Is it really (not that) long? Debs suddenly realised over the weekend that this was the 300th gig that she and Dave had put on in The Southgate since taking over in 2018. That’s only four years, and we had a pandemic in the middle when all the pubs were necessarily closed anyway, so that’s a pretty remarkable record! No-one has done more to support live music in D-Town that Debs and Dave, with virtually every weekend supporting at least one gig, sometimes two or three. I do remember one night when there were (for complicated reasons that need not detain us now) two gigs on at exactly the same time – one inside the pub, and one in the skittle alley!
There have been acts from all over the country, and indeed from several other countries. There has been just about every style of music you can think of – rock, prog, psychedelia, blues, funk, soul, folk and every combination thereof that you can think of. Most of it worked too!
So it was really good, albeit perhaps just a lucky coincidence, that gig number 300 should be one of those relaxed Sunday afternoon sessions featuring a couple of the best of our very local singer/ songwriters – Tamsin Quin and Vince Bell. The atmosphere was, as usual, warm and supportive right from the start.
Tamsin was up first, shorn of her Lost Trades buddies, for an occasional solo performance. I’ve known Tamsin since some of her early gigs back in the mists of time at the now-defunct Seend Acoustic. Back then she was chatty, nervous, a little scatty, but clearly a great songwriter and performer. Since then, and I’ve seen her perform many times, she has clearly developed. She’s stronger and more assured in front of a microphone, her singing style is more gentle, and her song-writing has developed in leaps and bounds – intimate, sincere and with a new depth and maturity.
Vince followed her onto the singing stool and showed us, yet again, what a great singer/ songwriter he is. And it was one of those gigs where, instead of being reduced to the “folkie in the corner” everybody (including the dogs) was properly listening. Again we had strong, deep songs, with some occasional Spiderman-pyjama whimsy thrown in, and a captivating performance.
Unfortunately, I had to skip the very last bit where they got to sing some songs together (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was calling and I didn’t want to get put “on hold”), so as they used to say in The News Of The World “I made my apologies and left”, which was a damned pity because it was such a lovely, homely gig.
There were lots of friends in the audience, and a lot of love in the room. I’m pretty sure I’m right in thinking that both performers enjoyed it as much as we audience did in listening. Wonderful.
So, as I said, a great gig to celebrate 300 and counting. Let’s hope for many more great gigs, and let’s hope that the good folk of D-Town keep on supporting quality live music.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
Saturday 2nd July Jack Grace Band Sunday 3rd July Jon Amor + Friends
Local newspapers ran with a yarn of snow blizzards, due Saturday, and illustrated the clickbait with scenes of worst weather of yore. The laughable reality was there was a blustery storm which bought five minutes of flurry.
I don’t conscribe to sensationalising, neither need to interview for the emblematic promotion of a new product. The Lost Trades aren’t yet announcing a second album, neither have they memoirs published; there wasn’t a good reason to interview them. They didn’t whet appetites broadcasting a follow-up album when I asked them the standard “what’s next” question, rather spoke about strategies.
I was eager to catch up with them though; haven’t seen them for ages, and they were happy to oblige, because they’re nice like that! They’d finished a soundcheck supporting Focus for a Long Street Blues Club gig at Devizes’ Corn Exchange, which Andy kindly reviewed.
No matter how they’ve been gigging further afield and stamping a benchmark for folk harmony trios internationally with The Bird, The Book and the Barrel, their feet remain on the ground, and this is, after all, their original stomping ground. Two thirds from Devizes, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin, while Phil Cooper is from Trowbridge, the latter of whom casually asked prior to the interview what I could write about them which I haven’t already.
Fair cop, since day dot Devizine followed all three, Tamsin crowdfunding her debut album, Gypsy Blood was our first article in 2017, a review of Phil’s Thoughts & Observations closely followed, and I met Jamie slightly later, at the Saddleback Festival’s Battle of the Bands in 2018.
The three musicians closely associated themselves with each other, producing and recording, assisting with gigs and collaborating sporadically, until a natural bond had formed and it made sense to form a trio. The news of The Lost Trades we broke in December 2019, a year of lockdown followed their debut gig at Trowbridge’s Pump, but a period which has seen them improve tenfold, together, on their already high standard.
Both the name the Lost Trades and the album name, The Bird, The Book and the Barrel derives from their surnames; Cooper is a barrel-maker, Hawkins the bird and Quins were counsels or scribes, hence the book. Figuring a blithe beginning, being my rare organisational skills surprised them with a typed sheet of questions, I thought I’d ask if Phil minded being referred to as a barrel! He said he didn’t, but do they call him it?
“From now on,” Jamie laughed while Tamsin christened it his new name. Phil retorted “that makes you Jamie ‘the bird’ Hawkins,” and I added I liked a bird with a beard, which isn’t exactly true but it broke the ice, if there was some to break, which there wasn’t, so I don’t know why I mentioned it!
The Trades know me well, in this, I pointed out a milkman is a something of a lost trade, and wondered if they had space for me, perhaps in the corner, with a triangle! Jamie noted I could be a “bottle fourth member!” While they pondered if there were to be any sensible questions, I broadened it with, “or is three the magic number?”
Phil was first to confirm, the others agreed humbly. Tamsin expanded, “having three of us there’s no scope for two people going against two other people, you know? It’s always equal.”
“Yeah, democratically it works really well,” Jamie added. “There’s always a mediator,” Tammy motioned, “it works well like that.” Phil enhanced, “from a harmony point of view, I mean, don’t tell any barbershop quartets this but three is the magic number!” To be honest, I’m all out of befriending barbershop quartets these days anyway.
I offered it was great to see them back in Devizes, because it was, and I asked them where was the furthest so far, they’d played. Being, I’d imagine, the map-man of the trio, Phil called Eastbourne.
But are they booked for many festivals this summer? “Yes,” Phil replied, but couldn’t spill the beans. The Lost Trades are getting a lot of bookings, which is understandable. The only characteristic variance I noted seemed to be Tamsin, who once conveyed a slightly anxious persona when performing but is now rightfully brewing with confidence. More importantly, all three seem so at ease with the Trades’ success, loving the moment, and they’re bonded even tighter.
This is the point I slipped in the standard “what’s next,” and asked, “where do you take it from here?”
“Well, we have a strategy, you see?” Tamsin whispered, “first was getting our name out to our fans, and building up this joint fanbase, which is what we’ve worked on. And now we’re trying to build our name up in the folk world. So, hitting the folk clubs.” And they’ve been getting blinding reviews from folk magazines. “And a lot of radio-play from specialist folk shows as well,” Phil added, “up in Cambridge,” he exampled. Nationally, or even internationally, I queried. “Yeah,” Phil answered proudly, “in Canada, and Italy.”
I supposed lockdown live streaming helped in this exporting, despite lack of profit. Phil nodded, “it certainly tied us over, when we weren’t able to do anything, and kept us in people’s minds.” Tamsin assured, “at this stage in our career it’s not about making money, it’s more about getting our name known and reputation built up.”
To prevent it getting too cosy, I had something more challenging up my sleeve. As individuals The Lost Trades are no strangers to diversifying genres and sounds. Phil in particular, who even delves into electronica with a side project called BCC. Yet the Lost Trades is narrow in ethos, like a corporate identity, being strictly a folk trio, even in design of covers and promotional material. Make no mistake, this works, and is a great formula, but I asked how they could future prevent criticism that it’s getting “samey.” In this I gave the example of the Adele single.
“The fact there’s three songwriters in the band, all with different styes, will help keep us fresh,” Phil explained, “and like you say, we do all like to switch and try other things. I think it will happen, but obviously we’ve put this folk package together, and the music is very much modern folk, going to Americana.” I nodded, in theme too, content is modern. Tamsin added “Also that we’re playing multi-instruments too, which keeps us fresh.”
It was perhaps a tricky question, but you only need to listen to The Bird, The Book and the Barrel to note there is room for experimentation within the genre, and The Lost Trades wish to engage this. Phil expressed, “the folk thing is less about the music and more about how we present ourselves, as a brand, if you like.”
On reflection of their earliest songs as the trio, and knowing them as individual performers, I sense each song in style and writing are pitched by one of them to the trio; I could pick out that one was very Jamie, or very Phil, but the lines are blurred on the newer songs, melded so much I cannot pick out who’s idea or who wrote any particular song; is this what they’re working towards, complete harmonising? It was the longest question with the shortest answer, they nodded throughout me asking it. “I guess so,” Jamie replied, “there’s lots of methods and approaches we’ve yet to try out; that’s another reason why I think we’ll stay fresh.”
“One of the reasons the later stuff is harder to tell is,” Phil expanded, “the earlier stuff the other two were harmonising with whoever had the lead vocal, but the stuff we did towards the end of the album didn’t have a lead vocal, it was all about the three voices all the way through. We could get samey if we did just that, so we’ll keep the solo voice every now and then, just to keep it interesting.”
Tamsin added, “Also, as we’ve grown together musically, we’re writing songs specifically for the band. We write our own solo songs and ones which we think, oh, this one would sound better as a harmony; we tailor it to be a band song.”
Sure, feels like a progression happening naturally, as they work closer together. “It already did,” Phil said when I suggested this, “when working on the album there was two or three songs which didn’t exist until a month before the recording. We put them together really quickly, and yes, they were very much that kinda organic feel.”
Mentioning the impending lockdown as they first formed, I wondered if they felt there was positives which came from it. Phil called the album a massive positive, which if you’ve heard it, you can only agree. “There were songs on there written about what we were going through at the time….”
Tamsin responded too, “lots of the songs we wrote when we were feeling down about having to cancel the tour, for example ‘Winning Days’ was where Jamie and I were feeling miserable, and Phil said ‘right I’m going to write a song to cheer us up.”
“I think, perversely,” Phil added, “the fact we’d built up friends on our side, and to suddenly have it swept away, we got a massive outpouring of love towards us, and that has probably put us on a run up the ladder, that maybe we wouldn’t have got at that point.”
I beg to differ on this one, sensing this shadow of modesty in them, when really, this massive outpouring of love towards them would’ve been inevitable with or without the restrictions of lockdown, because this grouping just works; whether you are folk’s greatest devotee, or not.
For the final question I returned blithe, as I sensed they were busting to get to the stage; “have you ever been interviewed before with questions as stupid as these ones, and did you expect anything less?!”
The one who remained most silent during the interview, Jamie, made a funny noise of which I’m unsure if it was positive or negative, but it rolled out a belly laugh, Phil pleaded the fifth on it, and Tamsin voiced in the background she thought they were “lovely” questions, because that’s our Tammy, Devizes loves her, we love all three; Trowbridge and Devizes finest musical export; I give you The Lost Trades, who I lost; by the time I stopped the record button, they were gone, up on stage, to do what they love, and long may it be so!
Could it be, I wonder this Sunday morning after a grand evening at our dependable Southgate, that being couped up and unable to play to a live audience for what feels like a decade, has planted fire in the bellies of musicians and a drive to return to the spotlight in an explosively intense and mind-blowing manner?
It certainly felt this way with the Boot Hill All Stars giving it their all, last weekend at Honey Street’s Barge, and again, last night where a “Plus Friends,” gig took place at the Gate, in the blaze of glory local folk have come to expect from the homegrown talented musicians involved.
As far from a band name as a desperate attempt to rehash a once-trendy US sitcom, Plus Friends is the banner for a looser formulation, I’m assuming, to temporarily disassociate the trio of Phil Cooper, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin from their Lost Trades Americana branding and allow themselves the freedom to adlib and play in unison their separate songs as solo artists, generally rock out, and perhaps throw in a cover at will, as they did with a finale of Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere. Though covers were scarce, the crowd know these guys only too well, and their original penned songs.
Plus, and, most importantly where the “plus” part falls neatly into place, to add a fourth member in par rather than “support,” that being the modest acoustic local legend, Vince Bell. Not forgoing this allowance also saw Jamie’s eldest son occasionally join them on percussion, adding to the overall “family” nature of the homecoming gig.
And that’s precisely how it felt for punters and performers alike, a true community recovering from isolation the best way they know how. “This is how it should be,” delighted photographer Nick Padmore told me at the end. Because while the Southgate’s dedication to bringing variety, and artists who might well be unbeknown to Devizes is most welcomed, nothing raises the roof quite like Vince belting out his satirical prose about his hometown and the crowds joyously joining in with the “and you ain’t ever leaving!” chorus.
It hallmarks everything great about this splendid occasion, and a true Devizes-fashioned return of live music with homegrown talent abound.
But it’s not just the brilliance of Vince, Tammy, Jamie and birthday-boy Phil, to perform with bells on, which made the evening, rather the friendly assembly of local live music aficionados too, with their meeting of the “same ol’ faces” not fully grouped since lockdown begun. And, in turn, the Southgate to accommodate them so welcomingly within current regulations.
There’s a streamlined table service, its dedicated staff have the efficiency of McDonald’s, and the genuine friendliness of Disneyland. Though such comparisons should end there, for The Southgate is far from the mechanism of commercialism, rather a rustic haven for those seeking a “real” West Country pub experience, and within it, creating a free music venue that performers are queuing to play.
It’s without doubt the sum of all these parts made it so many chose our Southgate over Gareth’s squad on the tele-box, a brief “footballs coming home” chant raised by Jamie being the only reference to the Euros necessary. No, we’re happy here, thank you. Content to hear the welcoming homely vocals of Tamsin Quin, the passionately executed sentimental writings of Jamie as he rings out solo classics such as his tribute to his dad, the rockier side to Phil Cooper as he selects a tune from his solo lockdown album, These Revelation Games and the beautifully arranged understated lyrics of Vince as they so eloquently weave a tapestry of narrative. And as my opening presumption noted, they delivered it with such Jack-in-the-box passion, what once would have been a pretty standard gig down the Gate was more akin to a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Oh yes, more of that, please!
And our wish is granted, as The Southgate’s gig calendar is building as if 2020 never happened; next Saturday, 10th July sees Swindon’s premier ska covers band The Skandals, with ex-Skanxter Carl Humphries returning as frontman. Sunday is the turn of Essex’s finest Americana roots band, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective.
One weekend after is all you need to wait until reggae duo Jon Lewis & Jah-man Aggrey, TwoManTing, on Saturday 17th, Rockport Blues on 24th, and Blind River Scare’s Tim Manning rocks up on the final Saturday of July. The dates are booked into August too, with Kevin Brown on the 7th and the brilliant Strange Folk on the 9th October, but you can bet your bottom dollar dates in-between these will crop up very soon, check the event guide as I attempt to keep ahead and update it without getting too frustrated with cancelations, or the Southgate’s Facebook page, where the spirit of live music lives on, as proved last night.
Even though they put a man on the moon four years before I was born, I swear it’s the little things summoning me to a care-home for the terminally bewildered. I’m pre-empting what-they-can’t-do-these-days scenarios, but why so soon? All the years of diluting the kid’s squash, I observed they look rather stout of recent. My daughter calls it a ‘senior moment,’ pointing out, it’s double-strength squash. She was right too, says so on the bottle, in huge, unmissable letters.
In a way, it’s kinda like the highly anticipated album from The Lost Trades. Because, if in the past I’ve put them deservedly on pedestals as individuals, when they first joined together, they shimmed said pedestals closer, and nicely complimented each other’s voices. This can be heard in the three tunes which reappear from the earlier EP, Robots, Good Old Days, and Wait for my Boat; the first one being definitively Phil’s song while the latter two have the marks of Jamie. Awesome as these are, it’s the unreleased tunes which I need to draw your attention to, as they’ve balanced the pedestals atop of each other, like a daring circus act; the lines between them as individual performers are now totally absorbed, in both writing and vocals, akin to the double-strength squash, this is triple-strength!
If you’ve never known them as individual performers, you’d be forgiven for mistaking that they ever were, with these new set of songs. And with other tricks up their sleeves, The Bird, the Book & The Barrel exceeded my high expectation. Solving the conundrum of what else to write about a trio we’ve already covered so much on Devizine.
The Bird, the Book & The Barrel, released on Friday, the 4th June, can be pre-ordered, and you get two tracks in advance, if you cannot wait, which is understandable. With a rustic wood-cabin corporate identity they don’t waiver from, the essence of folk-roots of yore are embellished with modern themes, from which they project the perfect balance of vocal harmonies one could only compare to family groups. Save Simon & Garfunkel and The Drifters, who could do it, we have to think from the apt genre, of the Carter Family, to The Carpenters, and The Everly Brothers, but perhaps onto The Jacksons, for in soul their voices harmonised with similar perfection. Yes, it really works akin with the Lost Trades, I’m pleased to announce, and here more than ever.
And in this, the opening tune could be constituted as somewhat boastful about their precision, if not a simple premise of unification; only in sharing one vision will the world be ours for the taking; if you got it, flaunt it! One Voice sums up my own overall thoughts on the album, and makes for a beautiful introduction.
The second track is where the magic really starts. The fleeting romantic interlude of a fast-paced, maybe dodgy, roamer is the theme of Road of Solid Gold, which is as the road, solid and gold. An unusual composition, being the fiddle is habitually played during instrumental breaks, but here it accompanies the vocals. This violin mastery is performed by legend of folk, Peter Knight, a founding member of Steeleye Span, undoubtedly the most renowned group of the British folk revival alongside Fairport Convention, and secretly was Uncle Bulgaria of the Wombles band too! Additionally, this is where we hear the Trades really melding their voices into one, which occurs more frequently as the album progresses.
Elements combine, regardless if one takes the lead, or verses are harmonies too, it’s all a big slice of wonderful. The astute song writing weaves narrative timelessly, be it nostalgic-based such as Good Old Days, unification against the odds like Distance Brings us Closer, both where Jamie leads, and the most poignant, Kingdom Falls, a tale of the pen being mightier than the sword through the eyes of a prisoner of war.
Then there’s lighter subject matter, often where Phil leads, such as the trickling Your Winning Days, but his lead also offers one of most divergent tunes, Robots, an apprehension of automation, in which a steady guiro offers a pertinent clockwork effect.
At seven tracks in one could wonder where’s the girl power, but when Tamsin takes lead on Hope Cove, it’s been worth the wait. A heartfelt romance actualised as a geographical location isn’t an uncommon concept, but you know Tamsin handles it inimitably and spectacularly, like only the finest tunes of her solo album Gypsy Blood. Shanty theme continues with Jamie leading on Waiting for my Boat, equivalent to the sentiment of his classic solo songs, Not Going Anywhere and As Big as You, this is nothing less than sublime.
With just two tunes remaining, Silent Noise of the Mind sums my “triple-strength” notion of the progress of the Trades, fusing the vocals entirely throughout, the beauty of it embraces the air, drifting your mind like a feather in a gentle zephyr. Tree-hugging Oaks light-heartedly polishes the journey off wonderfully, with a ukulele exhaling a Hawaiian ambiance and a cheery whistle, it leaves you knowing you’ve arrived somewhere where you wouldn’t mind travelling to time and time again.
But I’d wager you knew I’d only have good things to say about The Bird, the Book & The Barrel, therefore I implore your faith in my honesty, it’s as amazing as I say, and a little chipping more.
Scrub the headline as ‘news,’ here at Devizine Towers, as we look forward to any update The Lost Trades trio throw at us, especially a nice pint in a pub with those guys playing. Which is what we’re building to, fingers crossed, as they pencil in HoneyFest at the Honeystreet Barge on their growing confirmed gig list.
Among them, Frome’s Cheese & Grain, Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, the Couch in Bracknell, Schtum in Box and WeyFest. Proof their exceptional and convivial brand of folk is resounding far and wide. Another validation for the Lost Trade’s reputation is news today the second single from the highly anticipated debut album, out on 7th May, features the violin mastery of the incredible Peter Knight.
A legend of folk, Peter learned his trade at Royal Academy of Music, and not only was a founding member of Steeleye Span, undoubtedly the most renowned group of the British folk revival alongside Fairport Convention, but secretly was Uncle Bulgaria of the Wombles band too! He’s worked with blues legend Alexis Korner and Mary Hopkin to namedrop out of many, and today his occasional big band, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Band are a unique force in British folk music with high-energy, virtuosic performances appealing equally to traditionalists and to those looking for something experimental.
See, I love a mean fiddler garnish on my folk, and as the Trades say, “as collaborations go, it doesn’t get much more mouth-watering than this.”
Road of Solid Gold – The Lost Trades (featuring Peter Knight) will be released on 7th May, another appetiser for the foresaid album. “When we were recording the song, we knew we had the seeds of something a bit special, but we felt it needed some extra magic. We were thrilled when Peter agreed to add that magic and we can’t wait for you to hear it.” Umm, yes indeedy, and we can’t wait to hear it!
April 1st is All Fools Day, the day after you’d be a fool to miss this. Much I hark on about local folk harmony trio, The Lost Trades, even before they were united as such, but only for good reason. It was always a win-win when the three singer-songwriters officially formed, Phil Cooper, Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin all excelled on the local circuit as solo artists and regularly appeared together for gigs.
Together this force to be reckoned with has formed a definite style akin to a corporate identity, and uniformed they move towards a debut album with all new, original songs. Based on their EP, which we fondly reviewed, the album launch is rightfully highly anticipated.
The album’s name has been revealed by the trio, “The Bird, The Book & The Barrel,” and will be released on 4th June. Though the band want to make the most of the Bandcamp Friday before that, where the platform-based music site kindly site waivers their fees, giving the artists full royalties. Therefore, The Lost Trades will be taking pre-orders on 2nd April and 7th May. There will be a live stream, something the Trades have always been on the top of their game with, on 2nd April, to celebrate.
The trio promise the full sound system, concert-style at live stream, scheduled at 7.30pm, will present everything from the album, including brand new, never before heard songs. The live stream will be broadcast from their Bandcamp page, and is ticketed at a very reasonable £2.50, with Bandcamp also waiving their fees on all live stream tickets sold until the end of March.
Best of luck, Tammy, Jamie and Phil; sounds like a virtual cake kind of occasion to me, but then, any occasion sounds like a cake one to me! Get your tickets HERE. Follow the event on Facebook.
Bag yourself some of our recommended long players for your friends, family or even yourself this Christmas and help a local musical talent.
Look at him, Grumpus Maximus, slouching on his sofa-throne investigating the inside of his y-fronts with one hand and clasping a tinnie with the other. He’ll need Google maps to find his local watering hole when things return to normal, and if he has to endure Kirstie Allsopp for one more half-hour episode he’ll threaten to relocate to his shed for the yule. What do you get for someone like pops this Christmas, or anyone who’s lost the will of independent thought due to the modest inability to enjoy the odd fellow and guitar down their pub of choice, for that matter?
How about this suggestion; buy a CD from a local hero? Because not only will you cheer the old bugger up enough for him to consider shaving once a week, but you’ll be putting your hard-earned shekels into the hands of a local independent creative sort, who, without revenue from standing in a draughty pub alcove singing the blues, really needs some pocket money right now.
It’s not my idea, I say let them scavenge for dead flies on their filthy windowsills while insanely mumbling a ditty about minute pixies invading grassroot venues. Thanks to our reader, George for this suggestion. Of course, this is the 21st century, or so I’ve been informed, and nowadays next to nothing is physical. Much as we find the online format or download accessible, you can’t wrap an online stream up with a pretty bow and put it under your tree. So, our list is restricted to the ones putting out a CD copy; that’s a compact disc to youngsters, or even, dare I say it, vinyl, you know, some archaic listening format.
But how, ye cry. I’m going to provide links where I can, but another shot is your local indie record store; for if they care one iota for music, they’ll stock a range of locally sourced sounds. If they don’t tell them to, without swearing.
Here’s an ideal template to use: “the brilliant, one and only Vinyl Realm Music Store in old Devizes town stocks many local artist discs, so I suggest if you want to be half as good as them, you’d consider it.” And that, is one good place to start; open the yellow door on Northgate Street, turn to your right and by the window there’s a stand with some local outpourings on. If you get lost ask one of the owners, they bite but not hard. I know, shopping is beneath you, be aware they have an online service and will deliver, cos they’re nice like that.
Am I waffling now? I tend to tangent, like to, did you come here for that, or are you looking for some music options? Very well, sit quietly, or stand noisily if you like, and I shall begin…. hopefully before Boxing Day. But oi, bear in mind this isn’t a top twenty countdown, I just used that as the title for clickbait. I’ve not put these in any kind of hierarchy or rank, just listed alphabetical by artist name, to prove I know my A, B, C!
Billy Green 3: Still
Released at the beginning of this year, Devizes post-Britpop trio produce a beguiling sound that could’ve come straight from indie’s finest hour. It’s scooterist, with a taste of mod and soul, but it’s passionately scribed and delivered proudly. Review. Buy@ Vinyl Realm.
Chris Tweedie: Reflections
Affectionately reviewed at the beginning of the month, Melksham-based monarch of chill, Chris Tweedie has produced a mind-blowing album. If you like Mike Oldfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, or George Harrison, you need to check this one out. Review. Buy.
Cracked Machine: Gates of Keras
Hometown space-rock has never been so good. This is the outfit’s second album, and its journey of spacey rock like no other. Fans of Pink Floyd or the Ozrics will relive every minute of their misspent youth and clamber to the loft to find their fractural posters and chillum! Review. Buy.
Erin Bardwell: Interval
This year, without his Collective, Swindon’s rock steady keyboard virtuoso blessed us with this unique lockdown inspired bundle of distant memories over sparse two-tone and reggae beats. If you think this genre can be samey, you’ve not heard Erin Bardwell. This album is one of a kind. Review. Buy.
George Wilding: Being Ragdollian
Let the arguments begin, this 2013 EP is the definitive George Wilding. One not to collate tracks to an album, the EP may only contain three songs, but their brilliance makes up for at least ten mediocre ones. You can grab this at Vinyl Realm.
Joe Edwards: Keep on Running
Whilst it’s had glowing international reviews, locally I feel this is severely unacquainted. Though I did say at the time of review I’ll be hard pressed to find another ‘album of the year,’ back in May, this still stands. This is melancholic Americana played out with utter perfection, and I will never tire of its authentic and sublime stories. Review. Buy.
Jon Amor: Colour in the Sky
Though we fondly reviewed Jon’s latest album just yesterday, like I said, that’s one which is only on download at the moment. Take his 2018 masterpiece of quirky electric blues as red, red as his telephone; this is the must-have album for every fan of local music. You can buy this in Devizes Books as well as Vinyl Realm, or you can buy online. Here’s a review from all those heavenly years ago, when Devizine was funny.
The King Dukes: Numb Tongues
Out in 2018, if you like your music with a taste of old-timey soul and blues, The King Dukes of Bristol do this with bells on. Numb Tongues is lively and memorable. Review. Buy.
Little Geneva: Eel Pie
Freshly produced and lively sixties mod-blues-rock done supremely, Little Geneva are Bristol-based but the Docherty brothers have the Devizes connection, enough to debut this down the Bear’s Cellar Bar a few years ago, and boy, was it a sweaty and memorable night! Buy.
Mr Love & Justice: Watchword
Mr Love himself, Swindon’s Steve Cox’s 2009 album is a must, a classic, even though I haven’t reviewed it, because it’s dated, its gorgeous acoustic goodness extends beyond atypical country-rock sounds and branches into many genres, even bhangra at one point. You can find this in Vinyl Realm for a mere fiver.
Mr Tea & The Minions: Mutiny!
Oh my, this chunk of energetic Balkan-ska influenced Bristol folk is breathtakingly good. I reviewed it last year, haven’t gotten over it yet! Review. Buy.
Paul Lappin: The Boy Who Wants to Fly
Breezy Britpop acoustics shine throughout this ingeniously written debut from Swindon’s Paul Lappin. Highly recommended and all-round good vibes. Review. Buy.
Phil Cooper: These Revelation Games
Trow-Vegas legend, Phil Cooper really gives it some with his latest offering, rocking out the lockdown. Review. Buy.
Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue: Live at the Louisiana
No list would be complete without a bit of Ruzz Guitar and the gang; guitar by name and nature. This album captures his skill where he does it best, live. Rock n roll the night away as if you were there; this is a must have album for blues and rock n roll fans. Review. Buy.
Sound Effects: Everyday Escapism
Self-penned Irish-fashioned folk at it’s most divine, Swindon duo Cath and Gouldy classic here. This is sweet and thought-provoking. Review. Buy.
Strange Tales: Unknown to Science
I’m unsure how old this is, but I do recall Pewsey singer Sally Dobson running back to her car to get me a copy at the long-lost Saddleback Festival. With Paul Sloots, Strange Tales are a wonderful if occasional electronica gothic-rock duo, and Unknown to Science is a spookily glorious album. Review. Buy or at Vinyl Realm.
Talk in Code: Resolve
True, Swindon’s darlings of indie-pop have come along way since this 2018 album, fashioned closer each time to retrospective eighties electronica, Resolve stands as a testament to their dedication, but more importantly highlights their roots in indie-rock. Review. Buy.
Tamsin Quin: Gypsy Blood
Man-about-Devizes, surely, you’ve a copy of this already? Tamsin Quin’s debut 2018 debut album is something kinda wonderful, eight self-penned nuggets of goodness introduces you to the now one third of the Lost Trades and personifies anything that was awesome about our local music circuit. A local classic. Review. Available in Vinyl Realm, or online.
The Lost Trades: EP
When three of our most loved local musicians officially bonded, debuting at the Pump just prior to lockdown, it was clear all their talents combined into this one project and could only ever be a winner. We highly anticipate the debut album, but for now, this five track EP will whisk you to a better era of folk harmonies. All original songs, there’s a taste of Phil, Jamie and Tamsin’s song writing talents, though each track wouldn’t look out of place on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Review. Buy.
Ya Freshness & the Big Boss Band: Knockout
Boots and braces time, get skanking to the loud and proud ska sound of Ya Freshness and the Big Boss Band. This is joyful, fun and chockful of ska and rock steady riddims from 2018. We eagerly await a new double-album promised from these Bristol misfits of ska, but for now, this is great. Review. Buy.
No way is this list exhaustive; I’ve basically run this off adlib and will no doubt suddenly think, “oh bugger, I forget this or that.” But I’ve nailed it down to twenty, which was tricky. Do feel free to add a comment on something I might have overlooked, and apologises if I did. Remember, it should be available as physical copy. This is an interactive article!
Message my advice line if you’re still in the dark for a pressie for Dad. Helpful hint, look through his old records. If you see one of a pig floating above Battersea power station, or a plain black album with a spectrum shining through a triangle, try Cracked Machine. If you see lots of black and white chequered patterns or a naked girl’s torso with Tighten Up written across her abdomen, try Erin Bardwell or Ya Freshness. And if you see a rather splendidly busty woman carrying a hosepipe and various decorating equipment, try The Lost Trades; best of luck!
Proof you don’t know what’s around the next corner, I put off doing a second birthday bash last year as we’d run a few fundraising events, in favour for doing a mahossive one this year. As it stands any third birthday celebration for Devizine would constitute me, with a cup of tea, sitting at the computer. Two years ago, though, to the day, our birthday bash was monumental, personally, as it made Devizine feel actual, a real “thing,” so much more than me, with a cup of tea, sitting at the computer!
Still, I can reminisce and remember how so many of us come together at Devizes Conservative Club, made it such a fantastic night, and raised close to four-hundred smackers for the Devizes branch of Cancer Research. But it was down to a Facebook messenger chat with Dean Czerwionka, who now organises Devizes Family Club at The Cavalier. If memory serves me right, unusually, I was unable to draft anything, suffering a hangover. Rapping with da man, I merely suggested the possibility of putting on a charity event, and before I knew what was what, tickets were being sold online.
Such was the nature of the evening, throughout. Dean and Cons Club staff worked hard to make it such a great event. Those fantastic Daybreakers arrived early despite being the grand finale, and set up the system, organised the other acts. My wife prepared a buffet and son helped arrange it on the table. Ben Borrill’s mum Beverly, who had told me about her famous hamsters but neglected to tell me of her musically talented son, made a Black Forest gateau. Local poet Gail Foster entertained intervals between acts. Matthew Hennessy and Nick Padmore snapped the photos and Nick’s wife Joy made an effective bouncer on door duty! Even Resul of the Turkish Barbers gave me a free trim, and Tamsin Quin’s niece Erin rounded up everyone’s loose change for the bucket collection. All the while I swanned around talking toilet, propping up the bar and taking all the credit!
It should be bought to attention, now time has passed and any argument could be condensed to water under the bridge, that it wasn’t really Devizine’s birthday at all! I started it back in the September the previous year, it just took us a while to sort it out and get news out there. In that, it taught me a hell of a lot about putting an event on, all of which I now have…. erm, forgotten.
But it makes me proud to look back at our acts. Lottie J was only fifteen at the time, is now a star, off to music school, and producing some amazing pop. She jammed with the next act, the sadly disbanded Larkin, despite never having met. Sam Bishop of Larkin is studying music in Winchester, and has produced some great singles, solo, and with a new band. Martin of The Badger Set tipped me off he has something new up his sleeve. Then musical partner, Finely Trusler has since worked on solo projects, with his cousin as the duo The Truzzy Boys and now donned a Fred Perry and fronts the ever-awesome Roughcut Rebels.
We had, of course, our darlings, The Lost Trades, collaborating with each other, long before they were the Lost Trades. Jamie joined after an eleventh-hour cancelation, which I was overjoyed to have fit him in. Tamsin wasn’t feeling so good, but still performed to her usual higher than high standard anyway. Cutting her slot short, as things became quite a squeeze, Phil Cooper followed and really shook the place up. Still performing solo, but ever helping each other out, as The Lost Trades they’ve set a precedence on a national scale despite debuting just a week prior to lockdown.
Everyone’s favourite, George followed, with added Bryony Cox for a few numbers. After a move to Bristol, Mr Wilding set up a highly accomplished namesake band, Wilding, of which talents are boundless. Bryony continues working as a fine artist, with a penchant for landscapes.
Aching to get on and get everyone dancing, The Daybreakers did their lively covers thing. A change in line-up, they continue to do so today, composing their first original song recently. Yet really, they’re no strangers to writing and composing, Gouldy and Cath as an original duo are Sound Affects, and they sneaked in a slot at our Birthday Bash too.
It really was a great night in the end, if there was an end, I cannot recall, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone for their help, particularly proud to hear how much they’ve progressed and how far we’ve all come. It’s a crying shame we cannot yet replicate it, but I sure would like to when we reach that better day. So, look at for our fourth birthday bash, all things well by that time. Here’s some photos to get me teary-eyed.
Crouching beside me at our IndieDay outing last month, one third of our local folk trio, The Lost Trades, Tamsin Quin explained she’s slowly working toward her second album but a lot of time is spent concentrating on progressing the Lost Trades. I supposed here is an advantage to DIY projects, as if The Lost Trades were signed to contract it’d likely be an order to focus entirely on the group.
In pop we’ve seen the pressure put on bands to collaborate equitably, and the result usually causes a split in the end. Major record companies in tough competition don’t do enough to discourage this. Note drama sells in Simon Cowell’s ‘show-me-how-easy-it-is-to-manufacture-a-pop-star’ dressed-up karaoke television show, and hear the boos as he obstinately and impassively divides a prearranged group. He sells the tears of the rejected and the tension as young friends split. You could blame Yoko Ono, if you must, but bands breaking up is, sadly, no new thing.
Hence the accord and friendship between unsigned bands is a delightful contradiction to the harsh realities of the music industry, and I sense an unequalled unity in The Lost Trades, and deep respect for each other’s solo work. Cue another third, Phil Cooper, the binding, organised element of the Lost Trades, and his new solo album, These Revelation Games due for release by Infinite Hive on 30th October. It’s great, I’d expect no less, and Phil’s fanbase too, but it’s varied content would also serve as a taster for newcomers to his repertoire.
Historically it’s been over a couple of years since he sent me his Thoughts & Observations album to review, which does what it says on the tin, largely acoustic-based annotations and judgements. But I focus on a particular night down the Southgate when Phil was accompanied by his Slight Band. Man, he was on fire, loudly and proudly rocking our legendary live music tavern with unsurpassed esteem and passion. Make no mistake, These Revelation Games contains many a track comparable with Thoughts & Observations, they’re observational and sometimes quirkily humoured. But this new solo album takes no prisoners, and blasts its doors clean off their hinges from the off.
Yeah, while so the opening tune, House of Mirrors explodes rock, and dare I say it, has that impact of the sixties Batman theme, it shouts the riff at you, second up Phil returns us to the mellowed aural breeze we’re more accustomed to with his recorded material. So, it’s a mixed bag of astutely written and perfectly executed songs with Phil’s joyful aura and defining style.
Eleven songs heavy, the early tunes creep us slowly back to the up-tempo as it progresses. Without a Sound particularly adroitly manages to raise that notion, and Keep Your Hands on the Wheel is a prime example of how Phil ingeniously twists metaphors of the simplest of everyday things. Leading us onto the quirkiest song, I am a Radio. Akin to Robots on the Lost Trades EP, Phil makes a heartfelt connection to an inanimate object, yet here using sound effects to create the idea his voice is operating on shortwave. It’s by far the most interesting and experimental, also absorbing his electronica work under the title BCC.
For marvellously prolific and diversified is our Phil, performing as solo, as The Slight Band, his electronica side-project, or what it’s now concentrated on, the outstanding folk harmonies of The Lost Trades with Jamie R Hawkins and Tamsin Quin, Phil never slacks off or confines himself to one sound. “I wasn’t planning a new album this year,” Phil expressed, “but then, all plans for 2020 went out the window six months ago. So, I spent my time in lockdown writing and recording a whole load of songs that explored influences I’ve never explored before.” Therefore, as a solo album, bought about by lockdown, don’t expect it to remain in one place.
It rocks without reference to this folk avenue, for sure, but stretches to every corner of rock. There are surprisingly heavy guitar riffs. Fervent ballads like the particularly adroit Into the Void, whisking Lennon-like. And there’s ardent electric blues, Changing Times perhaps best example of the latter. It polishes the experience off with a Clapton-fashioned smooth blues finale called The Horseman Rides Tonight.
With a plethora of new music being produced, lockdown it seems did have one benefit, and These Revelation Games in a varied taster of a concentrated Phil Cooper at his peak. I look forward to the progression of the Lost Trades, but love this aforementioned freedom to produce solo work too. I mentioned my chat with Tamsin to Phil, about the time and effort dedicated to the Lost Trades, but the joy of the flexibility of freely venturing off to work solo, thoroughly supported by the other members of the trio. “You’re far from the band in the Commitments film,” I noted!
“Yeah,” Phil responded, “having a record label release it has helped keep the balance between solo and Lost Trades stuff. The Lost Trades has always been built on mutual respect for each other’s work, so we’ll always support each other.” Which kinda wraps it up aptly, the ethos of the trio is like this album, nice. Nice one Phil, nice one, son!
Coming from Essex where shopping is religion, you’d think I’d be impartial to the duty. But no. To be bluntly honest, as I believe I mostly am, I find nothing entertaining or enjoyable in sauntering a continuous stream of mundane chain stores aimlessly, other than to spend money I haven’t got on crap I didn’t want or need in the first place. Blessed we are then, in Devizes, with an array of original, charming and interesting independent shops, which make shopping endurable for whinging cronies like me! An ethos celebrated, kind of, this Saturday by the group Devizes Retailers and Independents who, in order to return commerce to our wonderful and lively town, held an “IndieDay.”
MP Danny Kruger opened the event, I missed that, loads of shops got involved and opened their doors to a festivity-fashioned celebration, missed that too. Donkeys and more, I missed. Far better for me to contribute by loitering outside Brogans café, munching on a bacon roll and taking credit for Mike J Barham’s hard work!
I arrived late, The Devizes Rotary Club arrived long before to lend us a grand gazebo, and Mike too, he set up a PA, he managed the PA, he hosted the event with his charming and entertaining charisma, and everyone came up to me and thanked me; result!
Honestly, as I’ve said, I have to give a massive thanks to everyone involved for making it such a special day, and in this day and age it was indeed even greater. Mike Barham for one, aforementioned contributions, but two, for rocking both the opening and finale with a plethora of his own work, such as the lively Bowser’s Castle, and thoughtful prose through downtempo blues, to the thundering satire of a west-country-styled Top Gun theme, Danger Zone! The guy is a one-man machine, the best of the best, of the best.
So yes, breakfast to a late lunchtime at Brogans got lively, as people filled the plot outside and the carpark, in the sunshine. It was something until late last night I feared would fail, with gapping gaps between the confirmed acts. Sadly, and for various reasons, Archie Combe and Tom Harris had to cancel, and our opening act, Pewsey singer-songwriter, Cutsmith was also unable to attend. The worry took me until 10pm when I unleashed a masterplan; Tamsin Quin cropped up on the book of face, to thank me for reviewing the new Lost Trades single, and so, whammy, I dispatched note of my concern and asked nicely if she would be able to grace us with her presence, and naturally, sing us a song or three.
I highly suspect they’re secretly superheroes, Tamsin, Jamie and Phil, and if not, they certainly saved my skin, more than once before. Tamsin dragged Jamie R Hawkins along, and as their alter-egos with no need for superhero costumes, they did it again. Thank you both so, so much. Tamsin gave it her all, which needs no surprise, her confidence and professionalism doesn’t preside her charming grace and skill to entertain. Jamie accompanied her brilliantly on cajon, claiming to be “getting into it now!” after just two songs in.
Then Cath and Gouldy rocked up on their way to the Southgate, to play as their folk duo Sound Affects, which was, as ever, blindingly awesome. All originals and finishing on Mr Blue Sky and Come on Eileen covers, it was superb. So, a massive thanks to them.
The finale then, was rocked by Mr Michael J Barham, which I’ve said already, but needs another mention. Thanks to everyone who turned up and made it really special day, including our photographers, Ruth, Nick and Gail, writer Andy and all the supporters. Thanks to Brogans for having us, I trust we behaved, least it could’ve been worse, believe me! It’s times like this which make Devizine feel more than me clonking on a keyboard, and rather a thing of community, of spirit and substance. Though now I’m back clonking, vainly bigging up our own gig, which I justify by noting it’s not about me, or my bacon roll, and more about the good folk who regularly contribute to make this website function, the musicians, writers and photographers, and supporters. Here’s to more, I want more!
New song from our local purveyors of the perfect folk vocal harmony trio, The Lost Trades. Out for another Bandcamp Day, today, Friday, where the website drops it’s fees and gives the artists 100% royalties; and darn it, if this isn’t worth a quid when it constitutes a mere quarter-cup of coffee from a posh café these days, I dunno what is.
The origin of the idiom, cloud nine is largely debated. Explanations relating the US Weather Bureau of the 1950s denoting fluffy cumulonimbus type clouds, or the penultimate stage of the progress to enlightenment for a Bodhisattva, are mostly debunked. But who needs a debate when you’re in a definite state of blissful contentment anyway?!
All you need know is this tune will land you on said cloud as if you were the monkey-god Sun Wukong on a mission. We are blessed with all the hallmarks of a Lost Trades signature tune; the calming tingle of xylophone, the gentle sway of acoustic guitar, the heavenly vocal harmonies, and uplifting lyrics to boot.
As Pink Floyd, around the Meddle era, after a bout of heavy space rock, when it suddenly drifts into thoughtful acoustic mega-bliss, this song just drifts akin, without need of heaviness, of Simon & Garfunkel, perhaps, meandering along a river on a gondola, thinking; hey man, let’s, like, sing; and it’s gorgeous, as we may’ve come to expect from this Trowbridge-Devizes trio. I wonder if we’re looking at a track from the highly anticipated album, yet, even if no, it’s the perfect display of progression for the newly-formed trio, who’s exceptional solo careers combine to create just as the title suggests; sitting on cloud nine.
With Tamsin advancing with her album, and Phil some way in front, teasing us with a cover design for his, titled Revelation, it’s clear the solo side projects will continue, but as a trio they bounce perfectly off each other, though it’s hardly a shove, more mooch. Download it here.
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.
Surprising title, Phil Cooper is not usually without a sound. Trowbridge’s prolific singer-songwriter subtlety reflects, I believe, on the silence of the lockdown in a new single born today. Subtlety is the key to many of his works, there’s a wonder in this one in particular if there’s undertones of a political statement, or if it’s a simple love and togetherness theme. I like it when it’s open to interpretation.
Yet if there’s something unsurprisingly catchy about Phil’s Easter egg single Without a Sound, I’m uncertain if he’d be flattered with my Elvis Costello comparison, but that’s what I picked it out of it, and you might be surprised by this.
Though comparing isn’t necessary now, Phil have stamped his own unique mark onto music and this one retains that personal fashion.
However you choose to look at it, it’s a gradual step in the right direction for Phil. With the Lost Trades obviously on hold for the time being, it’s a welcomed surprise and while we look forward to the vocal harmonies with Tamsin and Jamie, ah, this single will fill the gap perfectly.
As with Tamsin’s first rate live stream last night for the Swindon Shuffle virtual festival, it’s still good to see this trio working apart as well as together.
If you rarely venture into Swindon, July is the month in which to make the journey. Swindon Shuffle celebrates and backs local music, since 2007 hosting a weeklong town music festival at its hottest venues; namely The Victoria, The Beehive, The Hop, The Tuppenny and Baila Coffee & Vinyl. In association with Swindon Link and the West Berkshire Brewery, last year they presented forty-four bands over the weekend, all free, and supported mental health charity MIND.
I was forgiven in thinking this year would be virtual, saving some petrol money at least, but the organisers inform me this weekend’s Virtual Shuffle is only to breeze over this gloomy, Groundhog Day isolation period, and they cross their fingers for the real thing on the 16th-19th July; crossing my toes too!
Our favourite Swindonian music journalist, the one and only Dave Franklin, if there’s another he’s a phoney, is all over helping organise this sofa bash. He states “obviously there’s more important things going on in the world right now than worrying about a local music festival, but it is also at times like these that music, art, creativity in general, helps get us through or at least offers an oasis of calm where we can retreat to and forget the day-to-day worries for a bit.”
For me personally, I’m continuing to toil with the worth of the live stream against a real gig, ponder it’s currently all we have, worry either punter or musician are forced onto the ropes when it comes to how they should be arranged and financed and have even encountered and engaged in heated debates as we scramble in the dark trying to make this work best for everyone. This said, if anyone can I’m reckoning the Shuffle team will make an amazing job of it. If there is an upside to it, it is that one can check these artists out for when the gig scene does take off, and boy, I’m predicting it’ll go off like an atomic blast, and it will encourage many to take the journey to festivals such as Swindon Shuffle, in this example.
In the meantime, enjoy the streams and not let it miff us too much at missing the real thing. I tell myself the scene is dormant; it will erupt again. It should go without saying, but I’m going to spell it out; B, for BUY, U for Yourself (sort of,) Y for some local music, (okay, that didn’t work) Look, just support the artists and buy their music from their websites and Bandcamp sites!
On a rainy Friday night in Trowbridge, I followed the directions from the bar staff at the Lamb Inn- past the pool table and out the back – to the Village Pump, a quirky, intimate performance space that was already packed. And there was cake, lots of cake.
This was the first gig for The Lost Trades but most people seemed to know the Wiltshire-based singer songwriters, Jamie R Hawkins, Phil Cooper and Tamsin Quin, pretty well as they mingled in the breaks between support acts Vince Bell and newcomers Timid Deer.
Tamsin confessed she was nervous, hoping the new three-part harmony adventure would start well. She needn’t have worried. The sell-out crowd were on their side right from the start.
Swapping instruments and lead vocals throughout the night, The Lost Trades shared their stories and songs with the relaxed ease of seasoned performers. There are three distinct styles to the songs but an obvious pleasure in playing together binds the music into a cohesive set. It’s folky, funny and full on harmony.
I’m glad Phil took the time to introduce his original, the Groom of the Stools – a little context went a long way to explaining this rollicking, foot stomping number where “every day I take a look at the Crown jewels”. Google it, trust me it’s that job that you’ve never dreamed about.
About halfway through the set Tamsin debuted Hope Cove, a very personal song for a friend about holidays in Devon. Loaded with emotion the absolute strength of the trio, the balance of harmonies, was on display. These three voices create a beautiful rich sound, layered and textured.
My favourite song wasn’t an original – sorry guys – but a traditional American spiritual, Down in the River to Pray. The harmonies, wow. Just wow. As it soared and rolled around me, I’m not ashamed to say I might have had something in my eye….
The Village Pump is a cracking venue, home to the local folk club and a regular open mic night. I was told a group of friends started the folk club there in 1973 in a barn at the back of the pub. Performances were staged from a wagon and there are nods to this on the walls with horse paraphernalia hanging with tubas, French horns, guitars and pipes from a church organ. Upstairs in the balcony there’s plush red tiered seating from a now-closed local movie theatre. Great acoustics, a welcoming vibe and drinks on tap from the Lamb Inn, it’s just the place to showcase local talent.
Shout out to Jamie’s fiancé Janey for the cakes – a vote saw the chocolate cake coming out the clear winner with the consolation prize going to Tamsin’s flapjacks. I tried a few, for research purposes. Perhaps more than a few. Yum!
The encore was a swinging country version of Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere. I’m picking this is far from the truth for the trio. The Lost Trades are out on a Spring tour now with a handful of gigs around Wiltshire as well as trips to far flung places including London, Stratford on Avon and Exeter between now and the end of April. Details are on their website along with the chance to join the mailing list for early bird benefits.
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.
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?!
I’m adiaphorous to Crowded House, I confess, probably due to timing. Late eighties, early nineties and like many-a-teenager I was gurning in a field, revelling developments in music technology. If I couldn’t dance like a puppet on fast forward to it, well, you know, some good things pass you by. This is not meandering off subject, it’s a point I’ll return to, after a heartfelt apology to the man who, this week, has produced a fantastic cover of their song “Falling at Your Feet,” and is long overdue some updated attention here on Devizine, Mr Phil Cooper.
So, it was a compare and contrast job, flicking to YouTube to hear the original, and back to confirm this Trowbridge singer/songwriter’s version, not overlooking the added harmonies of Jamie R Hawkins, is equally sublime. The only difference being Phil’s stamp, which is never a bad thing. There are occasions, such as Eric Clapton’s I Shot the Sheriff, which opens someone’s eyes to the original artist, so maybe this, alongside People Like Us who regularly cover Weather with You and make me smile, will shake me up to the songs of Crowded House. Prior, if handed them on the three-in-ten finale of Ken Bruce’s Pop Master, I’d get Weather with You, and then epically fail. Always wanted a pop master t-shirt over a DAB radio anyway (fib.)
Feeling it hugs the original pretty tightly, with a passion in Phil’s vocals which nods to the respect he obviously holds for Crowded House, there’s not much more I can say on the single, other than encouraging you to take a listen. Oh, and I hope it’s not Phil’s Red, Red Wine moment. You know, after that hit, UB40 transformed into a cover band (one reason I cringe with irony when tribute bands take on a name of one of their numerous cover versions.) Because, well, Phil’s song writing ability is first rate and, with or without the trio of aspiring local musicians; Jamie and Tamsin Quin, his input would be greatly missed.
Leading me neatly onto why I started with an apology to Phil, as fallen to the bottom of my dusty in-tray was the promise to write something about a previous project. Double-whammy then, this one dates back to summer, when I thought Phil had a new album called Nine. Whisking him a message it became clear via the reply, Nine was an older project. “I’ve decided to release it on streaming sites for the first time to celebrate it’s ninth year, nine month and nine day anniversary,” he explained.
The Nine Album was originally recorded on 9th September 2009 (09/09/09.) He wrote nine songs between the 1st and 9th and started recording the album at 9am on 9th. The album was completed that day and released at 9pm that same day, which I think clarifies the title adequately! But it coincided with a complete reworking of the album by his indietronica alter-ego, B.C.C, titled “Nein.”
Maybe, I figured, its title’s conversion to German nods to the pioneers of electronic music, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, as BCC is Phil’s ambient electronica side-project. Now this intrigued me, note my promise to return to my point of the rave days of yore. My love of dance music obviously holds dear to its roots in electronica, often retelling the occasion of first hearing Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock in 1982 as the epiphany of said era. Yet through all the technological changes from the punks turning new romantic, to the birth of hip hop, the development of house, techno and drum n bass via the rave scene, and the thousands of offshoots since, Phil’s BCC stays close to the simplicities of early electronica, rather than do a Damon Albam and push new boundaries with Gorrillaz. So, it’s nice, yeah, it’s breezy and experimental for Phil, and if you like his music, it’s essential to check this out, but still, I dunno, may be it’s an age thing, because if you asked me which one of Nine and Nein I favoured, it’d be the original.
Blast, I’ve hung up my whistle, posse! Fetch my pipe and slippers.
For Nine is like what The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle is to Springsteen, if Thoughts and Observations, an album which I think was the first I ever gratefully reviewed on Devizine, is his Born to Run. Relishing in the roots of a musician or band I love, discovering early works, and for this, Nine is fantastic, it captures Phil at his rawest, most ambitious, and if it fails to be as polished as Thoughts & Observations, that’s its charm. Tracks like Cloud Nine, Where I Belong and You are wonderfully composed, beautifully written. However, the BCC project might put an interesting, electronic spin on it, worthy of attention, some things, I feel, are best left the way they are.
But that’s the package you get with Phil, what a prolific genius who cares not about defining a distinct style, though has crafted an excellent one, rather ventures out there, to experimentation, to stripping back or developing a track. You have to hand it to the man, for this works on his marketing side too, a DIY enthusiast who’ll do radio but live stream shows, release on all online sources but still strive to produce a CD, a blogger who maintains an honest, familiarity with his fans, and as a promoter and producer for the trio he has done astounding works with Jamie and Tamsin.
So, if it’s solo Phil Cooper you’re listening to, or if Jamie or Tammy assist him, or if it’s a track of theirs he’s produced, or as BCC, or Get Schwifty – Phil and Jamie’s cover duo nom-de-plume, you know it’s been stamped with Phil’s distinctive style, and it’ll sound great. Which brings us full circle, and is darn good reason to check out this Crowded House single, because if Phil wants to do a cover, he will, and make it sound awesome. But for the full package, I advise you like his Facebook page, follow his Bandcamp page, subscribe to his YouTube, and naturally catch him live (next gig on 8th November at the Southgate, Devizes, Jan 23rd at The Tuppenny, live stream this Sunday at 6pm; the guy never stops for a cuppa and a garibaldi.
There are two sides to every story. We’ve heard Dolly’s angle since 1973, imagine if Jolene had her say. Traditionally, like gallant fables, songs seldom back the underdog, the aberrant. Particularly the rounded narrative of folk or country, usually tales culturally able to be retold, optimistically.
If the last local singer-songwriter you’d expect to be exploring darker tenets is Tamsin Quin, think again. Akin to Springsteen’s Nebraska, in so much it summons no such communal feeling, rather Scandal, the new single from our illustrious local songstress is secluded in a room of a distant, shady and enigmatic place.
A song of who the cap fits, of watching your own back. Tamsin advises “there’s criminals in the shadows, pull your friends a little closer.” But cross examines her own persuasions and faith in the notion, maybe, “we’re all scoundrels deep down inside.”
It’s as if the darker depths of Tamsin’s acute words in previous songs have come to detonation; executed sublimely, and produced with eminence by Phil Cooper. Scandal, out next Friday (30th August) is whole new level of excellence for this already blossoming star. I congratulated her, as vocally it sounds deeper and much more refined than anything before. Is that what she was hoping for?
“Yep,” she responds as ardently as the same ol’ Tammy, “I was totally going for the dark country vibes. Phil did such a great job producing it; I’m really pleased with the outcome. I hope its dramatic!”
Tis indeed, like Wynette at her darkest; she builds tension around the breakfast table, the penny drops as to why Billie Joe Macalister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge and the protagonist attempts to hide her secret affair. “So,” I asked, “this is for a forthcoming album? Can we expect the others to be similar, or am I divulging too much?!”
“I’m aiming for a new album next year. The plan is for another single in October, then a single in February, and the album in April.” Tamsin expands the answer, “not all of the songs are this dark, although I am working on another haunting one at the moment, but the whole album feels a lot more mature that Gypsy Blood. I feel like I’ve grown into myself, and I’m writing what I want to write, instead of what I think the crowd will love. Writing more for myself I guess, although I really hope others really like it too.”
That personal enlightenment brews Tamsin’s poise when performing live, “writing things for yourself does tend to give you a little more confidence in delivery. Which I guess gives other people faith that its good, if you have faith in yourself and your work.”
I’m certain when reviewing Gypsy Blood, I suggested Tamsin sounded more mature, guessing both are a natural progression, though. “Guess you gotta grow up somewhen!” she laughs. I think you never stop learning and growing artistically, until, perhaps you reach a pinnacle and it doesn’t sound so progressive. Does she fear ever reaching that age where they say, “old Tamsin, just going through the motions?”
After stressing the importance to her of critical feedback, she laughed at the notion. “I guess that’s where the whole ‘writing for yourself’ thing comes in, because if you like your songs then you won’t care what people are saying.” I suspect that time is a long way off, Scandal in a nutshell is poignant, emotive and, perhaps an unanticipated gift to our music scene, and based upon it, I hold my breath for the album.
Yet again it’s a Sunday, the weather is balmy, and the hangover is starting to recede a little. There seems to be a recurring theme here. Whatever.
After last night’s stunning free show in the Market Place, delivered by The Fulltone Orchestra, today was a day when there was a need to get very much chilled out and calmed down. I mean – singing along to Queen’s greatest hits, and dancing along to the Ibiza set are all very well, to say nothing of the odd jar of liquid refreshment – but since the crowds had all dispersed into the night a few hours previously, something a little more relaxed was very much required.
But not to worry. As ever, our little town, punched above its weight yet again and delivered just what was required.
Firstly to Hillworth Park for Fantasy Radio’s Month of Sundays, featuring a live on-air radio show, showcasing the talents of a couple of local artists. This was the third Sunday show for July (last one is next week 28th July), and it was the turn of Tamsin Quin and Andrew Hurst.
Tamsin’s two short sets included songs from her album Gypsy Blood. Her gentle, simple songs rang out across the park, and behind each one was a personal story, a thought, a feeling. Her delivery was both clear and heart-warming, and she (as always) established a friendly rapport with her audience. Perfect.
Andrew Hurst is also no stranger to the park, having played here for Fantasy last year too. Only last week I enjoyed Andrew’s longer session in the White Bear, but today it was a couple of shorter sets. He played both covers and self-penned numbers, ranging from the quiet and intimate, through to the noisier upbeat numbers. I was left wondering how two hands can play quite so many notes so quickly. Close your eyes sometimes and it sounded like two guitars – fantastic stuff.
Next week, the final one of the Month of Sundays, will feature the very entertaining Rockin’ Bandits. So get yourself along there!
I left the crowd enjoying their Sunday afternoon in the park because a) I wanted to check out another artist playing in the White Bear’s Sunday afternoon sessions, and b) it was time for a beer! The artist in question was Bristol-based Andy Juan – new to me, but glad I made the trip.
Andy is a singer/ songwriter of some considerable talent. His songs were well-crafted, his vocals intense, and his guitar-playing spot on. He’s one of those artists who, when he’s playing a song, gets completely in the zone, completely in the moment. His focus, his concentration, were wonderful to behold. Playing mostly his own beautiful songs, he wasn’t afraid to throw in the occasional cover as well. But this wasn’t done as a mere afterthought. I’ve long been of the opinion that, if you’re going to cover a well-known song, you need to do one of two things – either replicate the original very exactly (to show how well you can actually listen to another artist’s work), or else give the original a complete re-working (to show how you can re-interpret the meaning, or the feeling, of the original song, to add something entirely new). Andy was definitely in the latter category, and the results were truly stunning. I shall definitely be listening to this guy again.
On top of all that he delivered his sets with warmth and humour, engaging the audience throughout. And he was a nice bloke too.
Next Sunday (28th July) the White Bear’s Sunday session at 5pm will feature the very talented, and very versatile, Ian O’Regan. One not to be missed.
So there you go – one afternoon, three acoustic artists. Three different styles, but all united in being very talented, very entertaining and (thankfully) very laid-back – perfect! What’s not to like?
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
It was over a couple of years ago I stepped cautiously into the Black Swan, only to receive the pleasant surprise at its renovation and complete change of style. Since this time Devizes takes the alteration as red, and it thrives with eccentricity, vintage chic, quality tucker and music. However, its future is now uncertain as it closes its doors for a refurb and Waddies bring new landlords in.
We hold out for a silver lining, but for the time being, the Black Swan’s current incarnation ends next week. To celebrate its time at the helm of all things unconventional in town, the landlord has requested the presence of the big man, Mike Barham, whose prolific raw dynamism currently reverbs throughout our great county.
His giant steps certainly get him around, playing the London Road Inn in Calne on Saturday 7th, he’s at the Hare & Hounds in Corsham on the 12th and on the 14th he crosses the border to Frome. In between though, he returns to his hometown for this closing gig at the Black Swan, but he’s inviting a self-labelled “Local Area Invasion,” with him, an amalgamation of our finest local musicians who’ll get to play a couple of songs each, prior to Mike blasting the place with oomph.
Yeah, save the date, Wednesday 11th October, where you’ll find at the very least, Jamie R Hawkins, Vince Bell, Larkin, Jack Moore, George Wilding, Jordan Whatley and Tamsin Quin; incredible line-up, for a school night, a virtual who’s who of the Devizes pub music scene sampler; Free!