Onika Venus Smooths Trowbridge Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WIN A CD OF EVERYTHING YOU ARE!

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


WIN 2 TICKETS HERE!

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Everything You Are, Onika Venus

You remember being given some coursework, when back in higher education, with various objectives and your task was to choose one to complete? Not really wanting to do it, you go to the student at the top of the class, and ask them what they’ve done. They reply, “ah, not much,” and this gives you the cue to do absolutely nothing. Then, on the day of handing it in, they’ve unexpectedly produced the single-most awesome project, covering all the objectives in one ingenious combination, and you stand there with zilch, except a jaw hanging and an implausible excuse, which you made up on the bus coming in?!

I’d imagine Onika Venus to be just like that. Now Bristol-based, Jamaican-born Onika plays Trowbridge Town Hall on September 18th, so, given reggae is cited as an influence, I thought I’d check out her debut solo album, Everything You Are, which was released back in March.

The title track was chosen as Songsmith’s Song of the Year 2020, and it’s easy to hear why. I’ve not been this blown away by a female vocalist since discovering Minneapolis’s Mayyadda.

Immediately this pushed my buttons, but if this opening title tune is decidedly acoustic blues, with a distant harmonica resounding in the background, there’s a truckload more going on than the first impressions here.

The premise from the beginning is as simple as, Onika Venus has the prevailing soulful voice to carry whatever genre is thrown into the melting pot, and drizzle it over you like hot sauce. It only leaves you pondering how far she will take it. The second tune I pigeonholed as RnB pop, a contemporary Macy Gray or Erykah Badu, aiming for chart success. When I’m Broken carries this concept to a higher height, and is simply, the model formula of popular music every song should aim for.

Yet, three songs in and here comes the Caribbean influence. Friday Love has a clear mento feel, it’s immediately beguiling, a good-time chugging song in the face the despondent romance theme. This will occur again towards the middle the album with Who’s Been loving You. Again, with Shotgun there’s similar appeal, perhaps the most definable as “roots reggae,” and, for me, they’re the favoured sections.

But it swaps back to the mainstay for track four, steady soul with an orchestrated ambience; Everything has its Season, is the ideal equilibrium to bless that heavenly voice and compose this euphoric moment of bliss. After a surprising modern dancehall intro, we’re back to an acoustic guitar riff for the poignant The Storm, using sax to mitigate jazz. I Need You, though, has kick-ass funk, Ike & Tina Turner in their prime.

With only three tunes to go, just when you think influences have been exhausted, there’s a duet with a male voice, supplied by husband, Mark, Mary, sounds classic Americana, as if Joe Cocker just walked into the studio and said, why don’t you try this?!

To keep you guessing what the last couple of tunes will hold, yeah, folk is strapped onto soul, Reaper Man aches of Aretha Franklin, but by this point you just know Onika Venus can carry this off with bells on. Raising the bar of comparisons is justified, believe me. For when it’s funky I’d give you Randy Crawford, Chaka Khan, and when it levels with acoustic and folk, her voice dishes out notions of reggae heroines, of Phyllis Dillon or Marcia Griffiths, and the gospel finale, yeah, Aretha will be justified, if not Sister Rosetta Tharpe; it is this magnificent.

Yet, unlike all these aforementioned legends, the style here is not monocultured, neither does it jerk from genre to genre without consistency and flow. Onika Venus gives volumes to the eclecticism, and it moulds efficaciously into one melting pot, beautifully. Prior to this solo launch, in a band called Slyde, her voice customised their breakbeat, techno and house style, to great effect, and I can well believe it. The flexibility of her skill is captured here, I’d imagine as comprehensively as she chooses personally, and just as the student who bursts in effortlessly, with the homework complete and to an exceptional standard, Onika Venus makes this look easy!


Win 2 free tickets here!

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Showcase of Reggae Perfection; Lone Ark meets the 18th Parallel

Just as Afrika Bambaataa was “looking for the perfect beat,” I’m one who’s seldom content with the direction reggae has shifted to in the modern era, and long to discover something more akin to the finale of its golden age, when Marley chanted his songs of freedom to a liberated Zimbabwe, Jah Shaka shook the rafters and Linton Kwesi Johnson poetically versed an English insurgence.

Alongside international acts such as Spanish The Emeterians, or Hollie Cook closer to us, Switzerland’s Fruits Records is that rare outpost still defending the ethos of that militant period in reggae, and if I’ve used the term “reggae perfection,” to define their wonderful outpourings before, this one takes the phrase to a whole new dizzy height.

Out tomorrow, 3rd September, Showcase Vol1, cannot be compared with any other reggae album I’ve heard of recent; it simply wouldn’t be fair on the others. I’d better pitch this against classics; Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Survival, Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey, Black Uhuru’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and a particular favourite of mine, Misty in Roots, Live at the Counter Eurovision 79, in order to rank it equitably, fi true.

Probably the most respected and sought-after producer of the European reggae scene of the last decade, Roberto Sánchez takes his place behind the microphone to deliver a new album as a singer under pseudonym Lone Ark, and is backed by Fruits’ in-house band, The 18th Parallel, and it’s quite simply, a sublime combination.

Sublime because it honours the Jamaican roots reggae tradition, with bells on. To put in perspective these six tracks, with dubplate counterparts, is to accept I’m sent so much music they occasionally get played more than once, but Showcase has been on repeat for the last month, and it still makes me tingle with delight, and militantly march while washing up the dishes!

It just has all the elements of said reggae perfection, heavy bass, divine one-drops, scorching riddims and well-penned lyrics of righteousness. The creativity of the sound engineer and the musicians is freely expressed, and the melody is tight, allowing all elements to flow in an amalgamation which sizzles under the grill.

Without being preachy or spiritual, there’s balanced virtue in the words. Starting revolutionary in citing youth, with the rousing line of Defend; “the rights of our brothers and sisters who cannot defend themselves,” through the yin-yang revelation in the solid Snake in the Grass. Side B, however, starts with Build an Ark, talks of family values in everyday activities, and “Get You,2 projects positivity to defeat oppression, akin to One Love. And in a summary, it creates a tenet comparable to the words of Marley, along with the sound of Sly & Robbie at their peak of Black Uhuru. And I’m sorry, but you cannot beat that.

This album is a treasure, all reggae fans need in their lives.


Check out my reggae and ska show, every Friday from 10pm GMT

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No Bad Press for Captain Accident & The Disasters

Top marks and a gold star for this album, released tomorrow, Friday 20th August; Bad Press, of which you’ll hear no such thing as bad press from me, and I’d be interested in how anyone could find an angle to do such. Yet if the title is subtle irony, more so is the band name, Captain Accident & The Disasters.

From the band name alone it’s understandable for one to perceive their output as comical or zany, but far from it. Here is some sublime, concentrated reggae and rock steady, bouncy and carefree, yes, but astutely written, covering some acute themes as well as the general tenet of rock steady; forlorn or unabridged romance. Neither am I willing to accept the talent here is any way an accident, and the band is anything but a disaster!

Twenty seconds into Bad Press is all you need to realise why David Rodigan speaks so highly of Cardiff’s Captain Accident & The Disasters, and they were invited back to tour with legends Toots & the Maytals after their 2016 UK tour, as the official full-tour support in 2017 and again in 2018. Which they did, and Captain Accident was asked to join the band onstage to perform Monkey Man on guitar. If it wasn’t for lockdown and the tragic passing of Toots Hibbert last year, they would have been on the European tour that year also.

Other than the wonderful sunshine reggae vibe, there’s not a great deal else going on in Bad Press, yet there’s no need to be. The band stick to the tried and tested formula, the mellow plod of traditional one-drop reggae, occasionally more steppers upbeat with only subtle ska or dub elements coming through. Note importantly, they do this with bells on. It doesn’t attempt to swerve off with experimentation. All tracks flow with precision and a highly polished sound produced with traditional instruments. At no time will Bad Press replicate a previous tune through dubplate principles, neither will a dancehall DJ toast over it, or a drum n bass riff be thrust unexpectedly at you; good, honest and exceptionally beautiful roots, rock reggae is what you get.

If themes reflect lovers rock or rock steady on occasion, it’s nicely done, and in others, where more sombre subject matter arises there’s no militancy, rather the longstanding carefree reggae ethos of not worrying, dancing reservations away, as every little thing will be alright. Neither does Rasta etiquettes or such biblical or cultural references come into play, making this reggae for the masses as well as aficionados. It’s just, ah, tingly, and apt for all!

Despite the band’s output, three previous albums being self-produced, their beguiling festival friendly sound has rocketed their success with a national fan-base growing by the day. I fully believe Bad Press will seal the deal.

Ten songs strong, I couldn’t pick a favourite. As I believe I said, it flows, blessing your ears with inspirational sound. In Redemption Song familiarities the content of the opening tune casts an eye on Armageddon, but pessimism doesn’t deject or depress you, and the title, “Not the End of the World,” says it all. The aforementioned carefree attitude carries over with the catchy “Best Shoes,” the upbeat melody cutting to plod as Captain Accident aptly quotes Marley, “when the music hits you, you feel no pain.”

And such is unswaying general premise throughout, returning to one-drop for the beautiful “Playing Field,” which truly showcases the writing skill on righteousness and equality. Swapping back to the common hopeless romantic theme, “Wings,” will melt you, like the referenced wings of Icarus. Followed by the most ska-ish, the buoyant “Miami Incorporating.”

There is nothing here to rightfully label this with bad press, perhaps the blithest tune being the “Dark n Stormy,” with a rum subject, there’s a real Caribbean feel, yet the most interestingly intertwined is the rock-inspired guitar previous song, “Puttin’ Up a Fight,” because it clarifies this “reggae for all,” notion I’ve attempted to convey. I hope this comes across, especially in these local parts where the genre is often misunderstood and misrepresented. If your knowledge of reggae doesn’t extend much past Bob Marley & The Wailers in their international prime, you will love this. Yet, for bods like me, a humongous enthusiast, it fills me with a glorious passion that the traditional aspects of reggae will never be lost in a sea of dancehall, reggaeton and dubstep.

Ah, they’re all worthy, to me, but aside, reggae got soul, and you NEED this album in your life!


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Today is Bandcamp Friday, Best Day to Bag Our 4Julia’s House Compilation

As the headline suggests, it’s Bandcamp Friday, August 6, 2021, when the music platform waivers its fees, from midnight-to-midnight Pacific Time. There’s no better time to buy our awesome fundraising compilation album as an average 93% of your tenner will go to Julia’s House Children’s Hospice.

Bandcamp Friday has been operating since March of 2020, on the first Friday of every month. Bandcamp is a wonderful site, it doesn’t prioritise signed artists, but level pegs all musicians. They waivered their shares to help support the many artists who have seen their livelihoods disrupted by the pandemic. You can explore Bandcamp forever, finding your favourite artists, local music, or do as I like do sometimes, and venture off for a musical journey beyond your usual haunts. You can trek to a country and find all manner of musical styles you’ve never heard before, safe in the knowledge, unlike streaming sites, it is fair trade for the artists.

Streaming sites offer a pittance of revenue share to the artist, they have to get millions of listens to make the price of sausage roll, whereas Bandcamp is a buying service, where merchandising can be added too. This is why I chose the site to launch our compilation album. Money comes straight over to us when you buy, and we’ve currently raised over £150 for Julia’s House, please help us to raise this bar.

Besides, it’s a cracking album, where if you’re in the local area, name your favourite local artist, and I there’s a high chance they’ll be on it, and I guarantee you’ll discover some new ones too. 46 full length songs of various genres, thoughtfully placed in sections according to those genres, to create a soundscape encompassing everything that’s amazing about both our local music scene, and beyond, artists we’ve featured on Devizine in the past.

In fact, I call it an album, but a “boxset” would be a more appropriate term if it was a physical product. Unfortunately, it is only as a download, as to make it an album would take over 5 CDS, and the expense of producing a product is too much to risk taking any profits made for the charity. I would be keen to hear from a business willing to sponsor the production of a small run of CDs, but as it is, download it is. There’s a good thing with download, your purchase is stored in a cloud, so you’ll never lose it as you have unlimited downloads of it. You can transfer it from one devise to another, you could burn it onto your own CD, if you wished.

It will never fail to amaze me, just how many musicians rallied to donate a song to this project, and I’m forever grateful to them all. Artists you should branch out to, and buy some of their albums and singles, as I’ve handpicked these fantastic people, so you can be rest-assured of their quality and talent.

For detailed track listing click here, but here’s the lowdown of who you’ll be hearing on this musical journey of over three hours, in order of appearence: Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall, King Dukes, Erin Bardwell, Timid Deer, Duck n Cuvver, Strange Folk, Strange Tales, Paul Lappin, Billy Green 3, Jon Veale, Wilding, Barrelhouse, Richard Davies & The Dissidents, Tom Harris, Will Lawton – Evanescence, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Kirsty Clinch, Richard Wileman, Nigel G. Lowndes, Kier Cronin, Sam Bishop, Mr Love & Justice, Barmy Park, The Truzzy Boys, Daydream Runaways, Talk in Code, Longcoats, Atari Pilot, Andy J Williams, The Dirty Smooth, SexJazz, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue, The Boot Hill All Stars, Mr Tea & The Minions, Cosmic Shuffling, Blondie & Ska,The Birth of Bonoyster, The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show, Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves, Meru Michael, Cutsmith, The Tremor Tones, Big Ship Alliance, Feat Johnny2Bad, Robbie Levi & Stones, Urban Lions, Neonian, First Born Losers.


Song of the Day 41: Captain Accident & Disasters

Meaning to bring back this simple and quick feature for a while now, and what better opportunity than a new tune from Cardiff’s reggae virtuosoes Captain Accident and the Disasters?

Nice mellow rock steady number this one, with a sombre theme and contrasting clown in the video. Bring on those happy, happy clowns, for a band who supported Toots and the Maytals on their 2016 UK tour, who Toots Hibbert liked so much to invite them back to do the same for the follow two tours, it could only be more talent than “accident.”

And that’s my song of the day!! Very good, carry on…..


Hotting up for August 2021: Things to Do Across Wiltshire and Beyond

If July saw the gradual return to normality, and cautiously events crawled back with a welcomed but awkward feeling, while it may be hugely debatable if we’re doing the right thing, or not, August is warming up to be stonker. Events of all types are flung up each day, it’s hard to keep track and up-to-date, nevertheless I try.

Fingers crossed it doesn’t go Pete Tong. Such a divided issue with good arguments on each side, I’m not about to start ranting for either, but I salute everyone organising events, at great risk to themselves financially. All I will say is, it is vital for the success of any event and the continuation of them in general, that we still apply certain rules, restrictions set by the organisers, and adopt the necessary etiquette when attending them. We know what the precautions are, they’re second nature now. The government passed the buck, it is up to us, each and everyone of us to think for ourselves, respect other’s decisions on how to act, but I appeal, act responsibly and long may this continue.

Without further-a-do then, here’s what we’ve found on Devizine for August. It’s far easier to knock this article up with providing too many links, they can be found at the event calendar, and for family events throughout the school holidays, check here; but please do check for updates, it’s never an exhaustive thing, new events are being added. Said that bit before, but it is even more vital to check ahead, to ensure events are going ahead as planned, and what restrictions might be in place at them individually. Have a great August, stay safe.

Week 1:

Kicking off on Monday August 2nd with the +5 Holiday Club at The Farm Cookery School. Tuesday 3rd and running until Thursday 5th August, RW Football School Summer Football Camp are at Green Lane, Devizes, ages 6-11.

Wednesday August 4th, then. Chippenham Museum host a Children’s Art Walk. Take a walk, through Monkton Park for this fun arty session. You will receive a pack with pencils, crayons and plenty of paper and join local artist Kirsty Jones to explore the wonderful setting of the park.2pm – 3pm. £4 per child. Recommended age 6 and above, all children must be accompanied. Meet at the town bridge entrance to Monkton Park. There’s also the +8 Holiday Club @ The Farm Cookery School.

Wednesday also sees the first Junior Actors with Lucia, for school years 6-9, for the Youth Theatre Summer Workshop at the Wharf Theatre, Devizes.

Thursday 5th and the Summer Kid’s Art Club at Wiltshire Scrapstore starts on Bowden Hill, Lacock. Sessions from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm, run every Thursday and Friday through August.

Our first August festival starts Thursday, Wickham Festival in Hampshire, where Van the Man headlines, and the Love Summer Festival at Plympton, Devon starts Friday.

There’s an interesting-sounding new family musical written and produced by Mel Lawman staged at Bath’s Forum on Friday 6th -Saturday 7th Miss Red. Devizes folk support this, because our homegrown talented twelve-year-old, Jessica Self from Centre Stage Academy of Dance in Devizes and Stagecoach Trowbridge is in the cast, playing Daisy Blewitt. We wish you all the best, Jessica.

Friday 6th also sees the Salisbury Comedy Festival start, Black Sabbath tribute, Supernaut play the Vic in Swindon, and HoneyStreet’s Barge will be kicking as the Mid Life Krisis Collective head down there.

On Saturday 7th time for Sheer Music to put aside their lockdown TV presenting skills and get on with what they do best, hosting gigs. And what a way to start, it’s Frank Turner at the Cheese & Grain. Also, catch the amazing Kevin Brown the Southgate, Devizes, and those mods, The Roughcut Rebels play the Greyhound in Trowbridge.

The wonderful Strange Folk are at The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon. Concord Drive, Transfer Window and Man in Vest play Swindon’s Vic, Jive Talkin’ perform the Bee Gees at Chippenham’s Neeld Hall and it’s The Bath Festival Finale Weekend, where McFly headline.

For Sunday chilling, on the 8th, get down to the Queens Head in Box where Schtumm presents The Lost Trades with support from Lee Broderick, alternatively the Neeld play The Rod Stewart Songbook.

Week 2:

Monday 9th August there’s a +8 Holiday Club, The Farm Cookery School and +11 on Tuesday.

Wednesday sees another Youth Theatre Summer Workshop, at Devizes, the Wharf Theatre, check their website for details. Chippenham Museum also hosts a Writing & Performance Workshop with performer Ruth Hill, for ages 8 and above. More Summer Kid’s Art Club at Wiltshire Scrapstore on Thursday and Friday, and The Cake Lady takes The Farm Cookery School’s +8 Holiday Club.

Friday night, I’ve got Stop Stop playing Swindon’s Vic, and that’s it so far.

Saturday 14th, Cobbs at Hungerford have a charity Emergency Service Day, should be fun for the little ones. For the grownups, cider fest at the Civic in Trowbridge with the Mangled Wurzels.

Lewis Clark is at The Southgate, Devizes, Shepard’s Pie at Wanborough’s The Harrow, and Webb, formally known as Ryan Webb has this EP launch party at Swindon’s Vic, with Broken Empire and Land Captains in support. Hope to get a copy of this for reviewing, some clog in the pipeline at the moment. But hey, it’s also Buckfest at Marlborough The Roebuck where the loud and proud Humdigger headline.

Bedpost, Transfer Window and Pool play the Vic in Swindon on Sunday.

Week 3:

+11 Holiday Club at The Farm Cookery School on Monday 16th, and the RW Football School are in Melksham. Suitable for ages 6+, Pound Arts welcome Scratchworks Theatre Company’s joyful and mischievous show to Corsham Almshouses, for an outdoor performance of The Grimm Sisters.

A welcomed return of events at Melksham Assembly Hall on Thursday 19th, with Neil Sands Bringing Back the Good Times; ol’ time favourite show tunes from the 40s, 50s & 60s and a heart-warming tribute to Dame Vera Lynn.

Friday 20th and Jack Dee’s new show, Warm Up is at Chippenham’s Neeld Hall. I’ve nothing else for Friday night yet, but Saturday21st, woah, festival time!

First up, is where I plan to be, Mantonfest, near Marlborough, with Blondie tribute Dirty Harry, Dr Feelgood, Barrelhouse, Richard Davies & The Dissidents and many more. Over the downs, OakStock at Pewsey’s Royal Oak is another safe bet; Amy Winehouse, Rag n Bone Man tributes, alongside the brilliant Illingsworth.

Meanwhile the rescheduled Bath Reggae Festival takes place, with Maxi Priest, Aswad, Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, Hollie Cook and more. Anne‐Marie, Dizzee Rascal and Clean Bandit headline Live at Lydiard 2021.

Howlin’ Mat plays The Southgate, Devizes, while Sex Pistol’s tribute Pretty Vacant are at Swindon’s Vic, with support by The Half Wits and Subject Ex.

Week 4:

Monday 23rd August is +8 Holiday Club at The Farm Cookery School, and Tuesday is11+.From Tuesday until Thursday, The RW Football School Summer Football Camp returns to Green Lane, Devizes, for ages 6-11.

Chippenham Museum has a one-hour workshop to create your own simple mini scrap book inspired by their latest exhibition on Wednesday, for ages 6+.

Thursday and Friday it’s Summer Kid’s Art Club at Wiltshire Scrapstore. And Thursday 26th August sees an Olympic Gold Medallist, Alex Danson running a Hockey Masterclass at Devizes Hockey Club. Open to all hockey players aged 11-18 – you don’t have to be a member of DHC.

All weekender at The Barge on Honeystreet, when Honey Fest kicks off Thursday, with a grand local line-up, including The Lost Trades, The Blunders, and Chicken Shed Zeppelin, to name but a few.

The Southgate is the place to head towards on Friday in Devizes, where my personal indie-pop favourites, (not that I should have favourites) Daydream Runaways are booked in. Also, the highly anticipated FullTone Festival returns to Devizes Green, all weekend, with the Full Tone Orchestra and Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats appearing Sunday.

A theatrical outdoor re-telling of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, Wind in the Willows on Saturday 28th August at Corsham’s Pound Arts. And Sunday, a Magical show where beautiful Princesses become Pop Stars, Pop Princesses comes to Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.

Meanwhile, it’s the welcomed Triple JD Band at The Southgate, Devizes and HarrowFest at Wanborough’s The Harrow, featuring Jamie R Hawkins, The Blind Lemon Experience and more…


Idiot Music, is the Monkey’s Bizzle

This is isn’t the favoured way to start a review, but this is idiot music for stupid people, if you think this is stupid then you’re a fucking idiot, and that’s a quote, from the opening title tack, which ends on, “oh, there it is, up my bum; can I eat it now?”

If Goldie Looking Chain is all too millennial, but hip hop, for you, should be served with massive chunks of deadpan sauce, west country tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and general silliness, Monkey Bizzle’s debut album, Idiot Music might just be the thing to pick off the menu.   

Through the Pythonesque nature of Idiot Music though, wailing guitars, proficient drumming (from Cerys of the Boot Hill All Stars), and substantial dope beats means this is far from amateurish, and will rock the festival circuit. In fact, the Somerset five-piece sold out the album launch party at The Barge on Honeystreet a fortnight ago; I see why. This drips with Scrumpy & Western charm, like Gloucestershire’s Corky, Wurzels meets the Streets, the elements of “agricultural” hip hop make this apt for our local crusty scene. Yet with wider appeal, it is, simply, parental advisory fun.

Primates tend to be a running theme, a particularly danceable funky signature tune named Monkey Funk, a King Kong themed rap, another including David Attenborough samples. There are also drug references aplenty, the reggae-inspired Heavy, or Doves (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) needs no explaining, but in it, it mocks the chav culture in such a way you may’ve thought only Goldie Looking Chain could. Something it’ll inevitably be compared to, but more so than the humour drafting this side of the Seven, what makes this so appealing is its nod of respect to hip hop rather than mocking it, is greater than that of Goldie Looking Chain, in a similar way there’s was with Beastie Boy satirists Morris Minor and the Majors, if you get as old skool as I!

One thing’s for sure, Monkey Bizzle isn’t to be taken seriously, but for the most part it’s listenable to as a hip hop album rather than pure novelty too, unique rappers Skoob and James make this so, especially as the album trickles on, both CU Next Tuesday and Ha Ha Ha being particularly entertaining, Oi Mate ripples with The Streets’, Give Me My Lighter Back but under a ska riff.

Nothing here is going to become next summer’s banging anthem on Radio One’s Big Weekender, an honour they’re clearly not bothered by or striding towards. To face facts, what you get is a full album of highly entertaining flip-flop and amusing lyrics of daring themes, wrapped by gifted musicians only playing the fools. And for which, Idiot Music has got my name all over it!


Girls Go Ska; Frente al Mar!

Rude girls grito! Far from home perhaps, but so, so worth mentioning for tropical vibes of rock steady and ska in a fashion proportionately you’ll find hard to come by around these parts, it’s my beloved all-girl-bar-one Mexican ska band, Girls Go Ska with a bran-new album Frente al Mar. Girls and ska, what’s not to like?!

From the off, the title track simply melts, mellowly, and builds in tempo, but is never overdramatic; “cool” is the operative word; fresco! If I’ve put them on a pedestal before, they’ve now put another couple of pedestals atop it. Often steady paced for the genre, it proves ska, while upbeat doesn’t have to be full of macho-bravura skinheads, or a frenzied rancour attack against dogmatic tyranny it’s often misperceived here through the eighties’ second-generation Two-Tone scene, and within the dominate contemporary ska-punk internationally. I’ve made this point in the past when penning a more general piece about ska and reggae in South America, in which Girls Go Ska were featured.

Girls go Ska

Frente al Mar is breezy, bright and fun, light-hearted and beguiling. It roots the genre to its original Jamaican ethos, as a carefree dance music. Though, there’s a large chunk of assumption with those observations, as my Spanish isn’t up to scratch, so my presumption rests on the design, the album name, which translates to the seaside, basically, and mood of the vocals; if they’re singing about anything other than romantic themes and enjoying oneself dancing on a tropical beach, like making political statement, it certainly doesn’t sound that way! You just have to enjoy the professionality and untroubled vibe this album breezes in your direction, it’s gorgeous, and it absolutely skanks!

Packaged femininely in loud pink and decorated with cute shōjo manga, rather than our typecast black and white chequered trade identity with Walt Jabsco splashed all over, Frente al Mar provides an alternative to norm, but is no way attributes the “fairer sex,” rather riot grrrl kick-ass in tenet, gender-neutral in sound. Not that punk comes into play; throughout it’s steadfast traditional ska sound, one should credit Studio One rather than Two-Tone, or even Reel Big Fish for, there’s also sprinklings of Latino sound traditional to Mexico, of ranchera, norteño and their contemporary offshoots, but are subtle and likely naturally occurring.

Imagine, if your English mind will adapt, Gloria Estefan performing ska, and you’re nearer to the mark than The Specials. But no, eight sublimely flowing tunes is what you get, a sun-kissed blessing on the ear, in the style of brass-based rock steady and good ol’ ska. While pukka boys, Death of Guitar Pop are currently returning the welcomed Nutty-Boys-esque frivolous and fairground ska home for lads, further afield, here comes the girls.

Meanwhile here in my hometown of Devizes, the newly opened rum bar, The Muck & Dundar has been a roaring success, proving a taste of the tropical is welcomed, ergo, taken out of its context and origins, Frente al Mar would make the perfect soundtrack to it. Me? I’m smitten, with a little crush!


Trending….

Was a TwoManTing at the Southgate

Managed to make it somewhere between out and Micky Flanagan’s out-out last night. In other words, I didn’t change out of my manky khaki shorts I’d been gardening in, but still got a pint or so down “the Gate.” I’ve been aching to witness the duo, TwoManTing for myself, Captain Obvious; yes, TwoManTing is a duo, you can’t make it up.

Appearing at the Devizes trusty Southgate a few times previously, it’s been something I’ve been meaning to catch-up with, being their appellation sounds all rather reggae, my favourite cup of tea. My residual curiosity though, how can a duo make reggae, something you surely need a gang for; a bassist, a drummer, brass section et all?

Two Man Ting

Answer revealed, the “ting” part might be misconceiving to our preconceived notion the phonologic is Jamaican patois. The Bristol-based duo consists of English guitarist Jon Lewis, who has a clear penchant for Two-Tone and punk inclinations of yore, and Jah-man Aggrey, a Sierra Leonean percussionist. They met playing together as part of dance band, Le Cod Afrique, at venues such as Montreux Jazz Festival and WOMAD, formed the duo in 2004, and make for an interesting and highly entertaining two-man show.

Something of a surprise then, and a rarity around these backwaters, to hear maringa, demonstrative folk of Sierra Leone, perhaps catered more to our tastes via Jon, but essentially the same ballpark, acoustic guitar and percussion. Somewhere between calypso but with the Latino twinge of rhumba, best pigeonholed, their sound is motivating and beguiling, and achieved with originality. In fact, to my surprise most of their compositions were their own creations, save the sublimely executed known cover of The Clash’s Guns of Brixton, Jon’s clear punk inspiration showing forth.

They told there’s a Clash cover on each album, of which they’ve produced three. Story checks out; Armagideon Time on their first album Legacy, which I could quibble is actually a Coxsone’s Studio One cover by the Clash, aforementioned Guns of Brixton on 2015’s Say What? and something of a rarity from Combat Rock, the poet Allen Ginsberg’s duet with Strummer, Ghetto Defendant, which can be found on their most up-to-date album, 2019’s Rhymes With Orange.

But this punk influence is sure subtle, the mainstay of their enticing sound is the acoustic maringa, palm wine music traditional throughout West Africa, at least for the start of the show. The most poignant moment for me was Jah-man attributing his homeland’s natural glory, rather than that which people tend to ask him about, the civil conflicts and war, in a chorus which went, “why not ask me about….”

Jah-man and George hanging out after the gig

As the performance progressed the fashion modernised, live loops upped the tempo, and it became highly danceable afro-pop, in the style of soukous, more spouge than cariso in delivery; how apt for the current heatwave! At times lost in the music, it was easy to throw-off the notion the wonderful sound was reverberating from just two guys, rather than an eight-piece band, reason enough for BBC 6Music’s Lauren Laverne to say of TwoManTing, “brilliant – if you want a bit of early summer, then get this into your ear-holes!”

Today they can be caught at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, but appreciation again to The Southgate for supplying Devizes with something diverse and entertaining. Next Saturday at “the Gate,” Rockport Blues appear, for a night of blues, rock and soul classics, starting at 7:30pm.


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International Reggae Day; 10 Reggae Facts You May/May Not Know!

Ya mon, today, July 1st marks International Reggae Day, so put pan sum a dat irie muzik an git skanking. To help celebrate here’s some interesting facts about Jamacia’s national sound you may/may not have heard before, depending how up pon da scene you is.

1: Bob Marley &The Wailers Were Fired as Support Act for Sly & The Family Stone

Debatably, Bob Marley & The Wailers were booted off the 1973 Sly & The Family Stone US tour for upstaging them. It was early days for the band internationally, and they had fire in their heart and motivation to succeed. Meanwhile, Sly and The Family Stone were at the top of their game, the peak of their career, and it was largely reported the funk misfits were too intoxicated to play well. The Wailers were fired after the first four or five shows with Sly and The Family Stone, leaving much dispute to the reason. Me, I can read between the lines and it’s blatantly obvious why!

2: One of the Most Influential Figures of Reggae, was a Nun

Aside the obvious Bob Marely, one of the single most influential figures in the history of reggae was Sister Mary Ignatius Davies. A Sister of Mercy, Mary Ignatius Davies was an inspirational music teacher at Kingston’s Alpha Boys School. Prominent in the advances of ska and reggae, her music tuition at this “school for wayward boys” influenced many of the pioneers of ska, including Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One legendary inhouse band, The Skatalites, many who would later make up the Wailers backing band for Bob Marley.  

3: Desmond Dekker Was Turned Down by Major Recording Producers

One of the greatest figures of reggae has to be Desmond Dekker, famed for the 1969 Pyramid song, The Israelites with his backing band, The Aces. Indeed, Desmond was prominent throughout the ska and rock steady periods too, and it was Dekker who encouraged a young Bob Marley, workmate in a welding factory, to approach Jimmy Cliff, which sparked his success. But if Desmond Dekker is celebrated for his smooth vocals, we should note he failed his own auditions at both the most dominant Jamaican studios, Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One and Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle, in 1961. Resulting in working for the lesser Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s record label later that year.

4: Red, Red Wine Was Written and Originally Performed by Neil Diamond

Think any of any reggae single to be most asked at a standard family disco in the UK, and I’ll guarantee it will be UB40’s 1983 version of Red, Red Wine. A number 1 hit for UB40, it sparked a new path for them in recreating and covering older reggae tunes. But while the song had indeed been a boss reggae hit for Tony Tribe, reaching only 46 on the UK chart in 1969, it was in fact written and originally recorded by Neil Diamond in 1967, included on Diamond’s second studio album, Just for You; a fact that even UB40 was unaware of at the time of releasing the song!

5: The Ethos of Hip Hop Came from Reggae

Okay, I might get shot via a drive-by for this one, but it’s an often-obscured fact that the originator of hip hop, the Bronx’s DJ Kool Herc was a Jamaican immigrant to New York, who despite moving with his family at just twelve years old, he grew up around Kingston’s dance hall sound system parties and wanted to bring the ethos to New York. Indeed, he did, as the bloc-party can be easily compared with the Jamaican sound system parties of the fifties and sixties. The only difference was, New Yorkers favoured the currently trending funk music, like James Brown, and Herc was quick to pick up on what the people wanted and adapt to the genre. But still, the ethos is comparable to reggae far more than soul.

6: Aswad are the Backing Band on Bob Marley’s Jamming

There are many facts I could throw at you about Marley’s second stay in England during 1977, while for his protection he was encouraged to flee Jamacia after a shooting incident. Firstly, that Punky Reggae Party was inspired by Don Letts introducing him to the punk movement, especially the Clash, it wasn’t recorded until he returned to Jamaica, at Joe Gibbs studio. The B-side was recorded in London though, with Aswad as backing. And I bet you thought the pinnacle of their career wasn’t until 1988 when they scored a UK number one with “Don’t Turn Around?”

7: Naomi Campbell Appeared in Marely’s Is This Love Video

Another fact about Marley’s stay in England was the music video for 1978’s Is This Love, produced and shot at the Keskidee Arts Centre in London. It’s a wonderful film in which Bob parties with the children of the centre, but watch out for the little girl sleeping, who Marley covers up with a blanket; it’s supermodel Naomi Campbell, at only seven years old!

8: Johnny Rotten Flooded the UK Market with Reggae

Richard Branson too, for he created Virgin’s short-lived reggae subsidy in 1978, Front Line, by sending Johnny Lydon of the Sex Pistols to Jamacia to sign as many artists as he could in reaction of Chris Blackwell’s Island Records success with Bob Marley & The Wailers. Rotten came back with contracts from U-Roy, The Mighty Diamonds, Keith Hudson, Johnny Clarke, Peter Tosh, I Roy, Prince Far I, Big Youth, Prince Hammer, Tappa Zukie, Sly Dunbar, and The Twinkle Brothers, to name but a few.

9: Toots & The Maytals Narrowly Missed Being Bigger Than Bob Marley & The Wailers

At a time when reggae was seen as a “novelty” music outside of Jamacia, resident Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Records wanted to bring a reggae band to the international stage in a similar light to a rock band. For this he toyed between signing either The Maytals or The Wailers. Though he didn’t want to deal with the young, rude boys which were the Wailers, he figured he would take his chances, as Toots & The Maytals sung too gospel for a white audience to accept. Together with the notion Marely was mixed-raced, he signed The Wailers first and advanced them money to make their debut album, Catch a Fire. While he quickly signed the Maytals soon after, he concentrated his efforts mainly on Bob, dividing him from Pete Tosh and Bunny Wailer, and it was in competition with Toots which concerned Marley the most.

10:  Mark Lamarr Stopped Shabba Ranks from Becoming Reggae’s Next International Reggae Superstar

By 1992 Dancehall was fast becoming acceptable on an international level, and the king was due to be Shabba Ranks. He had gained popularity partulcarly in the USA, where he secured a contract with Epic Records, and won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. How a shadow was cast during his appearance on Channel 4’s The Word, when Mark Lamarr probed him for his opinion on Buju Banton’s controversial homophobic song Boom Bye Bye, which advocated the shooting of gays.

Live on TV, grasping a bible, Shabba called for the “crucifixion of homosexuals,” claiming it to be the “word of God.” Lamarr retorted, “That’s absolute crap and you know it!” Shabba may have been unaware just how grave his comments were, where in Jamacia such values are lesser thought of at the time, but it had serious consequences for him, and sent dancehall music back a decade in advancing to a popular international music. Immediately Ranks was dropped from a Bobby Brown concert, and despite making a formal apology, Sony released him from his contract three years later.

OUT NOW! Various Artists 4 Julia’s House

As a nipper I’d spend days, entire school holidays, making mixtapes as if I worked for Now, That’s What I Call Music! In the era before hi-fi, I’d sit holding a microphone to the radio’s speaker, adventurously attempting to anticipate when Tony Blackburn was going to talk over the tune, and just when In the Air Tonight peaked with Phil’s crashing drums, my dad would shout up the stairs that my tea was ready; eternally caught on tape, at least until my Walkman screwed up the cassette.

Crude to look back, even when I advanced to tape-to-tape, I discovered if I pressed the pause button very slowly on the recording cassette deck, it would slide into the next song, and with a second of grinding squeal Howard Jones glided into Yazoo!! Always the DJ, just never with the tech! Rest assured; this doesn’t happen on this, our Various Artists compilation album, 4 Julia’s House. And oh, have I got some news about that?!

Huh? Yes, I have, and here it is….  

We did it! Thanks once again to all our fabulous contributing artists, our third instalment of detailed sleeve notes will follow shortly, but for now, I couldn’t wait another day, therefore, I’ve released it half a day early, this afternoon!

Now all that needs to happen is to get promoting it, and you can help by sharing news of this on your social media pages, thank you. Bloggers and media please get in touch, and help me raise some funds for Julia’s House.

I’ve embedded a player, in which you should be able to get a full try before you buy, I believe you get three listens before it’ll default and tell you to buy it. I hope you enjoy, it has been a mission and half, but one I’d gladly do again.

Please note: there are many artists giving it, “oh no, I was going to send you a track!” Fear not, there is still time, as I’ll causally start collecting tunes for a volume 2, and when the time is ready and we have enough songs, we will do it. It might be for another charity, I’d personally like to do another raising funds for The Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, but that’s unconfirmed as of yet.

You know, sometimes I think I could raise more money with less effort by trekking down through the Market Place in a bath of cold baked beans, but I wanted to bring you a treasured item comprising of so many great artists we’ve featured, or will be featuring in the near future on Devizine. Never before has all these artists been on one huge album like this, and look, even if you don’t care for a particular tune, there’s 46 of them, check my maths as I pride myself on being exceptionally rubbish at it, but I make that 22p a track, and all for such a worthy cause!


Click for info on Julia’s House

“We are so grateful to Devizine and all of the local artists who are taking part in the charity album to raise funds for Julia’s House. We don’t receive any government funding for the care we give to families in Wiltshire, so the support we receive from our local community is so important.”

Claudia Hickin, Community Fundraiser at Julia’s House

Devizine Proudly Presents Various Artists 4 Julia’s House; Here’s the Track Listing!

Sleeve Notes for our Album 4 Julia’s House

Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, I hope! The track listing and details of all our wonderful songs presented on our forthcoming album, Various Artists 4 Julia’s House. Read on in awe….

Pre-order album on Bandcamp here!

Released: 29th June 2021

1. Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall – Julie

2. King Dukes – Dying Man

3. Erin Bardwell – (Like the Reflection on) The Liffey view

4. Timid Deer – The Shallows

5. Duck n Cuvver – Henge of Stone

6. Strange Folk – Glitter

7. Strange Tales – Entropy

8. Paul Lappin – Broken Record

9. Billy Green 3 – I Should be Moved

10. Jon Veale – Flick the Switch

11. Wilding – Falling Dream

12. Barrelhouse – Mainline Voodoo

13. Richard Davis & The Dissidents – Higher Station

14. Tom Harris – Ebb & Flow

15. Will Lawton – Evanescence

16. Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective – Dreams Can Come True

17. Kirsty Clinch – Stay With Us

18. Richard Wileman – Pilot

19. Nigel G. Lowndes – Who?

20. Kier Cronin – Crying

21. Sam Bishop – Wild Heart (Live Acoustic)

22. Mr Love & Justice – The Other Side of Here

23. Barmy Park – Oakfield Road

24. The Truzzy Boys – Summer Time

25. Daydream Runaways – Light the Spark

26. Talk in Code – Talk Like That

27. Longcoats – Pretty in Pink

28. Atari Pilot – When We Were Children

29. Andy J Williams – Post Nup

30. The Dirty Smooth – Seed to the Spark

31. SexJazz – Metallic Blue

32. Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue – Hammer Down

33. The Boot Hill All Stars – Monkey in the Hold

34. Mr Tea & The Minions – Mutiny

35. Cosmic Shuffling – Night in Palermo

36. Boom Boom Bang Bang – Blondie & Ska

37. The Birth of Bonoyster – The Way I Like to Be

38. The Oyster – No Love No Law

39. The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show – Ghosts

40. Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves – This Time

41. Cutsmith – Osorio

42. The Tremor Tones – Don’t Darken my Door

43. Big Ship Alliance – All in this Thing Together

44. Neonian – Bubblejet

45. First Born Losers – Ground Loop

I’ll tell you what though, kids. This has been a lot more work than I originally anticipated! Yeah, I figured, just collect some tunes, let the artists do all the hard work and take the credit! But no, mate, wasn’t like that at all. The most important part for me, is ensuring the artists are properly thanked, so, just like those Now, That’s What I Call Music albums, I wanted to write up a full track listing with sleeve notes and links. Please support the artists you like on the album by checking them out, following and liking on social media and buying their music.

But to list all 45 tunes in one article will blow the attention span of the most avid reader, and if, like me, you’ve the attention span of a goldfish, find below the first twenty, and then the next 25 will follow as soon as my writer’s cramp ceases! Just putting them onto the bag was tedious enough, but worth the effort.


To all the artists below, message me if links are incorrect or broken, or if there’s any changes to the details you’d like me to edit, thanks, you blooming superstars.

1- Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall – Julie

Not so much that Julie is similar to Julia, there could be no song more apt to start the album. Something of a local musical legend is Pete Lamb, owner of The Music Workshop, producing and recording local, national and international artists. His career in music stretches back to the sixties, creating such groups as The Colette Cassin Quintet and Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats. Yet it is also his aid to local music which makes him a prominent figure, Kieran J Moore tells how Pete lent him equipment for the first Sheer Music gigs.

Pete Lamb

A wonderful rock n roll ballad with a poignant backstory, Julie was written in remembrance of Pete’s daughter who passed away in 2004 to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was featured on an album for the charity Hope for Tomorrow. The song also features Cliff Hall, keyboardist with the Shadows for many years, playing piano and strings.

Cliff Hall

2 – The King Dukes – Dying Man

Formed in Bristol in April 2019, 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.

Dying Man is a prime example, taken from the album Numb Tongues which we fondly reviewed back in the October of 2019. The brilliance of which hasn’t waned for me yet, and isn’t likely to.

The King Dukes

3- Erin Bardwell – (Like the Reflection on) The Liffey

One cannot chat about reggae in Swindon without Erin’s name popping up. Keyboardist in the former ska-revival band, The Skanxters during the nineties, Erin now operates under various guises; the rock steady outfit Erin Bardwell Collective chiefly, experimental dub project Subject A with Dean Sartain, and The Man on the Bridge with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton, to name but a few.

(Like the Reflection on) The Liffey is an eloquently emotive tune, staunch to the ethos of reggae, yet profoundly unique to appeal further. It is taken from the album Interval, one of two solo ventures for Erin during lockdown.

Erin Bardwell

4 – Timid Deer – The Shallows

My new favourite thing, after noting Timid Deer supported the Lost Trades debut gig at Trowbridge’s Pump. Though self-labelled indie, I was surprised how electronica they are, with a nod to the ninety’s downtempo scene of bands like Morcheeba and Portishead, hold the trip hop element. This Salisbury five-piece consisting of vocalist Naomi Henstridge, keyboardist Tim Milne, Tom Laws on double bass, guitarist Matt Jackson and drummers Chris and Jason Allen have created such an uplifting euphoric sound, hairs stand tall on the back of your neck.   

Taken from the 2019 album Melodies for the Nocturnal Pt. 1, I’m so pleased to present this.

Naomi Henstridge


5- Duck n Cuvver – Henge of Stone

Yes, enthralled to have the song frontman Robert Hardie of Duck n Cuvver refers to as “his baby.” This is Salisbury Celtic roots rock band so aching to film part of their video for Henge of Stone inside Stonehenge, they’ve campaigned for the funds to do it, ending with Rab breaking into the monument to promote the campaign!

With references to the importance of solstice and the pilgrimage to Stonehenge, what other song could be so locally linked?

Duck & Curver

6 – Strange Folk – Glitter

A dark west country folk band in the realm of a beatnik time of yore, with a serious slice of gothic too, Strange Folk came to my attention playing the Vinyl Realm stage at the Devizes Street Festival. Hailing from Hertfordshire, band members also now reside in Somerset, Strange Folk is comprised of four songwriters; vocalist Annalise Spurr, guitarist David Setterfield, Ian Prangnell on bass and backing vocals, and drummer Steve Birkett. Glitter features cello by Helen Robertson, and is a name-your-price gift to fans during lockdown, a wonderful teaser which if you like, and I can’t see why you wouldn’t, you should try the 2014 mini-album Hollow, part one.

Strange Folk

7 – Strange Tales – Entropy

With singer Sally Dobson on the Wiltshire acoustic circuit and the synth/drum programming of Paul Sloots, who resides in West Sussex, catching this duo, Strange Tales live would be a rare opportunity not to be missed. Though their brilliance in melodic, bass and synth-driven goth-punk is captured in the 2018 album Unknown to Science, in which our track Entropy is taken.

Their songs relate baroque cautionary tales drawn from the murkier corners of the human psyche, while retaining a pop sensibility and stripped-down, punk-rock approach. Fans of the darker side of eighties electronica, of Joy Division and Depeche Mode will love this. You can buy this album at Vinyl Realm in Devizes.

Strange Tales; Paul Sloots & Sally Dobson

8- Paul Lappin – Broken Record

Imagine George Harrison present on the Britpop scene, and you’re somewhere lost in Lappin’s world. Paul hails from Swindon originally, but resides mostly in the Occitanie region of the south of France, where he wrote and recorded the mind-blowingly brilliant album The Boy Who Wants to Fly, released in October 2020. Our chosen track, Broken Record was a single just prior, in August, and features Lee Alder – bass guitar, electric guitar, Robert Brian – drums, Jon Buckett – Hammond organ, electric guitar, Paul Lappin – vocals, synths, Lee Moulding – percussion, Harki Popli – table.

Music & lyrics by Paul Lappin ©2020. Recorded at Earthworm Recording Studio, Swindon. Produced & Mixed by Jon Buckett. Mastered by Pete Maher.

Paul Lappin

9- Billy Green 3 – I Should be Moved

Now Devizes-based, Bill Green was a genuine Geordie Britpop article, co-creating the local band Still during those heady nineties. Today his band on the circuit, Billy Green 3 consists also of Harvey Schorah and Neil Hopkins, who’s talents can be witnessed in the awesome album this track comes from, also titled Still. Mastered and produced by Martin Spencer and Matt Clements at Potterne’s Badger Set studio in 2020, it’s wonderfully captures the remnants of the eighties scooter scene in reflected in Britpop.

I’m sure you can buy the album at Vinyl Realm, Devizes; I would if I were you.

Billy Green 3

10- Jon Veale – Flick the Switch

Marlborough guitar tutor, singer-songwriter and bassist of local covers band Humdinger, Jon Veale’s single, Flick the Switch, also illuminated Potterne’s Badger Set studio in August of 2020, and it immediately hits you square in the chops, despite the drums were recorded prior to lockdown, by legend Woody from Bastille, and Jon waited tolerantly for the first lockdown to end before getting Paul Stagg into Martin Spencer’s studio to record the vocals. Glad to have featured it then, even more pleased Jon contributed it to this album.

Jon Veale

11- Wilding – Falling Dream

What can be said which hasn’t about Avebury’s exceptionally talented singer-songwriter George Wilding? A true legend in the making. Now residing in Bristol, George has the backing of some superb musicians to create the force to be reckoned with, Wilding. Perry Sangha assists with writing, as well electric guitar, loads more electric guitars, acoustic guitar, organ and weird synth things. Bassist James Barlow also handles backing vocals and cous cous. Daniel Roe is on drums.

The debut EP, Soul Sucker knocked me for six back in November 2018, as did this here latest single recorded at the elusive Dangerous Dave’s Den, mixed and mastered by Dan Roe, during October last year.

Wilding

12 – Barrelhouse – Mainline Voodoo

One good thing about preparing this album is to hear bands I’ve seen the names of, kicking around, and added to our event guide many times over, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see at a gig. Marlborough-based Barrelhouse is one, and after hearing Mainline Voodoo, I’m intending to make a beeline to a gig. Favourites over at their local festival, MantonFest, headlined Marlborough’s 2019 Christmas Lights Switch-On, and right up my street!

Formed in early 2014, Barrelhouse offer vintage blues and rock classics, heavily influenced by the golden age of Chicago Blues and the early pioneers of the British blues scene, staying true to the essence that made these tunes great and adding their own style of hard-edge groove. Overjoyed to feature Mainline Voodoo, title track from their 2020 album, which broke into the UK’s national Blues Top 40.

Barrelhouse

13 – Richard Davis & The Dissidents – Higher Station (R. Davies)

Absolutely bowled over, I am, to have Swindon’s road-driving rock band with a hint of punk, Richard Davis & The Dissidents send is this exclusive outtake from the Human Traffic album, out now on Bucketfull of Brains. We reviewed it back in December. Recorded at Mooncalf Studios. Produced by Richard Davies, Nick Beere and Tim Emery. If the outtake is this amazing, imagine the album!

Richard Davis & The Dissidents

14 – Tom Harris – Ebb & Flow

Lockdown may’ve delayed new material from Devizes-based progressive-metal five-piece Kinasis, but frontman Tom Harris has sent us something solo, and entirely different. Ebb & Flow is an exclusive track made for this album, a delicate and beautiful strings journey; enjoy.

Tom Harris

15 – Will Lawton & The Alchemists – Evanescence

Wiltshire singer-songwriter, pianist and music therapist Will Lawton, here with his group The Alchemists. A weave of many progressive influences from jazz to folk, Will recently surprised me by telling me drum n bass is among them too. The latest album ‘Salt of the Earth, Vol. 1 (Lockdown)’, is a collection of original poems embedded in meditative piano and ambient soundscapes. But we’ve taken this spellbinding tune from the previous release, Abbey House Session.

Will Lawton

16- Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective – Dreams Can Come True

Hailing from Essex but prevalent on our local live music circuit, with some amazing performances at Devizes’ Southgate, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective offer us this uplifting country-rock/roots anthem, which, after one listen, will see you singing the chorus, guaranteed. It is the finale to their superb 2020 album, Do What you Love.

Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective rocking the Southgate last year

17 – Kirsty Clinch – Stay With Us

If we’ve been massively impressed with Wiltshire’s country sensation, Kirsty Clinch’s new country-pop singles Fit the Shoe, Around and Around, and most recently, Waters Running Low and anticipating her forthcoming album, it’s when we get the golden opportunity to catch her live which is really heart-warming. This older track, recorded at Pete Lamb’s Music Workshop, exemplifies everything amazing about her acoustic live performances, her voice just melts my soul every listen.

Kirsty Clinch


18- Richard Wileman – Pilot

Incredibly prolific, Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman is known for his pre-symphonic rock band Karda Estra. Idols of the Flesh is his latest offering from a discography of sixteen albums, which we reviewed. Along a similar, blissful ethos Richard Wileman served up Arcana in September this year, where this track is taken from. While maintaining a certain ambiance, his own named productions are more conventional than Karda Estra, more attributed to the standard model of popular music, yet with experimental divine folk and prog-rock, think Mike Oldfield, and you’re part-way there.


19 – Nigel G. Lowndes – Who?

Bristol’s Nigel G Lowndes is a one-man variety show. Vaudeville at times, tongue-in-cheek loungeroom art-punk meets country folk; think if Talking Heads met Johnny Cash. Who? is the unreleased 11th track from his album Hello Mystery, we reviewed in March, and we’re glad to present it here.

Nigel G Lowndes

20 – Kier Cronin – Crying

Unsolicited this one was sent, and I love it for its rockabilly reel although a Google search defines this Swindon based singer songwriter as indie/alternative. Obsessed with the music and the joy of writing, Kier told me, “I once had a dream Bruce Springsteen told me to give it up… So, this one’s for you Bruce!” Crying was released as a single in March, also check out his EP of last year called One.


Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of, with the Bakesys

No matter the subject, a lesson is only as interesting as the teacher teaching it. Johnny Ball did the impossible, he made maths fun! Likewise, but more modern, Terry Deary’s books and subsequent CBBC show, Horrible Histories made what’s often perceived as a dull subject by pupils, somehow entertaining, amusing even. If Deary was my history teacher, rather than a thick-rimmed speccy, bearded beatnik with leather elbow patches on his tweed jacket, well, I might just have taken heed of their wisdoms.

Equally, if you want to teach history to a bunch of scooterist skinheads, consider employing The Bakesys, for they are a skanking Horrible Histories, at least for this new album, released last Thursday called Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of.

Stu, Kevin & Bakesy onstage at Newbury College in December 1990!

Something of an elusive band despite twenty years presence on the UK ska scene, the early stages of The Bakesys reflected heavily on punk inspirations, such as the Buzzcocks, crossed with later developments of a definite Two-Tone influence. Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of takes it to whole other level. Akin to what On-U Sound did for dub in the nineties, sprinkling in a counter culture punk ethos, The Bakesys do for ska. It’s more upbeat than the usual plod of dub, but strewn with samples, heavy basslines, and drum machine loops, it has its elements.

From another angle though, as Dreadzone meld such influences into the electronic dance scene, there’s a contemporary sound, a mesh of offbeat influences with the Bakesys, more in line with the current ska scene. The flood of brass and chugging rhythms confirms its allegiance to authentic 1960’s Jamaican ska. What comes out the end is unique beguiling buoyancy, and it’s absolutely addictive.

Yet we’re only scraping the surface of why, the theme of the album is the kingpin here. Reflecting the era of its influences, subjects are historic affairs based in the sixties. The opening title track raps of Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair. Get Your Moonboots on is on Apollo 11’s moon landing, and the third, most haunting tune, You are Leaving the American Sector takes newsreels of the Berlin Wall. One I’ve been playing endlessly the single of on my Friday night Boot Boy radio show.

Atomic Invasion explores the Cold War, yet, as with Keeler, this sublime set of songs often concentrates more on the personalities than facts of the events. The Space Race is up next, with a nod to Yuri Gagarin’s luminary. Then it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis with the numerous failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, Cassius Clay’s rise to heavyweight champion of the world, and Robert F. Kennedy’s assignation.

Despite these often-dark subjects, it’s surprisingly upbeat, as if, like I said, The Bakeseys are the funky relief history teacher, and your class is about get moon stomping! The last three tracks offers dub versions of the most poignant tunes on offer here, yet the album as a complete concept is nothing short of brilliant.

The third CD album released on Bandcamp, and quite the best place to start if you’re unaware of them. Keyboardist Kevin Flowerdew, has self-published the ska scene’s definitive zine, Do The Dog Skazine for many decades, which has released this under its label namesake, Do the Dog Music, so he certainly knows what makes a great sound; which this does with bells on.

Mark, Stu & Bakesy backstage at the Epplehaus, Tubingen during The Bakesys’ June 1992 German tour.

Tribute Acts Going the Extra Mile; Blondie & Ska

One surprise track contributed for our forthcoming compilation album for Julia’s House, (yes, it’s going sluggish but well, thanks for asking!) comes from Chippenham’s part-Blondie-tribute-part-ska-covers duo, Blondie & Ska. It’s a solid, rock steady original, with the added bonus it sounds as if it could’ve been an album track from Parallel Lines, Plastic Letters or another Blondie album at the peak of their game.  

It’s given me the opportunity to have a chat with Dave Lewis, one half of the duo, on how they started doing what they do, pondering if you just wake up one morning and think, I know, I’m going to be tribute act. If Blondie & Ska actually see themselves wholly as a Blondie tribute act at all, given they not only record original songs, but in a unique slant, perform classic Two-Tone songs from the same period. But most importantly, answering some conundrums I’ve had since hearing a tune with a similar concept by UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad, about tribute acts going the extra mile and recording tracks in the fashion of their inspiration. I mean, is it deliberate that it sounds akin, or simply natural method given the music is based around imitating the act?

Certainly, Blondie & Ska wasn’t formed on a whim. For a decade prior to forming the duo, Lorraine and Dave were both co-members of various bands on the same circuit. The idea, Dave explained, “occurred over a number of phases,” and expressed, as a mod, his love for The Beat. Anxious not to live up to expectations of his idols, Dave continued, “playing ska, was one of those things, because you love it so much, you don’t want to go that direction, but when we kind of got dragged into it, there was no stopping us, because the more we did it, the more we loved doing it, and there was no reason to be nervous!”

In the band as well, was Steve Edge, who co-wrote our song. “Steve and I used to write back in the nineties,” Dave explained, chuffed to be reunited to write this track specifically for us. “And we performed as an originals band,” he enthusiastically continued.

After the originals band, Dave joined his drummer and played in a local blues band called No Ties, which Lorraine also started in, while Dave concentrated on a secondary band aptly named Band Two, which Lorraine would later join. It was there where Dave suggested the concept of Blondie & Ska to Lorraine, in 2013. “She replied, hum, I fancy having a go at that,” Dave revealed. “It took about six months to get rehearsed. We did our first gig, and thought, why didn’t we do this before?” They’ve been performing weekly as a duo act from Land’s End to Barnsley since, clocking up hundreds or appearances together.

I moved onto the question, given recording originals and this mixture of lateral ska tunes added to the Blondie tribute, if they even classed themselves at ‘tribute act’ in the same light as the run-of-the-mill ones. “It’s weird one,” he admitted, “I kind of call it that Blondie and ska sound. Whatever we tend to do, people say I didn’t expect it to be like that, but that’s way things are. If I’m going to do something, we want to do it in a different way.” It’s also practical, using pre-recorded sections such as drums and horns, Blondie & Ska can accommodate the smallest of venues, unlike a large ska band with a horn section. “The other thing which is difficult, with signature bands, is it’s hard work keeping the bands together,” Dave observed, a notorious hindrance with ska bands in particular.  

Dubious it would work at first, during lockdowns alternate Saturdays have seen regular blossoming live streams from Blondie & Ska. “We had over 10 thousand viewers on one,” Dave delighted, “which is bonkers! I think it was just a sign of the time, everyone was just at their computer!” For your attention, next one is tonight at 8pm (Saturday 22nd May) on Facebook, HERE. “If people don’t know us,” Dave suggested, “it’s always a nice test. We’ve been surprised by the positive feedback.”

There’s the thing with Blondie & Ska, and I put it to Dave without trying to cause offence, that though it’s unique, nothing they’re doing is particularly ground-breaking. They’ve no stars in their eyes, but the niche is they’re two musicians having a whole lot of fun, doing what they love doing. And this is what comes across, and why it sounds so good. “Absolutely,” he agreed, suggesting the original blues band was tiresome. “I wasn’t really up for anything after that, and later wanted to get back into the action. We’re doing it now because we enjoy doing it. The Blondie & Ska stuff, you know, the more we play, the more people ask, and more bookings we get in ska clubs, and our repertoire is pushed in that direction.” I laughed, so prolific was the Jamaican record industry during the ska era, there’s always going to be one trainspotter, like me (!) who comes up and asks for some obscure Coxsone rarity!

But in turn, that’s precisely the ethos of both ska, and seemingly Blondie’s music. Aside the political unrest occasionally portrayed in the Two-Tone ska revival of the eighties, the memorable songs come from a carefree perceptive of jollity, and like Madness and Bad Manners, ska is eternally dance music, from the very roots. Likewise, Blondie rarely, if at all, socially commented about anything more than romance.

Dave was so enthusiastic to chat about the reasoning and history behind Blondie & Ska, about the technicalities of recreating the perfect tribute sound, and appeasing the aficionados, we could’ve chatted forever, but I feel you need to witness them in the arena they love, rather than waffle some!

An interesting story surrounding the chosen name for the duo we finished on, as while setting up for an early gig, the organiser summed up the sound on the blackboard by chalking up “Blondie & Ska,” under the premise a lot of blond girls and a lot of male ska fans had turned up. “I was standing there, looking at the name on the poster,” Dave explained. “Lorraine was saying, can you just get on and set up, cos we’ve got to be playing in an hour?! I said, but look at the name on the poster, and she was going, no, get on with what you’re supposed to be doing!” But Dave approached the guy, knowing him through many past gigs, to ask him if he could use it. “The girls danced to the Blondie songs, and the guys danced to the ska,” he noted. Story checks out, the mix works. Tune into their live streams to find out for yourself, or here’s hoping to catch them at a real gig soon.


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Gull Able

Ah, hope you enjoy my new Sunday series, something a little different…. To Be Continued………

Black Market Dubs Elton

On 6th February 1989 an unidentified lone gunman in Kingston, Jamaica killed Osbourne Ruddock. He made off with his gold chain and licensed gun, the music industry lost a pioneer often under-represented in history. The likely reason for this obscurity, he was not a musician, rather a producer and sound engineer who begun his career fixing disgraced radios.

Better known to the world as King Tubby, during his sound system dances of the mid-sixties he noted the crowd favoured the instrumental sections of the song. This rock steady era was dominated by vocal harmony groups, but with a handful of others, including Lee Scratch Perry and Bunny Striker Lee, Tubby set about extending the instrumental sections, cutting the mid-range, dropping the basslines and limiting the vocals with echo delays.

King Tubby

He had created “dub,” more technique than genre, it revolutionised music way beyond reggae and is the mainstay formula of all pop since hip hop; today, we take the remix for granted.

But aside the pioneering techniques we owe Tubby for, dub has too developed into a reconised genre and given us subgenres, from drum and bass to dubstep and dembow.

Still the origins were remixes of rock steady and reggae songs, and from the most unsuspecting area to find dub thriving that ethos, Nashville, Tennessee, Nate Bridges uses the techniques rather to reimagine pop, rock, even film or TV soundtracks, or anything which takes his fancy, under the guise Black Market.

The magic of Black Market is they retain the offbeat formula of reggae, while being versions of four-beat tunes. The strapline goes “what would happen if The Beach Boys had The Wailers as their backing band instead of The Wrecking Crew? What if David Bowie spent the summer of 1975 in Kingston, Jamaica with King Tubby instead of Philidelphia? Michael Jackson meets Scratch Perry? These questions are the basic thesis of Black Market.”

While few of these mainstream sources could easily be converted, such as the Clash, the magic is when Nate and friends takes something wholly non-reggae and breathes an air of dub to it. The Beach Boys album first attracted me to this, but with every new release he never fails to take it to the next step.

The latest release from this prolthic genius is Elton John classics, and I felt it’s long overdue to mention him. This is, without doubt, utterly sublimely executed and would appeal to reggae lovers and fans of the subjects being reimagined alike; hearing is believing.

While we’ve had the astounding recordings of the Easy Star Allstars, when they dubbed classic albums, Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt Peppers and “Radiodread,” they pride themselves in originally recreating the music without samples, Black Market are the purveyors of sampling, the kingpin is the lifting of the original and placing it in a reggae setting.

Find the Michael Jackson Thriller album dubbed, Bowie, Tempations, Talking Heads and Twin Peaks, Batman and Ghostbusters soundtracks among others, and all name your price on Bandcamp.

Astounded by pinning a ska riff to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Nate told me it was the only way to accomplish the track to such standard he requires, the predominantly downtempo of dub simply didn’t fit the bill. This made me contemplate the complexities of what he’s dealing with, when opposed to simply remixing a tune. And it’s this which makes Black Market such a fascinating project which leaves you wondering what’s next on his agenda, and if there’s anything which he wouldn’t rise to the challenge of dubbing. I’d like to throw Mozart at him!


Reggae Perfection; Winds of Matterhorn

Again, we find ourselves in the most unsuspecting part of the world to find the perfect reggae sound, Switzerland. Fruits Records release Winds of Matterhorn at the end of this month, 30th April.

Rather than the unanimous Rastafarian camp, Jamacia’s hills of Wareika, Swiss-Italian trombonist Mattbrass and producer Jackayouth have taken inspiration from the eminent mountain in the Alps for this four-track instrumental EP. Unlike the progressive nature of the Jamaican music industry, Fruits Records, as ever, find their penchant in a more classic sound. The tried-and-tested formula of roots reggae may be deemed old hat on the island of reggae’s origin, but no one can refute the global influence of Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the consequential epoch which followed.

The mechanics of the profound effect reggae’s golden era has had on music as a whole is inconsequential here, because there is no fusion or experimental divergence. You will not hear rock or soul’s pastiches of the formula, there’s no preaching vocals, you will only hear a crisp and refined approach to the true sound. This is reggae at its finest, a driving riddim, occasional wail of an electric guitar, heavy bassline and saturated in sublime horns.

To emphasise these classic elements of reggae are evidently profound, each tune is singularly named after the four classic elements; earth, air, fire and water.  

Earth is marching one-drop reggae, the kind you’ll identify with the later works Bob Marley & The Wailers, such as the 1979 album Survival. But Air is no lighter, there’s a real deep, roots feel to it, a plodding bassline fills said air, but throughout there’s this continuation of a tight horn section, managed to perfection. Fire has more upbeat jollity about it, so much so it near-verges on the classic ska of the unrivalled Skatalites. Water brings it back around, with that proud one-drop march.

This is the traditions of reggae, elsewhere at its very best, the only thing it lacks is the vocal affirmation to Rastafari, or anything else uniquely indigenous to JA, rather a structured salute to the sound, as if it was performed by Mozart or Beethoven. There’s the nutshell, if Beethoven went to sister Mary Ignatius Davies’ class at Kingston’s Alpha Cottage School, with Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Roland Alphonso et all, his symphonies might end up sounding something like this; it is that accomplished.

Top marks, as if they not done it before on Devizine, and I’ve still not gotten fully over how awesome Wonderland of Green was!


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Osorio With Cutsmith

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 a manner of days, and I’ll whisper to you now, it’s outstandingly good.

On a musical journey due to be released on SubRat, Osorio returns Cutsmith to his Canarian roots. Principally it’s hip hop, yet with a meshed element of west country acoustic guitar, but chiefly and precisely why it’s so mesmeric, is that Latino tinge. I’m damned if this, aside the missing wailing electric guitar, wouldn’t look out of place on Carlos Santana’s classic 1999 album Supernatural.

Yet that said, the practise of a Latino hip/trip hop blend influencing modern reggae should not be cited via the mainstream, but pioneered in the nineties by artists like Ky Mani, and what Jus Right is putting out now. Osorio would mould nicely with these, rather than reggaeton, which is something I admit still needs to find a place in my affections. Yet Cutsmith is not Wyclef Jean, hence there’s something definitely local when he slips neatly from song to rap, and it’s smoothly accomplished, brewing with confidence.

In theme, but, and this is a big but, not in style, there’s something like Totally Tropical about it too! When, you know, they sang “we’re going to Barbados,” in as much as there’s a homesick notion to Osorio, excepting of his love of the British festival and music scene, but partly wishes to soak up some exotic sunshine and ambience. Can’t say I blame him really!

The very reason I’m tipping this so much, is because the subject works so incredibly well with the sound. As well as it’s fresh and exciting, the prospect of Wiltshire-based hip hop is something we so desperately need more of.

If Cutsmith’s relationship with Devizine got off to a shaky start when playing a White Bear Sunday session, where our writer Andy was critical that while good, it wasn’t his cup of tea, it’s been fully mended now. I spoke personally to Cutsmith at the time, who took it in good stead, and I said it was a shame it wasn’t me at the Bear at that weekend. Opinion is all we can cast, and while trying to be fair I do ask for honesty, it’s not worth the effort if flattery is all the reader gets. Oh, woe is the subjective nature of casting a review, as for the areas Andy was critical of, are the precise same reasons why I’ve got lots of time for Cutsmith’s music.

A case of differing tastes and perhaps a generational thing. But whatever, this debut single proves it today; it’s a grand job, I love it, and I’d like to see Cutsmith working on an EP or album as the potential is overwhelming.


Erin Bardwell Gets Organised

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 can seem to keep incarcerated. There’s a point where Papillon deliberately causes a disturbance in order to be put in solitary confinement. He claims he prefers it to the regular cells, because away from the other inmates, alone in pitch darkness he can reimagine, practically hallucinate and relive his better days.

For the concept of the album and accompanying film Get Organised is largely reminiscing and reflecting on his past. Possibly, I suspect, due to age becoming, the fact this marks a thirtieth anniversary of the formation of his heyday two-tone band, The Skanxters, but largely due to lockdown.

Myself, lockdown has been parttime. I’ve worked throughout, galivanting through the villages, meeting early morning risers, and it’s all been much the same as it ever was, just cannot nip t’ pub, or see family living out of the area. Which is frustrating at times, but I accept it’s not as bad as those shielding and self-isolating; that would’ve driven me insane my now. It’s common in isolation to consider one’s life and recollect, but Erin does it over a reggae beat; and I approve!

We’ve been here before; this is not Erin’s first reflection of lockdown. Pre-pandemic he directed a collective who were pushing new boundaries in rock steady. But April last year saw the solo release of Interval, a deeply personal reflection and mind-blowingly cavernous concept album, diving into the psyche and exploring past events; scarce formula for reggae.

Erin Bardwell

Yet Erin’s style is such; relished in unconformity, individualism and freethinking, factors which make it so utterly unique it’s hard to compare. It’s this standout signature which Erin stamps on all projects, be them solo, as the Collective, or side projects such as the experimental dub of Subject A with Dean Sartain, or The Man on the Bridge project with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton, which defines the very sound of reggae in Swindon and puts it on the skanking map. If there was a skanking map, which I wish there was!

Whereas Interval’s morose mood merged styles through experimentation, some often out of the confines of reggae, be they jazz, ambient and space rock, Get Organised will wash better with the matured skinheads, scooterists and Two-Tone aficionados, for it sits with more golden era reggae, particularly of the sixties Trojan “boss” reggae epoch. They tend to know what they like, and favour tradition over risky and radical progressions.

In this notion too it’s sprightlier and more optimistic than Interval, a result of vaccinations and this “roadmap” out of lockdown, perhaps; The Erin Bardwell Trio booked for a gig at Swindon’s Victoria on 1st July. Though at times there’s still the thoughtful prose Erin is fashioned for, reflecting the effect of lockdown. The lyrics of Eight O’clock, for example, which notes despite the usually lively nightlife at this time, the town is quiet.

The Erin Bardwell Collective

They’re all sublimely crafted pieces, the title track’s mellow riff nods to Lee Scratch Perry’s middling Upsetters period with something akin to a tune like Dollar in the Teeth. And in that, we have to consider the great producers of rockers reggae for comparisons, rather than the artists. Aforementioned Perry, but of Niney the Observer, of Harry J too, and Get Organised subtly delves into dub, so I guess King Tubby also. Yet the opening tune reminded me of the earlier, legendary producer Duke Reid.

Erin has the proficiency to cherry-pick elements from reggae’s rich history, effectively merge them and retain this said signature style. The Savoy Ballroom has the expertise keys of Jackie Mittoo, with the vaudeville toytown sound of Madness. That said has opened another Pandora’s box, as Two-Tone also has a significant influence on Get Organised, naturally. The grand finale We Put on that Show is reflective of the era, along the lines of the steady plod of Do Nothing rather than the frenzied ska of Little Bitch, if we’re going to make a Specials contrast, which I think is apt.

Equally, you’re going to love this if, like me, you cite the debut album Signing Off, as UB40’s magnum opus rather than their following pop covers, or just if you’re looking for something different from the norm.

These recollections are visualised in a half-hour video, making it more poignant. It’s a scrapbook film, with homemade clips of The Skanxters setting up or driving to a gig, footage I’d expect to have been largely unseen until now. There’s also a montage of memoirs chronicling Erin’s career, as the camera pans across gig posters, bus tickets, vinyl and press cuttings. Though far from documentary, the sound plays out the album, the material an aid to the songs, and a fascinating art project to accompany it.

 “A second solo album wasn’t really part of the plan,” Erin explains, “but with the current climate as it is, I still found myself coming up with music and songs. These tunes started following a theme, that led to a film idea, and the sounds and visuals grew together influencing each other.”

The point in the early nineties, when the Skanxters were the pride of Swindon’s two-tone scene is captured well, and while those on the circuit, or even living locally then, will love recognising the many memoirs, anyone into the scene at the time will thoroughly enjoy this outing. Overall, though, Erin continues to break boundaries, and this album is a blessing and pleasure to listen to, alone from its narrative and meaning, as all good reggae should.


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Song of the Day 29: Bunny Wailer 1947-2021

Photo Credit: Redferns/Gem

I know, this feature is supposed to be for new music, promoting new and upcoming bands and artists. But here’s a notion, without the pioneers of many sounds their music would sound very different. So perhaps, when we lose a legend, we could also use it to pay tribute to them.

Sound like a plan?

Righty then, suitable for the agenda is the sad news today of the passing of the last of the three original Wailers, Neville O’Riley Livingston, aka Bunny Wailer. The red, gold and green flag flies at halfmast today, blessings to his family and friends.

And that’s my song of the day.


Song of the Day 26: The Maitree Express

Reggae and ska’s association with trains tracks back to its very roots, that beguiling chugging offbeat replicates engine noise, ergo subject matter and band names suit.

Here’s hoping if Devizes does ever get a station, more reggae bands will stop here and bring their sunshine music. Prime example; I’d sure make a beeline for this Bath-Bristol seven-piece locomotive, with their lively blend of dub, ska and soul.
Failing that, I’m trekking, have roots, will travel.

Offering an exciting live show, the Maitree Express has been in the recording studio and the effect projects onto wax; proof here, in the pudding.

Wait, did someone say pudding? My work here is done, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..


Song of the Day 22: Kiano Taylee

Can you go twice on our Song of the Day feature? No, certainly not, one shot is all, get over it!

Wha? Cabin fever, me? Getting tetchy, perpetual rain the only visible sign of spring, going to need Google maps to locate my local pub if it ever gets back to normal, whatever normal is, been so long, forgotten, might need retraining in how to order a pint… ah, okay, point taken. I’m calm….

Here we go with the brilliant Big Ship Alliance reggae band, who may’ve had a Song of Day before but hey, when you hear this you’ll realise why I’m making the exception to my steadfast iron ruling.

My Life, it’s called, featuring Mitchell Joseph Thompson, and the Alliance introduces us to the incredible Kiano Taylee. At 13, it’s an emotive and sentimental debut single, capturing teenage anguish, bullying and family issues which bear heavy on modern youth. Moving stuff.

Available for download here.

For the record, I was young once too, you know. But, don’t let me get started on my memoirs, it’s a longwinded tale of nothingness but reading the Beano and eating spaghetti hoops. But, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..


Song of the Day 19: Macka B

Topical, in view of Mark Little of Bristol Rovers’ social media attack, here’s a year-old message which, idealistically shouldn’t need repeating, but, unfortunately, seems it does.

And who better to deliver it than Wolverhampton’s Christopher MacFarlane, better known to the world as Macka B?

His righteous, yet witty DJ toasting style is often mimicked but never bettered. Since his early days on the Exodus sound system, through the eighties fast-style origination of Fashion Records, of which the late great Smiley Culture bought to mainstream charts, to today’s international recognition, award-winning Macka B never fails to breathe charisma and charm to a subject with intelligent and amusing verse.

The premise of his song is simple, the message is resounding.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 15: The Emertarians

Anytime is a good time for some roots reggae, Sunday morning, doublely so.

Enter one of my favourite current reggae bands, from Madrid, the Emertarians.

They always remind me of an occasion, at a festival in Andalusia. I watched this great French reggae band. The slighty rotound frontman looked rather like the late, great Jacob Miller. After the performance I noted he was standing close to me, watching the following act. I went over in hope of telling him how much I enjoyed their music, praying they spoke English.

I momentarily regretted my school French lessons, which I spent making homemade comics out of text books, as he replied with an adamant no upon asking if he spoke English.

All the vocabulary my intoxicated mind could conjour was “tres bien,” so I repeated it perpetually in true Del-Boy fashion!

Otherwise the meeting was the awkward silence of communication breakdown, in which I suspected they thought I was completely nuts. Not so far from the truth.

So, I namedropped Jacob Miller and suddenly we had understanding and mutual respect for the man. My point is, sometimes the Emertarians sing in Spanish and sometimes English, often the Spanish ones more emotive, but reggae has no language barriers, because it’s spiritual meaning and uplifting ambiance is universal. As with the French Jacob Miller-alike, we were on the same song sheet….

Naturally at that conjunction, I rolled a joint.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 2: The Big Ship Alliance and Johnny2Bad, featuring Robbie Levi and Stones

Newly-formed just a year ago, this Birmingham-based seven piece reggae band, Big Ship Alliance started out as possibly the only tribute act to reggae legend Freddie McGregor, but on track to record their own material they’ve teamed up with the outstanding UB40 tribute act, Johnny2Bad for this gorgeous topical debut single.

Featuring Robbie Levi and Stones, aside from my love of all things reggae, the song’s positive message of togetherness and unification during this era of the pandemic makes it more than apt for my second “song of the day” post. Though I did say I wasn’t intending to write anything like a review on this feature, just let you enjoy the tunes, and this is kinda heading a little bit “reviewy.” Probably cos it’s such a nice tune.

I also promised not to waffle; but I’m here now. Something about having your cake and eating it goes in rather appropriately at this point!

More so than being my song of the day, I believe this should be, as the Big Ship Alliance say themselves, “the anthem for 2021!”

Determined to make this feature a goer, as of yesterday’s pledge to add a song each day, ingeniously titled “song of the day.” I know, right, it scares me at times, I’ll be honest!

So, enjoy this fantastic tune, let the good vibes roll and have a great rest of the day. Same time tomorrow then?

Very good. Carry on….

Devizine’s Review of 2020; You Can’t Polish a Turd!

On Social and Political Matters……

For me the year can be summed up by one Tweet from the Eurosceptic MEP and creator of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. A knob-jockey inspired into politics when Enoch Powell visited his private school, of which ignored pleas from an English teacher who wrote to the headmaster encouraging him to reconsider Farage’s appointed prefect position, as he displayed clear signs of fascism. The lovable patriot, conspiring, compulsive liar photographed marching with National Front leader Martin Webster in 1979, who strongly denies his fascist ethos despite guest-speaking at a right-wing populist conference in Germany, hosted by its leader, the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler’s fiancé; yeah, him.

He tweeted “Christmas is cancelled. Thank you, China.” It magically contains every element of the utter diabolical, infuriating and catastrophic year we’ve most likely ever seen; blind traditionalist propaganda, undeniable xenophobia, unrefuted misinformation, and oh yes, the subject is covid19 related.

And now the end is near, an isolated New Year’s Eve of a year democracy prevailed against common sense. The bigoted, conceited blue-blooded clown we picked to lead us up our crazy-paved path of economic self-annihilation has presented us with an EU deal so similar to the one some crazy old hag, once prime minster delivered to us two years back it’s uncanny, and highly amusing that Bojo the clown himself mocked and ridiculed it at the time. I’d wager it’s just the beginning.

You can’t write humour this horrifically real, the love child of Stephen King and Spike Milligan couldn’t.

Still, I will attempt to polish the turd and review the year, as it’s somewhat tradition here on Devizine. The mainstay of the piece, to highlight what we’ve done, covered and accomplished with our friendly website of local entertainment and news and events, yet to holistically interrelate current affairs is unavoidable.

We have even separated the monster paragraphs with an easier, monthly photo montage, for the hard of thinking.

January