No Bad Press for Captain Accident & The Disasters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Idiot Music, is the Monkey’s Bizzle

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

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

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

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

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

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


Girls Go Ska; Frente al Mar!

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

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

Girls go Ska

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

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

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

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


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OUT NOW! Various Artists 4 Julia’s House

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

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

Huh? Yes, I have, and here it is….  

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

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

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

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

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


Click for info on Julia’s House

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

Claudia Hickin, Community Fundraiser at Julia’s House

Ska-Punk-Folk-Whatever, From The Before Times, with Boom Boom Racoon

Blagging biros and stationery from banks and post offices, we’ve all been there, but few driven to pen a song about it. It’s one valid reason to love the righteous but riotous simplicity of Bristol-based anarchistic vegan folky-ska-punk misfits, Boom Boom Racoon.

Those aware, who thought 2018’s album by the trio, Now That’s What I Call Boom Boom Racoon vol1 was off the head, newly released Songs From The Before Times & Some More takes it to a whole other level. Lockdown raw, rougher and more in your arrogant, fat consumerist face than ever before; put that sausage roll down and prepare to be barked at with a charming slice of satire and counterculture commentary.

Now reading that paragraph back makes it all seem so terrible, but under a blanket punk term, which only goes some way to pigeonhole the unpigeonholeable, irony is abound and Boom Boom Racoon are quite the opposite. This is nine three-minute plus enthrallingly exciting rides, and is undoubtedly entertaining to say the least.

Mixing rum and coffee, ie. turbo mocha time, Covid19-related Public Service Announcement 2020, are the lighter, comical subjects.

Whereas tightening border control in States and Nations, laboratory animal testing in Cages, human unecological practices compared to dinosaur extinction, and another anti-capitalist rant on how difficult it is to be sustainable in the modern era, are the more sombre and acute subjects, setting the world to rights.

And the way they work it, the words they’ve planned go against the homemade rawness of the sound. This isn’t off-the-cuff, there’s ingenious wordplay and poignant messages hidden beneath the fun attitude. The abolition, against the psychological effect of imprisonment and a need to sustain numbers by reforming laws to create criminals, for example, Boom Boom Racoon touch on radical notions or campaigns, and are fearless to state their core values.

Anthropocene it, Say it, Sorted probably carries the most poignant message, and is also the only track which has an amusing sample, unlike the previous aforementioned more polished album which has more, from The Simpsons to Harry Potter. And it comes in the shape of a rather stumblingly polite call from Kent Police regarding an animal rights protest, which is highly amusing.

The album ends hilariously on the most brilliant retort from taunts by your average knuckle-dragging homophobic bigot, I’m certain you know the sort, completing the overall contemporary leftism and reformist ethos which, if you tag the piffle term “snowflake” onto, beware, the unity here is compounded into a masterfully literate snowball, and it’s a brown one, and it’s aiming at your face!

Myself, I’d love for these raccoon pests to come trash the bins of our narrowminded community and welcome the opportunity of our more daring venues to book them for a live performance on the theory, well, on the theory, they’d steal the show.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tribute Acts Going the Extra Mile; Blondie & Ska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Reggae Perfection; Winds of Matterhorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Erin Bardwell Gets Organised

A new album released yesterday from Swindon’s premier reggae keyboardist and producer Erin Bardwell made me contemplate a section of Henri Charrière’s book Papillon. The autobiographical account of a fellow no prison or penal colony can seem to keep incarcerated. There’s a point where Papillon deliberately causes a disturbance in order to be put in solitary confinement. He claims he prefers it to the regular cells, because away from the other inmates, alone in pitch darkness he can reimagine, practically hallucinate and relive his better days.

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

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

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

Erin Bardwell

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

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

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

The Erin Bardwell Collective

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trending……

Song of the Day 27: Emily Capell

We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, okay, you get the gist. Imagine Kate Nash is Doctor Who’s assistant, and they tracked back to Carnaby Street in 1963. If she dressed and performed without raising suspicion that they’re time travellers, you’ve got a general picture of the fantastic Emily Capell.

On one hand, this is fab retrospective meddling, on the other it’s lively and fresh fun, with a beehive hairdo.

There’s nothing here not to like, unless you’re a ret-con rocker and if so, I’ll see you on Brighton beach, pal. All I ask is you aim for the face, so you don’t crease my suit.

And, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….. oh yeah, nearly forgot to mention, Emily has a live stream coming up Friday 12th March, here; groovy.


Song of the Day 26: The Maitree Express

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

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

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

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


Song of the Day 16: Blondie & Ska

If you came here looking for an original song by upcoming hopefuls, look away. Chippenham’s Blondie & Ska may not be groundbreaking or looking for a mainstream recording contract, a Blondie tribute act who fuse ska and Two-Tone classics into their repertoire, but what they do they do with a barrel load of lively fun. And, in a nutshell, lively carefree fun is the backbone of ska.

Heores of the live stream currently, booking Blondie & Ska for a party or pub gig in the future, and you can gurantee, if fussy music devotees tut, the majority will be up dancing. For this reason enough, I blinking love this duo, but that alone is plentiful. Like their Facebook page for details of future free streams, it’s an entertaining, unpretentious show.

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


Song of the Day 14: King Hammond Meets Death of Guitar Pop

Great things about ska are many fold, but a topper most one has to be collaboration. Rather than set groups, as with most mainstream music, musicians uniting for projects is common and has always been the ethos of ska and reggae since day dot. Perhaps being the very reason it’s so lively and communal.

Another great thing about our song of the day, where Islington’s ska legend Nick Welsh, aka King Hammond, teams up with that crazy Essex duo Death of Guitar Pop, is the ska style displayed, near enough mimics the jump blues “shuffle” on which ska is originally based.

But history aside, let’s just enjoy this new track for all it’s worth. DoGP are fast rising in rank on the UK ska scene, with a carefree “Nutty Boys” fashion, it’s easy to see why.

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


Join me every Friday night at 10pm on www.bootboyradio.net

Song of the Day 11: Dakka Skanks

No video to this one. Do we need visuals? Not when it’s this good; my favourite track of Brighton-based contemporary ska heads, Dakka Skanks.

They’re lively, diverse, lots of fun, and I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the near future.

If the Duallers have reached a pivotal point akin to the Specials, and Death of Guitar Pop are providing the tongue-in-cheek Madness equivalent, I believe these guys could be The Beat of this era, as there was a band unafraid to experiment.

Dakka Skanks are majorly ska, but throw a lovable but carefree punk attitude, and a wide range of other influences, such as soul, into the melting pot, and concoct something uniquely entertaining.

Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 7: Mr Tea & the Minions

Sunday off, broke my promise to post a song of the day, everyday. Allow me to make up for it. Bristol’s Mr Tea & the Minions with a lockdown themed song. See how sublimely they fire a frenzy of folk and Balkan styled ska-punk into festival proportions. I think they’re the hottest bands around these parts, and fondly reviewed the album, Mutiny a while ago. Just a reminder today then, these kids have it.

I made enquiries, wanting to bring them to Devizes. It’s no cheap option and obviously currently off the cards.

The reservation is that just because I’m loving this style, it might too radical for a Devizes audience. So, I’d appreciate some feedback; would you have paid a purple one to see them play in our town?

Fingers crossed, we live for a better day. But I believe lobbying a large Devizes venue to bring contemporary music direct to us, just occasionally, is crucial to the culture diversity we should be delving into.

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 6: The Simmertones

It’s getting late now and I’ve only just got around to posting our song of the day. Had a piece to write and the obligatory family Scrabble game. Nearly missed the deadline, meaning my promise to post a song each day didn’t quite last a week, but alas, I’m here last minute to seal the deal.

What better then, than the pride of Devon, The Simmertones. They’ve fast made it to a lead name in the UK ska scene, and with their lively shows and crazy ska cover of the Dr Who theme, a personal favourite, it’s easy to see why. A tad more tender, here they are…..

Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


Song of the Day 4: Girls Go Ska

Hi, yeah s’me, keeping up the Song of the Day feature like dedication was as word I know the definition of!

No excuses not to, I mean I am of the generation when Roy Castle clasped his trumpet weekly, ready for the signing off of “Record Breakers.” No, it’s not a euthanasim, Google it whippersnappers.

Might also explain my fondness for brass. Brass is class, and a vital element of ska. Yep, four tunes in and I couldn’t resist sharing some ska with you.

It’s a commonly misguided notion that ska is a retrospective cult here in England. It tends to convey a bygone era of Two-Tone records, boots and braces.

Yet today, while said stereotype has a grounding, ska is an international phenomenon, particularly in South America. I did write a piece about this region’s love for ska, and how it’s roots out of Jamaica bare a different tale from our own.

To show you how fresh it can be elsewhere in the world, and it’s not a reminiscence for a
load of overweight balding pensioners as perceived in the UK, here’s all-female bar one Mexican band, Girls Go Ska, who I’m secretly in love with, (so secret they don’t even know themselves….until they use Google translate!) doing an instrumental jam.

Girls and ska; what’s not to like? Have a lovely rest of your day. Very good. Carry on….


  • The Next Wharf Theatre Production Will Be Glorious!

    How will the Wharf Theatre follow the huge success of Jesus Christ Superstar? I can tell you this much; it will be Glorious!

    How do I know? Press release, see, the production is called Glorious, and it’s the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, dubbed “The Worst Singer in the World!” A play by Peter Quilter, directed by Liz Sharman, neither of whom have obviously heard me singing in the shower!

    It enjoyed a West End run, starring Maureen Lipman, and takes a more humorous approach to its subject matter than the recent Meryl Streep film. Our wonderful Wharf Theatre in Devizes are running it from Monday 25th – Saturday 30th October, shows at 7.30pm.

    Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) was an American soprano, socialite and philanthropist.  Her love of music and performing became evident at a young age when she played the piano and performed at various functions under the name of ‘Little Miss Foster’; on one occasion even performing at the White House.

    After graduating high school, she nursed dreams of going to Europe to study music but her father staunchly refused.  When an accident then left her unable to play the piano to the level she had previously, she reluctantly pursued a career as a piano teacher.

    In 1909, after one failed marriage, she met British actor, St Clair Bayfield, who remained her partner for the rest of her life.  That same year her father died and, having been left a considerable fortune, she seized the opportunity to pursue her singing dreams despite having little obvious talent.

    The poet William Meredith wrote that a Jenkins recital, “was never exactly an aesthetic experience, or only to the degree that an early Christian among the lions provided aesthetic experience; it was chiefly immolatory, and Madame Jenkins was always eaten, in the end.”

    In the 1920’s she began financing her own shows and with her charm and shining costumes she did, in many ways, find success. In reality she was both adored and mocked by her audiences but although now considered possibly the worst opera singer in the world, who sang out of tune and had no discernible rhythm people still remember her.

    One especially amusing anecdote tells of Florence’s high-pitched scream when in a taxi once, which collided with another car. Arriving home, she made haste for her piano, confirming, least to herself, that the note she had shrieked was the mythical F above high C, a pitch she had never before been able to reach. Ecstatic, she refused to press charges against either involved party, and even sent the taxi driver a box of expensive cigars.

    But the most perplexing question surrounding her life was whether she was in on the joke, or honestly believed she had vocal talent, this remains a matter of debate. This hilarious farce picks up her story in 1940’s New York, and sounds a blast!

    This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd on behalf of Samuel French Ltd http://www.concordtheatricals.co.uk

    Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street.


    WIN 2 Tickets HERE
  • Remembering Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum

    Okay, given the news of the sad passing of Sir Clive Sinclair last week, guaranteed you’ll see lots of photos of him in his scarf, peddling to charge his C5, the innovative electric car of the future. Like few of his inventions, mini televisions included, the C5 flopped, simply because it was way ahead of its time. His successful inventions were too. Sir Clive Sinclair was way ahead of time, period.

    If there’s one invention, I’ll fondly remember him for, though, it’s not the C5 but can only be the rubber-keyed ZX Spectrum, or “Speccy,” as we dubbed it. Sinclair never sat on a creation; his pocket calculator was only the beginning. To understand the importance of his work is to understand the era. It was a time of great technological advances in home entertainment, the like we take for granted today.

    Computers, yeah, we knew of them, but to have one in every home was the stuff of science fiction. Personal computers had made it to schools, yet IT was a far cry from how it’s taught today. Picture it: a nervous beatnik throwback teacher, big black-rimmed specs, big perm, big beard, complete with leather elbow patches on his tweed jacket. He acknowledges this is the future, as he stands next to a shiny new BBC Model B and hoards of pupils gather around it, yet he’s had no training, and he doesn’t really know what the heck it does any more than they do.

    To have gained the slightest teaching about computers at primary school in the early eighties was to be the most bolshy kid, who managed to push his way to the front of the over-excited class. I didn’t tick that box, shy and reserved I loitered towards the back of the crowd, interested if confused, I considered myself lucky to have just seen the thing from a distance, through the pigtails of a petite girl standing in front of me.

    No, if I was ever going to get to grips with the computer, I’d need to have one at home. Yet the ZX80 and ZX81 were the stuff of the seventies, a naff era void of motivation to progress technologically for working class families; a time when the teas-made and electric blanket were cutting edge. Here, in the technological revolution of 1982, what we needed, what we must have, was a home computer, and my dad finally caved into our merciless campaign of perpetually chanting, “can we have a spectrum, dad, can we have a spectrum?”

    The pitch was successful on the grounds we appealed it would be a communal thing; it would help my dad by filing his bills, finances and address book, the possibilities were endless; it would, change our lives forever. Christmas 1982 was like no other, the joint present was hooked up to the television set, after major muddles, frustrating cries from my father and annoyed reactions from my mum who realised her favourite television shows were off the cards until the trend had passed.

    Mum was first to breech the covenant, hiding in the kitchen prepping Brussel sprouts. She came to the early conclusion it was the devil’s work, if Crossroads was to be missed. My father persevered, and after sweat and tears we finally had a grey screen on our television with the copyright text, “1982 Sinclair Research Ltd,” mysteriously running along the bottom. We had, as a family, entered the computer age, all 48K of it, our wants and dreams had been fulfilled, but what to do next and why we needed to do it, was a gaping mystery.

    Hard to imagine now, given operating systems like Windows are common knowledge and upon booting up a new PC, you’re off applying apps and downloading programs, but we didn’t have a clue what to do, and the lone copyright message offered no help. A big orange book came with it, and my dad tilted his glasses and begun to at least attempt to understand it, while my brother and I were far too excited.

    The problem was, to get it to do anything, anything at all, was to understand its own brand of Basic, which the book elucidated was a “computer language.” A bead of perspiration dripped from my dad’s brow at the thought of having to comprehend a whole new language prior to us kids getting bored with this rather expensive Christmas present.

    A command prompt was where we started. Under instruction of the book, dad apprehensively trembled and pushed a key, typing a 1. Before the hour was done, he had got the computer to have captured “10: PRINT “HELLO,” followed by a second command, “20: GOTO 10.” And we looked at each other perplexed. When were we going to get to shoot aliens?

    You see, dad had bought us kids two games of our choosing. Mine being a Pac-Man pastiche called “Haunted Hedges,” whereas my brother was nearly as bonkers about “Horace,” as he would be Lara Croft in the decade which followed, and his choice was one where “Horace Goes Skiing.” Young-‘uns should note, games those days were on cassette, and dad was some way away from attaching the cassette recorder to the Spectrum. Rather, he insisted above our pleas, we did things by the book and attempt to understand how to work the now blasted thing prior to blasting aliens.

    Time was of the essence; the Morcombe & Wise Christmas Special would be airing soon, and Mum would consider human existence was doomed if he didn’t manage to rewire the television back to the aerial and tune it in again. He digested the next page of the book, and confidently pressed the R key, for the function RUN. Like magic the tele changed to list the word “hello” all the way down the screen. We gaped in awe at his success, whatever exactly it was. “Look!” he cried in jubilation and misunderstanding the computer was merely following the prompt of his command, his first computer program, “it’s saying hello to us!!”

    As 1982 turned into 1983 my father had grasped the immensity of the task, his desire to have the computer do the things which he wanted it to do, to file and store an address book, set bill payment reminders, and the kind of stuff we’d do in a second on our mobile phones today, was too difficult a chore. Wrought with complications and complexities at learning a whole new trick, a language to unify human and computer, he spaced out on it and gave up. The ZX Spectrum was abandoned for parents, he sighed all the way to Radio Rentals, hired a second TV, put the old one upstairs and reluctantly passed the computer to us kids, to play games; the sole thing we really wanted it for in the first place.

    The key to this was, that cartridges for the Atari 2600 we had prior were expensive, to buy a new game was a rare treat. The revolution of having games on cassette tape made them affordable, and we could collect them in abundance. This bought about a youth culture; Speccy was the first video game movement. You could swap games, tape-to-tape copy them, and if and when the damn tape loaded without crashing, the half-hour wait of white noise would fulfil you with the joy of a new game.

    And there was a plethora of games of varying quality, but all shaped the formulas of games today even if they didn’t reflect the same graphics, speed and game play. You have Sonic the Hedgehog, we had Sabre Wulf, you had Tekken, we had Way of the Exploding Fist, you have Super Mario Odyssey, we had Donkey Kong, you have Little Big Planet, we had Bubble Bobble, you have Grand Theft Auto, we had Back 2 Skool, and you have Minecraft, and erm, okay you got me there, we were still on Lego…. But you get the idea.

    Speccy was a youth culture of video games, magazines on the subject flew off shelves, kids would hang outside a computer shack in our town, boasting how they solved Jet Set Willy, despite it being impossible without “pokes,” (cheats.) You could go there for advice, if stuck in Valhalla, or Spy Hunter didn’t load. This was the first social network for gamers. Comprehend, though, online gaming was reduced to asking your mum if your mate Adam can come into play, and only permitted if he took his muddy trainers off at the door.

    Educating through it was limited, but it introduced me to the terminology, to basic programming and how to create simple BIT graphics and it made me realise the wealth of maths, even if I was shit at it. I knew what a modem was, something way beyond reach, but least I was aware two computers could be linked via a telephone line. Fascinated by an article predicting one day many computers could be linked into a network, only on the example of a virtual classroom, so we wouldn’t have to go to school. I never fathomed this would happen in my lifetime, never considered the interactive whiteboard, the mobile phone app, and especially virtual reality.

    As with all devises, the ZX Spectrum waned against upcoming videogame consoles, as the eighties came to a close focus was on Sega’s Megadrive and a 48K rubber-keyed processer, less powerful than a Tamagotchi would never stay standing. Not without a fight it was slayed, but every devise has its day.

    Personally, the magic of both computers and videogames was replaced by raves, pubs, and hopelessly chasing girls. I bought a PlayStation when the price came down, it just collected dust. Bit of a hippy, I shunned technology for a while, forgetting everything I’d learned to the point of when discussing the idea of photocopying my first comic, and my flatmate, who was the editor of a Swindon music zine earlier in the nineties, suggested “no, print will be dead, it will all be on the wobbly web one day,” I hadn’t a clue what she was dribbling about.  

    The thing is, this era, where the TV streams off Netflix yet no one’s really watching, as I’m updating my blog, the wife is paying a bill on her iPad, my daughter’s sharing photos on her Insta and my son is logged into a Minecraft server with twenty other mates, what Sir Clive Sinclair achieved maybe lost in time, but I feel is gravely underestimated. His name should be up there with Charles Baggage, Alan Turing, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee. Without his vision of home computers, life would be very different today.

    Sinclair should be remembered as a visionary, pioneer and innovator, a concept designer like Apple, as today it’s hard to imagine a life without home computing, even if it’s updating your status to post a picture of some cute, fluffy cats. Let’s not dwell on images of him in a failed electric vehicle, he was more than that, and besides, one day our laughing at the C5 will return to bite us in the ass!

  • Pumpkins & Poppies with Devizes Town Band

    In six weeks, the historic Devizes Town Band will be performing at their first indoor concert for two years!

    On Sunday 31st October, Devizes Town Band are thrilled to be bringing to you a very special ‘Poppy’ Concert supporting the Royal British Legion; “Pumpkins and Poppies”

    An afternoon of beautiful and entertaining music, to celebrate on Hallowe’en being able to perform again and to remember those who served, those who live with the consequences of conflict and those who paid the ultimate price. The concert will be held in the Corn Exchange, Devizes. Doors open at 2pm and the performance will start at 2:30pm.

    All seats will be socially distanced and the building is fully air conditioned. Tickets are £10 each and available online via the link below from today!

    You can also get them from the lovely Jo at Devizes Books. We Will Remember Them. Come along to our concert and remember them too….


    Win 2 Tickets; Click Here!
  • We Care Bear Selfie Sculpture

    “We want to be there for every seriously ill child that needs us,” say Julia’s House, “but to care for families in your community, we need your support. As part of our Together We Care Appeal, we’re creating a giant bear sculpture and aiming to cover it with the faces of everyone who cares about seriously ill children in Wiltshire – that’s YOU!

    Join them in The Brittox, Devizes, this Friday 24th, Salisbury Market Place on Saturday 25th, or Chippenham High Street on Sunday 26th.

    Have your photo taken at their selfie tent, and your photo will be added to the We Care Bear. Once created, the bear will tour different towns across the county before going on permanent display at their hospice in Devizes, so the families they look after will be reminded of your support whenever they arrive at the hospice.

    Can’t make that date? Alternatively, you can submit your selfie online, just visit https://www.juliashousebear.org/upload

    When can I see the finished bear? Julia’s House will announce the dates soon for when you can see your photo on the finished Julia’s House We Care Bear. Sign up for an email newsletter to get your paws on the latest bear action: https://www.juliashouse.org/enews


    Don’t forget our wonderful compilation album, download it here, all proceeds go to Julia’s House
    Win 2 free Tickets Here!
  • Onika Venus Smooths Trowbridge Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    WIN A CD OF EVERYTHING YOU ARE!

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


    WIN 2 TICKETS HERE!
  • REVIEW – Creedence Clearwater Review – Long Street Blues Club – Saturday 18th September 2021

    Up Around The Blues Club

    By Andy Fawthrop

    Well, it’d been a long old time but finally – finally! – we were back after 18 months to Long Street Blues Club, hosted by The Con Club.  The original artists for this gig had been the USA-based Billy Walton Band but, once one or two other dates on their European tour had been cancelled due to Covid restrictions, found that the tour as a whole had become unviable.  Hopefully they’ll be re-scheduled for 2022.

    Which left Ian Hopkins needing to scrabble round fairly quickly in order to fill this date for tickets already sold – and what a great job he did at such short notice.  He found two very competent acts to step in, and the gig could go ahead, even if not quite as originally planned.

    Kevin Brown

    Support for the evening came from an old mate of mine, Kevin Brown.  He of the oil-can guitar, the blues slide guitar and, when playing on the local pub and festival circuit, Shackdusters fame.  This was his first appearance at the club, playing solo.  His laid-back, humorous, self-deprecating style quickly won over a large audience, who listened in rapt attention. Kevin writes his own material, based on his life experiences, so that the man and the music blend almost seamlessly. His JJ Cale tribute number was particularly impressive.  A very winning performance, which elicited fulsome and well-deserved applause – so let’s hope he’s invited back in the future.

    The main act, Creedence Clearwater Revival arrived with a “show” – a pre-programmed set, introduced by, and intercut with documentary voice recordings by members of the original band.  Early on the band explained – if explanation it was – that their rhythm guitarist “couldn’t make it”, so they were doing the show as a trio.  An odd start, but then they got on with ticking the hits off the list – Up Around The Bend, Rocking All Over The World, Heard It Thru’ The Grapevine, Midnight Special, Because You’re Mine, As Long As I Can See The Light, Bad Moon Rising, Born On The Bayou, Proud Mary, Have You Ever Seen The Rain.  The show – delivered as two fifty-minute sets – was performed with confidence and aplomb.  By the end we had singalongs and quite a few folks up dancing at the front.

    And yet. And yet…..and yet it left me rather un-moved.  I grew up with the music of CCR and John Fogerty, so I’d like to think I’m a bit of a fan of their material.  So I was surprised to find the show rather unexciting.  The band were professional and competent and captured, to some extent, the “feel” of CCR’s bayou-based sound. Yet somehow, something of the original CCR’s drive and energy was missing.  It felt a bit “CCR-by-numbers” if you get what I mean? I thought perhaps I was being a bit super-critical, so I consulted a few people whose musical opinions I respect (as well as a few whose musical opinions I don’t respect) and there seemed to be a clear consensus – it was OK: the band were good, but not great.  My own acid test on these things is – would I pay money to go and see them again?  Sadly, my answer would be in the negative.  It felt a bit one-dimensional. There wasn’t a whole lot of audience engagement.  They’d come to play a show, and they played it.  Job done. No criticism whatsoever of the great job done by Ian, but not every band can float your boat, can it?

    Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:

    • Saturday 2nd October – Jimmy Carpenter
    • Saturday 30th October – Climax Blues Band (at Devizes Town Hall)
    • Saturday 20th November – Focus (at Devizes Corn Exchange)
    • Saturday 27th November – Antonio Forcione Quartet
    • Saturday 18th December – Kossoff: The Band Plays On
    • Friday 14th January 2022 – Chicago Blues Allstars

    WIN 2 Free TICKETS HERE
  • REVIEW: Strakers’ Devizes Comedy – Corn Exchange – Friday 17th September 2021

    You’ve Got To Laugh

    by Andy Fawthrop

    It really feels as if the old times are back with the very welcome return of Strakers’ Comedy Night at the Corn Exchange.  A fairly packed audience of about 200, with long early queues at the bar, settled down for something we all needed – a great night of laugh-out-loud comedy.  It did initially have the feel of a massed estate agents’ night out and bonding session, but once we finally got under way, all of that was forgotten.

    First up was Kane Brown who wasted no time in warming to his first couple of themes – a black man in a very white town, and the obvious need to take the piss out of the sponsor of tonight’s event.  Kane was quick-fire, calm, relaxed and made an immediate bond with his audience.  It could be argued that he was scoring into an empty net, such was the crowd’s desire to have a good laugh after such a long lay-off, but in fact it was much better than that.  Kane had a very nice line in nostalgia themes – salted crisps, the choke on cars, old TV technology – and his slot seemed to slip by in no time.  Very assured, very funny and an obvious hit with the crowd.

    Next up came Rod Woodward, veteran of the corporate comedy circuit, TV, Royal Variety show etc.  Rod played the “I’m very Welsh” card early, followed it with low-level machine-gunning of the Strakers (a theme was developing here) and rounded out with routines on Ryanair, and the dangers of going clothes shopping with a married partner. Another great performance, also hilarious, and a great way to end the first half.

    Following the half-time scrums at the bar, and the queues for the loos, the second half offered up a couple more comics.  First of these was Ali Cook, another very experienced performer in terms of TV work, Edinburgh Festival and the corporate circuit. Ali combined his comedic patter with a number of sleight-of-hand magic tricks, effortlessly pulling victims (sorry – “assistants”) out of the crowd to help him on stage.  Routines involved card-tricks, apparently eating goldfish, and smashing an i-Phone to pieces.  Another clear hit with the crowd.

    Last on stage was the wild-looking, long-haired Canadian Craig Campbell.  Here was a real force of nature from the get-go.  Having just done a none-too-easy gig for UK troops quarantined after recently returning from Afghanistan, Craig had a lot to say on the subject.  At first this really took the audience with him, but then he appeared to lose a good few people with his crude, shouty, expletive-ridden rants about not very much in particular.  He managed to pull them round with a very good story about the Dutch and the Danes, but then went off into another blizzard of shouting. A few people around me were making their excuses and leaving at this point, but other sections of the audience found him very funny. He lost me towards the end I’m afraid.  I don’t mind bad language well-used, but Craig seemed to rely on the f-word almost completely to get his laughs, a thin cover for fairly sparse material.  So, something of a Marmite type of performer.

    Still – to badly paraphrase a certain rock legend – three out of four ain’t bad.  Overall a great night, lots of laughs, and a very welcome extra step to getting our lives back again.  Thanks to Strakers for putting the show on – great stuff!


    Win 2 Tickets HERE!
  • Eric Ravilious: Downland Man

    Unique exhibition to open at Wiltshire Museum

    Featured Image: The Westbury White Horse © Towner Eastbourne

    Finally opening at Wiltshire Museum on 25 September 2021 is Eric Ravilious: Downland Man, something we previewed on Devizine in October 2019, but, sadly, lockdown prevented.

    This major exhibition explores for the first time the celebrated artist’s lifelong fascination for the chalk hills of southern England, particularly Wiltshire and Sussex.

    The exhibition will feature more than 20 works borrowed from national collections and private collectors, including iconic watercolours such as The Westbury Horse and The Wilmington Giant, alongside other rarely-seen works.  The exhibition is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund.  Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

    Central to the exhibition are several of Ravilious’s best-loved watercolours of chalk figures made in 1939 in preparation for a children’s book, Downland Man.  The book was never completed, and for many years the prototype or ‘dummy’ made by Ravilious was believed lost.  When it resurfaced in 2012 this precious item was bought at auction by Wiltshire Museum.  It will be included in the exhibition alongside some of the artist’s watercolours, aerial photographs, annotated Ordnance Survey maps, postcards and books that relate to the Ravilious works on show – material drawn largely from Wiltshire Museum’s own collection.

    The exhibition will offer a new view of Eric Ravilious (1903-42) as a chronicler of the landscape he knew better than any other.  From his student days until the last year of his life, Ravilious returned again and again to the Downs, inspired particularly by the relationship between landscape and people.  Watercolours and wood engravings included in the exhibition show dew ponds and farmyards, a cement works and a field roller, modern military fortifications and ancient monuments. 

    Eric Ravilious: Downland Man is curated by James Russell, previously curator of the 2015 blockbuster Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery. He said ‘I studied History at Cambridge and I’m always intrigued by the social and cultural context of artists’ work.  When it comes to downland history and archaeology Wiltshire Museum has an unrivalled collection, making this exhibition a unique opportunity to shed new light on Ravilious – an artist who is well-known these days but still little understood. With watercolours such as ‘Chalk Paths’ and ‘The Vale of the White Horse’ on display, visitors are in for a treat.

    Heather Ault, Exhibitions Officer said: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for Wiltshire Museum to exhibit such beautiful works by Ravilious.  The exhibition will be an absolute delight’.

    Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “We are delighted that the Weston Loan Programme has been able to support the display of these important works by Eric Ravilious in Wiltshire – an area of the country which repeatedly inspired this much-loved artist. The exhibition will bring his evocative landscapes to new audiences and shed light on material little-known by the public.”

    Eric Ravilious: Downland Man opens at Wiltshire Museum on Saturday 25 September and closes on 30 January 2022.  Tickets can be pre-booked online at https://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/prebooktickets/.

    The exhibition ends on 30 January 2022.


    win 2 tickets here
  • Real Cheesemakers go Head-to-Head with Professor Elemental in Chippenham

    So, you’re planning to go out-out, the decision rests on music or a night of comedy. An unnecessary dilemma, no need for a crystal ball, tarot cards or Paul the psychic octopus, you can do both in the land of chips n ham. In fact, if you happen to own a psychic octopus, this will be right up your street.

    I’ve been waffling on the subject of comical music of recent, reviewing release from Monkey Bizzle, Death of Guitar Pop, Mr B, and Scott Lavene, but here’s an evening not to be missed for your dancing shoes and funny bone alike.

    Professor Elemental

    Lord of whimsy himself, Brighton’s steampunk chap-hop artist Professor Elemental, who’s been in a friendly feud with the very same Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, goes head-to-head with Calne’s nonsensical Real Cheesemakers, and the ref will be Chippenham’s own legend and Edinburgh Festival favourite Wil Hodgson in a night not to be missed or dissed.

    The Real Cheesemakers

    One randomly selected lyric of Professor Elemental might whet your appetite, “this one’s for the crusty festivals and shows, where a fan tries to hug me and I get a dreadlock up my nose,” and honey, he’s got rhymes you haven’t heard yet. Expect hilarity at the Old Town Tavern on 16th October, demand trousers, horses and dinosaurs, tickets are eight quid, a brown one on the door. Facebook yo bad self, tell ’em you want in.


    Win 2 free Tickets HERE
  • Spearmint’s Holland Park

    As spacey as Spaceman 3, I get a whopping chunk of cleansed retro Madchester with the opening of Holland Park, the new album from one of ‘Britain’s best kept secrets’, Londoners, Spearmint. The album drops tomorrow, September 17th, on WIAIWYA Records, and is produced by acclaimed journalist and musician Rhodri Marsden, known afor playing in Scritti Politti.

    Story checks out, with there’s a clear Scritti Politti influence going on here, The Boo Radleys, Belle & Sebastian comes over in waves too. The follow-up to their acclaimed 2019 album Are You From The Future? This is one rich, uplifting record.

    It mellowly plods but picks up with the third tune, Walk Away From Hollywood, only to be followed by a strings-based honour to Bowie, in a kind of Mike Berry’s Tribute to Buddy Holly. Shirley Lee, frontman of Spearmint explains the meaning behind the first single released from Holland Park, “Since Bowie Died isn’t about David Bowie, it’s about the rest of us. I remember hearing the news at the start of 2016: it didn’t seem real. Then as things came to pass that ear and since, I felt like our world had become a harsher place from that moment on, as though it had ‘opened the floodgates’. I know others felt the same way, so we wanted to capture this feeling in the song, but add some hope too.”

    The spirit of Bowie courses through the record as a leitmotif, and hallmarks their typically sublime mellow brit-pop infused melodies. A record that “explores what it’s like to be in a band, what it’s like to have walked away from being in a band, what music means to all of us, and how it feels to lose your heroes.”

    A concept album in the vein of the subject it depicts, Holland Park has a running theme of a seventies rock group who never quite hit the big time, based on the singer Shirley’s father’s band. It comes to its apex at The Streets of Harlesden, the following title track with an everyday chit-chatty quality, similar to Scott Lavene we reviewed yesterday, and a striking instrumental called Black Vinyl. All mood setting like a slumbering Who rock opera. There’s a dreamy but uplifting ambiance here, and it’s beguiling.

    Once it winds back to the mellow Britpop for a few tunes, the penultimate is the oddity, a sudden blast of sonic punk, called She Says She Wants to Save the Pigs, and it returns with its hallmark for an uplifting romantic finale.

    Spearmint plan to premiere the album live in London in November, followed by shows in Brighton and Bristol, with further gigs being planned for 2022.


    win 2 tickets here

Very Terry Edwards

The word “very,” rarely an adjective, as in “it happened in this very house,” or “this is very Terry Edwards,” but commonly worthlessly used as an adverb, as in “it’s very cold today,” or “this is the very best of Terry Edwards.” While the album simplifies it to the ambiguous “Very Terry Edwards,” it’s BandCamp page suggests, “The Very Best of Very Terry Edwards,” which though it’s exactly what it is, it’s also one adverb enough for the most lenient of proof-reader’s red line. Yet, if the usage of very is erm, very worthless, it is the only thing on this album which is.

The multi-instrumentalist, best known for trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophone, guitar and keys, marked his sixtieth birthday last September releasing this three-CD best-of box set, and while I should’ve mentioned it last month, between putting batteries in toys and stuffing myself with pigs in blankets things got tardy. Right now, though, I can think of no better outstanding project to kick off our music reviews for 2021. Reason only partly because it ticks all my personal favourite genre boxes, more so because of the range of said genres is far greater than run-of-the-mill best of compilations.

We need to assess Terry’s biography to understand the reason for this variety. Funky punk and second-gen ska most obvious, as from 1980 he was a founding member of Two-Tone signed band The Higsons, after graduating with a degree in music. But around that time Terry also produced and played on the Yeah Jazz’s debut album, of whom, despite the name, were particularly folk-rock.

Terry in 1984

From here the vastness of Terry’s repertoire blossoms, as session musician for a huge range of acts, from Madness to Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and The Jesus and Mary Chain to, particularly notable, The Blockheads. As well as his solo material, with his band The Scapegoats and a stint with dark punk-blues outfit Gallon Drunk, it’s understandable collating this in one reminiscent anthology is a mammoth task and a melting pot. Which is just what you’re getting for your money, a very, as the grammatical disorderly title suggests, worthy melting pot.

“When the earliest recording here was made the 18-year-old me couldn’t comprehend being 60,” Terry explained, “yet here I am presenting a triple album containing 60 titles recorded between 1979 and 2020, through thick and thin.” Therefore, it must be more tongue-in-cheek than I’d suspect Roger Daltrey’s notion now of My Generation’s lyrics that for the opening track he opted for The Higsons’ “We Will Never Grow Old.”

“You’d expect an overview of my career to have some odd bedfellows and more than its share of quirks and foibles,” he continued, “but it’s been compiled to flow musically rather than have a chronological narrative.”

That said, the first four tunes from his original band follow, with all their fervent rawness. Terry covered his tracks though, “I immediately break my own rules by starting with The Higsons’ earliest release and debut single, but redeem myself by following up with the most recent recordings; two ballads recorded with Paul Cuddeford (Ian Hunter, Holy Holy) in February 2020. There is more method than madness; groups of songs which follow a theme or genre are found together regardless of when they’re from.” Indeed, we’re then treated to three tunes in a matured, mellowing jazz and blues, the latter of which with the vocally perfected Erika Stucky.

Then we’re into rock with The Wolfhounds, and a guitar-twanging Christmas blues song with Robyn Hitchcock, plodding jazz with Knife & Fork, post-punk Big Joan, avant-garde jazz with Spleen and rockabilly styled New York New York. While mostly jazz-related, this first disc graduates through genres with finesse.

Terry is like Georgie Fame with a Mohican, but whatever avenue is explored, you can guarantee quality. The second CD starts with a bang, upbeat mod-jazz with The Scapegoats. There’re more known covers here, sublimely executed Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man, a superb solo rendition of The Cure’s Friday I’m in Love, as if Robert Smith wore a Fred Perry, and a hard-rock electronica version of Johnny Kidd’s Shakin all Over with the haunting vocals of Lisa Ronson. Even find an orchestral film score, and a piano solo of the knees-up capital’s favourite, May It’s Because I’m a Londoner.

Yet if both the quantity and quality on offer here is so vast to make me waffle, it doesn’t waiver for the final disc, rather it’s my favourite. A BBC session outtake of a jazzy Voodoo Chile, with altered title to “Child.” Dunno, can’t be a typo, the dedication to attributing to Hendrix’s masterpiece is no easy feat, lest it be known Terry manages it with awesomeness dexterity, with a saxophone!

If the last CD continues with on a jazz tip for two tunes, we’re transported to ska via John Holt’s Ali Baba by Lee Thompson’s Ska Orchestra and other sundry members of Madness, and Totally Wired by Terry’s “Ska All Stars,” and more ska-jazz with Rhoda Dakar. Post-punk follows, featuring The Nightingales with Vic Goddard, Snuff, Glen Matlock and Gallon Drunk. Perhaps my favourite parts being the shouty cover of The Human Leagues’ “Don’t you Want Me Baby,” by Serious Drinking, and the general dilapidation of seriousness with new wave tunes mirroring the unsubtlety of Ian Dury & The Blockheads.

Here’s a jam-packed box-set brimming with variety which flows suitably and makes a definitive portfolio of a particularly prolific and proficient musician. For many it’ll hold fond memories, for younger, who think Kate Nash created the cockney chat-rap, or jazz wasn’t the same until Jamie Cullum came along, it’s a history lesson they’ll never forget!

This 60th birthday, 60 track-strong celebration spans over four decades. A triple CD clamshell boxset with 24-page booklet, but more importantly they say, “Very Terry Edwards is a birthday present to himself as much as anything else,” giving it the impression you’re on a personal journey, like a child sitting on their grandpa’s lap while he recites memoirs, blinking exciting ones!

Buy from Rough Trade: £15.99 or BandCamp: £15 or £8 digital.


Longcoats Get Dancing

Opps, near-on delayed a month due to the amount of work involved with promoting our Julia’s House album, other stuff going on, and generally slacking off in my garden with my belly hanging over my khaki shorts, I’ve a backlist of music to tell you about, hopefully, before you visualise me slacking off in the … Continue reading “Longcoats Get Dancing”

Gull Able Part 2

Continuing from last week, here’s the second episode of our crime-drama, Gull Able…. if only Netflix was reading this we’d have ourselves a hit series quicker than you can say “mummy, that nasty seagull shate in my ice cream.” To be continued next Sunday…..if I can be bothered.

Devizes Medieval Trail: from town centre to Church and from Hanging Grounds to Hillworth Park.

I’m delighted to introduce you to our new writer, T.B.D. Rose, here with details of a nice local walk. I’m hoping this might become something of series, as we all need a little more exercise and there’s such a huge selection of beautiful tracks and trails to choose from! Thank you, TYG. Beginning past our … Continue reading “Devizes Medieval Trail: from town centre to Church and from Hanging Grounds to Hillworth Park.”

Gull Able

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

Rocking Steady For Some Cosmic Shuffling?

Righty, a pop quiz question prior to today’s review, if you’re game? Look at the three people pictured below, which one of them influenced reggae music the most, A, B or C?

Answer: A. Did you guess right? Probably, because you know me well enough to know it was a trick question! C is Jamaican National team footballer, Allan “Skill” Cole, though as a close friend of Bob Marley he became the Wailers tour manager and was credited in co-writing some songs. And B is just Brad Pitt with a Bob Marley makeover for a biopic which has yet to see the light of day!

On the other hand, A is Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, a teacher of Kingston’s vocational residential school, Alpha Cottage School, a school for “wayward boys.” A devotee of blues and jazz, she operated a sound system at the school and tutored many of Jamaica’s most influential musicians. As a musical mentor for graduates she dubbed “the old boys,” would later make up the backbone of The Skatalites, producer Coxsone Dodd’s inhouse band which shaped the very foundation of ska at Studio One.

The Skatalites in 1964

Here is the unrivalled benchmark of Jamaican music, as well as a plethora of instrumental ska classics, just like Booker T & the MGs were the inhouse band of Stax, The Skatalites backed more memorable singles from too many singers to sensibly name here, yes, including Bob Marley.

To suggest a ska band isn’t as good as Studio One’s Skatalites is not an insult, rather a compliment to even be mentioned in the same sentence. It’d be the rock equivalent of saying that guitarist isn’t as good as Jimi Hendrix. For all intents and purposes, Cosmic Shuffling are not a new Skatalites, but to find anyone to come close nowadays, you need not look further than Switzerland; yeah, you read that right.

Ska in Switzerland usually abbreviates Square Kilometre Array, the forefront organisation of fundamental science, with a mahoosive universe-scoping telescope. Yet I’ve discovered some stars of my own, creating some sublime ska music. While Skaladdin are strictly ska-punk, and the amazing Sir Jay & The Skatanauts are majorly jazz-inspired, there is a scene blossoming. Geneva based combo Cosmic Shuffling are ones to watch. With a penchant and dedication to the authentic golden age of Jamaican sounds, Cosmic Shuffling deserve a comparison to Skatalites more than anyone else I could roll off, even to note, they’re Fruits Record’s inhouse band.

After a few scorching singles on Fruits Records, Cosmic Shuffling release an album, Magic Rocket Ship, tomorrow, 13th November. Nine tracks strong, this is mega-ska bliss. Without the usual ethos of speed being the essence, this lends perhaps closer to rock steady, but prevalent horns give it that initial changeover between styles, when ska was slowing, due to curfew in Jamaica and a particularly sweltering summer. Rock Steady may’ve been short-lived but was reggae’s blueprint, ska’s successor and arguably the most creative period of Jamaican recorded music history.

If you’ve even a slight fondness for traditional ska and reggae, I cannot recommend this enough. At one point I felt the English lyrics slightly quirky, with wonky connotations perhaps lost in translation, albeit with a tune stimulated from a Dr Seuss character, namely The Cat in the Hat, I guess seriousness is not on the agenda. Neither are vocals wholly on show here, but the “tightness” of the band, making the composition of every tune simply divine. I can’t fault it, only jump and twist to it like it was going out of fashion! Which, by the way, in my world, it never will.

Magic Rocket Ship is both a tribute to Jamaican music and a breakthrough into the innovative world of the sextet. Recorded in the aesthetics of sixties sound; ribbon microphones, magnetic tapes and analogue saturation, by extraordinary Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez, it’s a delight to listen to. From it’s opening vocal title track, which doubles up as an explanation to the band name, to the fantastic instrumental up-tempo finale Eastern Ska, every tune is a banger.

Perhaps with Anne Bonny as the most subject worthy, Short Break the most romantically inducing, and Night In Palermo being the most sublimely jazzy, it’s clear with Magic Rocket Ship vocalist Leo Mohr, with Loïc Moret on drums, backing vocals and percussion, Mathias Liengme on piano, organ, backing vocals, percussion, Basile Rickli on alto saxophone, backing vocals, Anthony Dietrich Buclin on trombone, backing vocals and bassist Primo Viviani. With guest guitarists Roberto Sánchez, Josu Santamaria and Tom Brunt, Gregor Vidic on tenor saxophone, William Jacquemet on trombone and trumpeters Thomas Florin, and Ludovic Lagana, Cosmic Shuffling have set a new benchmark, mimicking those legendary Skatalites, without the help of a nun. At least, I don’t believe there was a nun involved!


Tune into my show on http://www.bootboyradio.co.uk every Friday night, 10pm GMT till midnight

Bionic Rats, Alive in Dublin

A superb new live album from Dublin’s finest ska-reggae outfit, The Bionic Rats….

There’s some wonky logic in the character Jimmy Rabbitte’s bemusing outburst in The Commitments film, “The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So, say it once and say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!” Persecuted before the slave trade, there are some intelligible contrasts between the oppressed races.

Still, the thought of Dublin conjures rock legends to outsiders of every decade, be it from Thin Lizzy to Skid Row and U2 to The Script. Diverse as any city though, if you thought the idea of music of black origin was the stuff of films, think again.

Far from a retrospective regression going through the motions of a bygone Two-Tone era, The Bionic Rats are an exciting, energetic reggae and ska six-piece from Dublin with a building collection of original and stimulating material. Even their band name, I suspect, is taken from a Black Ark tune, Lee Scratch Perry’s renowned studio. Yesterday they released a dynamic album doing their thing where they do it best, on stage, in their home city.

In a conclusively roots reggae inspired track, Red Gold and Green, frontman, Del Bionic lays down a chorus not so far fled from the Commitments quote, “reggae is talking about the things I bear witness to, on and off the Liffey quays. I’m not Jamaican, Dublin born and bred, I don’t wanna be a natty dread,” Though a bulk of the material here is upbeat ska, if it relates to a modern ska era, it borrows extensively from Two-Tone, particularly for it’s no bullshit attitude and social commentary. A component definingly reggae, or correlated to any plight of poverty and societal righteousness in general. It rings out the enduring message, reggae is universal.

Reggae often takes on board regional folk roots, be it influenced by, or using traditional instruments of that area, the recent surge in Balkan ska for example. Yet, the only local element the Bionic Rats take is said Irish bitter repartee and attitude within their subject matter.

Their sound is beguiling and directed towards the very origins of Jamaican pop music, and skanks to any highest region! The very reason why they’re a force to be reckoned with, internationally, having shared the stage with their mentors, Madness, Bad Manners, Horace Andy, Israel Vibration, Johnny Clarke and their aforementioned namesake, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, also opening for Damien Dempsey and Imelda May. A hit with the crowds at the One Love Festival in Sussex, London International Ska Festival, they’ve made the frontpage of eminent Do The Dog Skazine, Doc Marten’s used their song Dear John for an online campaign and they continue to skank the crowd at Dublin’s longest running reggae night ‘The Sunday Skank’ in the Temple Bar.

Ironically the 2009 debut album was titled Return of The Bionic Rats, and since three more albums have followed. The good news is, wonderful as their studio albums are, we can all now pretend we’re in the crowd of a Sunday Skank with this beauty of a recorded live show, and boy, do they give it some.

The premise is simple, as it is with ska. Lyrics often minor compared to offbeats and horns. Subject matter slight; between girls, lust, dancing, record buying and being rude, the Rats offer sentiments on prejudges, tyranny and oppression, but seldom will romance be on the cards. You may not be enchanted by The Bionic Rats, who describe this release as “perfectly capturing The Bionic Rats in all their sloppy greatness,” but your waistline will get a darn good workout.

While we’re tempted by the simplicity of the upbeat ska sound in danceable tracks like Annie Oakes, the sweary Bad Garda and the particularly well grafted tale of obsessive record buying, Hooked on 45s, there’s roots, like aforementioned Red, Gold & Green, and rock steady numbers such as prejudice themed Dear John. There’s no end of expected banter and comical themes, such as the English Beat sounding Girl with Big Hands. Then there’s that contemporary third-gen fashioned ska-reggae but wrapped in a no-bars-held cussing, of which titles speak for themselves; Twisted Little Bitter Little Fuckers, for example.

Such is the expected acrimonious nature of an Irish ska band; lap it up, it’s refined rudeness. Done too, with experience, The Bionic Rats rose from the ashes of Dublin-based reggae band, King Sativa, who were active on the scene from 1998 until their breakup in 2005. Their guitarist Graham Birney, and drummer Anthony Kenny moved over to the Bionic Rats. Like them, or not, I’m convinced they probably don’t give a toss, but going on this superb live album, you certainly can’t ignore them.

Alive in Dublin, out now, here.

Singer, Del Bionic also does a live streaming set every Sunday from Facebook at 9pm (GMT) well worth tuning in to: https://www.facebook.com/thebionicratspage/live/


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Join me every Friday night from 10pm to midnight GMT for a fun two hours of ska, reggae and anything goes!

Island Bop with Shuffle & Bang

San Diego, California, 2018, King Pops Horn and son, Korey Kingston began on a musical partnership, merging Korey’s deep vested love for dub and reggae with his father’s tenure as a decorated traditional jazz singer.

Gathering a gang of musicians with resumes including savvy veterans from The Aggrolites, Rhythm Doctors, Suedehead, Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Original Wailers, Stevie Wonder and a pianist who plays organ for the San Diego Padres baseball team, they formed Shuffle & Bang.

Over multiple recording sessions taking two years, this unique musical journey culminated in an accomplished album, Island Bop. Pirates Press Records, partnered with the band’s own Jetsetter Records are ready to deliver this gem to the world on 6th November; everything about it suggests it’s right up my street and banging loudly on my door.

And it is, and it is loud. Dressed as a classic Blue Note jazz album, with indistinct band-in-action photo and simple capitalised font running down the left side, it comes exceptionally close to capturing the elegance of an era of definitive jazz and soul. Yet it drifts wildly between genres, a surprise to know what’s coming next in many ways, but often, perhaps, constituting a Jack-of-all-trades.

I mean this in the nicest way possible, to hit the benchmarks of such legendary epochs, to come close to all the variety of influences represented here in one shebang, from Blue Note to Stax and Studio One, is quite near impossible. You got to hand it to them for trying. For all it is worth, it is accomplished, highly polished and grand. It’s exceedingly entertaining and highly danceable, to boot! Just don’t let the cover art allow to run off with the idea you’ve stumbled upon a new Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going on.

At all times, no matter what subgenre it’s mimicking, it’s brash but not slapdash, flamboyant and proud. There’s minimal subtly of soul, delicately tight riffs of ska, and to cast it overall is to say it is akin to big band, as it’s in your face and won’t let you escape, even if you wanted to, which, you probably wouldn’t. Big Band does jump blues, ska, soul, and even by the end, dub reggae.

Yep, you heard it right; it ticks all the boxes. The opening song is a deep acapella with a booming Teddy Pendergrass fashioned soul voice, whereas the second sets the running theme as this big band panache. Taking the jazz end of a classic ska sound, the third tune dragged me onto the dancefloor, or my kitchen lino to be more precise; yep, I’m reviewing while washing the dishes again!

Switching back to Cab Calloway big band groove for a fifth song, it is perhaps the next which is most interesting to date, Naima maintains a big band style but serves it with a rock steady riff. Quickly as it does it, it shifts again, onto a shuffle rhythm with some killer horns, more Louis Jordan than T-Bone Walker.

Within the thirteen strong songs, the whole album is showy and that makes it rather magnificently inimitable, and because of this running big band ethos incorporating all the various styles, at no time does it jerk into an alternative genre, shudder the goalposts, rather surprisingly, they flow all rather splendidly.

It gets unpremeditated and rides the Ratpack train, with beguiling vocal gorgeousness, When I Take My Sugar to Tea, particularly, or a take of traditional ska like the Skatalites, but the next tune might again return to up-tempo swing. Given our Louis Jordan reference, the only recognisable cover is his Tympany Five’s Let the Good Times Roll, at least you think it is, until the end song.

If you figured this cover might act as a grand finale, prepare, because after a drum and cymbal interlude, the groove suddenly and without warning dubs. Yep, true dat; with a deep rolling bass and reverbs akin to King Tubby, and perhaps melodica to impersonate Augustus Pablo, we are treated to a divine dub of the Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood. Although they’re calling it Drum Song.

The culmination forces you to hardly recognise the style at the beginning of the album, and to return to it might make you think, no, I want to go listen to some Sly & Robbie now instead. However, Island Bop will rest accustomed in a jazz, blues, soul or reggae record collection, and you will return to its gorgeous portrayals. For all its swapping and merging, yes, Island Bop is hard to pin down, but for eclectic jazz and soul fans, its refreshingly experimental and a damn good groove!


Man on the Bridge: Erin Bardwell teams up with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton

Local reggae a rarity around these backwaters, but when it does rise you can trust Pop-A-Top Records is a watermark of quality. Since prolific Swindon Skanxter keyboardist, Erin Bardwell’s amazing solo album, Interval, he’s rubbed his unique style into a collaboration with Hotknives co-founder, Dave Clifton on this sublime project called The Man on the Bridge.

A double-A EP was out in April, followed this week by a six-track album A Million Miles. There are chilled echoes of rocksteady and traditional boss reggae blended with slight roots and dressed with a garnish of Bardwell’s inimitable take on the genre. Naturally, there’s a splinter of Two-Tone reggae too, which works on so many levels.

Dave Clifton

The Hotknives are best known for their live albums, but did release one studio album The Way Things Are. Formed in Horsham, back in 1982, they principally play ska. Guitarist Dave Clifton was among the original line-up. He left in 1993, but with a slimmer roster the band still perform today.

Opening tune to A Million Miles, Don’t Blame Me, is immediately likeable rocksteady, and wouldn’t look out of place on a classic Trojan Tighten Up compilation. Looking over the Land plods securely, resonances Erin’s band the Erin Bardwell Collective and is just simply beguiling.

Erin Bardwell

Just Dreaming though dubs, is as at sounds, dreamy, using flute, by another ex-Hotknives, Paul Mumford of Too Many Crooks, it connotes that eastern dub vibe of Augustus Pablo. Yet with Believe we return to chugging boss, with sublime horns, also by Mumford, and Dave’s picking guitar riff. The guest vocal is a refreshing change, provided by Pat Powell of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Proof, as I’ve said, ska is an international thing, and the Melbourne Ska Orchestra are pushing boundaries on the other side of the world.

Title track, A Million Miles again deviates, fusing a slight English folk influence, it reflects memories and cites Dave and Ansell Collins and the O’Jays in a theme of a lost romance. Never Say Never raps up the journey you don’t want to end, with a plonking fairground twist; as if Madness worked with UB40. With Erin’s dream team, Drummer Pete O’Driscoll, Pete Fitzsimmons on bass, except Looking Over The Land where long term friend from The Skanxters, Vinny Hill features, we’re in capable hands, and this is a memorable collaboration producing a superb and varied mellow reggae vibe. You need this right now!


The Bighead!

“The Truth is Hard to Find celebrates their unique but retrospective style with a passion for pop-reggae, an uplifting beat, chugging ska riff and beguiling two-tone vocal harmonies….”

Far from what the name suggests, and common generalisation of the genre, I found Northampton’s six-piece reggae/ska band, The Bighead, not in the slightest egotistical and very approachable! Thus, I’ll be spinning their tunes on Ska-ing West Country on Friday, and for the foreseeable future.

That said in this era where a plethora of bands like the Dualers and Death of Guitar Pop have breathed renewed energy and a fresh approach to the UK two-tone scene, which otherwise risked falling into a diehard cult of seniors on Lambrettas who spent their pension on a pair of cherry Doc Martins!

Though nothing with Bighead is as the frenzied ska blended with delinquent-filled punk of yore. They tend to flow maturely, with rocksteady and roots reggae, while attire the fashion akin to the two-tone era. I’ve no issue there, through the furious ska thrashings of The Specials, the downtempo Ghost Town is likely cited foremostly, and on the island of origination, the short rocksteady age between ska and reggae was undoubtedly the most creative musical period in Jamaican history.

Seems while previous decades hugged youth cultures which devoted to a sole variety of Jamaican music, newly formed bands, like Bighead in 2008 by Da Costa, follow a similar ethos as what we discussed when Trevor Evans’ Barbdwire came to Devizes Arts Festival. They select the benefits and choosiest elements of ska, rocksteady and all subgenres of reggae, and fuse them with sublime results.

There’s a plentiful gap to fill, and it’s all trilbies and shades for Bighead. Their May single, The Truth is Hard to Find celebrates their unique but retrospective style with a passion for pop-reggae, an uplifting beat, chugging ska riff and beguiling two-tone vocal harmonies, signifying an optimistic new era for the old genre. In contrast, the other two brilliant tunes Da Costa kindly emailed me, Step Up and Try Me Again, rely on roots reggae and doo-wop rocksteady respectively.

The Bighead are no strangers to the festival and club circuit, have headlined and supported original 2-Tone acts such as the Beat, The Selector, Bad Manners and a 2013 show with Madness. They’ve played over Europe and are regulars on the Berlin Reggae scene.

So, polish your boots, snap on your braces and follow Bighead; not that I should really be flattering a band who are already self-confessed big heads!


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A Modern Reggae Classic: Wonderland of Green

On first hearing Wonderland of Green, I was like, yeah, that’s as sweet as a sugarcane field. But it’s moreish; every listen it approves all elements, everything I love about reggae, and why I love it.

Fruits Records may be based in Switzerland, but their dedication to authentic Jamaican roots reggae is paramount. This latest release featuring the Silvertones is a prime example, a sublimely balanced one-drop riddim with all the hallmarks of reggae’s golden era; the roots sound of the seventies, Black Ark, the legendary studio of Lee “Scratch” Perry, and the Roots Radics rub-a-dub riddims of the early eighties. These traditional styles echo through this 7” EP; the heavy bass, the offbeat guitar riff, and the traditional female backing vocals as passed into mainstream by the Wailers’ I-Threes.

Yet it also pounds contemporary at you too, fresh sounding, with a version, Living In A Wonderland, toasted by Burro Banton, an incredibly gritty-voiced DJ popular in the late eighties and nineties dancehalls of Jamaica. Even the subject matter of Wonderland of Green is timeless, as it suggests, it’s earthy and ecological, a tenet inherent in Rastafarians long before it became trendy.

The band behind the riddim is the 18th Parallel. Produced, composed and arranged by Antonin Chatelain, Léo Marin and Mathias Liengme, and recorded at Geneva’s Bridge Studio by Liengme. There’s an instrumental on the flipside, and an extra killer dub mix by French wizard Westfinga, who retains the retrospective ethos using the traditional dub values set by King Tubby.

Burro Banton

But what makes it so thoroughly beguiling is the vocals by The Silvertones. A legendary vocal harmony trio from the early ska era, originally, Keith Coley, and Gilmore Grant, with Delroy Denton joining early in their career. Delroy’s individual baritone and guitar skills saw him quickly become the frontman. Though he migrated to the States and was replaced by Joel “Kush” Brown.

Though the only remaining member is Keith, who takes lead, that’s just technicalities, as the modern line up rests with Norris Knight and Nathan Skyers on harmonies, both of whom have solo careers in their own right.

Westfinga & The 18th Parallel’s Wonderland of Dub

Recording at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, they interestingly triumphed in Jamaica with their debut single, a ska re-creation of Brook Benton’s “True Confession,” a track producer Duke Reid would also have the early Wailers record, but the Silvertones is indisputably more poignant. They also recorded under guises The Gold Tones, The Admirals, but most popularly as The Valentines, prevalent with the skinhead’s ska revival era was a tune called “Blam Blam Fever,” denouncing the rude boy’s gun culture.

The Silvertones

Through the late sixties they enjoyed success recording for Reid’s Treasure Isle label and Clancy Eccles, as vocal harmonies became more significant during the rock steady era. Yet their dominant period was the early seventies when they stepped into the converted carport which was Black Ark.

The eccentric amplifier genius, Lee “Scratch” Perry is renowned for getting the best out of any artist, he shaped the way we view Bob Marley & The Wailers. With penchant for outlandish, heavyweight psychedelic sound testing, he was the experimentalist who would pave the way for dub pioneers like King Tubby.

Historically then, Wonderland of Green slips right in as if it’s been there all along, but prominent now with its environmental subject matter, it’s gorgeous. I look forward to blasting it on my Boot Boy Radio show this Friday, maybe blending versions together, even if they’re live from the Skinhead Reunion, and who’s punters would favour boss reggae!

Wonderland of Green is newly released this week, as download, or on regular black wax 7” vinyl and on a beautiful limited and numbered picture sleeve edition with opaque dark green vinyl; how apt!

Streaming: http://hyperurl.co/wonderlandofgreen

Vinyl records: https://fruitsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/wonderland-of-green


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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.

bigyellow

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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From The Specials; Neville Staple Band in Lockdown

Photos by John Coles
Artwork by Sugary Staple

If last year’s fortieth anniversary of Two-Tone Records saw an upsurge of interest in this homegrown second-generation ska, it shows no sign of flawing anytime soon. Perhaps you could attribute parallels to the social and political climate of our era, or debate intransigent devotees are reliving their youth, but I’d argue it’s simply an irresistible sound.

One thing our eighties counterparts didn’t have to contend with was the Covid19 pandemic, and musicians of every genre are reflecting on it. Ska is of no exception, we’ve seen many contemporary performers releasing new material on the subject, but here we have a legend doing his thing, topically.

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The Neville Staple Band releases this timely single, Lockdown. A dynamic modern-sounding reggae track, yet encompassing all the goodness of the Two-Tone era of yore. Understandable, original rude boy Neville Staple is conversant with this, a founder member and co-frontman of The Specials, Fun Boy Three and Special Beat. Those influences shine through here. There’s something very Fun Boy Three about this tune, with a slice of poetically-driven Linton Kwesi Johnson to its feel.

As true as the song suggests, in lockdown Dr Neville Staple has teamed up with wife Sugary Staple, to pump out this relevant single, commonly reflecting on the feeling of many concerning the virus and staying safe. “Sugary came up with the idea to write a song about the lockdown,” Neville explains, “which, at first, was a very fast-stomping ska track. We then realised that it was too fun and happy a tune for the theme. Most of us have been quite down about the whole virus thing, so we decided to take it on a more sweet but moody 2Tone reggae route, in a similar vein to ‘Ghost Town’, with some music we had worked on previously with Sledge [Steve Armstrong.]”

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While I detect echoes of Ghost Town, this tune also breathes originality and present-day freshness, confirming progression of the genre rather than a frequently supposed nostalgia. Being a local site, some may recall his visit to Melksham’s ParkFest last year, where an unfortunately damp evening didn’t stop the revelling, and Neville stole the show with an assortment of Two-Tone classics. I was backstage with the wonderful support band Train to Skaville. A chance meeting with Neville, when he popped out of his tent for pizza, humourlessly failed to engage long enough to explain who I was, and ended with him pointing at his pizza-box and saying “yeah, I’m going off to eat this.” I should’ve known better than to harass a legend when their pizza is chilling in drizzle! I nodded my approval, knowing I’d have done the same thing.

Neville was awarded an honorary doctorate from Arden University last year. With a tour, and so many international shows and festivals postponed, the couple decided to do a lot of extra charity work as well as new song writing. DJ recordings for people sick in hospitals or in isolation, personally dedicated to them, was just the start. Sugary and Neville wanted to highlight the work of Zoe’s Place, a charity run for terminally ill babies and toddlers. As ambassadors for this charity, Sugary expressed, “charities like these really do suffer at a time like this, as the focus is on other things. But the work they do at Zoe’s Place is like one of a kind and so very special. They step in when families really do need the support, providing 24-hour high quality, one-to-one palliative, respite and end-of-life care for children aged 0-5 years. A heart-breaking time for anyone involved. We must not lose a charity like this – it is too important and so we will be supporting this, along with other charities we are patrons or ambassadors to, with this single.” And the duo dedicates this song to all those who have been affected by Covid-19.

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Shared to our Boot Boy Radio DJs, you can expect we will be spinning in for the foreseeable future, but you can get it here:

7″ vinyl order https://bit.ly/2NeeoUA

Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/1s2wuLNQ3q4wsvq7tOUfVh

iTunes https://music.apple.com/gb/album/lockdown-single/1515072018

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Lockdown/dp/B0894K4G1Q


SPECIAL NOTICE – FROM THE SPECIALS, NEVILLE STAPLE & SUGARY:

A MESSAGE TO YOU..! The Legendary Neville Staple (Dr), Sugary Staple & the Band, need your help please.

Can you wonderful people please donate just £3 towards this project (which will also get you 2 signed exclusives pics), or any random amount, or check out the mega exclusive vinyl 45 & CD gift set offers (these are going really well, and are extremely rare limited edition items, so grab them while you can). You just click this link and choose your reward, to then register your donation.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fromthespecials/lockdown-ska-2020-from-the-specials-neville-staple-and-sugary/   


If you like a bit of ska and reggae, catch me on www.bootboyradio.co.uk Fridays from 10pm GMT till midnight!

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