Midlands Jon Lewis and Sierra Leonian Jah-Man Aggrey, are a branch of world dance collective Le Cod Afrique, who play a cheerful combination of multicultural roots-pop. A welcome addition to the Southgate’s continuing mission to provide a diverse range of live music to Devizes; and a grand job they’re making of it!
With Aggrey’s bright, chatty vocals and bongos, and Lewis’s acoustic guitar picking, this promises to be something great and wholly different around these waters. They’ve done the festival scene from Womad and Glasto to the Montreux Jazz Festival & Glastonbury, and their acclaimed album “Legacy” has been much featured on BBC Radio 3 & BBC 6 Music.
He’s a fast learner, that Keanu Reeves; think how he progressed to “the chosen one” in little over an hour and half, while his superiors barely advanced at all; comes with the chosen one job, I suppose. Think cat scene, for example, where this novice presumed déjà vu, but twas a glitch in the Matrix.
Had a touch of déjà vu myself on Sunday, chatting with Essex’s Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective; alas I’m not the chosen one, until it’s time to do the washing up. Barefacedly had to check my own website, suspecting they’d been mentioned before. And I was right, Andy wrote a part-review back in July; I was briefly there too. Blame it on a glitch, rather than memory loss; this is 2020, glitches in the Matrix are abundant.
Regulars at the Southgate in Devizes, Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective are as the name suggests, but don’t do run of the mill. Cowboy hats and chequered shirts held a clue, but arrive excepting unadulterated county & western and you’ll get nipped. While there’re clear Americana influences, here’s an exclusive sound unafraid to experiment.
Jamie’s abrasive vocals are gritty and resolute, perfect for this overall country-blues sound, but it progressively rocks like Springsteen or Petty, rather than attempts to banjo twang back to bluegrass. It also boundlessly exploits other folk and roots influences, with a plethora of instruments and expertise to merge them into this melting pot. And in this essence, they are an agreeable rock band, appealing to commonalities; but do it remarkably, with upbeat riffs, tested but original material, and passion.
Not forgoing, I still need to be careful, and it was but a whistle-stop to the Gate, to wet my whistle. As current live music restrictions being the way they are, it’s unfair to use a gig review as a base for an act’s entirety. For starters, they’re missing bassist Jake Milligan, and drums deemed too loud to bring, James “the hog” Bacon made do with a cajon and bongos. The remaining two, Jamie and Dave Milligan, cramped in the doorway of the skittle ally with acoustic and electric guitar, respectively. Which, in a way, proves this band’s aforementioned adaptability and desire to experiment. The proof is the pudding though, and battling through the restrictions of the era, they came up with a chef-d’oeuvre.
Professionally, they scorched out a great sound nonetheless, mostly original, but a rather fitting Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, with Jamie’s grinding vocals apt for a later Dylan classic. But this downtempo cover was the exception to the rule, their originals upbeat and driving.
To pitch a fair review, though, is to take a listen to their latest album, Do What You Love. The cover of which is unlike your cliché Americana tribute too; highly graphical splashes of colour akin more to pop, or a branding of fizzy drink. The songs match, a popular formula of cleverly crafted nuggets intertwining these wide-spanning influences. One track they did live from their album was accompanied with an explanation the recorded version used a brass section and even a DJ scratching, yet they made do with Jake joining James for a hit on the bongos.
They certainly enjoy what they do, and appear relaxed in the spotlight. This doesn’t make them tongue-in-cheek, like, say Californian Watsky & Mody, who blend hip hop into bluegrass for jokes. Rather Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective has evenly balanced said collective’s influences and conjured this celebrated, danceable and fun sound, flexible for a standard function, like a wedding party but would also liven up the day at a mini-festival.
As an album though it encompasses all I’ve said above, there’s cool tunes like Lazy Day, the orchestrated reprise If I met my Hero, and rather gorgeously executed ballad, Held in Your Glow, but also frenetic tunes, driving down the A12 with the windows open music, Red Hot and Raunchy being a grand, light-hearted example but I’m A Stone as my favourite, with its clever pastiches of Dylan and The Rolling Stones, it rocks.
You need not visit the Oracle, waiting with spoon-bending broods, Keanu Reeves, for her to tell you Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective are not some “chosen” livid teenagers trailblazing a new sound and striving for the spotlight, but a collective of passionate and talented musicians loving every minute of performing, and this comes across as highly entertaining.
From Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads to bipolar bank robber George “Babyface” Nelson, there’s so many Americana mythologies and folklore veracities apropos in the Cohen Brother’s “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” I could draft a lengthy essay. One I’m reminded of last Sunday down our trusty Southgate, was the scene depicting the Carter Family singing “Keep on the Sunny Side” at a governor’s election rally. Reason; there’s something simplistically bluegrass about The Lost Trades, matchless vocal harmonies, ensuring the circle is unbroken, even in a distant Wiltshire.
It was only a whistle-stop to wet my whistle, and when I did arrive the trio I’d came for where on their break. Tamsin was selling handcrafted spoons and lesser original band merchandise such as t-shirts and CDs, Phil was lapping the pub chatting enthusiastically and Jamie was having a pint with his family. None of this really matters, as individuals, we’ve rightfully nothing but praised these marvellous local musicians. When they formed a more official grouping and the Lost Trades were born, we broke the news. Neither did it matter, at the time, that I would be unable to attend their debut gig at the Village Pump. I had my new writer Helen offer to take my place, and what is more, I knew I’d be catching up with The Lost Trades in due course; couldn’t have predicted the impending lockdown the following week.
Yet prior to Sunday I had ponder if there was anything else to write about these individuals we’ve not covered in the past, but I was wrong. The angle can only be the difference between them as individuals or periodically helping one another out at a gig, to the trio The Lost Trades. Because, when they did everything was very much adlib, with the Lost Trades three minds are working closer than ever before, and if two brains are better than one, three is not, in this case, a crowd.
It wasn’t long before they resettled, and huddled in the doorway of the skittle room playing to the crowd in the garden, as is the current arrangement for these brief acoustic sessions at the Gate. They joyfully toiled with a cover of Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere.” This was followed by my favourite track from Tamsin’s album Gypsy Blood, aptly, “Home.” Topped off with a sublime version of Cat Stevens’ “Moon Shadow.” But I did say it was a whistle stop.
In consolation I picked up their self-titled debut EP, something I should have done months ago. With this beauty in hand I could take a little of The Lost Trades home with me; it’ll play perpetually through those thoughtful moments. Recorded in session at The Village Pump, “because we really like the acoustics in there,” explained Tamsin, here is a recording oozing with a quality which, despite predicting, still blew me for six. As I say, it’s the combination of these three fantastic artists in their own right, as opposed the jamming we’ve previously become accustomed to, which really makes the difference.
Five tunes strong, this EP equally celebrates these three talents and harmonises them on a level we’ve not heard before. The acapella beginning of the opening tune, “Hummingbird” glides into stripped back xylophone and acoustic guitar, and is so incredibly saccharine, it trickles like some beatniks performing on a seventies Children’s TV show. Yet, it works. In true Simon & Garfunkel manner, it’s not mawkish, just nice.
Hummingbird serves as a great introduction, but is by no means the template. As is commonplace, from the Beatles to The Wailers, The Trades, I detect, conjoin the writing effort but the lead singer seems to be the one who plucked the idea. “Good Old Days,” then, screams Jamie at me, who leads. It has his stamp, ingenious narrative centred around thoughtful prose. “Wherever You Are,” likewise is a Tamsin classic, wildly romantic and wayfarer.
“Robots,” follows, the quirkiest and perhaps erroneous after an initial listen. Yet through subtle metaphors the satirical slant charms in a manner which nods Phil Cooper, and why should one stick to a formula in subject matter? Because the sound is authentically Americana of yore, Robots superbly deflects the notion it’s lost in a bygone era and cannot use modern concepts, and Robots ruling the world is, however much a metaphor, still fundamentally sci-fi, and that makes for an interesting contrast. With that thought in mind, this could be the track which stands out for originality.
As in this review, we’ve returned to the unbroken circle. In full circle the final song, “Wait for my Boat,” is a sublimely cool track, casting a direction the trio are clearly heading. For although Jamie leads, there’s elements of all three middle tracks combined in this sea shanty sounding song. It’s metaphorical, romantic, with sentimental narrative. It wraps up the EP perfectly, leaving you hanging for the album they’re working on.
Yes, the Lost Trades is a live group you need to see in person, but this EP really is way beyond my already high expectations. It’s combination of talents is honest, bluegrass-inspired acoustic gorgeousness you need in your life.
Bobbing around the St John’s corner of Long Street, trying to act important, and sober, I had a message for Ben Borrill, Pete was looking for him, he was on next; ah, gave me something to do. It was the fantastic Devizes Street Festival, made that much more fantastic by Vinyl Realm organising a second stage, showcasing local talent. You must’ve heard about it, even if you weren’t there, I’ve harked on about it enough!
Mission accomplished, he was loitering the doorway, and equably replied with an “oh, okay.” There’s a casual air around Ben, perhaps the most altruistic and modest musician, and, oh, skateboarder too, on the local circuit. It was this way when I first met him during an acoustic jam at The Southgate. Yet there’s a magnetic sparkle when he performs, which captivates. Other than friendship, it’s probably the plausible reason he supports Daydream Runaways recurrently.
I never held out for something recorded from Ben, content as he seems to roam the local circuit performing live, yet with the current climate surrounding gigs, time and effort is channelled into getting studio time down, for everyone. Sometimes this transmits the talents of a live performer, occasionally not, and I happily report it’s far from the latter.
Groovy, in a word; there’s something pleasantly sixties Merseybeat-come-beatnik about Ben Borrill’s debut single, Take a Little Time; not in a tacky tribute kind of cliché but in a nonchalant, progressive way. Particularly in the intro, the reference of seasonal change, shifting leaves and blossom of a fading spring, balances into romantic ditty, and spanning just over two minutes too; it’s short but sweet.
While it doesn’t go off down a completely psychedelic sixties formula, it’s no Mammas & Papas, the riffs do lean heavily on all that’s golden about that golden era, of Kinks or Hollies, with a fresh tinge of modern acoustic. Here’s a smooth ride into an intelligently grafted, but easy-going song, reflecting Ben’s charismatic and breezy attitude. It is, blinking marvellous, and leaves you yearning for more… jump to it Ben, equably I’d imagine he would reply with an “oh, okay!” Spotify link here.
Has lockdown made us appreciate the simpler things in life we once took for granted? Even if, it’s pathetic to lose your shit over the lessening of restrictions and go on an all-out bonkers spree of drunken foolishness, playing into the media’s hands creating a drama from a crisis. It is understandable isolated folk fear the idea of venturing to pubs when carefully selected images of hordes of pissheads scrapping outside some chavvy chain bar are spread across social media, just as a few weeks ago a trip to the beach would’ve been scorned at.
For me, a relative good, aging boy, who’s been looking forward to the prospect of an unpretentious pint down the Southgate all morning at work, to return home and regrettably check Facebook to notice a local post claiming sixty-plus youths were last night causing havoc in town, and extend the horror to hear similar events occurred in the Sham too, it’s discouraging. Will I be held up as a hooligan, because I desire life to return to a time when going to the pub was normality?
It’s a matter of being selective. If it was up to me, I’d encourage a mass boycott of Bojo’s philistine bum-chum, Tim Martin’s shamelessly uncultured shithouses, but each to their own. They lead by example, a bad one. If you want to pour your hard-earned pounds into the pocket of this billionaire who treated his staff with such utter disrespect, perhaps you’re the kind of insensible sociopath who enjoys a punch-up. Not me, I went to the Southgate for an afternoon pint and report back a decidedly lack of hooliganism from rampaging shirtless knob-jockeys; don’t believe the hype.
Going to this pub was safer than shopping, and the delightful experience it always was, if not more being it’s been a while.
I actually got what I anticipated all along; a warm welcome, orderly queuing for the bar, a bottle or two of hand sanitiser and a slight gathering observing social distancing, able to contain their excitement at being let off their leash. But what is more, some breezy live music; what I’ve been holding out for. Yay! I’m not writing to slag off some corporate monopoly, but wanted to compare and contrast, plus get the rant off my chest. Rather it is, our first live music review for seemingly eons, and who better to grace the step of the Southgate’s garden than Jamie R Hawkins? Okay, I know I’m asking too many questions in this piece, but that was rhetorical.
Perched in the doorway of the skittle alley, slighter of beard and longer of locks, Jamie was every bit the icing on the cake. Predictable, could be said, but welcoming to see the many faces admiring over his ambiance of acoustic goodness. In faith too, of the gradual phase-in for live music, the session wasn’t intended to be long; just a few songs from 4-6pm. Enough though to get a taste, and Jamie looked to be enjoying it as much as the crowd.
There were some new ones, Walking into Doors (?) one I arrived for, one perhaps called “Speechless.” Jamie did one cover, Simon & Garfunkel’s Cecelia, and went through some of his benchmarks, the wonderful Capacity to Change, the remarkably sentimental Not Going Anywhere, and being it was a family affair, the ukulele-driven “Welcome to the Family,” aimed at his restless toddler in her pushchair. Yes, an intimate setting, but with words crafted so beautifully and perceptible as Jamie’s, one cannot see the relevance in your own life.
It was also a notable notion that Jamie was the last person to perform at our splendid Southgate, prior to the lockdown, so fitting he set the ball rolling in reopening. Though, with the unification with Phil Cooper and Tamsin Quin as The Lost Trades, a band formed in just enough time to play a debut, Jamie and the gang are really gathering acclaim further afield. They are promised at the Gate, but again, we have to be patience; this was a teaser under certain restrictions. A band, a late night outside may not be feasible for this humbling pub, yet, but time will tell.
Here then, was a lovely teaser afternoon, and proof above all media hype surrounding this ease of restrictions, that it can be done sensibly and responsibly, and the Southgate is on top of the movement towards normality; when it does, it’ll be something wonderful. Has lockdown made us appreciate the simpler things in life we once took for granted? Not really, it’s always been this good.
Friday had been a not-so-great day, with lots of news about C**, pitched battles in the aisles of Morrisons over the last few toilet-rolls, and the cancellation of many sporting and other events. How to react to this desperate situation? Well it was obvious – go to the pub for a few beers and to listen to some live music.
It was The Southgate’s landlady Debs’ birthday week-end, so some great music (as always) was promised. And it all kicked off on Friday night with locals Lewis Clark & The Essentials. Although the band had played this venue before, I’d managed to miss them last time out, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d been told that they were wonderfully hard to pigeon-hole, but that they were an acoustic based band, blending folk, soul, and blues.
Lewis’ band on this occasion consisted of the man himself on vocals and guitar, accompanied by upright bass and keyboards, and they had just kicked off their first number when I got there. I was with friends and so started the evening by chatting to them, but the chat soon died away as we all relaxed and really began to listen to this very talented performer. This was no mere pub background music. None of us wanted to ignore what was clearly some very fine music.
The first thing that struck me was Lewis’ incredible voice. His range, delivery and vocal style were completely arresting and mesmerising. Coupled with some wonderful jazz-like phrasing, his vocals absolutely carried the night. The effortless musicianship of the band supported Lewis’ songs through a whole range of musical styles and influences – folk, jazz, blues, latin, roots, soul – sometimes within the same song. The result was a spell-binding fusion of melodies, haunting lyrics, and an eclectic and varied performance.
The trio produced two superb sets of original music, and still managed to work in a few covers, to which they lent their own fresh interpretation. Stand-outs among the latter were a mash-up of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” with the Guess Who’s “American Woman”, and later on Free’s “All Right Now”, which all received a damned good seeing-to.
In total, it was tour de force performance – lyrical, multi-influenced, impossible to pigeon-hole, and thoroughly entertaining.
And, yes, after self-medicating with beer, I did wash my wash hands at appropriate times during the evening.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
• Saturday 14th March Lightnin’ Hobos • Saturday 21st March Eddie Witcomb • Sunday 22nd March Vince Bell • Saturday 28th March Mark Smallman Band • Sunday 29th March Gary Hall
Everyone having a nice March so far, been alright, innit? I promised, when I featured the first fortnight of events, here, that I would return to complete the last two weeks. I’ve promised this before and totally spaced on it, for which I apologise; not enough hours in the day. Nothing to do with my goldfish memory. Here though, this month, I’ve actually only gone and done it, before the 31st March too! See below if you don’t believe it’s true, the last fortnight in March, stuff to do while waiting for the supermarkets to restock on bog roll, and all that. I know, it scares me sometimes too.
Bear in mind, mind, our calendar is constantly updating, so do check in as more events and gigs are bound to magically appear like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben.
Sunday 15th is where we were up to, and I got two fantablous gigs, Burbank are the White Bear in Devizes, while Jon Amor is at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon; nice.
Monday, I never know if the Devizes Folk Club is on down the Lamb or not, to be frank, but it’s a place for a beer if I’m wrong and it’s not!!
Tuesday 17th The Stonehenge lecture at the Wiltshire Museum is now sold out. Celebrated cartoonist and artist, Norman Thelwell is at The Merchant’s House in Marlborough, for a fascinating hour illustrated talk, tracing his life, passions and artistic development. Thelwell produced 1,500 cartoons and 60 front covers for the famed Punch magazine alone and some 32 books translated into a dozen different languages. His works were full of beautifully observed detail and mainly of rural subjects, including country and leisure pursuits, sport, house sales and renovation, stately homes, gardening and sailing. Failing that, Cracknakeel provides live music at The Sun in Frome for their St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Wednesday 18th is jam-packed, for a Wednesday! Acoustic jam down the Southgate, Devizes. Bromham’s Farm Cookery School has a Taste of Morocco class, where you could be learning how to make a Briouat which is like a Moroccan Samosa, make your own Khobz and Kefta Mkaouara. £40.00 per person. Over in Marlborough David Evans gives the second of three lectures in The Merchant’s House Study Series, focussing on Reformation in England and the Arts. The Roots Sessions continues at Frome’s Cheese & Grain with the fantastic Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.
Thursday 19th and you could be back down The Farm Cookery School in Bromham for a Mozzarella & Halloumi Masterclass with Josie. She will teach how to make both cheese which is technical but fun! £35.00 per person. The fantastic Ed Byrne is at the Bath Forum and Moles has a punky/metal night with the Anarchist’s Bookfair, Butter The Pavement and Out Of Reach.
If it’s a slow start to the week, Friday 20th March makes up for it. If, like me, all you know about Jesus Christ Superstar is that he came down from heaven on a Yamaha, and you have doubts with your conviction of that, it’s the opening night for this amateur production by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical portrayal of the last seven days of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot runs until Sat 28th March and while tickets are still available as I write this, do be as quick, as if you were on a Yamaha yourself; take care not to skid though!
Meanwhile Devizes Town Hall is the place to head for opera fans, as The White Horse Opera presents their Spring Concert. Including Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan and Hadyn’s Creation, this would be the perfect introduction to opera for those, like me, who thought Donizetti was a type of pasta sauce!
If you fancy music more pop, the local supergroup I’m always raving about, the Female Of The Species play Melksham’s Assembly Hall. Fusing all their respective band’s influences, expect the best of rock, soul and ska as the girl’s combine forces for a fun-filled gig; I’ve been to see one of these shows and I’m not hyping it up because they’re all awesome chicks, I highly recommend it!
Day one of two, at the inspiring Shoebox Theatre in Swindon of their FUSE Festival where six emerging artists test a new performance idea over three days. Fuse is about supporting the beginnings of new work before it’s fully developed. Watch, discuss, and be part of the creation of something brilliant. Two performances Kat Lyons’ Dry Season, interweaving music and movement with original spoken word poetry and extracts from medical literature. And the debut one-woman-show from Mighty Mammal Theatre, Swine of the Times, where you can meet the piggies at the troff; they sing songs, say prayers and even mime. Alice Wolff-Whitehouse employs her skills in physical comedy, dance and song to bring to life a series of flawed and quintessentially British characters, looking at the grotesque nature of privilege in the UK through a warped and colourful lens.
Staying in Swindon, Baila Coffee & Vinyl have some Disco Voodoo with DJ Amir, or try indie rock covers with Joli & the Souls at the Vic. Elsewhere, the Leathers play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon, Clannad are at Bath Forum, and Jack Dee’s Off The Telly tour is at Salisbury City Hall.
Saturday 21st then. After the hugely successful free concert in the Market Place last summer, The Full Tone Orchestra have taken their show to Marlborough, and return to town to rave the night away at the Corn Exchange. Taking the most popular section of their show, the club anthems, expect this to be something innovative and all glowsticks, as conductor Anthony Brown’s beloved orchestra reproduce the club classics which defined an era.
The Cavalier go country with the Stone Mountain Sinners, caught these guys before, they’ve a refreshing approach to country-rock which is a cut above the rest. And breezy, original songwriter Ed Witcomb makes a welcome return to The Southgate. For surf beats, odd time signatures, eccentric tunes and irony-fuelled free jazz, try The Barge at Honeystreet, where bonkers surf surrealists Mustard Allegro do their stuff.
Super Trooper Abba tribute, Sensations grace the Seend Community Centre, while Swindon’s Meca has a Whitney Houston tribute. Don’t forget though, it’s day two of the Shoebox’s Fuse Festival too.
Mercy Lounge at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon. Recommended ska night at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar with the Train To Skaville, and Paul Carrick is at Bath Forum.
Head to the Southgate for an afternoon pint or three, on Sunday 22nd, and our fantastic singer-songwriter Vince Bell will entertain you. Meanwhile, Groovelator play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford.
Tuesday, Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall have the latest Ken Loach film, Sorry We Missed You, which you will be if you miss this one film fans. Full of drama, tension and heartbreak. Ricky and Debbie are the parents of teenage children. Ricky joins the ‘gig’ economy with a franchise for a parcel delivery firm. The job is sold to him as one where he will become master of his own destiny. Providing, that is, he complies with the labyrinth of deadlines, rules and conditions imposed by the company, a near impossible task. Debbie is a care worker who wants to care for the old people as though they are her Mam. But her working conditions thwart her in doing the job as she thinks fit. This modern Dickensian story dramatises the conflict between work and family life in contemporary Britain.
Don’t forget Wednesday’s acoustic Jam down the Southgate, and blues-folk singer Elles Bailey is with Phil King at the Chapel Arts, Bath. Thursday you can witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen at The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour, coming to the Salisbury City Hall. Staying in Devizes on the last Thursday of every month though is no bore, as the regular and celebrated open mic night at the Cellar Bar is something to behold.
Seventies punk bands never had such a great name as Brighton’s Peter & The Test Tube Babies. Still going strong forty years on, they play the Vic in Swindon on Friday 27th. Tenner on the door. Swindon also has an Improv Jam at The Shoebox, and homemade function band Locomotion at the Swiss Chalet.
While it’ll sadly never be possible for the boys to be back in town, Preston’s tribute Twin Lizzy will. They make a welcomed return to the Cavalier, Devizes on Friday. Meanwhile, the Devizes & District Twinning Association take over the town hall to bring us some French Café Music with Jac & Co, tickets are also a tenner for both these diverse evenings.
How much more diverse do you want? A dedicated club night for adults with Learning Disabilities? This Is Me at the wonderful charity youth centre, Young Melksham is precisely that, a night of great music and friendship. There’s a series of these events, first one is Friday.
Another welcomed return to Marlborough Folk-Roots at the Town Hall on Friday, when Steve Knightley explores the themes and stories that inspire him and shows how music and words can become lyrics and chords and notes can meld to create songs that acquire a life of their own.
For want of an authentic tribute band, From The Jam play The Cheese & Grain in Frome, and I’ve heard all good stories about them. If originals are what you want though, The Queen’s Head in Box has a double-booking Friday. Katy Hurt stretches the country music genre in exciting new directions; haunting blues vocals, towering country rock guitars, even a reggae vibe, and she is followed by psychedelic alternative rock band, The Bohemian Embassy.
Saturday night of the 28th March is alright, but no fighting, please. Time for the Devizes Lions’ Spring Concert at St Andrew’s Church, where Ian Diddams comperes Bath Coleman, Bangers & Nash, and the Trowbridge & District Youth Band. Tickets are £10, proceeds to Wiltshire Young Carers.
The Corn Exchange has a Gin Festival. Tribute act, Motley Crude are The Cavalier and local heroes Rockhoppaz play The Black Swan. For high octane original and classic rock mixed with some tasteful Bluesy tracks, check the Mark Smallman Band at the Southgate.
Devizine is the unofficial Tamsin Quin fan club, if you wanna hear why, head to Bromham’s Owl on Saturday. Another Abba Tribute, Swede Dreams play Market Lavington Community Hall.
Highly recommended for the mods, The Roughcut Rebels are at The Pheasant in Chippenham. Also, Blondie & Ska are great fun, they’re at the Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, checking ahead, they play in Devizes, at the Pelican in May. The Blue Rose Band at The Westbury Conservative Club and an Amy Winehouse tribute at Bath’s Odd Down AFC & Social Club. Level III have a “One Step Beyond-ska and punk club-night.
Elsewhere in Swindon, homemade Damm at Coleview Community Centre and P!nk tribute, Beautiful Trauma play Brookhouse Farm, and a Pearl Jam tribute, Earl Jam at the Vic.
Sophie Matthews explores the links between the visual and the aural in a one-hour presentation at the Merchant’s House, Marlborough. Drawing on the works of great painters including Brueghel, Hogarth and Rigaud, Sophie presents a feast of images featuring historical woodwind instruments in their original social context interspersed with live performances of historical music using authentic instruments.
Sunday 29th – Nearly there, and breath…. Yin Yoga & Gong Bath at Devizes Corn Exchange, The Sunday Sessions continue at The White Bear with Matt Cook and Gary Hall at The Southgate. There’s a Comic-Con at Bath Pavilion, to be frank, it’s a commercial affair rather than a genuine “comic” con, with cosplay, gaming and meeting vague TV actors and ex-Gladiators, but might be fun for the kids.
That’s it, folks, March done, save Bradford on Avon Folk Club have Geoff Lakeman on Tuesday 31st. Let’s regroup in April, but feedback on these articles are needed. Do they work for you? Long-winded I know, but in order to fit it in. Devizine is a work in progress, I enjoy and need to know what’s working and what’s not. So, if you’ve read this far, I salute you! Tell me about it!
“Norm!” – brilliant, wasn’t he? A kind of anti-hero pre-Homer Simpson. Part of the furniture in Sam’s Bar and despite him being an average guy, when he walked in the whole place lit up. It defined the lyric of the Cheers theme song, “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”
If I awakened from my hibernation Saturday night to attend the wonderful Festival of Winter Ales, such was the arrangement of tables in the Corn Exchange, it felt like the sort of event you appeared at with a posse of friends. For Billy-no-mates here, I’m kind of scanning the horizon for people to hassle with my company. So, I nipped out towards the end, knowing what I was doing; I had a calling.
There is a place in Devizes akin to Sam’s Bar in Cheers, I could visit anytime, but it’s been a while and knowing what’s occurring there, resistance is futile. It takes a few minutes in the winter wind to turn the corner and get the Southgate in my sights, but I’m immediately assimilated into the Borg collective upon hearing her song. While the Southgate strives to bring us a variety of live music acts, regular as clockwork, freely, and from varying locations, Tamsin Quin’s distinctive voice summons me, the very essence of her hometown. It’s like returning for a homemade roast dinner, or a New Jersey resident going to see Springsteen.
There’s enthusiastic talk between them, about the amalgamation to be, The Lost Trades, yet the trio aren’t leaking any secrets until their debut at the Village Pump. Gate as welcoming as ever, Jamie R Hawkins billed for tonight, “with friends.” You know this is a local circumstance, sharing of the limelight a must, with flare and passion for the venue and crowd, it reflects into their performances. Phil Cooper is like Clark Griswold, if Jamie and Tamsin are Rusty and Audrey, but Vince Bell is also in attendance, so I don’t know where it leaves him! I mean this in so much as Phil is the organised one, with a setlist scheduled, he’s professional in all aspects of the game, providing order to their show. Jamie is sauntering and socialising, before being beckoned to the now legendary red-carpet makeshift stage, “oh, is it my turn?!”
At that conjunction you’d expect a song come over muddled, but Jamie, like the others, just rolls into it and knocks out the perfect rendition of his own classic, “As Big as You.” Yep, I’m in my comfort zone, with or without an easy chair.
Through all their subtle differences, the trio work, period. As we’ve said here, The Lost Trades will be a natural progression from the sporadic and less formal amalgamations. Phil is thrilled, nodding and telling me how well the harmonies work, and it’s unusual to have a boy-girl-boy harmony trio. The conversation progressing onto Simon & Garfunkel citing the Everly Brothers as the unsurpassed vocal harmony. In this line of chat, you can sense Phil’s passion and love for what he does, and with every performance it shows. If anything, that is the symmetry within this triangle, Tamsin and Jamie sport the same proficiency and appetite.
I’ll go as far as illustrating this point: later in the evening, after each performer took their turn until Clark’s schedule ran out and the punters craved more, improv covers streamed. Landlady Deborah handed Phil a drum and his eyes lit up like a kid with a new X-Box; “oh yes!” he thrilled, and joined Jamie with it, strumming. There are no prizes for guessing the improv would take over, once drinks were flowing, and with the gang helping one another out. There are subtle hints as to how the Lost Trades will sound, and it’s simply awesome.
For now, though, they’re still three separate performers with an intimate ethos, and Vince is equally involved, rather than treated like a prodigal son. That’s the spirit in a nutshell; be it George, Kirsty, or others, it’s a family affair to make Sister Sledge envious. That’s precisely why Devizine celebrates this little circuit. In a sentence, it’s guaranteed to be an awesome night, and thus it was, with a very special added surprise.
There is nought negative I could say about it. Between acts, if there was a confusion who was up next, the crowd ardently called for “Ed” to take another. I didn’t like to inquire, something I missed? If another singer was present, I didn’t see him, just a ten-year-old sitting on a stool amidst the regulars. Ed did take the stage, the very same; no one nicked his stool.
If the near future of our local music scene is the progression of these talented adults, we just glimpsed the future beyond. Ed took up his acoustic guitar, played an Oasis cover superbly, and effortlessly raised the roof. What a surprise and absolute gem, reflecting in all I’ve said about the family atmosphere. I chanced my luck and caught a quick chat with Ed, who came across mature and at ease. Oasis songs his comfort zone, for now, he expressed, it was his first time performing to an audience, it did not show. To get an entire pub singing along, no easy feat, well done Ed; you owned it.
There had been some concern that this gig might not go ahead after Jon Amor was forced to cancel Thursday night’s outing to The Beehive in Swindon due to illness. But fortunately for us, and thanks to the amazing healing properties of Lemsip, Jon’s latest home-town gig went ahead as planned. And even being a bit under the weather, Jon was on good form.
King Street Turnaround is one of Jon’s latest band outings, formed at the end of last year, and features Jerry Soffe on bass, Evan Newman on keyboards and Tom Gilkes behind the drums. And what an outfit it is. The band rolled into the Southgate and blew us all away.
What did we get? We got soul, funk, blues, boogie-woogie and rock. This was high-octane stuff, delivered with confidence and panache. We got some great solos from each member of the band, including the always-expected wizardry from Jon’s squealing lead guitar. How he manages to squeeze some of those sounds from that one guitar is simply amazing.
And we got tight, driving rhythms that gave a solid platform to some great improvisation work. We got a band that could dial it up, then dial it down, then back up to eleven again. We got a dance-floor packed with people having a good time. We got very little time wasted on inter-song chat, just lots and lots of music that spoke for itself. It was hot, it was sweaty, it was great.
Highlight of the night for me was the band getting in the groove to deliver a fearsomely good performance of “Juggernaut”. It’s got to that point with me now that if Jon doesn’t play this monster of a song, I almost feel short-changed!
Are we allowed to say that it was shit-hot? Can we say that? Yes – it was shit-hot!
Yet another belting gig from Mr Amor and friends, and yet another inspired booking by Debs and Dave at The Southgate. Live music at its very best.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
• Friday 28th February The Shudders
• Saturday 29th Feb Plus Friends
• Friday 6th March Barrelhouse
• Saturday 7th March Jon Pollard
• Friday 13th March Lewis Clark & The Essentials
• Saturday 14th March Lightnin’ Hobos
After the previous night’s superb gig with The Arnie Cottrell Tendency (see other review elsewhere in Devizine), it was back to The Southgate for something completely different. From gentle Americana on a Friday to straight-up pub-rock on a Saturday night. Part of me was concerned that the night just couldn’t be as good, but I needn’t have worried. Different music genre, different vibe, but still excellent.
Navajo Dogs, formed in 2016, are a local blues-influenced rock band. Consisting of Simon Hansen on vocals, Tom Evans on lead guitar, Kieran McLaughlin on rhythm guitar/ vocals, Jonny Wallhouse on drums/ vocals and Graham Hill on bass, these guys are one solid entertainment unit. The music is loud and uncompromising, the performances are hot, sweaty, sweary and in your face.
Covering a wide range of pop/ rock/ blues classics, outstanding numbers for me were Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone’s A Winner”, Free’s “Fire and Water”, Prince’s “Purple Rain”, The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Sam The Sham’s “Woolly Bully”, but there were plenty more. The dance-floor was full all night long, and the crowd clearly appreciated their no-nonsense, no-apologies style. This was 4-star leaded, full cream, full fat pub-rock. It was thumping, steady, rocking and totally infectious. Great vocals, nice guitar work.
Two superb gigs on two consecutive nights. This is what live music is all about.
Friday night is music night, so where else to go other than the ever-welcoming Southgate? Once again Dave and Deb had found a wonderful band to fill the pub…..
I managed to miss the very start of the gig, but then stayed to catch the rest of it, and was still sitting there at nearly midnight.
What had been originally billed as The Velvet Doonicans had morphed into The Arnie Cottrell Tendency. Same people, same band. Whatever. Whoever. Either way Arnie Cottrell, Rick Foote and Graham Bushell played a simply superb gig. Featuring upright bass, acoustic and steel guitars, mandolin, and shared vocals blending into double and triple harmonies, the trio produced music that was magical, melting, melodic and absolutely mesmerising. This was Americana at its best.
The guys were clearly confident and comfortable with their music and with each other, and produced some stunning versions of Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country”, Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”, and The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek”. Every song was easy on the ear, relaxed and understated, delivered with panache and some wonderful self-deprecating good humour.
Song after song was wheeled out, and I dearly wanted to go home and get my head down for the night, but there was no way I was leaving whilst these guys were still playing. Such superb musicianship just drew you in. It was warm, lovely, embracing, mesmerising and – well – brilliant. No other word for it.
Yet another reminder that it’s absolutely worth getting your arse in gear, going out into the night and supporting live music venues like the Southgate.
It was Saturday night, which could mean only one thing – free live music at The Southgate!
Jack Grace was a figure new to me, so thought I better give him a good old listen – be rude not to. And so pleased that I made the effort to go and see him.
Jack’s band is described as delivering “Country Rock with a Latin Twang” and that was certainly much in evidence. The trio were already operating at full blast when I walked in, and rarely if ever let the tempo and the excitement level drop. The pub was full, the dance-floor crowded, and the band were cooking. They gave us two superb sets of music that was loud, exciting and great to listen to.
We got lots of styles – country, country/ rock, R&B, boogie-woogie, rock n’ roll, and little bit of vaudeville, all delivered with some panache, confident playing and a good deal of humour. There were musical nods in there to Tom Waits, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Johnny Cash, and many others. Jack and his band seem to be constantly on the road, and their playing reflected a close understanding, driving rhythms as tight as a nut, and some very assured vocals and guitar playing. Yet this didn’t mean any kind of complacency or just running through the numbers. The band were not afraid to experiment, and to completely let rip at times. And the crowd absolutely loved it.
To me, this is what live music is all about – musicians who want to deliver a great show, and a crowd that really wants to listen. A completely belting gig, and a fabulous live band.
• Friday 7th February Velvet Doonicans
• Saturday 8th February Navajo Dogs
• Friday 14th February Trevor Babajack Steger
• Saturday 15th February Mike Barham
• Friday 21st February Kent Duchaine
• Sunday 23rd February CRC
• Friday 28th February The Shudders
Hibernation, like a bear, saving motivation and funds for Christmas, spent too much at the Lantern Parade? Ah, a bit of all three meant it was only to be a whistle stop at the Southgate Saturday night. When I should’ve been at the Sham’s Assembly Hall for the Female of the Species, and I should’ve been in Trow-Vegas for Sheer’s gig too. Without cloning technology, the pressure usually melts my enthusiasm entirely, and opt to I slob on the sofa cuddling a packet of digestives, chocolate ones, naturally. Yet if just a pint at the dependable local couldn’t persuade me,after reviewing the forthcoming live album from Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue I simply couldn’t resist.
And for all the thoroughly deserved lovely things I had to say about it, I propped this gig on a pedestal, but was far away from disappointment. The band started with Hold It, and blasted Baby Please Come Home, virtually replicating this live album. Best thing at the Southgate is the communal feel, beneficial to meet and greet the artists; I was a handshake away from Ruzz Evans and the band, which I did, and with it he explained they often begin with that formula and mix it up thereafter. The advantage though was not our quick chat, but the close inspection of Ruzz handling that guitar, as it’s something spectacular and I watched in awe.
Unsure if I got the ball rolling fittingly, as I mumbled, “you make that look so easy,” at the suited Bristolian caked in perspiration. Clearly, and as I expressed in our album review, blasting a lengthy and vigorous rock n roll chef-d’oeuvre like this takes stamina! I knew what I meant though, they did make it look like child’s play, the band equally as proficient as the front man.
So, a high-energy blast of traditional rock n roll blended with acute blues blessed the trusty Southgate, a never-ending foundation of great, free, live music in Devizes. Here’s the twist; it’s the uniqueness of Ruzz and crew, amidst the conventional rock n roll cliché of Elvis or Buddy tributes, passé eighties rockabilly four-pieces, and nostalgic but substandard fifties cover bands, Ruzz simply doesn’t come off like that. Mostly fresh, original works; if there were covers, they were rarities, and delivered with the youthful energy and passion of an era of yore.
I can’t keep on this glorious new find, I’m not even a rocker! But when stripped back to the roots, as authentically as this, all pop genres combine and there’s no need to pigeonhole. Funny, in reflection, and considering diverse fifties artists like Buddy Holly, how close mod’s and rocker’s tastes were, yet at the time, reason to fight. Look, just read our album review, will you, before I waffle on a tangent? Which, incidentally, is released February but available for pre-order today. There’re also two previous studio albums, and Ruzz returns this way in March at the Sports Club, (see poster) if not before.
After the utter chaos, madness and mayhem of the previous night at The Southgate featuring the totally bonkers 7-piece Back Wood Redeemers (see the review by esteemed colleague Mr Worrow), I thought I’d start my musical Sunday afternoon back at the same venue to see if there was anything left standing. Surprisingly all previous traces had been removed, and occupying the red carpet of musical fame was the small, lonesome figure of Mr Thompson Smurthwaite.
I’d last seen Thompson play a few weeks back at Long Street Blues Club, supporting local legend Jon Amor. On that occasion he’d played a wonderful set, if anything slightly over-awed by the size of the crowd and the great warmth of the reception to his playing. But I’d been impressed by what I’d heard, and was looking forward to hearing him in slightly more intimate surroundings.
And I was not disappointed. Thompson has a lovely laid-back, casual, self-deprecating style of talking to his audience, as if chatting to just a few friends. And indeed he was among friends this afternoon. Guitar, voice and harmonica were all employed to great effect to deliver a wonderful set of self-penned smoky-sounding blues. His material is often personal, and reflects his experience of life, both on the canals and elsewhere. His playing style is relaxed, unfussy and genuine. Most songs are slow, rolling, rambling numbers – and all delivered with a thin, reedy, drawling vocal. And the crowd received his sets with warmth and genuine appreciation.
It’s a great tribute to the Southgate that Dave & Deb continue to provide such a diverse range of free musical entertainment every weekend. You really couldn’t get a greater contrast between last night’s rollicking 7-piece band and this afternoon’s laid-back solo blues artist. And yet both worked so well in the pub, and provided superb entertainment.
Then back down into town to The White Bear for their latest Sunday Session. Big shout-out to Georgie & Marc too, who’ve just celebrated their first year of being in Devizes, and who have already made a difference in terms of pub dining, craft beer and musical entertainment.
This afternoon’s offering was the return of the very versatile, and very talented, Ian O’Regan. Ian had impressed so much on his first visit a couple of months ago that they got him back again. This time, although I’ve heard Ian many times, was probably one of his very best performances. Newly-refreshed (or tired) from his recent trip to Nashville, Ian was on top of his game. As usual, he reeled out number after number from across the musical spectrum, hardly pausing for breath. Ian is a chatty, friendly soul, but once he picks up his guitar, he’s off and running. Again we got two sets of perfectly-crafted, superbly-delivered music. Great versions of John Martyn’s “May You Never”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and even Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune” were interspersed with the occasional O’Regan original. His playing, and his vocals, as ever, were absolutely spot-on. The crowd loved it, and dispersed into the late-afternoon murk of Devizes, with smiles on their faces. Great gig.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
• Friday 22nd Nov The Idle Silence, The Leathers, Mighty Magic Animals
• Sat 23rd Nov Jamie R Hawkins
• Friday 29th Nov Duskers
• Sat 30th Nov Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Review
Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:
• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell
Yet another blinding night’s entertainment at the Southgate, as Frome’s Back Wood Redeemers came, saw and kicked ass….
His banjo to one side for a beer break, Flounder Murray perched on the step as I defined the live music scene in Devizes as thriving. As most Saturday nights we were spoiled for choice; People Like Us, I explained, popular locally, playing the Three Crowns, and there’s Britpop trio Billy Green 3 heading the Crown, rock n roll at the Rotary’s sixties-themed Presidents Night at the Cons Club, an Elvis tribute at the Cavalier and a gin and bourbon festival at the Corn Exchange. Not even touching upon various village gigs, such as Splat the Rat who played the Cross Keys in Rowde. I really need a clone, or five!
The area’s population is approximately 31,000, I’ve researched now, but returned the question on the night with a blank stare. Inevitable if you’ve not heard of Frome’s Back Wood Redeemers, this one passed you by. Alas, you missed out on what was a no-brainer for me, since Flounder last appeared here as part of the band The Boot Hill All Stars and blew the roof off with an original blend of grinding, upbeat folk and gypsy ska. It was one sweaty night. Though a quieter Saturday at the trusty Southgate didn’t damped the atmosphere, just rather more intimately contained.
An altogether unusual seven-piece band squeezed into the tight space, I expected no less then crusty beards, the circus attire of vintage suits, bowler hats, clown trousers and stripy tights and anything goes. Armed with an electric guitar, harmonica and drums, nothing unusual there I’ll grant you, but throw in a banjo, two, yes two double basses, a pink electric mandolin made to look like a mini guitar, and a fellow propped in the alcove with a trombone, might just invoke an appropriate image as to how bonkers it was; might.
Described as “songs of dark country, twisted blues & religious fervour,” BWR did what it said on the tin. The mood on my entry was melodically paced; on asking Flounder the difference between them and the Boot Hills he expressed the hunt for vintage blues or country songs, even gospel and the ethos of twisting them into this west country folk. We talked of ska and how it developed in a similar manner as rock n roll, those rhythm and blues rarities very much standard radio airplay across the Americas. Yet Flounder pronounced the need to cover artists such as Tom Waits and Nick Cave too, and with his archetypical gritty vocals these artists are apt.
Flounder though did not front all the tunes, the band clearly a collective as the double-bass man in tights straddled off his instrument to parade around like Bez of the Happy Monday’s, singing fervently with an expressive dance routine to boot. The second half promised to be dirtier, faster and grittier, and did just this. Through the promised murky country tunes, those Somerset folks threw everything at this original blend. Think of a Wurzels-Levellers combo as a Northern Soul band at the Hacienda’s Madchester era trying their hand at jump-blues, you might come somewhere near! Yet whatever pigeonholes you care to throw at it, in the jest of this band who daren’t take themselves seriously, it’s lively, crazy and highly entertaining.
Danceable too, once a Nick Cave song finished, the Train to Skaville riff teased the audience, and Flounder bounced into Toots & The Maytals’ 54-46, only for a melody of Tainted Love and the Cure’s Love Cats to follow. Yet aside the crowd-pleasers, it’s the proficient general skulduggery of instrumentation and upbeat sound which fuses the frenzy of the Back-Wood Redeemers and makes them so appealing. The finale Bound to Glory being the icing on the cake, and perhaps more apt for the band’s description than those known pop tunes; but either way, all were executed sublimely and originally. It was, in short, a crazy, crazy night Kiss fans wouldn’t dream of.
As it’s been said, hats, and many of them, off to the Southgate, who, while the others tend to provide us with safe options of tributes and locally renowned acts, and there’s nought up with that, The Southgate strive to hunt for something different, and bring alternatives to town. With the attitude of providing free live music every weekend, of course, there is also plenty room for our local favourites too and while these make the best and most crowded nights here, when The Back Wood Redeemers are back around this zone, you’d be a fool to miss them.
A cheetah can achieve motorway speeds, but not long enough to get off the slip road; worthless trivia, unless you’re an antelope. I like to think cheetahs listen to rock n roll; no, hear me out. Akin to this feline fact, those RnB and rock n roll classics are one short burst of energy. Fortunately for the artists the 78rpm record lasted a maximum of five minutes, and for radio play they’d cut it to little over three, any longer they surely risk congestive heart failure.
As the era passed to late sixties, psychedelia stretched recorded music to live and extended dimensions Little Richard could never maintain. Mellowing tendency matured rock, but arguably robbed its dynamism. Ah, come the eighties twelve inch single and the mega-mix, prompting the question; why didn’t Glenn Close choose the Jive Bunny to boil?
Rare then it is, to hear a frenzied traditional rock n roll sound encompass ten minutes; welcome to Ruzz Evans’ world. Embodiment of Johnny B Goode, Ruzz can pick guitar like he’s ringing a bell, for an astounding period too. Due for release on 10th February, but available for pre-order from December 1st, I’ve been adoring this album recorded live at the Louisiana in Ruzz’s hometown of Bristol.
Forgive me for sustaining the rock n roll pigeonhole, for Ruzz has the quiff and is photographed in a teddy boy drape jacket. With backing from an incredible band including drummer Mike Hoddinott and upright bassist Joe Allen, the panache of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue straddles rock and its namesake blues. Since 2016, when they added an awesome horn trio to the roster, we can add big band jazz to their style. That’s my thoughts while absorbed in this, of what Miles Davis did to jazz, or Pink Floyd to prog rock, Ruzz does to traditional rhythm and blues come rock n roll; the result is breath-taking.
Bearing in mind his voice isn’t growling Tennessean, yet neither was Gene Vincent’s, rather quirky Bristolian, the vocals are sporadic, instruments reign. There’s an amusing conclusion to “Under Your Spell,” where 10 minutes of detonating electric blues is broken by a genuinely surprised thank you from Ruzz in said accent. This often amuses me, pondering, no, thank you, mate, I just clapped, you’ve just held me spellbound for ten minutes, the pleasure is all mine!
In this instance I’m not even there, merely listening on my headphones, but still entranced. While they’re Bristol based Ruzz and his Guitar’s Blues Revue are no strangers here, and you can catch them at the Southgate (Nov 30th), White Swan Trowbridge (tonight 9th Nov) at the R&B bar in March at Devizes Sports Club. I’m quivering, ashamed after hearing this that I’ve not caught them live yet; an offence I will rectify, you would too if you hear this.
Live at the Louisiana explodes from the off; the two, Hold It and Baby Please Come Home, for starters envelope all I’ve said, lively jump blues come big band rock n roll. Catchy, you’ll be lindy hopping before your first sip. Yet if Movin On groovily notches to allegro moderato, Back Home to Stay boogie-woogies again, and Sleepwalk is as dreamy as it suggests. The last two tunes, Sweet as Honey and the aforementioned Under You Spell embrace all we’ve so far said, making this release, I reckon, a treasure; fantastic!
With two self-released studios albums already under their big rockabilly buckles, and opening for Dr Feelgood, The BlockHeads, Kirk Fletcher and Bill Kirchen and Darrel Higham, they’re stamping an authority of quality worldwide. Ruzz has been honoured by being officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, and that’s what I perceive of him, the kind of obsessive guy who will turn any conversation to his labour of love, but when it’s this proficient, you cannot help but take heed. I’m off to find out what they can do in the studio, but with such a formula I think this live album captures the spirit perfectly.
Double-whammy night as I flipped between Alabaster Queen at the Southgate and Lottie J at the Crown, in search of the perfect evening’s entertainment.
Southgate, ah Southgate; hasn’t failed me yet. While the always excellent Long Street Blues Club will understandably ease the quantity of pedestrians hunting live music on a Saturday night in the Vizes, we’re seated seasonally between mid-autumn and the big C, and weather none too clement, it was a quiet start at the Southgate.
Gave me opportunity to become acquainted with an Alabaster Queen from Manchester, prior to her performance. Enthusiastic about her second visit to our gypsy canal favourite watering hole, claiming she thought she was eccentric until she turned up here. I asked her what’s in a tag, and she described her pale complexion attributed to this translucent form of gypsum namesake. The informative explanation which followed delved into marble imitation, statues being immersed in a bath and gradually heated is a process demanding great care; if the temperature is not measured, the stone acquires a dead-white, chalky presence. Yet the patterns created are diverse, relating back to a previous question when I asked what genre we were to expect, and she replied “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.”
Solo, the unique Alabaster Queen treated us to a series of elated covers, acoustic cabaret style with an air of positivity, confidence and tambourine. Off the starting block with Sympathy for the Devil and marching into Jolene, this queen delivered distinctively and fervently. Unsure if a song she called Jasper was her own writing, but this one wowed with passion. After a trip to bar, I heard a melody of Sweet Dreams and You Spin me Round (like a Record) flowing interesting into Bob Marley’s Pimper’s Paradise, an interesting choice noted when she surprisingly sang the toasted Damien Marley version, and made a stunning job of it.
With an abrasive voice characteristically resolute, Alabaster Queen is not about to whisk through an X-Factor final, yet made great work of Born to be Wild, and appeared to love every minute of her performance. The Floorshow was confident, the songs flourishing and therefore, this Queen deserves her crown.
I confess though, I sneaked out at this point, double-booked and on a mission to see Lottie J at The Crown. I passed a few groups either heading home early, or more than likely, heading in the direction of the Southgate, so I hope the audience picked up in the second half. Conflicting performance here, where at just 15 years old, Lottie’s voice is as smooth and silky as, well, smooth silk. The only similar aspect being her desire and passion. Chosen to take the keyboard out of the equation, Lottie used her laptop to provide the backbeat and concentrated on her vocals.
I cannot fault her voice; it’s perfected at such a young age it’s the envy of all others. My issue is with the surroundings, convinced the Crown had upped its previous rep as a rowdy cattle market of twenty-somethings, was quashed. I felt like a pensioner on a Club 18-30, my stubble too grey to be trendy here, amidst these trimmed beard perfectionists.
I’m not attempting to gripe grumpy old man style, The Crown is lively as always, we need this in Devizes, every town does. But I couldn’t help ponder if a plain ol’ disco would’ve been more apt, being Lottie sang so beautifully, profligate over a crowd hardly noticing her presence through chatter and noise. Likewise, Lottie needs to be pitched into an establishment where punters are appreciative and listen. There then is my dilemma, Lottie, in my opinion needs a session band who will take heed of this intelligent and imminent talent, who can cater for her sound and style, then she would be off the scale amazing. Yet, youth is on her side, and I wait in anticipation of her progress.
Outside my reservations were confirmed, as a young fellow angered at his unsolicited elimination and friends demanded he be allowed to return, despite the accusation he puked over the seats. There was an amicable conclusion without kerfuffle, and the chap wobbled away. I felt need of a scratch of the foresaid stubble, fine and dandy for the adolescent, unfortunately not my cuppa. If it wasn’t for Lottie, I’d rushed back to the Southgate, even if the pub Terrier attacked my shoelace!
Such a shame, with a tired Lottie J after a flight from her holiday, she performed immaculately, comparable with the Alabaster Queen, who in all honesty while she’s a well above average pub circuit act, Lottie I’m convinced is worthy of stardom, and time will tell, but really, The Crown is not the venue she should play.
For want of a grand Saturday, I received a mish-mash, to be honest. A great live music pub with a fairly great act, and a raucous glitzy bar with an extreme talent. To combine the two elements, one heck of a night would’ve been possible, c’est la vie.
Andy’s usual Sunday stroll around Devizes, hunting live music, took a different turn this weekend, as I interfered! In order to save time, treat this article as a roundup of all that happened to us both; a kind of music relay race!
Andy spent the early afternoon down our trusty Southgate, I met up with him on my maiden voyage to the White Bear. There is no apparent reason for my never having been to the White Bear, and now I realise neither was there an excuse. I immediately got my feet under the table; proper gorgeous pub, and what is more, George Wilding, sat in the alcove, doing his thing. But before that, here’s Andy’s start, before he handed the baton to me. Double-whammy, you lucky, lucky people!
REVIEW – Paul Cowley @ The Southgate, and George Wilding @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 27th October 2019
Fantastic Afternoon’s Entertainment
Sunday afternoons have been a happy hunting ground recently, and this week was no exception.
First up to the Southgate to see bluesman Paul Cowley. Originally from Birmingham, Paul now resides in France. He was paying the UK a visit with a few dates, so would have been a shame to miss him. What we got was a singer, a songwriter and a guitarist playing acoustic fingerstyle and slide guitar. Playing a mixture of his own compositions from his recent album “Just What I Know” and a number of Delta blues covers (from such luminaries as Lightnin Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Son House and the Memphis Jug Band), Paul served up the perfect afternoon of laid-back, moody and melodic blues. There was always a nice driving rhythm from the stomp-box and guitar, accompanied by a gravel-voiced lyric. And there was a good crowd to appreciate some fine entertainment.
Nice vibe, nice atmosphere, nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
But there was still more to come. Next on to The White Bear to listen to the incomparable George Wilding. George will probably be familiar to Devizes audiences, but I personally never tire of listening to the guy. Every show is completely different, since George tends to feed on the atmosphere in the room and requests from the audience for his next song, rather than relying on anything as mundane and organised as a written set-list. And I think he’s getting better as he goes along. He’ll have a go at just about any song (whether or not he knows all the words), and there’s no style he won’t cover – pop, rock, blues, easy listening. His rapport with the audience is genuine, and would be a great lesson to many other performers. His wry, sardonic and self-deprecating humour goes an awfully long way towards winning people over.
On this occasion it was also great to hear him singing a few of his own songs, mostly in response to requests from the audience, which he often puts in the background in favour of covers. Personally, I think he should be more confident in his own material, and serve up more of it.
Suffice to say, long before the end of his set, he had the whole pub singing along, and the calls for an encore were fully deserved.
Another great atmosphere and superb, great-value entertainment.
Future Gigs at The Southgate:
• Friday 1st November John E. Vistic
• Saturday 2nd November Alabaster Queen
• Sunday 3rd November Kent Duchaine
• Friday 8th November Triple JD Rock Band
• Saturday 9th November Jamie Willians & The Roots Collective
• Sunday 10th November Phil Cooper & The Slight Band
Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:
• 10th November Wade Merritt
• 17th November Ian O’Regan
• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell
Yep, agree with Andy’s words, yet I expect no less from George Wilding. His charisma and charm, coupled with passion and natural ability will satisfy an audience no end. I feel the confidence point is part of George’s appeal, almost a hallmark. George plays on this bashfulness, always with an excuse why this particular performance may not be up to his usual, then knocks it out of the park! While he nods appreciation to other’s songs, he wished he written, many anticipate the moment he’ll perform his originals.
Audience participation, isn’t it? He never shies to a request, even if he doesn’t know it. A question was fired at him, what’s his guilty pleasure? He confessed a liking for the song-writing of Abba, even if he deplored the production, expanding he never dared play one, as it was uncool. Dancing Queen fell forth, he owned it as well as other spoofy adaptations he’ll willing crowd please with. No other so apt this specific Sunday than Swing Low Sweet Chariot; the audience yelled along.
Devizes in the Round @ The Cavalier Community Hall
I thought I’d complete the evening with a journey to the Cavy, where Dean held a “Devizes in the Round;” a country music play-off between a selection of his favourites, all in aid of Lupus UK. The event only come to my attention hours beforehand. Melon twister as to how I missed it, gave Dean the usual spill about ensuring we’re alerted, he told me he had; shucks, many apologies to him.
Never an easy task, a niche, country, a Sunday night in Devizes too. Sadly, turnout was not great. Something crossed off my perpetually increasing to-do-list, to see how Dean had transformed the just adequate pub function room, into a club; but he has, and it’s impressive. There’s a secondary bar in the hall, and the stage is ample.
Here’s a Devizes gem you may’ve missed, and if country music is not your thing, although it’s Dean favourite, it’s still only a small section of all that goes on here. The Family Club ethos is that of the Northern working clubs, where variety is blessed by a pragmatic atmosphere. Tribute acts abound, Dean informs me the UB40 one, Johnny 2 Bad went down particularly well.
Do yourself a favour and keep an eye for future events at the Cavy, it’s a community-fuelled pub, as it ever was, and striving to provide diversity, and very often for a worthy cause.
All said and done, our heroine Tamsin Quin appeared. Playing to a slight crowd in her hometown, now she’s booked throughout the southwest and beyond, is a little shameful, Devizes. Nevertheless, Tamsin gave a stunning performance, as ever. I also welcomed a chat about her progress, and how a trip to Nashville inspired her.
This Nashville subject arose again when shuffling my chair across to meet another two acts, Josh Beddis and Danny McMahon, they told me of their customary pilgrimages and how well they’re received there. Both tremendously gifted fledgling acoustic performers in this field, blasts the erroneous stereotype country is for an older crowd. These guys treated us to a spectacularly sentimental set of originals, as country music will, alternating songs between them. Such, I was informed, was the nature of this “round” idea!
In the same light, Tamsin stepped forth after the break with another of Dean’s favourites, Zenne. Zenne’s talent knows no bounds, a matured confidence saw a worthy corporation with Tamsin. Country music may not be my favourite, but I was satisfied, and held spellbound by the music and lyrics of all these acts.
If we’re spoiled for choice on a Friday and Saturday in town for live music, I think we’ve proved it continues till Sunday too. Sometimes it needs a little support though, understandably being Monday looms, I’m guilty too, but hats off to the Southgate, White Bear and Cavalier for extending the weekend; bit less drizzly on Sunday too, wasn’t it?!
First to The Southgate, where Dave & Debs continue to provide a platform for acts of class entertainment. Today it was 5-piece folk-rockers Hadrian’s Union, a band completely new to me. Except that their fiddle-player Penny wasn’t actually with them, so they just carried on as a four-piece, on their Penny-less tour. Geddit? Oh, never mind.
The line-up included Saul Rose on drums, Brian Bell on 5-string bass, Robin Jowett on melodeon and keyboards, and founding member Stew Simpson on guitar and vocals. Saul Rose, who produced their last album, is as good as folk royalty, having played with a wide range of famous folk bands (Faustus, Mawkin, Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band). Normally he plays accordion, but had decided, just for the hell of it, to get back to his first love the drum-kit.
They hail from the debatable northern lands of the English and Scottish borders, and had had a very early start that morning in order to make this gig. Their name originates from the locality and mindset of the band, since their separate members are based along various points of Hadrian’s Wall. They come to the band from various music genres – folk, punk, rock, blues, Celtic, ska etc – which reflects in the music they create together. They quote their musical references as Lindisfarne, Jethro Tull, Stackridge, and The Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band.
I quickly discovered that this meant an eclectic and varied set of self-penned songs, but paying musical dues to all those traditions. One minute we were in full rock mode, the next minute we were in a folk club, listening to traditional morris tunes. If they are rockers, they were very folky, and if they were folkies, they had a mean line in driving blues/ rock. Great stuff, and the packed crowd really lapped it up, whooping and dancing to just about every number. The sound was relaxed, yet tight, and every number was delivered with confidence and impeccable timing.
Upcoming gigs at The Southgate are:
• Friday 27th Sept Pink Tribute (Beautiful Trauma)
• Saturday 28th September Phase Rotate & Cobalt Fire
• Friday 4th October James Hollingsworth
• Saturday 5th Oct ober Jon Walsh
Then back into town to the White Bear, for the latest of Marc & Georgie’s Sunday Sessions, this week featuring local favourite and all-round good egg Jamie R Hawkins. It’s a sign of the level of esteem in which Jamie is held that this was probably the best crowd these Sunday Sessions have attracted so far. This time not surrounded by & supported by his musical friends, but playing the whole of his two sets on his own, Jamie delivered (as ever) a superb performance of self-penned and very personal songs. Those of us who have been following him for a while are obviously familiar with much of his material, but we never tire of hearing those songs again, especially when each performance (like this one) is delivered with such intensity and feeling. And of course, we liked the way he works in the new songs. The atmosphere was great, the crowd loved it, and we had a great afternoon all round.
Next week’s Sunday Session (29th Sept) @ The White Bear @ 5pm features Fraser Tilley.
Another busy Sunday afternoon of free music gigs around the town.
First to Hillworth Park for the much under-advertised “Lark In The Park”. I’ve heard of stealth marketing, but sometimes I think Fantasy Radio can take this too far. I saw/ heard very little about this, apart from one post on Facebook, so I wasn’t surprised to turn up an hour after the start of this event to find very few people there. Granted the weather forecast wasn’t great, but I suspect they’d get bigger audiences if they told a few more people what was going on. I managed to catch Clare doing a short set before the heavens opened in mid-afternoon then, like others, took refuge in the café for a coffee. Once it became obvious that the rain wasn’t going to stop any time soon, the few brave souls who’d turned up just melted away. I decided to join them. Bit of a wash-out.
Fortunately the Southgate is just round the corner so I settled in there with a pint, and was soon joined by friends. The entertainment was provided by Kimberley Rew on guitar, and his wife & partner-in-crime Lee Cave-Berry on bass. Rew’s main claim to fame is having been guitarist and song-writer with Katrina & The Waves, having penned their big hit “Walking on Sunshine”, followed later in 1999 by “Love Shine A Light” when the band won the Eurovision Song Contest (remember that??). Since the band’s demise, Rew has produced a string of solo albums, and has clearly not lost the knack of writing catchy tunes.
The duo served up plenty of bop-along material, blending riffs from pop, boogie-woogie, rock and blues. There was some fine lead guitar from Rew, and solid vocals from both. If anything, it was a bit too exciting for a rainy Sunday afternoon, but absolutely nobody was complaining. It certainly blew out the cobwebs.
By the end of their first set, the weather had started behaving itself again, and the sun made a belated appearance. So I made my way back down into town, and to the White Bear to catch Eddie Witcomb.
Eddie hails from up the road in Marlborough, and he’d pulled along his dad and a mate or two. So we had the start of a small, but beautifully-formed, audience which grew in size as the afternoon turned into early evening. Eddie did two sets, nicely blending his own very personal material with some carefully selected covers. We were treated to his versions of “Paranoid”, “Roxanne”, “Tears In Heaven” and “Stand By Me”, amongst others. His own songs were well-turned, featuring some fine playing, and delicate vocals. It was a mark of the quality of these songs, that they were as strongly received as the covers. His style was relaxed, and he was fully ready to engage in banter with the audience. He did confide that he was playing with a bit of a hangover, but if he was there was very little sign of it.
So another great (free) Sunday of music around the town. I think we just shaded it – Weather 1, Music 2, and we all went home happy yet again.
Another little stroll up the hill on Saturday night to The Gate to see Swindon-based The Bone Chapel.
Drawn in by their billing as “cosmic Blues featuring broken guitars, shamanic percussion and whisky- soaked original songs of salvation, damnation, lost dreams, hope and love”, I had to admit I was intrigued to see if that was actually what they delivered. TBH it wasn’t. I’m not sure that any of that was ever actually on offer, just nicely-turned marketing bollocks. But on the positive side I did get to see and hear a rather excellent band.
The duo, consisting of guitar/ vocals and drums, got off to a gentle, laid-back start. It took a little while to get the crowd actually listening, rather than chatting, but once they got into their stride, things picked up quite a bit. There was nothing showy, nothing forced or strained, just some very competent blues and boogie-woogie. Folks started dancing and getting into the swing. We got some nice covers, including a great version of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, which went down a storm. And, for a mere two-piece, they laid down some great sounds, and nicely-textured toons.
There were no broken guitars – but there was some great playing. There was no shamanic percussion – but there was good drumming. The crowd built, the crowd stayed, and the crowd liked what they heard. Can’t say fairer than that.
Another good gig – thanks Debs & Dave!
Future gigs at The Southgate (all FREE) are:
Friday 16th August: Broken Bones Matilda
Saturday 17th August: The Corsairs
Friday 23rd August: Beyond The Storm
Saturday 24th August: Sophia & The Soul Brothers
Sunday 25th August: Vince Bell
Friday 30th August: Daydream Runaways
Sunday 1st September: Gary Hall
In that year of the breakdancing fad waning my brother went off and bought Born in the USA, and we became Boss fans overnight. So, he nipped out and bought Nebraska too, and we were like, “oh…”
It took some time for my infantile mind, accustomed to pop, to appreciate acoustic, but as I listened to those dark portrayals, I saw the worth of the simplicity of just a person, a guitar and maybe a harmonica for good measure. I understood now, if a musician can strip back his music to the bear minimum and still captivate, they were among the most highly accomplished.
As Jon strummed the most popular song on his Colour in the Sky album, Red Telephone, singing “why don’t you call me on red telephone,” then adding “it’s 01380…” it produced a belly-laugh. I doubted it would elsewhere, being the audience recognised it as their own area code. I then considered if I need review this gig at all.
For Jon Amor is to Devizes as Springsteen is to New Jersey. He was among natives last night and with stripped back versions, some amusing covers and local banter, all knew what they’d come for. Do I really need to elucidate his excellence on a website with a commonly Devizes demographic?
Do I need to outline how great the evening was and what great company we were in, being over the last year and half, the Southgate has become widely known as Devizes haven for live music and friendly, grassroots atmosphere? It’s rough and ready, it makes do with what it has, but the Southgate is, simply, the best pub in town for music, through dependability. You can scroll through Devizine to see what’s going on locally, don’t let me put you off that, but if you’re ever stuck for something to do, you need not, just head down there, because nearly every Friday and Sunday, and defo each Saturday you’ll find a cracking band or solo artist doing their thing without regulations, without pretence.
During the week it’s either quiz night or an acoustic jam Wednesday, we know what Deborah and Dave have blessed us with, need I really go on? It is Sunday, for crying out loud! I left only a two-word note on my phone for this review, “Word Up,” a reminder that Jon did a comical cover of. The rest of the time was spent catching up with friends amassed for Mr Amor, for free, as that is the ethos of the Southgate. So, do I really need to review this evening, when everyone who is anyone in Devizes attended, even both Devizine’s roving reporters? Maybe I could delegate the task to Andy?!
Do I even need to whip out my little… (wait for it) … camera, when our own Nick Padmore is stood at the front with his sizable lens? Ack, I suspect you’re thinking now, lazy bugger; probably hungover. But truth be told, after walking uphill to town from my village for the past few weekends, I couldn’t face it this time, so I drove. Proof with the cracking combination of Jon Amor and the Southgate, with this blagger’s addition it was free, and so many gathered to chew the ears off, I needed not to intoxicate myself to have a blinding night. Shit, does this imply I’m mature? Bugger, I need to make up for lost time and have a Sunday afternoon drinkie. That’s me out of here, and no doubt unconscious on the sofa right after dinner!
Yet one thing you can be sure of, you need not feel sorrow if you missed it, The Southgate, check it out on our event guide, will continue to bring us many a grand and memorable night with Devizes written all over it, even if the enormity of Jon Amor is rare, you’ll never not be entertained by brilliantly sourced live music. Amen.
What’s Devizine coming to when I back out of a full night of live music? But with jam-packed weekends ahead, general fatigue and, like Suggs, sometimes I like to stay in and watch TV now and then, please allow my lethargy some slack, people. Britain’s Got Talent’s non-offensive new look of letting every idiot through was wearing thin by the second act, and I ventured off for a pint. Wasn’t a great deal to wet this lightweight’s appetite anyways, save George Wilding down the Owl, and of course, if you’re ever stuck for a weekend evening’s entertainment, the Southgate is the guaranteed safe bet in the Vizes.
Yet it’s walking up that Dunkirk Hill which drains enthusiasm, so steep Churchill pulled the troops out. Fine, it is, to roll back down at the end with a bellyful of cider navigating me off-route down Browfort, as it did last weekend, and perhaps it was this occurrence which avowed the need to drive.
I knew Nerve Endings were booked; knew they had a support, and still I epically failed, but was impressed with what I did perchance to witness, and thus prepared to draft a little something about that. Yep, the Southgate rocked again, and I know, you know, Mike, Luke and Rob will make a grand, and loud job of it. On bass and vocals, Rob McKelvey and brilliant drummer from the valley, Luke Bartels really add the extra dimension to Mike Barham, if he ever needed one; shame I shirked it.
But Patrick Goodenough, who kicked off the proceedings with a solo debut of stripped back songs from his band, The Compact Pussycat, was indeed more than good enough, as his name suggests. There was emotion and sentiment in his performance, and popping his solo act virginity, with added banter of band-member Jack Moore floating around, he should be highly commended.
Following this, Salisbury three-piece, Soapbox came to kick-ass. Proclaiming it was their heaviest song to date, they blasted out an introduction called “Problems,” and thus was the general theme of these lively and edgy, punk-inspired, rock n roll originals.
Acutely written shards of anarchy and virtue, they packed attitude and were delivered ferociously yet responsively, a tune called Rollercoaster, for example, cliché life metaphor perhaps, but delivered with passion and enthusiasm. There was an acceptable Iggy Pop in them, The Rabbit Ear perhaps the most poignant, and the final lambast, Shut the Fuck Up, the most direct.
I nodded approval as the bass player packed away, telling me though they’d sporadically been together as a band in the past, this incarnation has only been on the circuit a year. With this in mind, excusing myself doing the need-a-wee dance, Soapbox is defo one to watch out for. Good choice Mr B, apologies for my slackness!
Tamsin Quin and Friends; Friday 22nd March at The Southgate, Devizes….
By Andy Fawthrop
Nothing quite warms the cockles of your heart as much as attending a local, home-town gig featuring home-grown talent, so Friday night up at the Southgate was a real treat.
Tamsin Quin has been going great guns lately, having recently supported the amazing global artist Beth Orton in Frome, and also one of this generation’s best female blues singers Kyla Brox at Long Street Blues Club. Not to mention the recent release of her new album “Gypsy Blood”.
On Friday we were treated to a warm, intimate set in the friendly surroundings of The Southgate. Tamsin was relaxed, chatting freely to the audience, including her many friends. But there were friends up on stage too, performing in various solo slots and band combinations, in the shape of Pat Ward, Vince Bell, Jamie R Hawkins and Phil Cooper. The songs flowed, the beer flowed, and it was difficult not to feel the love in the room.
Another great gig listening to a young artist on top of her game.
Next gigs coming up @ The Southgate:
• Friday 29th March Jack Moore
• Saturday 30th March Beyond The Storm
• Friday 5th April Howlin’ Mat
• Saturday 6th April The Duskers
• Friday 12th April Broken Bones Matilda
• Saturday 13th April Fret ‘n’ Keyz
With the distinctive odour of stodgy crusty nourishing the air, the Southgate Inn Devizes jam-packed once again, this time in anticipation of a plentiful tequila-guzzling gang, breakneck banjos, and feathery lunacy, under the banner of those Boot Hill All Stars.
If there’s a band in the area I’ve been meaning to check out more I’d favour you remind me of them.
Okay, so I’ve put these nutters on a pedestal prior to catching them play, but the perilous move paid off; they were everything I imagined they’d be, with added professional folly. A canal-type’s darlings, talk in the rain-drenched beer garden consisted of various motors, otherwise was the sort of crisp banter you’ll only receive from these waterway travellers.
In which case, The Boot Hills couldn’t have been more apt for the Southgate, its proprietors rightly proud of their canal culture; these guys know how to have fun by the boatload, and fun it was. One chick down unaffected the mob, but not before a duo self-titled “Dry White Bones,” astounded the tavern with a unique blend of fiery folk with guitar, bowler hat, doc Martins and claves.
Fast, furious but friendly, The Boot Hills squeezed into the tight space and dancers wasted no time to celebrate their inimitable sound of misfit folk-fused rockabilly, gypsy-ska and general nuttiness. Sporting banjo and quiff, Flounder, composed the group, for want of a more appropriate word, and Cerys titillated with either tambourine or fluffy stick in a sturdy corset and top hat.
If their own compositions didn’t feverously fire the crowd enough with tales of female masturbation, a cover of Toot’s Monkey Man certainly did, but most poignant was the scorching dissolute interpretation of Dolly’s Jolene. Phew, I’m flabbergasted, it was a filthy fuelled show of dubious ethics and warped values, and with a support résumé as varied as The Damned, The Beat to The Wurzels, it’s easy to see these misfits actually do fit, and what is more, bring the party with them.
Favourites on the festival circuit of Glastonbury, Camp Bestival, Endorse, and Boomtown, for the best part of ten years, but who’d count? They hold the Once Upon a Time in the West, a festival which adopts their insane ethos, and if last night was anything to go by, expect this to go off.
It’s the sixth year of this festival, with a reputation of one of the friendliest and most accessible festivals on the circuit, it offers variety as diverse as punk, dub and ska, with the likes of Urban Lions, and The Tribe, to Corky’s devious blend of agricultural hip hop, he dubs Scrumpy & Western, oh and to ensure it’s a true west country welly-fest, the Wurzels also booked. Personal favs, Train to Skaville and Phil Cooper appear too, amidst a boundless line-up. Tickets on sale now for £85 here.
Akin to the opening of US sitcom Cheers, The Southgate continues to be that place sometimes you need to go; where everybody knows your name and always glad you came. Celebrating a year now at the helm, Deborah and Dave have successfully given birth to a live music landmark right here in our otherwise trivial town.
Dave & Debbie have done a really great job in putting The Southgate back on the Devizes musical map since they took over the pub last year, booking a wide range of great acts from Friday nights through to Sunday afternoons. These gigs are all free entry and, with a comfortable & welcoming environment and all beers at only £3 a pint, it’s a no-brainer to get one’s arse up there to enjoy the musical fare on offer. Sunday afternoons in particular have become one of my favourites – a view obviously shared by the local cognoscenti – for the place was again packed with happy customers.
This Sunday last we were treated to a fabulous session from Kent Duchaine, a man described by Mike Harding as “a legend in his own lunchtime and a REAL bluesman”. I use the word “treat” advisedly, as the man turned out to be one helluva all-round entertainer. Not only did he play some wonderful stripped-back delta blues on his 1934 National Steel guitar Leadbessie, he also connected absolutely with his audience. Every break between songs, every intro, every outro, the man was talking, talking, talking about his life, his travels, his experiences, his deep love of the blues, the music he loved, the blues players he had met an known. And not without a good dose of self-deprecating humour. It was an education just listening to the man. Fascinating. And what a voice! The guy obviously gargles with lumps of granite in his throat! Whether talking or singing, to hear him, (and to look at him) I guess you’d say he’s “well lived-in”, and a well-travelled troubadour.
Lots of Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, and all the rest of the great bluesmen, just flowed out of him all afternoon. Kent spoke and sang; Leadbessie drawled and crooned. The punters lapped it up.
Absolutely perfect laid-back blues for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Perfect entertainment.
If you’ve not been up The Southgate lately, time you checked it out!
• Saturday 2nd February Drew Bryant
• Friday 8th February Clock Radio + The Jelas Live
• Saturday 9th February Tim Manning
• Friday 15th February Fake Walnut Dash
• Saturday 16th February Guilty Pleasure
So, yeah, broke my 2019 hibernation and ventured out last night. I know right, but Calne-based, Six O’clock Circus blasted an otherwise mild night at the Southgate with some passionately executed mod, punk and indie covers; right up my street and kicking down my door.
Loud and proud, regardless of the five-piece squashed into Devizes’ answer to the O2 arena, singing toward the wall, plus having gigged the afternoon in Boughton Gifford, and Friday evening with Devizes-based, Burbank, for a Big Yellow Bus fundraiser at the Bug & Spider, they never waned, pulling a fine ensemble of indie covers out of their bag, for the first half, but not before an introduction of the Kinks and Who.
Six O’clock Circus, started at nine o’clock, but despite poor punctuality of their namesake, and lack of clowns, I loved the starter, then it went a bit Britpop; Travis, Stereophonics, James and Shed Seven representations. Yet I nodded through with appreciation, their precision awarded even my non-favs with worthy magnitude. Though I personally like my indie served, as they did towards latter section of the first half, with Primal Scream and the Coral, and overall would favour more mod, of the Jam, which ended the first half, Six O’clock Circus delivered them all feverously, and favourably, with ardent appreciation of their influences.
A quieter night at this haven for live music allowed me to notice the cloudy cider tariff on the wooden beam, where at least one hairy hippy usually leans, obscuring the menu. So a double-whammy for me, securing a love for the Southgate I’d joyfully shout to the hills and back.
Undoubtedly, said cider played it’s part but I supposed the band tightened with every tune. A swap of instruments, promising a “seventies love-song,” they completed by knocking out a genuine “Pretty Vacant” before the break. It was clear Six 0’Clock Circus had no intentions of delivering us a ballad at all, neither attempt something experimental, as the second section banged in with The Buzzcocks’ classic, Ever Fallen in Love, and slipping nicely into London’s Burning by the Clash.
So, the evening’s entertainment leaves me now stamping a thoroughly deserved recommendation on Six O’clock Circus, perfect for the thirty-forty-fifty somethings function or pub circuit, and with that said, I’m off to make a bacon butty.
Two birds, one Sunday afternoon stone. Motivate myself out of hibernation, pre-dinner time, to step over the threshold of The Southgate Inn, something long overdue. Also, the perfect opportunity to catch It’s Complicated, who, after a fundraiser in Easterton Saturday night came to the longboat of love to show us how they do it. And now, after mentioning and mentioning this Devizes based band, I finally confirm, they do it very well indeed.
Self-described as “not your standard covers band,” (otherwise they would’ve named themselves “It’s Easy,”) is nothing but exact, as vocalist and keyboardist Jacqueline Sherlock rings out an inimitable cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean while I’m propping up the bar. I take a sip, this is what they promise, it’s what they delivered, with baubles on.
This place is not Devizes’ answer to an O2 arena, functionally it’s awkward, spacious it’s not, but working with what they’ve got, The Southgate is immediately hospitable, snug and convivial; I’d have expected nothing less. Reason why musicians and bands are queuing up to July to cram themselves in here falls upon Deborah and Dave’s nonchalant and welcoming attitude. If they’ve created a monster with The Southgate, it’s a knobbly-knees and turned-out toes type monster akin to The Gruffalo, rather than anything Dr Frankenstein may’ve stuck electrodes on.
It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s bustling, what they’ve spared not following the grain and converting the Southgate into the standard ostentatious vulgarity of contemporary neon public houses they’ve savoured on atmosphere and a non-stop musical line-up which celebrates everything positive about the local live music scene I’m so often bashing on about. Where other pubs sporadically host live music, you can guarantee Saturday night at the Southgate, Fridays and Sundays following a close second place. Darn it, if even Wednesday night isn’t a family-like acoustic jam down here.
So, this Sunday it’s the turn of It’s Complicated, a band formed a couple of years ago, detached from function band, Friday Feeling. Like a cat at the front door of your new home upon your arrival, they’ve been rehearsing in the Southgate’s skittle alley prior to the new landlords, where they’ve created a unique approach to an assemblage of fantastic cover songs. With flexibly of styles, and wealth of experience, the experimentation has paid off.
Jacqueline sublimely singing Etta James, the band taking a reggae twist to the stark modern Gotye anthem, “Someone that I used to Know,” ongoing ambient rock instrumentals akin to Dire Straits, accompanying Dereck Head through jazzy saxophone splendour, and returning after a break to acutely perform a country tune, I think proves this diversity tenfold.
But as well as stamping their mark on the covers, drummer and vocalist Tim Watts, vocalist and keyboardist Jacqueline Sherlock, guitarist Tom Evans and bass player Stephen Barron work on their own original material. Acknowledging the homegrown nature of the gig, they played Imber, the tribute to Imber Blacksmith Albie Nash, who doctors diagnosed “a broken heart,” when he passed away, chained to his anvil after the army forced the residents to leave the village.
And locally rousing this gig was. In the spirit of the scene, the return from a break guested pre-familiarised Vince Bell, who acoustically sang his chef-d’oeuvre, Ship of Fools, and followed it by a humorous attack on the allure of Devizes, with Tim on Cajon. A few more songs from It’s Complicated and another guest, our heroine Tamsin Quin, joined them for a few of her own tunes from Gypsy Blood, an album of which its launch party called in the help of It’s Complicated to replicate the session band from the studio. Not forgetting her sing-along Jungle Book favourite and seasonal Santa Baby.
Being traditionally bands are often of a similar age, a quick chat with Tim I felt it necessary to inquire if guitarist Tom, was any of the band’s progenies, being an age difference between him and the others. “No,” Tim confirmed there was no family connections, “That’s why we’re complicated.” Had to shrug this off, as it never matters, passion for music doesn’t barrier by age, all that counts are the harmonies and there’s nothing complicated there, it worked, and worked fantastic; what an enjoyable afternoon!