Stone Mountain Sinners at Dead Kool’s Final Night at The Cons Club

Returning favourites, The Stone Mountain Sinners pulled a sizable crowd to Dead Kool Promotion’s final hoedown at the Devizes Conservative Club last night. The accomplished Worcestershire country-rock six-piece belted out some dazzling country riffs fused with energetic rock n roll/blues nods. It was just how I suspected it’d be as drafted in our preview piece, that’s why I took the opportunity to drop in.

 
While stereotypically the genre admittedly not to my usual tastes my eclectic toe was tapping, here’s perfect example of the cross-over Dean pushes for, to appease both regular country aficionados and newcomers. For a sprinkling were Stetson-wearing adherents, but the bulk in attendance were everyday local music lovers.

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Covered in our preview was the harmonies of the two vocalists, Neil and Sarah, and they certainly took full advantage of this, as fronting a professional and tightly accomplished band, they shared the session uniquely and wonderfully, though I note while Neil took lead on the more country angled songs, Sarah had that poignant strength to twist some seriously grinding rock elements. After the first instance of this I felt the need to capture it on one my wobbly videos, but the following song lowered the tempo again to country, nevertheless, here it is!

 

Ah, king of the wonky sound-crackling video, they never do justice to the acts, you have to use a heap of imagination to note it was far better than it may sound here!

It sure was one grand performance, producing a night celebrating all that is good about the club, it’s balance between archetypical country and the diversity of its backlash.

 

Bringing in Devizes best singer/songwriter Jamie R Hawkins as support being a fine example. Jamie gave us his masterworks, expressed a fondness of country and mollified the audience with his own more-country inspired songs, such as Man of Simple Means.

 
Chatting outside he told me of his roots as a family band playing the country music circuit and we discussed his fondness of song-writing. I noted the narrative in his writing, a complete story, often with a twist is something all-together country; a skill Jamie rightly prides himself on.

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The night was prodigious, yet the arrangement of seating in the venue acts somewhat as a barricade between audience and artist, I feel, if left open for dancing it takes a while to encourage this. I note while the other clubs arrange this differently, Long Street Blues pushes seats up to the stage for optimal intensity, whereas The Scooter Club do the opposite, leaving a wider dancefloor, as the nature of its genre is more danceable. For this sole reason I welcome the venue change for the Country Club to the Cavalier on Eastleigh Rd for future events. It’ll be more imitate, engaging the audience more.

 
I look forward to seeing how this development progresses, for the Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts gig it’ll be perfect, for the Family Club tribute nights, a pub location rather than function hall will give it the community feel and closeness it craves. And if the club pulls in bands as good as The Stone Mountain Sinners, well, boom!

 

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You’ll be Broken-Hearted to miss Hannah Johnson

Howdy; yeah, it’s me, riding back to the crossroads on a horse with no name to convince you, once again, that your preconceived ideals about country music are not made of Spanish leather. Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts stroll into town on the 23rd March to cast this caboodle out to the desert. Not that we have a desert, but in a way, that’s my point.

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It’s easy to tire of the cliché of the modern country scene and arrive at the conclusion it’s not for you. Agreed, if you screech much of the music coming out of Nashville today denotes watered down country-pop, or stylistically pretentious Americana; same old chanted choruses and stomping drums, country music aficionado Dean Czerwionka, of Wiltshire’s Country Music Scene, Dead Kool Promotions aims to set the record straight.

Keen to promote and bring us all that is great about the scene, rather than the standardised churns of the industry machine, Dean hosts Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts at the Cavalier, Devizes on the 23rd March, with one of Devizine’s favourites, the Celtic-based acoustic duo, Sound Affects as support.

 

Surprisingly, it’s our homegrown artists reacting against this notion, and Hannah Johnson is of no exception, she’s from Birmingham. This award-winning (UK Country Artist of the Year 2018 – UK Country Music Awards and Most Successful British & Irish Single 2017, Hotdisc Country Music Awards) Brummie girl began her artistic career working in theatre and television as a child, participating in an unabridged version of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing Puck, aged 11, part of a Central Television actors’ workshop, and acting in national children’s TV shows. But ‘tired of being someone else on stage’ and hailing from a musical home, she began singing, and initially studied the clarinet, but switched to guitar in her teens; realising she couldn’t use the clarinet to back up her vocals.

She soon found a home with the country music genre, through its “humility, simplicity and ability face emotionally complex topics,” not forgoing fifteen years touring extensively in the UK, Europe and the USA as lead in her family band, The Toy Hearts. Hannah’s composition The Captain remains the biggest hit for her family band, the song a testament to both her song-writing ability, and her fierce independence.

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An Alumni of the prestigious IBMA Leadership Bluegrass program, Hannah returns to the UK after a whirlwind tour of Austin, Texas, with shows in London, York, Doncaster, of course her beloved Birmingham, and Devizes. Her debut album, Shaken rinses of country and honky-tonk of yore, with characteristic twangy telecaster riffs and a singing style to make Tammy Wynette blush. With a slight smoky element of Patsy Cline to her voice, the standout tracks are her own compositions, receiving warm reviews.

An event then to warm country fans, and perhaps, ideal to introduce newcomers; you may be the broken hearted of her band title if you miss this one. This event is FREE, waddies, rustlers and cowgirls.

 

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Stone Mountain, Devizes

Previewing the appearance of the Stone Mountain Sinners at The Devizes Ameripolitan Club on March 9th today; Americana meets homegrown talent.

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It’s been a couple of years since I first met country music aficionado Dean Czerwionka at the Conservative Club during one of his events. Back then he called it Devizes Country Music Club, today it’s the Ameripolitan Club. The name change, I deduce, is a bid to amend preconceived ideas of what country music is about, similarly was the angle of the article.

 
If you go running off with ideas of line-dancing and achy-breaky hearts you’re only skimming a stereotypical surface, for Dean is keen to promote bands which break this pigeonhole. Leaning at the bar in his Stetson, I recall the tête-à-tête moving onto the notion both media and other country clubs thrive on the arrival of US touring bands, when a homegrown scene is perhaps equally as poignant.

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On following this advice, I confess I’ve cringed at some, and tumbleweeds passed by, where there’s cliché subject matter of Americana; homages to the gold rush, box-cars and jumping railroads yodel “pack it in, you’re from Slough!” But song’s subject matter of one band Dean tipped me to, The Stone Mountain Sinners, are adequately general and could be applied to either home or the Harpeth River. While their melodies nod to Nashville, there’s hints of English blues harmonies and strokes of a young Rod Stewart.

 
Well-worn territory perhaps, where UK country music caresses it’s rock n roll offspring, but Worcester’s Stone Mountain Sinners do it with panache and professionalism. It’s toe-tapping goodness with familiarity aplenty to woe those with only a passing interest in the genre, while still appeasing devotees. Subsequently, under a trail of blazing reviews, their debut album, Tones of Home is currently teetering at #5 on the iTunes Country Chart, since it’s October release.

 
Working as a touring guitar tech, it was in the Californian desert, beside the 29 Palms Highway on a US tour, where Neil Ivison had his epiphany to return to the UK to labour on new music, inspired by the regular jaunts to the southern States. So even if there’s a heap of Americana in the sound, it’s justified.

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And what’s in a name I asked Neil, being Stone Mountain is a Georgia city and gateway to Stone Mountain Park, is there a connection? Evidence that the US influence is not exclusively the theme in his answer, “no connection to Georgia, we basically wrote a load of words down and then pieced them together until we came up with something that sounded good!”

 
After the conclusion of his first band, Neil found similar ground to Sarah Warren’s social media posts of her culminating group. One email was all it took before they were collaborating, bringing in Sarah’s musical cohort, and Nick Lyndon.

 
“What was immediately striking was that our voices complimented each other so well,” Sarah explains, “we both have strong vocals but we each have our own tonality, so it’s not like we are battling each other for space in a song.” Indeed, it works, try this video if you don’t trust my word on it!

They headhunted pianist Roger Roberts, bassist Adam Hood and drummer Duke Delight and formed Stone Mountain Sinners, attracting Robert Plant who pitched up to check them out after only their second gig. Straight into the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth they marched, a year ago, to record the debut album with The Waterboys, Pogues and Hawkwind producer, Paul Cobbold.

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They’ll appear at the Devizes Conservative Club on Saturday March 9th with trusty Devizes favourite Jamie R Hawkins as support. Tickets online here, at £7. Not their first appearance in town, but they’re given the red-carpet treatment with an exclusive sample performance at Vinyl Realm that afternoon, after a morning stint with Sue Davies on BBC Wiltshire from 11am.

 

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Teenage Country Sensation Emily Lockett coming to Devizes

 

Arriving at seventeen is a crossroads between childhood and adulthood where most of us dangle in limbo, at a loss to where the path will lead.

At the same age I didn’t know what was what, Stoke-on-Trent’s singer/songwriter Emily Lockett is busy working on her second EP, to feature three tracks already recorded; “Nice Eyes,” “Feel Love” and “Where We Left Off.” These two releases follow her 2016 album “Reflections of Me.”

With a stunningly graceful voice and the poignant song writing ability of a musician twice her age, seems this country-pop-folk artist, recently awarded British Country Airplay “Artiste of the Year 2018” in the people’s vote, has a flying start to a career in music. “I started learning to play the guitar at the age of about 5 and started writing songs when I was 12,” she explains on her website.

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So, if you thought the recently renamed Devizes Amerpolitain Club was a handful of line-dancing fogies, perhaps it’s time to rethink your preconception, as Dean Czerwionka constantly pushes the boundaries of the genre and brings a wealth of youthful talent to our town, Emily is playing at the Conservative Club this Sunday; it’s her first headline gig and blatantly, she’s one to watch.

“If you like Taylor Swift’s early work with an Avril Lavigne vibe then I’ll be right up your street,” she tells. But don’t let comparisons judge, check out the videos added here and see what I mean yourself.

Currently studying an Artist Development BTEC Level 4 at Access to Music in Manchester, Emily began on the talent show circuit at her tender age, her song “Reflection of Me” was highly commended in 2017 in the national Song Academy Young Songwriter competition, a fashion repeated this following year. It was performed live on BBC Radio Stoke, and a mountain of other local radio shows; deserves a warm, Devizes welcome, wouldn’t you say?

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https://www.emilylockett.co.uk

https://m.soundcloud.com/emilylockettmusic

https://open.spotify.com/artist/5jTBTukmcJaAfea5tj1I8x…

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Country Short Stories; New EP from The Stories

Ray Charles covering Frank Snow’s “I’m Moving On,” was one thing, but the concept of working on an album of country music during the period of racial segregation was not met fondly with Atlantic; they’d rather he stuck to pop-orientated RnB. But, a swift move to ABC in 1961 and “Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music,” promptly became the most radical album of American music, twisting ethnic barricades amid the Civil Rights Movement. Ray Charles began with this genre, his hillbilly roots the only method to get noticed in Georgia, but ask him what he adored about country music and he’d reply, “it’s the stories.”

 
What the greatest American singer/songwriters, like Springsteen and Dylan owe to anecdotes weaved into country is paramount. With this in mind I was keen to hear what stories a band called “The Stories” from our own West Country would tell on their new EP, “Short Stories,” released this week.

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Perhaps their name not as apt as I considered though, as there isn’t such a strong concentration of narrative in these tracks, no emotional roller-coasters of Johnny Cash, and not really the melancholic but astute intertwined chronicle of Tammy Wynette’s “Ode to Billy-Joe,” for example. The second tune of the EP, “Never Walk Away,” prime, where the rather washy metaphor, “I need you like a flower needs the sun,” is scarcely the helm of innovative song-writing.

 
That said, lyrically it’s far beyond Achy Breaky Heart and the plethora of line-dancing anthems which bleed all authenticity from the roots of country music, from its native land. In fact, like Stevie Nicks with twang, I’ve got time for The Stories as it sticks to the country formula with rhythms to appease pop.

 
So, there is, however, five feel-good country-inspired pop songs with instant appeal and something immensely uplifting about their sound. No raw edge, just joyful immaculate riffs and amiable vocals that will not only appease country fans, but with cross-over pop sounds akin to Sheryl Crow and the panache of Shania Twain at a barn dance, I reckon this has a much wider appeal. The opening and subsequent tune, “What if,” and “Never Walk Away” being prime examples.

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The theme of “What If” kind of reminds me of Stevie Wonder’s “As,” take elements malfunctioning, the sun sinking into the ocean, stars not shining at night, then proclaim “none of it matters as long as you love me.” It unfastens the group’s kingpin, their wonderfully composed vocal harmonies. Whereas the second song in concentrates on the group’s female vocalist, Teri Souter as she takes the lead, continuing with romantic prose.

 
Third tune, “He’ll Drive Me Crazy,” becomes less quixotic and, with wit borders pop with a catchy Shania Twain-fashioned slant on the unattractiveness of a well behaved man.

 
“Ghost on my Trail,” next, the most astutely written and expressed. Like a true country classic it’s the most beautifully crafted on the EP. I’m unsure which male member takes the duet with Teri, David Griffin or Jason Allen, but their strong Segar-like vocals traditionalises the Nashville sound with a heart-warming, sentimentalised country formula.

This is equally followed by the gorgeously executed finale, “Roses Outside My Door.” The writing upgrades as the EP progresses, and I’ve taken a leap of faith; The Stories may’ve questioned my preconceived inkling that their debut EP would herald the traditional killer narrative of Guthrie or Wynette, but it rolls with conventional country in such a catchy and likeable fashion, there’s nothing here to dislike.

 

I’d certainly recommend booking these guys and gals for your barn dance, country music club or any gathering where some good ol’ boys will be drinking whisky and rye. In fact, that’s how I heard about them; they’re performing for the Devizes Country Music Club at the Conservative Club on the 2nd February. Yeah I know, ages away, that’s why you need to check out the EP, or attend Fairfest Music Festival in Fairford on 18th August, where they’ll also play.

 

For more gigs, info and links to purchase the EP, click here. The Stories Facebook page is here.

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