Minions, and Mr Tea’s Mutiny

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Train to Skaville, Called at The Foresters Arms

If Devizes’ thriving live music scene lacks one thing, in my humble opinion, it’s ska. I got to get over my grumpy, staying-in head-state for fear Celebrity X-Factor is the best mainstream telly can thrust upon me, drive to the Sham, if only for a pint. Ska will force my hand if nothing else will.

The Foresters Arms is a new one for me, but it’s immediately attractive, in a humble way. Functional, even for the eight-piece ska-cover maestros known as Train to Skaville. They fit comfortably; Devizes needs something like this, a reasonably sized pub-venue for a brass section to bounce, and a landlord wearing a Fred Perry and cherry Doc Martins. Proof was in the pudding; we are missing out.

It’s a welcoming and friendly community spirited pub, with ample space to skank rainy blues away. Amidst bustling crowd of young and old, male and female, black and white, there was a point when the landlord was up having a jig himself, for jolly example. And a band, if whose appeal seems to fizzle east of Bromham, are welcomed with open arms here. I can’t drum this point any further, Train to Skaville are brilliant.

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If doing this ska show on Boot Boy Radio has taught me one thing, it’s that this division is far from an aging retrospective minority who can’t shake their Two-Tone youth culture, rather an international burgeoning scene where bands under a “Ska-Family” banner aspire to create new and original tangents. The foundation of which, though, is that classic period where the Windrush generation gifted us this offbeat sound for us to exploit to the max, and Train to Skaville embrace this. They are not out to be the next best thing, rather to supply an audience with the benchmarks they know and love, and to get them off their seats. They do this, with bells on.

Propping the foyer of the Foresters during the break, I laughed that although it was raining, it was nicer to be huddled inside, rather than the last time I caught this act, on a drizzly St George’s Playing Field supporting Neville Staple. Jules of the band remarked happily that they could play Specials covers too, which were crossed out of a setlist prior to Neville wanting to understandably do them. Train to Skaville did just that this time; Ghost Town, Rat Race, Gangsters, you name them, they covered them with unique panache, a cut above the average ska covers band. Alongside typical Madness and Bad Manners floor-fillers.

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But it doesn’t stop there, their repertories know no bounds, as they break it down to reggae anthems, owning Bob Marely’s “Is This Love,” Marica Griffith’s “Feel Like Jumping,” and Tim’s heart-warming rendition of Ken Boothe’s “Everything I Own,” a tribute to his mum who he recently lost. There were tears, but veneration as the band played through. Our respect and condolences go out to Tim and his family.

I find though, even greater than knocking out known ska classics, or bouncing to boss reggae, when a ska band can produce ska versions of pop songs. Sometimes amusing, sometimes out of admiration of another genre, but for a ska-fan, often better than the original. Train to Skaville also have a line which branches out here, as a skanking Echo Beach rang out towards the end of the first half of the show.

A great night, great surroundings, and sure sign for me that Devizes needs to skank it up a bit!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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REVIEW – Jon Amor @ Long Street Blues Club, Devizes

Triumphant Home-Town Gig

Andy Fawthrop

I think it’s fair to say that both Jon, and a lot of the audience last night, had been looking forward to this gig for quite a long while. No surprise then that a packed room was there to witness one of the gigs of the year.

Support act was Thomas Smurthwaite, an artist I’d not seen before. But it didn’t take the guy long to impress me and the rest of the room. An imposing, grizzled and bearded figure, he seemed slightly dwarfed by all the equipment set up on stage around him. But sound-wise he punched well above his weight with voice, guitar, harmonica and stomp-box. His set was confident, laid-back and bluesy. In a short 30-minute set he won the crowd over, finishing with a great singalong version of Janis Joplin’s “Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz?”

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Then on with the main act, and the reason we were all there. Jon, stick-thin and suavely suited & booted, was there to tour his latest album “Colour In The Sky”, and he was joined on stage by an impressive band of old friends and great musicians – Jonny Henderson on keyboards, Mark Barrett on drums, with Little Geneva’s Dave Doherty on guitar, and brother Chris Doherty on bass.

From the first number, “Faith Reborn” we were in for a treat. Thereafter Jon picked his way through several numbers from the new album, carefully interspersed with many favourites from his back catalogue of albums and bands. The rhythm section, as you might have expected, was solid and strong, laying down a great platform for Jon to let rip with some great solos. The keyboards added that bit of extra depth and texture to the songs. And they were proper songs too, not just excuses for long rambling improvisations, with clear beginnings and endings, Jon’s vocals stringing it all together. This gave the band plenty of opportunity to show off different styles, moving from rocky to bluesy and back again.

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Jon was on great form, clearly relaxed, laughing and joking with the crowd between numbers. There was no doubt that this was a home-town gig, and there was plenty of love in the room. And deservedly so. Jon is a world-class artist, and deserves it for the crowd to let him know it.

Highlight of the night for me was “Juggernaut”. This was the first time I’d heard it played in full-band format, and it was worth waiting for – heavy, driving, and really solid – a real classic.

Absolutely great gig, wonderful night out.

If you haven’t yet bought Jon Amor’s album “Colour In The Sky”, you need to get a copy!

And if you haven’t yet made it to Long Street Blues Club (at The Conservative Club), it’s time you made the effort – world-class blues & rock entertainment in a great atmosphere at an absolute bargain price. Tickets for future gigs from Devizes Books, Sound Knowledge (Marlborough) and from the club itself.

Upcoming gigs at Long Street Blues Club are:

• Saturday 2nd Nov Big Dez Blues Band
• Friday 8th Nov Ian Siegal Unplugged
• Saturday 30th Nov Gerry Jablonski Band
• Saturday 21st December John Coughlan’s Quo (support from George Wilding)
• Saturday 28th December Pink Torpedoes


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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TITCO & Full Tone do Christmas

The Invitation Theatre Company presents an evening of Christmas music, featuring the Fulltone Music School Voices, and we all love Christmas music, at Christmas that is! Fortunately, it’s on 14th December at St Johns Church, which is plenty time to wash the Christmas jumper and check the reindeer nose lights still work from where you spilt eggnog down it last year.

Tickets available online and Devizes Books, are £6, raising money for Frontline Children and Action for Children. “Each year,” TITCO elucidate, “is a sumptuous evening of music, from classical pieces through to popular Christmas toe tappers – brought to you by the most wonderful singers! It’s just the BEST evening!”


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Phil Cooper Falls at Your Feet

I’m adiaphorous to Crowded House, I confess, probably due to timing. Late eighties, early nineties and like many-a-teenager I was gurning in a field, revelling developments in music technology. If I couldn’t dance like a puppet on fast forward to it, well, you know, some good things pass you by. This is not meandering off subject, it’s a point I’ll return to, after a heartfelt apology to the man who, this week, has produced a fantastic cover of their song “Falling at Your Feet,” and is long overdue some updated attention here on Devizine, Mr Phil Cooper.

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So, it was a compare and contrast job, flicking to YouTube to hear the original, and back to confirm this Trowbridge singer/songwriter’s version, not overlooking the added harmonies of Jamie R Hawkins, is equally sublime. The only difference being Phil’s stamp, which is never a bad thing. There are occasions, such as Eric Clapton’s I Shot the Sheriff, which opens someone’s eyes to the original artist, so maybe this, alongside People Like Us who regularly cover Weather with You and make me smile, will shake me up to the songs of Crowded House. Prior, if handed them on the three-in-ten finale of Ken Bruce’s Pop Master, I’d get Weather with You, and then epically fail. Always wanted a pop master t-shirt over a DAB radio anyway (fib.)

Feeling it hugs the original pretty tightly, with a passion in Phil’s vocals which nods to the respect he obviously holds for Crowded House, there’s not much more I can say on the single, other than encouraging you to take a listen. Oh, and I hope it’s not Phil’s Red, Red Wine moment. You know, after that hit, UB40 transformed into a cover band (one reason I cringe with irony when tribute bands take on a name of one of their numerous cover versions.) Because, well, Phil’s song writing ability is first rate and, with or without the trio of aspiring local musicians; Jamie and Tamsin Quin, his input would be greatly missed.

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Leading me neatly onto why I started with an apology to Phil, as fallen to the bottom of my dusty in-tray was the promise to write something about a previous project. Double-whammy then, this one dates back to summer, when I thought Phil had a new album called Nine. Whisking him a message it became clear via the reply, Nine was an older project. “I’ve decided to release it on streaming sites for the first time to celebrate it’s ninth year, nine month and nine day anniversary,” he explained.

The Nine Album was originally recorded on 9th September 2009 (09/09/09.) He wrote nine songs between the 1st and 9th and started recording the album at 9am on 9th. The album was completed that day and released at 9pm that same day, which I think clarifies the title adequately! But it coincided with a complete reworking of the album by his indietronica alter-ego, B.C.C, titled “Nein.”

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Maybe, I figured, its title’s conversion to German nods to the pioneers of electronic music, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, as BCC is Phil’s ambient electronica side-project. Now this intrigued me, note my promise to return to my point of the rave days of yore. My love of dance music obviously holds dear to its roots in electronica, often retelling the occasion of first hearing Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock in 1982 as the epiphany of said era. Yet through all the technological changes from the punks turning new romantic, to the birth of hip hop, the development of house, techno and drum n bass via the rave scene, and the thousands of offshoots since, Phil’s BCC stays close to the simplicities of early electronica, rather than do a Damon Albam and push new boundaries with Gorrillaz. So, it’s nice, yeah, it’s breezy and experimental for Phil, and if you like his music, it’s essential to check this out, but still, I dunno, may be it’s an age thing, because if you asked me which one of Nine and Nein I favoured, it’d be the original.

Blast, I’ve hung up my whistle, posse! Fetch my pipe and slippers.

For Nine is like what The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle is to Springsteen, if Thoughts and Observations, an album which I think was the first I ever gratefully reviewed on Devizine, is his Born to Run. Relishing in the roots of a musician or band I love, discovering early works, and for this, Nine is fantastic, it captures Phil at his rawest, most ambitious, and if it fails to be as polished as Thoughts & Observations, that’s its charm. Tracks like Cloud Nine, Where I Belong and You are wonderfully composed, beautifully written. However, the BCC project might put an interesting, electronic spin on it, worthy of attention, some things, I feel, are best left the way they are.

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But that’s the package you get with Phil, what a prolific genius who cares not about defining a distinct style, though has crafted an excellent one, rather ventures out there, to experimentation, to stripping back or developing a track. You have to hand it to the man, for this works on his marketing side too, a DIY enthusiast who’ll do radio but live stream shows, release on all online sources but still strive to produce a CD, a blogger who maintains an honest, familiarity with his fans, and as a promoter and producer for the trio he has done astounding works with Jamie and Tamsin.

So, if it’s solo Phil Cooper you’re listening to, or if Jamie or Tammy assist him, or if it’s a track of theirs he’s produced, or as BCC, or Get Schwifty – Phil and Jamie’s cover duo nom-de-plume, you know it’s been stamped with Phil’s distinctive style, and it’ll sound great. Which brings us full circle, and is darn good reason to check out this Crowded House single, because if Phil wants to do a cover, he will, and make it sound awesome. But for the full package, I advise you like his Facebook page, follow his Bandcamp page, subscribe to his YouTube, and naturally catch him live (next gig on 8th November at the Southgate, Devizes, Jan 23rd at The Tuppenny, live stream this Sunday at 6pm; the guy never stops for a cuppa and a garibaldi.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Top Twenty Best Vids of the Vizes!

Wet play project, can’t be bothered to go out. I’ve complied the best-loved videos documenting our crazy lil’ town, yet it can be updated if you know of a better one? And not one of your barbeque party where cousin Billy lost it on the trampoline; I’m not Harry flipping Hill and you won’t get two-hundred and fifty quid out of me, lucky to blag 10p. Let the arguments commence, but I’ve tried to top twenty the best, based on historical fact, entertainment value, general nostalgia and quantity of eighties short-shorts.

1- I was fascinated to watch this near on half-hour 1956 silent film, A Small Town Devizes. Made by cameraman David Prosser, from a series of similar Small-Town shorts. It features the lives of people in Devizes during Carnival Week August 1956. In the YouTube notes there’s an extensive list of people and companies which featured in the film. If it brings any notable points of interest it must surely be lobbying DOCA to reintroduce the drag-your-wife-along-in-a-pram-attached-to-a-motorbike race, methinks.

2 – Lion in the Hall! Courtesy of BBC Points West, the day in 1980 when escaped circus lions paid Devizes School a visit during the lunch hour goes down in history. Were you there, are you showing your age, and did you try feed the lion your mate’s school tie? What about today’s pupils, do you think Mr Bevan should reinstate this lion, maybe give him a TA job? Would your teacher benefit from fighting a lion, it might help to maintain the pupil’s interest in the lesson?

3 – Boto-X clip 1986. See, my Devizes born and bred better half told me about this strict health & safety regulated event and, if it hadn’t been Devizes, I’d probably have branded her a liar. Delighted to see Caen Hill Locks dig up a clip of this incredibly brilliant Boto-X from 1986. Stop! Win a Colour Telly!

4 – Oh get off my back, I’ve read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, just not any other of ol’ Tom Hardy’s books, it’s not like he’s going to hassle me about it. Far From The Maddening Crowd was his first major novel, and had four film adaptations. John Schlesinger’s 1967 MGM version was part filmed in Devizes, and Bill Huntly of Devizes Television loses his shit about it like it was Casablanca or Star Wars; bless. There are some great clips of the film in this interview, of people drunkenly singing and dancing in the Market Place; something you don’t see every day, eh? Yeah, I know, right, not that far from the maddening crowd at all really, wait for the bin to kick out.

5- Out of all Simon Folkard’s gorgeous aerial shot films, last year’s snow-covered town and canal was undoubtedly the most breath-taking. Oh, that Beast from the East, looks beautiful from above, but just to think, I was wheel-spinning a milk-float down there somewhere, holding on to me gold-tops for dear life.

6- While we’re on the subject of the milkman, here’s Madness disciple Mark’s moment in the spotlight as BBC Wiltshire focus on Plank’s Dairy. It has to be nine below zero before he puts his long trousers on, no one needs to see those knees, Mark. Ask him to whistle a Thin Lizzy tune on his round, I double-dare you.

7- 19 36- Last Train From Devizes. Post-punk poets, Browfort, ingeniously fuse synth-pop and local history in this video about The Beeching Axe and the last train from Devizes in 1966. There’s some great railway footage, mixed with their performance at The Bell on the Green. There’s no evidence to suggest the band will reform as Julia’s House to pay tribute to the first train from Devizes Parkway, when…. erm, if it happens.

8 – If you’re considering shoplifting for camera film in town, watch this early-eighties adaptation of the story of Ruth Pierce by Devizes Cine Club, and you’ll quickly be bored into submission. It really is so bad it’s good. I need not mock it, the acting, production and deviation of facts does it for me. Just to say though, is it me, or does the lead role sound a little like Claire Perry?!

9- We love our whacky historian John Girvan, the only man to enter the Town Hall lock up and live to tell the tale, save for feasting food festival fanatics who failed to note there’s the far comfier Peppermill across the road. But did you know, rather than most men whose interests lie more on what’s inside them, John confesses a love for brassieres? So, if your bra goes missing from the washing line, you know who to point the finger at.

10- Proof that either the legendary ghost of Room 4, or stranger still, the Black Swan’s window cleaner has five fingers. In 2014 the Visual Paranormal Investigations team trucked their mystery machine into our town and, without the great Dane and giant sandwiches, set up an experiment to find out if the ghost broadcasts on FM, like Ken Bruce.

11- More actual evidence in this charmingly narrated clip, this time of the Muppetry of the new traffic light system on London Road. Evidence the road planning department of Wiltshire Council are, and I quote, “retarded!” Classic, don’t hold back Truthseeker. I don’t know who you are pal, but you’re defo not Philip Whitehead.

12- There’s countless musical performers I could include here, but perhaps the widest known and appreciated is blues legend Jon Amor. Here he is, at the International Street Festival 2015 with a lengthy but worthy song, Even After That.

13- Talented Arthur Plumb, the Juggling Unicyclist at Sidmouth Street Festival 2015. While there’s a vast amount of street acts posted to YouTube, from our street festivals and carnivals, if I could only pick one it’s this entertaining Devizes TV presentation of a rather youthful Arthur Plumb. Three years ago, Shambles trader Bill Huntly was fast becoming our town’s TV host, where did he go, someone nick his cravat? Seriously though, hope you are well Mr Huntly and wishing you all the best; we loved your short films.

14- Usually reserved for the still camera, Nick Padmore is a man loved by our local music scene, for capturing the essence of its performers. Here though he videos the man, Vince Bell at Sheer Music in the Fold. Not intending to post too many music-related videos here, this 2017 performance is a must, if not just for Ship of Fools, but his amusing ditty about Devizes, Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive, right at the end of this film.

15- If you ever wondered why Tesco shut its Devizes metro branch, this may go some way to explain why. Yep, never had a lick of paint applied to it since the release of Michael Jackson’s album Thriller. The staff were friendly though!

16- Set the captives free! No really, I think they’d have moved convicts before blowing Devizes prison to the ground to make way for housing in 1927, wouldn’t they? Or did they move into the houses? Might explain a few things. British Pathe have millions of videos on their website, search Devizes and you’ll find a carnival parade of the 1920s and an Army Football Cup final from 1955, to name a couple.

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/prison-walls-make-cottage-homes/query/devizes

17- There’s nothing sarcastic I can comment here, even I wanted to, which I wouldn’t, cos I’m not like that; a gorgeously edited film of Devizes at Christmas by Chris Watkins, accompanied by a song written and performed by the equally wonderful Kirsty Clinch, makes my bells go all jingly…I said my bells!

18- Well done Paige Hanchant, for the only Harry Hill style clip I’m going to allow; capturing this amusing moment on the canal, just when it was going so well too; who ordered the chubster? Awl, bless.

19- No one interrupted the march to nip into Greggs for a sausage and bean melt in 1983, not in this pleasant three-minute video of the parade at least.

20 – Moonrakers Fable. Vintage poem narrator Alan Doel puts on his best Wiltshire accent to recite Edward Slow’s 1881 telling of the Moonrakers fable, and illustrated with postcards and emblems, makes a fair job of it. Yet the tale is known only too well in Devizes, it be rioght gurt lush to ‘ear it read in ye olde Wiltshire dialect, ewe.

That’s all folks, well, I’m sure there’s many others, but these were my favs. Not to blow my own trumpet, but Devizine does have its own YouTube channel, mostly I create wobbly musical performance clips, with a cider in the other hand and standing far too close to the speaker to do the band or musician justice, but they seem like a good idea at the time. So, subscribe at your own risk. I set it up primarily to capture this meeting with local street magician Raj Bhanot in Café Nero last summer, and here he is for a bonus vid.

Perhaps, if we get another rainy day, which is doubtful, I’ll find another set of videos based in Devizes. If you know of any which should be included then do send the link. Saucy ones to my personal email though, please.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Numb Tongues, Kings and Dukes

If you like your soul and blues with an authentic vintage feel, look no further than this new Bristol group, The King Dukes…. 

 

If Bristol wasn’t the birthplace of a “new cool” through electronic blues in the nineties, with the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead, it certainly led the way. I have to take a deep breath, fetch my pipe and slippers; this is a new era of anti-pop, an era of retrospective tendency, where traditional instruments override our technological desire of the pre-millennium. An era where technology is used only to market, allowing sounds to hark back to a time before drum loops, rap, and the DJ as king.

The king is dead, long live this exciting renovation, and long live The King Dukes. I’m honoured to give you the low-down, about their new journey. Formed in Bristol in April, a merger of a variety of local bands, including Crippled Black Phoenix, Screamin’ Miss Jackson and the John E. Vistic Experience, The King Dukes combine said talent and experience to create a unique, authentic sound, dipped in a heritage reuniting contemporary slices of British RnB with a dollop of Memphis soul.

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Set to unleash their debut album ‘Numb Tongues’ on October 25th, I’ve had a listen or ten, and can plainly see why it’s been picked up by UK label, Paratone, as well as French label QSounds Recording. Chatting to guitarist and frontman, Marc Griffiths, I asked him what’s in a name, predicting it might relate to Duke Ellington. While pondering he sent a YouTube link of a track not on the album. This song, titled King Cyrille, is Hammond organ boss reggae, akin to Harry J’s Allstars. It’ a tribute to West Bromwich Albion player Cyrille Regis. “The team used to come out to Liquidator,” he explained, “it’s in conjunction with West Brom, for their podcast, so we did something similar.” Momentarily contemplating the name possibly nods more to Duke Reid, Marc cleared it up, informing me they had a residency at the Old Duke in Bristol, “but that’s named after Duke Ellington.”

I can see why, aside this one-off tune, Numb Tongues is not only dependent on a classic RnB sound, there’s sprinkles of jazz, blues, yet formulated like Stax or dare I say it, Motown. It rolls out in a manner able to slip its tunes into a set of old-time soul unnoticed. Caril-Anne, for example, is up-tempo soul, beguiling through that recipe of yore, simplicity. Kid Gloves is another lively number, foot-stomping soul with a subtle nod to rockabilly akin to The Big Bopper. This one reminded me of Jack and Elwood Blues marching back and forth.

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But if this four-beat soul formula rings through tracks like I Gotta Go, and Gone, Gone, Gone is stepping, handclapping doo-wop reliant, Rub You The Right Way hooks into a blues riff taking me to Howlin’ Wolf, and True, True, True nods to bebop. This one has a sublime vocal by April Jackson, who holds a note like Etta James. Generally, the vocals are as polished as the aforementioned soul legends, yet grittily Caucasian, like Jim Morrison’s finest hour.

As a whole there’s much going on here, but whether there’s echoing vocals like the ballad, Dying Man, with a breezy jazz-come Otis Redding passion, or, like Marlo Cooper, it’s a blast of instrumental groove, comparable to Stax session musicians Booker T & the MG’s, it’s all stylised and flows superbly. In fact, it was mention of an Otis Redding post on their Facebook page which got Marc and I chatting; glad I did now.

With Marc and April, there’s drummer Dan Clibery, bassist Mandrake Fantastico, Henry Slim owning that Hammond Organ and Harmonica, and a fiery three-piece brass section with Joss Murray on Trumpet, Rebecca Sneddon on Tenor Sax and Sarah Loveday-Drury handling the Trombone.

Together they’re a force to be reckoned with. Throwing modern recording techniques aside and using methods for a fifties-sixties sounding album, such as recording a section with multiple instruments all at one time, and playing period-specific instruments, The King Dukes have captured perfectly this raw, vintage backline on ‘Numb Tongues.’

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We’ve seen a similar blueprint around our way with the brilliant Little Geneva, and if this is the trend then I’m in, hook, line and sinker. Although, naturally, those ol’ time classic soul songs never wane in appreciation, sometimes looking further afield to the rare grooves, like Northern Soul aficionados, often the tunes never make equal approval in production and quality. Numb Tongues meet this notion in middle; The King Dukes deliver fresh material with honours, and if heard in 1965 would surely be considered classics.

You can pre-save a copy of Numb Tongues here, there’s an album launch on December 7th at the LeftBank in Bristol; I’m keen to hear of anyone willing to bring these guys local for a gig. As you know Devizine doesn’t usually cover Bristol, too much going on and not enough hours in the day, but when it’s this good…….


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