Jon Amor’s Remote Control

Pop is pop for a reason. Without sounding like a government soundbite, what I mean is, pop, as in the music, is popular for good reason; the catchiness often in the simplicity, which consequently sells. And if it sells, it’s pop, regardless of the many subgenres and youth cultures which an era carries pop along, it’s always continued this ethos. It’s only a particular “genre” for the time being. I use the term as loosely, then, as it should be used. Feel free to shudder at modern commercialisation, but that’s been building for decades and you shouldn’t let it put you off; you’ll miss something special because you preconceive its popularity is a hallmark from a polluted industrial mechanism.

The above annotation I write because I don’t want you to run off with the idea, I’m talking contemporary chart hits when I use the term pop. Out of the assortment Devizes’ legendary bluesman Jon Amor offered on his last major album two years ago, Colour in the Sky, I tended to cherry-pick those deviating from his traditional electric blues style, and they promptly became the standout tracks, Illuminous Girl and Red Telephone. He need not appease his devotees; they follow this modification with bells on. Because, fundamentally it’s more “pop,” in so much as it’s appealing for this beguiling ease.

This transitory, perhaps, shift for Jon was stamped on the last single, the incredibly addictive Peppercorn, a lively upbeat and Elvis Costello fashioned rock, without the leftist post-punk political angle of yore. Now the single has been followed up with an album, Remote Control, impulsively launched without the need for the usual pe-hype. All the tunes follow the aforementioned style of Peppercorn, the penultimate track on the collection. Dammit, this is good, but you knew it would be.

News of it literally arrived via Facebook post yesterday, “this year,” Jon posted, “I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends recording some songs, and I appear to have made an album.” And as if by magic, today (27th November) it’s a thing. So, was it as spontaneous as it sounds, a result of lockdown?

“I suppose initially it was the result of lockdown,” Jon replied, “yeah, I was working all week and had nothing to do at weekends!” If there’s only one good thing to come out of all this, I noted, thinking Erin Bardwell’s Interval album in particular, is that artists have had the time to write and create, and there’s good material flowing from all genres. Then I waffled some similarities in a piece I was reading about the great plague, where it modernised and revolutionized both folk and classical music, possibly gave birth to the renaissance.  

“I think a lot of people embraced the spare time and the isolation and turned it into a positive,” Jon added. “Now I’m picturing video conference calls and zoom quizzes in the 1600s…”

While Jon is clearly experimenting, dabbling this more pop sound with Remote Control, it’s also temptingly raw and punchy. There are some retrospective glances, the opening tune Song and Dance is a catchy three-minute Merseybeat blast, whereas If a Million is demarcated Curtis Mayfield funk. 03 57961 (That’s my Number) bounces like a quirky ZZ Top, whereas Robot Skin follows, using the guitar like white noise, overridden with a Gecko styled rap.

I’m intrigued now, wondering where this will take me next, and even if Next plays out the downbeat trip-hop style, akin to Portishead meeting Costello, it remains definitively Jon Amor. Just a Bomb booms power pop, with a singable chorus after just the one listen. We’re one track down before Peppercorn, you’d be mistaken by the title that this is locally-themed, Moonraker, is Bowie spacey and maybe a reference to the Bond movie rather than a Devizes pond fable.

Image by Nick Padmore

The finale rings with everything we’ve suggested at the start, this is poptastic for catchiness. Do Bop-Bop is staunchly irresistible. Exotic bongos, Californian beatnik surfer goodness; ideal daydream for wintertime locked down in England!

In conclusion, I need not convince Jon’s lifetime fans, they will buy it and love the fact they have. For others, this is an interesting progression with great prose, it’s joyful and quirky and explores styles without selling-out or shifting the central pivot point, which is Jon Amor, da man rocks! All the above basically adds up to; this is highly entertaining on the ears and persuasive on the feet to tap.

     


1/2 Dove – 1/2 Pigeon with Micko and the Mellotronics

Had to chuckle to myself, trying to find this album stored on my phone I kept thinking about Mike & The Mechanics! Just, No, leave it; nothing of the sort, London’s Micko and the Mellotronics debuted last year with the single The Finger, the accompanying album 1/2 Dove – 1/2 Pigeon is due for release Friday (27th November.)

We’ve come so far since Television’s Marquee Moon, neo-avant-garde anarchism comes across cleaner this decade. You Killed My Father, now you must die, is a tune lesser aggressively executed than you might imagine from the lyrics. There’s a fairground, vaudeville style to Micko & The Mellotronics, wrapped in wryness, at times; which you don’t get with Sonic Youth, but unpredictably often spawned cringeworthy from the Velvet Underground.

Melancholic free, though; there’s nothing retrospective on offer, this is post art-punk, a distant cry from Talking Heads, feistier, it floors the vox, elevates to high-fidelity and fires on all four cylinders. At times it shadows Pulp, and at others Blur creeps in, but throughout, it’s fresh and exhilarant. Welcome to the eccentric and individual biosphere of Micko Westmoreland, actor and creative, hitherto renowned for solo releases and material as The Bowling Green.

The Mellotronics initially began playing out as a three-piece with founding member Nick Mackay (drums) and the enigmatic addition of Vicky Carroll (band “wicket keeper” and bass player). In 2018, the band were joined by revolutionary guitarist Jon Klein (Siouxsie & the Banshees/Specimen, and founder of the iconic Batcave club) who also adds his flare to their upcoming debut.

A stellar array of special guest musicians feature too, including The Specials’ bassist Horace Panter (a friend & collaborator who has worked with Micko on an annual charity record alongside Rat Scabies for the last 7 years), horn impresario Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey/Madness/Nick Cave) and alternative violinist in excelsis Dylan Bates (Waiting On Dwarfs/Penge Triangle), plus the late Monty Python/The Rutles/Bonzos great: Neil Innes. Early videos for featured singles ‘The Finger’ and ‘Noisy Neighbours’, have also seen the band working with actors Paul Putner (Little Britain) and Susy Kane (The I.T. Crowd, Gavin & Stacey) respectively.

½ Dove – ½ Pigeon is elated trialling, chockful of historical and philosophical references, palpably paranoid of a modern apocalypse and merged in citations to pop-culture, at times rocking, others a tad unnerving. But while power-driven guitar impediments contribute to the discomforting moments, off-kilter horns counteract it with this sardonic glee.

Contradictory this arrangement puts your defences up, akin to walking into a modern art gallery not knowing what to expect. I wanted at times not to like it, as tracks like The Fear does what it says on the tin, but Good Friend is having-it joyously and bought me around. If I remain undecided it’s due to my own personal preference, and have to tip my hat at the ingeniousness of the writing and composition. It took me some adjusting to fully appreciate, yet I feel those leaning harder to post-punk rock and emo-indie will take Micko & The Mellotronics as new idols.

This is especially true of the next single released from it, Psychedelic Shirt. A coming of age theme, eighties set, when the culturally cool was at loggerheads with Thatcherite careerism, and tribalism was rife on the dancefloors of the local disco. Micko sums his notions, “Psychedelic Shirt tells the story of venturing to an out of hours school disco in a dishevelled scout hut in Leeds. Where Top Man flick heads had seized upon my newly procured paisley shirt and sought about destroying it. I’d taken it off because I was too hot, left it on a peg in the boy’s loos. Later, I found the article, ‘mopped up in the fluid, screwed up in a ball’ on the lino floor as the song’s lyrics state. I was forced to make a choice between victimhood or empowerment but left contemplating shades somewhere in between…”

It’s one slick album, razor-edged rock’n’roll meets avant-garde pop-art meets satirical Edgar Allan Poe short story, but in a cracker of fun.

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My Darling Clementine’s Country Darkness

My Darling Clementine’s new album Country Darkness vividly reimagines twelve hidden gems from the Elvis Costello repertoire, in the duet’s definitive, dark country-soul fashion with original Attractions keyboardist, Steve Nieve.

As a ska DJ you’d be forgiven for assuming the Two-Tone 7” rarity, I Can’t Stand up from Falling Down, would be my introduction Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Rather embarrassingly, the one-shot liable recording which was given away at his gigs was not, rather the one true comedic genius of Hi-Di-Hi was. Sue Pollard stood flustered but ever-spontaneous with odd shoes behind the stage at Live Aid. Interviewer Mark Ellen asked her if she’d seen Elvis. An expression of shock overcome her, as Ellen expanded with the performers surname. “Oh, I thought you meant Presley, I was gonna say, poor thing, resurrected!”

I found this amusing a kid, as most of her witticisms were. Yet, I didn’t know much about the man in question. Like a DC Thompson artist unable to sign his comic pages, I never knew who did R. White’s Secret Lemonade Drinker Elvis impersonation; Costello’s father, and young Elvis, or then plain ol’ Declan, as backing. Was it this which swayed Stiff Records’ Jake Riviera to suggest he used Elvis as a forename?

However it did come to pass, if his renowned namesake is the king of rock n roll, Costello surpassed him in at least one avenue, diversity. Beginnings as a new wave punk Buddy Holly, Costello stretched beyond pigeonholes and always strived to cross the streams, and country music was a mainstay. Take the derisive warning on his 1981 country covers album Almost Blue; “this album contains country and western music, and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners!”

As new wave as you thought he was, an American country ensemble residing in England, Clover, would attend his backing for the debut album. Members later joined Huey Lewis and the News and the Doobie Brothers. Costello would go onto record many a country cover and use the genre as a blueprint for his own song writing. His obvious love of country is bought to an apex by a new release today, 6th November, from My Darling Clementine, of which Royal College of Music dropout, Steve Nieve joins with familiar husband-wife pairing, Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish to vividly reimagine twelve hidden gems from the Elvis Costello repertoire, in the duet’s definitive, dark country-soul fashion.

But for want of prior knowledge of the songs, note, Steve Nieve dropped out of college in 1977, to join the Attractions as pianist. The man was there when Costello released his first major hit single, “Watching the Detectives.” Why is he called Nieve, pronounced naïve? You’d have to have asked Ian Dury.

While the first single released from Country Darkness, The Crooked Line is taken from the album, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, Costello’s later folksy-era, the adaption is surprisingly electric and upbeat, a tantalising precedent for an album typically leaning more toward country, even if the track being revised is not originally inspired from Costello’s country passion. This intricate then is interesting, while My Clementine has judiciously measured the retrospective repertoire, taken on hidden gems throughout Costello’s career, including tracks from his Imposters and Attractions eras, solo efforts and his collaborations with the likes of Paul McCartney and Emmylou Harris, it doesn’t mean all tracks were selected because of their closeness to country.

While his Heart Shaped Bruise from the Imposters album Delivery Man, for example, is acoustic goodness the country tinge is slight, the Darling Clementine version leans heavier on the genre, is more gothic americana, outlaw folk. Whereas That Day is Done almost rings gospel on the original, there’s something definitively Nashville about this version. In such, you need not be a fan of Elvis Costello to relish the country splendour on offer here, rather a Tammy Wynette devotee.

The album is sublime, without doubt, akin to an artist stripping back to accentuate the attention of song-writing ability, the nimble expertise of narrative which flows through a country legend, like Wynette’s or Parton’s, can be seen, full-colour within Costello’s writing. Yet through the eyes of another, there is even more scope for alternative angles and interpretation.

“Making these recordings took me back to my 19-year-old-self,” Michael Weston King explained, “out buying a copy of ‘Almost Blue’ during my lunch hour. It was Elvis and Steve’s making of that album which set me, and I think many others of my generation, off along a country path to discover more about this form of music previously only viewed with suspicion. For me it became something of a pilgrimage, a vocation, even a ‘career.’ So, this feels like the completing of a musical circle of sorts; to record a selection of some of mine and Lou’s favourite EC country songs with the added thrill of performing them with Steve”.

Steve Nieve

The award-winning partnership of King and the awe-inspiring vocals of his wife, Lou Dalgleish is prevalent, they’ve scored four albums previously, co- written a stage play/audio book with best-selling crime writer Mark Billingham, played over 800 shows worldwide, and collaborated with a wide variety of major artists including Graham Parker, Kinky Friedman, The Brodsky Quartet, and Jim Lauderdale. Their harmonies reflect the strength of this résumé, making this a win-win for country music fans and Elvis Costello fans alike.

The Country Darkness album compiles all the tracks featured across a set of three EPs, released over the last year, with a bonus track called Powerless, of which I can find no reference to the original. To web-search Elvis Costello Powerless is to find recent articles plugging his latest album, in which he offers “I was trying to make a rock’n’roll sound that wasn’t like anything I’d done before,” and comments how he was “powerless” to prevent his young children viewing the horrors of news broadcasts. Yet they paint the picture of the once new wave, angry performer who rampaged through his youth, sardonically mocking imperialistic politicians, despotic fascists and firing expressive verses at punk fashionistas, as a now suave jazz and country music raconteur. But here with My Darling Clementine, the country side to Costello is bought to a western American mountainy summit.

My Darling Clementine’s Country Darkness will be available on CD and digitally on 6th November 2020, via Fretsore Records. https://mydarlingclementinemusic.co.uk/store/


Talk in Code’s Secret

New single from Swindon’s indie-pop darlings, and, as foreseen, it’s blinking marvellous, Gloria.

“Eighties,” I yell, but my daughter corrects me. It’s a tune from Miley Circus, apparently. Story checks out, searched YouTube for it. Now I’m distracted from reviewing Talk in Code’s new single, Secret, by her suggestive gyrations in a black studded swimsuit and equally studded elbow-length gloves. Only from a health and safety perspective, you understand. Metallic studs are unsuitable for swimwear, gloves would fill with water; I should warn her PR.

When behind the wheel of Dad’s taxi, my daughter plays DJ; curse that built-in Bluetooth function. Least I can pretend I’m hip with the kids by distinguishing my George Ezras from my Sam Fenders. “Ah,” but I clarify, “I didn’t mean that, I meant it sounds like something from the eighties.” She agrees, tells me they’re all inspired from the eighties. “Like, Blondie,” I add, she’d have to Google that, but she watched The Breakfast Club and Uncle Buck, she is aware of the style of sound demarcated by eighties electronica pop.

Refrained from telling her about these guys though, some things are best left in the past.

If a retrospective inclination influenced by the decade of Danny Kendal v Mr Bronson, Rubik’s cubes and skinhead Weetabix characters is good for you, ok, look no further than upcoming local bands like Talk in Code and Daydream Runaways. I’ve often grouped these two on this very notion, and I’m delighted to note via my comparison, the Daydreamers are supporting the Talkers at Level III in Swindon on November 20th, my only annoyance is that it’s a Friday and I can’t make it.

To differentiate, Daydream Runaways take a rock edge, the like of Simple Minds, but Talk in Code seem to strive for the electronica angle of bands like Yazoo and The Human League. They do it far better than well though, and if I branded it, “sophisticated pop with modern sparkle,” their last single, Taste the Sun, back in July, embodied this more than anything previous. So, here we are again with another belter which adds to this uniform style, though the climate may not be so clement, Secret sparkles too.

It snaps straight in, this aforementioned feel-good 80s electronica guitar pop sound, and it’s so beguiling and catchy it’s certain to appeal wide, agelessly. If I was attending a local festival and Talkers took the stage, I’d imagine my daughter and I would dance together, and right now with her tastes directed to my odium, calculatingly sweary modern pop R&B, this would be a miracle! I do not twerk.

Secret is right out of a John Hughes movie then, a stuck record comparison I say to near-on every release by them and Daydream Runaways too, but this undeviating style is consistently cultivating and improving. Lyrically it’s characterised by the same simple but effective theme of optimistic romance, and a bright, catchy chorus, as every classic pop song should.  

The band cite pop classics such as King of Wishful Thinking, How Will I Know and Alexander O’Neal’s Criticise as evaluations. I can only but agree, but add, those can be cringingly timeworn, whereas, this is not Dr Beat, no need for an ambulance sound effect, and the Talker guys don’t got no hairspray, this is renewed and exhilarating for a modern generation.

You can pre-save TALK IN CODE’s brand new 80’s infused indie pop belter, on the platform of your choice and listen in full, but it’s not released until November 16th. Yeah, I know right, I’m so lucky to have these things in advance, but with Secret I can guarantee by the time it comes your way, I’ll still be up dancing to it, perhaps my daughter too. Care to join me on the dancefloor? But oi, watch the handbag, Miley, and don’t yank my diddy-boppers, I’m no that kind of guy; saving myself for Gloria Estefan.


The Revelation Games of Phil Cooper

Crouching beside me at our IndieDay outing last month, one third of our local folk trio, The Lost Trades, Tamsin Quin explained she’s slowly working toward her second album but a lot of time is spent concentrating on progressing the Lost Trades. I supposed here is an advantage to DIY projects, as if The Lost Trades were signed to contract it’d likely be an order to focus entirely on the group.

In pop we’ve seen the pressure put on bands to collaborate equitably, and the result usually causes a split in the end. Major record companies in tough competition don’t do enough to discourage this. Note drama sells in Simon Cowell’s ‘show-me-how-easy-it-is-to-manufacture-a-pop-star’ dressed-up karaoke television show, and hear the boos as he obstinately and impassively divides a prearranged group. He sells the tears of the rejected and the tension as young friends split. You could blame Yoko Ono, if you must, but bands breaking up is, sadly, no new thing.

Hence the accord and friendship between unsigned bands is a delightful contradiction to the harsh realities of the music industry, and I sense an unequalled unity in The Lost Trades, and deep respect for each other’s solo work. Cue another third, Phil Cooper, the binding, organised element of the Lost Trades, and his new solo album, These Revelation Games due for release by Infinite Hive on 30th October. It’s great, I’d expect no less, and Phil’s fanbase too, but it’s varied content would also serve as a taster for newcomers to his repertoire.

Historically it’s been over a couple of years since he sent me his Thoughts & Observations album to review, which does what it says on the tin, largely acoustic-based annotations and judgements. But I focus on a particular night down the Southgate when Phil was accompanied by his Slight Band. Man, he was on fire, loudly and proudly rocking our legendary live music tavern with unsurpassed esteem and passion.  Make no mistake, These Revelation Games contains many a track comparable with Thoughts & Observations, they’re observational and sometimes quirkily humoured. But this new solo album takes no prisoners, and blasts its doors clean off their hinges from the off.  

Yeah, while so the opening tune, House of Mirrors explodes rock, and dare I say it, has that impact of the sixties Batman theme, it shouts the riff at you, second up Phil returns us to the mellowed aural breeze we’re more accustomed to with his recorded material. So, it’s a mixed bag of astutely written and perfectly executed songs with Phil’s joyful aura and defining style.

Eleven songs heavy, the early tunes creep us slowly back to the up-tempo as it progresses. Without a Sound particularly adroitly manages to raise that notion, and Keep Your Hands on the Wheel is a prime example of how Phil ingeniously twists metaphors of the simplest of everyday things. Leading us onto the quirkiest song, I am a Radio. Akin to Robots on the Lost Trades EP, Phil makes a heartfelt connection to an inanimate object, yet here using sound effects to create the idea his voice is operating on shortwave. It’s by far the most interesting and experimental, also absorbing his electronica work under the title BCC.

For marvellously prolific and diversified is our Phil, performing as solo, as The Slight Band, his electronica side-project, or what it’s now concentrated on, the outstanding folk harmonies of The Lost Trades with Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin, Phil never slacks off or confines himself to one sound. “I wasn’t planning a new album this year,” Phil expressed, “but then, all plans for 2020 went out the window six months ago. So, I spent my time in lockdown writing and recording a whole load of songs that explored influences I’ve never explored before.” Therefore, as a solo album, bought about by lockdown, don’t expect it to remain in one place.

It rocks without reference to this folk avenue, for sure, but stretches to every corner of rock. There are surprisingly heavy guitar riffs. Fervent ballads like the particularly adroit Into the Void, whisking Lennon-like. And there’s ardent electric blues, Changing Times perhaps best example of the latter. It polishes the experience off with a Clapton-fashioned smooth blues finale called The Horseman Rides Tonight.

With a plethora of new music being produced, lockdown it seems did have one benefit, and These Revelation Games in a varied taster of a concentrated Phil Cooper at his peak. I look forward to the progression of the Lost Trades, but love this aforementioned freedom to produce solo work too. I mentioned my chat with Tamsin to Phil, about the time and effort dedicated to the Lost Trades, but the joy of the flexibility of freely venturing off to work solo, thoroughly supported by the other members of the trio. “You’re far from the band in the Commitments film,” I noted!

“Yeah,” Phil responded, “having a record label release it has helped keep the balance between solo and Lost Trades stuff. The Lost Trades has always been built on mutual respect for each other’s work, so we’ll always support each other.” Which kinda wraps it up aptly, the ethos of the trio is like this album, nice. Nice one Phil, nice one, son!

Details on Phil Cooper and These Revelation Games, here.


Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective Do What They Love, at The Southgate

He’s a fast learner, that Keanu Reeves; think how he progressed to “the chosen one” in little over an hour and half, while his superiors barely advanced at all; comes with the chosen one job, I suppose. Think cat scene, for example, where this novice presumed déjà vu, but twas a glitch in the Matrix.

Had a touch of déjà vu myself on Sunday, chatting with Essex’s Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective; alas I’m not the chosen one, until it’s time to do the washing up. Barefacedly had to check my own website, suspecting they’d been mentioned before. And I was right, Andy wrote a part-review back in July; I was briefly there too. Blame it on a glitch, rather than memory loss; this is 2020, glitches in the Matrix are abundant.

Regulars at the Southgate in Devizes, Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective are as the name suggests, but don’t do run of the mill. Cowboy hats and chequered shirts held a clue, but arrive excepting unadulterated county & western and you’ll get nipped. While there’re clear Americana influences, here’s an exclusive sound unafraid to experiment.

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Jamie’s abrasive vocals are gritty and resolute, perfect for this overall country-blues sound, but it progressively rocks like Springsteen or Petty, rather than attempts to banjo twang back to bluegrass. It also boundlessly exploits other folk and roots influences, with a plethora of instruments and expertise to merge them into this melting pot. And in this essence, they are an agreeable rock band, appealing to commonalities; but do it remarkably, with upbeat riffs, tested but original material, and passion.

Not forgoing, I still need to be careful, and it was but a whistle-stop to the Gate, to wet my whistle. As current live music restrictions being the way they are, it’s unfair to use a gig review as a base for an act’s entirety. For starters, they’re missing bassist Jake Milligan, and drums deemed too loud to bring, James “the hog” Bacon made do with a cajon and bongos. The remaining two, Jamie and Dave Milligan, cramped in the doorway of the skittle ally with acoustic and electric guitar, respectively. Which, in a way, proves this band’s aforementioned adaptability and desire to experiment. The proof is the pudding though, and battling through the restrictions of the era, they came up with a chef-d’oeuvre.

jamie

Professionally, they scorched out a great sound nonetheless, mostly original, but a rather fitting Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, with Jamie’s grinding vocals apt for a later Dylan classic. But this downtempo cover was the exception to the rule, their originals upbeat and driving.

To pitch a fair review, though, is to take a listen to their latest album, Do What You Love. The cover of which is unlike your cliché Americana tribute too; highly graphical splashes of colour akin more to pop, or a branding of fizzy drink. The songs match, a popular formula of cleverly crafted nuggets intertwining these wide-spanning influences. One track they did live from their album was accompanied with an explanation the recorded version used a brass section and even a DJ scratching, yet they made do with Jake joining James for a hit on the bongos.

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They certainly enjoy what they do, and appear relaxed in the spotlight. This doesn’t make them tongue-in-cheek, like, say Californian Watsky & Mody, who blend hip hop into bluegrass for jokes. Rather Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective has evenly balanced said collective’s influences and conjured this celebrated, danceable and fun sound, flexible for a standard function, like a wedding party but would also liven up the day at a mini-festival.

As an album though it encompasses all I’ve said above, there’s cool tunes like Lazy Day, the orchestrated reprise If I met my Hero, and rather gorgeously executed ballad, Held in Your Glow, but also frenetic tunes, driving down the A12 with the windows open music, Red Hot and Raunchy being a grand, light-hearted example but I’m A Stone as my favourite, with its clever pastiches of Dylan and The Rolling Stones, it rocks.

You need not visit the Oracle, waiting with spoon-bending broods, Keanu Reeves, for her to tell you Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective are not some “chosen” livid teenagers trailblazing a new sound and striving for the spotlight, but a collective of passionate and talented musicians loving every minute of performing, and this comes across as highly entertaining.


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Paul Lappin’s Broken Record

A cracker of a single from Swindon’s Paul Lappin this week, a Britpop echoing of Norwegian Wood, perhaps, but tougher than that which belongs on Rubber Soul. Broken Record is an immediate like, especially the way it opens as crackling vinyl and the finale repeats the final line into a fade, as if it was indeed, a broken record.

Shrewdly written, the venerable subject of a passionate breakup metaphors the title, “ignore the voice of reason, leave the key and close the door, do you think you’re ready, to become unsteady, like a broken record, you have heard it all before.” Paul does this frankly, with appetite and it plays out as a darn good, timeless track.

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It’s head-spinning rock, intelligent indie. Harki Popli on tabla drum and Jon Buckett’s subtle Hammond organ most certainly attributes to my imaginings of a late-Beatles vibe. Yet if this is a tried and tested formula, as I believe I’ve said before about Paul’s music, he does it with bells on.

For less than a chocolate bar, download this track from Bandcamp, it doesn’t disappoint.


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Sunset Remedy with JAY

Is it still fashionable to be late for a party, or are we conversant enough to realise this refined art is solely perpetrated by egocentrics pretending to be too popular to be punctual? Rather, I’m am obsolete slob who can only apologise to Jay and Wise Monkey for my delay in reviewing his debut single featuring the vocals of Ben Keatt, but what excuse can I give? Here’s where fatherhood comes in handy, being too candid to be vain, least I can blame it on my kids and their perpetual school holiday! That said, I’ve gained some experience on Minecraft and, if I really try, I can do more than two keep-me-upsies.

Sunset Remedy is the track, released last Friday. Jay, Bath’s first external artist of Wise Monkey Music is a producer and instrumentalist, defined as “a bright shining light in the future of DIY and Bedroom Pop,” and I can only but agree. In the fashion of the classic neighbouring Bristol downtempo sound of Massive Attack and Portishead, it came as a surprise to note the soulfulness beats of this sublime track, as it melodically traipses with funky guitar, poignant lyrics and an uplifting air.

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If Pink Floyd came after Morcheeba, they might have sounded a little something like this; neo-soul, the kind of song you wish was physical matter, so you could pluck it out and give it a cuddle! It’s breezing with nu cool, with a melancholic plod and would blend between tracks on Blue Lines unnoticed, save for perhaps this backdrop guitar riff, providing scope of multi-genre appeasement. Ben’s vocals are breathtakingly touching and accompanies the earnest lyrics and smooth beats perfectly. Yeah, this is a nonchalant chef-d’oeuvre, crossing indie pigeonholes and one I’m going to be playing until I hear more from Jay.

And don’t run away with the idea I’m singing it’s praises simply because of the delay in getting to reviewing it! So not me. You trust I speak my fractured mind, and anyway, time is an illusion to this aging hippy. If punctuality was money I’d be happily broke; procrastination rules, ok. No, I urge you grab this beauty, and show some love to Jay’s Facebook page.


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Three Times Better; The Lost Trades @ The Southgate

From Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads to bipolar bank robber George “Babyface” Nelson, there’s so many Americana mythologies and folklore veracities apropos in the Cohen Brother’s “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” I could draft a lengthy essay. One I’m reminded of last Sunday down our trusty Southgate, was the scene depicting the Carter Family singing “Keep on the Sunny Side” at a governor’s election rally. Reason; there’s something simplistically bluegrass about The Lost Trades, matchless vocal harmonies, ensuring the circle is unbroken, even in a distant Wiltshire.

It was only a whistle-stop to wet my whistle, and when I did arrive the trio I’d came for where on their break. Tamsin was selling handcrafted spoons and lesser original band merchandise such as t-shirts and CDs, Phil was lapping the pub chatting enthusiastically and Jamie was having a pint with his family. None of this really matters, as individuals, we’ve rightfully nothing but praised these marvellous local musicians. When they formed a more official grouping and the Lost Trades were born, we broke the news. Neither did it matter, at the time, that I would be unable to attend their debut gig at the Village Pump. I had my new writer Helen offer to take my place, and what is more, I knew I’d be catching up with The Lost Trades in due course; couldn’t have predicted the impending lockdown the following week.

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Yet prior to Sunday I had ponder if there was anything else to write about these individuals we’ve not covered in the past, but I was wrong. The angle can only be the difference between them as individuals or periodically helping one another out at a gig, to the trio The Lost Trades. Because, when they did everything was very much adlib, with the Lost Trades three minds are working closer than ever before, and if two brains are better than one, three is not, in this case, a crowd.

It wasn’t long before they resettled, and huddled in the doorway of the skittle room playing to the crowd in the garden, as is the current arrangement for these brief acoustic sessions at the Gate. They joyfully toiled with a cover of Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere.” This was followed by my favourite track from Tamsin’s album Gypsy Blood, aptly, “Home.” Topped off with a sublime version of Cat Stevens’ “Moon Shadow.” But I did say it was a whistle stop.

In consolation I picked up their self-titled debut EP, something I should have done months ago. With this beauty in hand I could take a little of The Lost Trades home with me; it’ll play perpetually through those thoughtful moments. Recorded in session at The Village Pump, “because we really like the acoustics in there,” explained Tamsin, here is a recording oozing with a quality which, despite predicting, still blew me for six. As I say, it’s the combination of these three fantastic artists in their own right, as opposed the jamming we’ve previously become accustomed to, which really makes the difference.

Five tunes strong, this EP equally celebrates these three talents and harmonises them on a level we’ve not heard before. The acapella beginning of the opening tune, “Hummingbird” glides into stripped back xylophone and acoustic guitar, and is so incredibly saccharine, it trickles like some beatniks performing on a seventies Children’s TV show. Yet, it works. In true Simon & Garfunkel manner, it’s not mawkish, just nice.

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Hummingbird serves as a great introduction, but is by no means the template. As is commonplace, from the Beatles to The Wailers, The Trades, I detect, conjoin the writing effort but the lead singer seems to be the one who plucked the idea. “Good Old Days,” then, screams Jamie at me, who leads. It has his stamp, ingenious narrative centred around thoughtful prose. “Wherever You Are,” likewise is a Tamsin classic, wildly romantic and wayfarer.

“Robots,” follows, the quirkiest and perhaps erroneous after an initial listen. Yet through subtle metaphors the satirical slant charms in a manner which nods Phil Cooper, and why should one stick to a formula in subject matter? Because the sound is authentically Americana of yore, Robots superbly deflects the notion it’s lost in a bygone era and cannot use modern concepts, and Robots ruling the world is, however much a metaphor, still fundamentally sci-fi, and that makes for an interesting contrast. With that thought in mind, this could be the track which stands out for originality.

As in this review, we’ve returned to the unbroken circle. In full circle the final song, “Wait for my Boat,” is a sublimely cool track, casting a direction the trio are clearly heading. For although Jamie leads, there’s elements of all three middle tracks combined in this sea shanty sounding song. It’s metaphorical, romantic, with sentimental narrative. It wraps up the EP perfectly, leaving you hanging for the album they’re working on.

Yes, the Lost Trades is a live group you need to see in person, but this EP really is way beyond my already high expectations. It’s combination of talents is honest, bluegrass-inspired acoustic gorgeousness you need in your life.

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Atari Pilot’s Right Crew, Wrong Captain

Only gamers of a certain age will know of The Attic Bug. Hedonistic socialiser, Miner Willy had a party in his manor and wanted to retire for the evening. Just how a miner in the eighties could’ve afforded a manor remains a mystery; but that erroneous flaw was the tip of the iceberg. In this ground-breaking ZX Spectrum platform game, the Ribena Kid’s mum appeared to guard Willy’s bedroom, tapping her foot impatiently. Touch this mean rotund mama and she’d kill you, unless you’d tided every bit of leftovers from the bash. Turned out, months after the game’s release, one piece, in the Attic, was impossible to collect. Until this glitch became public knowledge, players were fuming as an intolerable bleeping version of “If I was a Rich Man,” perpetually looped them to insanity.

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I swear, if I hear that tune, even some forty years on I cringe; the haunting memory of my perseverance with the impossible Jetset Willy. Music in videogames has come a long way, thank your chosen deity. Yet in this trend of retrospection I terror at musical artists influenced by these cringeworthy clunky, bleeping melodies of early Mario, or Sonic soundtracks; like techno never happened, what are they thinking of? It was with caution, then, when I pressed play on the new single from Swindon band “Atari Pilot.” I had heard of them, but not heard them. I was pleasantly surprised.

For starters, this is rock, rather than, taken from the band’s name, my preconceived suspicion I would be subject to a lo-fi electronica computer geek’s wet dream. While there is something undeniably retrospective gamer about the sonic synth blasts in Right Crew, Wrong Captain, it is done well, with taste and this track drives on a slight, space-rock tip. Though comparisons are tricky, Atari Pilot has a unique pop sound. No stranger to retrospection, with echoey vocals and a cover akin to an illustration from Captain Pugwash, still this sound is fresh, kind of straddling a bridge between space-rock and danceable indie. Oh, and it’s certainly loud and proud.

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A grower, takes a few listens and I’m hooked. Their Facebook blurb claims to “change the rules of the game, take the face from the name, trade the soul for the fame…I’m an Atari Pilot.” After their debut album “Navigation of The World by Sound” in 2011, a long hiatus took in a serious cancer battle. But Atari Pilot returned in 2018 with an acoustic set at the Swindon Shuffle. The full band gathered once again the following year with live shows and a new set of “Songs for the Struggle.” This will be the title of their forthcoming follow-up album, “When we were Children” being the first single from it, and now this one, “Right Crew, Wrong Captain,” is available from the end of July.

Its theme is of isolation, “and defiance, after the ship has gone down,” frontman Onze informs me. There’s a haunting metaphor within the intelligent lyrics, “you nail yourself to the mast and you pray that everything lasts, you just want to know hope floats, when the water rises, coz it’s gonna rise, take a deep breath and count to ten, sink to the bottom and start again.”

There’s a bracing movement which dispels predefined ideas of indie and progresses towards something encompassing a general pop feel, of bands I’ve highlighted previously, Talk in Code and Daydream Runaways, Atari Pilot would not look out of place billed in a festival line-up with these acts, and would add that clever cross between space-rock with shards of the videogames of yore, yet, not enough to warrant my aforementioned fears of cringeworthy bleeps. Here’s hoping it’s “game over” for that genre. That said, thinking back, when you bought your Atari 2600, if you recall, oldie, you got the entire package of two joysticks and those circler controllers too, as standard; could you imagine that much hardware included with a modern console? Na, mate, one controller, you’ve got to buy others separately.

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So, if decades to come we have a band called X-Box or PlayStation Pilot, I’d be dubious, but Atari gave us quality, a complete package; likewise, with Atari Pilot!


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The Big Yellow Bus Rocks The Gazebo

Two things former humble truck driver Gerry Watkins is a natural at, plucking an ingenious idea and putting it into action, and putting on a gig to fund it. In 2017 Gerry raised four-grand to buy a double-decker bus, which he converted into a homeless shelter in Cirencester. Since he’s launched a similar plan in Swindon, and continues to raise funds for this amazing homeless project. The Big Yellow Bus project is innovative but simple, and Gerry works tirelessly to keep it running.

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With live music teetering on return, it still maybe a while before some venues are ready to reopen, despite yesterday’s sudden given date of August 1st. The following weekend, 7&8th, sees a grand restart for The Big Yellow Bus, to get funds rolling once again. The Tavern Inn in Kembleplays host to this glorious two-day mini festival, which is free, with collection buckets for the Big Yellow Bus doing the rounds.

Music plans to kick off at 7pm on Friday 7th August with our good friends, Absolute Beginners. I know, like most, Cath, Gouldy and the gang will be itching to get back to live music. While there’s still a few gaps in the line-up to confirm, The Roughcut Rebels will be a welcomed act, introducing their new frontman, the one and only Finley Trusler; an awesome unification we look forward to hearing. Mick O Toole is also on Friday’s header.

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Saturday 8th though is an all-dayer. Paul Cooper (Martin Mucklowe) from the twice BAFTA award-winning BBC tv series, This Country, will be opening up the event at midday. Shaun Peter Smith will be the Compère for the day, as Miss Lucy Luscious Lips, he’s certain to add a little bit of glamour and sparkle. There’s a number of faces I know to this busy line-up, and plenty new to me.

An interesting Opening at midday, Ascenda are a four-piece, playing smooth music with a rock edge and thoughtful, theatrical vocals. Their current collection of songs ‘Celeste,’ forms a love story that explores conflicts; solitude versus companionship, and spirituality versus practicality.

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Acenda (image by Eric Hobson Photography)

Cath, Gouldy and the gang return as The Day Breakers at 1pm, with their irresistible blend of Celtic and mod-rock covers, it’s guaranteed to go off! Swindon’s all-girl rock and pop covers band, Bimbo follow at 2pm. Dirty and filthy punk is promised to followed with The Useless Eaters, a band who accurately recreate the iconic sound of late 70’s British and American punk.

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Six Lives Left

Cirencester’s masters of high-energy classic eighties rock covers, Loaded Dice are on at 4pm, followed by a mesh of Britpop, new wave and ska with SkA’D Hearts at 6pm. Era-spanning soul follows with Joli and The Souls, and rock restarts in style with Six Lives Left. Sticking with six as the magic number, the finale will be from Calne’s fantastic misfits of Britpop and new wave, Six O Clock Circus, who are always up for a party!

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Joili & The Souls

Yeah, it’s all slightly out of our usual jurisdiction, but with a line up like this, all for such a great cause, and with limited events these lockdown days, this is highly recommended and worth the effort. Kemble Railway Station is right opposite The Tavern Inn so it’s easy to find.

Note, putting such an event on so early after lockdown will not be without expected guidelines, everyone must abide by. Gerry urges social distancing and that you respect those around you. “This is all done so you can enjoy yourself and have a great time watching and dancing to great live bands and performers, thank you for all your support and together we can have a great time.” I’m sure they will, Gerry. If anyone is heading off from Devizes, gimmie a lift, pal, because this sounds unmissable!

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NervEndings For The People

More clout than Ocean Colour Scene I’d expected after hearing frontman Mike Barham’s prior thrashing solo releases and drummer Luke Bartels previous band, but more roaring blues than Reef was an angle I didn’t see coming when I first checked our local purveyors of loud, NervEndings.

We’re countless gigs in now, the band, with bassist and secondary vocalist Rob McKelvey, still tight and raucous. I’m glad there’s a six-track album doing the rounds on the streaming sites, as by way of a meanderingly drunken tête-à-tête with Luke down the Gate, an album in the pipeline was one of the random topics breezed over, but so was the debatable aggression levels between Welsh and English badgers too, so I only held hope it’d see the light!

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“For The People”they’re calling it, then, out last week. It’s got the kick I now predicted, with that surprising blues element to boot, particularly in the opening track, Infectious Groove. Yet the Muddy Puddles single we’ve reviewed in the past follows, and sets the ball really rolling; it takes no prisoners, yet, for its catchiness, contains a slither of something very sixties; imagine pre-Zeppelin metal.

Emo, to audaciously use an unfamiliar genre, I’d best describe Colour Blind; smoother, drifting indie rock. And in that, Fighting Medicine is more as I’d supposed, guitar riff rocking like a driving song and Mike’s brainy lyrics, with added profanity to describe the drunken hooligan spoiling for a rumble. You know the bloke, there’s always one.

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With themes of non-pretentious indie, Chin up continues this ethos, forget the attempts to conform to expectances, it’s a be-yourself song. Best, in my humble opinion, though, is Dark Dance; as it says on the tin, teetering on crashing punk, it’s upbeat and danceable, in a throwing-your-head mosh-pit kind of way, which isn’t my way, usually, but it reaches a bridge of mellow romance-themed splendour. Here’s Jimi Hendrix covering Blur’s Song Two, as the blues is retained in all these contemporary rock tunes, and for a dude indifferent to the cliché indie sound, it works on my level too.

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Nicely done, and, double-whammy, Mike has forced upon me this streaming inclination which defies all my generation stood for when collecting music. Our parents called us by name when shouting up the stairs to turn the music down, not “Alexa!” Ah, it needed to be done and I’m grateful, in a sense. “Send me a download or something,” I pleaded, “I don’t understand this Spotty-Fly thing!” But it only met with the reply, “it’s on all the streaming sites….” I’m of the generation who tried to turn over the first CD they got, to listen to the B-side, and only just got the hang of downloading. Now I’m causally informed downloading’s sooo millennial.

I dunno, all moving too fast it; seems so unphysical, not to have a record collection, rather a playlist. You can’t skin up on a Deezer playlist. At least downloading had a file, nearer, somewhat, to owning a record. But I’ve persevered and found the Spotify app on my PC more user friendly; I didn’t harass my daughter for assistance once, as I regularly do with the phone.

So, cheers, Mike. Hopefully this will help me surpass the “noob” label my son has tied to me, which, I’m told is a word for both a novice and an insult in one. Honestly, I feel like my grandad, who, when he came over once, stood staring at our new LCD television and asked, “where’s your tele?!” For the People needs to include the older people too, as I reckon many would either love it, or give this trio a ruddy good clip around the ear, which is maybe what they deserve for being so damn good; they’d have me talking emoji next.


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A Cracked Machine at the Gates of Keras

Don my headphones, chillax with a cider, and prepare my eardrums for a new album from our local purveyors of space-rock goodness; Cracked Machine is a wild ride….

There are few occasions when mellowed music truly suspends me in the moment, when it just exists in the air like oxygen and totally incarcerates and engulfs my psyche. Jah Shaka and ambient house rascals the Orb both achieved this a couple of dusks at Glastonbury, but the same with likewise happenings, I confess I was intoxicated on matter maturity caused me to long leave in my past!

The issue for any reborn psychedelic-head is pondering the notion, will it ever be the same again, will music and art tease my perception to quite the same degree. The sorry answer is no, unless your intransigent mate slips something in your drink. Yet it’s not all despair, with a sound as rich and absorbing as Cracked Machine, it’s doable without drugtaking shenanigans.

They proved this at the most fantastic day in Devizes last year, which was that bit more fantastic, when what was intended to be a bolt-on feature became the highlight of DOCA’s Street Festival. Funded and arranged by Pete and Jacki of Vinyl Realm, the second stage highlighted everything positive about local music; a historic occasion we’ll be harking on for some time yet. I nipped away briefly after Daydream Runaways stole the early part of the day. But where the lively indie-pop newcomers had roused the audience, I returned to witness a hypnotised crowd and a mesmerising ambience distilling the blistering summer air. Smalltalk was numbed, as if the area was suspended in time. A doubletake to confirm we were still perpendicular, sitting in deckchairs or slouching against a wall on the corner of Long Street and St Johns and not slipped through a time vortex to a Hawkwind set at a 1970 free-party love-in. I was beyond mesmerised, but not surprised.

For this is how it was with their impressive 2017 debut album, I, Cosmonaut, the soundscapes just drifted through me, as I causally drafted the review, reminding me of a smoky haze of yore, giggling in a mate’s bedroom, listening to Hawkwind’s Masters of Universe. Youth of my era though, were subjected to electronic transformation in music, which would soon engulf us. Rave culture cut our space-rock honeymoon short, though, Spaceman 3 were a precursor to the ambient house movement of the Orb, Aphex Twin and KLF, others changed their style, like Frome’s Ozric Tentacles merging into Eat Static, and a perpetually changing line-up for Hawkwind appeased the older rock diehards.

I love I, Cosmonaut, it manages to subtly borrow from electronica and trance, only enough to make it contemporary, but keep it from being classed as anything else other than space-rock. I felt their second album, The Call of the Void avoided this slice of Tangerine Dream, and submerged itself totally in the hard rock edge; bloody headbangers! Therefore, it’s a refreshing notion to note newly released Gates of Keras bonds the two albums and sits between them perfectly.

Again, there’s little to scrutinise as it rarely changes, it meanders, trundles me to a world beyond wordplay, as these completely instrumental tracks roll into one another, gorgeously. A Deep Purple styled heavy bass guitar may kick it off, yet the opening track Cold Iron Light takes me to the flipside of Floyd’s Meddle, with seven and half minutes of crashing drums and rolling guitar riffs. Temple of Zaum continues on theme, Ozrics-inspired funkier bassline, and we’re off on the drifting journey, splicing subtle influences. The Woods Demon, for example, stands out for particularly smooth almost Latino guitar riff, making it my personal fave. Yet Move 37 is heavier, upbeat, like the second album. Low Winter Sun is sublime blues-inspired, imagine Led Zeppelin created Satisfaction rather than the Stones, if you will.

Recorded back in November, this is eight lengthy soundscapes of pure bliss, and will guarantee you a safe trip. A signature album for a lonely lockdown of dark, yet emersed in a time of Tolkien-esque vibes and mandelbrot set fractal posters. If this was released in the mid-seventies-to early-eighties every spotty teenager would be inking their army surplus school bag with a biro-version of Cracked Machine’s logo. As it is, age taking its toll and all, I have no idea if this still happens, but doubt it. None of that matters, here is a matured era of the genre, only with a glimpse of how it once was. Nicely done.

Mr B & The Wolf come out of The Mist

On our promise, via The Indie Network Facebook group, and generally a growing cognisant inside me, for Devizine to musically venture outside our local area, geographically, here we go with a starter for ten. Though it’s no new thing, in the past we’ve mentioned many, from Cosmic Rays in Shropshire, to Mayyadda from Minnesota; I invite this pandemic to officially crash our borders….

One request recently came from one Vince Henry, who’s digitally-adapted Facebook profile pic makes Doug Bradley in his Pinhead guise from the Hellraiser films look like a bedtime Care Bear, and led me to assume the band he manages, Mr B & The Wolf was about to unleash some thrash death metal or psychobilly peculiarity unwillingly into my aging eardrums. I prepped myself accordingly, one ear in the headphone, paracetamol within reach, but I was pleasantly surprised.

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As a function band based in my motherland, Essex, Mr B, and his wolf too, are lively, true, but present a flowing range from blues-based rock and Americana to “throwback” pop and soul, and do it with the finesse of a contemporary Fleetwood Mac. It’s a zephyr blowing your locks, the single I’ve been sent, Out of the Mist archetypal of the band’s bravura. I liked it and now have the album, LazyDay to give a fuller appraisal.

With echoes of driving rock Mr B and the Wolf keep a balance, there’s no tearing off metal as I preconceived, no angry underscores, rather a commercially viable equilibrium of uplifting rock radio stations cannot excuse for not spinning. Second tune, Rise Up, a great example of this breezy and enriching chic. Yet in the acceptance lies an aching sensation eighties power ballad bands, like Huey Lewis and the News should’ve been striving for a sound more like Mr B & The Wolf.

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Three tunes in then, and Crazy Town strips the style back to a deeper blues riff, vocally gritty, vocalist Dean Baker handles it very well indeed. Out of the Mist combines the two and stands out, for both catchiness and composition. Chestnut subject matter, yeah, but it doesn’t sway me when it’s performed so well.

What we find here is a bonded, proficient band with stains of all rock has produced before but boy, do they know how to wear it well. They being, Ben Pellicci on lead and backing vocals, Jason Bird on bass and backing vocals, George Wallis on rhythm, and Jason Chown on Drums; unconfirmed which one is the wolf!

Phoenix ballads us to the finale, harmoniously and mellowly. I couldn’t go as far to compare it with the way Morrison would direct the Doors through an audience-mesmerising voyage, but it does equate the great soft metal bands of yore’s more magically rousing moments. I nod to Heart and of course, Bon Jovi, but they’d be knocking on the doors of Floyd or Cream, see if they’re coming out to play.

The finale though, belts back the blues riff and takes us full circle. In conclusion then, Mr B & The Wolf certainly don’t drift from blues-rock formulae, though it’s a damn fine established blueprint anyway, and this Chelmsford band do it with style. LazyDay would refrain you from road rage in traffic and compel you to turn it up when you hit the open road, Mr B & The Wolf would be a gig you’d return from with fond memories.


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Don’t, Ryan!

Okay I confess, in my last article I did, didn’t I, state there was a trend of indie music taming to mass appeal? And yeah, I suggested this is no bad thing. There will, however be exceptions to the rule, and rock will, and should always retain its hard edge; we have room for all here. Swindon’s Ryan Webb, for instance, who’s just dropped a new single, “Don’t,” takes no prisoners.

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This is militantly metal, with spikes. It rocks with edge, it doesn’t hang around with an ambient intro, stop for a melodic break, the bridge is reached in seconds, the rolling guitar riff perpetually quivering your bones. A one-man red-hot chilli pepper, Ryan wrote, produced, sang, wailed his guitar, recorded and mixed the track in his studio. The only collaborator being Dave Collins, the mastering engineer for Metallica’s last album, who mastered this too.

It must be said, this not the template of Ryan Webb, who quotes influences ranging from Pink Floyd, Joe Satriani, and Zeppellin, to Coldplay, Muse, and Kings of Leon. He has the range encompassing any rock avenue, and projects all with comfort and competence.

“Don’t” though, whoa there Ryan, I’m inclined to put my frayed denim jacket over my AC-DC t-shirt and head-bang my way to the highway from hell, and I’m not usually one for all that; haven’t even got an army surplus bag with badly grafted pictures of Eddie the Head and Megadeath logos!

So yeah, if I like it, you iron maidens will love it! What is more, the track is “a plea to anyone contemplating suicide to take a step back and see that they have a lot going on for them in the world. Even when times are really bad, it’s important to talk to those around you.”

Ryan has chosen All Call Signs as the beneficiary for any sales from the single. All Call Signs is a UK organisation set up by two veteran soldiers, Dan Arnold and SJ James, in order to help other vets/serving military personnel who may be finding life difficult. They have also created an app which helps locate those reported missing and in need of urgent support.


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Indie Networking and Long Coats

If social media is the rearguard in music’s battle against the Coronavirus lockdown, there’s plenty of battalions networking at this last stand, and physical location is no issue. A virtual realm is borderless, and for this reason, while Devizine is concentrated on content local to Wiltshire, there are many avenues worthy to waiver the rule for. So, expect us to cover some bands and artists without borders, ones I’ll connect with through social media, such as the Facebook group I’m here to mention, as is the group’s tenet.

That said, Ollie Sharp is a young performer from within our geographical catchment, Bath, who recently set up said Facebook group for indie music, called, aptly, The Indie Network. Its welcoming and dynamic attitude is gaining attention. I joined, they cast a thread of introductions; made me feel old! Funny cos it’s true, pipsqueaks by comparison. Young enough to have to Google my antiquated phraseology, like cassette tapes and Danny Kendal. Some poor guy confessed he was older, at 43, at which he faced compassionate reassurances such as, “it’s only a number.” I knew then to keep my gob shtum, so I stated I was “old enough to know better, too old to care.” Least it’d do no good for our Kieran from Sheer Music, who also joined, to grass me up as an old skool raver, historical to those barely an itch!

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Though we’ve jested before about the era of yore where never the twain would indie kids and ravers mingle, Mr Moore and I, and come to the conclusion I’m exempt on account of my eclectic taste. Let it be known now, I like the sound of Ollie’s recently formed band The Longcoats, and it’s just the sort of thing which allows Kieran to win the genre argument! It’s breezy, placid indie, acceptable on a larger scale than predecessors, much least my aging preconceptions, bit like what our Daydream Runaways and Talk in Code are putting out; and I like them. I even refer to them as “our,” see, like a northern working-class family. Shoot, pass my Smiths tee Mr Moore, I’m an indie kid! (kid used here in its most unlikely definition.)

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Anyway, I digress. We’ve reached the part of the show where the artist mumbles “is this codger going to actually review my single?” Apologies for my Uncle Albert moment, ha, there was me thinking Boris had made arbitrary tangents trendy. There’s no telling some, he’s a bastard. However, we’ll never get going if I branch into politics.

“Used to Being Used” is the single I was sent, the earlier one of two on their Bandcamp page. It follows a blueprint of indie-pop, there’s a trudging guitar riff, a theme of dejected ardour, yet it’s done with skill, catchiness and promising aptitude. The latter single, Drag, which came out in March takes a similar tempo, and cool attitude; there is no need to be angry in an era which accepts the genre, so ever with edge but only enough, The Longcoats create a beguiling and entertaining sound to appeal wide.

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Last year guitarist Arthur Foulstone and drummer Kane Pollastrone added to frontman Sharp’s lone act, which bridged the gap between band and solo artist. The final piece of the puzzle came upon recruiting permanent bassist Norton Robey. With the assistance of producer Jack Daffin, The Longcoats have created a defining sound which is appealing and instantly recognisable.

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There is nothing about this Bath four-piece indie-pop-rock band here, I’ll be honest, which will act as their magnum opus, but an auspicious start dripping with potential. Here’s one to watch, with their debut EP ‘October’ in the pipeline, here’s hoping it’ll reach us before the month of its namesake.

But it’s not so much about the individual band here which maketh this article, rather the conscious efforts to unite and network, thus creating a scene. Even through this era of wishing for a live gig, the networks thrive, perhaps even more so. Ollie also created Wise Monkey Music, a multi-media music and events promotion company based in the Southwest, of which we look forward to hearing more of; attention, the like Facebook group The Indie Network is likely to bring. They even let this aging raver in, dammit; though my white gloves and whistle must be in a box in the loft somewhere, it’s a deceased stereotype, of which I’m glad.

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I do find though, as someone who glued and photocopied zine after zine, aside the mass media driven pop tripe, the underground thrives as it ever did, the internet only creates an easy route in. Just like the bands of the now, such as The Longcoats and others rapidly joining the group, what’s not to like about it?

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Talking Gravity, and other things, with Daydream Runaways

With some images used by Nick Padmore

How professional of me to create a to-do-list of outstanding subjects for articles, but then spoil said professionalism by dithering to the Daydream Runaways boys about the nineties rave-indie divide and becoming a grandad. The sensible members of the band promptly left the group chat, save guitarist Cameron Bianchi who stayed to endure my inane waffling up as far as the Madchester scene.

Prior to this though we had a great heart-to-heart early in the week, but if the title of this article is misleading, I should add the subject of Sir Isaac Newton never came up, rather Gravity is their latest single, hot off the streaming sites yesterday. It’s quality, as expected, going on their three previous releases, blinding reviews and an appearance on BBC Wiltshire.

It does indeed, as the press release states, “deliver on their brand of retro-modern indie rock,” but while maintaining an emerging signature panache, it pushes firmer towards a heavy rock division. A hasty grinding atmospheric intro with a pause, then the spiralling sonic guitar takes no prisoners. If the last tune, Closing the Line bore topical sentiment with a theme of the town’s Honda Plant closing, Gravity is perhaps more general, but even more powerful. This imminent Swindon-Devizes four-piece really have dug into an emotional slant with Gravity.

The combination of Ben Heathcote’s idiosyncratic vocals, said sonic guitars and class production value, this belts across as a rock anthem to not only scare The Darkness but fight a Foo. They say it comes from “a time of turbulence and explores the burden of life’s toughest decisions.” If I predicted the air of gloom surrounding the era would produce some intensely expressive songs, here is the all the proof you need, if indeed it’s a product of the pandemic. I’m going to find out.

So, I’m wondering, if the recording was done at a distance, or prior to the lockdown. Drummer, Brad Kinsey informed, “it was done in February, in Swindon, with an engineer from Westbury.”

I explained my reasoning, “it sounds heavy, rather darker than usual. So, I wondered if it was a result of the lockdown. Is there a drive to take it that route, I mean slightly darker and heavier, or is just the mood of this particular track?”

Cameron replied “I think it was just the mood of the track. Everything kind of centres around the experience Ben’s lyrics are speaking about. In fact, Ben’s probably the best person to about the story behind the song. But we definitely made a conscious effort to push ourselves on this on to do the song justice.”

It certainly does. “It doesn’t hang around,” I pointed out, “and the vocals are more powerful than before. Seems like a natural progression, a maturity. Not that I’m calling you immature, you understand?!”

Bradley responded, “nah, I get that. I think we gained confidence and are more unified about this sound.”

Cameron interjected, “I think it’s important to all of us to keep pushing ourselves with each release and not churn out the same number. I’m not saying we’re the Beatles or anything, but you know give it some time. We’re still young!”

Bradley bantered, “are you, Cam?!”

Cameron added, “well, some of us are still young…” Laughing emojis are added, but I’m getting paranoid.

“Okay,” I opposed, “spring chickens; don’t rub it in!” But even with any such change, such as the edgier component of Gravity, there’s a distinct signature maintained in all their tunes and this, I feel, sets them apart from many a local band. I could have guessed it was them before knowing it. “Is that important,” I questioned, “to be instantly recognisable?”

Cameron said, “I think it helps that Ben has got a very distinctive and powerful voice. I suppose we’re starting to find our sound as well. Ben & Nath wanted to go a bit heavier with this track but I’m not a massive fan of heavy guitar. So, I opted for a more chimney yet overdriven guitar style that suits me, but also packs a punch. Plus, I got to flex my inner Graham Coxon/Jonny Greenwood with the effects heavy solo part!”

Brad covered this shot too, “I would say so, yeah. It’s good to build a sonic trademark, all the greats have that! It’s a good thing when people can still recognise you, even when you change things. Shows that you’re using that style but without losing the integrity of what you are.”

At this early stage, Daydream Runaways call a good compromise between them, witnessed when they tuned for our Waiblingen Way Fire fundraiser. “There’s always going to be differing opinions,” I pondered, “Bit like marriage!”

Cameron replied, “no relationship comes without some disagreements, a band included. But we’re all good at finding a compromise, which is good!”
Throughout the interview I’m concerned if I should bring the idea of a possible album up, as when we did the fundraiser I asked, and it met with varying opinions between them. However, with the topic running on compromise, it’s now or never! “I wasn’t sure, though wanting to ask, if I should bring it up again!”

Cameron delegated, “Bradley…over to you on the album talk!”

I interjected with the proposal before he did, “I think you should, but accept I’m not thinking about current climate in the music industry, rather an old fashioned ideal.”

Bradley answered, “there was a plan. However, the coronavirus has impacted that. Not going to say it’s completely gone but we’ll wait and see what happens. You can’t really make any plans at the moment.”

Cameron expressed, “it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when is probably all we’ll say for now!”

Brad added, “I’d say doing an album is all dependent on what genre you’re doing. Rock music fans are still very defiant and keeping the album alive. So maybe with this Gravity sound we’ll go down that route.”

It did bring us onto these strange times, and my deliberations on what’s the best approach for artists on how to continue, continues. “What’s best for musicians,” I asked them for their tuppence, “the live stream is simply not the same as a gig, and while charging for it is a bit cheeky, it’s difficult to know where to go to get some revenue for the work you put it. In short, must be a bitch. Let’s not say the word again!”

I couldn’t argue with Brad’s comment, “some bands I follow have rejected the idea and directed people to supporting more pressing causes.”

Meanwhile, Cam elucidated his feelings about the lockdown. “Whilst you really miss that immediate response from a crowd, and the fact you’re in a room where you can play loud and really get into it, they’re still fun to do! We were lucky enough to do one right before the lockdown was enforced. Probably one of the first bands to do it, then Chris Martin came along after with his solidarity sessions. We still haven’t forgiven him for that!”

“Springsteen did one! But not before you!” I supplemented.
Bradley was proud to say, “we were the first UK band to do a self-isolation livestream. There, I said it; Let the feud with Chris Martin begin!”

The topic continued for a while, this dilemma between fan etiquette and revenue for artists. But I wanted to notify how much I enjoyed theirs, “yeah, good it was too. Saw that! Right now, I guess, it’s all we have. That’s the point I cleared with Kieran at Sheer. It’s never going to be the best plan. I think it’s time to get down and write some killer songs, agree?”

Cameron agreed with a feel-good quote, “definitely, but now is also the time to look out for each other, even though we’re all apart. If we can reach out to people with our music or it helps them get through their day, then that’s amazing.”

Bradley approved too, “yeah, and there’s never been a better time to write. Technology’s made it so accessible now to bounce ideas. Who knows, we could even release a song in lockdown without even meeting up.”

It always amazed a younger me, that Paul Simon could collaborate with the South African musicians on Graceland, back in the late eighties, and it sounded like they were playing in harmony in the same studio. It is possible to edit parts and stitch together. Must bugger up the flow of it though, make it sound mechanical or manufactured.”

Bradley replied, “well, if the band records the parts individually themselves and lays off the editing it’s possible to get that organic feel. I wouldn’t be surprise if we start seeing artists jump on this idea and release original tracks.”

It was at this point Ben Heathcote joined us. “It seems like the boys have covered the questions quite well! As Cam said, Gravity comes from a place of uncertainty and pain from circumstances and the decisions triggered from them. A crossroad of the mind. And yeah, lockdown wise we’re hoping it makes people see the value in their freedom before and hopefully will bring out further support when pubs, clubs and entertainment reopen.”

I see Ben’s clarification reflected in the cover art too. With a kind of “stairway to heaven concept,” an impressionist character is looking lost, pondering which road to take. It’s apt for the song.”

Ben welcomed this, “you got it. And again, the artwork is something were really proud of. Provided by ezra.mae.art. We also enjoyed working with Reloopaudio on the production, a friend who we will be working with again. We love this song and we’ve loved the whole creation, writing and everything about it. It’s nice to have developed it from the live sound too.”
For Ben’s benefit, we found ourselves back on the subject of Gravity’s edgier side, “I think it will please the hardcore indie fans, and those which come from a heavy rock side, which is good, there’s a majority of them locally.”

Ben replied, “as you mentioned earlier, with the style sounding fresh, but still us. This is something I’ve always been hot on since the band formed. I’ve never wanted us to be doing the same thing every time. The aim was, and continues to be; to write and produce fresh sounds with hints of varying styles that is still recognisable as us, allowing it to not be boring or repetitive; kind of inspired by many of our favourite artists who keep developing their sound.”

I take off my hat to this, “I might come across pop or soul-ish but I had my day, and do still listen to bands like Zeppelin and Floyd etc. I think Gravity will be boss with that crowd.” With which I asked for their influences, and if they mutual.

Ben reacted, “I’d say our choices are not miles apart, but to pin a group favourite would be impossible as we all have our firm favourite influences.”

Cam agreed, “yeah, I don’t think there was a particular band or artist that inspired the track as such but we all agreed what the sound was we were aiming for. Making sure that each of us brought our own thing to it.”

Laughing emojis made a reappearance, when I teased, “Ed Sheeran it is then!”

Keen to take it back, Brad nods at my sixties psychedelic citations, “Floyd and Zeppelin are timeless though. Prefect example of bands that pushed themselves overtime.” And the Daydream Runaways can relate to that with this progressive new release.

Ben said, “I think before we produced the track, we all knew in our head how it should sound.” It’s definitely a belter. I thank them for their time, with one last question before we headed into our tangent about the rave-indie divide of the nineties! Where do the Daydreamers see themselves in five years?

Ben suggested in five years’ time he would like them to have a steady schedule, “playing to crowds who know our words, filling sold out venues as well as intimate gigs, which we can always remember.”

Cameron felt they’d have “an album or two under our belt, playing to crowds in our favourite venues. Having a slot on The John Peel Stage at Glastonbury is a bit of a dream of mine!” Ah, there’s the source of my waffling, started with seeing Oasis at Glasto but, unbeknown to me at the time, I paid them little attention.

Daydream Runaways though, worthy of your attention, here’s the Spotify link to Gravity, like them up on the book of face, and cross your fingers and toes we’ll be seeing them live soon, if not the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury!


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.

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Phil Jinder Dewhurst at the White Bear

You know you’re stockpiling years when you decide staying in for your birthday is the choicest option. I did, finally, haul my birthday-cake belly off the sofa on Sunday, driven by lingering desire, or an essence of ritual, which put up a fierce battle against my indolence; I’m glad it won.

Though the anticipated birthday banter and celebratory sacraments were scarce, as the White Bear was held captive by an extraordinarily acute and enthralling sound. An artist I thought Andy had reviewed for a past Sunday session here at this snug tavern, but searching came up with no reference to it, Phil Dewhurst, known as Jinder was mysterious to me as either. Yet he weaves intricate and personal storytelling as an introduction to each song, so you leave feeling you know a little about the musician.

If it’s a Springsteen-esque cliché, Phil summarises well, each song illustrated with an explanation to his thoughts and inspiration while writing it. No matter if it’s fashioned with poetic riddle, once you’ve a background to it stimulus you comprehend. And his writing is well crafted, eloquent and precise.

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While the songs were melodic and mellowing, few with a melancholic theme, Phil conducts his prose against the cynical, and his songs breath an air of positivity over pessimism. There was a running leitmotif of keeping on the sunny side of the street against all odds, and for such, I compare him again to Springsteen, for his wild romantic style. Never was the subject quixotic, pragmatism showed his true colours as he poured his emotion fluently into his songs, attached to acoustic guitar so you couldn’t see the join, through proficient use of the loop peddle he created a beautiful soundscape, like a one-man Pink Floyd.

And it was when to come back with the following verse which really impressed me, Jinder has professionalism in his timing and a natural flare, making this afternoon a notable and entertaining affair.

See, I observe the loop pedal operation with a certain fascination, particularly under the command of the multi-instrumentalist, previous referencing Chris James Marr from a Sheer gig, or when the Arts Festival introduced Devizes to She Robot last summer, but it never ceases to amaze me when a man like Jinder can weave such intense resonances with just an acoustic guitar. The instrumental sections penetrated the mind and drifted from person to person; he clearly knows what he’s doing there, wincing an electric guitar sound or bashing a beat on the side of it.

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Big “but” here though, it was the crux when he let off the pedal, the songs of simplicity; man, and guitar, ah, the acoustic really showed his true expertise. I’d recommend and welcome a Phil Jinder Dewhurst gig to all mature aficionados of rock. And marvellously prolific is he, a West Country based international touring musician, Jinder has released ten critically acclaimed albums for five different labels, including Sony BMG and Universal, had top 40 singles with ‘Overthinkers Anonymous’ and ‘Keep Me In Your Heart’, the latter of which has been successfully covered by many other artists and features in 2019’s international smash hit movie ‘Fishermen’s Friends’.

Through the delicacy of lo-fi folk-noir to the crank but pleasing blues tune he charmed the humble audience with personal anecdotes of woe, or uplifting inspirational moments, he expressed his passion for his art, that of friends in collaboration, and he pitched his landmark album The Silver Age with accounts of its orchestration. I’d like to hear that, yet as solo he has a force of his own, and was the perfect finale to a weekend.


© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
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Live Album at the Louisiana with Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue

A cheetah can achieve motorway speeds, but not long enough to get off the slip road; worthless trivia, unless you’re an antelope. I like to think cheetahs listen to rock n roll; no, hear me out. Akin to this feline fact, those RnB and rock n roll classics are one short burst of energy. Fortunately for the artists the 78rpm record lasted a maximum of five minutes, and for radio play they’d cut it to little over three, any longer they surely risk congestive heart failure.

As the era passed to late sixties, psychedelia stretched recorded music to live and extended dimensions Little Richard could never maintain. Mellowing tendency matured rock, but arguably robbed its dynamism. Ah, come the eighties twelve inch single and the mega-mix, prompting the question; why didn’t Glenn Close choose the Jive Bunny to boil?

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Image by 
Jerry Tremaine Photography

Rare then it is, to hear a frenzied traditional rock n roll sound encompass ten minutes; welcome to Ruzz Evans’ world. Embodiment of Johnny B Goode, Ruzz can pick guitar like he’s ringing a bell, for an astounding period too. Due for release on 10th February, but available for pre-order from December 1st, I’ve been adoring this album recorded live at the Louisiana in Ruzz’s hometown of Bristol.

Forgive me for sustaining the rock n roll pigeonhole, for Ruzz has the quiff and is photographed in a teddy boy drape jacket. With backing from an incredible band including drummer Mike Hoddinott and upright bassist Joe Allen, the panache of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue straddles rock and its namesake blues. Since 2016, when they added an awesome horn trio to the roster, we can add big band jazz to their style. That’s my thoughts while absorbed in this, of what Miles Davis did to jazz, or Pink Floyd to prog rock, Ruzz does to traditional rhythm and blues come rock n roll; the result is breath-taking.

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Bearing in mind his voice isn’t growling Tennessean, yet neither was Gene Vincent’s, rather quirky Bristolian, the vocals are sporadic, instruments reign. There’s an amusing conclusion to “Under Your Spell,” where 10 minutes of detonating electric blues is broken by a genuinely surprised thank you from Ruzz in said accent. This often amuses me, pondering, no, thank you, mate, I just clapped, you’ve just held me spellbound for ten minutes, the pleasure is all mine!

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In this instance I’m not even there, merely listening on my headphones, but still entranced. While they’re Bristol based Ruzz and his Guitar’s Blues Revue are no strangers here, and you can catch them at the Southgate (Nov 30th), White Swan Trowbridge (tonight 9th Nov) at the R&B bar in March at Devizes Sports Club. I’m quivering, ashamed after hearing this that I’ve not caught them live yet; an offence I will rectify, you would too if you hear this.

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Live at the Louisiana explodes from the off; the two, Hold It and Baby Please Come Home, for starters envelope all I’ve said, lively jump blues come big band rock n roll. Catchy, you’ll be lindy hopping before your first sip. Yet if Movin On groovily notches to allegro moderato, Back Home to Stay boogie-woogies again, and Sleepwalk is as dreamy as it suggests. The last two tunes, Sweet as Honey and the aforementioned Under You Spell embrace all we’ve so far said, making this release, I reckon, a treasure; fantastic!

With two self-released studios albums already under their big rockabilly buckles, and opening for Dr Feelgood, The BlockHeads, Kirk Fletcher and Bill Kirchen and Darrel Higham, they’re stamping an authority of quality worldwide. Ruzz has been honoured by being officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, and that’s what I perceive of him, the kind of obsessive guy who will turn any conversation to his labour of love, but when it’s this proficient, you cannot help but take heed. I’m off to find out what they can do in the studio, but with such a formula I think this live album captures the spirit perfectly.


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


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Rock Hopping in the Free Rowde

When apathetic to galivant to a gig, and not for want of staying in my village, there’s always the Cross Keys in Rowde. Hum, been a while, historically had its ups and downs. Last report I did here things were looking up; food-wise, a few craft fairs and various goings-on. But it’s changed hands again, and the one thing it lacked other than the sporadic Splat of the Rat, live music, has returned to the agenda by the new landlord.

Arm twisted, I’m back in the watering hole where I had my wedding reception and the kid’s christening parties. Little visually has changed, punters included. No bad thing, village hub. The landlord tells me they’ll be renovating the restaurant area, but if it isn’t broken. For the functional the main pub is perfect, aesthetically it’s apt. Although the change for the evening is the pool table area, where guitars and drums swim amidst wires and foot pedals. Devizes band Rockhoppaz are due to kick off a season of performances here. This is good, heard of but not seen these guys yet.

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Holding a preconceived idea, largely based upon the name, I was mistaken to assume I’d be knocked over by rock verging on metal, which though not my cuppa, I’ll endure to support live music in my village for sure. Pleasantly surprised then to hear this matured four-piece’s repertories, though while varied, were largely based on rock and punk-mod classics.

Tuning teaser being Johnny B Goode, the age range of songs went from contemporary back to rock n roll. Commencing with the Kaiser Chiefs, we heard Dandy Warhols and Primal Scream covers, we were cast rearward to Buzzcocks and The Jam, and plopped into a pinnacle of Rolling Stones and Kinks. It was this era where I thought the band reigned, with an awesome Brown Sugar. Yet the range was achieved in its entirety with equal passion and skill, but when lead singer, Jim Smith rolled out an adroit version of Neil Young’s Rockin in the Free World, I changed my mind.

I questioned this namesake preconceived idea to the band during their beer-break, pointing out drummer, Ian “Tef” Martin’s AC/DC tee-shirt. Oh yes, I was told, they’ll be playing an AC/DC cover in the second half. What ensued was a potentially everlasting musical trivia conversation, indicting their passion was their motivation, and herein lies the spirit of Rockhoppaz, I feel.

They’re not the next big thing, just a bunch of guys satisfying an appetite on the pub circuit, but as far that notion travels, lead Jim Smith, aforementioned drummer Ian Martin, guitarist Chris Downing and “Big” Ben Robinson bassist pull to its bumper, and would do your function a huge favour, for their thirst and talent rubs off on the audience; punching above the average pub circuit band’s weight.

In various incarnations they’ve been around for a while, previous band names being more profane, they say, causing me to think they once had a punk vibe about them. They’ve played the Opportunity Centre charity fundraiser at Wadworth Brewery, The Yeoman, The George in Frome, Melksham’s Pig & Whistle and our trusty Southgate, they’ve gigged the Midlands, Windsor and Bath. The Cavalier, Devizes has them on November 2nd, their next local gig.

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As for the Cross Keys, I hope it’s the first of many, and with the great pub-grub and Sunday roast menu retained, I wish them all the best. The landlord calls for more, monthly, with local mod-rockers, Cover Up appearing next. I’d like to see some local heroes with some original acoustic booked too, happy to recommend the usual suspects. There is a notion cover bands will undoubtedly satisfy the regulars at The Cross Keys, but said originals will bring others in. It’s not a long walk from Devizes, I do it the other way many weekends, and that’s uphill, pal! That said though, getting a bit autumny innit, so nice to know live music has extended out to Rowde.


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


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The Relevance of Mike Barham

After a “knackering weekend” Devizes music scene’s gentle giant rests up, prepping for All Roads Lead to Frome on Saturday, where he’s one of twenty acts to be thrown onto the Cheese & Grain’s stage. He sends me Relevance, new single, out tomorrow (30th August) telling he’s “been sitting on it for like, two years, never got round to recording it, and over the summer hols I just thought; you really should give this a go, otherwise it’s just a stopper in the pipe.”

Have to rub some stubble, yes, literally have a number of them myself. Often apposite to stockpile ideas, but creative tend to doubt them the longer they linger. Yet every now and then, your scrapbook is worth browsing, dust off a rough and finish it.

“Exactly,” Mike agrees, “it’s one of those things I just needed to get off the mental shelving you know? Not a clear-out, because it’s no good, but more like; stop resting on my laurels and progress!”

Pardon the pun, but relevance to that conviction, doubled with the notion he confesses nerves writing, recording, mixing and releasing this solo single by himself for the first time, Relevance is not only Mike on his best behaviour, it’s a prodigious single, emotive and fuller than anything you may previous have heard from Mr Barham.

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Image by Nick Padmore

Maintaining those grating bluesy vocals, for those familiar with his fiery debut album, Altitude with Attitude, expect later, acoustic tracks Signal Fires or Short, Never Forgotten rather than the blast of Bowser’s Castle or The Cider Song. Yet, think more evocative and shadier, a ripened Mike Barham, perhaps, after all we were talking about last week down the Southgate too, Mr B!

“It’s a bit of a mellower direction,” he describes, “reflective but no less direct lyrically I feel, sort of a City and Colour/Death Cab for Cutie vibe, very simplistic with just vocal, acoustic and one electric for texture.” It works for me, I envision Phil Cooper tipping his porkpie hat to its expressive maturity, and Jamie R Hawkins nodding approval at its narrative too.

Alongside working with his band Nerve Endings on some recorded material, here’s a poignant solo single which stamps Mike firmly on scene. If it’s with Nerve Endings, or solo, Mike Barham will entertain a crowd, undoubtedly, but here’s something with more universal appeal. Least I reckon, you’ll have to hear it for yourself.


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


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Back on the Saddle!

Tipsy suggestions to those Saddlebackers at their gurt lush day festival at Devizes Sports Ground were poo-pooed from the off! With this year’s line up rolling out across social media, it’s easy to see they took my expansive notions as nonsensical dribble. A dance tent; yeah, right, circus and performing arts acts; get outta town, even a reggae stage is not to be. Feasibly, they know what they like!

With seemingly no plans to overinflate or cater for revellers outside their chosen target audience, this year’s Saddleback Festival drives surely on quality not quantity, and if good ol’ rock and blues music is what you want, and face it, it’s the most desirable around these backwaters, then it looks like Saddleback return to deliver.

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Deliver they intend to, on 20th July, at a busy time with The Full Tone Orchestra promising a free event on the Green and Melksham’s Party in the Park on the same date, Devizes Carnival, Trowbridge’s Once Upon a Time in West Fest and the Swindon Shuffle the weekend prior, the Beer Festival and Devizes’ first scooter rally at the beginning of the month, perhaps it’s a reasonable move for Saddleback to stick with the working formula of previous years.

No extra acoustic stage for local acts has been announced, like the “bolt-on” last year. While being just that, it was at least a presence for them. It’s all focus on who’s performing main stage then, and tribute acts seem to feature predominantly. The longest running, full-time professional tribute to Led Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Led headline; and we all like a lotta Led.

Significant changes to their original line-up from 1996, six years ago, has seen considerable progress with the Whole Lotta Led’s customary two- and half-hour shows, receiving international acclamation from Zeppelin fans. With over 1,300 shows under the belts, they’ve performed Stairway to Heaven more than any other band in the world, interestingly, including Led Zeppelin!

To truly dedicated fans who witnessed the real McCoy at their prime, Whole Lotta Led avoid wigs, costumes, and look-alike paraphernalia to focus on recreating the music to an astonishing level of accuracy. They’ve recreated some of Led Zeppelin’s legendary live shows; 2001 they performed the ‘Bath Festival’ set, in 2003 staged the ‘Earl’s Court’ tour, in 2005 they recreated Zep’s last shows in England with the ‘Knebworth’ set, performed the live CD ‘How The West Was Won’ in 2006 and in 2008 they completed the ‘2007 O2 Reunion Show’ tour.

In a similar fashion, Creedence Clearwater Review are the UK’s premier tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival, capturing the feel, sound and atmosphere of the short-lived late sixties American band. With audience involvement, singalongs and plenty of rousing choruses the Review promise an authentic and power packed tribute to the Creedence legacy, sticking as closely to the album tracks as possible. There’s also a nod to John Fogerty’s solo career in the show.

To concentrate on original acts, most are Bristol-based, like Elles Bailey is that wonderful hard-blues chick we’ve covered on Devizine before. With a prolific and authentic blend of country and blues, Elles is the UK dynamite on the scene.

The second name to continually popup locally is Ruzz Evans, who since 2014, with drummer Mike Hoddinott and Joe Allen on upright bass make up Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue. The trio house a powerful, soul-injected mesh of Blues, R’n’B and Rock’n’Roll of retrospective energy. The opportunities to open for some class acts, from Rockabilly’s the Delta Bombers and the Rhythm Shakers from Vegas to Dr Feelgood and The Blockheads. Plus, the newly released studio album, Burn Out, which features Pete Gage from Dr Feelgood’s band, certainly shows enthusiasm, skill and passion; this one is going to get lively.

 

Also booked is four-piece blues/funk outfit, The Will Edmunds Band, who perform interpretations of classics from the likes of Robert Johnson, BB King, Albert King and The Meters. Their sound promises to be tight and fresh, yet retaining old-school mojo!

And that’s what we’ve been told so far. No mention of Jon Amor; surely, he’ll drop in, would’ve thought? Ah, one step ahead of you. The Friday before , 19th July, he’s at the pre-festival event at the Sports Club, where for a tenner you’ll get Saddleback favourites Innes Sibun and Jon, with Mike Hoddinott of Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue and what’s worth the entire weekend price-tag in my humble opinion, for all it’s worth, the awesome UK-USA blues conglomerate, Beaux Gris Gris who we’ve reviewed a night of before.

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A further tenner means you can camp for the weekend, from 5.00pm Friday 19th July, with campers asked to leave the site by 10.30am on Sunday 21st July. It may be whacking the total from £25, for a main ticket, to £45 for the whole shebang, and in all honesty the mods may have it cheaper than the rockers this year, the Scooter Rally tallying to £25 for the whole weekend with free camping, but a considerable donation of Saddleback is off to chosen charities Julia’s House and Care If, and going on the sturdy and reliable security, strategic setup and organisation that went into last year’s event, together with an awesome line-up, Saddleback will not go unnoticed, even if promotion of it seems somewhat lessened this year.

 

Here’s last year’s snaps to get you in the mood; all images by Nick Padmore

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Half a Review from The Southgate: Soapbox and Patrick Goodenough

Yeah, I know…..

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What’s Devizine coming to when I back out of a full night of live music? But with jam-packed weekends ahead, general fatigue and, like Suggs, sometimes I like to stay in and watch TV now and then, please allow my lethargy some slack, people. Britain’s Got Talent’s non-offensive new look of letting every idiot through was wearing thin by the second act, and I ventured off for a pint. Wasn’t a great deal to wet this lightweight’s appetite anyways, save George Wilding down the Owl, and of course, if you’re ever stuck for a weekend evening’s entertainment, the Southgate is the guaranteed safe bet in the Vizes.

Yet it’s walking up that Dunkirk Hill which drains enthusiasm, so steep Churchill pulled the troops out. Fine, it is, to roll back down at the end with a bellyful of cider navigating me off-route down Browfort, as it did last weekend, and perhaps it was this occurrence which avowed the need to drive.

I knew Nerve Endings were booked; knew they had a support, and still I epically failed, but was impressed with what I did perchance to witness, and thus prepared to draft a little something about that. Yep, the Southgate rocked again, and I know, you know, Mike, Luke and Rob will make a grand, and loud job of it. On bass and vocals, Rob McKelvey and brilliant drummer from the valley, Luke Bartels really add the extra dimension to Mike Barham, if he ever needed one; shame I shirked it.

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But Patrick Goodenough, who kicked off the proceedings with a solo debut of stripped back songs from his band, The Compact Pussycat, was indeed more than good enough, as his name suggests. There was emotion and sentiment in his performance, and popping his solo act virginity, with added banter of band-member Jack Moore floating around, he should be highly commended.

Following this, Salisbury three-piece, Soapbox came to kick-ass. Proclaiming it was their heaviest song to date, they blasted out an introduction called “Problems,” and thus was the general theme of these lively and edgy, punk-inspired, rock n roll originals.

Acutely written shards of anarchy and virtue, they packed attitude and were delivered ferociously yet responsively, a tune called Rollercoaster, for example, cliché life metaphor perhaps, but delivered with passion and enthusiasm. There was an acceptable Iggy Pop in them, The Rabbit Ear perhaps the most poignant, and the final lambast, Shut the Fuck Up, the most direct.

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I nodded approval as the bass player packed away, telling me though they’d sporadically been together as a band in the past, this incarnation has only been on the circuit a year. With this in mind, excusing myself doing the need-a-wee dance, Soapbox is defo one to watch out for. Good choice Mr B, apologies for my slackness!

 

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April Warming with Asa Murphy as Buddy Holly

The Corn Exchange, Devizes most prestigious and largest venue, sets to rock n roll on April 6th when Asa Murphy and gang brings his hit Liverpool show, Buddy Holly Lives to town.

Posting a rehearsal video on Facebook this week proved a plan, it sounds marvellous. Asa also made an appearance at Devizes Books last week. Yet, the weekend may not have been the most carefully selected, the popular Long Street Blues Club hosts the Billy Walton Band, while The Melksham Rock n Roll Club are bound to pull a crowd for the Hurricanes, all on the same night. With rock n rollers spoiled it’s just to express why Buddy Holly Lives is my personal choice for the most unmissable event this April, hopeful to reach to an audience beyond rock n roll aficionados, and I base it upon the simple fact Buddy’s music was such it transcends its genre.

Timeless performers of Buddy’s level of talent and prolific drive come around one in a generation, if we’re lucky. Above all of their peers, Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the experimentalists, the pioneers who avoided rock n roll crashing out of fashion with their diverseness in musical formats. The unpretentious, simplest formulas are the backbone of every pop classic, take the ease which Buddy mastered this notion in a tune like “It’s Raining in my Heart,” or “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”

 
But if we are to strip down a song for analysis, take “Everyday” as a prime example of what I’m attempting to get at. An out of studio rehearsal of the song, where without drums Jerry Allison tapped the rhythm with his hands on his thighs, it is Buddy’s immediate eureka moment to keep it as that, rather than use drums which represents the genius in simplicity which the Beatles borrowed, the same cognitive creative virtuoso producers like Quincy Jones, Lee Scratch Perry, Giorgio Moroder, or William Orbit would adopt to make a song into a hit, in their respective eras.

 

Do you see where I’m coming from? It is why I’d recommend any contemporary aspiring musician to take heed of Buddy’s catalogue, and also why I’d advise, if there’s one show this month you need to be at locally, it’s this homage to the utmost pioneer of pop, aside being a fan rock n roll, or not.

 
This is without the added detail it’s a celebration of the life of Bruce Hopkins, who through his music raised substantial amounts for Cancer Research, a donation will be made to charity, and Asa’s professionalism and dynamic charisma. Bought to together with Buddy’s music, with narrative, I’m not only looking forward to this, but dragging my mum halfway across the country to come see it! As a Buddy fan since early teenage, she will be a far harsher critic than me, Asa!

 
Tickets are £20, available now from Devizes Books.

 

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Saddle Up! Devizes Most Prestigious Festival Steps Up Their Game

Your creative sorts usually appreciate music, but, stereotypically, entertainment for “sporty-types” would rather be waving fists and hurling abuse at a team projected to them via a widescreen TV, seemingly oblivious; television is a one-way communication devise. It’s not until someone puts “Eye of the Tiger,” on a jukebox, or Bonnie Tyler croaks she’s holding out for a hero, that they get all sweaty, and start flexing biceps in a dance comprising of getting friends in a headlock and rubbing knuckles atop their cranium.

 
It couldn’t be further from the truth for the Devizes Sports Club, and anyway, my generalising just a witticism in hope the lady’s rugby team might fulfil my daydream and chase me down the street! The Sports Club, enthusiastic for the remaining month before their Saddleback Festival, are serious about presenting the town with an exciting and professionally organised festival.

 

It’s the music festival’s second innings, after the sun-drenched blues event last year, and they’re determined to up their game…..not a lot, no point in running before they can walk, but enough to make this, in my opinion, our most anticipated event of the year.

 
For starters, they’ve dropped the “blues” tag from its title, making it less specialised. While the concentration on blues music still sturdy, it’ll be joined predominantly with rock, acoustic and folk.

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Certain other moves are to be introduced, I’m at the British Lion, having a pint with organiser, Mirko Pangrazzi, to find out what they might be.

 
I suggest they could drop the “music” label too, add a comedy tent, or possibly street theatre. Mirko considers, but stops at the idea of a “dance” tent. Their chosen genres equate to a family-styled event. A mass of fledgling “ravers” descending brings its own issues.

 
There’s an air about the conversation which leads me to believe the organisers value quality over quantity, with no intentions of expanding to Glasto proportions. We laugh as Mirko recalls people last year leaving, only to return with chairs in which they would switch the angle of to face their chosen stage; that is sooo Devizes and surely associates this family ethos.

 

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Jon Amor

Mirko is keen to show me a list of activities they’ve organised for children; a fun bus, inflatables, face painting, a bungee run, Striker game, slot machines and of course, a sweet stall, to name but a few. Plus, it goes without saying it’s at a sports club with abundant space to kick a football till you drop.

 
For here’s a thing, I’m convinced no one is to get fleeced at Saddleback, the food stalls enter freely, organisers only asking for a donation to chosen charities; Julia’s House, Wiltshire Air Ambulance and others, while punters get value with a wealth of talented acts for a reasonable twenty-five quid, and their kids under 13, well, they get in for FREE and for 13-17 it’s just a fiver.

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Mirko introduces me to John, a newcomer to the committee but with a wealth of experience on the festival scene. What John doesn’t know about coordinating a festival could be written on the back of a matchbox, with diagrams, pie charts and a few dirty doodles on the bottom.

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Mollie Marriott

Having worked on littler-known events like, say, Glastonbury and Boomtown, John is a welcomed asset to provide a fully professional team, determined to make this work wonders. There’s more than meets the eye to arranging such an event, a note others need take heed of in these cliché days of any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Harry’s pet dog attempting to hold one. They’re delighted to have halted construction plans for a new pipeline running through the site, due bang on the 14th July when Saddleback takes place. For when music promoter Mirko and Sports Club owner Rick get going on a project, they’re the sort who work tirelessly to make it the very best they can.

 
It didn’t matter of the success of last year’s, though Mirko was pleased with the result, they’ve assigned themselves to this ongoing project and intend to make it an annual event.

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Marcus Bonfanti

So, the second major change is camping. People will be able to set up a tent this year, from Friday to Sunday, for a tenner, or just fifteen smackers to bring their campervan on site. This will add an extra dimension to the ambience, with visitors able to mingle with locals. Add this to the real ale and cider bars, prosecco, Pimms, wines, soft drinks, and craft beer from Devitera, merge it with a wide assortment of food stalls, such as Happy Hog Catering, Asian cuisine, obligatory barbeque and a tea/coffee and crepe bus, I think they’re building the perfect recipe for a blinding day which will go down in Devizes history and will firmly put our town on the festival map.

 
Notwithstanding an unforgettable line-up, with blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Marcus Bonfanti, rockers Bad Touch, ballad-esque pop-rockette, Mollie Marriott, daughter of Small Faces and Humble Pie singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, Devizes-own blues/alternate rock deities The Jon Amor Band, Bradford’s legendary John Verity, Blues/Rock guitarist Innes Sibun and Avebury’s own George Wilding.

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George Wilding

If you need further proof of the authenticity of my recommendation, bear in mind it was a great thing when George Wilding won his place at the festival at the Battle of the Bands earlier this year and said he’d do it, if the other contestants could have the opportunity to play too. But it’s an even greater thing when Rick and Mirko took heed, and before we knew what was what, a third “acoustic” stage was added, introducing local heroes and heroines Mike Barham, Jamie R Hawkins, Alex Cash, Sally Dobson and Clare, who was coincidently serving at the British Lion at the time!

 
She smiled when we chatted, not realising who I was she said, “but I’ve known you for years!” That is what’s special about Devizes, that is what Saddleback will adhere, and that is also what’ll make Saddleback a knockout.

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So, don’t miss out, leave a comment on a local Facebook group, giving it, “whats that wonderful music I can hear from my garden?” – there’s tickets on the gate, or in advance, here.

 

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Emma Langford and the Quiet Giant

Ever had the awkward scenario where a acquaintance posts a song with a caption, “this is my daughter singing,” you feel obliged to listen, humour their parental pride and bend the truth that you reckon it’s awesome?! This was NOT one of those occasions.

 

I’ve been an online friend with Des for many-a-year; we share a love of comics and cartoons. He’s an exceptionally talented artist and sign-writer; his cartoon frescos adorn his hometown of Limerick, in school playgrounds and on shop windows. I was honoured when Des contributed a cover for my charity-based anthology book, “I am not Frazzle;” it became an iconic image in Devizes.

 

Never more apparent that creative talent filters through the generations; from the moment I clicked on that link and heard Emma’s voice, I was in love with her music. Renowned in Limerick, I’m dedicated to switching as many as I can onto this, I’d shout it from the highest mountain, if we had any here; the folk-rock pop of Emma Langford is simply sublime.

 

So while I could’ve approached this by hiding our friendship to promote Emma’s latest album, Quiet Giant, and try to find a tenacious link between her and Wiltshire, not to unhinge the tenet this website is of locally produced talent, I’d rather be honest. Plus, in this era of YouTube, you can judge for yourself from the couple of videos below; I ain’t a fibber.

 

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Akin to Andrea Corr or a young Kirsty McColl, Quiet Giant is Emma Langford, refined to perfection; nothing here is left to chance. Released on the 18th October, I confirm a crashing symbol and delicate piano opens ten tracks of absolute gorgeousness. All songs are written by Emma with a sophisticated, evocative narrative. It eases you in with certain grace, a couple of earnest mellow songs; the folky title track and smooth jazzy Sandman insure you’ve made the right choice for your listening pleasure.

 

Then Peter Hanagan’s Double bass and fiddles by Tadhg Murphy up the tempo for Closed Book, a storming tune skilfully separating honourable people from the general, ostensibly an effective running theme throughout Quiet Giant which makes its hauntingly nimble quality so endearing.

Emma Langford and her accomplished collective, aforementioned Peter and Tadhg, plus particular prestige for Cellist Alec Brown and pianist Hannah Nic Gearailt, insightfully have produced something special; Quiet Giant is a suave survey of dignity and passionate despondency with uplifting string arrangements and traditional Irish folk values, all wrapped in the wonderful cover art of Jacob Stack; you’d be sorry to have missed it.

 

When I heard Emma had a gig in Bristol and was looking for another date in London a few months ago, I attempted to hassle known local music promoters into booking her for a gig in Devizes, hoping it’d be a halfway house. But Emma explained she only had two days here, still she seemed keen to visit us. The promoters were in awe, told me she really needs to head for London for maximum exposure, “she’s too darn good for Devizes,” I was told!

So then I worried I was being selfish, trying to hook her into our tiny market town just so I can hear her live when they were right, she needs, and she did play a gig in London. Next time it’s bookmarked; I’m bunking the next day off work!

 

Order the pre-release of Quiet Giant here on Bandcamp; out on 18th October.

Like her Facebook page for more information and updates.

 

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