boy Who Wants to Fly, released in October 2020. Our chosen track, Broken Record was a single just prior, in August, and features Lee Alder – bass guitar, electric guitar, Robert Brian – drums, Jon Buckett – Hammond organ, electric guitar, Paul Lappin – vocals, synths, Lee Moulding – percussion, Harki Popli – table.

Music & lyrics by Paul Lappin ©2020. Recorded at Earthworm Recording Studio, Swindon. Produced & Mixed by Jon Buckett. Mastered by Pete Maher.

Paul Lappin

9- Billy Green 3 – I Should be Moved

Now Devizes-based, Bill Green was a genuine Geordie Britpop article, co-creating the local band Still during those heady nineties. Today his band on the circuit, Billy Green 3 consists also of Harvey Schorah and Neil Hopkins, who’s talents can be witnessed in the awesome album this track comes from, also titled Still. Mastered and produced by Martin Spencer and Matt Clements at Potterne’s Badger Set studio in 2020, it’s wonderfully captures the remnants of the eighties scooter scene in reflected in Britpop.

I’m sure you can buy the album at Vinyl Realm, Devizes; I would if I were you.

Billy Green 3

10- Jon Veale – Flick the Switch

Marlborough guitar tutor, singer-songwriter and bassist of local covers band Humdinger, Jon Veale’s single, Flick the Switch, also illuminated Potterne’s Badger Set studio in August of 2020, and it immediately hits you square in the chops, despite the drums were recorded prior to lockdown, by legend Woody from Bastille, and Jon waited tolerantly for the first lockdown to end before getting Paul Stagg into Martin Spencer’s studio to record the vocals. Glad to have featured it then, even more pleased Jon contributed it to this album.

Jon Veale

11- Wilding – Falling Dream

What can be said which hasn’t about Avebury’s exceptionally talented singer-songwriter George Wilding? A true legend in the making. Now residing in Bristol, George has the backing of some superb musicians to create the force to be reckoned with, Wilding. Perry Sangha assists with writing, as well electric guitar, loads more electric guitars, acoustic guitar, organ and weird synth things. Bassist James Barlow also handles backing vocals and cous cous. Daniel Roe is on drums.

The debut EP, Soul Sucker knocked me for six back in November 2018, as did this here latest single recorded at the elusive Dangerous Dave’s Den, mixed and mastered by Dan Roe, during October last year.

Wilding

12 – Barrelhouse – Mainline Voodoo

One good thing about preparing this album is to hear bands I’ve seen the names of, kicking around, and added to our event guide many times over, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see at a gig. Marlborough-based Barrelhouse is one, and after hearing Mainline Voodoo, I’m intending to make a beeline to a gig. Favourites over at their local festival, MantonFest, headlined Marlborough’s 2019 Christmas Lights Switch-On, and right up my street!

Formed in early 2014, Barrelhouse offer vintage blues and rock classics, heavily influenced by the golden age of Chicago Blues and the early pioneers of the British blues scene, staying true to the essence that made these tunes great and adding their own style of hard-edge groove. Overjoyed to feature Mainline Voodoo, title track from their 2020 album, which broke into the UK’s national Blues Top 40.

Barrelhouse

13 – Richard Davis & The Dissidents – Higher Station (R. Davies)

Absolutely bowled over, I am, to have Swindon’s road-driving rock band with a hint of punk, Richard Davis & The Dissidents send is this exclusive outtake from the Human Traffic album, out now on Bucketfull of Brains. We reviewed it back in December. Recorded at Mooncalf Studios. Produced by Richard Davies, Nick Beere and Tim Emery. If the outtake is this amazing, imagine the album!

Richard Davis & The Dissidents

14 – Tom Harris – Ebb & Flow

Lockdown may’ve delayed new material from Devizes-based progressive-metal five-piece Kinasis, but frontman Tom Harris has sent us something solo, and entirely different. Ebb & Flow is an exclusive track made for this album, a delicate and beautiful strings journey; enjoy.

Tom Harris

15 – Will Lawton & The Alchemists – Evanescence

Wiltshire singer-songwriter, pianist and music therapist Will Lawton, here with his group The Alchemists. A weave of many progressive influences from jazz to folk, Will recently surprised me by telling me drum n bass is among them too. The latest album ‘Salt of the Earth, Vol. 1 (Lockdown)’, is a collection of original poems embedded in meditative piano and ambient soundscapes. But we’ve taken this spellbinding tune from the previous release, Abbey House Session.

Will Lawton

16- Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective – Dreams Can Come True

Hailing from Essex but prevalent on our local live music circuit, with some amazing performances at Devizes’ Southgate, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective offer us this uplifting country-rock/roots anthem, which, after one listen, will see you singing the chorus, guaranteed. It is the finale to their superb 2020 album, Do What you Love.

Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective rocking the Southgate last year

17 – Kirsty Clinch – Stay With Us

If we’ve been massively impressed with Wiltshire’s country sensation, Kirsty Clinch’s new country-pop singles Fit the Shoe, Around and Around, and most recently, Waters Running Low and anticipating her forthcoming album, it’s when we get the golden opportunity to catch her live which is really heart-warming. This older track, recorded at Pete Lamb’s Music Workshop, exemplifies everything amazing about her acoustic live performances, her voice just melts my soul every listen.

Kirsty Clinch


18- Richard Wileman – Pilot

Incredibly prolific, Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman is known for his pre-symphonic rock band Karda Estra. Idols of the Flesh is his latest offering from a discography of sixteen albums, which we reviewed. Along a similar, blissful ethos Richard Wileman served up Arcana in September this year, where this track is taken from. While maintaining a certain ambiance, his own named productions are more conventional than Karda Estra, more attributed to the standard model of popular music, yet with experimental divine folk and prog-rock, think Mike Oldfield, and you’re part-way there.


19 – Nigel G. Lowndes – Who?

Bristol’s Nigel G Lowndes is a one-man variety show. Vaudeville at times, tongue-in-cheek loungeroom art-punk meets country folk; think if Talking Heads met Johnny Cash. Who? is the unreleased 11th track from his album Hello Mystery, we reviewed in March, and we’re glad to present it here.

Nigel G Lowndes

20 – Kier Cronin – Crying

Unsolicited this one was sent, and I love it for its rockabilly reel although a Google search defines this Swindon based singer songwriter as indie/alternative. Obsessed with the music and the joy of writing, Kier told me, “I once had a dream Bruce Springsteen told me to give it up… So, this one’s for you Bruce!” Crying was released as a single in March, also check out his EP of last year called One.


Salem Announce National Tour with Sheer Hosting Swindon’s Vic Gig

There’s something indefinitely old school punk about Salem, with nods to pop-punk, goth and rockabilly, hoisting them to the absolute top of their scene. No one in the UK are delivering this genre better right now.

This side project of Will Gould from Creepers and Matt Reynolds of Howards Alias is loud, proud and spitting; dripping with Siouxsie and the Banshees, laddered fishnet stockings and Robert Smith influences. Quite honestly, Kieran’s right, again; it’s knocking deafeningly at my front door!

They described their self-titled debut 2020 EP as “spooky, silly, romantic punk rock songs.” Yeah, figures.

Today they announce their October UK tour, with Oxford’s Bullingdon, Frome’s Cheese & Grain, and Bristol’s Exchange included, and nestled between them, on October 16th, Sheer Music & Bandit present them at Swindon’s grandstand music venue, The Victoria.

Support for the Salem’s tour comes from a new solo project from Welsh former Holding Absence bassist, James Joseph; James and the Cold Gun. A playful twist on his name, James and the Cold Gun is named after a Kath Bush song. They promise to be something of a rock n’ roll blues revue, akin to former British rock n’ roll heroes The Computers. They signed to Gallows label Venn Records for the release of their debut album.

Tickets go on sale Thursday (6th May.) £10 adv. / £13 OTD for the Vic.


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Song of the Day 37: Lady Nade

I could scrutinise my archives, like a minister’s accountant, but without doing so I highly suspect Lady Nade has had a song featured on our Song of the Day feature once before.

Futile to check, as if I’ve implimented a ruling of one song per artist on our feature, which I haven’t. And even if I had, I’m my own boss here, and have every right to override it. And for what? What purpose?

I’ll tell you, shall I? If only to share and spread the word, this is a gorgeous tune, with a video nodding to her home city, Bristol, and its hint of topical affairs, despite the conotations of the song not revealing a similar notion, rather a classic theme of romance.

But the soulful expertise of Lady Nade makes it look so easy, and in this beautifully executed breezy ballad, one can only gasp at her skill and wallow in its splendour.

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


The Mystery of Nigel G Lowndes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Website

Facebook

Apple Music

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


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Andy J Williams; Buy all his $tuff!

I’m sure it’ll shock you to hear, I made a technical hitch, best described as a cock-up. It seldom happens, blame my masculinity; the wife often reminds me men cannot multi-task. We featured the indie-pop Bristol-based singer-songwriter Andy J Williams last month, as part of our Song of the Day feature, and I promised to review the whole album “Buy all the $tuff,” which was released at the beginning of February.

Musicians you wait for like buses, then two come along at the same time, and accidently I mind-merged them. Even joked in our Song of the Day post not to confuse Andy J Williams with his namesake senior easy listening giant, then mixed him up with someone else, whose name is nothing remotely similar. The only parallel is they’re both from Bristol, though many are, but being as the other artist’s album involved in this cock-up isn’t released until next week, both got put on the backburner. My virtual to-do-list saved the day; acts as my brain.

Extend a short story longer, here’s an apology to Andy, and a belated review of “Buy all the $tuff,” which is very worthy of not being missed out. To begin with his cohesive band firmly behind him, there’s a Britpop feel, I sensed, vocally, a similarity with Trowbridge’s finest, Phil Cooper, if Phil was aiming for pop. But there’s a lot going on here, influences are wide but mould into each other exceptionally well; a tad tongue-in-cheek at times too. It’s indie on the outer crust, but with a dynamite mantle blending of layers which incorporates funk, new wave post-punk, art-pop, and contemporary electric bluesy-folk, all with equal measure and passion.

Reminisces flood my neurons upon initial listening, of how eighties electronica fused funk into pop, a kind of “funk-lite,” avoiding the substantial seventies untainted funk vibe, and through post-punk new wave, rewrote the club-pop formula. Bands like Duran Duran and Roxette spring to mind, I’d even go as far as Michael Jackson meets Huey Lewis, but while I’m aware there’s a bizarre subgenre called “funk metal,” pleased to report Andy doesn’t get that heavy! This is more like musical cubism, with a skilful composition akin to King Tubby’s mixing board, and it comes out the other end as extraordinarily unique beguiling pop.

Don’t take the opening Britpop track as red, the next, Post Nup, opens up this funk riff, but no matter where it takes you, lyrically this well-crafted too, written with thoughtful prose. There’s topical subject matter amidst the archetypical romance, including the referendum and social media, but no theme distracts from the overall musical presentation. Night Terrors, for example, works opposite to Jon Amor, who uses Elvis Costello pop to create a more frivolous blues, Andy maintains pop by adding elements of electric blues. Then, piano solo, layered with subtle percussion. Andy rinses a fine ballad, undoubtedly the most evoking track on the album, Stay.

Buy This $tuff reaches an apex immediately after, Something to Believe in is masterfully danceable, bathed with handclaps and a funky riff, it is to Andy what Superstition is to Stevie Wonder. From here on, the album takes to this upbeat terpsichore concept. It’s highly entertaining.

Ballads follow, Celia and Now She’s Gone are particularly adroit, but you know Andy isn’t going to end this with melancholy. Be Mine returns to rock as it’s mainstay. Radicalised equally comes in hard, with an electronica feel. And Your Truth Hits Everyone is anthemic, concluding there’s a need to ponder what the Beatles would sound like if still around today, with Britpop, new wave electronica, and clubland techno at their disposal. Through this, I might provide a suggestion.


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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.


Haunted House Party; Chatting with Ill Literate of The Scribes

I caught up with Ill Literate, one third of Bristol hip hop trio, The Scribes, to chat about their new single, how they, and in general, writing a rap is composed, a bit of their backstory, on diversity and where they’re heading…….

After the unnerving atmosphere of their mind-blowing previous single, Stir Crazy, Bristol hip hop ground-breakers The Scribes release Haunted House Party today, featuring Mr Teatime and DJ Steadi, which will act as a double-A-side with Stir Crazy. Somewhat slighter in neurotic ambience than its flipside, still it maintains a lingering disturbed undertone, an eerie mood weaved by the intensely hypnotic lyrical style which we’ve come to expect from the Scribes.

Despite the haunting opening piano solo, there’s nothing tongue-in-cheek with this haunted house, as might be wrongly perceived by cliché pop songs with similar themed titles. The Scribes aren’t doing the Monster Mash, don’t even go into this expecting something similar!

But you know me, I showed my age with the trio, jokingly citing a lampooning track, The Haunted House of Rock from the debut EP of eighties hip hop trio Whodini. Why one third of the trio, Shaun Amos, aka Ill Literate agreed to chat is beyond me, but he did, and here’s the awkward questions I threw at him, and his answers!

Hopeful he’d humour me, I went wrangling on a technicality with the group’s name. I reckoned it should be “Scribes,” and not “THE Scribes,” as the first denotes a copyist, i.e., anyone who writes, prior to the printing press and can be traced back to ancient Egypt, whereas the latter usually relates to a particular group from biblical times who were largely critical of Jesus, probably contributed to his crucifixion. “What’s in a name,” I asked!

“Wow man, I’ve got to say I don’t think we’ve ever thought about it to that extent!” Shaun acknowledged, “when we first came up with the name, we did have a list of possibilities, including some genuinely terrible ideas like “Guttersnipes”. When we settled on “The Scribes” we did quite like the vaguely iconoclastic undertones going with the main thrust of writing. We already knew we wanted to write music by our own rules rather than by going with trends or scenes.”

I’m glad he didn’t bite at my absurd logic, as likely it matters not one iota, rather there was reason. Being scribes are writers, it leads us into my intrigue at how they, and rappers in general go about writing and composing a track, if they have a set formula?

“It really does vary hugely, we work with a lot of producers and the process of getting a track completed is different every time,” he replied. “When I’ve composed the music, myself I tend to bring it to the rest of the group with an idea of what I want the song to be about, maybe even with a hook already written and recorded. Sometimes we’ve got a topic we want to write about and we’ll seek out music that will fit with it. Quite often producers will make a selection of pieces for us to listen to and mess around with and we’ll get a vibe off a particular track, sometimes by jamming it out in the studio, sometimes on the road between gigs listening to bits on the car stereo.”

I see the writing process for a solo, say acoustic musician, usually being a lone affair. Whereas scripting an episode of the Simpsons, for instance, is a group affair, the best writers gather around a table and knock the jokes and narrative about, which is more how I’d envision they work a song, because there’s three of them and the subject has to harmonise, as they bounce lyrics off each other. Unless, one contributes an idea and the others adlib their parts?

“We do bounce our lyrics off each other a lot,” he confirmed, “checking they make sense mostly!

Shaun Amos.

“We do bounce our lyrics off each other a lot,” he confirmed, “checking they make sense mostly! Whichever one of the aforementioned routes we’ve taken to write the track, it’ll almost always end up with us all agreeing a hook together, that then tends to set the topic of the track in stone. We then go off and write our verses separately before coming back together to record. So, while the hooks/theming is generally a group effort, the verses are much more of a lone affair!”

But what of adlibbing rappers freestyling, I’m guessing they’ve set templates to fuse with a running theme, but usually this consists of a simple premise; boastfully bigging themselves, or criticising the opposing rapper. Yet tracks from the Scribes meld like crochet, tackling tricky subject matter, they weave in and out of notions, rather than repeating words or thoughts. How does this process start, with a subject, or with a set of words which flow?

“It pretty much always starts with a subject,” Shaun elucidated. “Maybe not even something as specific as a subject, sometimes it might just be a feeling or an emotion or a general statement. Either way it’s enough for us to aim our verses at, and I think doing the actual verses as individuals does mean we end up with maybe a couple of different takes on each topic, or at least a couple of different ways of expressing it. Having said that, in hip hop there’s always room for a bit of bragging wordplay and head nodding crowd pleasing!”

That said, I guarantee The Scribes could freestyle the ass off most!

“That’s not really for me to say!” he laughed. “I think our freestyle game is pretty tight, we crack it out at most performances!”

Does Ill Literate find a trio is, as De La Soul say, the magic number, when it comes to composing a rap? “Where,” I asked, “and when did it all start? I mean, were you all separate artists who assembled, or have you always been a trio?”

“I don’t know if it’s the number of people involved that’s important, more that the people involved are on the same wavelength and get along well. Both for the writing process and for the amount of time you end up spending together on the road! Me and Jonny have been best mates since we were five, and have basically always rapped together, we met Lacey during the early days of gigging and he got onboard straight away!”

While on the backstory, I asked Shaun for his first musical memory, particularly his introduction to hip hop, feeling it was time to remind him when I cited buying Whodini’s “Haunted House of Rock,” in, shit, 1983, though this was not my first hip hop record!

Ah, there it is! I remember it well; and owe it all to Mr Magic’s wand!

“We do have some pretty old school influences,” he chuckled, “though Whodini may be a bit old school even for us! I think my first introduction to conscious hip hop, as opposed to mainstream hip hop which was very gangster back in the day, was through friends at school. We used to listen to records at each other’s houses, a lot of the early Rawkus Records compilations like Lyricist’s Lounge and Soundbombing. Bristol has a pretty big scene for hip hop so there were also a few local records shops with a good selection of underground releases that we could dig through, though a lot of the time we’d just look for instrumentals we could rap to! I think that late 90’s boom bap hip hop sound is pretty much the backbone of all The Scribes’ tracks!”

I confess; had to Google the subgenre boom bap, certain it wasn’t an explosive breast, as I originally fathomed! I discovered while unfamiliar with the term, many of my personal hip hop likes relate, pioneers like Marley Marl, and acts such as LL Cool J and A Tribe Called Quest. But I’m going to throw Shaun off subject, ask him if he liked English Lit at school, if teachers accepted anything he might’ve have wrote as credible by their formal standards, and if he sees his writing as poetry.

“I never really liked it as a subject, but I have always read a lot, I love books! It’s probably the main thing I do outside of music. That and watching pro-wrestling. It’s a heady mix! I don’t think I ever showed any verses to teachers in school, not sure what the reaction would have been to be honest. I’ve never really found it important to label anything we do but I would personally say it is a form of poetry, just a very rhythmic and flexible one that’s written to be performed rather than read.

The Scribes

I’ve likened, in previous reviews, The Scribe’s sound, the way they intertwine lyrics and alter voices with accents and intonations to create a certain mood, be it fearful or humorous, to the Fu-Schnickens, but the way its composed, like the magic of Tribe Called Quest, as I reckon, they mastered this best. “That a fair evaluation?!”

“We will always happily take ANY comparison to Fu-Schnickens or Tribe!”

Shaun Amos.

“We will always happily take ANY comparison to Fu-Schnickens or Tribe!” Ill Literate contently responded, “that’s good company to be in!”

 Yet nothing I’ve heard from their album, Quill Equipped Villainy, or the Totem Trilogy and singles, unless I’m mistaken, use recognisable samples. It’s an easy gimmick to include beats or a riff which people will recognise, whereas everything they seem to do is original. I asked him if I was right, and if so, if that’s something important to them.

“I guess this is something that varies from producer to producer. I personally don’t use any samples in my production, I just play/compose everything myself in the studio on guitar/bass/keys. I know a lot of producers who pride themselves on using only incredibly unknown and niche samples, spending a huge amount of time digging through obscure vinyl to find tiny little elements. I also know a lot who don’t really mind how “known” a sample is, as long as they switch it up so much it ends up as something unrecognisable from the original. I guess including a sample that is well known, so that the song becomes essentially a hip hop version of the original track, almost like a cover, is an easy way to get a bit of traction. Same as if you sample a movie theme song and do a song about the movie. But having said that I’ve heard some great tracks that do just that, so who knows?!”

On multiplicity, the album sees a number of collaborations; Akil from Jurassic 5, and Leon Rhymes. How far would they take diversity; “would it be acceptable to you for a producer to create a drum n bass, or house track from your lyrics? What about a mainstream artist asking you to fuse a rap into some cheesy pop? Because it’s a tricky balance isn’t it, not being seen as selling out to the ethos and genre, but creating publicity and notice?”

“We’re always up for anything,” Shaun replied, “I love hearing remixes people do of our tracks, be it Drum and Bass, Funky House or anything else. Even if someone did want to take our work and turn it into cheesy pop, I think I’d be cool with that. More just so I can hear what they do with it, rather than for any publicity or fame! I’m always interested in seeing what other musicians do and how they work and the different techniques used by different genres.”

Haunted House Party is released today, and yeah, it rocks, but what’s next for the Scribes?      

“Well, hopefully we’ll be back gigging before too long, at least in time for the festival season this summer! Til then we’re working on keeping the releases and videos coming! Hoping to do a few more special one-offs on The Get Down Records, like transparent 7″ vinyl for “Stir Crazy”/”Haunted House Party.” People can keep up to date by signing up to our mailing list at QuillEquipped.com and on all the usual social media bits, Facebook and Instagram. It also helps a lot if you follow us on Spotify so we can make sure you know when we drop new tracks!”


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Song of the Day 26: The Maitree Express

Reggae and ska’s association with trains tracks back to its very roots, that beguiling chugging offbeat replicates engine noise, ergo subject matter and band names suit.

Here’s hoping if Devizes does ever get a station, more reggae bands will stop here and bring their sunshine music. Prime example; I’d sure make a beeline for this Bath-Bristol seven-piece locomotive, with their lively blend of dub, ska and soul.
Failing that, I’m trekking, have roots, will travel.

Offering an exciting live show, the Maitree Express has been in the recording studio and the effect projects onto wax; proof here, in the pudding.

Wait, did someone say pudding? My work here is done, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..