You know you’re stockpiling years when you decide staying in for your birthday is the choicest option. I did, finally, haul my birthday-cake belly off the sofa on Sunday, driven by lingering desire, or an essence of ritual, which put up a fierce battle against my indolence; I’m glad it won.
Though the anticipated birthday banter and celebratory sacraments were scarce, as the White Bear was held captive by an extraordinarily acute and enthralling sound. An artist I thought Andy had reviewed for a past Sunday session here at this snug tavern, but searching came up with no reference to it, Phil Dewhurst, known as Jinder was mysterious to me as either. Yet he weaves intricate and personal storytelling as an introduction to each song, so you leave feeling you know a little about the musician.
If it’s a Springsteen-esque cliché, Phil summarises well, each song illustrated with an explanation to his thoughts and inspiration while writing it. No matter if it’s fashioned with poetic riddle, once you’ve a background to it stimulus you comprehend. And his writing is well crafted, eloquent and precise.
While the songs were melodic and mellowing, few with a melancholic theme, Phil conducts his prose against the cynical, and his songs breath an air of positivity over pessimism. There was a running leitmotif of keeping on the sunny side of the street against all odds, and for such, I compare him again to Springsteen, for his wild romantic style. Never was the subject quixotic, pragmatism showed his true colours as he poured his emotion fluently into his songs, attached to acoustic guitar so you couldn’t see the join, through proficient use of the loop peddle he created a beautiful soundscape, like a one-man Pink Floyd.
And it was when to come back with the following verse which really impressed me, Jinder has professionalism in his timing and a natural flare, making this afternoon a notable and entertaining affair.
See, I observe the loop pedal operation with a certain fascination, particularly under the command of the multi-instrumentalist, previous referencing Chris James Marr from a Sheer gig, or when the Arts Festival introduced Devizes to She Robot last summer, but it never ceases to amaze me when a man like Jinder can weave such intense resonances with just an acoustic guitar. The instrumental sections penetrated the mind and drifted from person to person; he clearly knows what he’s doing there, wincing an electric guitar sound or bashing a beat on the side of it.
Big “but” here though, it was the crux when he let off the pedal, the songs of simplicity; man, and guitar, ah, the acoustic really showed his true expertise. I’d recommend and welcome a Phil Jinder Dewhurst gig to all mature aficionados of rock. And marvellously prolific is he, a West Country based international touring musician, Jinder has released ten critically acclaimed albums for five different labels, including Sony BMG and Universal, had top 40 singles with ‘Overthinkers Anonymous’ and ‘Keep Me In Your Heart’, the latter of which has been successfully covered by many other artists and features in 2019’s international smash hit movie ‘Fishermen’s Friends’.
Through the delicacy of lo-fi folk-noir to the crank but pleasing blues tune he charmed the humble audience with personal anecdotes of woe, or uplifting inspirational moments, he expressed his passion for his art, that of friends in collaboration, and he pitched his landmark album The Silver Age with accounts of its orchestration. I’d like to hear that, yet as solo he has a force of his own, and was the perfect finale to a weekend.
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!
Marc singing off the same song sheet as me, when he explains he encourages original material from the performers at his Sunday sessions at the White Bear in Devizes, yet covers which the artist “make their own” are always crowd pleasers. Who could be more apt than George Wilding?
Yeah, car troubles caused his slight delay, but the fireplace was warming, the denizen atmosphere matched. Convivial and geniality are prevalent at this earliest of Devizes inns, still going strong; I do like the White Bear. Last time I was here, George Wilding coincidently blessed the alcove, while others such as Wade Merrit, Andrew Bazeley, Vince Bell, Jon Walsh, Ian O’Regan, and Cutsmith have all graced the sessions, to name but a few; I’ve just been a bit rubbish in attending. Though our man Andy has been there to review most, I see why. It’s a comfortable and welcoming central pub.
Andy was there, to breath a sigh of relief upon seeing me; I’ll delegated myself to write a little something and he knows it. Though there’s not a great deal to say, especially nothing negative; I didn’t even snap a photo through nattering. If you’ve not heard how unsurpassed George’s every performance is then you’re both new to Devizine and to the area. In a peak cap he breezed through sublime covers and proficient originals like it was child’s play, and maintains his audience with genuine and sincere affability.
Hidden between Simon & Garfunkel, The Animals and even Abba classics, he slipped a refined version of his own My Backwards Head, doing as he always does, brilliantly. With right here, and naturally, The Southgate adding end-of-weekend live music too, Sunday afternoon in Devizes has never been so good. If the value of a pub is the sum of its landlords and its atmosphere, Marc and Georgie have done wonders. It’s Wadworth but with its own stamp. Sunday sessions continue for a while, check our event calendar of their Facebook page. Sunday roasts are also popular here; Mark tells me about plans to open some outside space, but while it’s February, we’re here, nice and warm.
Having got a couple of hours to spare before the evening’s Rockfiles gig at Long Street Blues Club (see elsewhere), I thought I’d pop into the White Bear for a couple of looseners, and to see Jon Walsh, a performer new to me.
Using both acoustic and resonator guitars, Jon clearly had an extensive repertoire of songs. His material varied from old 1920s and 1930s blues standards such as “Crossroads” and “Walking Blues” through to fairly contemporary pop songs e.g. “Walking In Memphis”. In each of his two sets he was joined on vocals by his partner Terie, who lent some bluesy and jazzy phrasing to several classics such as “Crazy”, “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Valerie”. There was clearly some musical chemistry between these two, and they obviously enjoyed working together.
Jon put in an extremely versatile performance, including a nice smattering of his own original songs. Nice crowd, and nice atmosphere.
Can’t think why I’ve not come across Jon before, but shall certainly be happy to listen to him again.
After the utter chaos, madness and mayhem of the previous night at The Southgate featuring the totally bonkers 7-piece Back Wood Redeemers (see the review by esteemed colleague Mr Worrow), I thought I’d start my musical Sunday afternoon back at the same venue to see if there was anything left standing. Surprisingly all previous traces had been removed, and occupying the red carpet of musical fame was the small, lonesome figure of Mr Thompson Smurthwaite.
I’d last seen Thompson play a few weeks back at Long Street Blues Club, supporting local legend Jon Amor. On that occasion he’d played a wonderful set, if anything slightly over-awed by the size of the crowd and the great warmth of the reception to his playing. But I’d been impressed by what I’d heard, and was looking forward to hearing him in slightly more intimate surroundings.
And I was not disappointed. Thompson has a lovely laid-back, casual, self-deprecating style of talking to his audience, as if chatting to just a few friends. And indeed he was among friends this afternoon. Guitar, voice and harmonica were all employed to great effect to deliver a wonderful set of self-penned smoky-sounding blues. His material is often personal, and reflects his experience of life, both on the canals and elsewhere. His playing style is relaxed, unfussy and genuine. Most songs are slow, rolling, rambling numbers – and all delivered with a thin, reedy, drawling vocal. And the crowd received his sets with warmth and genuine appreciation.
It’s a great tribute to the Southgate that Dave & Deb continue to provide such a diverse range of free musical entertainment every weekend. You really couldn’t get a greater contrast between last night’s rollicking 7-piece band and this afternoon’s laid-back solo blues artist. And yet both worked so well in the pub, and provided superb entertainment.
Then back down into town to The White Bear for their latest Sunday Session. Big shout-out to Georgie & Marc too, who’ve just celebrated their first year of being in Devizes, and who have already made a difference in terms of pub dining, craft beer and musical entertainment.
This afternoon’s offering was the return of the very versatile, and very talented, Ian O’Regan. Ian had impressed so much on his first visit a couple of months ago that they got him back again. This time, although I’ve heard Ian many times, was probably one of his very best performances. Newly-refreshed (or tired) from his recent trip to Nashville, Ian was on top of his game. As usual, he reeled out number after number from across the musical spectrum, hardly pausing for breath. Ian is a chatty, friendly soul, but once he picks up his guitar, he’s off and running. Again we got two sets of perfectly-crafted, superbly-delivered music. Great versions of John Martyn’s “May You Never”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and even Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune” were interspersed with the occasional O’Regan original. His playing, and his vocals, as ever, were absolutely spot-on. The crowd loved it, and dispersed into the late-afternoon murk of Devizes, with smiles on their faces. Great gig.
Future gigs at The Southgate:
• Friday 22nd Nov The Idle Silence, The Leathers, Mighty Magic Animals
• Sat 23rd Nov Jamie R Hawkins
• Friday 29th Nov Duskers
• Sat 30th Nov Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Review
Future Sunday Sessions at The White Bear:
• 15th December Phil Jinder Dewhirst
• 22nd December Vince Bell
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?!
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
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.
First to The Southgate, where Dave & Debs continue to provide a platform for acts of class entertainment. Today it was 5-piece folk-rockers Hadrian’s Union, a band completely new to me. Except that their fiddle-player Penny wasn’t actually with them, so they just carried on as a four-piece, on their Penny-less tour. Geddit? Oh, never mind.
The line-up included Saul Rose on drums, Brian Bell on 5-string bass, Robin Jowett on melodeon and keyboards, and founding member Stew Simpson on guitar and vocals. Saul Rose, who produced their last album, is as good as folk royalty, having played with a wide range of famous folk bands (Faustus, Mawkin, Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band). Normally he plays accordion, but had decided, just for the hell of it, to get back to his first love the drum-kit.
They hail from the debatable northern lands of the English and Scottish borders, and had had a very early start that morning in order to make this gig. Their name originates from the locality and mindset of the band, since their separate members are based along various points of Hadrian’s Wall. They come to the band from various music genres – folk, punk, rock, blues, Celtic, ska etc – which reflects in the music they create together. They quote their musical references as Lindisfarne, Jethro Tull, Stackridge, and The Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band.
I quickly discovered that this meant an eclectic and varied set of self-penned songs, but paying musical dues to all those traditions. One minute we were in full rock mode, the next minute we were in a folk club, listening to traditional morris tunes. If they are rockers, they were very folky, and if they were folkies, they had a mean line in driving blues/ rock. Great stuff, and the packed crowd really lapped it up, whooping and dancing to just about every number. The sound was relaxed, yet tight, and every number was delivered with confidence and impeccable timing.
Upcoming gigs at The Southgate are:
• Friday 27th Sept Pink Tribute (Beautiful Trauma)
• Saturday 28th September Phase Rotate & Cobalt Fire
• Friday 4th October James Hollingsworth
• Saturday 5th Oct ober Jon Walsh
Then back into town to the White Bear, for the latest of Marc & Georgie’s Sunday Sessions, this week featuring local favourite and all-round good egg Jamie R Hawkins. It’s a sign of the level of esteem in which Jamie is held that this was probably the best crowd these Sunday Sessions have attracted so far. This time not surrounded by & supported by his musical friends, but playing the whole of his two sets on his own, Jamie delivered (as ever) a superb performance of self-penned and very personal songs. Those of us who have been following him for a while are obviously familiar with much of his material, but we never tire of hearing those songs again, especially when each performance (like this one) is delivered with such intensity and feeling. And of course, we liked the way he works in the new songs. The atmosphere was great, the crowd loved it, and we had a great afternoon all round.
Next week’s Sunday Session (29th Sept) @ The White Bear @ 5pm features Fraser Tilley.
Another 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.
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
Another busy Sunday afternoon of free music gigs around the town.
First to Hillworth Park for the much under-advertised “Lark In The Park”. I’ve heard of stealth marketing, but sometimes I think Fantasy Radio can take this too far. I saw/ heard very little about this, apart from one post on Facebook, so I wasn’t surprised to turn up an hour after the start of this event to find very few people there. Granted the weather forecast wasn’t great, but I suspect they’d get bigger audiences if they told a few more people what was going on. I managed to catch Clare doing a short set before the heavens opened in mid-afternoon then, like others, took refuge in the café for a coffee. Once it became obvious that the rain wasn’t going to stop any time soon, the few brave souls who’d turned up just melted away. I decided to join them. Bit of a wash-out.
Fortunately the Southgate is just round the corner so I settled in there with a pint, and was soon joined by friends. The entertainment was provided by Kimberley Rew on guitar, and his wife & partner-in-crime Lee Cave-Berry on bass. Rew’s main claim to fame is having been guitarist and song-writer with Katrina & The Waves, having penned their big hit “Walking on Sunshine”, followed later in 1999 by “Love Shine A Light” when the band won the Eurovision Song Contest (remember that??). Since the band’s demise, Rew has produced a string of solo albums, and has clearly not lost the knack of writing catchy tunes.
The duo served up plenty of bop-along material, blending riffs from pop, boogie-woogie, rock and blues. There was some fine lead guitar from Rew, and solid vocals from both. If anything, it was a bit too exciting for a rainy Sunday afternoon, but absolutely nobody was complaining. It certainly blew out the cobwebs.
By the end of their first set, the weather had started behaving itself again, and the sun made a belated appearance. So I made my way back down into town, and to the White Bear to catch Eddie Witcomb.
Eddie hails from up the road in Marlborough, and he’d pulled along his dad and a mate or two. So we had the start of a small, but beautifully-formed, audience which grew in size as the afternoon turned into early evening. Eddie did two sets, nicely blending his own very personal material with some carefully selected covers. We were treated to his versions of “Paranoid”, “Roxanne”, “Tears In Heaven” and “Stand By Me”, amongst others. His own songs were well-turned, featuring some fine playing, and delicate vocals. It was a mark of the quality of these songs, that they were as strongly received as the covers. His style was relaxed, and he was fully ready to engage in banter with the audience. He did confide that he was playing with a bit of a hangover, but if he was there was very little sign of it.
So another great (free) Sunday of music around the town. I think we just shaded it – Weather 1, Music 2, and we all went home happy yet again.
OK so it’s the day after the (wonderful!) Devizes Beer Festival and you’ve worked your way through the hangover. You’re starting to feel normal again, but the sun is still shining, the world is still a beautiful place, and you really don’t want to start thinking about Monday just yet. What you gonna do?
Well, here’s a possible solution – head on down to the White Bear. Let me explain.
The White Bear (one of the oldest pubs in Devizes, blue plaque on the wall, blah, blah, blah) is rather on the up over the past few months. New landlords Marc & Georgie have been transforming the place since they moved in. Not only do they have an agreement with Wadworth that the pub can also supply a limited range of non-Wadworth beers on their pumps, and not only has chef Marc shaken up the menu with some glorious and interesting new food choices, and not only do they have some wonderful B&B accommodation, but now they are experimenting with providing a new laid-back music venue.
The plan is to feature a different artist every Sunday in the 5pm to 7pm slot, in a small, intimate venue with good food and beer, and to create a pleasant and laid-back vibe, perfect for winding down the week-end.
First up this Sunday was local musical hero Vince Bell. But before he took to the mic we had a great support slot from Fraser Tilley, who turned in an enthusiastic and lively set featuring both original and covers material (Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, T. Rex and others). He in turn was supported by drummer Tim Watts, laying down some very gentle percussion accompaniment (having played with It’s Complicated at the previous day’s Devizes Beer Festival). The two of them provided exactly what was needed – an uncomplicated (geddit?) drift of songs that had the audience listening and applauding.
After a short break, Tim stuck around to accompany main man Vince. Last time I saw Vince was a few weeks back at Long Street Blues Club, playing support act to Skinny Molly in front of a very large and noisy audience. On Sunday the audience was much smaller, much more intimate, but equally enthusiastic. Vince seemed relaxed and quickly established an easy rapport with the assembled crew, which (obviously) included many local friends. His choice of material was good, mixing his own self-penned numbers, with a few covers including those from a certain Mr Bowie, the Killers, David Gray etc. For an encore he asked the audience which they’d prefer – one his songs? Or a cover? The audience wanted both, and that’s what Vince obligingly delivered.
So, for the launch of yet another musical venue in The Vize, was it a success? An unequivocal thumbs-up from here – good venue, good beer, good food, nice cool atmosphere and, of course, some great music.
Future gigs are to be announced, but next Sunday (14th July) is already lined up with Bristol-based singer/ songwriter Andy Juan.