I once reviewed a cassette with a photocopied punk-paste zine style picture of Mr Blobby as the cover, where a distraught male voice screeched, “take an overdose, ginseng!” continuously over some white noise. Thank heavens that’s in a long-lost past!
Fortunately, I’ve never had anything quite so bizarre to review since, not even this week when, Erin Bardwell messaged; “one of the drummers I do things with, Matty Bane, has a side duo project and wanted to let you know about their latest album.”
Sure, I’ve heard of Matty, seen him listed as one of Erin’s collective, trekking with them to Jamaica in 2003 to record with Recoldo Fleming at Dynamic Sounds. Further research shows he’s drummed in Bad Manners for over ten years, and is now part of Neville Staple’s From the Specials setup, headhunted from days as part of the Special Beat tour with the original rude boy.
Given this, I was naturally expecting said side-project to be reggae, stands to reason. What might’ve eased the surprise was to have pre-known of Matty’s own band The Transpersonals, a minimalistic, psych-rock outfit lounging somewhere between Pink Floyd and Spaceman 3. Still, nothing was going to prep me for what I got; We Wish you Health by Horses of the Gods.
There’s only one reason for facetiously mentioning the eccentric Mr Blobby cassette, because this is unusual too. The likeness ends there, though. “Bizarre” can connote excruciating, as with the cassette, but, as with We Wish you Health, can also imply uniquely stimulating and inimitably disparate. So much so, it’s astonishingly good. For those seeking the peculiar, those at their happiest dancing barefoot in Avebury’s morning dew, or for whom reaching the summit of Glastonbury Tor before sunrise is priority, will adore this, with jester’s bells on.
Matty teams up Mike Ballard, a media and games lecturer with a penchant for folk. And essentially this is what we ought to pigeonhole Horses of the Gods as; Somerset folk, is as near in modern terminology you’re going to get. But for comparisons I’m going to have to max my flux capacitor way beyond my usual backtracking.
If I relish in music history without the technical knowledge, I understand one has to either accept four-time pop, or untrain their ear to acknowledge other musical metres, in order to appreciate folk, classical, even jazz, but particularly the kind of sounds We Wish you Health is embracing. There’s something medieval, least pagan mysticism about the influences here, of shawms and hand-cranked hurdy-gurdies, miracle plays, and Gallican chants of plainsong. And it’s swathed with chants and poetry as if in variant West Country Brittonic tongue.
We have to trek beyond futurist Francesco Balilla Pratella’s Art of Noises theory, to an olden ambience of nature, of birdsong, storms and waterfalls. The opening track starts as a spoken-word toast and ends akin to medieval court jester entertainment, over a haunting chant. Equally passe but equally amicable is a sea shanty called Down in the Bay. Then a clocktower chime follows; left wondering if this was Dark Side of the Moon recorded in 1648. Sow In uses mellowed hurdy-gurdy to mimic what the untrained ear might deem an Eastern ambience. With a solstice theme, it’s so earthy it makes the Afro-Celt Sound System sound like Ace of Base! (Joke; I love the Afro-Celt Sound System!)
In many ways the next tune Ostara follows suit, more eastern promise yet slightly more upbeat. Consider George Harrison’s collaborations with Ravi Shanker. As the album continues, experimentation with traditional abound, obscure instruments are thrown into the melting pot; the Victorian circus sound of The Thing and I, the rural west country ditty of Digger’s Songs, in which you can almost smell spilt scrumpy as folk rise from haystacks to jig.
Throughout you’re chopping randomly at influences, this medieval court running theme, blended with an oompah band styled sound on The Whole World Goes Around, will make you want bells on your shins like a drunken Morris dancer at the village fete. Else you’re haunted by the chill of evocative soundscapes, unable to pinpoint an era this falls into. I’ll tell you now, it was aptly released at Samhain last year.
We Wish you Healthmay be bespoke, and some wouldn’t give themselves adjustment time, yet Sgt Pepper and PetSounds were famed for pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in contemporary pop. This is a fissure to the norm, a testimony of yore, for while there’s a demonstration of newfound passion within ancient realms, it is fundamentally timeless. Though I suspect there’s myth and history behind each track, which extends the album from a set of songs to a research project for the listener.
The finale, for example, has a reference in Wikipedia; John Barleycorn, a personification of the importance of sowing barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky. Though in the House of Gods, cider gets a mention. John Barleycorn is represented as suffering indignities, attacks and death that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation. It goes onto reprint a Robert Burns version from 1782, though stating countless variations exist; Matty and Mike use an earlier version:
There was three men come out o’ the west their fortunes for to try, And these three men made a solemn vow, John Barleycorn must die, They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in, throwed clods upon his head, Til these three men were satisfied John Barleycorn was dead.
I’ve rushed out this review to make you aware of it, and because I’m so utterly astounded by its uniqueness, but fear I’m only teetering on the edge of its fascinating historical references myself. Thus, is the general nature of folk music, to dig out lost fables which once would’ve entertained young and old, and bring them to new audiences, and The Horses of the Gods does this in such a way, the negative confines and stereotypes commonly associated with folk music just melt away.
Must have been about fifteen or so years ago, random folk in a pub told me they were off to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was surprised to hear it was still going, and had it in my head its writer, Richard O’Brien had passed away. I pointed this out, and they refuted the fact. Someone pulled a mobile phone out their pocket and, in a flash, proved me wrong. With a virtual reference library at one’s fingertips the lively debate which would’ve, in previous times, circulated around the boozer, was kaput, the potential conversation starter settled, and the pub fell silent.
In the interest of truth, provided it’s a trustworthy source, fact checking is no bad thing. Obviously, I wished no malice on Mr O’Brien, just an incorrect piece of trivia I’d picked up. But it was the first time it occurred to me, sadly, as well as the art of spreading urban myths, we live in an era where any mystery is immediately solved. I mean, loads of money was wasted hoping to find the Loch Ness Monster, but if an Android app actually proves it either way, the myth is ruined. Bristol-based Nigel G Lowndes nails this unfortunate reality in the title track of new album, Hello Mystery.
But whoa, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Mystery is the eighth track of this varied ten track show, released tomorrow (26th March 21.) To commence at the beginning, the direct boomer, Boring screams Talking Heads at me, and I’m left thinking this is going to be an easy ride, one comparison to art-pop and I’m done. But, oh no, far from it. And it’s all because Nigel is a one-man variety show. To conclude there’s elements of tongue-in-cheek loungeroom and easy listening, akin to Richard Cheese or The Mike Flowers Pops, although there largely is, is not to have listened till end, where the finale Always Leaving London, is an acute folk-rock acoustic masterwork.
Track-by-track then is the best method to sum up this highly entertaining album. As I’ve mentioned you’ll start by contemplating he’s a 21st century Talking Heads without the punk edge of the era. But the second song, Tell me Tomorrow would confirm this if it wasn’t so much more vaudeville than the risky titled Boring, (as all of it is far from boring) but it’s becoming clear not to take Nigel too seriously.
When a relationship breakdown, caused by the partner’s affection for some critter-like pets he buys for her is the subject matter for the third, bluegrass parodied song, Furry Little Vampires, it’s become laugh-out-loud funny. Country and doo-wop merge afterwards, but the fifth track, Bubble, has a Casio keyboard samba rhythm with a floating romance theme. What are you doing to me, Nigel?!
As randomly foodie based as Streetband’s Toast, we’re back to uplifting art-pop with the very British notion a cup of tea will sort all your problems out, even psychosis. But random as this is, White Roses, which follows, is a more sombre nod to Nigel’s appreciation of country. Stand alone, it’s a gorgeous ballad; Nigel recognises the need to know the rules in order to break them. As he does by the very next song; Shoes follows country-rock again, but with a sillier, nonsensical subject.
The album plays out on the country tip, its influence seems to build throughout. The aforementioned obituary to mystery is as wonderful in thoughtful narrative as a country classic, and then we’re treated to Always Leaving London. Despite its skipping variety, nothing on Hello Mystery will, as the beguiling opening track shouts, bore you, that much I can guarantee.
If you’re looking for dopily swaying while holding your elongated black and sapphire dyed fringe under your hoody, as a melancholic indie-rock icon miserably recites his teenage anguish with a whining semitone through his nose, then avoid this. For everyone else, Nigel G Lowndes is very worthy of your attention; a sparkly beacon of showbiz, more surprising than a contemporary David Byrne with a Stetson, and when it comes to diversity, it puts The Mike Flowers Pops back on the shelf in the garden centre. Hello Mystery is as it says on the tin, and for this I give it full marks. Johnny Cash pastiche meets Tonight at the London Palladium; love it!
OMG, and coming from someone who refuses to use OMG on principle, rather than its blasphemous connotations, that old dogs, new tricks, I don’t usually conform to trending words or abbreviations. I just don’t get … Continue reading “Crossed Wires with a Timid Deer”
After fondly reviewing the single Falling from ReTone’s homegrown drum n bass label SubRat last May, the Pewsey-based vocalist featured, Cutsmith, who also runs the label, has his debut single under the name out in … Continue reading “Osorio With Cutsmith”
A new album released yesterday from Swindon’s premier reggae keyboardist and producer Erin Bardwell made me contemplate a section of Henri Charrière’s book Papillon. The autobiographical account of a fellow no prison or penal colony … Continue reading “Erin Bardwell Gets Organised”
Give or take a week, it’s been two years since Devizes Corn Exchange reverberated rock n roll when Liverpool’s entertainer Asa Murphy presented his Buddy Holly tribute show. An amazing fundraising night, in dedication to … Continue reading “Asa is Back in Devizes”
April 1st is All Fools Day, the day after you’d be a fool to miss this. Much I hark on about local folk harmony trio, The Lost Trades, even before they were united as such, but only for good reason. It was always a win-win when the three singer-songwriters officially formed, Phil Cooper, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin all excelled on the local circuit as solo artists and regularly appeared together for gigs.
Together this force to be reckoned with has formed a definite style akin to a corporate identity, and uniformed they move towards a debut album with all new, original songs. Based on their EP, which we fondly reviewed, the album launch is rightfully highly anticipated.
The album’s name has been revealed by the trio, “The Bird, The Book & The Barrel,” and will be released on 4th June. Though the band want to make the most of the Bandcamp Friday before that, where the platform-based music site kindly site waivers their fees, giving the artists full royalties. Therefore, The Lost Trades will be taking pre-orders on 2nd April and 7th May. There will be a live stream, something the Trades have always been on the top of their game with, on 2nd April, to celebrate.
The trio promise the full sound system, concert-style at live stream, scheduled at 7.30pm, will present everything from the album, including brand new, never before heard songs. The live stream will be broadcast from their Bandcamp page, and is ticketed at a very reasonable £2.50, with Bandcamp also waiving their fees on all live stream tickets sold until the end of March.
Best of luck, Tammy, Jamie and Phil; sounds like a virtual cake kind of occasion to me, but then, any occasion sounds like a cake one to me! Get your tickets HERE. Follow the event on Facebook.
Naarm/Melbourne-based singer-songwriter, Maple Glider releasesd a new single today, “Good Thing.”
Her striking emotionality is at the centre of her performance, which opens with her light and velvety voice accompanied by a sparsely strummed guitar. She wastes no time in revealing the state of sadness she’s in, offering such tenderness and introspection that the listener feels as though they’re inside her bedroom as she plays for herself. Eschewing a traditional chorus, the repeated refrain is more a bookend to each verse. The emotional apex hits in verse three, turning the song into a spectral folk powerhouse with the revelation that she’s cutting ties before things turn sour.
Ziestch explains: “I wrote this song out of a place of defeat. I was really heartbroken at this point, and very confused. I like the feeling of my independence and I think I was afraid of putting energy into the wrong people. Sometimes we make decisions out of fear and sometimes it’s because we know that it is the best decision to make. Those lines can get very blurry.”
And that’s my song of the day. Very good, carry on….
Launched today, ‘Square Peg in a Round Hole.’ How’s that for efficiency? I know, I’m not usually this quick off the mark, must be something in the water!
But yeah, but no, though; you’ve got to hear this beauty of blues-folk from Kevin Brown, it’ll take you away with it, and we all need to get away; who’s been living in their Jimmy-jams for months?!
A song inspired by, Kevin explains, “people living on the edges of society, in and around Bath in the mid 80’s… people who don’t quite fit in.”
“We’ve chosen some stunning photographs by Steven A Chandler for the montage – they really capture the mood of the track.” And emotive it is. I’ll use the term emotive rather than ‘moody,’ if you don’t mind, Kevin, as it has a subtle uplifting hint, and it’s simply gorgeous.
Subscribe to the man’s YouTube channel, here. I’ve stressed this before, and reinforcing it by subscribing to as many as I find. It’s crucial for all musical artists that you do, gives them possible revenue, if they get to a certain amount of subscribers, but they do a LOT of them to get there. Whereas, a “YouTuber” podcasting a hoard of bling and clothes, or playing Minecraft while chatting nonsense, can elevate to stardom in a matter of milliseconds. Such is the way of modern life.
Anyhoo, that’s my song for the day, very good, carry on…
I know, I accept your question, and let me just say, I think it’s a very good question, one which I fully intend to answer in the fullness of time, but first, let me just say this, and this alone, and let us be totally sure that this is the correct time to, indeed, as you ask, for me to answer that question, one which I think is a very good question, as I may or may not have said and I really feel it is a question which needs answering….and so on, and so forth….
Think I’ve got what it takes for national politics?! I can waffle shit for Queen and country, and yes, I promised a Song of the Day feature everyday, and I haven’t delivered on that promise for a few days now, and any excuse I could provide wouldn’t be fully truthful. That’s why I believe I’ve got what it takes, my capacity to lie is acute, and my moral responsibility is pretty much shot, besides I couldn’t possibly mess it up further than it already is anyway, so yeah; I might stand.
The fact you’re probably all watching real politicians waffling about the easing stages of lockdown, is neither here nor there. I’m going to slip our song of the day in now, when you least expect me to.
And it’s wonderful, earthy folk outfit Strange Folk, with a track called Glitter. You may recall them playing the Vinyl Realm Stage at Devizes Street Festival, you may not. But enjoy, it’s gorgeously fantastical, the kind of escapism we need right now.
Back to reality, why they gotta keep calling it a “roadmap,” for crying out loud? Boris navigating for real and you’d end up driving headlong into a lake.
Strange Folk they might be, but not as strange as those leading us, I might add. The announcement will be on all night, while the Daily Mirror managed to sum it all up, hours prior to the conference, in one neat graphic.
And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..
In probably the oddest way, I’ve discovered Manchester folk-punker Chloe Glover, during a rather slow news week, in which I opted to watch Star Trek rather than write. So, I’ve got stuff to review building, just, you know, a Netflix, sofa-lounging savoury snack calling. Meanwhile on the other side of the country, Chloe joined the nation’s joggers and tweeted a finish-line “I feel fantastic,” photo which reminded me of the “no makeup selfie” passing trend, being she added, “even with no makeup and covered in sweat and rain…”
See, a thing I don’t get intrigues me. Chloe affirms insecurities, and states her love of running, despite “looking objectively quite gross,” when she clearly doesn’t, and mutual friend, Kieran from Sheer Music concurred she doesn’t in a comment. That’s the link, how I discovered her. Knowing Mr Moore, I clicked on Chloe’s account, a fair assumption she’s a musician. Such is da powers of da inter-web, before you could say Joan Jett, I’m rocking to this debut EP “Dark Matter,” released just under a year gone.
While the opening track, Fool, is edgy, despondent themed folk-rock, and immediately obvious Chole has commanding and emotive vocals, it’s only dipping a little toe in the EP’s range. Only four tracks long, things escalate quickly. Get Back Up follows, and it’s time to rearward past the cliché and sappy direction P!nk commercialised riot grrrl and contemplate the impact of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, or possibly, Skunk Anansie. Here’s a beguiling potential punk-pop anthem, with balls, big balls, and sweary words to boot.
Three tunes and it’s dumped you in the kick-ass mood, courteously. Hurricane is really showing a vocal range, it’s decidedly indie taking on punk-pop, and it rocks. By the finale, Silver Linings, I’ve gone way beyond my previous nineties’ comparisons, because essentially, we’re in proper punk country, and I’m thinking Suzi Quatro, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts; this level of definitive punk.
Life after The Slits, and the hackneyed chauvinism backlashed against them, there was a celebrative sense about feminist punk, just prior to Spice Girl’s “Girl Power.” An epoch grasped beyond the fanzine culture, of Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear. But if you tried my recommendation of the Smalltown Tigers recently, and thought wow, that blew up in my face kinda quickly, you should note while Chloe doesn’t muck about, there’s a tenderer, leisurelier build-up to the rage, via folk, but perhaps closer associated with modern day too. This layered accumulation holds one in uncertainty on just how far Chole will take you, so, when she plucks these emotive and sharp frenzies, it’s a nice surprise, abso-fucking-lutely sublime and executed with a celestial meticulousness.
It’s immediately amiable and addictive, projected to an effective live show too, with band or acoustically, which has seen Chloe support Frank Turner. Still, I don’t get the no makeup fear thing, that recent Facebook selfie trend, like a dare. I’m always left scratching my head as to the fuss; they look gorgeous to me. Makeup, yeah, can highlight best features, but it’s not the makeup which is beautiful, is it? Just sitting in on a shelf in Superdrug, a nonentity, no lure there.
I recall you’d never see my Nan, until she’d “put her face on,” as she put it. As a kid I’d imagine her behind her bedroom door as Darth Vader in the scene of the Empire Strikes Back, you know the one, when his helmet eases down? But, for crying out loud, if you choose to see it like this, as your war paint, your confidence is shot, and you’re overthinking it. Slap or no slap, doesn’t make hide nor hair. Fuck what L’Oréal want to convince you of, and what Estée Lauder say you need; you are girls, women, the female human form, and that makes you beautiful, as standard, all of you. It really is that simple, and bollocks to anyone who says otherwise.
For Chole, the power, essence and obvious devotion to her music garnishes this unique EP. Dejected themes conclude to optimistic premise, and to nail a concept, an inclusive narrative within four songs is sheer talent. If the punk element to it is a like a girl, full of makeup, or the stripped-back folk is the girl without, neither matter, it’s all beautifully crafted, kick-ass music.
Music technology bears a burden on the acoustic singer-songwriter, hopefully awaiting a practical gap in the market to sneak into the mainstream. Locked in the adolescent tantrum of the drum machine, pop charts of the late eighties were awash with electronica, hip hop, and the dawn of house, either this, or jean commercials revitalised sixties soul classics. Then, along came a short dreadlocked female singer, clasping her guitar.
Had Tracey Chapman arrived a decade earlier when Joan Armatrading was prevalent, the impact might not have had the same clout. As it was her appearance was exhilarating, a breath of fresh air, but seems sometimes acoustic artists are to pop charts as Christopher Lambert is to Highlander, there can be only one.
In 1998 David Gray’s self-released studio album, White Ladder looked as if it would be no more successful than his previous three. While renowned on the folk scene, Gray didn’t break the mainstream until its ATO re-issue in 2000. Perhaps we could speculate the charts of 98 was held hostage by Britpop, else the reign of rave was at its apex. People looked for something fresh for the millennium, and Gray’s folktronica found that gap.
Folktronica is a strapline, rather than subgenre. A causal grouping for fusing string instruments into electronic music, born at a time of public acceptance in hip hop. It was courageous, but a natural progression, and Gray was atop of the game, appearing in David Kane’s rom-com This Year’s Love, which he based a song around its title.
Like an Andy Warhol prediction, the sequel to White Ladder, A New Day at Midnight, failed to obtain the same critical acclaim, despite charting at the top, and whipping Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates’s debut album, which is enough for me! Exhaustion in the spotlight saw David Gray rest, and gradually fall into cult status, returning to the folk circuit.
At the millennium I was neither here nor there about David Gray. Yeah, I liked his charted songs, but entangled in denying rave had perished I sought heavier trip hop, or else a model folk formula; the two were strictly separate entities. It wasn’t until a near decade ago, reviewing a self-published book which suggested White Ladder was a revelation of pious significance, that I gave second thought to David Gray, and just how good the album was. Mind you, the flimsy autobiographical plot continued onto how, under hypnosis, the author turned out to be an incarnation of Cleopatra, so it all had to be taken with a pinch!
This is the culprit, the reason I’ve been knocked for six by his new album, Skellig, released tomorrow (19th Feb 2021.) Naturally I expected it to be pretty awesome, but hadn’t fathomed how awesome. Astounded, on continuous play and taking me on a journey for the best part of this week, I confirm its ambient, acoustic gorgeousness.
If last year’s twentieth anniversary of White Ladder saw a deluxe edition launched, but a subsequent tour cancelled due to the pandemic, Skellig counteracts; it is simply perfection for isolation, though written prior. The elements of folktronica are even more subtle than previously, with just a hint they set the scene, welcoming a sparser, shared soundscape with the atmospheric songs focussing around six-part vocals with Gray trading his signature gravel for a softer tone; mega-bliss. Though, a sense of shingle develops vocally as the album reaches a conclusion, not at Dylan level, but adjacent.
Skellig takes its name from a formation of precipitous rocky islands off the coast of Co. Kerry, the most westerly point in Ireland. Ravaged by the Atlantic, the seemingly un-inhabitable location of Skellig Michael became an unlikely site of pilgrimage in 600AD for a group of monks, who believed leading such a merciful existence, they would leave the distraction of the human realm to be ultimately closer to God.
Gray asks for no literal translation of the above, nor prescribes any religious allegiance; the story, told to him by a friend, has haunted his imagination ever since: “The more I contemplated the idea of a small group of people landing on those rocks and establishing a monastic life there, the more overpowered I became by a dizzying sense of awe. How close to God could you possibly wish to get? Life must have been unbelievably hard for them and trying to fathom the deep spiritual conviction that compelled them to escape the mediaeval world led me to acknowledge my own deepest longings to be free of all the endless human noise that we now so readily accept as being such an inescapable part of our day to day lives. Dreams of revelation, dreams of a cleansing purity, dreams of escape. Ideas that I think almost any 21st century person shouldn’t find it too hard to relate to!”
A notion which saw Gray gather his team and venture to the Scottish Highlands to live out the creation of the record. In the significant of this backstory, Skellig paints a picture with sound akin to Gogh’s Starry Starry Night. You can sense the sea crashing into the rocks of a barren Irish landmass, hear the haunting echo through the draughty halls of a desolate monastery, through multi-layered vocals, delicate Celtic guitar picks and morose piano solos.
Written astutely and with maturity in comparison to White Ladder, subjects twist dejection into uplifting awe. Carried by a singular baritone guitar, the opening title track bobs on an ocean like a chantey, familiarising you with how it’s going to go down. From there on it free-flows thirteen tracks of blissful enchantment. While listening I noted the songs seemed short, but in checking most weigh over the four-minute mark, proof how engrossing Skellig is. Lost in its splendour it comes to a masterful finale with the graceful, All That We Asked For And More; which sums up the album perfectly. A ten from me!
Congratulations go to folk duo Antonie & Owena for winning the G.S.M.C award for Best Album this year. Yet it’s not their first award, winning best duo at last year’s GSMC, and others. Here’s Something Out of Nothing, which I think explains all you need to know about how and why they won it!
And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….
Sunday off, broke my promise to post a song of the day, everyday. Allow me to make up for it. Bristol’s Mr Tea & the Minions with a lockdown themed song. See how sublimely they fire a frenzy of folk and Balkan styled ska-punk into festival proportions. I think they’re the hottest bands around these parts, and fondly reviewed the album, Mutiny a while ago. Just a reminder today then, these kids have it.
I made enquiries, wanting to bring them to Devizes. It’s no cheap option and obviously currently off the cards.
The reservation is that just because I’m loving this style, it might too radical for a Devizes audience. So, I’d appreciate some feedback; would you have paid a purple one to see them play in our town?
Fingers crossed, we live for a better day. But I believe lobbying a large Devizes venue to bring contemporary music direct to us, just occasionally, is crucial to the culture diversity we should be delving into.
Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….
The last thing Robert Hardie wants is to be portrayed as villainous, or condoning mass trespass, though he accepts some might interpret breaking over the fence at Stonehenge as such. Chatting to this veteran on the phone this morning, he described the exhilaration and sensation of wellbeing, wandering between Wiltshire’s legendary stone pillars, but expressed he doesn’t wish to encourage others to follow his example, only to raise awareness of his crusade.
Frustration with English Heritage was the prime motive for taking the leap, displayed in his video doing the rounds on social media. But one half of Salisbury folk-rock indie duo, Duck n Cuvver has been fundraising for over three years to be able to shoot the final part of a music video inside the stone circle. “Initially,” he said, “English Heritage said it would cost £750, then they suddenly upped it to £4,500.” I asked Rob if they gave an explanation, a breakdown of what the costs involved to them would be. He replied they hadn’t.
My musing wandered over the occasion two years ago when local reggae band, Brother from Another pulled a publicity stunt recording themselves atop Silbury Hill, to wide criticism, but how The Lost Trades recently played around Avebury stone circle without trouble. Rob and Ian cannot call a compromise though, being the subject of the song, Henge of Stone, is as it says on the tin. As he explained to the Salisbury Journal back in 2019, “This video will make history – singing about Stonehenge in Stonehenge.”
Clearly enthusiastic about covering our ancient local landmarks as song themes, Rob told me he’d written about Avebury too, and how he played them to the solstice crowd there. This part of our conversation ended with him reciting a few verses in song, and expressing the feeling of joy as the crowds sang them back to him.
While he didn’t rule out this was a publicity stunt too, we discussed the necessities of the project. Rather than being a colossal movie production, with the atypical entourage, trailers and crew, all that’s needed is his partner in crime, Ian Lawes, and possibly the accompanying musicians, Chris Lawes, Jamez Williams, Louis Sellers and Paul Loveridge, a cameraman and a few instruments. The mechanics of shooting the footage would be simple, it’s unplugged, being there’s no electricity on site, and Rob explained how mats would be provided to protect the grass. Besides, if EH’s concerns were for the welfare of the site they’d simply say no, surely, not put a price on it.
There’s therefore no justice, in my mind, really, on the exceptionally high price tag. Only to assume English Heritage is out to profit. Contemplating on recent outcries concerning activities around Stonehenge; the solstice parking debacle, closing for winter solstice and of course the tunnel, which we mutually dismissed as ludicrous on the grounds excavating there would obviously turn up some ancient findings and archaeological digs, and protection rights would whack the project way over budget, it feels the quango run agency is not the best method to protect our heritage sites, if the conservative ethos is revenue driven rather than insuring it’s splendour is for all to enjoy and savour. As Rob points out in the film, “Stonehenge belongs to fucking us!”
Ah, story checks out; even English Heritage states similar on their website, if not quite so sweary! “The monument remained in private ownership until 1918 when Cecil Chubb, a local man who had purchased Stonehenge from the Atrobus family at an auction three years previously, gave it to the nation. Thereafter, the duty to conserve the monument fell to the state, today a role performed on its behalf by English Heritage.” It’s basically one extortionate babysitter, calling the shots.
I enjoyed chatting with Rob, even if my plan to record the dialogue backfired due to my poor tech skills! I apologise to him for this improv article.
I’m surprised to not have previously heard of Duck n Cuvver, we tend to get vague coverage of the Salisbury area; something I need to work on. We did rap about our mutual friend, the pianist prodigy, young Will Foulstone, among other things.
The duo are sound as a pound, though, real quality folk rock come indie sound, the song is cracking, proper job. Which is why they’ve supported the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs and The Feeling, and recently performed at the National Armed Forces Day. Ardent about his music, this veteran explained his service inspired the band name, and continued to express his passion for this particular song, something which has been evolving over five years, and it shows. He described it as a “celebration of life,” dedicated to a friend who passed away, from cancer.
Both members of the duo are good, charitable folk, and if Rob did climb the fence at Stonehenge recently, note he lives within the restricted range of it to constitute it being his daily exercise. From our phone call alone, I could tell they’re not the sort to abuse the trust, if it was given to them, to perform at Stonehenge, that’d be a magical moment, and, well, we could do with a magical moment right now. So, if you can help fund their campaign, you’ll find a link to do so here.
I’ll pop the song which is kicking up all the fuss below, and leave with a thanks for the natter, Rob, and I wish you all the best with the crusade; Stonehenge or bust!
Catching up with more stuff on a quiet(ish) Sunday, this got pushed towards the bottom, I’ve no valid excuses. Taking you back to April 2017, Brighton’s misfit leftist comic poet-acoustic performer performed at Trowbridge’s Town Hall for Sheer Music. It would be a gig on his last ever tour. After twenty years Chris announced he was giving up his music career, and finalised it with an autumn farewell concert in London.
Since 2014 the registered charity MVT, was setup to protect the UK live music network by focussing its support on grassroots venues, but since lockdown it’s understandably become essential. Grassroots venues play a crucial role, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. We need them back; we need them open. Hearing this album helps you to understand why, makes you remember what you’re missing.
It’s easy to hear the influence of upcoming artists like Gecko, as Chris weaves unrelated subjects like an observational stand-up comedian, and also, with the same comical timing. His guitar picking is quality and together it makes for a highly entertaining show. Stabs at the establishment come thick and fast, songs randomly seriatim through motorways, anti-hunt rants, gorilla gardening, his own self-worth and musical talent, even a jab at Trowbridge’s political demographic in Love me, I’m Liberal. There’s a beautifully played out winter portrayal, Tunguska, and more intelligently drafted thoughts to boot.
This is folk upfront, with woven narrative and amusing rudiments, chronicles the now, and highlights the passion of the simplest gig, man with thoughts and guitar.
On the night he was supported by Phil Cooper, and Kyle D Evans, the show recorded by Bromham’s Owl’s soundman Gareth Nicholas. Makes me wish I was bobbing about on the scene at the time, but Devizine was a year behind in the making. Still, albums got a picture of Trowbridge on it, any monies you can give helps a charity, but most of all, this is just the enjoyable and proficient performance we’ve come to expect from Sheer.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in music reviews for me this year was Typhoidmary’s Death Trans back in October. Genre-wise, everything about it suggested it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea, but realigning myself, I delved deeper into its emotive and distressing ambiance, and found fondness in its exquisitely dark portrayals, as it progressed thrash metal, gave it a newfound edge of sentiment.
It was released by Gloucester-based unprejudiced universal rock, metal, punk and folk label ScreamLite Records. And now they’ve sent us news of a colossal compilation album which will drop on their Bandcamp page as soon as Big Ben hits midnight on New Year’s Eve, likely making it the first new release of 2021. Better say a few words about it now, then. Constructing words into comprehendible sentences is tricky enough for me at the best of times, let alone New Year’s Eve.
While it’s going to be one long runaway review to critique it track by track, being it’s a mahoosive 65 tracks strong, it’s worth mentioning some key facts about New Hero Sounds. Most importantly this album will be a varied range of the genres and styles on offer at Scream Lite, and their friends, being as it’s 50% made up of artists signed to the label, and the other half independently contributed from upcoming artists under parallel genres. Thus, making it the perfect sampler to open you up to the world of contemporary punk, nu-metal and folk-punk. Though, there’s much more on offer here and certainly too much to pigeonhole.
PLUS, as well as introducing you to a truckload of upcoming talent, there’s a worthy cause it fundraises for. ScreamLite Records’ Director Chris Bowen said, “we’ve all had a tough year, and we decided we should give something back to the frontline NHS staff that have been tirelessly working this year to keep us safe and well.” New Hero Sounds is a charity album in aid of the NHS Charities Together, and all artists have contributed freely.
Broadminded with one eye focused on variability is what you’re going to need to take this one on, even my eclectic self was bowed by the assortment on offer here. MadaMercy gets as trip hoppy as Morcheeba, yet is a rare genre on offer. In addition to an aforementioned Typhoidmary track, ScreamLite’s roster offers nu-metal and punk, such as Stolen Dead Music, or Burning Memories, which can be in your face at times, but at others smoother, like the Clay Gods and Foxpalmer, both of which I enjoyed. Taking the rough with the smooth there’s something for everyone with a taste for indie; which is nice.
Giving credit to upfront festival boom of Venture, the flamenco folk style of Cut Throat Francis, acoustic rockabilly of Joshua Kinghorn, and the delicate angelic vocals of Forgotten Garden. There’s eighties electronica indie with Conal Kelly, post-punk with Jack Lois Cooper, and Gypsy Pistoleros are described as “flameco sleaze glam” revealing multi-genre in just one tune. But, there’s too much to sum this compilation up easily; a Now That’s What I Call Music for misfits, but for a good cause too.
Here’s the track listing with links, then, so you can make up your own mind and follow the ones you like…..once you’ve sampled them from this crazy and full compilation, which is coming on New Year’s Even, here, remember?!
Make no mistake, we love Swindon folk-rock duo Sound Affects here at Devizine. Ergo I’m prepped with some fond words and in high expectations prior to listening to their new album out today (13th Dec) Ley Lines. It’s been over two years since reviewing Everyday Escapism, their previous nugget of wonderful. And if I praised them for the honest folk songs then, Ley Lines is an immense enhancement for acute subject matter, and is lyrically grafted with more passionate prose. The result is sublime, as I anticipated, but that smidgen more.
From the off Gouldy and Cath compose with significance, and these eleven tunes don’t simply drift over you aimlessly with acoustic goodness, though they have that. They stand as testaments to the tenet of injustices of modern social and political issues. Upon faced with the political reformist opening song, One Man Army, you know there’s an aim to reinforce the lost ethos of political standing in a song, as is the direct influences they often cover as their band, The Daybreakers; of power-pop, new wave post-punk, eighties garage and mod. Though as a duo, Sound Affects are strictly folk-rock, only maintaining the ethos of their inspirations in lyrics.
The second tune projects like a musical of an Alan Bleasdale play, there’s certain bitterness in the broken dreams and prewritten fate of folk in the decay of modern poverty, and Gouldy nails it akin to Ken Loach, with No Means to Pay. What follows is a Kafkaesque, revolutionary dream, but if you felt this is all liberal point-scoring, King for a Day has more acquitted associations similar to the drifting and euphoric sounds of Everyday Escapism.
Windmills drifts similarly, gorgeously, and is naturally Edenic. While shards of the aforementioned bitterness are subtle now, replaced with an idyllic moment, you consider if they’re losing the edginess of the opening tunes. Then Cath’s flute takes us back to a tender era with Giving Something Back, and Gouldy sings, perhaps the most simplistic chorus, but genius song here, it opens a clear nod to his love for the narrative of Irish folk; it’s a working-class ideology, and you can effectively visualise the labours leaving for home on a dark winter’s eve, with the backdrop of a cold red-bricked factory. There’s something acutely Levellers, but a sprinkling of Springsteen’s Nebraska about it.
Typically, romance with a twist is a not forgotten subject, but played well, in Say it to my Face, and it returns with ponderings of conspiracy and dogmatic hierarchy. Unanswered Questions has overtones of a missing girl, without mentioning the McCann family, there’s connotations of a similar tragedy, and it’s heartbreakingly candid. Yet throughout any dejection in theme, Sound Affects always ascertain a joyful euphoria through the sublimeness and effortlessness of their sound; acoustic guitar and flute, fiddle; tried and tested formula to hold a pub gig spellbound, as they recurrently do.
Together what you have is a numinously uplifting, wandering and softened euphoric album which drifts on rancorous and sometimes acrimonious subjects many modern musicians might steer away from. It’s folk alright, but with a bygone bite and righteous morals. More importantly, it’s so damn good, it’s essential.
If growing up in Witham meant Braintree appeared to be Shelbyville to our Springfield, I should go no further. The Prodigy are undoubtedly Essex’s finest musical export in the last three decades, next to Colchester’s Blur, and what did Witham give us? Olly Murs, that’s who.
Though if Jay McAllister’s hometown evokes my own childhood memories, his forthcoming album, Knee Deep in Nostalgia will for all. It’s released, as all his annual studios albums are, on his birthday, the 1st December. Yet whereas Braintree’s Prodigy were sovereigns of progression, there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about Jay, from the same Essex community, who’s tongue-in-cheek stage name, Beans on Toast suggests. But it makes up for it in highly entertaining folk songs which doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
As with Frank Turner, who incidentally guested on and produced previous Beans on Toast albums, I jumped on the chance to review this on the endorsement from Sheer Music’s Kieran Moore, and just as before, perhaps more so, he didn’t let me down. For as a folk singer-songwriter I’d evaluate Beans on Toast isn’t Tammy Wynette, or Willie Nelson, of whom he takes a nod to in a song on this album, but he is the best thing at least since the sliced bread in his namesake. He is Beans on Toast, indefinitely, and I love beans on toast. you can add cheese, you can add little sausages, but as it remains, none matter, simplicity is key; just beans, on two slices of toast, it works.
Aptly, just as the dish, his style is simple but effective and immediately likable. He drafts songs from the heart, served with a side-order of cheeky Essex humour, the reason why he’s played every Glasto since his first, and Boomtown, recorded with and shared the stage with many legends, recorded in Kansas with Truckstop Honeymoon, opened for Kate Nash and Flogging Molly, and aforementioned Turner on his sell-out Wembley show. Why haven’t I cottoned on about his brilliance before? It’s an age thing; old dog, new tricks. But that, in a nutshell, is the theme for this album, as the name suggests, but not without both sentimental and humorous prose.
For this whippersnapper contemplates his looming fortieth, which, if I get the honour of you reading this, Jay, I’ll confirm it gets no better. And with it reminisces his past. One concerning the thrills and pitfalls of gigging in Camden, but most poignant are those which go back to childhood; being frightened on Halloween, inspirational teachers, family discos at a village hall, and one which ingeniously sums up the whole shebang of daydreaming about the past.
Knee Deep in Nostalgia isn’t going to wow you with technological advances in sound, it isn’t going to whisk you to a fantasy world. I’d even say there’s sometimes cliché with the subject matter, but when done it’s done uniquely, insightfully reflective. There’s ingeniously uncensored meagre material here, offering a range aside the general theme of nostalgia, particularly the upbeat and carefree Coincidence, which rings almost on a level of Madness for fairground joy.
The gem is precisely in its simplicity, Beans on Toast reflects and rebounds onto the listener, acknowledging their own life in his words. You may have known a crazy Australian dude, as depicted here, you may giggle at your own fondness for Finder’s Crispy Pancakes, or when the streetlights coming on was a signal to go home, and the other everyday juvenile cultural references. And for this, and more, I bloody love this album.
There is a particular nugget which knocked me head-over-heels, and it’s when Beans on Toast get sentimental. Reminiscing often spawns from watching your own children, and interacting with their joy and innocence at discovering the world again. Tricky to pinpoint why having kids is overwhelmingly fantastic, being they poo on your hand, launch their dinner in your face, cost you a king’s ransom, belittle you and grow to ignore your every word, but with a simple leitmotif Beans on Toast nails it. Again, even when semimetal, nothing is psychologically challenging, it’s just the premise of The Album of the Day, which touches the heartstrings; sharing a moment with his daughter, as with alongside other memorable doings, he temps her musical taste with choices from his record collection. It sounds sickly, but I promise you, as I did earlier, this guy can pull it off with bells on.
That said, kids grow, and the fragile years, when they’d take heed and listen to Bob Marley, Dire Straits, Paul Simon, or whoever inspired you, are too short. They’ll find their own way, and you have to allow them to, as your house turns into a bass funnel and you metamorphize into your own misunderstanding parents; it’s unavoidable no matter how you might think when they were inspired by your likes, and in this, is the brilliance of the song.
I mean my offspring, they don’t even like beans on toast, right, which I think is abnormal; all kids like beans, it should be enforced! Such should this album. And it comes with an accompanying album, The Unforeseeable Future, which I could only speculate about, as the title suggests, as they didn’t send that. On the basis of this one though, I’m musically smitten.
One portion my nostalgia rarely serves, and that’s my once veneration for spacey sounds, apexed through the ambient house movement in the nineties, but not comprehensively; we always had Sgt Pepper, Pink Floyd and Hendrix’s intro to Electric Ladyland. I’ve long detached myself from adolescent experimentation of non-licit medications, lying lone in a dark bedroom chillaxing to mood music, and moved onto a full house of commotional kids; progress they call it.
Incredibly prolific, Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman might yet stir the memories, if these headphones drown out the sound of a nearby X-Box tournament. Best known for his pre-symphonic rock band Karda Estra, there is nothing vertical or frenetic about his musical approach. Idols of the Flesh is his latest offering from a discography of sixteen albums. Yet far from my preconceptions of layers of decelerated techno, as was The Orb or KLF, or psychedelic space-rock moments of my elders, which our own Cracked Machine continue the splendour of, Richard’s sounds with Karda Estra bases more orchestrally, neo-classical, as if the opening of a thriller movie. Though, so intense is this sound you need no images to provoke you.
Idols of the Flesh is dark and deeply surreal, with swirls of cosmic and gothic hauntings which drifts the listener on a voyage of bliss. Nirvana is tricky to pinpoint in my household, but with my ears suctioned to my headphones I jumped out of my skin upon a tap on the shoulder, daughter offering me some sweets! Momentarily snapped back in the room as if I’d surfaced from a hypnotist’s invocation, but aching to fall backwards into it once again.
Agreeably, this is not headbanging driving music, neither does it build like Leftfield for those anticipating beats to start rolling after a ten-minute intro, it simply drifts as a soundscape, perhaps coming to its apex at the eloquently medieval church organed Church of Flesh, one of two named tunes out of the six on offer, the others given part numbers. Then, with running water, the final part echoes a distant chant of female vocals as if a wind blowing across a sea for another eleven minutes, it’s stirring, incredibly emotive and perfected.
Along a similar, blissful ethos Richard Wileman served up Arcana in September this year, a third album this time under his own name. While maintaining a certain ambiance, it’s more conventional than his Karda Estra, more attributed to the standard model of popular music. It’s an eerie and spectral resonance, though, with occasional vocals which meander on divine folk and prog-rock; contemporary hippy vibes, rather than timeworn psychedelia. Released on Kavus Torabi’s Believers Roast label, a sprinkling of Byrds and Mamas & Papas ring through with an unmistakable likeness to a homemade Mike Oldfield. When vocals come into effect, with one guest singer Sienna Wileman, it’s astutely drafted and beguiling.
Select anything from the bulging discographies of Karda Estra or Richard Wileman and you’re onto a mood-setting journey, composed with expertise and passion. If ambient house is lost in a bygone era, this is reforming the balance of atmospheric compositions with modernism, so mesmeric it remains without the need for intoxication. Now, where did I stash my old chillum?! Probably in a dusty box in the loft with my Pete Loveday comics and some Mandelbrot fractal postcards….
In conventional record shops of yore, albeit some survived, you’d find the mainstream alphabetically presented, and it’d be a dare on to yourself to venture to separate genres. They were usually labelled thus; Reggae, Classical, Easy Listening, and World, perhaps Blues too. While some conveniently slip into a standardised genre, others must have had grey areas. But, surely the most diverse was “World,” as if every remaining country in the world except the one you live in, and probs America, sounds the same, and furthermore, you’d be some kind of beatnik pseudoscientist weirdo to even contemplate browsing there.
It’s all so vague, and without the music industry pushing, a minefield of guestimation. I was fairly young when I figured there’s a world of music we’re not exposed to, pop was the tip of an iceberg. I dipped my head under, but it was freezing with typecasts, impossible to know where to search to find something affable.
Today, and thank goodness, the internet is a universal reference library, there are no excuses for not thinking outside your geographical sphere. But with anything foreign to your ears, you need to unlearn your ingrained judgements, and listen with an open mind. Rarely something comes along so exclusive and diverse, but with a familiar element to comfort you.
On November 27th Partisan Records will release, Niger-born Tuareg guitar virtuoso Bombino’s first live album as a solo artist, Live in Amsterdam. I’ve had this unique marvel on play for a while now, and if you’re put off by the presumption any African music never relates to our rock music, this could be the introduction to a world outside said sphere.
The ingenious part of this album, other than the atmospheric quality of a live performance, and Bombino’s sublime proficiently with a guitar, is the rich musical palette. It rings with genres you’re accustomed to, shards of funky soul and reggae, which often come into play in African music, but the man, I swear to you now, is the African Jimi Hendrix, so bluesy rock is prominent.
Tuareggae is his self-penned, totally unique genre to define it. The “Tuar” part derives from his own people, the Tuareg people, a Berber ethnic confederation of nomadic pastoralists, which populate the Sahara in a vast area stretching from far southwestern Libya to southern Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. So, what we have here is principally a fusion of these accepted European and American genres with this brand of North African folk.
Just as a bhangra-pop hybrid now appeases western ears, Bombino has something which will placate any preconditioned aversion of African musical styles. In fact, the untrained ear might liken it something Eastern, or middle eastern at least, as it is spoken in Bombino’s native tongue. Note though, his on-the-record fans includes Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder, and Robert Plant, and if it’s good enough for them……
This album will not only challenge your presumptions, it’ll do so while drifting you on gorgeous a journey of musical greatness akin to any known bluesman. Bombino knows precisely what buttons to press to evoke a mood, it can drift down a river at times, it can explode into up-tempo funk, but its ambience is awe-inspiring throughout.
Recorded in November of 2019, while Bombino and his band were touring behind his acclaimed latest studio album Deran. Live In Amsterdam is dedicated to the loving memory of long time Bombino rhythm guitarist and vocalist Illias Mohamed Alhassane, who sadly and suddenly passed away in September. The recording, then, features Illias in his final performance with his ‘brothers’ in Bombino’s band. Yet, you need no background, not really, if you’re looking for something different, but with shards of something familiar, if you like either blues, reggae, rock or funk, or if you want to be taken on a musical journey beyond your usual perimeters, Bombinois your newfound gem. You don’t have to thank me, but you will; I’m here all week.
My Darling Clementine’s new album Country Darkness vividly reimagines twelve hidden gems from the Elvis Costello repertoire, in the duet’s definitive, dark country-soul fashion with original Attractions keyboardist, Steve Nieve.
As a ska DJ you’d be forgiven for assuming the Two-Tone 7” rarity, I Can’t Stand up from Falling Down, would be my introduction Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Rather embarrassingly, the one-shot liable recording which was given away at his gigs was not, rather the one true comedic genius of Hi-Di-Hi was. Sue Pollard stood flustered but ever-spontaneous with odd shoes behind the stage at Live Aid. Interviewer Mark Ellen asked her if she’d seen Elvis. An expression of shock overcome her, as Ellen expanded with the performers surname. “Oh, I thought you meant Presley, I was gonna say, poor thing, resurrected!”
I found this amusing a kid, as most of her witticisms were. Yet, I didn’t know much about the man in question. Like a DC Thompson artist unable to sign his comic pages, I never knew who did R. White’s Secret Lemonade Drinker Elvis impersonation; Costello’s father, and young Elvis, or then plain ol’ Declan, as backing. Was it this which swayed Stiff Records’ Jake Riviera to suggest he used Elvis as a forename?
However it did come to pass, if his renowned namesake is the king of rock n roll, Costello surpassed him in at least one avenue, diversity. Beginnings as a new wave punk Buddy Holly, Costello stretched beyond pigeonholes and always strived to cross the streams, and country music was a mainstay. Take the derisive warning on his 1981 country covers album Almost Blue; “this album contains country and western music, and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners!”
As new wave as you thought he was, an American country ensemble residing in England, Clover, would attend his backing for the debut album. Members later joined Huey Lewis and the News and the Doobie Brothers. Costello would go onto record many a country cover and use the genre as a blueprint for his own song writing. His obvious love of country is bought to an apex by a new release today, 6th November, from My Darling Clementine, of which Royal College of Music dropout, Steve Nieve joins with familiar husband-wife pairing, Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish to vividly reimagine twelve hidden gems from the Elvis Costello repertoire, in the duet’s definitive, dark country-soul fashion.
But for want of prior knowledge of the songs, note, Steve Nieve dropped out of college in 1977, to join the Attractions as pianist. The man was there when Costello released his first major hit single, “Watching the Detectives.” Why is he called Nieve, pronounced naïve? You’d have to have asked Ian Dury.
While the first single released from Country Darkness, The Crooked Line is taken from the album, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, Costello’s later folksy-era, the adaption is surprisingly electric and upbeat, a tantalising precedent for an album typically leaning more toward country, even if the track being revised is not originally inspired from Costello’s country passion. This intricate then is interesting, while My Clementine has judiciously measured the retrospective repertoire, taken on hidden gems throughout Costello’s career, including tracks from his Imposters and Attractions eras, solo efforts and his collaborations with the likes of Paul McCartney and Emmylou Harris, it doesn’t mean all tracks were selected because of their closeness to country.
While his Heart Shaped Bruise from the Imposters album Delivery Man, for example, is acoustic goodness the country tinge is slight, the Darling Clementine version leans heavier on the genre, is more gothic americana, outlaw folk. Whereas That Day is Done almost rings gospel on the original, there’s something definitively Nashville about this version. In such, you need not be a fan of Elvis Costello to relish the country splendour on offer here, rather a Tammy Wynette devotee.
The album is sublime, without doubt, akin to an artist stripping back to accentuate the attention of song-writing ability, the nimble expertise of narrative which flows through a country legend, like Wynette’s or Parton’s, can be seen, full-colour within Costello’s writing. Yet through the eyes of another, there is even more scope for alternative angles and interpretation.
“Making these recordings took me back to my 19-year-old-self,” Michael Weston King explained, “out buying a copy of ‘Almost Blue’ during my lunch hour. It was Elvis and Steve’s making of that album which set me, and I think many others of my generation, off along a country path to discover more about this form of music previously only viewed with suspicion. For me it became something of a pilgrimage, a vocation, even a ‘career.’ So, this feels like the completing of a musical circle of sorts; to record a selection of some of mine and Lou’s favourite EC country songs with the added thrill of performing them with Steve”.
The award-winning partnership of King and the awe-inspiring vocals of his wife, Lou Dalgleish is prevalent, they’ve scored four albums previously, co- written a stage play/audio book with best-selling crime writer Mark Billingham, played over 800 shows worldwide, and collaborated with a wide variety of major artists including Graham Parker, Kinky Friedman, The Brodsky Quartet, and Jim Lauderdale. Their harmonies reflect the strength of this résumé, making this a win-win for country music fans and Elvis Costello fans alike.
The Country Darkness album compiles all the tracks featured across a set of three EPs, released over the last year, with a bonus track called Powerless, of which I can find no reference to the original. To web-search Elvis Costello Powerless is to find recent articles plugging his latest album, in which he offers “I was trying to make a rock’n’roll sound that wasn’t like anything I’d done before,” and comments how he was “powerless” to prevent his young children viewing the horrors of news broadcasts. Yet they paint the picture of the once new wave, angry performer who rampaged through his youth, sardonically mocking imperialistic politicians, despotic fascists and firing expressive verses at punk fashionistas, as a now suave jazz and country music raconteur. But here with My Darling Clementine, the country side to Costello is bought to a western American mountainy summit.
Going in blind, crucify me if you will, but I’m unfamiliar with Americana maverick Jim White. Additionally, I’m streamlining due to the backlog and giving this one listen prior to reviewing. Yet, even if my analysis isn’t as exhaustive as other fervent bloggers, I’m bloody loving his latest album Misfit’s Jubilee.
It’s precisely what it says on the tin, a discarded rusty old tin in a desert somewhere. An upbeat roll in a haystack of psychedelic Southern Americana, and a festivity of folk-driven geriatric observation. Yet there’s his trademark, apparently; dark trippy twist of narrative in the depths. Jim White muses US politics, divided state ethos, and national stereotypes. Subjects range from a dope smuggling teenager to Big Foot, and he does it with the professionalism of quart-century experience, and self-confessed “hole of sickness, depression and poverty.”
Multiple-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, Jim, works this personal arse-whipping outing with only the tangibly cohesive musicianship of his long-time drummer Marlon Patton, trusted Belgian sidemen Geert Hellings on guitar and banjo, and Nicolas Rombouts on keys. Recorded primarily at Studio Caporal in Antwerp, it features new songs, plus some older-penned ones, only now surfaced. Put out on Loose Records, it’s out now. To me it’s all new, but I’m contemplating Neil Young jamming with the Pixies as its mind-blowing cogitates flow over my psyche like waves of a resilient dustbowl.
Ruminations are somewhat curtain-twitching but contemporary, and it hardly ceases its brainy grip on the necks of proletarian American orthodox devotees, but does so with the fashion of a perpetual parade of agitated and cynical characters, but oh, joyfully, and with a heartfelt sonic agenda.
The sound is toe-tappingly memorable, maintains upbeat jovial generation X indie-folk-rock, yet smells of vintage. If some moody piano rings out, as it does with The Sum of What We’ve Been, a zephyr of buoyant guitar riff repairs it. There were times when I figured it’d mellowed, like Mystery of You, but it was just building the track. And for that, it rocks!
Through ever-thickening material, straggly kitsch metaphors and uncensored outpourings, it’s perhaps the twanging guitars juxtaposed with samples from authentic US police chases which makes my reasoning for citing the tune, Highway of Lost Hats as the peak of Misfit’s Jubilee. There’s rib-tickling Hollywood narrative, adroitly directed at the carefree insolence in defence of US counter culture of yore. Herein is its niche, a bombast of the direction his nation heads, and comparison of what it could be. It is Born in the USA times a billion, it’s Guthrie partnering with Lou Reed, for a new era.
The finale defines this, an earnest and heartfelt speech, reflecting on quotes from George Washington, poet Emma Lazarus and even Jesus, but after the contemplative, it slides into a fading McDonalds order. Such a nimbly placed, sombre scrutiny, is the conclusion of the Divided States of America, as itdumps you in cold silence gasping for air.
I’m going to have to dive deeper into this impressive torrent of melodic genius, as I figure it’ll be some time before I fully unpick it, and its gist is sussed; that’s when you get the notion, it’s value for your hard-earned pennies.
If I’m majorly disappointed by all the planned events and gigs this year done gone cancelled, probably the biggest of all was when I badgered Devizes Arts Festival into booking Limerick’s folk singer-songwriter Emma Langford. It didn’t take much convincing, just a song or two, and if you hear her new album Sowing Acorns, released yesterday, I guarantee your arm will be twisted too.
Sowing Acorns is everything I’d expect and much more. A spellbinding composition of intelligent lyrics reflecting on past, a place or observation, Emma’s mellifluous vocals and enchanting folk melodies. A magnum opus for this award-winning emerging artist who I’ve followed the progress of for many years.
It’s an album which will transport you to an Irish coastal path, a gentle zephyr as you peer out to the ocean. Port Na bPúcaí perhaps the prime example, with its chilling cello merging into the drifting poetic title track. It’s a whisk of untamed Andrea Corr blending Clannad to Mari Boine, yet somehow completely inimitable. Yet there’s astute honesty within these pieces of musical jigsaw, tales of family woe or enriching scrutiny of a lifecycle. There’s enough going on here to pull to pieces and discover alternative angles with each listen, but allowing it to drift over you is recommended, like waves upon said ocean.
But while Sowing Acorns opens acapella and drifts into traditional acoustic folk, it doesn’t rest, rather merges styles, and by the time you get to Ready Oh some nine tracks in, there’s a blithe soul pop feel, teetering do-wop, similarly the Latino marketable feel of Goodbye Hawaii. Towards the end it returns to the thoughtful prose of Emma’s sublime acoustic and feelgood Irish charm, and it ends with an ambient trance remix of the title track by Avro Party. But each and every segment, every journey this album takes you on, darker or uplifting, is expressively awe-inspiring, as if Emma pushed everything she has into this release; the definitive Emma Langford.
It is, in a word, utterly gorgeous, a definite contender for album of my year, and one I’ll be submerged in its mesmerising portrayals for a long time yet.
Joe Edwards has his debut solo album, Keep on Running released this week, here’s my tuppence on it…..
Under the “write what you know,” philosophy, if I’ve been critical in the past regarding local Country-fashioned artists using cultural references alien to their natural environment, i.e. a band from Wotton Bassett crooning about boxcars and wranglers, I have to waive the argument in the case of Keep on Running, the debut solo album by Joe Edwards, of Devizes. Not because Joe is well-travelled to apt locations and it was recorded and produced at Henhouse Studios in Nashville, though he is and it was, or it’s so authentic it’s more authentic than the authentic stuff, but because, in a word, it’s so absolutely gorgeous.
I’m going to be hard-pressed to find a different album of the year, as if this was a new Bob Dylan release the headline would be “Dylan Back on Form.” But it isn’t, and if one can rebuke Dylan as eaten by wealth and the machine he once repelled against, here, with freshness, is Highway 61 really revisited. The characters here can be akin to Dylan’s, questioning romance, bittersweet with humanity’s cruelty. Keep on Running never faulters nor diverts from its mellow method, if the tempo raises it’s only slight, and if it slips a toe under the door of rock, shards of both folk and blues roots are methodically preserved with finesse.
“…if this was a new Bob Dylan release the headline would be “Dylan Back on Form.”
When preacher Casey picks up hitchhiking Tom Joad, recently paroled from the McAlester pen in the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck paints a picture with his words so immaculately precise you’re in that pickup with them, sensing the raw sting of the dustbowl and the smell of the dying cornfields of Oklahoma. With every banjo riff, or twangy guitar, Joe paints a similarly genuine image of the Southern American states.
The writing is sublime, acute blues. Characters are often despondent, impecunious and dejected. Yet this is not Springsteen’s Nebraska, somewhere they’re thrown a curveball and the air of melancholy is introverted, altered to positivity in the face of all things terrible. You may be riding their train of pessimism, yet it’s not discouraging on the ear, rather selfless muse executed with such passion there’s an air uplifting, best compared with Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.”
You sense a running theme; yes, life is shit but I’m dammed if I’m going to let it piss on my chips. A feeling Joe nurtures as the album continues, reaching an apex with a track called “Don’t Let the Bastards Get you Down,” and continuing to the title track. Hereafter you understand the metaphor to “Keep on Running.” If not, the cover is a meek lino-cut akin to labelling of a Jack Daniels bottle, with a road heading off to the mountains, just to make sure.
“Yet this is not Springsteen’s Nebraska, somewhere they’re thrown a curveball and the air of melancholy is introverted, altered to positivity in the face of all things terrible.”
After the title track, there’s a road ballad in true Americana style, the venerable symbolism for changing your life, which is never a negative notion. If the finale then spells the most adroit blues tune, “Mine oh Mine,” the beginnings, “Beth’s Song” and “Cross the Line” herald the better country-inspired ones, but between them, an insolvent blues tune, “Capital Blues,” as a beguiling teaser for what’s to come. In contrast the achingly poignant, “Gambler” is perhaps the most accomplished bluegrass, filled by a tormented soul pouring his heart out for want of an extra six dollars.
It flows so incredibly well, George Harrison well, though, like a concept album of the 1970s it’s a single unit to be heard complete. This doesn’t prove a problem; you’re engaged throughout and wouldn’t dare press pause.
Nothing is tentative about Keep on Running; you get the sense Joe is deliberate in where he wants to take you. Despite remaining faithful to the formulae set by Guthrie and continued by Dylan, Segar and Lynyrd Skynyrd, where nothing is experimental, nothing is cliché either. One listen and you’ve entered a grimy western saloon, biker citizens pause shooting pool to glare, and a cowgirl in daisy dukes and a red chequered shirt tied at the waist welcomes you, piercingly.
“It flows so incredibly well, George Harrison well.”
There is no in-your-face blast of sound, it traipses mellowly, and Joe executes his vocals with a whisper, as though he’s pouring a heartfelt secret to you alone, and for that you’re honoured; you should be. This is sweltering Sunday morning music, preferably slouching in a rocking chair on the veranda of a log cabin, sipping whiskey and rye, plucking a banjo. Though the least I can do right now is watch Oh Brother Where Art Thou!
If you’re looking for a whole week-end of music-based events, with lots of sessions for children too, then you should do yourself a favour and head over to Bradford-On-Avon. It’s a bit out of D-Town I know, but it doesn’t take long to just tootle over to the really splendid Wiltshire Music Centre.
Now in its eighth year, Bradford Roots Music Festival, now extended to three days, is all about two things – showcasing the vast array of musical talent that has any connection with Bradford, and raising (lots of) money for good causes. This year’s beneficiaries will be Dorothy House Hospice, Zone Club (creative club for disabled young adults) and Wiltshire Music Centre. All the artists play for nothing and the event is administered and operated wholly by volunteers. That way all the funds raised go to the good causes.
This year’s event starts next Friday night (17th Jan) with a concert featuring Louie Millar, Crossing The Rockies and Verdisa. This concert is almost sold out, so get your skates on!
Then the main two-day Festival spreads itself across Saturday and Sunday from 11am each day. Saturday’s programme goes through till 10pm, and Sunday’s programme finishes at 4pm. There are four stages in operation, including the superb main WMC auditorium. Over the two days there are more than fifty different acts scheduled to play, including music concerts, shanty sessions, children’s concerts, jazz, blues, poetry, morris dancing and much more.
Particular acts to look out for are The Magnificent AK47, Will Lawton & The Alchemists, Lee Broderick, Billy In The Lowground, and The Yirdbards, although there’s so much going on that it almost seems invidious to pick out individual artists.
Apart from all the music events, there are several spaces given over to craft workshops, merchandising, tarot readings, a Peculiar Gin Company gin bar, a Box Steam main bar and an artisan fair. Just outside there’s a huge marquee hosting JC’s Kitchen, which runs all weekend serving hot drinks and great array of home-cooked food.
I can’t recommend this event highly enough – there genuinely is something for everyone to enjoy, with great food, great beer and a great atmosphere. It’s superb value for money and there’s plenty to do and see for children and for adults. If you’ve never been, I urge you to check it out. You can buy tickets online, or on the door. Day tickets for Saturday or Sunday are available, as well as a 2-day Weekender Ticket.
The Wiltshire Music Centre is also a superb venue in its own right, hosting a year-round programme of top UK and international artists from all genres – classical, folk, blues etc. Worth checking out if you are after top-class entertainment.
I reckon I’ve been honourable to The Devizes Arts Festival, as in their excitement they’ve often accidently divulged a booking they’d rather have kept secret, and I’ve not yet let the cat out of the bag until they want it unzipped! Said excitement, though, is symbolic of their passion to bring us a wonderfully diverse roster.
For this one I’ve been equally as thrilled, and glad to be the one to broadcast the news; yes, with their permission! Aptly perhaps, as I’m proud it was my suggestion and I’m so glad they took heed.
So, it gives me great pleasure to announce folk singer-songwriter Emma Langford is to appear at this summer’s Arts Festival. From Limerick in South-West Ireland, Emma has gone from strength to strength. But to start at the beginning of our association; it’s been well over a decade since I got chatting to her father, Des, and in sharing a love of comic art, we’ve been online friends since. Call me archaic, but while you can meet lots of people online which the book of face terms “friends,” you have to wonder if they really constitute “friends,” I mean, if you’ve never met them in person. Des is the exception to that rule.
It was around 2016 when he sent me a video of his daughter singing, yet if I went around telling people “listen to my mate’s daughter sing,” it sounds cringeworthily like I was pushing it only for this reason. I bid you listen to her songs; clearly, it’s not just me saying how utterly fantastic she is. Emma has received unwavering acclaim internationally, after a whirlwind 100-date promotional tour across Austria, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland, to launch her 2017 debut album, Quiet Giant. The Irish Times described Quiet Giant as ‘music that weaves a spell as you listen to it… An enduring piece of work’. Ireland’s state broadcaster RTÉ Radio 1 presented Emma with the Best Emerging Artist award at their inaugural Folk Awards in October 2018. She also made her debut appearance in the USA this August, on the Snug Stage at Milwaukee Irish Fest.
Emma possesses a distinct natural tone and resonance that is truly breath-taking. Quiet Giant features stunning full-band arrangements for ten self-penned songs, and following the album’s Irish release, she was invited to launch it internationally with Germany’s Irish Folk Festival tour. In Devizine’s infancy reviewed Quiet Giant, suggesting it’s “a suave survey of dignity and passionate despondency with uplifting string arrangements and traditional Irish folk values.” I worthlessly tried to find a tenacious link to Devizes to justify reviewing it on our local website. I just wanted to get the message across, as I compared her to Andrea Corr, or a young Kirsty McColl.
But, being as it’s said Emma’s “spell-binding” sound is made to be heard live, be it solo or with a full complement of musicians, I took steps to try to bring her to town for a gig, but it fell through. The promoters were in awe though, told me she really needs to head for London for maximum exposure; “she’s too darn good for Devizes,” I was told! Pleased to say, we’ve no need to worry, thanks to the Arts Festival, and I look forward to this with bells on.
Emma is a prolific artist, recently collaborating locally on projects with musicians, theatre-makers and aerial-dance performers. This summer’s show should align with her highly-anticipated new album.
The Arts Festival had their final committee meeting of the year at the beginning of the month. “The 2020 programme is nearly there,” they say, “although there are some threads to be tied up. We can assure you that it will be as good as (or maybe even better than) 2019.” Other acts already leaked are London’s Tankus the Henge, who describe their sound as “five-wheeled, funk fuelled, open top, custom paint job, rock ‘n’ roll jalopy that comes careering around the corner on a tranquil summer’s day, ruining the silence and disturbing the bats.” Performing comedy for less-than-perfect parents, The Scummy Mummies are also confirmed, along with San Francisco born jazz pianist and composer The Darius Brubeck Quartet.
Put the kettle on; Balkan gypsy ska here in Bristol, Mutiny, the new album from Mr Tea & The Minions is a favourite for my best album of the year, with a top hat on.
Impressionable, I creaked the door on a near-expired student party, where a cocktail of Cinzano and shrooms polished off the amateur bassist, and he hung unconscious half off the edge of a sofa in his own puke. I witnessed scholar deprivation; comatose youth, crusty dreadlocks matted into a teetering Christmas tree, and a random arm draped over a guitar amp, howling feedback. I gulped, no partygoer standing, but an erratic noise of a “Red Roses For Me” cassette whirling. Sounds blessing such a character-building eye-opener makes you reconsider your loathing for a particular genre of music.
Until then, my presumption of folk music was pruned from an overwhelming desire to hold primary school sweetheart, Trudi’s hand, and the only foreseeable method to achieve it; to opt for country dancing. Ever frustrated to find myself partnered with dowdy Emma instead, I guess it rubbed a revulsion for frumpy folk music, with its delicate romances of falling autumn leaves and daisies dancing in a spring zephyr. It can be nauseating, symbolic of my failure to caress Trudi’s nail-bitten digits.
The epiphany dusted, I bought the Pouges long-player, shaking my preconception solo until crusties like The Levellers came onto the scene, boiling the realisation folk doesn’t have to be frumpy, in fact, it’s an epoch, a people’s music, and the roots of all that followed owe it. But if that era of recklessly launching yourself around, knocking down parent’s ornaments and calling it dancing has come of age, and if the Pouges are now acceptable, seasonally, (they stole the best Christmas song slot from a band in tartan trozzers and platform shoes after all,) I say unto thee, Mr Tea & the Minions; it’s my new favourite thing.
It’s not an awkward mesh of Despicable Me and the A-Team, rather a contemporary Bristol based, female-fronted six-piece ska-post-punk-folk Balkan-inspired riot, and their new album, Mutiny is beyond blooming gorgeous. Constructed out of lead vocalist and controller of “shaky things,” Elle Ashwell, drummer Fabian Huss, guitarists James Pemberton, James Tomlinson and James (Fold) Talbot on bass, with manager Lucy Razz on violin, they formed six years ago through James’ love of Balkan music. With the edges polished by collaborating with DJ Howla, and James’ professed love of tea, Mr Tea & The Minions was born, a name which they say was “a joke that was never meant to go so far.”
As Balkan, it’s fresh, electrifying and wonderfully danceable. Elle’s gritty shrill is apt and uplifting, the theme is often invitingly saucy, awakeningly tangible, sometimes metaphorically current affairs, but it hardly wanes in energy, and if it does you know it’s building to something. Mutiny is ten songs of splendour, drizzly evening enriching with a gypsy spin. It’s a warm musky pub of yore, where a furtive crusty band jams and you spill your cider on a scraggy dog. It also riffs like ska, boils like The Levellers and rinses fresher than Shane MacGowan on his best hair day.
The Eye of the Storm, like the title track, and Pandemonium are the Fruit Pastels, breezier tempo tunes like the beautifully crafted The Spider and The Fly stun you in anticipation of the melody, but no single tune stands alone, there’s a flow of prog-rock, and if it starts and ends with a little “meow,” it’s never completely nonsensical. Lyrics are sublimely executed, mostly evocative, but dashed with fun. There’s really nought bad I could say about this unique album, I’ll be dancing to it for the foreseeable future, maybe even look up Trudi on Facebook, she can’t still bite her nails.
Somebody local book these, pl-weaseeee; the Southgate or Barge would suit to a, pardon the pun, tea. Yet times are looking good for this madcap band, on the verge of another spectacular festival season and numerous gigs on tour, our closest to date is the Prince Albert Stroud Nov 22nd, Bocabar in Glastonbury on the 9th, or recommended homecoming at the Old Market Assembly, Bristol on 30th Nov. Failing this, try the Mutiny for size.
If all products are carefully marketed towards a specific target audience, none I feel, are as precise as boxes of chocolates. The whole idea of taking an everyday item, the sort you might shout to your driver as he approaches the garage, “and get us a Twix,” when stuck in a box suddenly becomes a rare treat, gifted by an acquaintance for a special occasion. It’s vital you pick the correct box to suit the message; while a Dairy Box says “happy birthday, Gran,” Milk Tray says “get your kit off love!”
Connotations all in the packaging and advertising, push comes to shove, they’re the same bloody thing, but last thing you want is to hand your gran some Milk Tray. Often, it’s fallacious, a Flake is the most unsuitable chocolate bar to eat in the tub, no matter what the telly might tell you. That’s why you have to hand it to the Cadbury’s Roses ad campaign, for while it’s not the best box of chocolates, it is somewhere in the top five. But it’s the across-the-board implications; anyone can buy a box for anyone, for any reason; it’s choco impartial. Buy Roses if you don’t want the receiver to assume you see them like your grandparent, or you want to snog their face off until sore. “It’s just to say thank you;” yeah, yeah, clever bastards.
New single out from Jamie R Hawkins then, unless you’d rather me waffle about chocolate? It’s like Roses though, it’s a universal thank you, for friendship, and while it may not the best Jamie R Hawkins song, it just rocked up somewhere in the top five. Though Jamie has pre-set his bar high, and if his May single, Welcome to the Family was quirkily agreeable, Thank You, Friend harks back to the classic sentiments we love Mr Hawkins for. Diluted, this song is more general and will infectiously touch all who hear it, as concentrate it profoundly assesses what a friend is, and how they’re capable of helping, in a manner The Beatles only skimmed the surface of.
Another perfect production for Phil Cooper; Jamie is on top form. “I never fail to be amazed,” he sings, “That what defeats me leaves you totally unfazed, it’s almost like I’m lacking in, the thing that makes you so alive, and it’s so good to know you’re always on my side.” Just one of the beautifully rendered verses of this fantastic song which undoubtedly showcases Jamie’s brilliance of song-writing, and with conviction he chants his own words of a song dedicated to his brother with unequalled passion.
It made me think of a time he was supporting a gig at the Cons Club; I drove out of the carpark to see him perched on the wall. Offered him a lift, he was only heading for the British, but jumped in. A handshake would’ve sufficed, but Jamie gave us a man-hug; one of the marvellous reasons why I love writing Devizine, I’ll locally praise what needs to be praised, slag off what needs to be slagged, but it’s also clear most recipients don’t view me as “the evil press,” but as a friend. And it’d be virtually impossible, I’d wager, to deliberately make yourself an enemy of Jamie, unless you’re the jealous sort of song-writer, struggling to compose a song a quarter as good as this one.
He’s here, he’s there, he’s at the White Bear this Sunday afternoon, catch him when you can, it never gets tiresome despite the fact Jamie does our circuit regularly, like a J S Lowry painting, the songs he weaves always have something different you may not have picked up on before, and his new ones, well, get better and better. This new track is available today through all the music sites. iTunes is too Thornton’s for me, spotty-thigh or whatchamacallit is too, well, Haribo; here’s the Bandcamp link, it’s this old timer’s Dairy Box!
There are two sides to every story. We’ve heard Dolly’s angle since 1973, imagine if Jolene had her say. Traditionally, like gallant fables, songs seldom back the underdog, the aberrant. Particularly the rounded narrative of folk or country, usually tales culturally able to be retold, optimistically.
If the last local singer-songwriter you’d expect to be exploring darker tenets is Tamsin Quin, think again. Akin to Springsteen’s Nebraska, in so much it summons no such communal feeling, rather Scandal, the new single from our illustrious local songstress is secluded in a room of a distant, shady and enigmatic place.
A song of who the cap fits, of watching your own back. Tamsin advises “there’s criminals in the shadows, pull your friends a little closer.” But cross examines her own persuasions and faith in the notion, maybe, “we’re all scoundrels deep down inside.”
It’s as if the darker depths of Tamsin’s acute words in previous songs have come to detonation; executed sublimely, and produced with eminence by Phil Cooper. Scandal, out next Friday (30th August) is whole new level of excellence for this already blossoming star. I congratulated her, as vocally it sounds deeper and much more refined than anything before. Is that what she was hoping for?
“Yep,” she responds as ardently as the same ol’ Tammy, “I was totally going for the dark country vibes. Phil did such a great job producing it; I’m really pleased with the outcome. I hope its dramatic!”
Tis indeed, like Wynette at her darkest; she builds tension around the breakfast table, the penny drops as to why Billie Joe Macalister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge and the protagonist attempts to hide her secret affair. “So,” I asked, “this is for a forthcoming album? Can we expect the others to be similar, or am I divulging too much?!”
“I’m aiming for a new album next year. The plan is for another single in October, then a single in February, and the album in April.” Tamsin expands the answer, “not all of the songs are this dark, although I am working on another haunting one at the moment, but the whole album feels a lot more mature that Gypsy Blood. I feel like I’ve grown into myself, and I’m writing what I want to write, instead of what I think the crowd will love. Writing more for myself I guess, although I really hope others really like it too.”
That personal enlightenment brews Tamsin’s poise when performing live, “writing things for yourself does tend to give you a little more confidence in delivery. Which I guess gives other people faith that its good, if you have faith in yourself and your work.”
I’m certain when reviewing Gypsy Blood, I suggested Tamsin sounded more mature, guessing both are a natural progression, though. “Guess you gotta grow up somewhen!” she laughs. I think you never stop learning and growing artistically, until, perhaps you reach a pinnacle and it doesn’t sound so progressive. Does she fear ever reaching that age where they say, “old Tamsin, just going through the motions?”
After stressing the importance to her of critical feedback, she laughed at the notion. “I guess that’s where the whole ‘writing for yourself’ thing comes in, because if you like your songs then you won’t care what people are saying.” I suspect that time is a long way off, Scandal in a nutshell is poignant, emotive and, perhaps an unanticipated gift to our music scene, and based upon it, I hold my breath for the album.
Chippenham Folk Festival has just finished for another year, so it’s good time to round up just how good this event is, and why it’ll be worth going again next year.
The Festival, including its early incarnation at Lacock, is now in its 48th year, and always held over the Whit Bank Holiday week-end. If you’re not familiar with it and have never been, let me explain just how big and amazing this whole thing is. First of all, it takes over the whole town – every possible venue, both indoors and outdoors is used – Island Park (including a temporary Big Top and many food and other stalls), The Neeld, Masonic Centre, Olympiad, Constitutional Hall, pubs, clubs – you name it. It includes whole streams of activities for children, for music concerts, for storytelling, for folk dance, for Morris, for ceilidhs and for many other activities. There is a small shopping village selling a wide range of clothes and crafts, drinks, and street food. On Bank Holiday Monday there’s also a special market in the High Street. There are literally hundreds of formal performances and displays, open mic & busking, tutorials, workshops, interviews – which means you can either just sit back and be entertained, or you can join in and get completely involved.
There’s extensive onsite camping facilities or, like myself, you can just drive in and park every day. Hotels and B&Bs in and around the town are booked out months in advance, so popular is the festival.
You can either buy tickets for the whole week-end (with or without camping), for single days, or just for individual events. There’s a Box Office onsite during the festival, or online via the website.
Next year’s event is already booked into the calendar from 22nd May to 25th May 2020, and early tickets are already available.
The good thing about this massive range of activity is that there really is something for everyone, no matter what you’re interested in. And not everything is ticketed. You’ll need to pay to get into the main venues, but there’s plenty in and around the town happening in the streets that’s completely free.
This year’s event, the last to be organised by Bob & Gill Berry (who also run Devizes Folk Club), was as just as good as ever, and the crowds were out in force, packing out many of the venues. I was lucky enough myself to be MC’ing several music events, and so got to see some fine performances close up on the stages. Stand-out performances for me were from The Wilsons, Granny’s Attic, Jack Rutter, Winter Wilson, Bob Fox, Sally Ironmonger, The Often Herd, Greg Russell, Jim Causely and Keith Donnelly, but it’s genuinely hard to pick out real stars from amongst so many young and talented performers. And it was really good to see so much youthful and emerging new talent, not just the old hands and established stars.
I ran into many people I knew, several of whom had never been before, and who were amazed at how much stuff was going on across the town.
So if you’ve never been, make a note in your diary to go next year and see what all the fuss is about!
What else are you going to do on a Tuesday night if you’re after some top-notch musical entertainment? There was nothing happening (musically) in Devizes that night, so a venture out into the wild and woolly West into the splendid old town of Bradford on Avon was called for.
The venue was the Cellar Bar in the Swan Hotel, right in the middle of town. The place is now a regular haunt for all types of music – jazz, folk, blues, poetry, Irish traditional, with each one settling into a regular weekly or monthly slot. James Sullivan-Tailyour has been the landlord here for a few years now, and has done much to support and promote regular musical (and other) events in the pub/ hotel, and in the town generally. The beer’s not great (it’s a Greene King place) but they do excellent Thai & fusion food in the restaurant.
Tuesday nights are given over to Bradford Folk Club, but don’t be fooled by the title. Whilst there is certainly some traditional and contemporary folk stuff performed, it’s more of a general Acoustic Club where pretty much anything goes. Three or four Tuesdays a month it’s an Open Mic affair, but once or twice a month there’s a guest act. The great thing is that it’s FREE to get in (although they do charge you an arm and a leg to get out!) Joking aside, they pass round the glass half way through the performance for contributions. What that means in practice is that you only pay what you think the music’s worth. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, people tend to very much like what they hear, going by the average amount that they put in. “Playing for the door” is still very much alive and well.
But to the music – last week it was the turn of local group The Yirdbards. Yes I did spell that right, and it may just be deliberate. The “Yirds” (as everyone knows them) consist of some pretty damn fine musicians – Iona Hassan on fiddle, Verity Sharp on fiddle and cello, Patrick Randall on guitar/ mandolin/ accordion/ whistle and the irrepressible Paul Darby on guitar and vocals. You might recognise Verity in particular, as she’s a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.
Whilst the Yirds can knock out some damn good traditional folk songs and tunes (some great jigs and reels), they also tend to showcase quite a bit of contemporary writing from such songsmiths as Paul Metzers and Peter Please, and they’re not above writing and arranging their own material.
Last Tuesday they presented a complete show (the acoustic equivalent of a triple-disc concept album) entitled “Great Clattinger.” It chronicled the seasons and the farming year of that place, the wildflower meadows, the people and the traditions. Surprisingly it was a multi-media affair, featuring tapes, songs, spoken word, and instrumental passages. Many of the words were taken from the writer Elspeth Huxley (who lived there in the 70s) and Joan Ody (who farmed there for nearly 40 years in the earlier part of the 20th century) describing country ways & customs, and the resistance to those who wanted to exploit the land for commercial gravel extraction.
Thanks to their efforts, Clattinger Farm is now owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. All very “worthy” of course, but the music had to speak for itself, and it soared way above that. The Cellar Bar was packed out and the whole performance went down a storm – superb musicianship, well sung and well presented by four great performers.
It wasn’t rock n’ roll, and this music wouldn’t be for everyone, but if you’d been there you would have been amazed at the variety and quality of the performance. Simply stunning.
Bit out of D-Town I know, but it doesn’t take long to just tootle over to Bradford, and the really splendid Wiltshire Music Centre. I mean – it’s not as far as Tibet is it?
Now in its seventh year, Bradford Roots Music Festival, now extended to three days, is all about two things – showcasing the vast array of musical talent that has any connection with Bradford, and raising (lots of) money for good causes. This year’s beneficiaries were Dorothy House Hospice, Zone Club (creative club for disabled young adults) and Wiltshire Music Centre. All the artists play for nothing and the event is administered and operated wholly by volunteers. That way all the funds raised go to the good causes.
So it’s a local (indoor) festival for local people. But this is not Royston Vasey, it’s Bradford.
And what a lot you get for your investment in a weekend ticket! I counted over fifty performances and workshops you could have attended if you’d really put your mind to it. I had to skip Saturday evening’s offerings (due to the small matter of Mr Wakeman’s KGB putting on a little show back in The Vize), but I still managed to sample more than 30 acts for myself. Once the WMC have given over the building to the Festival organisers for the weekend, the place is utterly transformed. Apart from four different performing stages (including the massive and superb main auditorium), there are several spaces given over to craft workshops, merchandising, tarot readings, a gin and prosecco bar, a main bar and an artisan fair. Just outside there’s a huge marquee hosting Hartley Farm Shop & Kitchen, which runs all weekend serving hot drinks and great array of home-cooked food.
But the music is the main thing. So many acts to choose from, and so difficult to highlight only a few from such a talented array of performers. But here goes: the stand-out acts for me (in no particular order) were:
• A Night In The Blind House – a rock and indie covers band
• Georgia Lewis – a stunning singer, multi-instrumentalist and folk artist
• The Hazir Ensemble – playing some stunning music from the Middle East & Turkey
• Lightgarden – original material from the UK, Russia and beyond, including Mongolian Overtone chanting (don’t ask – you have to hear it & you’ll be amazed)
• Rockpipes – a Bristol-based Celtic rock band featuring bagpipes (honestly!) as their lead instruments. Sounds mad, but it worked!
• The Bumnotes – an 8-piece acapella close-harmony group singing Barbershop
Over three days I think I heard music from Africa, the USA, Crete, Turkey, Mongolia, the UK and – yes I know I said it wasn’t that far – even Tibet!! There was rock, blues, folk, country, bluegrass, barbershop, choral, jazz, singer/ songwriter, world – you name it!
The Festival is now over for another year but will be happening again next January. I can’t recommend this event highly enough – there genuinely is something for everyone to enjoy, with great food, great beer and a great atmosphere. It’s superb value for money and there’s plenty to do and see for children and for adults. If you’ve never been, I urge you to check it out for next year.
The Wiltshire Music Centre is also a superb venue in its own right, hosting a year-round programme of top UK and international artists from all genres – classical, folk, blues etc. Worth checking out if you are after top-class entertainment.
Ever had the awkward scenario where a acquaintance posts a song with a caption, “this is my daughter singing,” you feel obliged to listen, humour their parental pride and bend the truth that you reckon it’s awesome?! This was NOT one of those occasions.
I’ve been an online friend with Des for many-a-year; we share a love of comics and cartoons. He’s an exceptionally talented artist and sign-writer; his cartoon frescos adorn his hometown of Limerick, in school playgrounds and on shop windows. I was honoured when Des contributed a cover for my charity-based anthology book, “I am not Frazzle;” it became an iconic image in Devizes.
Never more apparent that creative talent filters through the generations; from the moment I clicked on that link and heard Emma’s voice, I was in love with her music. Renowned in Limerick, I’m dedicated to switching as many as I can onto this, I’d shout it from the highest mountain, if we had any here; the folk-rock pop of Emma Langford is simply sublime.
So while I could’ve approached this by hiding our friendship to promote Emma’s latest album, Quiet Giant, and try to find a tenacious link between her and Wiltshire, not to unhinge the tenet this website is of locally produced talent, I’d rather be honest. Plus, in this era of YouTube, you can judge for yourself from the couple of videos below; I ain’t a fibber.
Akin to Andrea Corr or a young Kirsty McColl, Quiet Giant is Emma Langford, refined to perfection; nothing here is left to chance. Released on the 18th October, I confirm a crashing symbol and delicate piano opens ten tracks of absolute gorgeousness. All songs are written by Emma with a sophisticated, evocative narrative. It eases you in with certain grace, a couple of earnest mellow songs; the folky title track and smooth jazzy Sandman insure you’ve made the right choice for your listening pleasure.
Then Peter Hanagan’s Double bass and fiddles by Tadhg Murphy up the tempo for Closed Book, a storming tune skilfully separating honourable people from the general, ostensibly an effective running theme throughout Quiet Giant which makes its hauntingly nimble quality so endearing.
Emma Langford and her accomplished collective, aforementioned Peter and Tadhg, plus particular prestige for Cellist Alec Brown and pianist Hannah Nic Gearailt, insightfully have produced something special; Quiet Giant is a suave survey of dignity and passionate despondency with uplifting string arrangements and traditional Irish folk values, all wrapped in the wonderful cover art of Jacob Stack; you’d be sorry to have missed it.
When I heard Emma had a gig in Bristol and was looking for another date in London a few months ago, I attempted to hassle known local music promoters into booking her for a gig in Devizes, hoping it’d be a halfway house. But Emma explained she only had two days here, still she seemed keen to visit us. The promoters were in awe, told me she really needs to head for London for maximum exposure, “she’s too darn good for Devizes,” I was told!
So then I worried I was being selfish, trying to hook her into our tiny market town just so I can hear her live when they were right, she needs, and she did play a gig in London. Next time it’s bookmarked; I’m bunking the next day off work!