It doesn’t hang about, it doesn’t drift dreamily as some previous tracks on the Soul Sucker debut EP, unbelievably near-on a couple of years ago, but it is unmistakably Wilding, this beguiling new tune from George Wilding, back with his band after lockdown. As a frustrating era for all creative groups, it feels as if with “Falling Dreams” they concentrated all their het-up energy, impetus and vigour, directed it into a trunk, padlocked it for a few months, then smashed the deadbolt and channelled it direct into an adroit three-and-half minute explosion.
Excellence is a watermark of Bristol’s Wilding, what initially began as a backing band for our homemade favourite lead singer, George Wilding’s prodigious young solo career, I expected no less. Though, while it’s not excessively upbeat it rocks steady, but Falling Down is a grower, appeal increases with every listen. It fits their self-penned label, psychedelic Britpop, but what is more, unlike Hendrix and Joplin it’s not psychedelia lost in time, similarly with Britpop darlings Oasis or Blur, which are somehow suspended in nineties nostalgia, a more apt comparison would be the Doors, a band with jazz and classically trained elements, and wild frontman poet, their sound is timeless.
If Soul Sucker received regular rotation on BBC Radio 2 from Graham Norton and burgeoning interest from major labels, here is a natural progression and a multi-layered detonation, compacted into one song. Writer and frontman George, multi-instrumentalist Perry Sangha, bassist James Barlow and drummer Dan Roe have shattered expectations and produced something here to refine their style. If this is a glimmer of what is to come, you had better watch out.
Why? Because, as I said to George, there’s so much good music being released during this troubled time for musicians, if they can get some writing and production out to help fill the shortfall, it’s all good. “I suppose that’s been the upside,” he replied, “everybody has so much time on their hands to create.”
The theme of Falling Dreams is ambiguously defined, as any strong songwriter should allow audience interpretation. To me it feels bitterly like a broken romance theme, but George jests, “they’re usually about girls, but ‘Falling Dreams’ is just about being fucking cool,” adding, “it’s about me…” Herein requires some prior knowledge to his character to fully appreciate, as far from egotistical, George’s charisma lies with tongue-in-cheek witticisms shadowing a selfless good egg. But yeah, he is fucking cool too! They all are, this song verifies it.
To see what I mean, hold out for its release this Friday, 23rd October. If you’re used to George providing entertaining covers on our pub circuit and his sublimely succulent solo EP’s of dreamy indie, this will be a wonderful surprise, but as I said, its skill and catchiness is neither unexpected or unmistakable.
Who says men can’t multitask? I’m washing up and reviewing this forthcoming musical extravaganza…..
Ruling in my household, being the better-half does the majority of cooking, I therefore wash-up. And on sporadic occasions I cook, I still do the washing up. I know what you’re thinking; under the thumb, Worrow. I beg to differ, family are watching some revamped eighties game show; squeamishly sickening the first time around, or else a bronze lady of all teeth and earrings, in a buttery summer dress is assisting affluent chavs to relocate to a Mediterranean costa.
Meanwhile, I’m preparing my chore. First task is not to clear the drainer of previously cleaned utensils, that comes after I Bluetooth my phone to the soundbar. Firmly of the belief washing up should be done to music, and such a law should be implemented nationally.
Those completed, time to fill the sink with hot water and Fairy. Cheaper varieties a no-brainer, you use twice as much for the same effect. Much like my choice of music, others don’t have the same clout. For retrospective genres, such as rock n roll, today largely consists of wishy-washy tributes and anodyne honours of a once dicey outrageous bravura. Else there’s a disturbing scene fusing techno with swing to revamp classics which really don’t need or desire the wonky attention.
Let me be the first, I suspect, to compare Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue to Fairy washing-up liquid. But if you want the job of recreating the true spirit of bygone blues styles done properly, accept no substitute. Add equal amount of Fairy as needed with a cheaper alternative and you’ve got an Ibiza foam party in your kitchen.
I’ve got an advance copy of their instrumental album, ‘The Instrumental Sounds Of…’ not due for release until 6th December, but ready for pre-order; I strongly suggest you do. Because here’s a Bristol-based rockabilly/blues trio, with three-piece horn section, who encompass everything once rousing and electrifying about musical styles ranging from jazz to rock n roll, originally, and with a benchmark of contemporary quality.
While Ruzz’s singing is passable, the guitar is his true calling; Gretsch agrees and endorses this, if you don’t take someone chained to the kitchen sink’s word for it. In genres such as these, where one imagines and perceives the vocals to hold a deep Mississippi accent, to hear his Bristol enunciation is novel, but unusual. Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue have the astounding ability to stretch a song to the proportions of a space-rock band like Pink Floyd, but retain the frenzy of traditional rock n roll, which would once be over within three minutes. At that point, though, it’s nice to simmer it with occasional vocals, but it’s not their forte.
Here then, is what they do best; concentrated instrumentals, a collection of musical styles, based within the blues, that have influenced Ruzz throughout his career. A project Ruzz has been wanting to do, and lockdown has provided the time. I’m strutting across the kitchen, shoving plates and utensils roughly back in the cupboards they belong in, while contemplating how I didn’t fully appreciate my dad’s obsession with the Shadows. For their instrumental goodness may’ve gone over my adolescent head, at the time. But this is a blinding upbeat opening tune, Hold Fast, with remnants of The Shadows’ slide-guitar. Yet it’s blaring horns make it like Hank, et al were in a big band.
Now to the main task, wrist-deep in foamy water I’m timely scrubbing with brillo-pad, like the ivory of a boogie-woogie piano. Swing Thing maintains big band, but slides neatly into swing. It’s spectacularly captivating.
Three tunes in and it’s mellowed to a sax ballad with Hawaiian guitar riff. Longing to See You drifts, as I causally dip dinner plates into their foam bath, and caress them as if they’re sun-kissed skin of a beautiful señorita! The Instrumentals Of album strides jazzily, continuing with a slight nod to that tropical guitar on the fourth track. But this is shrewdly quirky and experimental, Ruffled Up is as if Miles Davis joined a big band.
So many influences but so meshed it’s hard to pick it apart and balance washed up items on the draining board. Men can multitask, believe it. Now I’m striding, Clint Eastwood style, to obtain a tea towel dumped on the breadbin like it was a six shooter. Duel at High Noon is as perceived by title; Ennio Morricone influenced Shadows.
Heating up back at the sink with some fiery jump blues to make Louis Jordan blush. Jump In does what it says on the tin; I’m doing Chuck Berry legs, rattling those pots and pans like glam rock never happened.
Mambo takes a hit next, Ruzz-style, added funk. Spag Mambo is like Starsky & Hutch doing the Charleston on a Cuban vacation. Gotta go barehand; I’d look stupid doing jazz hands with marigolds, but Swing G-String is swing firing on all cylinders. Dishes done; I’m jitterbugging the sides down, soggy J-cloth in hand.
Opportunity to clear waste from the plug hole, never an appealing part of the process, nevertheless I’m cool; Soulful Blues made it so. It’s equably soul-blues, Ruby Turner could drop vocals, but it never strays from its ethos, yet saunters wonderfully between the variety of jazz and blues from 1940 to 60. There’s one more tune, but the job is completed.
Hammer Down polishes with dirty, deep Mississippi jump blues with a clunky rock n roll double bass. Like the rest of this sublime album, it’s irresistible and beguiling. It can’t end early; have to extend the task for five minutes. The floor may look wooden, but it’s lino really; ask Turbo B, or any break-dancer the value of lino; the kitchen is my dancefloor. Time to watusi with broom; the Mrs will be delighted. Even bending to get every last fallen crumb into the dustpan was a pleasure with this album playing in the background; blooming marvellous stuff.
Getting snowed under here at Devizine Towers, but speedily need to push this to top priority, ahead of tonight’s (Saturday 12th) gig at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate from Bristol hip hop outfit, The Scribes. I whopped up a quick preview of the event, but as I pressed publish an email popped up with their latest EP The Totem Trilogy Part 1, made in collaboration with Chicago raised producer Astro Snare. Should fans of UK hip hop hear it, they’d be planning to head to the Gate for this free gig, by hook or by crook.
The Scribes are a multi-award-winning hip hop three piece based in Bristol consisting of lyricist/multi-instrumentalist Ill Literate, rapper Jonny Steele and beatboxer Maestro Lacey. In 2013 they signed with US label Kamikazi Airlines, co-owned by Dizzy Dustin of legendary hip hop act Ugly Duckling and released two albums, The Sky Is Falling and The Scribes Present Ill Literature worldwide to critical acclaim, garnering the group a sponsorship deal with ethical clothing company THTC, alongside artists such as Ed Sheeran and Foreign Beggars.
By 2016 they had signed with Reel Me Records, releasing a sonically challenging 16-track album which thrived on a perfected blend of poignant lyricism, A Story All About How, and the apocalyptic concept album, Mr Teatime & The End Of The World, winner of the UndergroundHH.com “Concept Album of The Year” award. Last year The Scribes received global recognition, upon releasing Quill Equipped Villainy, featuring Akil the MC from Jurassic 5, TrueMendous and Leon Rhymes from Too Many T’s.
My personal affection for the genre though, goes back to the old skool. Prepped by Kraftwerk’s influence on eighties electronica, rolled with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte’s production on Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, and still nothing equipped me for the eureka moment I first heard Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock, on a journey to Asda in my Dad’s Cortina! Only lingering in the underground less than a year, the US hip hop and breakdancing movement swept the UK, and it was inevitable we’d develop our own brand.
As hip hop spread through the States it distorted to hackneyed fashion far from the original blithe ethos of revelry. Pretentious bling, hoes and pimping one’s ride, and of course gangland rivalry were never on the original agenda. While some during the later eighties, like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, strived away from this tenet, recapturing hippy, carefree roots, the east-coast/west coast rivalry and vehement bravura dominated and hallmarked the modern preconception of hip hop.
Meanwhile, by a method akin to rock n roll some twenty years prior, the place to hunt for creative and innovative progression of the genre was neither east nor west coast, but here in the UK.
Because hip hop was never supposed to be uniform, shaped by urban multiculturism it’s naturally a melting-pot of genres and an experimentation in fusion, always has been. Given Caribbean roots and common affection for reggae, it’s inevitable those influences would have a profound effect on UK hip hop.
Full-circle in actual fact, considering pioneer of the genre, Kool Herc was a young Jamaican NY immigrant with a sound system, who altered from dub to disco and funk as residents didn’t favour reggae. And, in a nutshell, and to wrap up my waffling, that’s precisely why I love this EP; it’s like The Scribes dipped a colander into said melting pot, and extracted only the very best ingredients.
It’s a non-commercial, bundle of heavy beats not relying on a single subgenre. Opening with I’m Back, for example, fresh, dripping with early east coast scratching and rapping. Yet Mighty Mighty follows, leaning on dub akin to Roots Manuva with brass, subs and a contemporary dogmatic theme comparable to Silent Eclipse, albeit this was divergent towards John Major’s government (apologies for my archaic comparisons, it’s an age thing!)
By the third tune we’re back to nonchalant fun with Rock This; I’m in awe, this is lyrically composed with a witty genius parallel to the Fu-Schnickens. Heart Breaks though swaps back to east coast; sublime rap harmony with a R&B slant, pensive piano chops and soaring strings with a definitive Bristol angle, as if a Tribe Called Quest came out of St Pauls!
Keep Bouncing ends the ride, and I’m left pondering Dizzee Rascal’s influence, yet tougher, as Rodney P, this is fresh, possibly the most marketable sound given today’s impact on the scene. The Totem Trilogy Part 1 is the first of a 3 EP series featuring the stunning artwork of renowned illustrator Chris Malbon. The absolutely gorgeous cover designs of the 3 EPs will link together to form one image of the titular totem. With guest vocals from both AstroSnare himself and founding father of the UK hip hop scene MC Duke, here, clearly, is something imminent, a rise of The Scribes, a method grasping an evolution for UK hip hop, yet firmly aware of its roots and unafraid to exploit them.
Described by The Evening Herald as, “raw and exciting, honest and sensitive, a soulful brand of rap,” Bristol’s trailblazing hip hop outfit, The Scribes play Salisbury’s The Winchester Gate, on Saturday September the 12th.
The Winchester Gate is a community pub just on the out skirts of Salisbury city centre which heralds live music, particularly supporting reggae and hip-hop culture. The event is free, The Scribe planning to begin at 7pm.
The Scribes are a multi-award-winning hip hop trio, whose unique blend of beatboxing, off-the-cuff freestyling and genre-spanning music has created a critically acclaimed live show quite unlike any other on the scene today, with appeal ranging far beyond traditional hip hop fare.
They have consistently proven to be an impressive and engaging live act with 2019 festival appearances at Glastonbury, Wilderness Festival, Shambala, Boomtown Fair, Bearded Theory, to name but a few, and have toured extensively across the UK and onto Europe.
The Scribes are also proud winners of both the Exposure Music Award’s “Best UK Urban Act” and the EatMusic Radio Award’s “Best Live Act”, and have provided original music for BBC and Channel 4 television, as well as being featured regularly on both national and local radio and media including BBC 1Xtra and BBC Radio 1 Introducing.
Hotly tipped as one to watch, The Scribes have shared stages with the likes of Macklemore, Wu Tang Clan, Dizzee Rascal, Kelis, Rag N Bone Man, Example, Lethal Bizzle, The Wailers, Jurassic 5, Sugarhill Gang, KRS One, De La Soul, MF Doom, and Souls Of Mischief, and are steadily establishing a growing following across the continent to add to their already significant fan base at home.
Check out their new EP, The Totem Trilogy Part 1 here.
Discovering a thriving ska scene in South America is like England in 1979……
Studio 1’s architect, composer and guitarist, Ernest Ranglin proclaimed while the US R&B’s shuffle offbeat being replicated by Jamaicans in their early recording studios went “chink-ka,” their own crafted pop, ska, went “ka-chink.” Theorised this simple flip of shuffle took place during Duke Reid’s Prince Buster recording session mid-1959, added with Buster’s desire to include traditional Jamaican drumming, created the defining ska sound.
Coinciding with the island’s celebration of independence in 1962, the explosion of ska was eminent and two years later the sound found its way out of Jamaica, when Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, Prince Buster, Eric “Monty” Morris, and Jimmy Cliff played the New York World’s Fair. But if Jamaica’s government revelled in the glory of the creation of a homegrown pop, behind the scenes, Kingston’s downtown was using it as signature to a culture of hooliganism, known as The Rude Boys, and thwarted it. Through curfew and a particularly sweltering summer of 67, horns were lessened, tempo was mellowed and reggae’s blueprint, rock steady, had formed.
Forward wind fifty-five years and Jamaican ska pioneer, Stranger Cole launched album “More Life,” yet it’s released by Liquidator Music, a label dedicated to the classic Jamaican rhythms, but based in Madrid. Perhaps in similar light to Buster’s innovation, Jamaica doesn’t revel in retrospection and strives to progress; the last place in the world you’re likely to hear ska these days, is in Jamaica itself. Modern dancehall trends can be attributed closer to the folk music of mento.
But the design was set, and to satisfy the musical taste of Windrush immigrants in England, Bluebeat, and later, Trojan Records set to cheaply import the sounds of home. It was a combination of their offspring taking their records to parties, and the affordable price tag which appealed to the white kids in Britain. Thus, the second wave of ska spawned in the UK. By the late seventies the formation of Two-Tone records in Coventry saw English youths mimicking the sound.
Similarly, though, this has become today somewhat of a cult. Given the task of producing a radio show last year, for ska-based internet station, Boot Boy Radio, while aware of American dominated “third gen ska,” that there were few contemporary bands here, such as the Dualers, and Madness and The Specials still appeased the diehard fans, I never fathomed the spread of ska worldwide. The fact Liquidator Music is Spanish, it is clear, ska has a profound effect internationally, and in no place more than Latin America. Yet while England’s second wave is largely attributed to the worldwide distribution of ska, and waves the Union Jack patriotically at it, the sound of ska music spread to Jamaica’s neighbours significantly prior.
Caribbean islands created their own pop music. Barbados had spouge, cited as “Bajan ska,” despite a completely different rhythm section more attributed to calypso. Columbia likewise saw a surge in cumbia during the early sixties, a genre derived from cumbé; “a dance of African origin.”
In South America though, ska was fused with their own sounds of samba, and particularly upcoming rock ‘n’ roll inspired genres such as “iê-iê-iê,” via Brazilian musical television show, Jovem Guarda. Os Aaalucinantes’ 1964 album Festa Do Bolinha predates England’s embrace of ska, the same year, in fact, as Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, et all playing the New York World’s Fair. At this point in time, through Bluebeat, English youth were only just discovering a love for Jamaican music, and Lee Gopthal wouldn’t found Trojan Records for another four years. This mesh of fusions gave birth to a creative period in Brazil, vocal harmony groups like Renato E Seus Blue Caps, and The Fevers followed suit, blending US bubble-gum pop with jazzy offbeat rhythms. It did not borrow from England’s mods; it followed a similar pattern.
Similarly, in Venezuela, Las Cuatro Monedas introduced ska and reggae as early as 1963, with their debut album, “Las Cuatro Monedas a Go Go.” Through maestro arranger and composer, Hugo Blanco they won the 1969 Song Festival in Barcelona, and continued until 1981, when over here The Specials were only just releasing “Ghost Town.” Desorden Público is Venezuela’s most renowned ska band, formed in the eighties. When frontman Horacio Blanco was still at school, he wrote “Paralytic Politicians,” an angry, anti-Hugo Chavez anthem which his fans still yell for. Although Chavez died in 2013, his protégé Nicolas Maduro has descended the country into political and economic crisis; one example where South American ska is equally, if not more, dogmatically defending justice as Two-Tone here in the UK.
Chile trended towards cumbia through tropical orchestra Sonora Palacios in the sixties, therefore ska didn’t fully surface until the third-gen bands of the nineties. Even today though, Latin enthused bands such as Cholomandinga and reggae is favoured through bands like Gondwana. The modern melting pot is universal and extensive though, I’ve got a lovely cover of Ghost Town by Argentine cumbia band Fantasma, who cite themselves as being the first to develop a cumbia rap. And when upcoming, all-female Mexican ska band, Girls Go Ska sent me some tunes to play, a cover of the Jam’s David Watts was one of them.
All’s fair in love and war; undoubtedly the Two-Tone era of England has had a profound effect on the worldwide contemporary ska scene, so did their revolutionary principles. Peru commonly cites its scene commenced in the mid-eighties, when punk and second-gen underground rock bands emerged in Lima. Edwin Zcuela’s band, Zcuela Crrada differed by having a saxophonist, and adopted a sound which bordered ska. Azincope and Refugio were quick to follow, not to the taste of the rock-based crowd who classed it commercialised pop. Psicosis came about in 88, the band to initiate the term “ska band” in Peru, taking steps to eradicate the preconception. They won a recording contract through a radio contest, the jury expressed concern; the band were radicals within a pseudo-movement with libertarian ideas, and so the band refused to record.
With influences from the Basque ska-punk band, Kortatu, Breakfast continued the rebellious nature with ska in Peru, but discarded their discography. It will take us into the nineties to start to find orchestral flairs, when Carnaval Patetico and Barrio Pamara emerged, bringing with them the country’s belated by comparison, second wave. Odd to see how punk gave ska a leg-up in this legacy, but the melting pot is bottomless.
Where some bands, such as Swiss Sir Jay & The Skatanauts, favour pouring jazz into their style, akin to how the Skatalites formed the backbone of Studio 1 through attending Kingston’s Alpha Cottage School, others, such as the States bands like The Dance Hall Crashers prefer to fuse punk influences, Big Reel Fish takes Americana to ska, and one has to agree the tension of teenage anguish felt by eighties skinheads equalled that of latter punk-rock.
The rulebook is borderless and limitless, to the point there is no longer a rulebook, through an online generation one can teeter on the edge of this rabbit hole, or go diving deeper. If I said previously, Two-Tone is a cult in England, in South America ska is thriving. Some subgenres bear little relevance to the sounds and ethos of original Jamaican ska. Other than the usage of horns to sperate them from punk or rockabilly, off-shoots of skacore and skabilly tangent along their own path. Oi bands prime example, where a largely neo-Nazi tenet cannot possibly relate to an afro-Caribbean origin.
Again, the folk of a nation mergers with the sound, and there can create an interesting blend, such as the Balkan states, where the Antwerp Gipsy Ska Orchestra and Dubioza Kolekiv carve their own influences into ska. Which, in turn, has spurred a folk-ska scene in Bristol and the Southwest, bands like The Carny Villains, Mr Tea & The Minions and Mad Apple Circus, who add swing to the combination, and folk-rock bands such as The Boot Hill Allstars, confident to meld ska into the dynamic festival circuit. South America typifies this too.
Modern murga, a widespread musical theatre performed in Montevideo, Uruguay and Argentina hugs ska through carnival. Argentina’s scene is as widespread and varied as the UK or USA, in fact it was former Boot Boy presenter, Mariano Goldenstein, frontman of The Sombrero Club who led me to the rabbit hole. If the name of this Argentinean band signifies Mexican, one should note, The Sombrero Club was a Jamaican nightclub on the famous ‘Four Roads’ intersection of Molynes and Waltham Park Roads in St. Andrew.
Journalist Mel Cooke recalls in a 2005 article for the Jamaica Gleaner, “although it carried a Mexican name, the senors and senoritas who stepped inside the Sombrero nightclub did it in true Jamaican style. It was an audience that demanded a certain quality of entertainment and, in the height of the band era the cream of the cream played there. “It was one of the premier dance halls for bands, live music,” says Jasper Adams, a regular at The Sombrero. “If you capture the image of the dance hall in London at the time, you get an idea of what it was like.”
After the demise of the Bournmouthe in East Kingston, in a bygone era, The Sombrero was the place to catch ska legends, Toots and the Maytals, Tommy McCook and the Supersonics and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. There could be no name more apt for Argentina’s Sombrero Club, for within a thriving scene which mimics England in the grip of Two-Tone, their proficient and authentic sound is akin to our Specials or Madness.
It is, however, through Marcos Mossi of the Buena Onda Reggae Club from Sao Paulo, perhaps a lesser known band outside Brazil, who have really spurred my interest in South American ska, through their sublime blend of mellowed jazz-ska and reggae, and through it I realise I’m still teetering on the edge of the rabbit hole. Aside the aforementioned bands, I’m only just discovering Brazil’s Firebug, Argentina’s Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Los Calzones Rotos, Los Auténticos Decadentes, Karamelo Santo, Cienfuegos, Satellite Kingston, Dancing Mood, Staya Staya, Los Intocables, and Ska Beat City, Cultura Profética from Puerto Rico and Peru’s Vieja Skina. Pondering if the list will ever end.
One thing this highlights, while ska is international now, with vibrant scenes from Montreal to Melbourne, Latin America holds the key to a spirit akin to how it was when I opened my Christmas present in 1980 to find Madness long player, Absolutely.
Tune into my show on http://www.bootboyradio.co.uk – Friday nights from 10pm till Midnight GMT, where we play an international selection of ska, reggae, rock steady, soul and funk, RnB, shuffle and jazz, anything related which takes my fancy, actually!
One of the most intriguing blurbs to a local event to catch my eye on recent online travels, in this humble but perpetual quest to bring you news of happenings, has to be a new performance from a Bristol/South-West theatre group, aptly named the Modest Genius Theatre Company. “Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age,” is touring locally, and coming to Trowbridge Library on Tuesday 7th April, Warminster’s on the morning of Wednesday 8th April, the afternoon at Devizes Library on the 8th and Calne on Thursday 9th.
Targeted at everyone aged seven and up, Truth Sluth is a choose-your-own-adventure comedy show that will make laugh, think critically and question everything. It explores contemporary issues surrounding fact and fiction, and asks “ever wondered who you can trust? Ever read a blog and doubted its veracity? (Hummm; ed!) Is your newsfeed feeding you fake fodder? Truth Sleuth is on the case of fake news.”
Pre- booked tickets are £5 and are available from www.modestgenius.co.uk or telephone 01249 701628. Tickets on the door are £7 (cash only for on the door tickets.) Then, be ready to “join Truth Sleuth to gather clues, make decisions and steer the action. Come on down to the birthplace of information itself, the oracle with a public toilet: your local library.”
The Modest Genius Theatre company are fast becoming renowned for their innovative, dark physical comedy about social taboos. Based in Bristol and the South West, the company was formed in 2015 by graduates of the Lecoq, Gaulier and Dell’arte theatre schools, Tristan Green, Sidney Robb and Tess Cartwright. Using clown, mime, physical theatre, storytelling, movement and music they mesmerise audiences with poignant material that takes you on an emotional journey. “We love the extremes,” they tell, “and give our audience permission to feel how they feel.”
Truth Sluth: Epistemological Investigations for the Modern Age is hot topical comedy, in collaboration with Canadian playwright Greg Cochrane, and Pound Arts. Using physical comedy, storytelling and clever wordplay, this is devised theatre that obliterates the fourth wall. I don’t know about you lovely lot; I’m delighted to hear local libraries hosting something so intriguing and hope it’s the beginning of more such performances.
Hibernation, like a bear, saving motivation and funds for Christmas, spent too much at the Lantern Parade? Ah, a bit of all three meant it was only to be a whistle stop at the Southgate Saturday night. When I should’ve been at the Sham’s Assembly Hall for the Female of the Species, and I should’ve been in Trow-Vegas for Sheer’s gig too. Without cloning technology, the pressure usually melts my enthusiasm entirely, and opt to I slob on the sofa cuddling a packet of digestives, chocolate ones, naturally. Yet if just a pint at the dependable local couldn’t persuade me,after reviewing the forthcoming live album from Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue I simply couldn’t resist.
And for all the thoroughly deserved lovely things I had to say about it, I propped this gig on a pedestal, but was far away from disappointment. The band started with Hold It, and blasted Baby Please Come Home, virtually replicating this live album. Best thing at the Southgate is the communal feel, beneficial to meet and greet the artists; I was a handshake away from Ruzz Evans and the band, which I did, and with it he explained they often begin with that formula and mix it up thereafter. The advantage though was not our quick chat, but the close inspection of Ruzz handling that guitar, as it’s something spectacular and I watched in awe.
Unsure if I got the ball rolling fittingly, as I mumbled, “you make that look so easy,” at the suited Bristolian caked in perspiration. Clearly, and as I expressed in our album review, blasting a lengthy and vigorous rock n roll chef-d’oeuvre like this takes stamina! I knew what I meant though, they did make it look like child’s play, the band equally as proficient as the front man.
So, a high-energy blast of traditional rock n roll blended with acute blues blessed the trusty Southgate, a never-ending foundation of great, free, live music in Devizes. Here’s the twist; it’s the uniqueness of Ruzz and crew, amidst the conventional rock n roll cliché of Elvis or Buddy tributes, passé eighties rockabilly four-pieces, and nostalgic but substandard fifties cover bands, Ruzz simply doesn’t come off like that. Mostly fresh, original works; if there were covers, they were rarities, and delivered with the youthful energy and passion of an era of yore.
I can’t keep on this glorious new find, I’m not even a rocker! But when stripped back to the roots, as authentically as this, all pop genres combine and there’s no need to pigeonhole. Funny, in reflection, and considering diverse fifties artists like Buddy Holly, how close mod’s and rocker’s tastes were, yet at the time, reason to fight. Look, just read our album review, will you, before I waffle on a tangent? Which, incidentally, is released February but available for pre-order today. There’re also two previous studio albums, and Ruzz returns this way in March at the Sports Club, (see poster) if not before.
A cheetah can achieve motorway speeds, but not long enough to get off the slip road; worthless trivia, unless you’re an antelope. I like to think cheetahs listen to rock n roll; no, hear me out. Akin to this feline fact, those RnB and rock n roll classics are one short burst of energy. Fortunately for the artists the 78rpm record lasted a maximum of five minutes, and for radio play they’d cut it to little over three, any longer they surely risk congestive heart failure.
As the era passed to late sixties, psychedelia stretched recorded music to live and extended dimensions Little Richard could never maintain. Mellowing tendency matured rock, but arguably robbed its dynamism. Ah, come the eighties twelve inch single and the mega-mix, prompting the question; why didn’t Glenn Close choose the Jive Bunny to boil?
Rare then it is, to hear a frenzied traditional rock n roll sound encompass ten minutes; welcome to Ruzz Evans’ world. Embodiment of Johnny B Goode, Ruzz can pick guitar like he’s ringing a bell, for an astounding period too. Due for release on 10th February, but available for pre-order from December 1st, I’ve been adoring this album recorded live at the Louisiana in Ruzz’s hometown of Bristol.
Forgive me for sustaining the rock n roll pigeonhole, for Ruzz has the quiff and is photographed in a teddy boy drape jacket. With backing from an incredible band including drummer Mike Hoddinott and upright bassist Joe Allen, the panache of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue straddles rock and its namesake blues. Since 2016, when they added an awesome horn trio to the roster, we can add big band jazz to their style. That’s my thoughts while absorbed in this, of what Miles Davis did to jazz, or Pink Floyd to prog rock, Ruzz does to traditional rhythm and blues come rock n roll; the result is breath-taking.
Bearing in mind his voice isn’t growling Tennessean, yet neither was Gene Vincent’s, rather quirky Bristolian, the vocals are sporadic, instruments reign. There’s an amusing conclusion to “Under Your Spell,” where 10 minutes of detonating electric blues is broken by a genuinely surprised thank you from Ruzz in said accent. This often amuses me, pondering, no, thank you, mate, I just clapped, you’ve just held me spellbound for ten minutes, the pleasure is all mine!
In this instance I’m not even there, merely listening on my headphones, but still entranced. While they’re Bristol based Ruzz and his Guitar’s Blues Revue are no strangers here, and you can catch them at the Southgate (Nov 30th), White Swan Trowbridge (tonight 9th Nov) at the R&B bar in March at Devizes Sports Club. I’m quivering, ashamed after hearing this that I’ve not caught them live yet; an offence I will rectify, you would too if you hear this.
Live at the Louisiana explodes from the off; the two, Hold It and Baby Please Come Home, for starters envelope all I’ve said, lively jump blues come big band rock n roll. Catchy, you’ll be lindy hopping before your first sip. Yet if Movin On groovily notches to allegro moderato, Back Home to Stay boogie-woogies again, and Sleepwalk is as dreamy as it suggests. The last two tunes, Sweet as Honey and the aforementioned Under You Spell embrace all we’ve so far said, making this release, I reckon, a treasure; fantastic!
With two self-released studios albums already under their big rockabilly buckles, and opening for Dr Feelgood, The BlockHeads, Kirk Fletcher and Bill Kirchen and Darrel Higham, they’re stamping an authority of quality worldwide. Ruzz has been honoured by being officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, and that’s what I perceive of him, the kind of obsessive guy who will turn any conversation to his labour of love, but when it’s this proficient, you cannot help but take heed. I’m off to find out what they can do in the studio, but with such a formula I think this live album captures the spirit perfectly.
Put the kettle on; Balkan gypsy ska here in Bristol, Mutiny, the new album from Mr Tea & The Minions is a favourite for my best album of the year, with a top hat on.
Impressionable, I creaked the door on a near-expired student party, where a cocktail of Cinzano and shrooms polished off the amateur bassist, and he hung unconscious half off the edge of a sofa in his own puke. I witnessed scholar deprivation; comatose youth, crusty dreadlocks matted into a teetering Christmas tree, and a random arm draped over a guitar amp, howling feedback. I gulped, no partygoer standing, but an erratic noise of a “Red Roses For Me” cassette whirling. Sounds blessing such a character-building eye-opener makes you reconsider your loathing for a particular genre of music.
Until then, my presumption of folk music was pruned from an overwhelming desire to hold primary school sweetheart, Trudi’s hand, and the only foreseeable method to achieve it; to opt for country dancing. Ever frustrated to find myself partnered with dowdy Emma instead, I guess it rubbed a revulsion for frumpy folk music, with its delicate romances of falling autumn leaves and daisies dancing in a spring zephyr. It can be nauseating, symbolic of my failure to caress Trudi’s nail-bitten digits.
The epiphany dusted, I bought the Pouges long-player, shaking my preconception solo until crusties like The Levellers came onto the scene, boiling the realisation folk doesn’t have to be frumpy, in fact, it’s an epoch, a people’s music, and the roots of all that followed owe it. But if that era of recklessly launching yourself around, knocking down parent’s ornaments and calling it dancing has come of age, and if the Pouges are now acceptable, seasonally, (they stole the best Christmas song slot from a band in tartan trozzers and platform shoes after all,) I say unto thee, Mr Tea & the Minions; it’s my new favourite thing.
It’s not an awkward mesh of Despicable Me and the A-Team, rather a contemporary Bristol based, female-fronted six-piece ska-post-punk-folk Balkan-inspired riot, and their new album, Mutiny is beyond blooming gorgeous. Constructed out of lead vocalist and controller of “shaky things,” Elle Ashwell, drummer Fabian Huss, guitarists James Pemberton, James Tomlinson and James (Fold) Talbot on bass, with manager Lucy Razz on violin, they formed six years ago through James’ love of Balkan music. With the edges polished by collaborating with DJ Howla, and James’ professed love of tea, Mr Tea & The Minions was born, a name which they say was “a joke that was never meant to go so far.”
As Balkan, it’s fresh, electrifying and wonderfully danceable. Elle’s gritty shrill is apt and uplifting, the theme is often invitingly saucy, awakeningly tangible, sometimes metaphorically current affairs, but it hardly wanes in energy, and if it does you know it’s building to something. Mutiny is ten songs of splendour, drizzly evening enriching with a gypsy spin. It’s a warm musky pub of yore, where a furtive crusty band jams and you spill your cider on a scraggy dog. It also riffs like ska, boils like The Levellers and rinses fresher than Shane MacGowan on his best hair day.
The Eye of the Storm, like the title track, and Pandemonium are the Fruit Pastels, breezier tempo tunes like the beautifully crafted The Spider and The Fly stun you in anticipation of the melody, but no single tune stands alone, there’s a flow of prog-rock, and if it starts and ends with a little “meow,” it’s never completely nonsensical. Lyrics are sublimely executed, mostly evocative, but dashed with fun. There’s really nought bad I could say about this unique album, I’ll be dancing to it for the foreseeable future, maybe even look up Trudi on Facebook, she can’t still bite her nails.
Somebody local book these, pl-weaseeee; the Southgate or Barge would suit to a, pardon the pun, tea. Yet times are looking good for this madcap band, on the verge of another spectacular festival season and numerous gigs on tour, our closest to date is the Prince Albert Stroud Nov 22nd, Bocabar in Glastonbury on the 9th, or recommended homecoming at the Old Market Assembly, Bristol on 30th Nov. Failing this, try the Mutiny for size.
If you like your soul and blues with an authentic vintage feel, look no further than this new Bristol group, The King Dukes….
If Bristol wasn’t the birthplace of a “new cool” through electronic blues in the nineties, with the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead, it certainly led the way. I have to take a deep breath, fetch my pipe and slippers; this is a new era of anti-pop, an era of retrospective tendency, where traditional instruments override our technological desire of the pre-millennium. An era where technology is used only to market, allowing sounds to hark back to a time before drum loops, rap, and the DJ as king.
The king is dead, long live this exciting renovation, and long live The King Dukes. I’m honoured to give you the low-down, about their new journey. Formed in Bristol in April, a merger of a variety of local bands, including Crippled Black Phoenix, Screamin’ Miss Jackson and the John E. Vistic Experience, The King Dukes combine said talent and experience to create a unique, authentic sound, dipped in a heritage reuniting contemporary slices of British RnB with a dollop of Memphis soul.
Set to unleash their debut album ‘Numb Tongues’ on October 25th, I’ve had a listen or ten, and can plainly see why it’s been picked up by UK label, Paratone, as well as French label QSounds Recording. Chatting to guitarist and frontman, Marc Griffiths, I asked him what’s in a name, predicting it might relate to Duke Ellington. While pondering he sent a YouTube link of a track not on the album. This song, titled King Cyrille, is Hammond organ boss reggae, akin to Harry J’s Allstars. It’ a tribute to West Bromwich Albion player Cyrille Regis. “The team used to come out to Liquidator,” he explained, “it’s in conjunction with West Brom, for their podcast, so we did something similar.” Momentarily contemplating the name possibly nods more to Duke Reid, Marc cleared it up, informing me they had a residency at the Old Duke in Bristol, “but that’s named after Duke Ellington.”
I can see why, aside this one-off tune, Numb Tongues is not only dependent on a classic RnB sound, there’s sprinkles of jazz, blues, yet formulated like Stax or dare I say it, Motown. It rolls out in a manner able to slip its tunes into a set of old-time soul unnoticed. Caril-Anne, for example, is up-tempo soul, beguiling through that recipe of yore, simplicity. Kid Gloves is another lively number, foot-stomping soul with a subtle nod to rockabilly akin to The Big Bopper. This one reminded me of Jack and Elwood Blues marching back and forth.
But if this four-beat soul formula rings through tracks like I Gotta Go, and Gone, Gone, Gone is stepping, handclapping doo-wop reliant, Rub You The Right Way hooks into a blues riff taking me to Howlin’ Wolf, and True, True, True nods to bebop. This one has a sublime vocal by April Jackson, who holds a note like Etta James. Generally, the vocals are as polished as the aforementioned soul legends, yet grittily Caucasian, like Jim Morrison’s finest hour.
As a whole there’s much going on here, but whether there’s echoing vocals like the ballad, Dying Man, with a breezy jazz-come Otis Redding passion, or, like Marlo Cooper, it’s a blast of instrumental groove, comparable to Stax session musicians Booker T & the MG’s, it’s all stylised and flows superbly. In fact, it was mention of an Otis Redding post on their Facebook page which got Marc and I chatting; glad I did now.
With Marc and April, there’s drummer Dan Clibery, bassist Mandrake Fantastico, Henry Slim owning that Hammond Organ and Harmonica, and a fiery three-piece brass section with Joss Murray on Trumpet, Rebecca Sneddon on Tenor Sax and Sarah Loveday-Drury handling the Trombone.
Together they’re a force to be reckoned with. Throwing modern recording techniques aside and using methods for a fifties-sixties sounding album, such as recording a section with multiple instruments all at one time, and playing period-specific instruments, The King Dukes have captured perfectly this raw, vintage backline on ‘Numb Tongues.’
We’ve seen a similar blueprint around our way with the brilliant Little Geneva, and if this is the trend then I’m in, hook, line and sinker. Although, naturally, those ol’ time classic soul songs never wane in appreciation, sometimes looking further afield to the rare grooves, like Northern Soul aficionados, often the tunes never make equal approval in production and quality. Numb Tongues meet this notion in middle; The King Dukes deliver fresh material with honours, and if heard in 1965 would surely be considered classics.
You can pre-save a copy of Numb Tongues here, there’s an album launch on December 7th at the LeftBank in Bristol; I’m keen to hear of anyone willing to bring these guys local for a gig. As you know Devizine doesn’t usually cover Bristol, too much going on and not enough hours in the day, but when it’s this good…….
If Devizes folk have a love of blues, with a slash to rock, and all this I find a beautiful thing; Long Street Blues Club, the origins of Saddleback and of course our own legend Jon Amor, there have been occasions when a portion of visiting bands I take with a pinch. There’s cliché, whereas roots of blues are strictly raw, these convey the conventional, an earnest shot to commercialise to a middle-aged tolerable market, which in a way is fine and dandy, there’s clearly a thirst for it and historically such progress is natural.
You see where I’m coming from? At a time, Elvis was unacceptable, was edgy, now the rock n roll audience is pensioner age, consider it classic. Marlborough’s popular Jazz Festival fills with hoity-toity yet the rags of Scott Joplin at the time of their conception could only be heard in bawdy New York brothels. Similarly, I hear a once subversive, outrageous noise of nineties rave as a children’s TV cartoon theme tune.
From the crashing drums and thrumming guitar opening blast of “Key to Love,” there’s no doubt barriers have been stripped back. Echoes of raw energy from a time of yore rip through you, its two and a half minutes of screeching harmonica and growling vocals place you in 1967, under a blanket at an LA love-in. Little Geneva maybe newly constructed, but resonance images of The Animals, of Steppenwolf and the Stones with a truly proficient edge.
Putting my point to them, they agreed, “we feel very similar to you mate, very similar indeed… which is why we made those recordings, and, in the stripped back/vintage way we did.”
This EP satisfies retrospective mod-culture and beatniks more-so than contemporary indie fans, I’d say; imagine punk didn’t happen. “All Your Love” slides you into the smooth classical/jazz stimulus of The Doors, yet “Yer Blues” harks the blues which would’ve inspired these aforementioned legends. “Someday After a While,” again breezy melancholic blues sound of Cream or The Animals. Five tracks on this EP, but from the first note I was hooked.
Bristol-based, Little Geneva, name coined from a Muddy Waters track, only formed on the eve before 2019, conceived during a conversation between the Doherty brothers, Dave and Chris. Partisans of the UK contemporary blues scene for over a decade, they felt a need to get back on stage together, as part of a truly great live band; thus, Little Geneva spawned. Once the seed was sown, recruiting additional members didn’t prove a problem.
Chris, 32, and Dave Doherty, 36; both gifted guitarists, holding players such as B.B King, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton in high regard, headhunted Rags Russell, 32, (vocals/harmonica) who fronts the youthful and energetic band with an emotive and soulful vocal style. Zak Ranyard, 27, (bass guitar) and Simon Small, 33, (drums) provide the rhythm section’s high level of energy and power, driving the band.
Having completed this blinding EP, the band is set to record their first album at the beginning of March, as they look for clubs and festivals dates across Europe. But the bestest part of it all, the album launch gig is based right here, in Devizes. I had to ask them, the connection.
You may know already, you see that’s where Devizine differs from being our town’s Time Out magazine, it’s a learning curve for me. There’s history behind this band, as individuals, Little Geneva members have opened shows for Ray Davies (The Kinks), John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Mud Morganfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Also sharing festival bills with The Red Devils, Jimmie Vaughan, The Hoax, B.B King and many others. But three members of the band began their musical relationship in Devizes, back in 2004. Chris, Simon and Dave went to Lavington Comprehensive.
“We all lived in Devizes at the time our first band formed,” explained Dave, “and we were quickly recruited by other older stalwarts of the scene. We helped create a thriving music scene at The Bell by The Green around this time and it was, for a time, a great little scene.”
“They go right back to the beginning of Sheer,” Sheer’s creator Kieran Moore informed, “Check out a band called Hitchmo; that’s where it started.”
“That early band came to an end around 2008,” Dave continued, “and the three of us went our separate ways, musically speaking. We all met other musicians, worked with other producers in different genres and countries. Chris now lives in Cornwall, as does Zak. Rags lives in Bristol, as did I when I met him. Simon and I now live in Devizes, where we feel rooted. Bristol is the hub of our activities; it’s obviously a more connected place than Devizes. Devizes is our home though, and all three of want to come back here for our first show, and smash it out of the park!”
It’s Little Geneva’s deep respect for, and knowledge of what made those early British blues recordings so energised, and exhilarating, coupled with the soulful spirit with which all members express themselves, that will make an unmissable launch date at The Cellar Bar on Saturday 23rd March. Initial reaction to this retrospective goodness was wow, great booking Kieran, but I see now, what’s news to me is a reunion, to a degree, for Sheer and aforementioned scene; indisputably making the gig even more poignant than simply this absolutely rocking sound.
I shit you not, it’s like being bought up with Neil Sedaka and suddenly discovering The Faces. Oh, and if you need more convincing, Jon Amor supports…. supports, I know, right!