Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective Do What They Love, at The Southgate

He’s a fast learner, that Keanu Reeves; think how he progressed to “the chosen one” in little over an hour and half, while his superiors barely advanced at all; comes with the chosen one job, I suppose. Think cat scene, for example, where this novice presumed déjà vu, but twas a glitch in the Matrix.

Had a touch of déjà vu myself on Sunday, chatting with Essex’s Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective; alas I’m not the chosen one, until it’s time to do the washing up. Barefacedly had to check my own website, suspecting they’d been mentioned before. And I was right, Andy wrote a part-review back in July; I was briefly there too. Blame it on a glitch, rather than memory loss; this is 2020, glitches in the Matrix are abundant.

Regulars at the Southgate in Devizes, Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective are as the name suggests, but don’t do run of the mill. Cowboy hats and chequered shirts held a clue, but arrive excepting unadulterated county & western and you’ll get nipped. While there’re clear Americana influences, here’s an exclusive sound unafraid to experiment.

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Jamie’s abrasive vocals are gritty and resolute, perfect for this overall country-blues sound, but it progressively rocks like Springsteen or Petty, rather than attempts to banjo twang back to bluegrass. It also boundlessly exploits other folk and roots influences, with a plethora of instruments and expertise to merge them into this melting pot. And in this essence, they are an agreeable rock band, appealing to commonalities; but do it remarkably, with upbeat riffs, tested but original material, and passion.

Not forgoing, I still need to be careful, and it was but a whistle-stop to the Gate, to wet my whistle. As current live music restrictions being the way they are, it’s unfair to use a gig review as a base for an act’s entirety. For starters, they’re missing bassist Jake Milligan, and drums deemed too loud to bring, James “the hog” Bacon made do with a cajon and bongos. The remaining two, Jamie and Dave Milligan, cramped in the doorway of the skittle ally with acoustic and electric guitar, respectively. Which, in a way, proves this band’s aforementioned adaptability and desire to experiment. The proof is the pudding though, and battling through the restrictions of the era, they came up with a chef-d’oeuvre.

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Professionally, they scorched out a great sound nonetheless, mostly original, but a rather fitting Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, with Jamie’s grinding vocals apt for a later Dylan classic. But this downtempo cover was the exception to the rule, their originals upbeat and driving.

To pitch a fair review, though, is to take a listen to their latest album, Do What You Love. The cover of which is unlike your cliché Americana tribute too; highly graphical splashes of colour akin more to pop, or a branding of fizzy drink. The songs match, a popular formula of cleverly crafted nuggets intertwining these wide-spanning influences. One track they did live from their album was accompanied with an explanation the recorded version used a brass section and even a DJ scratching, yet they made do with Jake joining James for a hit on the bongos.

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They certainly enjoy what they do, and appear relaxed in the spotlight. This doesn’t make them tongue-in-cheek, like, say Californian Watsky & Mody, who blend hip hop into bluegrass for jokes. Rather Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective has evenly balanced said collective’s influences and conjured this celebrated, danceable and fun sound, flexible for a standard function, like a wedding party but would also liven up the day at a mini-festival.

As an album though it encompasses all I’ve said above, there’s cool tunes like Lazy Day, the orchestrated reprise If I met my Hero, and rather gorgeously executed ballad, Held in Your Glow, but also frenetic tunes, driving down the A12 with the windows open music, Red Hot and Raunchy being a grand, light-hearted example but I’m A Stone as my favourite, with its clever pastiches of Dylan and The Rolling Stones, it rocks.

You need not visit the Oracle, waiting with spoon-bending broods, Keanu Reeves, for her to tell you Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective are not some “chosen” livid teenagers trailblazing a new sound and striving for the spotlight, but a collective of passionate and talented musicians loving every minute of performing, and this comes across as highly entertaining.


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Mr B & The Wolf come out of The Mist

On our promise, via The Indie Network Facebook group, and generally a growing cognisant inside me, for Devizine to musically venture outside our local area, geographically, here we go with a starter for ten. Though it’s no new thing, in the past we’ve mentioned many, from Cosmic Rays in Shropshire, to Mayyadda from Minnesota; I invite this pandemic to officially crash our borders….

One request recently came from one Vince Henry, who’s digitally-adapted Facebook profile pic makes Doug Bradley in his Pinhead guise from the Hellraiser films look like a bedtime Care Bear, and led me to assume the band he manages, Mr B & The Wolf was about to unleash some thrash death metal or psychobilly peculiarity unwillingly into my aging eardrums. I prepped myself accordingly, one ear in the headphone, paracetamol within reach, but I was pleasantly surprised.

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As a function band based in my motherland, Essex, Mr B, and his wolf too, are lively, true, but present a flowing range from blues-based rock and Americana to “throwback” pop and soul, and do it with the finesse of a contemporary Fleetwood Mac. It’s a zephyr blowing your locks, the single I’ve been sent, Out of the Mist archetypal of the band’s bravura. I liked it and now have the album, LazyDay to give a fuller appraisal.

With echoes of driving rock Mr B and the Wolf keep a balance, there’s no tearing off metal as I preconceived, no angry underscores, rather a commercially viable equilibrium of uplifting rock radio stations cannot excuse for not spinning. Second tune, Rise Up, a great example of this breezy and enriching chic. Yet in the acceptance lies an aching sensation eighties power ballad bands, like Huey Lewis and the News should’ve been striving for a sound more like Mr B & The Wolf.

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Three tunes in then, and Crazy Town strips the style back to a deeper blues riff, vocally gritty, vocalist Dean Baker handles it very well indeed. Out of the Mist combines the two and stands out, for both catchiness and composition. Chestnut subject matter, yeah, but it doesn’t sway me when it’s performed so well.

What we find here is a bonded, proficient band with stains of all rock has produced before but boy, do they know how to wear it well. They being, Ben Pellicci on lead and backing vocals, Jason Bird on bass and backing vocals, George Wallis on rhythm, and Jason Chown on Drums; unconfirmed which one is the wolf!

Phoenix ballads us to the finale, harmoniously and mellowly. I couldn’t go as far to compare it with the way Morrison would direct the Doors through an audience-mesmerising voyage, but it does equate the great soft metal bands of yore’s more magically rousing moments. I nod to Heart and of course, Bon Jovi, but they’d be knocking on the doors of Floyd or Cream, see if they’re coming out to play.

The finale though, belts back the blues riff and takes us full circle. In conclusion then, Mr B & The Wolf certainly don’t drift from blues-rock formulae, though it’s a damn fine established blueprint anyway, and this Chelmsford band do it with style. LazyDay would refrain you from road rage in traffic and compel you to turn it up when you hit the open road, Mr B & The Wolf would be a gig you’d return from with fond memories.


Mr B & The Wolf Website

BandCamp for the album (£3.50)

Find Mr B & The Wolf on Spotify

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