OK, I haven’t been in alone in the evening at this time of year for a number of years. But I am tonight, and BBC4 are playing the Pretenders. Shying from calling them a heritage act, irrespective of the clearly heritage audience, they have kicked off with all the hits. And, as @jack_the_biscuit would say, I would. Cracking band, with James Walbourne (the Rails) on geetar and a never more Captain Pugwashalike Martin Chambers on drums, i’m loving it! And you?
O2 Institute, Birmingham
At last, 3rd time lucky, I have got to see him, mishap and misfortune interfering during his last 2 trips. And what timing, hot on the heels of strong contender for 2017 album of the year, Gargoyle. First things first, arriving as I did half way through the support, a 2 piece on guitar and drums. Who is this, I asked those about me, too old to read the paper on the wall behind the bar. Nobody knew, but I liked the gothic(k) stuff, evoking the bastard love child of 90’s RT, Night Comes In, with ’67 Doors, The End, but with more distort. Of, course, it suddenly hit me, Duke Garwood, buddy of Lanegan, and it was indeed. Tip top stuff I will be investigating. A short gap and on comes the band, again with Garwood, this time on 2nd guitar, maracas and 2nd keyboards. (To be fair, Lanegan later introduced the whole band, but all I could hear was him clearing his throat.) I love Gargoyle and I love Gravediggers Blues, his last 2 releases in this sort of style, guitar heavy electronica, at least on record. Live it was much » Continue Reading.
Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham
Yup, it was a bit back, but, for reasons I will outlay, the plan had been a reprise this Friday in Derby, but it’s been cancelled. I’m on a bit of a Wobble bender of late, lit up by his magnificent guest appearance with Youth’s Dub Trees outfit at Bearded Theory at the Spring bank holiday w/e. True, the full onslaught of Dub Trees is a barely contained cacophony of drums, guitar, fiddles and pipes, noosed together by computersanddeckslectronica, but topped this night, and their last recording, or bottomed more appropriately, by the dubbiest bassmeister in christendom. Sometimes with 2 basses, when Youth could tear himself from a six string and his mac. I was already a Wobble fan of yore, having seen the original Invaders of the Heart back in the 90s, and bought the odd and end along his journey, free jazz weirdness with Evan Parker, english folk in dub style and collaborations with Bill Laswell and Eno, amongst others. So there I was, parking up outside the H&H at barely 8pm. And he’d already started. Just, but it seemed ever so early. With the first tune being » Continue Reading.
Town Hall, Birmingham
A mere 44 years on from when I saw them last, I and a load of folk of questionable age assembled to see how this particular band was weathering it’s half century. And the answer, notwithstanding only one original member still standing, is not half bad. And not entirely good, but getting there. Gary Brooker is, of course, the man, and, looking a bit like a Buster Merryweather a week or so into growing his beard, both in looks and demeanour, played a corker. His voice, surely up there amongst the great of UK rock vocalists, along with Cocker and Rodgers, is undiminished, higher notes and all, his piano tinkling more overt than on record. Kicking off with a track from the new album, Novum, all promised well, especially with the next song being a beautiful ‘Homburg’, for me a superior song to that song, see later. And so the first half, interspersing old with new. A particular highlight was ‘Strong as Samson’, the glorious back swirl of organ unmistakeable, even if Fisher begat Copping begat, currently Josh Phillips. Guitar, and apparently for decades is Geoff Whitehorn, erstwhile of Back Street Crawler and » Continue Reading.
Royal Albert Hall
Bear with me, I’m still shaking. Sometimes there are gigs that are just OK, sometimes they can be good, sometimes even great. Occasionally, just occasionally there comes one that is an epiphany. Dawes at Shrewsbury Folk was my last. This was another. And sure, the setting helps, but the assuredness with which Kiwanuka and band owned the venue was nothing short of stunning. Let’s skip the lacklustre and muddy sounding support. Knowing from umpteen reviews and youtubes how it would start, that anticipation and excitement was palpable. We were in the choir seats, behind the band, with a fabulous view of the stage being set. Bank of keyboards (5), drum kit, adjacent percussion kit, mini stage for backing vocals, mini stage for strings. Lights down. The strings and keyboards start and play the familiar opening to Cold Cold Heart, a cheer as a shadowy figure slopes on and hangs on his guitar for that perfect lick. As the song progresses so too are the rest of the band arriving, with, a nice touch, a bevy of teenage girls: some sort of choir, to add their swell to the orchestration of this 12 minute » Continue Reading.
The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham
Jings, but it’s been a while since I stepped out for some live, forgetting quite how much I delight and deplore the process. Thankfully this was more the former, a homecoming for the boys of Tuam to what is still one of the bigger cities in the west of Ireland. And by Paddy, they were out in force, all ages, shapes and sizes, mainly generous in all three parameters, at times the room reminiscent of the Craggy Island Farmers Dance. I962. And that was the mood set by the support, as if merseybeat had never happened, a world where all the bands are populated by Richard Hawley lookalikes. They and the ridiculously overpriced piss sold in thin plastic slop jars to refresh the audience provided the downside. Thankfully a brief yet all too long set ended and, just before half nine, on trouped the current six physicians, kicking straight off into a set of favourites, both old and, probably, brand new. With a newish record to promote I am sure some songs were new, but they all sounded familiar and the audience knew all the words, or seemed to. There is something » Continue Reading.
No, not a response to the (otherwise unnoticed by AW) Brits of yesterday, but an ask for folk to pitch in with the albums they didn’t get around to listening to last year. Just been listening to “This is Where I Live” by William Bell and it is every bit as good, better even, than the glowing reviews. If this clip doesn’t melt your ears, try his version of blues standard, Born Under a Bad Sign, which is just sheer blow other versions out the water phenomenal It could have pushed Michael Kiwanuka very close, IMHO, he being my number 1 at the end of year. So what is your later discovered glory?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbXMYJSvddkVideo can’t be loaded: William Bell – The Three Of Me (audio) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbXMYJSvddk)
Town Hall, Birmingham
First gig of the year and good to be out and about, despite the determined nip in the air. Missed my first train so missed the support. Spot on 8.30 and a six piece band ran on: keyboards, drums, double bass, cello, violin, guitar and synth, followed by Kenny, the elfin and eponymous King, beaming his wide-mouthed grin. A vaguely space theme inhabited the costumes, all silver leggings, NASA T shirts and, for the frontman, lots of glitter eyeliner. Nary a word and straight into You Just Want, the opener from unlikely hit album, 12 in theAW poll, the band just right for his organic motorik, a successful hybrid between fey(ish) folk and acceleratively drummed drones. 3 songs before a word, that being for introductions and a brief question around the love life status of the audience, involving a brief waltz with woman from the front row, conducted at the edge of the seating. Love Life the song followed, if anything more yearning yet propulsive than the original. The whole of Astronaut Meets Appleman followed, albeit in different order to the record, the otherwise somewhat indulgent Peter Rabbit Tea steering right over the » Continue Reading.
It says here, over here to the right of my writing, that Beany’s 2015 post about bread shops in Bolton is in the lead. Despite it being near 8 months since any comments were added. Do I detect nefarious forces? Veritable teams of, well, given the piece, muppets, tasked with viewing this on a daily basis? Will this start a trend in bringing back tumbleweed from our well of remembrance? There’s a chance for my Bastille review after all!
Another good man gone, erstwhile Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers guitarman, also of The Action, Mighty Baby, Savoy Brown to name a few. The Willis were my main band as a mid to late teen and I caught them a number of times, Stone being one character there amongst many, sporting a beret long before anyone else popular here. Lovely clipped tone in his playing, almost a jazz sound but his style unmistakeably of the blues. Play up, Martin at 1 min 25s in the clip
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kKcuAl0-HcVideo can’t be loaded: Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers – Breathe a Little (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kKcuAl0-Hc)
I ranted here yesterday about the tyranny of copyright fears for photos, arguing the logic for youtube to be similarly denied. Today I have you-tube size spaces in all the posts that had them, OK, with the URL present, but no auto-embed. Glitch or the hope you like our new direction?
What does it sound like?:
What does it sound like? Absobloodylutely stupendous, believe the hype. Really. There really is a reason why just about every critic in just about every sphere is saying this. Ok, so some of it is because it is so very very long since hopes lay undashed, but if ever a prodigal came good, this is it, kill the fattest calf in the land. Forget best since Some Girls, best since Stripped, this is the best since the 1964 EP The Pretty Things, which, apart from not being by them, gives the best idea of the sound they’re coming from. And, yes, stuff the pundits saying this needed Mick Taylor in, or even Brian, it’s Dick, with a D, Taylor that I would like to hear, back with the band he nearly joined. And Stu would have been good. Hopefully you are getting the feel this is no polished late 60s Blue Horizon fare, Mike Vernon would not have touched this garage band with a bargepole. This is the blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, even if the songs aren’t, rough and ready, raw and vibrant, grown men polishing their, um, brooms. Basic even, » Continue Reading.
As I was today doing my homework, the monthly skim through Unshod/Boho, I discovered a further, unheralded at least in England, untimely death, that of Shooglenifty front hurricane, Angus Grant, who quietly died last month “after a short illness”. Yes, Bro’ Cancer strikes again. Probably explains their non-appearance at Shrewsbury this summer. As this obit shows, he was quite a fella. Some malt will be belatedly supped the night. http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/14798254.Obituary___Angus_R_Grant__musician_and_member_of_Shooglenifty/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCOuLA44-p4Video can’t be loaded: Shooglenifty – Do Chrochadh (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCOuLA44-p4)
O2 Institute, Birmingham
Here’s the vibe, one of the coldest nights of the year, and there are 5 middle-aged men on stage, singing and strumming their hearts out on the cheeriest sounds this side of the Clyde Riviera. This late blooming, new album “Here” featuring in most of the 2016, best-of lists, is a delight, anything from that album segueing seamlessly with anything from before, interspersing old with new with abandon. Like a comfy winter coat, they instil a feel good whatever in their, um, fan club and tonight, Matthew, I was one of them. Kicking off aptly, Start Again, songs from nearly every stage of their 27 year existence were featured, Norman Blake unmistakably in charge, yet sharing and swapping singing duties with bassist Gerrard Love and guitarist Raymond McGinley. the 3 styles of songwriting impossible to differentiate, all a joyful jangle, a word I try to avoid. But can’t. With keyboard/sometimes more guitar and drums adding to the vocal swell, at times this smacked more of the Beach Boys or, particularly with some of the newer songs, C,S,N & Y, albeit ni a good way, if those bands had been brought up in Northern » Continue Reading.
Musing on the RS/RSs piece by Junior a week or so back, I got to thinking how much would I pay for a decent Stones ticket. Or anyone for that matter. And I am appreciating that it isn’t always the music that calls the tune, sometimes there being other tugs on our consciences to put on the glad rags and barefoot it into town, any town, and catch some live. (Hell, with a 2016 like it’s been, reaping grimly at our individual bucket lists of bands to see, names now impossible drawn through, there’s added pressure.) I used to see the Stones every tour for a while, 80s through 90s, up until the Voodoo Lounge tour, 1995, but it all got silly priced after that. Shame, as that was, for me, the best show I had experienced, the coalescence of better sound, and better preparation. (Knebworth, best for cred kudos, was pretty shite, I recall….) I still look at the prices, despite the increasingly derisive and/or sycophantic reviews, but nah. But still I wonder. So my question for youse is who would you consider paying over the odds to see and why?
o2 Academy, Birmingham
I was a wee bit nervous ahead of this, uncertain which version I would be seeing. So this tour advertises itself as celebrating 20 years, despite the Rev. D Wayne telling us it’s actually 19. (Or wiki saying 21) But that wasn’t the point, it was whether I was going to get the country blues bottleneck’n’harp gravelly vocals techno band or the annoying bloke talking cod american all over it. As it happened we had both, but the Rev D, for it is he, was restrained enough to be bearable, even amusing, once the image of Vic Reeves disappeared from my mind. After an energetic set by a reincarnation of my school, your school, any school’s 6th form band, playing similar material and the same covers, prompt on 9.20 out went the lights and on strode the 1st 7 of the 3 represented tonight, kicking straight in with a new song from Blues, their new LP, stylistically segueing straightaway into their trademark wail and stomp in a pleasing way, Larry Love sleazing the vocals in tandem with Harpo Strangelove’s, um, harp. Rev D then appeared with a brief epistle and they cantered through » Continue Reading.
OK, first stadium tour, this band nailed it and have their sights on being the next biggest band in the world. And they could do it, the combination of boyband singer, choral vocals and solid musical crew on stage appealing to as wide an audience I have witnessed, from teeny bopping office girls to loves young marrieds, babes all babysat, to grizzled AW types like me. Singer Dan Smith jumped and jogged his way through the 90 minute show with gauche abandon, all self deprecation about his lyrics and his dancing, yet canny enough to constantly thank his audience, with reminisces as to the exact wheres and whens of previous Birmingham shows. Maybe nearly every song they know, certainly all the ones I know, from their 2 LPs, the live band was augmented by the same brass section as in the Glasto coverage, as well as now a 2 piece cello and violin string section, each of which, brass and strings, expand the electronica of the core band to good effect, adding an organic earthiness. Video backdrops carefully choreographed the onstage sound, echoes of U2, yet without the knowingness, and Smith won over the » Continue Reading.
Some of you who know me elsewhere will be aware the Squeeze made a respectable man of me on Friday. Our celebration included this piece of music, during the signings, so, imagine our surprise when we visited Chester today. As we took a short cut through an alley I could hear violin playing, seeing a busker at street level below. Smooth tone? Check. Long hair and gothy? Check. Hell, purple violin and effects pedals aplenty? Check and double bloody check, for yes, it was he. And he seemed please to be told he had soundtracked at least part of our day. We were in 8th heaven! Couldn’t have planned it if we tried.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02jXjsbteKsVideo can’t be loaded: Variations on Pachelbel’s Canon – Ed alleyne-johnson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02jXjsbteKs)
Shamelessy picking up from the ailments post below, I thought it would be interesting to examine the smoking history of our demographic, not given least the long and usually amicable relationship between music and drugs. Tobacco, neat or with added, was well nigh an essential when some of our grizzled and motley crew were cutting their teeth and choosing their chops. Not asking for US presidential-style I never inhaled cop-outs, or indeed about anything other than non-waccy baccy. This is narco free admissions time. So, here goes. I’m the clean-living representative, never fancied it, never did it, some luck I raise probably too many glasses to, in a likely swing and roundabout, but so far, hic, so good. You?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyYLrVNKE68Video can’t be loaded: Smoke Smoke Smoke (That Cigarette) by Commander Cody (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyYLrVNKE68)
In the absence of that occasional sturdy variant, seemingly recently lopped, “best thing you’ve heard all month”, that hybrid of blogger takeover and nights in, here is a cracker on all fronts, John Scofield’s new work, and from best title like ever, “Country for Old Men”. Don’t run, Tiggs, this is no country like you know, especially this version of Hank Williams staple, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. OK, this isn’t the album version, that being unavailable in this country’s youtube, but it is a slower lope at it than the recorded version. And it is OK, but you will have to imagine the version that nearly had me drive a nun over at lunchtime. Less lonely, more full on stir crazy, cabin fever demento I could scream. Or at least play such manic, marginalised guitar that even Hank might question his authorship, with barely scarce glimpses of any remembered sequence of notes, more the tunes of the synapses in Jack Nicholsons head as he went slowly mad in The Shining. A maelstrom of inventive brio, only finally nailing the tune in the final bars. I love it. And there’s more like that on the record. If you think » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
I’ll come to that in due course, but this is more than a review, it’s a request, cos the recording I talk about is all but unavailable. I refer to “Unexpected”, a disc that was for sale and that I picked up at last weeks Graham Parker (&BS) duo gig a week ago. Played (quietly) as pre-show music and featured by one song within the understandably Parker predominant set, I gave it a punt, abetted by the support act’s statement that it was unavailable via the usual tax-dodging outlet etc. I should add I am one of those off folk who enjoys the other guy, if you understand and forgive the phrase. I have the albums by the Rumour and the one by the Attractions minus their modus. And i liked what I heard. On closer listening I liked it better. Crafted and honed old guy rock music, neither scary nor innovative, nether noisy nor challenging, just very well played, soothing and sound, songs to mellow to. Schwarz can certainly play guitar, has an unassuming voice and can rhyme a near-cliche with aplomb. OK, he isn’t ever going to tear the charts apart, but » Continue Reading.
Partly inspired by Sewbots waspish remarks over on the sister to this strand, let’s hear it for the shockers, preferably by those who should know better, like Willie ‘n’ Waylon………
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0BApB2TkrQVideo can’t be loaded: Willie Nelson – A Whiter Shade Of Pale – 1982 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0BApB2TkrQ)
Pepped up by Tigger’s review of the boxset, it was only yesterday I sought a ticket for this, and barely 24 hours later, here I am to hear the Parkerilla recall the legendary goodwill of Bromsgrove audiences. I can’t believe he has ever played this tiny theatre, perhaps 300 souls, even if that, but perfect for this sort of set, no frills, light shows or theatrics, just 2 seasoned performers doing what they do best. Graham Parker, tinier and friendlier than memory serves, on harp, kazoo and a massive acoustic guitar, Brinsley Schwartz, the man, not his eponymous band, on a tiny electric. (Perhaps it was the perspective, Schwartz’s XXL against Parker’s S.) Diving straight into a glorious “Watch the Moon Come Down”, the duo treatment worked a treat, Parker singing and strumming, voice unaltered, whilst fluid licks sprung effortlessly from Schwartz’s fingers. With 39 odd years of songs to choose from, it was always going to be a challenge what would make the cut, but we were assured he would be giving a lot of old stuff, duly delivered, perhaps with the most exposure to “Howlin’ Wind” and “Heat Treatment”, his first 2 » Continue Reading.
Shropshire Showground, Shrewsbury
My return trip here, finding the ambience right up my street: not too folkie, unless you want that, a wide definition anyway of folk and you can park by your tent, none of that cross-country endurance hike mullarkey with your house on your back. So with the sun high in the sky I arrived, eager for the fray. Tom Robinson, yes that one, was first up, with me hoping he hadn’t seen my review of his new (see Nights In), and hoping he would only play old. He played old, and it was a delight, gamefully playing bass, as he always did, rather than coasting with an acoustic strum. All the hits were sung along with gusto and it gave an uplifting boost to kick things off with. Blackie & the Rodeo Kings were on next and were terrific, their folk and country roots well hidden in a 4 to the floor robustness, drawn from, apparently, 32 years of gigging, 26 with the same line-up. The 3 front men were clearly having a ball, playing and singing their black Nudie suits off, Tom Wilson clearly having morphed into a bear since his album » Continue Reading.
Prompted by Twangs 20 best guitar album thread and Sunday morning, so anything goes…. A question, m’learneds: a few years back Carlos Santana put out a “covers” LP of guitar solos that was hugely derided by all and sundry, including not a few of his peers. And, OK, allowing for the fact it isn’t all that great, actually guitar solos apart, being let down by a Billboard top 50 aimed production and the usual lousy vocals so loved by the man, what is so wrong with the idea? He is a guitarist. Singers can get away with singing other peoples songs, jazzers are always interpreting other peoples stuff, tho’ they call ’em standards in that idiom, why shouldn’t he? (The criticism was more that he did it, not how he did it, Richard Thompson being expressly dismissive)