REVIEW – Devizes Arts Festival FREE FRINGE –Florian Felcitta @ Three Crowns 19th June 2022

Superb Talent In The Afternoon

Andy Fawthrop

Another day, and yet another Arts Festival presentation at a different D-Town venue. This afternoon it was the turn of The Three Crowns to host a Free Fringe presentation in their wonderful courtyard. And what a delicious Sunday afternoon treat it was.….

Florian Felcitta is a young man who, in my mind at least, is going places. An extremely accomplished guitarist, who plays modern folk/ gypsy/ jazz, gave an absolute masterclass in how to engage and entertain a Sunday afternoon audience. Modest, self-deprecating, and thoroughly charming to boot, he worked his way through two superb sets of material. With no vocals, but merely relying on his sheer artistry of the guitar strings to produce accomplished instrumental versions of some great pop and rock tunes, the performance was absolutely captivating. Challenging his audience from the outset to effectively “name that tune”, he largely lost his £1000 per tune bets as his listeners homed in on the key melodies. We had hits from Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Ed Sheeran, Django Reinhardt, Michael Jackson, Guns & Roses, Tom Petty and many others. But absolutely like you’ve never heard them before.

His guitar skills were superb. Aided by a modest use of loops and pedals, which he never allowed to dominate, he managed to produce a beautiful and very laid-back performance. The audience, despite being in the middle of a very busy pub serving lunches, were never distracted and paid full attention to every song and every introduction. It was stripped back, it was accomplished, and it was very, very good indeed. Hopefully we’ll see and hear much more of this wonderful artist in the future. I’m old and cynical, and not easily impressed these days, but this performance was absolutely spot-on. Highly recommended.

And, yet again, well done to DAF for putting this event on. The fact that it was FREE was just the icing on the cake!

The Devizes Arts Festival continues every day until 25th June at various venues across town. Tickets can be booked at Devizes Books or online at www.devizesartsfestival.org.uk


PREVIEW – 49th Chippenham Folk Festival – Friday 27th to Sunday 29th May 2022

The Boys (And Girls) Are Back In Town!

By Andy Fawthrop


Yes – we know it’s not in Devizes, but it’s just up the road in Chippers – a quick trip in the car or on the exciting ride that is the 33 bus. And Chippenham is one of the biggest (and oldest) folk festivals on the national circuit, and it’s right here in Wiltshire.

Well, it’s been two years since the last proper Chippenham Folk Festival (due to You-Know-What), but at last it’s back again this year. This time it’s been shortened from its traditional three and a half days to just two and a half days, starting on Friday night, a necessary and prudent economic step to keep the event on a sound financial footing for the future, as the traditional audience begin to peek their heads out of their tents and caravans. So we’ve lost the traditional Bank Holiday Monday big parade and street market, so the rest of the programme has been carefully pruned and trimmed to try and fit everything in. Nevertheless there’s still plenty going on.

The festival, if you’ve not been before, runs right across the town and features over 20 venues (from the large Constitutional Hall, the Neeld Hall, the Olympiad, The Town Hall and The Cause through to various pubs and cafes), over a hundred timetabled events, and several streams of entertainment (concerts, ceilidhs, dance, Morris, displays, children’s entertainment, workshops and tutorials, meet-the-artist) – so there really is something for everyone. All the formal events and concerts are entry by ticket (available online or at the Box Office), but there’s plenty of events that are via “the hat” on the day, and many free fringe events too. There’s poetry, there’s story-telling, there’s music of many types. The streets will be filled with Morris Dancers, display teams, musicians and other performers.

Headliners are Belshazzar’s Feast, 3 Daft Monkeys, Sean Fitzpatrick and Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, ably supported by folk veterans such as Tom McConville, Keith Donnelly, Si Barron, Bob & Gill Berry and many, many others.
With so much going on, it’s definitely worth the trip up the road from D-Town – you’re bound to find something you like! It’s great value for money – whether a day ticket, or the whole weekend. So go on – get your inner Morris on, and get up the road!

The full timetabled programme, together with plenty of other information, and tickets are all available on the Festival’s website at www.chippfolk.co.uk


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Half a Review: James Hollingsworth @ The Southgate

It was only a whistle-stop for me at Devizes’ best pub for original live music on Saturday, but long enough to sink a cider and assess; James Hollingsworth is fantastic….

Our roving reporter Andy informed me James is a blessing on the folk circuit, but this occasion, armed with enough loop pedals to make The Southgate’s alcove resemble the Millennium Falcon, he summoned his inner “progness” to embark upon a journey beyond three chords.

A captivating solo show, where pre-recorded backing tracks were not welcome, Frome-based James worked steadily and proficiently through his own compositions, as well as some covers, with complex arrangements built via hand percussion, voice and guitar effects.

James, with additional Southgate’s regular answer to Pan’s People!

Prominsing classics from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Yes, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Roy Harper, Jeff Buckley, Marillion and more. If I couldn’t stay for long, because I’m as not as omnipresent as I need to be, I picked out Hendrix’s Castles Made of Sand, and it was sublime.

So, only a quick note to say, for any music lover from folk to prog-rock, from the era of mellowed Flyod-eske goodness, James Hollingsworth works some magic. I’ll be making a bee-line next time he arrives at The Southgate, and so should you!


A Gecko in Trowbridge Town Hall

It’s always a warm greeting as you enter Trowbridge Town Hall, even if, like me on this occasion, you’re running late…..

Prior to my arrival I digested the fact I’d likely forgone the supposed support act, Gavin Osborn, but was dammed if I’d miss Gecko, as since reviewing his sublime second album Climbing Frame back in October 2020, I’ve been aching with the understandable desire to see him pull it off live.

Mellowed piano song oozed from the humble hall ahead, oh no, I figured, Gecko has already begun. Such it is that Gavin recently resigned event coordination at the hall to the capable hands of then sound engineer, Kieran Moore, I assumed he was billed as a kind of farewell to his previous position, unmindful I’d emerge from the Hall a Gavin Osborn fan too. Even by the evening’s culmination I was also dubious of suggestions the two were collaborative, or if it was just banter between them.

But it seems a tag-touring-team is a reality, and given I’d mistaken Gavin for Gecko in the vestibule, who could be more apt to work with for the reptilian-named poet-esque singer? For luckily, Gavin was still on the subtle stage, virtually stripped bare of instrumentation save a banjo, microphone, music stand and randomly placed hardback chair.

Yet a guy looking remarkably like photos I’d used of Gecko accompanied him on a piano, tucked away by a side door. After the song I’d made my stealth entrance to was over, the pianist sat behind me. Uncertain glances behind affirmed, if there was a gecko in the room it was undeniably him, giggling at Gavin’s witty prose. I suppose this, coupled with their styles so similar I mistook the pair, should’ve been damming evidence this was more than a headliner and support act thrown in for sentiment, but what can I defend myself with, naivety caused by surviving on powernaps?!

In this, is the delight of the communal venue too. If there’s a stage green room it’s unused every time I visit; awaiting performers merge into the audience. This is no venue for egotistical celebs, and with barely raised stage and modest lighting, it’s a non-gimmick venue which bases solely on performance rather than dazzling affects. Professionalism and proficiency given, if you can hold an audience spellbound with such minimal affects and props.

Both did with bells on, and while I suspected the case with Gecko, Gavin was the surprise element. Akin to Gecko, Gavin is more storyteller than singer, though splices of prominent points were executed through great folky vocals, and highly amusing prose. Unlike Gecko, Gavin’s baseplate is folk, who through exceptionally crafted verse reminded me of the sentimentality of our own folk hero, Jamie R Hawkins.

Perhaps more akin to Beans on Toast, lacking Ozzie tinge, through observational narratives he weaved through subjects with spellbinding accuracy, hinging on familiarisation; I identified with many, particularly the amusing banjo led ditty of an aged fellow sneaking out to gigs while his wife seemed blissfully unaware in her slumber! But with heart-melting twists, Gavin wraps them up amusingly, either echoing retrospective contemplation or hinting at his political stance.

Time for Gecko’s opening song; could be anything less than the hilarious start of his album, Can’t Know all the Songs, which counteracts those who shout requests. Virtually unplugged he executed highlights of the album acoustically, and gave us unheard of tunes too, passing off his lack of backing as witty repartee. Such as pausing the song to switch from singing to kazoo during an amusing and uplifting tale of the Tamworth Two pigs, Butch and Sundance, who escaped their fate at a Malmsbury abattoir in 1998.

On this note it’s appropriate to highlight the major reason Gecko is so utterly entertaining, for not through particular quality of musician, though he is a natural, rather his choice of content and subject is so original, and his method of metaphorically weaving it into a more general point. Who writes a song from the POV of escaping pigs, or a dog sent into space? But better still, who can bend such narrative into a point you identify with? It’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, in song.

It’s a classic formula attributed to authors rather than songwriters, and Gecko reigns as either, acting with pseudo-confidence, encouraging audience participation to save him hiring a gospel choir, planning out a cliché encore by hiding behind the piano, even submitting profit margin differences between buying his CD here and streaming his music.

I think I put too much emphasis on hip hop in my album review, as his rap-fashion tendency contradicts his indie-pop overall, making it his unique style, part nerdy, part too cool for skool, but through stripped back live performance it is clear his devotion is with the latter, indie-pop acoustic goodness. A fashion with ageless attraction. But whatever pigeonhole you opt for, it’s undeniably entertaining.

If I’ve an only criticism the show was too short, the comeback is both Gavin and Gecko can suck you into their stories so time passes unnoticed, coupled with my late arrival of which I’ve only myself to blame!

Another wonderful evening at Trowbridge Town Hall, building a reputation for introducing a variety of interesting and upcoming acts, affordably; you need to be putting future dates in your diary.


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Marching On, Things to do Next Month, Part 1……

I bloomin’ love March, usually, but as we show this month the door, and with such a mild winter, do not get over excited; while temperatures improve slightly, except it’ll be a wet one. A day of snow predicted Thursday, March kicks in better, but worsens by the second week, with a forecast 15-22 days of perpetual rain, hopefully clearing at the end, from Thursday 24th.

To add a degree of optimism to all this, there’s a truckload of things to do over the first month of so-called spring, there’s hope we can see less events being cancelled and life in the great outdoors taking steps towards the positive. Still, I advise to check ahead before venturing out, via the links provided; our ever-updating event calendar doesn’t update that quickly to include cancelations, and I can’t be held responsible for such cancelations or failure of organisers to refund tickets. Also, it’s a minefield adding links to these events, so find them all on the calendar, ta muchly.

And do not take this as comprehensive, the calendar is being updated all the time, this is just some advance highlights and all things I’d do, if I had cloning technology……

Given all I’ve said about the weather, it doesn’t seem too bad for Bath’s Big Sleepout on Friday 4th in Alice Park; hats off to Julian House and all doing it, raising vital funds and awareness for people forced to sleep-out every night.

Prior, live rock, electronica and folk from novelist, playwright and stand-up comedian Grant Sharkey, with ecologist Thomas Haynes and Bristol the Badger, aka Grasslands, on Wednesday 2nd, at that little coffee shop Baristocats, on Commercial Road Swindon. While Thursday sees one half of Show of Hands, Steve Knightly, at Trowbridge’s Pump, and the other, Phil Beer kicking off his So Much to Choose From tour at Corsham’s Pound Arts. Meanwhile, it’s a three-way guitar showdown at Chapel Arts in Bath with Daryl Kellie, Will McNicol and David Mead, and the Apricity Theatre group bring a Greenhouse of emerging artists out of lockdown to the Rondo Theatre.

WEEK 1

Friday 4th

To week one, then; starting Friday 4th, for parents and babies, Pound Arts has Swings & Roundabouts by the Filskit Theatre, who are inviting the bum wipers, bedtime boppers and owners of tiny humans, to join actor, musician, and mummy, Sophie Ross, for a brand-new comedy musical. A nappy change in the evening though, with dark, gut-wrenching adult stand-up from Bobby Mair, on his Cockroach tour.

The Exchange, Devizes pushes up the Tempo with a drum n bass night, while for a more hip-hop/reggae related evening, try DJ Nicewun & Mac Lloyd at The Village Pump. For something lighter, Alan Titchmarsh is at the Theatre Royal, Bath!

If you are in Bath, though, and into folk, try internationally renowned Faustus at Chapel Arts, who also come to Marlborough folk Roots the next week, Friday11th, or The Rondo, where Cindy Stratton and Marius Frank, ZBella, men’s choir Sasspafellas and upcoming singer/songwriter Ellie Frank headline an evening of entertainment raising money for the refugee charity UNHCR.

Closer to home, our good friends Bran and Mirko, as The Celtic Roots Collective bring some Irish roots to Seend Community Centre, from 7pm, which is free or donations. Also look out for one-man mechanical alt-blues band, Funke and the Two-Tone Baby at the Winchester Gate, Salisbury, a tribute to Nightwash, Knightwish, at the Vic, Swindon, or Coyote Kings at the Village Inn. Oh, and the Fillers play the Cheese & Grain, Frome.

Saturday 5th

Saturday, and the Wharf Theatre, Devizes has the award-winning theatre company White Cobra, presenting Bette & Joan, i.e., Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, in danger of becoming has-beens but get an opportunity to appear together in a new film, if the arch-rivals don’t clash.

Swindon’s original band with bluesy intent, Thud come to The Southgate, while the Bear’s Cellar Bar reopens with free entry to a 70s-80s Disco with DJ Andy Saunders.

It’s happy third birthday to Melksham’s The Hiding Place, and The Carpenters Experience, which speaks for itself, at the Assembly Hall.

Trowbridge Town Hall get post-punk DIY vibes with a triple billing of Slagheap, Slug Puppie and Carsick, while Chippenham’s Neeld have Amen Corner’s Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders, and The Cuban Brothers take The Cheese & Grain, but when in Frome, local punkers One Chord Wonders play the Sun. In complete contrast, Pound Arts has critical acclaimed folk and Americana, with Ida Wenøe & Samantha Whates.

Back to the arts, Rondo Theatre, Bath have Charlotte Palmer in an hilarious and moving one woman show, sometimes angry exploration of women over 50, who find themselves overlooked, ignored, disregarded, in short becoming The Invisible Woman, and Theatre Royal’s Egg have The Dark, Peut-Etrê Theatre which merges vibrant physicality with live music to create captivating and energetic performances for the whole family. It is even accessible for blind and visually impaired children through integrated audio description and touch tours.

Sunday 6th

Jon Amor’s first Sunday of the month residency at the Southgate, Devizes is the place to be, promising guest Jonny Henderson. But allow me to also recommend Bath’s Yiddish folk collective, Chai For All, who celebrate International Women’s Day at the Grapes.

Week 2

The Theatre Royal, Bath starts Willy Russel’s musical Blood Brothers on Tuesday 8th and running until Saturday, while the Ustinov Studio has an epic cycle of short plays exploring the personal and political effect of war on modern life, called Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat running from Thursday to Saturday.

But for a locally themed performance, try the Theatre screening of Naming The View at Pound Arts, Corsham, on Thursday. Naming the View takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, yet it’s setting is Seend.

Meanwhile, Chapel Arts, Bath has three days on the trot of acoustic folk with Chris Wood on Wednesday, Nick Hart on Thursday, and The Lost Trades play Friday.

Friday 11th

Aforementioned internationally renowned folk with Faustus at Marlborough Folk Roots club, and there’s open mic night at Trowbridge’s Pump, the third heat for amateur musicians of Take The Stage at Chippenham’s Neeld, and ancient ballads promise to be awoken, poems given the tunes they’ve long deserved with Salt House, Scotland’s foremost performers; Jenny Sturgeon, Ewan MacPherson and Lauren MacColl at Pound Arts.

I’d recommend the experimental jazz-fusion of SexJazz, at Swindon’s Beehive for a Harbour Project FUNdraiser, funding art sessions for Swindon refugees and asylum seekers. Also, the Relayaz Band at Bradford-on-Avon’s Boathouse, or for Thin Lizzy fans, as I know there’s a few, Limehouse Lizzy play The Cheese & Grain.

But Devizes best of luck wishes go out to our Full Tone Orchestra, who present Gilbert & Sullivan Pirates of Penzance at Bath Abbey; glorious!

Saturday 12th

Saturday is a whopper, spoiled for choice you are! The most excellently unique Bristol-based Two-Tone punk meets Sierra Leonean percussion duo, Two Man Ting return to The Southgate, Devizes. Meanwhile the Corn Exchange opens its doors to the Lacock-based Wiltshire Soul & Blues Club with a blues extravaganza headlining Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, and there’s a rock n roll night at the Conservative Club, fundraising for Kennet Gateway Club with Mickey Ace and the Wildcards and DJ.

With support by the awesome Train to Skaville, boot boys need to get to Melksham, where Madness tribute Complete Madness take the Assembly Hall one step beyond. Meanwhile our indie-pop heroes, Talk in Code support for The Worried Men at Trowbridge Town Hall. The Dunwells play The Croft, Hungerford.

The Roving Crows play Chapel Arts, Bath, masters of euro-trance, Transglobal Underground at The Cheese & Grain, Frome, and there’s a Party & The Pavilion at Minety Rugby Club, featuring a number of bands, including our friends The Dirty Smooth.

Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake tributes rolled into one at the Vic, Swindon, with Rising from the Deep, meanwhile, Room 101 take the Castle, and Mean as Custard, Loaded Dice and Six O’clock Circus have a free band-off at Level III, fundraising for Swindon homeless charity the Moonlight Express Project. Oh, and MECA have a Sausage & Cider Fest; two of my favourite things!

But if gigs don’t tickle your fancy, there’s some excellent family theatre too; Saturday and Sunday at the Theatre Royal, is the place to find The Super Greedy Caterpillar, and Pound Arts in Corsham have Zoo Co Theatre coming in, presenting Messy, where you can meet Daisy. She’s got a messy brain and a messy bedroom, which makes it very difficult to look after her class hamster Mr Twiggy! A magical visual story, complete with original music, puppets, tap dancing and even a trip to the moon!

Messy is performed by a deaf and hearing cast with Sign Supported English, created in partnership with ADHD Foundation, where all performances are Relaxed, without loud noises and lights left on, and it is followed by a free workshop afterwards.

Saturday at Pound Arts also sees ENG-ER-LAND by Hannah Kumari and WoLab, a football-themed play set in 97, with 13-year-old Lizzie, obsessed with the beautiful game.

Sunday 13th and I got nothing, yet, except CSF Wrestling at The Cheese & Grain, but that’s why you need to keep checking into our bulging event calendar, as more comes in all the time. So much, I’m leaving it there, through fear of repetitive strain injury of my typing fingees. Either that, or it’ll be the middle of April before you finish reading it. But don’t, whatever you do, think for a second there’s nought to do in Wiltshire, and we’ll finish off the rest of March in a few days, give you time to digest this lot first!


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Trowbridge Town Hall Rides into Spring

At the beginning of the month Devizine covered Trowbridge’s musical renaissance, highlighting The Village Pump and Town Hall’s dedication to introducing a variety of upcoming local bands and performers. Explaining Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore had “big shoes to fill,” taking over as chief event coordinator for the Town Hall from Gavin Osborn. Well, the proof is in the pudding, and that dish has made it off the serving counter and onto our table.….

Not forgoing, the programme is already in full-swing, with Truckstop Honeymoon at the Pump on Friday, (18th) a cider swiggin’ scrumpy and western hoedown with The Skimmity Hitchers and our great friends, and the Boot Hill All Stars supporting at the Town Hall on Saturday.     

Boot Hill All Stars

Such is the fashion for live music in Trowbridge, Fridays at the Pump, Saturday at the Town Hall, aside some great happenings at Stallards and Emmanuel’s Yard, comedy and more commercial nights at the Civic. Gecko appears next Saturday at the Town Hall, and all-day Sunday there’s   fundraising session, Kalefest, a family-orientated mini-festival for some musical equipment for a teenager with a severe brain injury, in which Zone Club, Pete Lamb’s Heart Beats and The Relayz play.

Marching on atop this free six-week interactive course of workshops for 16- to 18-year-olds, covering all aspects of the music industry, next month sees a continuation of great bookings, of which we highlighted in the aforementioned preview, here. What we’re here today for is to check in on Kieran, see if he indeed “filled” those shoes for the ongoing season.

So, just revealed, April and May listings at the Town Hall and Pump, which have equally exciting news, as, perhaps, Mr Moore asks the shopkeeper for a shoehorn. Isle of Man’s recent export to Wiltshire, Becky Lawrence, the musical theatre singer-songwriter who wasted no time fitting into the local circuit, joining established local bands, The Bourbons UK and Clyve and the Soul City Foundation, teams up Bristolian country singer-songwriter Zoe Newton to pinch-punch April at the Pump.

Zoe Newton at Bradford Roots Festival

Whereas, in the name of variety I’m surprised to see The Town Hall hosting a “rum and reggae night” on Saturday April 2nd; it’s as if they’re calling to me! Seriously though, I’d wager youngsters reading this are asking Siri what the hell a shoehorn is.

But nice surprises flow, as Gavin Osborn himself plays The Pump, Friday 8th, with his band Comment Section. Regulars at Stallard’s, locally-based indie-rockers Riviera Arcade arrive at the Town Hall with Gloucestershire’s electric-punk favourites, Chasing Dolls on Saturday, with (udated) Devizes/Swindon NervEndings headling the show.

NervEndings

Alcopops Records’ Croydon duo, The Frauds play the Pump on the 15th, with Ipswich’s experimental indie-pop darlings, Lucky Number 7, while Henry Wacey and Dan O’Farrell are there on Saturday. Surreal stand-up, Welsh hard rockers The Vega Bodegas are at the Town Hall on the Saturday, with support from Wiltshire-based metal trio newcomers, Last Alvor and self-confessed “degenerates,” synth-punk noise-makers Benzo Queen.

If that weekend is atypical of what I’d expect Mr Moore to assign, the following, Saturday 23rd is different. Kieran is no stranger to asking what acts local giggers would like to see via social media, as Brighton’s Chap-Hop legend Professor Elemental comes to the Town Hall, with support from my recommendation, Bristol’s fantastic veganomic ska-punk-folk crazies, Boom Boom Racoon, who’ve we fondly followed in the past on Devizine.

Boom Boom Racoon

If I’m excited with boom boom coming soon, while “Sunday league” songwriter Tom Jenkins finishes off April on Saturday 30th, May is positively booming too. Local soul-hip hop DJ, Mac-Llyod gets the crowd prepped for another of my personal favourites, Bristol’s bouncy boom-bap virtuosos The Scribes, on Saturday 7th May. Aching to encourage these guys a gig more local than Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, I’m delighted to see this on Trowbridge Town Hall’s listing; they’re definitely calling to me now!

Pan-European ‘inventive and thrilling’ alt-folk duo, singer-songwriter Tobias Jacob and double-bass playing multi-instrumentalist Lukas Drinkwater play the Pump on Thursday 12th May, whereas I’m notified Saturday 14th’s do at the Town Hall will be a “pipe and slippers rave,” of which I had to inquire if, as it sounds, it’ll be an old skool DJ rave type thing, and this it was confirmed, “that’s exactly it.” If they’re calling me, now they’re mocking; the feet in my slippers were stomping in mud when you were an itch, whippersnappers! “Honey, where’s my whistle and white gloves?”

Sheffield’s award-winning finger-style guitarist, Martin Simpson breathes some folk to the Pump on Friday 20th May, while the Town Hall blow cobwebs off with Trowbridge’s own hardcore metal quartet, Severed Illusions. With nine years under their belts, they opened for Hed PE at the now defaulted Beirkeller in Bristol, and played metal festivals’ assemblage M2TM. Joined by doomcore fourpiece Eyesnomouth, and Salisbury’s screaming metalcore Next Stop Olympus; that’s going to go off.

The Lost Trades

From here gigs are pencilled in, June sees Martin Carthy, Jon Amor with Kyla Brox, Hip Route and Billy & The Low Ground feature, but be certain the near-future looks bright and varied for Trowbridge’s live music scene, particularly as the last gig of May is our beloved folk-harmony trio The Lost Trades on Saturday 28th. Bring in the summer with Graham Steel’s award-winning Phil, Jamie and Tamsin, what more could you ask for?


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Devizine 4 Julia’s House; Volume 2 in the Pipeline, Need Your Help!

I’m delighted to transfer £186.46 over to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices today, the proceeds to-date of our compilation album; well, I call it an album, but it’s one mahoosive boxset really, a staggering forty-six tracks from local artists and others worldwide who’ve featured somewhere on Devizine in the past.

If you’ve not heard this absolutely stunning Miss World of music before, a virtual Now, That’s What I Call Devizine Music, she’s here for your viewing pleasure, please download your copy, exclusive on Bandcamp, as I feel this site offers the best deal to artists. Once you buy it, it stores in your account cloud, and you have unlimited downloads, so you can put it onto various devices.

Unlike a fundraising event, here is something which will stay in the domain, something you can download whenever you like, and we’ll continue to build a little stash and send it over to this wonderful registered charity once it builds up again. If I’m honest, I’ve been waiting for it to total to a nice round £200 before sending, but attention on the project has waned recently, and it’s been a while.

There are ways I could prompt folk towards it, a poster or flyer campaign would be handy, but I figure, as lots of bands and musicians expressed an interest to be included, after its release, time is nigh to start plotting a second volume.

As we penned all the acts onto an army surplus bag for the front cover, as many students in my era did just this, I thought we’d do similar this time. So, see our old school desk below, eerily free of graffiti? It is aching for me to inscribe your band name or logo onto it, with chewed biro.

You should note we have three tunes for volume 2 already, from Nick Harper, yes, I said Nick Harper, the wonderful Onika Venus, and Marlborough rockers, Catfish. But we need you onboard too. I envision it being entirely new artists, so if you contributed a track to volume one, I sincerely thank you, but unless you’re absolutely bursting with enthusiasm to forward a second song, let’s try to compile a whole new set of artists.

What got to me last time, was the unexpected amount of work I’d set myself. There was me, at the beginning, thinking I’d just be bobbing about, enjoying the ride, while our contributing artists did all the hard labour!

It occurred to me at the time, I’d likely raise better funds riding through town in a bathtub full of cold baked beans, and while I’ve certainly not scrubbed the idea, I would like this compilation project to build into a series, really prompting and promoting the best of the music we feature on Devizine, and giving the good folk out there a sampler of what great music there is, as well as raising funds for such a brilliant charity; it’s a double-whammy. Ergo, sending us a song will put you straight onto the good list!

So, I ask, if you want to contribute a song, please bear with, and I’ll be back in touch as soon as possible, but last time I was inundated. Streamlined, that’s the key here, so I’ve set out some guidelines to contributing below.

Firstly, we NEED original songs, NO COVERS, not even Chas & Dave ones, as copyright is a minefield. You must own the rights to the song, or have permission from everyone who owns the rights to it, and you MUST TELL ME THIS, see the form at the bottom.

Secondly, please remember this is a children’s charity, and while Julia’s House has been accepting of all the styles and content, really, I don’t want songs with unsuitable themes, or constant bad language. Willing to accept the odd naughty word, and extreme content should be avoided, thanks.

Thirdly, any genre is fine; I want to get a real cross-section of sounds, no pigeonholing. While some chose to record an exclusive song, and that was great, all I ask is for an album track or outtake not currently doing the rounds, but you’re free to choose whatever one suits you best.

Fourthly, there is NO DEADLINE set as of yet, but I will email you once one is decided; please do not wait for the deadline if you can help it; last time I got confused where I stood on so many promised contributions, and it doesn’t take a lot of confuse me.

And, oh fifthly, if that’s not already too much to take in already?! Please ensure you include how you’d like the song to be listed, i.e. Name of Artist and Song. Sounds rather obvious, but also, if I don’t know you already, send some links to websites, social media, and a short bio too!

You can copy and paste this passage below into an email, fill in the dotty bits, and send it to me at devizine@hotmail.com – attach a WAV file format of the song you’d like me to add, and wait patiently for a reply; I look forward to hearing your song; you flipping superstar, you!

I, (FULL NAME) confirm I’m the full copyright holder of the track (ENTER SONG NAME) or that I have contacted any other parties which holds rights to the track and have gained their permission also. 

I hereby grant Darren Worrow of Devizine, my permission to use it as part of the 4 Julia’s House Volume 2 compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House. Registered Charity Number 1067125. I also agree to allow clips of the track to be used for promotional purposes of the album mentioned above only.

In turn, Darren Worrow and Julia’s House maintain the artist of the track reserves all rights to the track, and it is only used in conjunction with the aforementioned album.

(If you have PRS details, Tunecode or ISWC, please add them.)


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Folk Festival to Return to Chippenham’s Streets

After two years of being restricted by the global pandemic, Chippenham Folk Festival returns in person this Spring with three internationally renowned headline acts among its highlights.….

Over the past five decades, Chippenham Folk Festival has become a mainstay of the local events calendar, with people travelling from destinations far and wide to sample some of the greatest British and international folk artists.

For many local residents, it is what the second May Bank Holiday weekend is reserved for. However, as with events around the world, the festival has been hit by the effects of the global pandemic. In 2020, there was no festival, and in 2021 the team could only run a pared back virtual version of the event.

This year, however, plans are in place to bring it back to Chippenham’s streets and venues to give people a much-needed lift. The festival  is planned for 27-29 May 2022, so get the date in your diary.

What’s on?

A host of acts have already been booked with the line led by the three headlining artists:

Belshazzar’s Feast

Acclaimed musicians Paul Sartin (oboe, violin, swanee whistle and vocals) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion) are notorious for their superlative ability, wit, rapport and depth of experience, creating a concert to remember.

3 Daft Monkeys

With a fiery helter-skelter blend of influences from east and west, 3 Daft Monkeys inject a unique wildness into their music, producing a symphonious cacophony of styles.

3 Daft Monkeys (yes, you can count, there is four of them. Maybe that’s the “daft” part?!)

Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman have long established themselves as one of the UK folk scene’s rewardingly enduring partnerships. Always bold and innovative, they mix traditional song arrangements with their self-penned material that reels from the bitter to the sweet, the wry to the sad, the political to the passive

There will be many many more exceptional acts in venues around the town during the course of the weekend.

As well as these fantastic concerts there will, as usual, be:

  • folk dance events
  • ceilidhs
  • family events and workshops
  • free events and morris displays through the high street
  • arts and crafts
  • street market.

Dedicated to traditional English dance and music

Chippenham Folk Festival Chairman Torquil Macinnes said, “not only does Chippenham Folk Festival offer an extremely high calibre of artists, but it is dedicated to traditional English dance and music.

“What sets it apart from other events is its opportunities for participation and education. It truly is a social occasion.

“It is for this reason that the global pandemic has hit us so hard. We are interactive. We need to be face to face with the people of Chippenham and beyond. I am delighted, therefore, that we are going full steam ahead to bring the event back to the streets of Chippenham in 2022.”

A crucial few weeks

As live, in-person events slowly continue to make their way back, audiences and organisers are understandably cautious. While the festival team is working around the clock to make the event happen, the next few weeks are crucial for its fate.

Torquil continued, “we have an absolutely brilliant team of organisers, made up entirely of volunteers. They are doing everything in their power to bring the festival back to the people of Chippenham and the thousands of visitors we get every year.

“However, with uncertainty around live events still rife, we do have a cut-off point by which we must have reached a certain sales target to guarantee it will happen

“With the fantastic lineup we already have, we are very confident it will go ahead, but we need to ask people to consider buying their tickets a little earlier than usual to make sure of it.”

Book your place now

Early bird tickets have already sold out for this year’s event, and tier 1 weekend tickets are on sale now. These offer a saving of almost 15% off the full ticket price.

Tickets are available at https://www.chippfolk.co.uk/tickets-2022/ and are fully refundable if the event cannot go ahead in light of any changes in the COVID-19 restrictions.

Get involved

The festival is entirely reliant on a dedicated army of brilliant volunteers all who give up their time and provide their skills and expertise to the event free of charge. There are many different ways in which you can get involved. We need:

  • stewards
  • tradespeople
  • set designers and builders
  • radio comms specialists
  • buskers
  • bar staff

To find out how you can get involved, visit https://www.chippfolk.co.uk/get-involved/

Find out more

Keep your eye out on https://www.chippfolk.co.uk/ for further information and lineup updates.


Trending….

Manton Fest Reveal 2022 Line-Up

Drizzle couldn’t prevent MantonFest from being one of my fondest memories of last year. There’s a real community-feel to this honourable little festival, yet it prevails professionalism aside it’s cheery atmosphere. Enough for me to label it “a gem in Marlborough’s event calendar” last time; let’s see what’s in store this year, as organisers announce dates and line-up for 2022….

Set for Saturday 25th June this time, headlining are seminal rhythm & blues band, Animals & Friends, which boasts original Animals drummer John Steel, and keyboardist Mick Gallagher, who joined The Animals in 1965, replacing Alan Price, and is perhaps best known as a founding member of Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

Returning to MantonFest after a five year gap, Animals & Friends still command great respect internationally amongst their peers, as well as from fans of all ages who instinctively respond so enthusiastically to such pivotal songs from The Animals catalogue such as ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, ‘Boom Boom’, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, ‘Baby, Let Me Take You Home’, ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and the bands’ multi-million selling anthem and Number One hit across the world, ‘House of The Rising Sun’.

Also appearing with an astounding résumé for a tribute act, 1993’s creation of John Mainwaring and John Ford, Jean Genie, has a founding in the very person it’s attributing, Bowie, of course. An original recording artist in his own right, John Mainwaring has been signed by numerous record companies throughout his career, twice with Warner Bros. In the 1980s David Bowie’s world-famous producer Tony Visconti produced some of John’s songs when he was signed to WEA.

Not forgoing work with Jarvis Cocker and Tony Christie, co-writing and recording Beverley Callard’s work-out fitness DVD, John is currently signed to Bucks Music Publishers for his original material, and, more apt for the role, in the late 1990s John was approached by ‘The Spiders from Mars,’ asking if he’d front the band and tour with them. Has to be said, it’s a rare thing for a tribute to have toured and performed with the original artist’s band.

Barrelhouse

Marlborough’s own and MantonFest favourites, Barrelhouse are returning. With a penchant for vintage blues, I was mightily impressed with Barrelhouse las year, very nearly dropping my hotdog, blending their original material with classic blues covers so you couldn’t see the seam. Promoting a new live CD, they’re a winner every time.

Another act, another tribute. One which I’m sure will be welcomed with open arms by the MantonFest crowd, Nottingham-based Beatles tribute band, The Fab4. Formed thirty-two years ago, they’re renowned for using classic sound equipment, much the same gear as the Beatles, to get that authentic sound, and were the first band invited to play at the Paul McCartney Auditorium at the Liverpool institute of Performing Arts.

Compelling and daring, former Purson singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, from Southend, Rosalie Cunningham is also on the line-up, whose 2019 debut solo album earned a Top 10 placing in the UK’s official independent chart. Along with local acts Dangerous Kitchen, a four-piece rock band, acoustic and electric band covers trio, @59, Adam Ford, Eddie Witcomb and LLoyd Crabb as Kotonic, and Manton’s very own semi-acoustic blues, jazz and soul crossover group, Skedaddle.

@59

So, yeah, this variety, mostly rock, blues and soul one-dayer shindig, comes highly recommended by yours truly. Gates open at 11am on Saturday 25th June, and advance tickets have just gone online, for £35 until 15th June, £40 afterwards. Child tickets are a fiver, under 7’s go free, youth tickets are £15. This year people can book a plot for a campervan for £20, or a gazebo pitch for £10, payable on the day at the gate.

With an assortment of food and drinks stalls, picnics and bring your own booze are still welcomed, in this overall fantastically friendly festie overlooked by the beautiful surroundings of Treacle Brolly near Marlborough, it’s walking distance into town; what more do you want? Well, I’d like to see Blondie tribute Dirty Harry from last year; see if I can get her phone number this time; epic fail due to cider last attempt!

There she is, see? Shouting out to me, “don’t call me, go home, you’re drunk!”

Trending…..

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.


Trending….

Baber and Wileman set to Chill

Meditatively strap yourself into a comfy recliner, as under his pseudonym Karda Estra, Swindon’s prolific experimental virtuoso Richard Wileman is in collaboration with Sanguine Hum keyboardist Matt Baber for an album taking their names as the title, Baber-Wileman. It’s released tomorrow (Monday 10th Jan 2022) on Kavus Torabi’s Believers Roast label.….

Under his own name, Richard projects acoustic folk songs, yet never without fascinating instrument experimentation, yet as Karda Estra soundscapes of surreal gothic and cosmic compositions evoke mood as a film score should.

With a pungent fusion of Zappa and Canterbury influenced instrumental compositions, Sanguine Hum was formed a decade ago from the ashes of the Joff Winks Band and the Antique Seeking Nuns. Known for complex ensemble work, reflective song-writing and distinctively striving instrumental pieces, Sanguine Hum’s defining characteristics owes much to Matt’s keys, who released his first solo album, Suite for Piano and Electronics on Bad Elephant Music in 2018.

The pair first met at RoastFest in 2011, where Sanguine Hum were performing, and soon afterwards, Matt and Richard did their first collaboration track, Mondo Profondo 1, which appeared on the Karda Estra album Mondo Profondo.

Returning to the studio together towards the end of 2020, initially intending to put a couple of tracks down, the sessions went so well, they continued co-composing through 2021 and the project evolved into this album, which is chilling me to the bone.

Richard’s long-time vocal and clarinet player Amy Fry also guest appearances on three of the nine enchanted tracks. At times, like the finale, The Birth of Spring, this sounds like it could’ve been recorded on a light dewed grassy knoll, under a troll bridge of a Tolkienesque landscape, at others a Kling Klang type Düsseldorf studio towards the end of the seventies, but the steam of this melting pot perpetually reeks of influences further and wider.

With Matt’s clear progressive-rock influence, tracks like Passing Wave and the penultimate Day Follows Night, hold woozy psychedelic swirls of a Hawkwind free festival, yet the classical piano concertos of Claude Debussy ring through interludes like Three Audio Slow and 2009.

It’s a wonderous journey, mellowly twirling through gorgeously uplifting, sometimes haunting soundscapes, as ambient as The Orb, as methodically composed as Mike Oldfield, as peculiar as The Art of Noise, as moody electronically progressive as Tangerine Dream, and melodically unruffled as Jefferson Airplane.

The second tune, after Karda Estra-fashioned haunting intro, sounding like a spooky film score by William Orbit, Souvenir is vocally a prime example of the folk-rock influence of Jefferson Airplane, but only a slight segment of styles blended here, of which the magnum opus of the album, Emperor combines all aforementioned elements sublimely. This one is as Mike Oldfield created Primal Scream’s Higher Than the Sun from Screamadelica; yeah, it’s that beautiful, all too beautiful!


Find a Richard Wileman track on our compilation album!

Devizine Review of 2021; Marginally Better than 2020!

If we recently reviewed Ian Diddams and friends meeting at the Vaults for their annual festive Jackanory, the first article of 2021 was the very same funny fellow reciting his yarn as a live stream from his mocked garden grotto, and in that, surely displays how far we’ve come from the restrictions of lockdown we entered the year with. Though not without the same notion as last Christmas looming over us, like a dirty black shroud, that it was, perhaps, all too soon, and we’ve not seen the backside of the Covid19 yet.

Summarising, 2021 was marginally better than 2020; there were gung-ho moments of throwing caution to the wind, and there were others to make us stop and ponder the consequences of our actions. There’s little doubt the world will never be the same for decades to come; social interaction, shopping, even work practises; but we did get to party on occasions, and when it was good, it was really good.

And if it ended with a Boxing Day brawl, I suspect some wished for the bash-a-sab fest. Even police it seems, who would likely send in The Wealdstone Raider to crowd control a Wealdstone V Whitehawk FC game, if given the assignment. Did I predict this when I said “make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge?”

Hardly crystal ball stuff, tensions at their highest for rural Wiltshire’s most contradictory dispute, it was on the cards since day dot; when the county voted in a foxhunting Police Crime Commissioner, whose misadventures in drink driving caused him to pull out at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. A calamity most shrugged off with “oh, ha-ha, those naughty Tories, bless ‘em.”


Allowed Out to Play

It was May before I set foot in a pub, lockdown eased and live music was back on the agenda, albeit with hefty restrictions; early ending times, remain seated, table service, no mingling outside of “bubbles,” and deffo no dancing or singing. It felt awkward to begin with, not quite the same, but it was a start, and who better to kick off proceedings than the brilliant Daybreakers, gracing the trusty Southgate? One could sense the joy from Cath, Gouldy et al, to be singing to an audience once again, proving their dedication to the cause. A handclap emoji just isn’t the same.

For a while then The Southgate remained the only venue in Devizes providing live music, and we thank Deborah, Dave and all staff for working within the rules to create a safe space to be blessed with music; it was like they were on roller-skates at times, up and down the beer garden, ensuring not a mouth was left dry!  

I also ventured out to the Barge at Honeystreet, to see how they were coping with the boundaries too. And what a show The Boot Hill All Stars put on there, under a spacious marquee, so tempting to get up and dance, but couldn’t; mastered foot-tapping though.

The return to some normality for many in Devizes came in clement early June, when Devizes Lions held a fantastic car show, plus, on the Green. With side stalls aplenty, nervously folk began to socially distanced mingle; it was a breath of fresh air and a testament to what can be safely achieved with forward thinking and dedication.

Image by Nick Padmore

By July I made it out a few times, the idea of Vince Bell teaming with the individual performers of The Lost Trades, Phil, Jamie and Tamsin was too much of an irresistible hoedown of local talent to miss, and a third trip to the trusty Southgate to tick TwoManTing off my must-do list also proved to be a memorable evening.

The beginning of August I ventured to TrowVegas to tick another off said list, catching those Roughcut Rebels with new frontman Finley Trusler. They blasted the Greyhound, and didn’t disappoint. The month shifted gear for many, and things simply blossomed like there never was a lockdown. Back-to-back weekends saw both my favourite largescale of 2021, the single-most amazing festival near Marlborough; MantonFest is a real gem, professionally done with a real communal atmosphere, the type perpetual drizzle couldn’t put a downer on. This event wowed.

Back in Devizes, the events of the year were the weekend which followed, sitting nicely between a stripped back version of DOCA’s International Street Festival sprinkled across town, was of course, The Full Tone Festival. Without the refreshing emergence of folk out of lockdown, this would have still been something for the town’s history books, but being as it was, the opportunity to head back out and enjoy life once again, the timing, the best weather, the whole ambience was electric. The time and work gone into pulling this off was absolutely outstanding, and for which folk of Devizes will forever mark it as a celebration of post lockdown.

Awakenings even drew Andy out of hiding by September, and I was overjoyed to have him back on the team, without putting his bag and coat on the hook, he went out to play, reviewing Devizes Musical Theatre’s Gallery of Rogues, and Devizes Town Band’s Proms in Hillworth Park. Meanwhile I was delighted to see The Wharf Theatre reopen with a fantastic performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.

September also saw the welcome return of Devizes Comedy at the Corn Exchange, and The Long Street Blues Club, who, kicking off with Creedence Clearwater Review, wasted no time catching up with their rescheduled programme of the most excellent blues nights money can buy. Andy covered these, while I ventured to see Kieran J Moore’s new digs at Trowbridge Town Hall. After a brilliant street art exhibit from Tom Miller, I went to taste the music there, with a most memorable evening from Onika Venus. I returned to the scene in November, for a great gig from Ålesund with support from Agata.

Other than a trip to the White Horse Opera and Southgate to see Jon Amor’s King Street Turnaround, Andy pitched a tent at Long Street Blues Club, one time shipped out to the Corn Exchange in late November for Focus, which Andy crowned best gig of the year. I made it out to the Cross Keys in Rowde for The Life of Brian Band, and to the Southgate see Strange Folk again, since their fantastic set on Vinyl Realm’s stage at a Street Festival of yore. But October held my best gig of the year, the reasons manyfold, and I’m lay them on the line….

For the outstanding fundraising efforts of the Civic award-winning local supergroup, The Female of the Species, I hold them all up as my heroines, therefore the chance to see them again at Melksham’s fantastic Assembly Hall too much to miss, and the fact they’d chosen this time to raise funds for another of my local heroines, Carmela Chillery-Watson, was almost too much to take! With an electric night of awesome danceable covers and a massive raffle, they raised a staggering £1,763 for Carmela’s Therapy Fund.

It will never cease to amaze me the selfless lengths our musicians will go to for fundraising. Even after a year and half of closed hospitality and no bread-and-butter gigs, they continue to offer their precious time to help. While events blossomed late this year, and November saw the return of TITCO, and Devizes Arts Festival added a spellbinding mini-autumn-festival with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Sally Barker and Motown Gold, Devizine continued also to preview events and do what we had being doing to find content during lockdown. Yeah, we rattled some cages with social and political opinion pieces, tasted some great takeaway tucker, and we reviewed recorded music further afield as well as local, but we had a number of feelgood stories, most memorable being things like our snowman competition in January, but there was a project which highlighted the sterling effort from musicians to fundraise, and it will be something I’ll never forget.

Image: Gail Foster

So, in April I announced we would be putting together a compilation album, fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospices and by late June it was a thing. It was hard work to put together, but I’m astounded by the plethora of great bands and artists who took the time to send us a tune for inclusion. Knowing time was precious for artists popping out of lockdown, in need to source bookings and rehearse, I only asked them to provide us with an existing tune to prompt their albums, but some went beyond this, giving us exclusive outtakes such as the brilliant Richard Davis & the Dissidents, or some even recorded new songs, like Blondie & Ska, Tom Harris and Neonian.

I picked a staggering forty-six tracks to bind together, to create a boxset so humongous it would need far too many CDs to make it actual, so due to this and the expense of outlaying, it exists as a download on Bandcamp. Think of it as a teaser for the many great acts we’ve supported and reviewed over the years, and for a tenner, it works out under 5p a tune.

For me this was a momentous achievement, and can’t thank them enough. While I’ve put it out to the right places, to the Gazette & Herald and Fantasy, and airtime on West Wilts Radio’s fantastic Sounds of Wilderness Show, there is obviously more I need to do to get the message out there, as sales have been slow, unfortunately.

I could fathom a number of reasons for this, but in all, we’ve raised approximately £177 for Julia’s House, hoping to reach a £200 target before we send them the money, still sales have waivered off so significantly I feel I need to send what we’ve had so far. Please help us to up the total if you’ve not already bought this fantastic album. Gloom aside I will say I’m planning a second volume, and already have a few contributions from incredible acts such as Nick Harper, Onika Venus and Catfish.

Returning to events for the last part of the year, While Andy fondly reviewed Focus, I popped into the Corn Exchange for a quick interview with The Lost Trades, and left to attend a great art show at the Shambles. That weekend the Full-Tone Orchestra played Swindon’s Wyvern, and I’m grateful to Ian Diddams for his review. This is what we need, people, we cannot cover everything, but if you’ve a few words to say about an event or anything local, please, help to make Devizine a comprehensive community, erm, thing!

Of course, one delightful addition to our team TD Rose has been submitting some lovey features, firstly of ramblings, and more recently she made friends with Wiltshire Museum, and reviewed DOCA’s Winter Festival. Thank you so much Tyg, I’ve yet to meet, but we need to arrange this for the new year.

Image: Chris Dunn

Towards the end of November Andy remained seated at Long Street, I did the rum bar thing. Such a refreshing addition to Devizes, The Muck & Dundar pulled off a blinder with Bristol DJs, The Allergies. This was one smooth funky night, best for an age, and it was great to shake my greying tailfeathers. Both Andy and I finished off the year with a Boot Hill bash at the Southgate, where hip hop misfits Monkey Bizzle supported, and was shocked by Andy’s positive reaction, being more my cup of cheddar, this was an awesome night too!

Kossoff played Long Street, Andy also went to White Horse Opera’s Winter Concert and other than the hugely successful Tractor & Tinsel Run, we’re back to where we started with an Ian Diddams’ spoken word showdown the Vaults!


On Stats and Boring Stuff

Our Annual Stats Doubled from Last Year!

Having live music back, no matter the limitations was a breath of fresh air. Prior to it I was still scrambling around in the dark as I was in 2020, hunting for something to write about. But I guess a year of lockdown had given me time to contemplate and improve on the content. This boosted the stats, for if 2020 saw a drop in readership, I hoped to better it, and I’m pleased to announce we had a record amount, well over doubling the figures of 2020. This is awesome news, and I thank everyone for keeping the faith in us, and continuing to support Devizine.

I keep looking at the bar graph of stats, not believing the skyscraper which is 2021. How much we’ve grown, become a “thing” now. It’s fantastic and I hope we will continue to entertain you. I must stress though, we don’t harass you to subscribe or any rubbish like this, we keep advertising to a minimum, and nothing should pop up and distract your reading, and we uphold the ethos features should be free to the end user.

Yet we do need to maintain some budget to keep the site going. That’s currently around £60 a year; we fund our own beer money, thank you, we’re not MPs, we have no expense forms! So please consider donating to keep Devizine afloat, please donate when sending us an advert, unless it is fundraising. I’d really like to build up a small fund to get some charity events off the ground, as I believe the artists should be paid for their time considering their predicament too. So, anything extra will go towards this, and promoting the Julia’s House album.

What can we expect from Devizine in 2022, you might ask; well, if it’s not broken……let’s happily bash on shall we?! Thank you all so much for your support over 2021, the stats show we’re heading in the right direction.


On Food

Said this before, but I take pride in repeating myself; food reviews get an enormous response, yet still eateries seem reluctant to come forward. A food review here will do wonders for your sales, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a greedy so-and-so. Places we’ve eaten out or takeaways we’ve had which failed to live up to our expectations have not been mentioned. I’m no Gordon Ramsey and I’m not about to publish a slagging off. I’d rather tell you to your face why I’m not reviewing it!

During lockdowns the takeaway became essential part of a weekend treat for families with nought else to do, and new establishments opened, while pre-existing ones flourished. In January we praised the Massimos’ Pizza, and the following month saw me queuing halfway down a frozzled Nursteed Road for a rather tasty Greek Gyro from the Cosy Kitchen mobile van; such was the popularity of these mobile units during the bleakest of times.

When things begun to open up in April I went for my first vaccination jab, where they told me not to drive for fifteen minutes. They didn’t say go find a new Indian lunchtime takeaway in the Brittox, but we did, and long should Naan Guru live on!

Not much further into the same month, I tracked down The Feisty Fish, a fish n chips van like no other. They don’t come into town being there’s chip shops here, but track these guys down for the single best gourmet fish n chips you will ever taste, I tell no lie!

June saw a second IndieDay, organised by InDevizes, and prompted people to get out and shop with a bustling farmer’s market, in which I discovered the rosy cheeked benefits of Lavington’s Rutts Lane Cider, and merrily made my way home on the bus! I also had to mention, unsurprisingly to those who know me, that month, that Plank’s Dairies introduced a new locally-sourced organic milk, yogurt and juice range, in sizable and reusable glass bottles, which has proved hugely popular.

Naturally, without a main stage this year, there was a greater interest in the food market at The Devizes Street Festival in August, and the following month we mentioned Devizes Food & Drink Festival’s Market, where I was reunited with Rutts!

It was July when we discovered Thai-day Friday, and that was just delicious!

Mildly amusing than most, I offered a Battle of the Best Devizes Breakfast, in November, something we need to follow up on when the kids are back in school, as Round One, The Condado Lounge Vs New Society was a popular post. I bloomin’ love food, me, y’know, invite me to your café, pub or restaurant and I’ll give you my honest opinion, except I don’t do eggs or liquorice; yuck!


On Music

If I’ve already mentioned our awesome 4 Julia’s House project, and all the artists who contributed are in my good books, we also covered a whole heap of new releases. Plus, we started a Song of the Day, where we post a YouTube link for your pleasure, and generally don’t say much else about it, rather waffle on a tangent! But mostly recorded sound reviews waned when live music reopened, still we strive to continue telling you what we like.

Will Lawton

Will Lawton proposed to open a music school, JMW held a lockdown festival in support of musicians, Wiltshire Council asked Gecko for a Road Crossing song and video, and Wiltshire Rural Music’s announced producing live steams from Trowbridge Town Hall.

Kirsty Clinch announced her music school and book plans, and covered Swindon’s sound system Mid Life Krisis’s live streams. We chatted to The Scribes, announced The Lost Trades Live Stream in Advance of Album Launch, and The Ruzz Guitar Sessions, and Asa Murphy returning to Devizes.

We announced Sheer’s Salem gig, the Dear John Concert Album for War Child, and the bid to help Calne Central. Announced Sheer’s Frank Turner gig at the Cheese & Grain, chatted to Blondie & Ska. Announced Wharf Theatre’s Youth Theatre, Pound Arts Blue Sky Festival, My Dad’s Bigger than Your Dad Festival in tribute to Dave Young. This list goes on, but most enjoyable recently, meeting up with Visual Arts Radio who moved from Frome to Devizes.

We reviewed Terry Edwards Best of Box Set, Ain’t Nobody’s Business by Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue and Pete Gage, Skates & Wagons, Kirsty Clinch, Small Town Tigers, Django Django, Chole Glover, Araluen and Ariel Posen. Trowbridge DJ and producer Neonian, The Direct Hits, Andy J Williams, Erin Bardwell, Nigel G Lowndes, Mike Clerk, Cutsmith, Timid Deer, and Cult Figures.

Horses of the Gods, Lone Ark & The 18th Parallel, Longcoats, Black Market Dub and The Lost Trades.

Brainiac 5, Sitting Tenants, Stockwell, Storm Jae and Nory, Sam Bishop, Longcoats, The Bakeseys and Elli de Mon.

Liddington Hill, Boom Boom Racoon, Longcoats, Girls Go Ska and Daisy Chapman.

Monkey Bizzle, Webb, The Hawks, Captain Accident & The Disasters, Onika Venus, Death of Guitar Pop, The Burner Band, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and Scott Lavene.

Spearmint, Captain Rico & The Ghost Band, Sonny Vincent, Freya Beer, Near Jazz Experience, Beans on Toast, Old Habits, and most recently, Paul Lappin! That enough for you?! 


On the Social and Political Side

The fate of every nation depended on how their governments dealt with the pandemic, and how the public responded to them. I’m not here to dwell on international or even national politics, for this is a review of Devizine, what I define loosely as “an entertainment news and events guide,” for the locality of Wiltshire, focussing particularly on our base, Devizes. Yet tenaciously it is linked, undeniably affecting limitations to what we could and couldn’t do. By the very appalling national statistics, despite rolling out vaccinations like no other country, it revealed true horrors of conflicting government decisions, their general disrespect and selfishness for the public they’re supposed to serve, and the public’s reaction to them.

Like a blind vacuum, sucking in every government blame game, it never ceases to amaze me keyboard warriors on social media turning culpability onto mainstream media, when their task is purely to report news, and capture the mood of the nation. The mainstream media is ruled by the elite, funding the government, they’re in bed together, literally. To publicise shortage of goods is informing of a potential issue, they didn’t enforce panic buying, the public did; chicken and egg. Equally, to publish mood change in the majority lost faith in government, is because there’s a mood change; we’ve lost faith in government.

I’m not here to say I told you so; I’ve not lost faith in this government, I had none to start with!

Take the last set of pandemic announcements, made only hours after government-controlled media broke news of Downing Street Christmas parties, best part of twelve months earlier. A day where the public felt betrayed, even those who voted for Bojo and his cronies held their heads in shame and had to confess it was all too much for a government to break rulings it set itself, and party on while the public suffered, and died. The mood was understandably bleak; why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t?

Why, you ask, for crying out loud? To protect ourselves from a global pandemic, numpty! Government announcements are fed counsel from health organisations and medical experts, skewered by bent politics, naturally, but the bullet points are there. It is not the same self-entitled buffoons, they’re voiceover artists on this occasion; given free reign they’d have “herd immunity,” against WHO advise.

Can you not see through the wool? The government press released the Downing Street Christmas Party scandal themselves, bang on cue of an announcement, so we would all think precisely that, why should we do what they say when they clearly don’t? If we rebel from their restrictions, we’ve only got ourselves to blame when the virus spreads. The government gets what they always wanted, herd immunity, and they’ve shifted the blame away from them and onto you, me, and everyone else.

Therefore, we need to take precautions ourselves, be a community, care for others around us. No hard and fast lockdown is needed, if common bloody sense prevailed, but government seem intent to rinse it from our craniums. We’re not self-service tills, do not robotise us!

We know now how to prevent the virus spreading; keep your distance from others, wear facemasks in public places, follow NHS guidelines in testing and get vaccinated as soon as possible, whether they tell you to or not.

These things should be commonplace, but whenever restrictions ease, like a naughty school-boy triumphantly marching out of detention only to offend again, we forget everything we’ve learned and pay the cost for it. I’m not preaching like a saint, caged too, I urged for a pint, to lob my facemask into the air, hug, and flaunt the rules when the rules relaxed, at times reflecting if we did the right thing, least if we did it too soon. But it’s done now and we can’t turn the hands of time. If we could, I’d still be on Castlemorton Common.

Old Skool Rave

In this, one series of articles I was proud of this summer was in reminiscence of my youth, being the thirtieth anniversary of 1991, an explosion for the rave scene. But another similar premise based on news of illegal raves happening in lockdown, was to ask those old skool ravers if they’d still go raving if there was a similar pandemic in the nineties; with interesting results.

Return of the Rave

And if it sounded like I was defending mainstream media, I wasn’t, only applying a smidgen of sympathy. With Facebook, Twitter et al, media is everyone now; I’m living proof any idiot can publish a blog and make look it like reputable news! Reason why, I guess, criticising other local outlets always brings hits, the occasion I felt the need to defend Devizes against the sharp eye of local gutter-press Wiltshire Live, proved to be our third most popular article of the year.

Devizes is a great place to live, Tory top-heavy, but that’s something anyone with an alternative opinion has to unfortunately suck up. Our fourth most popular article this year was in January, breaking the news Tory PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed, was a bad card. Something as more evidence came to light, namely drink-driving offences, proved to be true, at the time I put my finger on something conflicting in his chat with us, calling anyone who cared to address fox hunting a “troll,” but requesting we talk on his trespass pledges, blatantly linked to restrict the movement of sabs, the only folk we see actually policing this disgusting and unbelievable smokescreen of trail hunting. Something we covered more recently, suggesting Boxing Day Hunts need better policing.

Moan I’m bias, yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Do I attempt to hide it like others? Why the hell should I side with anyone butchering wildlife for so-called sport, and in that, why the hell would you?! But hey, I remained impartial during local elections, giving each and every candidate a platform, so there!

Never has a PCC election run with such controversy. Aggravation between sides fired, and we did more than blow the lid off Seedy’s bogus campaign, causing some alarming revelations in local social media bias. Tories back Tories, no matter what they’ve done wrong, it’s an allegiance to admire, even if you feel it’s malicious. As well as chatting with Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster and independent Mike Rees, we tried a few spoofs: Play the Wiltshire PCC Game, Basil Brush Missing, and upon the Tories hustling in an alternative candidate by stalling the re-election, we ran a short story The Adventures of Police Crime Commissioner Wilko, which was based upon a better received satire, a long-running mock of Wiltshire Council, in The Adventures of Councillor Yellowhead.

At times Mike seemed such a threat to Wiltshire’s Tory totalitarianism, a media attack seemed the best method to deflect people taking the common-sense vote. The first bout came in January, when Mike was barred from volunteering to administer lateral flow Covid tests, the second in July affected me personally as the Devizes Issues Facebook group revealed its fiercely denied bias, by banning me for using a George Orwell quote to express my concern at the taxpayer having to fork four million quid for a re-election which was clearly the Conservative Party’s fault! I’m adamant it was justified.

Nineteen-eighty-four was supposed to be a warning, not a fucking self-help guide.

Annoyed, I struck out, naturally, and was begged back, after the full-gone conclusion a Wiltshire majority blindly vote for the blue rosette no matter what! But it was a month after the ban, the smear reached its apex, with all posts about the independent candidate immediately banned and deleted on the popular Facebook group, and anyone complaining were blamed by members for the downfall in Mike’s success! You can’t make up hypocrisy that nasty. 

Tory Devizes Town Councillor Iain Wallis on “the Devizes Issues.”

It’s not the politics which bothers me as much as the kind of world they envision. Stories of injustice swamped Devizine this year, more than ever before, even our April Fool’s Joke had stark repercussions. 

Every minute an adolescent arm reaches out of a window, unceremoniously handing a bag of fast food to a driver, they nod a thanks, and leave. That seemed to me to be the maximum social interaction of 2020, yet commonplace in modern living, pandemic or not. I recalled going to a Tesco, paid at the pump, masked expressions as I sauntered the aisles, paid at the self-service till and on the way out considered one could live their life in modern times completely unnoticed, months need pass without human contact. My mind meanders if that’s something young folk actually want, or if they’ve been robotised, or if it’s an age thing leaving me in a care-home for terminally bewildered.

The best hitting article of the year was again, our April Fool’s Day joke, where this time I misleadingly announced the opening of a McDonalds in Devizes. Maliciously planned, it broke the local internet, and despite suggesting it was All Fools Day in the piece, comments and messages flooded in from headline scanners. In favour of it or not, the debate is such popular the joke was lost on many desperate souls dying for a McFlurry; causing faith, just like Chippenham’s recent pandemonium for a bucket of battery chicken in gravy, yes, Aldous Huxley was bang-on, many folks do want to live in this commercialised bubble, void of individualism.


On Everything Else

Individualism, free thinking and fair and just causes we stand for here, it is not my fault the many attempts to counteract this seem to come from a conservative ethos, and therefore get criticised for it. I’m not dead against conservativism, but they seem dead against me, as if we’re supposed to know our place tip our hat and reply, “very good guvnor, I’ll bail your shit for a shilling!”

My god, how they hate common people who can articulate, that’s’ why they slash away like Freddy Kruger at the education budget while back the grammar school relaunch. Then keyboard warriors whinge at juvenile delinquency like it’s a new thing and something stringing them up for will somehow solve. We’re heading into days as dark as the early eighties, perhaps medieval for some, days I remember with a horror in my heart.

The audacious legacy building bashes on with grand and glorious plans, I reported Stonehenge had been saved by the High Court, but they operate above the law and continue to ignore the justice system, plotting to bury a road underneath it, shaking it to ruin, least knocking it of the World Heritage List, for the sake of knocking minutes off commuting times.

I criticised the reality of building a whole new train station miles out of Devizes, against popular opinion, cos I’ll believe it when I see it, and furthermore, I feel there’s more pressing issues which looking at. If not our terrible infrastructure, the state of our roads, and the endless chain of bureaucratic nonsense to get the simplest of notions pushed through bumbling pompousness of councillors and apparent do-gooders, it’s the increasing homeless on our streets, the need for Food Banks which the Tories selfishly assume is a good thing, the poverty level submerging a continuous population and the outright condoning of racist, sexist and homophobic acts. Sort them out, and I’ll gladly stand on Devizes Parkway platform with you, or any other brazen legacy-building pledge you dream up!

Every time I’m duped, I feel like an idiot, unable to get my message through the red tape. You want a train station, yet I reported the dangerous state of a Wiltshire Council playpark in Rowde, FIVE years ago, and I have to seriously throw my toys out of the pram to get anyone to pay it any attention. In February this year I was delighted, based on my article, Councillor Laura Mayes secured £20,000 from WC to re-design the playground and she proudly used it to publicise her election pledge.

But still the playpark remains in the same state of disrepair, not a penny pledged has been spent. Whether this is WC’s fault or the Parish Council I don’t know, they got what I suspect they wanted, a successful election result, and my whinging reduced too. I’ve just lost all faith and interest in continuing to bother with it. You want a train station, huh? Traffic lights at the Black Dog crossroads? A no left turn sign at the top of Dunkirk Hill? Yeah, good luck with that, we’re moving into six years for them to fix a dangerous baseplate of a bouncy chicken in a playpark!

Yet perseverance can pay off; we loved it when Rab Hardie of Duck N Curver broke into Stonehenge to raise awareness of his wish to film a video inside the stone circle, we asked if the Fire & Rescue Service were Cutting Vital Flood Equipment, defended Wiltshire Police from keyboard warriors upset they used a rainbow as their Facebook logo during Pride Month, wished Devizes Lions a happy 50th, supported Joe Brindle on his campaign to save Drews Pond Wood, attended Save Furlong Close protests, added some reflection on the Travellers based in Bromham, praised local artist, Clifton Powell when he was commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition, The African Diaspora in England, had a great time at Breakout, Chippenham’s Alternative Art Show, congratulated the award-winning British Lion. Crickey, the list goes on; the vast array of subjects we’ve covered, even war memorials which look like bins!

I must be boring you into an early grave, which isn’t the best way to start a new year!

One last thing, we did plenty of spoofs and satirical pieces, too many to name, yet, all’s fair in love and war, and it was a great year; here’s to 2022! I leave it there before your head explodes!


Paul Lappin & The Keylines Live at Pink Moon Studios

If you need a breather from the perpetual cycle of cliche Christmas song mush, do yourself a favour; Paul Lappin & The Keylines released a live EP last week, it’s as “name your price” on Bandcamp, and I’ll wager my Christmas stocking and all of its contents, you’ll eternally thank me for the advice.….

On the 12th November 2021 Paul Lappin & The Keylines invited a few close friends and family to Pink Music Studios in France for a chilled evening of wine, food and live music. This EP is a recording of five of the songs performed during that session. For a tenacious link to our ambiguous local rule, note while now residing in France, Paul is originally from Swindon.

Back in October 2020 we fondly reviewed his studio album The Boy Who Wants to Fly, celebrating its vibrant Britpop rock, immersed in some astute and genius song writing prose. And in turn, we were allowed to use the outstanding single Broken Record for our Julia’s House charity compilation. For which, you might suggest, I’m duty bound to sing the praises of everyone who contributed, to which I’d reply, yeah, only partly but unnecessary, just shut up and listen to this; Live at Pink Moon Studios is utterly gorgeous.

If Broken Record packs a punch, and The Boy Who Wants to Fly meanders between forthright rock and tenderer acoustics, this little piece of wonderful revels in the latter. So much so, it smooths out of the restrictions of a label like Britpop, though subtle shards of it remain, and is comparable to acoustic folk rock from way beyond the subgenre, say, as steady and emotive as Nick Drake.

In the past I’ve made comparison to our own song-writing local legend Jamie R Hawkins, in their shared ability to twist a narrative so deeply into sentiment, tears will well; this EP comes closer to my point than I’ve ever heard from Paul. It’s so wonderfully placed subjects, wistfully glides your mind away, on the journey with Paul, like all good acoustic should.

The first two tunes, After the Rain, and Lying Awake in the Dark both come unplugged versions from The Boy Who Wants to Fly, Slow and Steady featured on his 2018 album, Move On, and I’m uncertain of the last two, Seeds of Doubt and Set in Stone, perhaps they’re new, or exclusive to this EP. I’m far from all out intending to research their origin, as it’s just to easy to be set adrift on the songs, relishing in the moment.

Morish simplicity, man and guitar composition you’ll crave it never ends, and I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve hit the replay button with such haste before! Paul is at his dreamiest, fluffiest and virtually subterranean in his deliverance of these masterpieces.

Subjects not so unusual but handled with the proficiency to wow, of lost or found love, picking up with a bongo drumbeat and wailing electric backing guitar at track three, Slow and Steady, with a chorus dripping of anthemic Britpop, of Oasis or Verve in their prime, yet maintaining that spellbinding acoustic goodness.

And for the last two tunes of mysterious origins, are perhaps my favourites, Seeds of Doubt, is a self-analysis theme, mind-bogglingly passionate, and the parable soulful finale, Set in Stone, as is with a live album, there’s a wholesome rawness about it, echoing honesty and scrupulousness throughout, you feel like you’re a guest into a secret meeting, you feel a part of it, and that, is simply, beautiful.


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Survival of the Friendliest with Beans on Toast

Another year, another birthday for Jay McAllister, aptly codenamed Beans on Toast. Staying true to his birthday tradition, he’s opened a new tin, and this one has little sausages of optimism in it.…..

Aptly named, because I like Beans on Toast, as much as I like beans on toast, and I really like beans on toast, for the tastiness in its simplicity. There’s a poignant message here, without overthinking. Nothing on Survival of the Friendliest, his new album released this Wednesday via Bot Music, is indulged with riddles and cryptic clues, the motives are clear and precise.

Just as the title of last year’s album, Knee Deep in Nostalgia, summed up the running theme of parenthood and reminiscing on your own youth, so does this abridge. Survival of the Friendliest is Three Little Birds, or Don’t Worry, Be Happy throughout; in the face of depressing times, the simple but effective prose is not to let problems get you down. The result is indie-folk goodness, with sunny side of the street vibes. Beans on Toast presents a charming premise, and executes it perfectly, leaving you uplifted and smiling no matter what the weather might throw at you.

Beans on Toast

The boundless negativity of social media, political grandstanding, scandal and undesirable news are mentioned, but tossed aside in favour of eternal hope and optimism, peace and possibilities. It’s filled with environmental references, trees, stones on a beach, endangered species, yet advocates the notion the planet is naturally rejuvenating, and man’s effect can be reversed by the will of human kindness.

Taking its title from Humankind by modern thinker, Rutger Bregman, the book’s positive philosophies play a pivotal influence in shaping the course of the record. If this Always Look on the Bright Side of Life thought might be this long-established protest singer changing his tune, it suits. The Commons the only exception to the rule, even this track has cheery and carefree undercurrents, through the banjo riff. Written earlier in the year, with old friends Blaine Harrison and Jack Flanagan of the Mystery Jets, Survival of the Friendliest is the wonderful and entertaining ride I’d expect from Beans.

Delightfully carefree, the opening song, A Beautiful Place sums the premise as well as the album title, Stones is simply stunning, and the conservation theme runs until Tree of the Year. Not Everyone Thinks We’re Doomed projects the aforementioned faithful sanguinity, so, so cleverly it’ll give you goosebumps.

Even the album’s love song advocates the allure of marriage, as he charmingly chaunts “Let’s Get Married Again.” Garnished in sentiment perhaps, but there’s reality driven into his words, “It’s something we’re now going to do” Jay grinned. This is honest song writing, delivered with cheeriness, buoyancy and effervescence, but more importantly it rubs off, leaving you in high spirits; musical Prozac!

Get the album HERE


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Barry Reviews Strange Folk at The Southgate!

Well, what can I say? They might lose a couple of brownie points for the singer continuously referring to me as “Barry,” but Somerset-Hampshire psych-folk rock four-piece, Strange Folk, who graced Devizes’ Southgate’s little magic box last night can afford to!

Aside an acoustic set in Crewkerne, it was their first electric gig post-lockdown, and the first time they’d played at Devizes answer to the O2, though some may cast their minds back to a brighter sunny day when they showed us what they’re made of at Pete & Jackie of Vinyl Realm’s alternative stage at DOCA’s street festival. It was on the grounds of this outstanding performance which summon me to the Gate, not forgoing the awe-inspiring tune they sent us for the Julia’s House compilation. Which, in turn would’ve substituted any lost gold stars for the Barry banter!

A small price to pay to ensure they played Glitter the very song they kindly contributed, a request which took them by surprise, being recorded during lockdown, they were unprepared, and hadn’t yet played it live. Still, as was the entire gig, they made a grand job of it, and I’m about explain why.

It’s David Setterfield’s sublime electric and acoustic guitarwork coupled with the awe-inspiring power of Annalise’s voice, which bounds their sound beyond the confounds of the usual gothic-folk rock genre. So soulfully captivating is this voice, and is the gifted guitar, at times there’s a natural nod to electric blues, particularly of the late psychedelic sixties sort. In fact, I was praising them to someone, Bran Kerdhynen, I believe, one half of the Celtic Roots Collective, by suggesting they remind me of “White Rabbit,” which they indeed later covered, along with the other Jefferson Airplane anthem “Somebody to Love.”

If I could think of no other cover so apt for their particular and inimitable sound, covers of T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy, Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac, and the Stones at their most enchanting with Gimmie Shelter, also fit the bill perfectly. Tainted Love being perhaps the outside chance, but very much based on Soft Cell’s version, I’ll give them that too, for the goth perspective.

Similarly, though, as I said about Frey’s Beer’s Beast album a few days ago, the professional finish and hauntingly alluring female voice, rather than the gritty vocals common with said genre, despite not being the black hair dyed and leather friendship bands type, I devoured, because Strange Folk sweep the arena of All About Eve, into System of a Down and Blind Melon, to blend Fairport Convention with Jethro Tull and Hendrix. And I was born out of time, loving to have hitchhiked to San Francisco with a flower in my hair.

Yet at times covers at the Gate last night felt pushed, as to appease a perceived audience, compared to their own original compositions; they were the icing on the cake and truly ushered you away on a petite mind-trip. The coupling of David and Annalise would be bare without the proficient bassist, Ian and drummer, Steve tucked in the back of the skittle ally, and they rocked through their own songs more so. For future reference, unlike many a pub gig, originals are encouraged here.

Talking of here, it was lovely to be back at the Southgate after gallivanting somewhat to bring news of other venues in our rural precinct, for while they do exist, for me, just like Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, except, it seems for the lead singer on this occasion! I mean, Barry, for crying out loud; do I really look like a Barry to you?! Rhetorical, you don’t have to answer that.

The canopies over the beer garden have become locally legendary, a testament in our town, to upholding live music throughout this era, and Deborah and Dave have created this haven, where you’ll see no drunken squabbles and feel no bad vibes.

Nice to hear their communal acoustic jams have respawned on Wednesday evenings, and next Saturday is the time for The Blind Lemon Experience, Billy and the Low Ground following on the 23rd October.

Meanwhile Strange Folk have three singles, an EP from 2014 called Hollow Part 1, and a debut promo EP from 2004, which are very worthy of your attention. Around our way again at B-O-A’s Three Horseshoes for Halloween, their sound is a gorgeous gothic-folk crossover professional enough to captivate even those with a passing interest in the genre.


Onika Venus Smooths Trowbridge Town Hall

A truly wonderful night was had at Trowbridge Town Hall with soul-reggae artist Onika Venus and band….

Agreed, you may have to sift through wildly nerdy debates over Kirkby and Buscema’s cross-hatching, or season 12 of the Fourth Dr Who against season 13, but one great thing about socialising in the comics industry, unlike the mainstream music one, is level-pegging. The fact everyone gets paid peanuts no matter if you’re inking for Dark Horse or small pressing under a broken photocopier, means no snobby hierarchy, and this compares to local music circuits too, something I wrongly didn’t expect it to be like last night.

The arrogance and haughtiness of the pop star is historically documented. If I go above my station, it usually ends in disappointment, because I’m not wearing a Rolling Stone stage pass. I check ahead this weekend, because Onika Venus responded with gratitude when we reviewed her wonderful album, and on the strength of it alone, I made Trowbridge Town Hall my mecca for my evening’s intake of quality music. The message simple; make door-staff aware to allow me backstage if you would like to say hi.  

Now I’m sitting in a modest room of the Town Hall, with a slight crowd of approximately forty, rather than the grand ballroom and mass gathering I was expecting, and husband half of the duo, Mark Venus comes to thank me for the review, joking, “it’s okay, I’ve cleared your backstage pass!”

Why my assumptions? Not alone the prestigious connotations of “Trowbridge Town Hall,” but the sheer quality of Onika Venus’s album, Everything You Are. Her rich, beautiful vocals commands superiority, as if she’s pre-famed internationally, rather than the veracity; she’s upcoming, gigging together for the best part of twelve years on their local music scene around Bristol and the Forest of Dean, fans of which travelled to attend in support.

Reason enough to cry her name from the hilltops, which I intend to do, because last night was absolutely fantastic, and if everyone knows Macy Grey, Erykah Badu, or even Ariana Grande heaven help, everyone should know the music of Onika Venus.

I could ponder why until the cows come home, and conclude imminent attention aside, there’s a unique crossover with this singing duo making it tricky to pigeonhole. Husband Mark very much has the style of acoustic country or easy listening, a passionate James Taylor quality, whereas Jamaican-born Onika belts out a naturally sublime soulful voice where reggae is ascertained.

In a world where traditionally, husband and wife duos are unified in style, from Abba to Sonny & Cher, or Johnny Cash and June Carter, this blend is welcomingly unique, and I have to say, works so, so well. Critics should also take heed this little-known fact, historically as well as blues and RnB, country music bears a huge influence on the Jamaican recording industry pre the era of their homegrown radio stations, where folk would hear the sounds of US stations.

I discussed this with the pair, Mark acknowledged Onika’s mother back in JA sung country songs. In turn this also revealed, like many Jamaican musicians, music is in her blood. For while soulful, there’s nothing diva about Onika, coming across reserved and shy. Reflecting in the passion of her voice, on stage she shines like a beacon, with the joyfulness of female reggae artists of yore, particularly that of Marcia Griffiths, who always held an esteemed cheerfulness in her sound.

So, amidst this modest audience, accompanied by her husband Mark on acoustic guitar, and two other members, a percussionist on snared cocktail cajon and multi-instrumental brass player, they played out tunes from their album with a perfection spectators held in awe, then took a break.

This was not before the brilliant oddity of a comical support act, namely Big Tom, a friendly Londoner with a warming smile and penchant for original music hall. Whom covered the age-old bawdy parody of the nursey rhyme, “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be,” where seven old ladies were locked in the lavatory. This took me back to the cockney songs my own nan would sing, and I told him so within this surprisingly communal and outgoing environment.

It also gave the opportunity, said environment, to chat with Onika and Mark, the latter suggesting his eclectic influences included mod revival and two-tone ska as well as country-rock. This came to an apex in the second half of the show, whence after playing a few more songs from the album, and introducing us to some new songs they’ve been working on for a follow-up, the four-piece burst into a lively finale of reggae classics. From Dandy Livingstone to the more obvious Toots and Marley, this medley gave the crowd the incentive to dance, making for a celebratory and memorable culmination.

But if this felt essential given Onika’s origins, it certainly wasn’t pushy, and with equal joy Onika sang the songs which blessed reggae into international recognition as she did their own compositions. Yet it is in those originally penned songs where this band all gleam, the album is a must-have. I adhere to this notion so much, I’ve a CD of said album to give away, see below.

For now, though, know this was a wonderful evening, with Sheer Music’s Kieran at his beloved control tower, Trowbridge Town Hall intends to break barriers and offer a variety of events for all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Not forgoing, Onika and her band were astounding.

WIN A CD OF EVERYTHING YOU ARE!

So, if you want a copy of Everything you Are by Onika Venus, it’s on Bandcamp, or you could win one (if you live in the Devizes area so I can deliver it!) Please ensure you’ve liked our Facebook page, and Onika’s too. But I’m not making it that easy, you will have to give me, via Facebook comment, a great example of where country music influenced reggae, post a YouTube link to the song, and let’s get educating! Winner will be the one who picks my favourite example, by chance!


WIN 2 TICKETS HERE!

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Signs and Wonders of The Burner Band

Popping immediately into your head with fun songs you’ll be singing for the rest of the week, while breaking out in denims, Leeds’ The Burner Band kick off their debut album, last week, Signs and Wonders with a rock n roll blinder, but that’s not all they’ve got in them.….

The subsequent tune to Blues Came In, though, Block out the Sun, suggests, rather than mellowed blues, the blue is here cowboy-boot-tapping bluegrass, with spurs. A fast-moving fashion which continues throughout the album, fusing all Americana influences, and yeah, it sure is above snakes catchy.

As a solo artist, vocalist and guitarist Lewis Burner has supported the likes of Bob Log III, The Coal Porters and The Legendary Shack Shakers, appearing at Broadstairs Folk Week, Orwell Bluegrass Festival and Strummer Camp, and released two albums. Here he collaborates with Ian, absent surname, to create the duo The Burner Band, and it certainly does burn!

Company Man is acoustic goodness, nods towards Simon Garfunkel’s more upbeat moments; deep-rooted Celia, for if as their PR document suggests punk is an influence as well as bluegrass, and rock ‘n’ roll, it’s coming through remarkably subtle, typically folky. I say this because there’s a professional feelgood factor to The Burner Burner, rather than the rawness and unskilled tenet of punk; the simple country pop sound of it Takes Two, four tracks in, is enticingly gratifying, yet afterwards, this album takes serious themes, without losing the appeal.

You, the Devil and Me deals with grief, Search Deep, Find Out assesses morals and judgements. There’s subjects of mental health and murder, but it retains, above all else, it’s catchy charm and slither of flippancy, just by the upbeat nature.

Voodoo Queen, seven tunes in, being the most diverse with its Latino undertones, whereas with Pray for the Light, the folk-punk is now coming across, and it’s welcome to. Thing is, even suggestions of blues, as in Too Much Blues, is only in topic, sound-wise it’s rock n roll, leaving one to ponder if The Burner Band are capable of mellow! Though maybe they just held out for the memorable title track at the very end, with its Springsteen-esque narrative.

It’s certainly lively, filled with exhilaration and excitedness. It also sounds sincere Americana, even when dealing with satirical themes; Liverpool’s campaign to rid the city of The Sun, being most poignant. Penned wise, though, I loved Don’t Have To Listen the most, reflecting on teenage ignorance against the face of authority, for secretly in my own mind, I’m still a adolescent tearaway, and maybe, in a nutshell, that’s the appeal here; forget skin cream, this entertaining, quality toe-tapping bluegrass rock n roll merger will knock years off you!

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