REVIEW – Thompson Smurthwaite @ The Southgate and Ian O’Regan @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 17th November

The Afternoon After The Night Before

Andy Fawthrop

After the utter chaos, madness and mayhem of the previous night at The Southgate featuring the totally bonkers 7-piece Back Wood Redeemers (see the review by esteemed colleague Mr Worrow), I thought I’d start my musical Sunday afternoon back at the same venue to see if there was anything left standing. Surprisingly all previous traces had been removed, and occupying the red carpet of musical fame was the small, lonesome figure of Mr Thompson Smurthwaite.

I’d last seen Thompson play a few weeks back at Long Street Blues Club, supporting local legend Jon Amor. On that occasion he’d played a wonderful set, if anything slightly over-awed by the size of the crowd and the great warmth of the reception to his playing. But I’d been impressed by what I’d heard, and was looking forward to hearing him in slightly more intimate surroundings.

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And I was not disappointed. Thompson has a lovely laid-back, casual, self-deprecating style of talking to his audience, as if chatting to just a few friends. And indeed he was among friends this afternoon. Guitar, voice and harmonica were all employed to great effect to deliver a wonderful set of self-penned smoky-sounding blues. His material is often personal, and reflects his experience of life, both on the canals and elsewhere. His playing style is relaxed, unfussy and genuine. Most songs are slow, rolling, rambling numbers – and all delivered with a thin, reedy, drawling vocal. And the crowd received his sets with warmth and genuine appreciation.

It’s a great tribute to the Southgate that Dave & Deb continue to provide such a diverse range of free musical entertainment every weekend. You really couldn’t get a greater contrast between last night’s rollicking 7-piece band and this afternoon’s laid-back solo blues artist. And yet both worked so well in the pub, and provided superb entertainment.

Then back down into town to The White Bear for their latest Sunday Session. Big shout-out to Georgie & Marc too, who’ve just celebrated their first year of being in Devizes, and who have already made a difference in terms of pub dining, craft beer and musical entertainment.

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This afternoon’s offering was the return of the very versatile, and very talented, Ian O’Regan. Ian had impressed so much on his first visit a couple of months ago that they got him back again. This time, although I’ve heard Ian many times, was probably one of his very best performances. Newly-refreshed (or tired) from his recent trip to Nashville, Ian was on top of his game. As usual, he reeled out number after number from across the musical spectrum, hardly pausing for breath. Ian is a chatty, friendly soul, but once he picks up his guitar, he’s off and running. Again we got two sets of perfectly-crafted, superbly-delivered music. Great versions of John Martyn’s “May You Never”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and even Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune” were interspersed with the occasional O’Regan original. His playing, and his vocals, as ever, were absolutely spot-on. The crowd loved it, and dispersed into the late-afternoon murk of Devizes, with smiles on their faces. Great gig.

Future gigs at The Southgate:

• Friday 22nd Nov The Idle Silence, The Leathers, Mighty Magic Animals
• Sat 23rd Nov Jamie R Hawkins
• Friday 29th Nov Duskers
• Sat 30th Nov Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Review

Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:

• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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Our Sunday Live Music Stroll Around Devizes, Relay!

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

Andy Fawthrop

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow and Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – Cutsmith @ The White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 20th October 2019

Not Everyone’s Cup Of Tea

Andy Fawthrop

Cutsmith derives his moniker from being the Wordsmith from the Cut (canal). Aka Josh Alej Bowes, he describes his music as “imagine Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Jamie T, John Martyn and Lauryn Hill jamming by a fire pit on the towpath”. Fittingly perhaps, he had played a gig the previous night at The Barge at Honeystreet, a place with which he was intimately acquainted, having been brought up in the area immediately around the pub.

I’d not seen him before, so thought I’d give him a look-see. Overall, I think I’d describe my experience as a mixed bag. On the positive side there were some soulful, heartfelt lyrics with stories based in personal experience (as you might expect from a singer/ songwriter). There were some nice spoken parts, almost dub-style, over the top of the guitar, which added some welcome texture. I was even minded of a slowed-down Arctic Monkeys at times.

On the less positive side, I felt his set lacked any particularly stand-out songs. Quite a few seemed to merge together at times. The only one I specifically remember was in fact a cover of Gershwin’s “Summertime”, which lacked the song’s normal haunting quality. Cutsmith is not the strongest singer I’ve ever heard, and there was nothing particularly outstanding in his strumming guitar style either. And – it maybe me (don’t judge) – I found his in-between song patter a little grating at times. Whilst friendly and outwardly engaging, some of it felt a little forced. Just my opinion of course, and I realise that he’s probably crossed me off his Christmas card list, but others might find him more to their liking than I did.

Competent and engaging, but not particularly outstanding. But, as they say, you can’t like all of the people all of the time, and Cutsmith wasn’t really my cup of tea.

Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:

• 27th October George Wilding
• 10th November Wade Merritt
• 17th November Ian O’Regan
• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – Phil King @ White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 13th October

Sheltered From The Storm

Andy Fawthrop

Well the weather had been pretty wet all weekend, and Sunday afternoon was no exception. Good excuse then to hunker down in the White Bear with a pint, and listen to one of the best singer/ songwriters in the South West.

Phil King hails from Bristol, and is now (despite his still-youthful looks) a veteran of the SW live music scene, having played pubs and clubs all over the region, together with festivals, and stints with touring musical theatre productions of “Jane Eyre” and “To Kill A Mockingbird”. So this guy definitely knows his way around a song and a guitar.

And I’ll declare an interest here – I’ve been listening to Phil for several years now, and I’m a complete fan. There was no way I was going to miss this one.

His latest album is The Wreckage, and he was keen to showcase several numbers from that record, but thoughtfully mixed in with several numbers from his back catalogue (The War I Cannot Win, Do Not Surrender, Black Wind Blowing and When Will I Ever Learn), and some beautifully-reworked covers (Merle Haggard’s Sick, Sober & Sorry, and even If I Only Had a Brain from The Wizard of Oz). His opening gambit was Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm”, a comment on the weather outside perhaps. And thereafter we were treated to two sets of incredibly beautiful songs, each one tenderly and carefully delivered. Phil’s voice is smouldering and smoky, distinctive and an instrument of great subtlety, switching effortlessly from a haunting, gentle whisper through to a full-throated howl of pain. His guitar-playing was careful, intricate and beautifully crafted. There were no loops, no stomps, no gimmicks – just the man, his guitar and the very occasional use of harmonica.

The whole performance was simply mesmerising, and there were times in the crowded pub when you could have heard the dropping of the proverbial pin. The audience was an interesting mixture of people who had never seen/ heard him before, together with obvious fans sitting mouthing the words to the songs. It made for a great and appreciative atmosphere.

“Superb”, “amazing”, “sublime” and “extraordinarily good” were phrases I heard around the place. Not my words, but the comments of people around the room. To be honest, it’s actually difficult to define what a singer/ songwriter could possibly do to give a better performance.

Absolutely fantastic afternoon of class entertainment.

There are more Sunday Sessions to come at The White Bear, so watch their Facebook page and, of course, here on Devizine.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – Hadrian’s Union @ Southgate & Jamie R Hawkins @ White Bear, Devizes – Sunday 22nd September 2019

Another Great Music Sunday Afternoon

Andy Fawthrop

First to The Southgate, where Dave & Debs continue to provide a platform for acts of class entertainment. Today it was 5-piece folk-rockers Hadrian’s Union, a band completely new to me. Except that their fiddle-player Penny wasn’t actually with them, so they just carried on as a four-piece, on their Penny-less tour. Geddit? Oh, never mind.

The line-up included Saul Rose on drums, Brian Bell on 5-string bass, Robin Jowett on melodeon and keyboards, and founding member Stew Simpson on guitar and vocals. Saul Rose, who produced their last album, is as good as folk royalty, having played with a wide range of famous folk bands (Faustus, Mawkin, Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band). Normally he plays accordion, but had decided, just for the hell of it, to get back to his first love the drum-kit.

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They hail from the debatable northern lands of the English and Scottish borders, and had had a very early start that morning in order to make this gig. Their name originates from the locality and mindset of the band, since their separate members are based along various points of Hadrian’s Wall. They come to the band from various music genres – folk, punk, rock, blues, Celtic, ska etc – which reflects in the music they create together. They quote their musical references as Lindisfarne, Jethro Tull, Stackridge, and The Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band.

I quickly discovered that this meant an eclectic and varied set of self-penned songs, but paying musical dues to all those traditions. One minute we were in full rock mode, the next minute we were in a folk club, listening to traditional morris tunes. If they are rockers, they were very folky, and if they were folkies, they had a mean line in driving blues/ rock. Great stuff, and the packed crowd really lapped it up, whooping and dancing to just about every number. The sound was relaxed, yet tight, and every number was delivered with confidence and impeccable timing.

Upcoming gigs at The Southgate are:

• Friday 27th Sept Pink Tribute (Beautiful Trauma)
• Saturday 28th September Phase Rotate & Cobalt Fire
• Friday 4th October James Hollingsworth
• Saturday 5th Oct ober Jon Walsh

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Then back into town to the White Bear, for the latest of Marc & Georgie’s Sunday Sessions, this week featuring local favourite and all-round good egg Jamie R Hawkins. It’s a sign of the level of esteem in which Jamie is held that this was probably the best crowd these Sunday Sessions have attracted so far. This time not surrounded by & supported by his musical friends, but playing the whole of his two sets on his own, Jamie delivered (as ever) a superb performance of self-penned and very personal songs. Those of us who have been following him for a while are obviously familiar with much of his material, but we never tire of hearing those songs again, especially when each performance (like this one) is delivered with such intensity and feeling. And of course, we liked the way he works in the new songs. The atmosphere was great, the crowd loved it, and we had a great afternoon all round.

Next week’s Sunday Session (29th Sept) @ The White Bear @ 5pm features Fraser Tilley.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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Blues On A Sunday: Andrew Bazeley @ The White Bear

Andy Fawthrop

Another great afternoon in The Vize for free music. Be rude not to enjoy it!

After listening to Proms In The Park with the Devizes Town Band (see report elsewhere in Devizine) I headed back into town, and to the White Bear to catch Andrew Bazeley.

Andrew is, quite simply, a Blues fanatic – Delta Blues, Country Blues, Traditional Blues, Bottleneck Blues, Acoustic Blues – whatever you want to call it, this is your man for playing it, singing it, learning about it, teaching it, writing about it, and even giving all-day lectures about it! What Andrew doesn’t know about the history of the Blues, the US Deep South, and the history of guitars, is simply not worth knowing.

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Andrew cuts a distinctive figure, balding and sporting an impressive grey-white beard, and it’s fairly obvious that he’s a child of the sixties. That’s when he acquired his first guitar, and he’s been singing the Blues ever since.

On Sunday afternoon, he kept the talking to a minimum and just let the songs flow out. Swapping between his two guitars (one 101 years old, the other a mere 82 years old), the music just kept coming. Most of his set was traditional material from the likes of Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Blind Willie Johnson and others, but there was also a few of his own self-penned numbers seamlessly worked into the set.

His sets were assured, well played and well sung, to the obvious enjoyment of the audience as it built up during the early evening.

Another very pleasant afternoon spent in the White Bear, and another tribute to our great little down for providing a whole afternoon of free musical entertainment. Happy Days!

Coming up at The White Bear on future Sunday Sessions @ 5pm are:

• 22nd September Jamie R Hawkins
• 29th September Fraser Tilley


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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REVIEW – Lark In The Park (Hillworth), Kimberley Rew @ The Southgate, Eddie Witcomb@ White Bear, Devizes

In The Wet And The Dry

Andy Fawthrop

Another busy Sunday afternoon of free music gigs around the town.

First to Hillworth Park for the much under-advertised “Lark In The Park”. I’ve heard of stealth marketing, but sometimes I think Fantasy Radio can take this too far. I saw/ heard very little about this, apart from one post on Facebook, so I wasn’t surprised to turn up an hour after the start of this event to find very few people there. Granted the weather forecast wasn’t great, but I suspect they’d get bigger audiences if they told a few more people what was going on. I managed to catch Clare doing a short set before the heavens opened in mid-afternoon then, like others, took refuge in the café for a coffee. Once it became obvious that the rain wasn’t going to stop any time soon, the few brave souls who’d turned up just melted away. I decided to join them. Bit of a wash-out.

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Fortunately the Southgate is just round the corner so I settled in there with a pint, and was soon joined by friends. The entertainment was provided by Kimberley Rew on guitar, and his wife & partner-in-crime Lee Cave-Berry on bass. Rew’s main claim to fame is having been guitarist and song-writer with Katrina & The Waves, having penned their big hit “Walking on Sunshine”, followed later in 1999 by “Love Shine A Light” when the band won the Eurovision Song Contest (remember that??). Since the band’s demise, Rew has produced a string of solo albums, and has clearly not lost the knack of writing catchy tunes.

The duo served up plenty of bop-along material, blending riffs from pop, boogie-woogie, rock and blues. There was some fine lead guitar from Rew, and solid vocals from both. If anything, it was a bit too exciting for a rainy Sunday afternoon, but absolutely nobody was complaining. It certainly blew out the cobwebs.

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By the end of their first set, the weather had started behaving itself again, and the sun made a belated appearance. So I made my way back down into town, and to the White Bear to catch Eddie Witcomb.

Eddie hails from up the road in Marlborough, and he’d pulled along his dad and a mate or two. So we had the start of a small, but beautifully-formed, audience which grew in size as the afternoon turned into early evening. Eddie did two sets, nicely blending his own very personal material with some carefully selected covers. We were treated to his versions of “Paranoid”, “Roxanne”, “Tears In Heaven” and “Stand By Me”, amongst others. His own songs were well-turned, featuring some fine playing, and delicate vocals. It was a mark of the quality of these songs, that they were as strongly received as the covers. His style was relaxed, and he was fully ready to engage in banter with the audience. He did confide that he was playing with a bit of a hangover, but if he was there was very little sign of it.

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So another great (free) Sunday of music around the town. I think we just shaded it – Weather 1, Music 2, and we all went home happy yet again.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
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