REVIEW – Skinny Molly @ LSBC, Devizes – Saturday 20th August 2022

What A Sell Out

Andy Fawthrop

Seems ages since we were last turning up at the Con Club for Long Street Blues, but last night the new Autumn/ Winter season began, and there we all were again.  And what a way to start, with a cracking US band and a ticket sell-out….

The place was, therefore, obviously packed out. Whilst it might suit the music – hot & sweaty –I think it’s time that the Con Club looked into installing some air-con.  Just like the The Homing’s gig back in June, as part of the Devizes Arts Festival, the room was really stifling and airless.

Nevertheless we had some great entertainment to distract the huge crowd.  First up were Koerie & Andy, a duo new to me, introduced by host Ian Hopkins as recently discovered busking.  As might be expected with such a heritage, they were a little raw and rough around the edges, but very effective and entertaining for all that.  Using guitar, vocals and harmonica, they delivered a string of covers, including “Wild Thing” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”  The crowd gave them a good listen and a good welcome, and hopefully we’ll see them again.

But that was as nothing to the roar that went up went Skinny Molly finally hit the stage to start their 75-minute one-set performance.

This band, hailing mostly from Tennessee, is a major force on the US Southern Rock scene.  They were formed by guitarist/vocalist Mike Estes (formerly of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot), original Molly Hatchet guitarist Dave Hlubek (who has since left the band) and drummer Kurt Pietro (who also played drums for Blackfoot).  By 2008, the line-up was solidified with the addition of Blackfoot guitarist/vocalist Jay Johnson and  Grand Ole Opry stalwart bassist Luke Bradshaw.  And this was the line-up featured last night.

Skinny Molly’s mantra is apparently “Never let one fan leave a show disappointed” and they set about trying to fulfil this promise right from the outset, with a string of rock-infused blues and country numbers. There was newer SM material, mixed in with some older Skynard classics, and some covers.  Free’s “Wishing Well” was perhaps a surprise, less so Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road”, but the biggest cheer of the night of course came about an hour in when they launched in to probably their biggest hit “Sweet Home Alabama”.  But there was nothing one-dimensional about their material – we had a good old Southern gumbo of different ingredients, including southern rock, old country, blues, hard rock, and general Americana.

They built up the mood and the atmosphere, and there were soon plenty of folks rocking along and dancing. They kept the inter-song chat to a minimum, instead focusing of packing in as much music as possible, culminating in a standing ovation and well-deserved encore. I don’t think anyone went home disappointed, so I guess they did exactly what they said on the tin.

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

Saturday 8th October 202-   Eddie Martin’s Big Blues Band

Friday 14th October 2022  Black Sabbitch (Corn Exchange, Devizes)

Saturday 5th November 2022  Robbie McIntosh Band

Friday 11th November 2022   Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse (Corn Exchange, Devizes)

Saturday 19th November 2022   Hardwicke Circus and The Alex Voysey Trio

Friday 23rd December 2022  Gee Baby I Love You


Half a Review: James Hollingsworth @ The Southgate

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baber and Wileman set to Chill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Find a Richard Wileman track on our compilation album!

Daisy’s Good Luck Songs

If I learned to take heed of Sheer Music chief promoter Kieran J Moore, when he Facebook posts about a new local discovery on a previous occasion, when I had the unexpected realisation outstanding Americana artist, Joe Edwards was virtually a neighbour, it’s paid off again.

The sounds of Daisy Chapman the subject this time, and it’s exquisite.

“How have we only just discovered each other?” Daisy responded. She may reside in Trowbridge but rarely gigs locally, concentrating on touring the continent. I listened fondly to the song he prompted, time for me to cut in on this dance.

Starter for ten, Daisy has an angelic voice of vast range. It could conjure enough emotion to make you tearful over a Chas n Dave cover, if she were to attempt it, which she probably wouldn’t, purely hypothetical!

Orchestral, at times, but dark, folk in another, if unconventional, there’s a thin line between heavenly and infernal here, as a sense of generation X sneaks in too, through conceivably progressive writing. Coupled with poignant narrative in these nine original good luck songs, a waiver away from archetype instruments and riffs of country and folk, and bold genre experimentations and crossovers, makes her third studio album, 2020’s Good Luck Songs something of a masterpiece.

It opens lone on piano, this divine voice, almost liturgical, but layers are building, a trusty cello will become a trademark throughout the album. The title track preps you for something unique, something obviously wonderful.

Into the second tune, Home Fires, and the tender euphoria continues through piano and cello combination, whisking you on its journey, of nostalgic recollections annotating seasonal change, the wordplay is sublime. Neatly layered into the existing recipe, a gothic folk element slips neatly into play by the third tune. Daisy’s voice willingly commands you, captivating you, like a child mesmerised with a campfire fable.

Then there’s Generation Next, a strictly country feel with a delicate fiddle, and brass, accompanying a tongue-in-cheek division, a tale which, despite the Americana sound, nods to gigging on a local circuit, from well-versed experts to the concept their advice is to be ignored by the younger upcoming performers. It is, quite simply, fascinatingly ingenious.

I used to own an Empire is another compellingly written emotional piece; on bonding to face a greater cause, articulated by a crusader boldness against aggrandizement. Through historic references it compares devastating impacts of political cuts, The Beeching Report, Miner’s Strike and even Custer and the Gettysburg Address to the ignorance of Icarus, as the wax of his wings melted from flying too close to the sun. An archetypal subject of leftism maybe, but you’ve never heard such expressed with such academic prose and orientation.

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do! The subjects of Good Luck Songs are concentrated, factual and tangible, emotionally expressed and divinely produced to an exceptionally high standard. But diversity makes it tricky to pin down, there’s a moment, in the haunting ambient opening of The Decalogue, which sounds so soulful, held steady with military style drum riff, yet the following song There’s a Storm Coming has a drum loop and high-hat, akin to a contemporary RnB song, or the country-pop of Shania Twain. Feels like succumbing to commercialisation, but in this, there’s a point; Daisy’s voice is so lithe, it could flex into any given genre or style, and finish on top.

Said versatility was first noticed by UK prog-rock band Crippled Black Phoenix, and since 2009, on and off Daisy has travelled as pianist/BV with the band on tours covering every corner of Europe as well as a short trip to China. Daisy was also chosen as vocalist on their cover of AC-DC’s “Let Me Put My Love Into You.” With a penchant for prog-rock, Daisy shares lead vocals with ex CBP singer, Daniel Anghede in the group Venus Principle.

And anyway, Good Luck Songs finishes with a sublime cover of Tom Waits’ Tom Traubert’s Blues, to confirm Daisy’s dedication to acoustic rock, but as expectable, it strips out the croaking vocals of Waits and replaces it with the pure silk that is Daisy Chapman. Believe me, if you’re captivated by strong female vocals, the kind that could bring a church down, but want for intelligent lyrics, this album will hold you spellbound from start to finish.


Arcana & Idols of the Flesh: Ambience and Chamber-Prog with Swindon Composer Richard Wileman

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….



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