Driving home through Devizes last week, it’s only 10pm but I contemplate, it could be three in the morning it’s deathly silent. Our once lively little market town, like everywhere else, has lost a sparkle due to the pandemic; hope it can rekindle is all that is left. And now, the Facebook memories fires a bittersweet reminder at me, for even if you paint only a rose-tinted view of your life on the social media giant, a memory still pops up which is kind of sad on reflection.
Musically, blues is apt.
Thought was fairly stable that evening proved wrong. That memory was a wobbly video of the absolutely blinding night when Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue blew, or blue, perhaps, the roof off the Sports Club, aided by a supergroup of Innes Sibun, Jon Amor and Pete Gage. It was in a word, treasured. The sadness being, at the time it was only speculation it could be the final night of live music, and I didn’t want or care to digest that notion at the time, but it was; way to go out with style, though!
Now we’ve come around to the anniversary of that moment, with a prospective reopening light at the end of tunnel, primarily being only a possibility. Yet the world turns on its axis, and music has, like so many other arts, been forced to change methods of distribution. The live stream, the Zoom recording session, and, for an extremely short summer stint, an afternoon solo session in a socially distanced pub when we were disillusioned into believing the virus was on its way out, have become the norm.
As many others, Ruzz Guitar has adapted, and a Facebook group called the RG Sessions aims to launch a new style of assemblies, producing the exceptionally high-quality electric blues we’ve come to expect from the Blues Revue. You can buy them a virtual pint, and you can grab this gorgeous name-your-price single, which features all the musicians as on that fateful night. And in a way, it’s so good it near makes up for the depressing notion of this live music loss.
With the expert gritty vocals of keyboardist Pete Gage, “If You’re Going To The City,” also features our homegrown guitarists Innes Sibun and Jon Amor, with Ruzz’s proficient Blues Revue members, drummer Mike Hoddinott, bassist Richie Blake and Michael Gavaghan on sax. And with that said, I don’t feel the need to review it, take it as red, they’re the ingredients for perfection.
After the previous spellbinding single with Peter, Ain’t Nobody’s Business, we live in hope this faultless coupling will be retained for more of the same. But what surprises these Sessions will magically pull from their sleeves next will keep us guessing; I’d advise you follow the page for updates.
I’ve said it before, said lots of what I’m going to say before, in fact, but I reserve the right to say it again. And you can’t blame me, it’s this Groundhog Day thing, this exasperating lockdown. I perpetually revert my mind back to the last night of live music I attended, Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue at Devizes Sports Club with Peter Gage, Jon Amor and Innes Sibun. How I suspected walls could come crashing down, but didn’t want accept it, neither at the time acknowledge it would be so soon. Still, optimistically, what a blinding night; least we went out with a bang.
I mean, I know and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who acted to do what they could immediately after the first lockdown, the afternoon sessions at the Southgate, and our own outing for Devizes;IndieDay, but as good as they were, as Ray Charles said, the night time is the right time. Ode to the gig, the gathering and the celebration, how we miss it so. Are you with me? You are, right?
Faced with the unwelcome likelihood of the first anniversary of the occasion coming around and still, no live music, I have to ponder how far to the light at the end of this gloomy tunnel. And to rub salt into the wound, Ruzz has released a new track, featuring the very same blues legend Peter Gage! But as far as salt goes, upon hearing this tune I’m like a halophile (a salt-loving organism; look it up, people) living on the back of a saltwater crocodile, basking at the shore of the Dead Sea.
A cover of Jimmy Witherspoon’s tune Ain’t Nobody’s Business, Ruzz explains, “we’ve taken the B.B. King and Freddie King versions, mashed them together and added an RGBR flavour into the mix! We’ve been working hard on this track since Christmas and we’re all very excited to release it.”
And so, they should be, it’s sublime, as ever. Habitually, I favour Ruzz and the Blues Revue when they work up a frenzy, but this is smooth, this is blues, the kind of blues you need contemplating the anniversary of the gig ban, and if you attended, it will remind you of it too. If not, it doesn’t matter, it just breezes over you, as all virtuous blues should.
I mean, right, the guy was from The Sloane Squares, headhunted by Shadows bassist Jet Harris upon them supporting Hendrix, and that’s just the beginning of his extensive profession. Pete’s proficient vocals, gives it that edge of aforementioned BB King influence, the arrangement and tightness of this collaboration are like the chimes of seamless bellringing, here’s the Blues Revue on top form, adding guests of calibre and concluding as perfection; quid well spent.
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Look at him, Grumpus Maximus, slouching on his sofa-throne investigating the inside of his y-fronts with one hand and clasping a tinnie with the other. He’ll need Google maps to find his local watering hole when things return to normal, and if he has to endure Kirstie Allsopp for one more half-hour episode he’ll threaten to relocate to his shed for the yule. What do you get for someone like pops this Christmas, or anyone who’s lost the will of independent thought due to the modest inability to enjoy the odd fellow and guitar down their pub of choice, for that matter?
How about this suggestion; buy a CD from a local hero? Because not only will you cheer the old bugger up enough for him to consider shaving once a week, but you’ll be putting your hard-earned shekels into the hands of a local independent creative sort, who, without revenue from standing in a draughty pub alcove singing the blues, really needs some pocket money right now.
It’s not my idea, I say let them scavenge for dead flies on their filthy windowsills while insanely mumbling a ditty about minute pixies invading grassroot venues. Thanks to our reader, George for this suggestion. Of course, this is the 21st century, or so I’ve been informed, and nowadays next to nothing is physical. Much as we find the online format or download accessible, you can’t wrap an online stream up with a pretty bow and put it under your tree. So, our list is restricted to the ones putting out a CD copy; that’s a compact disc to youngsters, or even, dare I say it, vinyl, you know, some archaic listening format.
But how, ye cry. I’m going to provide links where I can, but another shot is your local indie record store; for if they care one iota for music, they’ll stock a range of locally sourced sounds. If they don’t tell them to, without swearing.
Here’s an ideal template to use: “the brilliant, one and only Vinyl Realm Music Store in old Devizes town stocks many local artist discs, so I suggest if you want to be half as good as them, you’d consider it.” And that, is one good place to start; open the yellow door on Northgate Street, turn to your right and by the window there’s a stand with some local outpourings on. If you get lost ask one of the owners, they bite but not hard. I know, shopping is beneath you, be aware they have an online service and will deliver, cos they’re nice like that.
Am I waffling now? I tend to tangent, like to, did you come here for that, or are you looking for some music options? Very well, sit quietly, or stand noisily if you like, and I shall begin…. hopefully before Boxing Day. But oi, bear in mind this isn’t a top twenty countdown, I just used that as the title for clickbait. I’ve not put these in any kind of hierarchy or rank, just listed alphabetical by artist name, to prove I know my A, B, C!
Billy Green 3: Still
Released at the beginning of this year, Devizes post-Britpop trio produce a beguiling sound that could’ve come straight from indie’s finest hour. It’s scooterist, with a taste of mod and soul, but it’s passionately scribed and delivered proudly. Review. Buy@ Vinyl Realm.
Chris Tweedie: Reflections
Affectionately reviewed at the beginning of the month, Melksham-based monarch of chill, Chris Tweedie has produced a mind-blowing album. If you like Mike Oldfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, or George Harrison, you need to check this one out. Review. Buy.
Cracked Machine: Gates of Keras
Hometown space-rock has never been so good. This is the outfit’s second album, and its journey of spacey rock like no other. Fans of Pink Floyd or the Ozrics will relive every minute of their misspent youth and clamber to the loft to find their fractural posters and chillum! Review. Buy.
Erin Bardwell: Interval
This year, without his Collective, Swindon’s rock steady keyboard virtuoso blessed us with this unique lockdown inspired bundle of distant memories over sparse two-tone and reggae beats. If you think this genre can be samey, you’ve not heard Erin Bardwell. This album is one of a kind. Review. Buy.
George Wilding: Being Ragdollian
Let the arguments begin, this 2013 EP is the definitive George Wilding. One not to collate tracks to an album, the EP may only contain three songs, but their brilliance makes up for at least ten mediocre ones. You can grab this at Vinyl Realm.
Joe Edwards: Keep on Running
Whilst it’s had glowing international reviews, locally I feel this is severely unacquainted. Though I did say at the time of review I’ll be hard pressed to find another ‘album of the year,’ back in May, this still stands. This is melancholic Americana played out with utter perfection, and I will never tire of its authentic and sublime stories. Review. Buy.
Jon Amor: Colour in the Sky
Though we fondly reviewed Jon’s latest album just yesterday, like I said, that’s one which is only on download at the moment. Take his 2018 masterpiece of quirky electric blues as red, red as his telephone; this is the must-have album for every fan of local music. You can buy this in Devizes Books as well as Vinyl Realm, or you can buy online. Here’s a review from all those heavenly years ago, when Devizine was funny.
The King Dukes: Numb Tongues
Out in 2018, if you like your music with a taste of old-timey soul and blues, The King Dukes of Bristol do this with bells on. Numb Tongues is lively and memorable. Review. Buy.
Little Geneva: Eel Pie
Freshly produced and lively sixties mod-blues-rock done supremely, Little Geneva are Bristol-based but the Docherty brothers have the Devizes connection, enough to debut this down the Bear’s Cellar Bar a few years ago, and boy, was it a sweaty and memorable night! Buy.
Mr Love & Justice: Watchword
Mr Love himself, Swindon’s Steve Cox’s 2009 album is a must, a classic, even though I haven’t reviewed it, because it’s dated, its gorgeous acoustic goodness extends beyond atypical country-rock sounds and branches into many genres, even bhangra at one point. You can find this in Vinyl Realm for a mere fiver.
Mr Tea & The Minions: Mutiny!
Oh my, this chunk of energetic Balkan-ska influenced Bristol folk is breathtakingly good. I reviewed it last year, haven’t gotten over it yet! Review. Buy.
Paul Lappin: The Boy Who Wants to Fly
Breezy Britpop acoustics shine throughout this ingeniously written debut from Swindon’s Paul Lappin. Highly recommended and all-round good vibes. Review. Buy.
Phil Cooper: These Revelation Games
Trow-Vegas legend, Phil Cooper really gives it some with his latest offering, rocking out the lockdown. Review. Buy.
Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue: Live at the Louisiana
No list would be complete without a bit of Ruzz Guitar and the gang; guitar by name and nature. This album captures his skill where he does it best, live. Rock n roll the night away as if you were there; this is a must have album for blues and rock n roll fans. Review. Buy.
Sound Effects: Everyday Escapism
Self-penned Irish-fashioned folk at it’s most divine, Swindon duo Cath and Gouldy classic here. This is sweet and thought-provoking. Review. Buy.
Strange Tales: Unknown to Science
I’m unsure how old this is, but I do recall Pewsey singer Sally Dobson running back to her car to get me a copy at the long-lost Saddleback Festival. With Paul Sloots, Strange Tales are a wonderful if occasional electronica gothic-rock duo, and Unknown to Science is a spookily glorious album. Review. Buy or at Vinyl Realm.
Talk in Code: Resolve
True, Swindon’s darlings of indie-pop have come along way since this 2018 album, fashioned closer each time to retrospective eighties electronica, Resolve stands as a testament to their dedication, but more importantly highlights their roots in indie-rock. Review. Buy.
Tamsin Quin: Gypsy Blood
Man-about-Devizes, surely, you’ve a copy of this already? Tamsin Quin’s debut 2018 debut album is something kinda wonderful, eight self-penned nuggets of goodness introduces you to the now one third of the Lost Trades and personifies anything that was awesome about our local music circuit. A local classic. Review. Available in Vinyl Realm, or online.
The Lost Trades: EP
When three of our most loved local musicians officially bonded, debuting at the Pump just prior to lockdown, it was clear all their talents combined into this one project and could only ever be a winner. We highly anticipate the debut album, but for now, this five track EP will whisk you to a better era of folk harmonies. All original songs, there’s a taste of Phil, Jamie and Tamsin’s song writing talents, though each track wouldn’t look out of place on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Review. Buy.
Ya Freshness & the Big Boss Band: Knockout
Boots and braces time, get skanking to the loud and proud ska sound of Ya Freshness and the Big Boss Band. This is joyful, fun and chockful of ska and rock steady riddims from 2018. We eagerly await a new double-album promised from these Bristol misfits of ska, but for now, this is great. Review. Buy.
No way is this list exhaustive; I’ve basically run this off adlib and will no doubt suddenly think, “oh bugger, I forget this or that.” But I’ve nailed it down to twenty, which was tricky. Do feel free to add a comment on something I might have overlooked, and apologises if I did. Remember, it should be available as physical copy. This is an interactive article!
Message my advice line if you’re still in the dark for a pressie for Dad. Helpful hint, look through his old records. If you see one of a pig floating above Battersea power station, or a plain black album with a spectrum shining through a triangle, try Cracked Machine. If you see lots of black and white chequered patterns or a naked girl’s torso with Tighten Up written across her abdomen, try Erin Bardwell or Ya Freshness. And if you see a rather splendidly busty woman carrying a hosepipe and various decorating equipment, try The Lost Trades; best of luck!
Who says men can’t multitask? I’m washing up and reviewing this forthcoming musical extravaganza…..
Ruling in my household, being the better-half does the majority of cooking, I therefore wash-up. And on sporadic occasions I cook, I still do the washing up. I know what you’re thinking; under the thumb, Worrow. I beg to differ, family are watching some revamped eighties game show; squeamishly sickening the first time around, or else a bronze lady of all teeth and earrings, in a buttery summer dress is assisting affluent chavs to relocate to a Mediterranean costa.
Meanwhile, I’m preparing my chore. First task is not to clear the drainer of previously cleaned utensils, that comes after I Bluetooth my phone to the soundbar. Firmly of the belief washing up should be done to music, and such a law should be implemented nationally.
Those completed, time to fill the sink with hot water and Fairy. Cheaper varieties a no-brainer, you use twice as much for the same effect. Much like my choice of music, others don’t have the same clout. For retrospective genres, such as rock n roll, today largely consists of wishy-washy tributes and anodyne honours of a once dicey outrageous bravura. Else there’s a disturbing scene fusing techno with swing to revamp classics which really don’t need or desire the wonky attention.
Let me be the first, I suspect, to compare Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue to Fairy washing-up liquid. But if you want the job of recreating the true spirit of bygone blues styles done properly, accept no substitute. Add equal amount of Fairy as needed with a cheaper alternative and you’ve got an Ibiza foam party in your kitchen.
I’ve got an advance copy of their instrumental album, ‘The Instrumental Sounds Of…’ not due for release until 6th December, but ready for pre-order; I strongly suggest you do. Because here’s a Bristol-based rockabilly/blues trio, with three-piece horn section, who encompass everything once rousing and electrifying about musical styles ranging from jazz to rock n roll, originally, and with a benchmark of contemporary quality.
While Ruzz’s singing is passable, the guitar is his true calling; Gretsch agrees and endorses this, if you don’t take someone chained to the kitchen sink’s word for it. In genres such as these, where one imagines and perceives the vocals to hold a deep Mississippi accent, to hear his Bristol enunciation is novel, but unusual. Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue have the astounding ability to stretch a song to the proportions of a space-rock band like Pink Floyd, but retain the frenzy of traditional rock n roll, which would once be over within three minutes. At that point, though, it’s nice to simmer it with occasional vocals, but it’s not their forte.
Here then, is what they do best; concentrated instrumentals, a collection of musical styles, based within the blues, that have influenced Ruzz throughout his career. A project Ruzz has been wanting to do, and lockdown has provided the time. I’m strutting across the kitchen, shoving plates and utensils roughly back in the cupboards they belong in, while contemplating how I didn’t fully appreciate my dad’s obsession with the Shadows. For their instrumental goodness may’ve gone over my adolescent head, at the time. But this is a blinding upbeat opening tune, Hold Fast, with remnants of The Shadows’ slide-guitar. Yet it’s blaring horns make it like Hank, et al were in a big band.
Now to the main task, wrist-deep in foamy water I’m timely scrubbing with brillo-pad, like the ivory of a boogie-woogie piano. Swing Thing maintains big band, but slides neatly into swing. It’s spectacularly captivating.
Three tunes in and it’s mellowed to a sax ballad with Hawaiian guitar riff. Longing to See You drifts, as I causally dip dinner plates into their foam bath, and caress them as if they’re sun-kissed skin of a beautiful señorita! The Instrumentals Of album strides jazzily, continuing with a slight nod to that tropical guitar on the fourth track. But this is shrewdly quirky and experimental, Ruffled Up is as if Miles Davis joined a big band.
So many influences but so meshed it’s hard to pick it apart and balance washed up items on the draining board. Men can multitask, believe it. Now I’m striding, Clint Eastwood style, to obtain a tea towel dumped on the breadbin like it was a six shooter. Duel at High Noon is as perceived by title; Ennio Morricone influenced Shadows.
Heating up back at the sink with some fiery jump blues to make Louis Jordan blush. Jump In does what it says on the tin; I’m doing Chuck Berry legs, rattling those pots and pans like glam rock never happened.
Mambo takes a hit next, Ruzz-style, added funk. Spag Mambo is like Starsky & Hutch doing the Charleston on a Cuban vacation. Gotta go barehand; I’d look stupid doing jazz hands with marigolds, but Swing G-String is swing firing on all cylinders. Dishes done; I’m jitterbugging the sides down, soggy J-cloth in hand.
Opportunity to clear waste from the plug hole, never an appealing part of the process, nevertheless I’m cool; Soulful Blues made it so. It’s equably soul-blues, Ruby Turner could drop vocals, but it never strays from its ethos, yet saunters wonderfully between the variety of jazz and blues from 1940 to 60. There’s one more tune, but the job is completed.
Hammer Down polishes with dirty, deep Mississippi jump blues with a clunky rock n roll double bass. Like the rest of this sublime album, it’s irresistible and beguiling. It can’t end early; have to extend the task for five minutes. The floor may look wooden, but it’s lino really; ask Turbo B, or any break-dancer the value of lino; the kitchen is my dancefloor. Time to watusi with broom; the Mrs will be delighted. Even bending to get every last fallen crumb into the dustpan was a pleasure with this album playing in the background; blooming marvellous stuff.
If I divide rock music into three favoured eras; its birth from rhythm and blues to form rock n roll, psychedelia moulding it back to wailing blues, and second gen mod or new wave from the eighties, and anything post these I don’t care for so much, be it heavy, soft or Nu-metal, I paused for thought last night, observing these three pillars firmly personified at this most fantastic jam at the Devizes Sports Club. And what is more, it’s fused, together in one great monster of a performance, which, in a word, was spellbinding.
Impelled to duck out the Cavy early, as while I figured our writer Andy would be in attendance, and be willing to put some words into action, I had to see this for myself. It was as I predicted in our preview, no musician singled out, no-one-on-one-off exhibition, rather a humongous blues jam amalgamating the exceptional talents of all present. Already underway on my arrival, our guitar heroes Ruzz Evans, representing the rock n roll in my three-pillar theory, with his classy suit and quiff, Innes Sibun on the psychedelia with that long hair and wailing guitar, and Jon Amor in his trademark drainpipes and sneakers. To boot, not only is Ruzz’s backing band present on bass, drums and horns, there’s the legend who is Peter Gage causally making the keys look like Child’s play.
Afterwards I made a beeline for Ruzz, inquiring how one goes about creating this wonderful amalgamation and how rehearsed it needed to be. There was no rehearsal, he explained, it’s based on specific templates in which the musicians observe each other’s changes and improv takes control. This takes a wealth of experience and talent, as Ruzz continued to get technical it showed both his obsession with his craft, and my incompetence in such matters. I should’ve recorded his explanation for a quote, as the jargon pursued and I’d drunk far too much! (Note dodgy photographs as proof!)
Again, the slight topic of conversation that was passed around the club related to the current virus situation. Naturally people are concerned, yet it didn’t stop this venue filling sufficiently with our blues aficionados, matured or otherwise. I figured if times do go terribly wrong in the coming days, this could potentially be my last night out for a while, and if so, or even if not, I’m out to party. This event satisfied that ideal, but I knew it would, it said so on the tin.
It was good to bump into singer-songwriter Joe Hicks, where we expressed concern for the decline and postponing of events and its effect on organisers and musicians alike. He had, as I suggested, already an album up his sleeve. Perhaps the coming month will see musicians take to recording studios as the bread and butter of gigs phases out. It’s a sad thought, but absently unnecessary tonight, as the power of live music blessed the hall in a way which should make Devizes proud.
Staggeringly as ever, Innes was on lead when I got there, taking the audience on one of his magical journeys, only for Ruzz to be frontman for one of my favourites of his tunes, Sweet as Honey. After a short break it was Jon’s turn, picking Juggernaut to blast us with, ever so proficiently. Then, was it a Billy Price song which Peter Gage so skilfully but causally covered with the honky tonk of Howlin’ Wolf, The Price I Paid for Loving You? I dunno, no expert, but I’d lost the will to keep track, allowing the blessed music to flow over me.
With a hypnotic guitar-off, if that’s the appropriate terminology, between Ruzz and Innes, sections provided for all musicians to show off, including the drum solo of drum solos and the most amazing bass guitar solo too, it was one heck of a brilliant blend of electric blues I’ve bared witness to.
If my only criticism was pondering if the sound could contain this monster of supergroups, and that a semi-circle barrier between the musicians and audience had naturally formed, with the blues preservation society of Devizes merely wobbling on their feet, the sound system took the strain adequately, and after not too long the movers penetrated the semi-circle and all round dancing ensued. Otherwise, this gig was perfection on all levels, my blessings to all involved. If there is, gloomily, to be no Saddleback Festival this year, last night thoroughly made up for it and leaves me pondering what will be next from this fantastic venue.
Everyone having a nice March so far, been alright, innit? I promised, when I featured the first fortnight of events, here, that I would return to complete the last two weeks. I’ve promised this before and totally spaced on it, for which I apologise; not enough hours in the day. Nothing to do with my goldfish memory. Here though, this month, I’ve actually only gone and done it, before the 31st March too! See below if you don’t believe it’s true, the last fortnight in March, stuff to do while waiting for the supermarkets to restock on bog roll, and all that. I know, it scares me sometimes too.
Bear in mind, mind, our calendar is constantly updating, so do check in as more events and gigs are bound to magically appear like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben.
Sunday 15th is where we were up to, and I got two fantablous gigs, Burbank are the White Bear in Devizes, while Jon Amor is at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon; nice.
Monday, I never know if the Devizes Folk Club is on down the Lamb or not, to be frank, but it’s a place for a beer if I’m wrong and it’s not!!
Tuesday 17th The Stonehenge lecture at the Wiltshire Museum is now sold out. Celebrated cartoonist and artist, Norman Thelwell is at The Merchant’s House in Marlborough, for a fascinating hour illustrated talk, tracing his life, passions and artistic development. Thelwell produced 1,500 cartoons and 60 front covers for the famed Punch magazine alone and some 32 books translated into a dozen different languages. His works were full of beautifully observed detail and mainly of rural subjects, including country and leisure pursuits, sport, house sales and renovation, stately homes, gardening and sailing. Failing that, Cracknakeel provides live music at The Sun in Frome for their St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Wednesday 18th is jam-packed, for a Wednesday! Acoustic jam down the Southgate, Devizes. Bromham’s Farm Cookery School has a Taste of Morocco class, where you could be learning how to make a Briouat which is like a Moroccan Samosa, make your own Khobz and Kefta Mkaouara. £40.00 per person. Over in Marlborough David Evans gives the second of three lectures in The Merchant’s House Study Series, focussing on Reformation in England and the Arts. The Roots Sessions continues at Frome’s Cheese & Grain with the fantastic Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.
Thursday 19th and you could be back down The Farm Cookery School in Bromham for a Mozzarella & Halloumi Masterclass with Josie. She will teach how to make both cheese which is technical but fun! £35.00 per person. The fantastic Ed Byrne is at the Bath Forum and Moles has a punky/metal night with the Anarchist’s Bookfair, Butter The Pavement and Out Of Reach.
If it’s a slow start to the week, Friday 20th March makes up for it. If, like me, all you know about Jesus Christ Superstar is that he came down from heaven on a Yamaha, and you have doubts with your conviction of that, it’s the opening night for this amateur production by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical portrayal of the last seven days of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot runs until Sat 28th March and while tickets are still available as I write this, do be as quick, as if you were on a Yamaha yourself; take care not to skid though!
Meanwhile Devizes Town Hall is the place to head for opera fans, as The White Horse Opera presents their Spring Concert. Including Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan and Hadyn’s Creation, this would be the perfect introduction to opera for those, like me, who thought Donizetti was a type of pasta sauce!
If you fancy music more pop, the local supergroup I’m always raving about, the Female Of The Species play Melksham’s Assembly Hall. Fusing all their respective band’s influences, expect the best of rock, soul and ska as the girl’s combine forces for a fun-filled gig; I’ve been to see one of these shows and I’m not hyping it up because they’re all awesome chicks, I highly recommend it!
Day one of two, at the inspiring Shoebox Theatre in Swindon of their FUSE Festival where six emerging artists test a new performance idea over three days. Fuse is about supporting the beginnings of new work before it’s fully developed. Watch, discuss, and be part of the creation of something brilliant. Two performances Kat Lyons’ Dry Season, interweaving music and movement with original spoken word poetry and extracts from medical literature. And the debut one-woman-show from Mighty Mammal Theatre, Swine of the Times, where you can meet the piggies at the troff; they sing songs, say prayers and even mime. Alice Wolff-Whitehouse employs her skills in physical comedy, dance and song to bring to life a series of flawed and quintessentially British characters, looking at the grotesque nature of privilege in the UK through a warped and colourful lens.
Staying in Swindon, Baila Coffee & Vinyl have some Disco Voodoo with DJ Amir, or try indie rock covers with Joli & the Souls at the Vic. Elsewhere, the Leathers play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon, Clannad are at Bath Forum, and Jack Dee’s Off The Telly tour is at Salisbury City Hall.
Saturday 21st then. After the hugely successful free concert in the Market Place last summer, The Full Tone Orchestra have taken their show to Marlborough, and return to town to rave the night away at the Corn Exchange. Taking the most popular section of their show, the club anthems, expect this to be something innovative and all glowsticks, as conductor Anthony Brown’s beloved orchestra reproduce the club classics which defined an era.
The Cavalier go country with the Stone Mountain Sinners, caught these guys before, they’ve a refreshing approach to country-rock which is a cut above the rest. And breezy, original songwriter Ed Witcomb makes a welcome return to The Southgate. For surf beats, odd time signatures, eccentric tunes and irony-fuelled free jazz, try The Barge at Honeystreet, where bonkers surf surrealists Mustard Allegro do their stuff.
Super Trooper Abba tribute, Sensations grace the Seend Community Centre, while Swindon’s Meca has a Whitney Houston tribute. Don’t forget though, it’s day two of the Shoebox’s Fuse Festival too.
Mercy Lounge at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon. Recommended ska night at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar with the Train To Skaville, and Paul Carrick is at Bath Forum.
Head to the Southgate for an afternoon pint or three, on Sunday 22nd, and our fantastic singer-songwriter Vince Bell will entertain you. Meanwhile, Groovelator play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford.
Tuesday, Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall have the latest Ken Loach film, Sorry We Missed You, which you will be if you miss this one film fans. Full of drama, tension and heartbreak. Ricky and Debbie are the parents of teenage children. Ricky joins the ‘gig’ economy with a franchise for a parcel delivery firm. The job is sold to him as one where he will become master of his own destiny. Providing, that is, he complies with the labyrinth of deadlines, rules and conditions imposed by the company, a near impossible task. Debbie is a care worker who wants to care for the old people as though they are her Mam. But her working conditions thwart her in doing the job as she thinks fit. This modern Dickensian story dramatises the conflict between work and family life in contemporary Britain.
Don’t forget Wednesday’s acoustic Jam down the Southgate, and blues-folk singer Elles Bailey is with Phil King at the Chapel Arts, Bath. Thursday you can witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen at The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour, coming to the Salisbury City Hall. Staying in Devizes on the last Thursday of every month though is no bore, as the regular and celebrated open mic night at the Cellar Bar is something to behold.
Seventies punk bands never had such a great name as Brighton’s Peter & The Test Tube Babies. Still going strong forty years on, they play the Vic in Swindon on Friday 27th. Tenner on the door. Swindon also has an Improv Jam at The Shoebox, and homemade function band Locomotion at the Swiss Chalet.
While it’ll sadly never be possible for the boys to be back in town, Preston’s tribute Twin Lizzy will. They make a welcomed return to the Cavalier, Devizes on Friday. Meanwhile, the Devizes & District Twinning Association take over the town hall to bring us some French Café Music with Jac & Co, tickets are also a tenner for both these diverse evenings.
How much more diverse do you want? A dedicated club night for adults with Learning Disabilities? This Is Me at the wonderful charity youth centre, Young Melksham is precisely that, a night of great music and friendship. There’s a series of these events, first one is Friday.
Another welcomed return to Marlborough Folk-Roots at the Town Hall on Friday, when Steve Knightley explores the themes and stories that inspire him and shows how music and words can become lyrics and chords and notes can meld to create songs that acquire a life of their own.
For want of an authentic tribute band, From The Jam play The Cheese & Grain in Frome, and I’ve heard all good stories about them. If originals are what you want though, The Queen’s Head in Box has a double-booking Friday. Katy Hurt stretches the country music genre in exciting new directions; haunting blues vocals, towering country rock guitars, even a reggae vibe, and she is followed by psychedelic alternative rock band, The Bohemian Embassy.
Saturday night of the 28th March is alright, but no fighting, please. Time for the Devizes Lions’ Spring Concert at St Andrew’s Church, where Ian Diddams comperes Bath Coleman, Bangers & Nash, and the Trowbridge & District Youth Band. Tickets are £10, proceeds to Wiltshire Young Carers.
The Corn Exchange has a Gin Festival. Tribute act, Motley Crude are The Cavalier and local heroes Rockhoppaz play The Black Swan. For high octane original and classic rock mixed with some tasteful Bluesy tracks, check the Mark Smallman Band at the Southgate.
Devizine is the unofficial Tamsin Quin fan club, if you wanna hear why, head to Bromham’s Owl on Saturday. Another Abba Tribute, Swede Dreams play Market Lavington Community Hall.
Highly recommended for the mods, The Roughcut Rebels are at The Pheasant in Chippenham. Also, Blondie & Ska are great fun, they’re at the Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, checking ahead, they play in Devizes, at the Pelican in May. The Blue Rose Band at The Westbury Conservative Club and an Amy Winehouse tribute at Bath’s Odd Down AFC & Social Club. Level III have a “One Step Beyond-ska and punk club-night.
Elsewhere in Swindon, homemade Damm at Coleview Community Centre and P!nk tribute, Beautiful Trauma play Brookhouse Farm, and a Pearl Jam tribute, Earl Jam at the Vic.
Sophie Matthews explores the links between the visual and the aural in a one-hour presentation at the Merchant’s House, Marlborough. Drawing on the works of great painters including Brueghel, Hogarth and Rigaud, Sophie presents a feast of images featuring historical woodwind instruments in their original social context interspersed with live performances of historical music using authentic instruments.
Sunday 29th – Nearly there, and breath…. Yin Yoga & Gong Bath at Devizes Corn Exchange, The Sunday Sessions continue at The White Bear with Matt Cook and Gary Hall at The Southgate. There’s a Comic-Con at Bath Pavilion, to be frank, it’s a commercial affair rather than a genuine “comic” con, with cosplay, gaming and meeting vague TV actors and ex-Gladiators, but might be fun for the kids.
That’s it, folks, March done, save Bradford on Avon Folk Club have Geoff Lakeman on Tuesday 31st. Let’s regroup in April, but feedback on these articles are needed. Do they work for you? Long-winded I know, but in order to fit it in. Devizine is a work in progress, I enjoy and need to know what’s working and what’s not. So, if you’ve read this far, I salute you! Tell me about it!
Ah, hold tight, two preview pieces from me tonight; I’m an unstoppable steam train of broadcasts, choo-choo! Yet, I’m not sure this needs an introduction, not because we’ve been running the poster for it a while now, but if you’re in the know regarding Devizes links to blues then the line up at the R’n’B Bar at The Sports Club on Saturday 14th March will appeal no end, and you’ve probably snapped the tenner tickets already. If you’re new to said scene, then this gig would act as the ideal taster; digest this……
Legendary bluesman Peter Gage, former frontman of The Jet Harris Band, member of Dr Feelgood who blew the roof off Long Street with Dave Raeburn, Paul Hartshorn and Pete Lowrey as The Pink Tornados in December, will headline. But come here, there’s more. The guitar maestro I’ve been raving about, Mr Ruzz Guitar and his Blues Revue will also be there, his trio backing, or blessing these otherwise solo performances. I swear his guitar is like a phaser in Star Trek, set to stun, and I’m still speechless after his performance at the Gate a number of moons ago.
While Ruzz is Bristol based, and Peter resides in the west country too, both Devizes links to the contemporary blues scene also show up to do their thing. Innes Sibun, who we featured partnered with Marcus Malone as the Malone Sibun Band on the night they allowed me to roam free at the Long Street Blues Club, and be astounded by the quality of goings-on there. And of course, Jon Amor who is regularly featured here as, well, he’s regularly here, but more-so, because his talent is unsurpassed. Though I’m sure, as when such heroes meet, there will be a communal feeling and we’ll be treated to some improv and guitar-showdowns, rather than a balanced one-off-next-one-on scenario; least I’m hoping.
All in all, this event is like pulling four bells in a row on the fruity; need I say more? See you there. Oh, nearly forgot, slow down, man; tickets on door or in advance from Sports Club.
Hibernation, like a bear, saving motivation and funds for Christmas, spent too much at the Lantern Parade? Ah, a bit of all three meant it was only to be a whistle stop at the Southgate Saturday night. When I should’ve been at the Sham’s Assembly Hall for the Female of the Species, and I should’ve been in Trow-Vegas for Sheer’s gig too. Without cloning technology, the pressure usually melts my enthusiasm entirely, and opt to I slob on the sofa cuddling a packet of digestives, chocolate ones, naturally. Yet if just a pint at the dependable local couldn’t persuade me,after reviewing the forthcoming live album from Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue I simply couldn’t resist.
And for all the thoroughly deserved lovely things I had to say about it, I propped this gig on a pedestal, but was far away from disappointment. The band started with Hold It, and blasted Baby Please Come Home, virtually replicating this live album. Best thing at the Southgate is the communal feel, beneficial to meet and greet the artists; I was a handshake away from Ruzz Evans and the band, which I did, and with it he explained they often begin with that formula and mix it up thereafter. The advantage though was not our quick chat, but the close inspection of Ruzz handling that guitar, as it’s something spectacular and I watched in awe.
Unsure if I got the ball rolling fittingly, as I mumbled, “you make that look so easy,” at the suited Bristolian caked in perspiration. Clearly, and as I expressed in our album review, blasting a lengthy and vigorous rock n roll chef-d’oeuvre like this takes stamina! I knew what I meant though, they did make it look like child’s play, the band equally as proficient as the front man.
So, a high-energy blast of traditional rock n roll blended with acute blues blessed the trusty Southgate, a never-ending foundation of great, free, live music in Devizes. Here’s the twist; it’s the uniqueness of Ruzz and crew, amidst the conventional rock n roll cliché of Elvis or Buddy tributes, passé eighties rockabilly four-pieces, and nostalgic but substandard fifties cover bands, Ruzz simply doesn’t come off like that. Mostly fresh, original works; if there were covers, they were rarities, and delivered with the youthful energy and passion of an era of yore.
I can’t keep on this glorious new find, I’m not even a rocker! But when stripped back to the roots, as authentically as this, all pop genres combine and there’s no need to pigeonhole. Funny, in reflection, and considering diverse fifties artists like Buddy Holly, how close mod’s and rocker’s tastes were, yet at the time, reason to fight. Look, just read our album review, will you, before I waffle on a tangent? Which, incidentally, is released February but available for pre-order today. There’re also two previous studio albums, and Ruzz returns this way in March at the Sports Club, (see poster) if not before.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.