The New Local Blues

Had a nice chat with Sheer Music’s Kieran about acts, live streaming, future plans, and gardening this week… what am I on about? It’s always nice to chat with Mr Moore….

If the beginnings of Devizine was a learning curve in which I realised I’d bitten off more than I could chew, one might be mistaken to think now we must’ve covered every musical talent in Devizes, if not Wiltshire. Not so, as a post from Kieran J Moore of Sheer Music incited me to shudder. Why have I not heard the name Joe Edwards before?

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Joe Edwards

Name does ring a bell, must have posted about the cancelled album launch at the Wharf which would’ve happened this week. Well-travelled, Joe has been touring through Europe as a drummer for Australian band The Wishing Well, plus his debut solo album Keep on Running was mixed in Nashville and mastered in New Jersey with Grammy nominee Kim Rosen; might explain it, and if I have encountered the name I had no idea how renowned and awesome he is.

Hoisted in the help of Kieran for this then, to insure I’m bought up to date; there is a new cool in Devizes, and I’m going to prompt him about it. The initial message on any chat window these days is enquiring of wellbeing, understandably. Mr Moore is positively beaming, “[I’m] getting so much done and achieved,” he explained.

I replied with a question, “Like the gardening?!”

A boundless list of household chores followed which included, “how to programme moving head lights, learned how to live stream, learned how to record and edit videos.” Bless, that’s our Kieran, dedicated to fetching us the best live music and promoting local artists, no matter what the era brings us; you have to tip your hat to the man. Seeking permissions to release sets Sheer recorded from 2012-14 and bootleg them onto Bandcamp being the latest venture.

What of the live stream though? My Virtual Festival started with good intentions, but there’s been so much of it it’s hard to keep up, some may not be appreciative my sharing of their stream; it’s a close call. In these frustrating times, I asked Mr M if he felt “people are going to get bored with the live stream.” I often feel it doesn’t make up for the real thing and enforces my sadness that we’re missing out on live music. Yeah, I know, right; then I apologised for my despondent attitude.

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It’s a close call because artists earning from a live stream is problematic. Some have found methods of a pay-per-view stream, but many rely on a PayPal donation option. While I sympathise with the artists, also I ponder if charging for a live stream is justified when Wi-Fi can drop out, be overloaded, etc. “So,” Kieran added, “live streams have become a necessary evil, in the sense that everyone is doing them, and it’s really difficult to earn from them. Let’s be clear, live streams will never replace the real thing. No need to go into detail, we all know why, it just won’t.”

He believes they have a place in the future, though, after lockdown has ended. “You’d be a dolt not to recognise it! Whilst it may be difficult and lacking for most of us, these streams have enabled many people who wouldn’t usually be present, be it social anxiety, disability, or a myriad of other reasons, be able to take part and fell part of something.”

I gave mention to a stream-festival by Swindon Shuffle, it doesn’t have to be geographically grounded, organisers said people attended as far away as Mexico, and this increases the fandom of the performers to international levels.

In these few short weeks, we’ve seen musicians getting more creative with the concept, nice to see Benji & Hibbs sitting around a fire rather than indoors,Jon Amor climbed onto his roof last night, and Phil Cooper is getting tech with green screens for a Lost Trades stream on 1st May. “A lot of people have invested in the technology,” Kieran expressed, “so why would it stop after? It’s just daft, of course it won’t. Also, the reality is that venues won’t be back and open before 2021. The possibilities are currently being peddled by MVT,” He continued, “and it’s being taken seriously.”

I felt the need to apologise for my grumpiness, it had been a long day at the diary. I would, however, like to see artists getting some releases out rather than live stream, but accept that’s not easy either, for a band, with social distancing. Talking blues though, surely some the most poignant music, particularly blues, comes from feelings of isolation, depression and disappointment; from teenage anguish or working on the chain gang! The lockdown should deliver some interesting content.

“Be prepared for an avalanche of Coronavirus and lockdown blues songs,” Kieran suggested, and yep, seen a few emerging myself and played the “Corona Blues” by The Ragamuffin All-stars on my radio show last week.

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Little Geneva

Talking local blues, though, on top of Joe Edwards, who after a listen to I’m liking to a raw George Harrison or Clapton, what else has Kieran got for me? “Jon Amor likens Joe to JJ Cale, which is nice,” he compliments. “Then we have Little Geneva, who actually do covers, but they’re so obscure, people don’t know them. I actually like that slant.” Ticked that box some time ago, Little Geneva playing the Cellar Bar was knockout, and I’ve nothing but praise for their authentic blues sound.

This said, Little Geneva have since recruited female singer Mariam Maz to add to their already talented gang, and this I have to witness.

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Will Blake

“Then we have Will Blake in Bromham, a honky-tonk 12-bar type of guy,” but I’ve recently bookmarked Will too, sharing this soul cover multi-instrumentalist’s Isolation Sessions, which see him on piano in the middle of a Bromham field giving us a marvellous rendition of Man in the Mirror et all.

And finally, Kieran aims one I don’t know at me, a “swampy and dirty” contemporary Trowbridge four-piece, Sober Son. This is hard-hitting rock and one to watch. Looking to the future, where I predict an aching aftermath for concerts and gigs, many might frivolously suggest we have the party of parties, but Kieran is a doer. Can I spill the beans on his “overall idea?” “Say it’s currently Sheer’s intention to host an event!” he informs, yeah, will do.

Hosting a “Devizes Music Festival” is said idea, when the lock down is over, and to do a multi-stage bill, across the whole venue. Kieran’s dream team would consist of Jon Amor, Sober Son, Little Geneva, Joe Edwards, Will Blake and The Lost Trades, “etc.” I’m saying no more, not to get over-excited too soon, we’ve a long way to go with the lockdown; I could be a pensioner by then and only wishing to listen to Pat Boone!

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Ah bugger, back to the now; do like the Sheer Music Facebook page, currently dedicated to bringing you the best local live streams, “the necessary evil.” But most importantly is the notion I’ve said before and will no doubt say again, unless you want to pop the bubbles of musician’s aspirations and see them pushing supermarket trollies, it’s vital you check out local artists and buy their music, be it from Bandcamp, streaming sites, their sites or send Vinyl Realm a message, as they stock a selection of local music too.


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The Cellar Bar goes Subterranean with Falling Fish, Larkin and Clock Radio

Andy Fawthrop  is Getting Down & Dirty with Sheer Music’s Second Subterranean gig down the Cellar Bar last night……

 

These sessions are named “subterranean” because the venue is underground, and Sheer (yea, for it is they) have always represented and supported roots, underground music (geddit??). Anyhow, having missed Subterranean #1, we were damned determined not to miss this one. Good decision – we were well rewarded with three great offerings.

Falling Fish were first up – a young band from Bath. Once I’d got over the shock of realising that none of them looked old enough to get served at the bar, I came to the conclusion it didn’t make a blind bit of difference, as this four-piece proceeded to knock of our some driving, dirty indie rock. Whilst admiring their chutzpah in turning the amps up to 11 (stadium level), I thought it might have been useful to dial the sound down a bit more to Cellar Bar levels. Still, once they’d finished blistering the paint from the walls, we got an extremely competent and tight set. Loud, proud, good stuff.

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Local favourites Larkin were next up. Last time I saw Sam and Finley they were surrounded by other musicians at the launch event for their EP at the Con Club, so it was great to see & hear them deliver a more stripped-back set. This allowed the quality of their songs to shine through, and their playing to come more to the fore. They looked and sounded so much more confident. It’s great that they can play in both formats, but I think I slightly prefer them as a simple duo. They’ve got some good songs under their belt now, and it’s great to see them working on more new material.

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And finally to the Grand Old Men of the evening – Clock Radio. And they didn’t let us down. A great, full sound, very much driven by the intense drumming of Gary Martin. Some fast and intense material, with a good, tight delivery. Last time I heard them was a couple of months ago at The Southgate, but the Cellar Bar as a venue seemed to suit their sound a lot better. They looked as though they were letting themselves go, and really enjoying the experience.

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Went home one happy bunny – but it was a great disappointment that more people didn’t turn out for the gig. Such a shame that the promoter goes to such efforts to assemble such fantastic line-up, and finds three bands prepared to deliver some great performances, only for the Cellar Bar to be half-empty. If you weren’t there, you missed a great gig. Please support future gigs and live music! Come on Devizes – you can do better than this!

And just a word to the management of the Bear/ Cellar Bar – it’s bad enough only having Waddies excuse-for-beer without serving the stuff in flimsy plastic glasses. Not a life-enhancing experience!

 

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Little Geneva take the Cellar Bar hostage for the Night

Little concern, Little Geneva fulfil expectations down the little Cellar Bar last night……

 

 

Awoke this morning and, on BBC Breakfast, witness middle-aged folk pulling themselves through an underground tunnel on a wheeled tea-tray, replicating the great escape on its anniversary. Unless you were there, or you’re Dr Who, you’ve no hope of comprehending the ambience of a smoky cavernous club at the eve of the early sixties British blues detonation any more than understanding the anxiety and fear to be levering through tunnel Harry to escape the prisoner of war camp.

 
Retrospective is big business, Hollywood ran out of ideas a decade ago, but replication is often forged and not without cliché. Yes, you could succumb to the paisley tribute act scene, or pay a king’s ransom for a blues legend in concert, but it’ll not capture the spirit of the era, or the artist in their prime. As generations roll genres gain acceptability, and the contemporary blues scene, though thriving, tends to centre around matured audiences, weary of intoxicating themselves and reluctant to shake a tail feather.

 
Yet if I squinted my eyes in the Cellar Bar last night, and allowed the music to flow through me, I’d be forgiven for pondering what it’d have been like to wander into a squalid nightclub in 1963 to hear The Animals, Kinks or Faces at their early stages, considering this is a close as I’m going to get.

 
I nod in appreciation that Little Geneva has simulated this, without cheesy or elderly representation. For this Bristol-based band with roots in Devizes aren’t here for pretence, this debut night is not passé, or deliberately treated with “tribute,” it is just a young band stripping back a sound to its raw roots, and thoroughly enjoying the attention it fashioned.

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It was the most crowded I’ve ever seen the Bear Hotel’s dungeon-bar, Sheer Music’s sell-out show breathes life into the promoter’s quest to retake its hometown, after successfully branching to larger towns over hill yonder. It’s like punk never happened down there, like The Who time-travelled and waltzed in, spontaneously agreeing to perform. From its off, the band chilled the expectancy in the atmosphere with a smooth vocal and percussion mallet drum solo, akin to Jim Morrison’s spellbinding moments, which hypnotised crowds of acid-tripping hippies.

 

 
Yet this had not occurred before, armed with just acoustic guitar, Jon Amor done his thing, and done his thing as proficient as to be expected by locals. The Devizes legend as support, soothing blues, acoustically covering songs from his latest album, Colour in the Sky, with residential witticisms like obtaining a 1am chicken burger from the Market Place. It is always an honour to witness Jon, as a New Jersey resident’s admiration for a Springsteen gig.

 

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This was raw, energetic blues-rock at its best, Little Geneva not covering known songs, least no classic immediately recognisable, just celebrating work done on their album, Eel Pie, in this explosive launch party; an awesome night, making the high bar prices at the Bear inconsequential, it’s a bucolic, rustic cavern of quality.

 

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If anything, I find myself reflecting on my father, for the sixties was his era, and common banter in our family that he was in an amateur band. Mocked by my mother claiming “they were rubbish anyway,” and my father’s shunning, suggesting, “everyone was in a band back then, it was just a trend,” it’s only now occurring to me if it really meant something more to him, hanging up his guitar to dedicate his time to being “Dad.”

 

 

Something I can only speculate, wishing I’d have had the opportunity to question him about his feeling towards it. Yet, it reflects the trend today, least I find locally, whereby twenty-somethings are taking to an instrument purely for the love, absent of my generation’s slouch into technology-driven repetitive beats. If there’s a growing trend for this, Little Geneva perhaps hold the belt now, and hold it under the influence of all which went before, but not in a contemptuous, plagiarising or cheesy method, but a renewed, lively manner.

 

 

So, if you missed this last night, I’d thoroughly recommend you track them down: April 14th for Record Store Day at Sound Knowledge, Marlborough, April 18th at club Thirty-8, also in Marlborough, and April 15th at St James Wine Vaults, Bath.

 

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Talk in Code Announce Tour Dates

Beginning of January, I reviewed Swindon indie popsters, Talk in Code’s second album, Resolve; blinking catchy it is too. Now, they’ve announced they’re heading out on the road for a RESOLVE Tour.

“Talk in Code write throwaway pop songs you’ll want to listen to forever – how cool is that?”
-Dave Franklin, Swindon Advertiser

The February and March tour to promote Resolve will be stopping off at The Cellar Bar in Devizes on Friday 1st March.

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The four-piece, who have supported names such as Catfish & The Bottlemen, Jesus Jones, Embrace, My Life Story and Toploader, are making waves in the indie music scene, having been featured on BBC Introducing, BBC 6 Music, Q Magazine Track of The Day, The Premium Blend Radio Show, and BBC Radio Wiltshire, with a session booked on Swindon 105.5FM later this month.

Talk in Code released Resolve in December 2018, with a homecoming show at Swindon’s Victoria. Now the band are talking their own unique blend of shimmering synth-led indie pop out on the road with a string of dates in the South, and a number of festival bookings throughout the summer all over the UK:

 
RESOLVE Tour Dates:

Thursday 28 February – JAGS Bar, Southsea, Portsmouth
Friday 1 March – Cellar Bar, Devizes
Saturday 2 March – Spice of Life, Soho, London
Thursday 14 March – Facebar, Reading
Friday 15 March – University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham
Saturday 16 March – The Horn, St Albans
Saturday 30 March – Level III, Swindon (with The Britpop Boys)

RESOLVE album link:
https://soundcloud.com/talkincode/sets/talk-in-code-resolve/s-shw7Z

 

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New Band, Old Roots: Little Geneva

If Devizes folk have a love of blues, with a slash to rock, and all this I find a beautiful thing; Long Street Blues Club, the origins of Saddleback and of course our own legend Jon Amor, there have been occasions when a portion of visiting bands I take with a pinch. There’s cliché, whereas roots of blues are strictly raw, these convey the conventional, an earnest shot to commercialise to a middle-aged tolerable market, which in a way is fine and dandy, there’s clearly a thirst for it and historically such progress is natural.

 
You see where I’m coming from? At a time, Elvis was unacceptable, was edgy, now the rock n roll audience is pensioner age, consider it classic. Marlborough’s popular Jazz Festival fills with hoity-toity yet the rags of Scott Joplin at the time of their conception could only be heard in bawdy New York brothels. Similarly, I hear a once subversive, outrageous noise of nineties rave as a children’s TV cartoon theme tune.

 
From the crashing drums and thrumming guitar opening blast of “Key to Love,” there’s no doubt barriers have been stripped back. Echoes of raw energy from a time of yore rip through you, its two and a half minutes of screeching harmonica and growling vocals place you in 1967, under a blanket at an LA love-in. Little Geneva maybe newly constructed, but resonance images of The Animals, of Steppenwolf and the Stones with a truly proficient edge.

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Putting my point to them, they agreed, “we feel very similar to you mate, very similar indeed… which is why we made those recordings, and, in the stripped back/vintage way we did.”

This EP satisfies retrospective mod-culture and beatniks more-so than contemporary indie fans, I’d say; imagine punk didn’t happen. “All Your Love” slides you into the smooth classical/jazz stimulus of The Doors, yet “Yer Blues” harks the blues which would’ve inspired these aforementioned legends. “Someday After a While,” again breezy melancholic blues sound of Cream or The Animals. Five tracks on this EP, but from the first note I was hooked.

 

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Bristol-based, Little Geneva, name coined from a Muddy Waters track, only formed on the eve before 2019, conceived during a conversation between the Doherty brothers, Dave and Chris. Partisans of the UK contemporary blues scene for over a decade, they felt a need to get back on stage together, as part of a truly great live band; thus, Little Geneva spawned. Once the seed was sown, recruiting additional members didn’t prove a problem.

 
Chris, 32, and Dave Doherty, 36; both gifted guitarists, holding players such as B.B King, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton in high regard, headhunted Rags Russell, 32, (vocals/harmonica) who fronts the youthful and energetic band with an emotive and soulful vocal style. Zak Ranyard, 27, (bass guitar) and Simon Small, 33, (drums) provide the rhythm section’s high level of energy and power, driving the band.

 
Having completed this blinding EP, the band is set to record their first album at the beginning of March, as they look for clubs and festivals dates across Europe. But the bestest part of it all, the album launch gig is based right here, in Devizes. I had to ask them, the connection.

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You may know already, you see that’s where Devizine differs from being our town’s Time Out magazine, it’s a learning curve for me. There’s history behind this band, as individuals, Little Geneva members have opened shows for Ray Davies (The Kinks), John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Mud Morganfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Also sharing festival bills with The Red Devils, Jimmie Vaughan, The Hoax, B.B King and many others. But three members of the band began their musical relationship in Devizes, back in 2004. Chris, Simon and Dave went to Lavington Comprehensive.

 

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“We all lived in Devizes at the time our first band formed,” explained Dave, “and we were quickly recruited by other older stalwarts of the scene. We helped create a thriving music scene at The Bell by The Green around this time and it was, for a time, a great little scene.”

 
“They go right back to the beginning of Sheer,” Sheer’s creator Kieran Moore informed, “Check out a band called Hitchmo; that’s where it started.”

 
“That early band came to an end around 2008,” Dave continued, “and the three of us went our separate ways, musically speaking. We all met other musicians, worked with other producers in different genres and countries. Chris now lives in Cornwall, as does Zak. Rags lives in Bristol, as did I when I met him. Simon and I now live in Devizes, where we feel rooted. Bristol is the hub of our activities; it’s obviously a more connected place than Devizes. Devizes is our home though, and all three of want to come back here for our first show, and smash it out of the park!”

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It’s Little Geneva’s deep respect for, and knowledge of what made those early British blues recordings so energised, and exhilarating, coupled with the soulful spirit with which all members express themselves, that will make an unmissable launch date at The Cellar Bar on Saturday 23rd March. Initial reaction to this retrospective goodness was wow, great booking Kieran, but I see now, what’s news to me is a reunion, to a degree, for Sheer and aforementioned scene; indisputably making the gig even more poignant than simply this absolutely rocking sound.

 

I shit you not, it’s like being bought up with Neil Sedaka and suddenly discovering The Faces. Oh, and if you need more convincing, Jon Amor supports…. supports, I know, right!

Website www.littlegenevaband.co.uk
Email: bookings@littlegenevaband.co.uk

Facebook Event Page

 

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