Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 Festivals - Cambridge Folk Festival

I probably mentioned that this is my "newbie" for 2015 - it is in fact the 51st year that Cambridge Folk Festival has been held, making it one of the world's longest continuously operating music festivals.  It took a certain recommendation, from one who is a pro, to persuade me to take the plunge however.  For me however it will be all new and I'm very much looking forward to it. I have two 'warm-up' festivals before it - Behind The Castle Festival and Truck Festival so come the weekend that spans the end of July and the start of August I should be well into the festival mentality. Now for some thoughts... one of which is that starting posts is often the hardest part. In a way this reminds me of the thing I most hated in school lessons - how to start a story. Another thing I disliked was revision - re-named research, in this case about the artists already announced for Cambridge Folk Festival, that seems way better.
I always liked making and keeping lists. I still do and so not long ago I was making a list of acts or artists that I would most like to see this summer. Pretty much at the top of it was this artist; about a week ago she was announced for Cambridge 2015.

I have been a big fan of Carolina Chocolate Drops since back when, but have never seen them play live. There will be clashes a-plenty, I can see that already, but she will be on my list of things to see.

Beyond that the question is simply where to start and only then beyond the astonishing trinity of Peggy Seeger, Joan Baez and Joan Armatrading.

The prolific Bella Hardy, whom I saw live at Frome Festival 2012, releases her latest album 'With The Dawn' this coming Monday and another that I would really like to catch live again. Cambridge Folk Festival is a world away from the Westway Cinema, Frome, although I mean no discredit to either.
This LP is almost entirely her own original songs rather than interpretations of traditional material.
If you think that that is an odd shift of emphasis then here is 'The Herring Girl', a Bella hardy original from the 2011 album 'Songs Lost & Stolen'.
[post in progress - to be continued soon]

Friday, March 27, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 24 - Pip Mountjoy - Call To Arms

Another singer and another song...
For those of you that remember Pip Mountjoy at Marnhull Acoustic Sessions in February 2014 or maybe before then as I did, at Deer Shed Festival 2012, here is a new song  played live and with a video. It is one of four that I believe are to appear during the coming Spring...

The first, filmed in a Yorkshire Dales cottage in need of some restoration, is 'Call To Arms':

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 23 - Sound of The Sirens - The Shoemaker

It is not often that I write two posts in an evening and not often that I post about a single song. Neither is unknown however and, given that I saw Sound of The Sirens live only last Friday evening and then just now they reveal this, a very early demo of new song 'The Shoemaker', it would seem churlish not to share it.

Their new EP, for which I know no title as yet, is due for release in early summer 2015. It (the EP, not this little video) is recorded at Monnow Valley Studio in south-east Wales. Shock-and-awe... it has piano on it too.

New Music 2015 - Part 22 - Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color

It has been a whole week since I added a post to the series 'New Music 2015'. These days a week seems like an age in new music to me and that can only be a measure of my appreciation. 
In this case I shall move away from the acoustic scene and indeed the UK. This is the forthcoming second LP from Alabama Shakes, a band that I was lucky enough to see live at End of The Road Festival in 2012. The cover art is as simple and restrained as that of its predecessor 'Boys and Girls' and, I hope, again a good reason not to judge the album byits cover alone. I have even recorded similar thoughts about this band before.

It is released in the UK (Rough Trade Records) on 20 April and North America (ATO Records) on 21 April.
I have heard only snatches of some tracks (listing below) but even so I am intrigued to say the very least. It could turn out to be even more of a revelation than the début, which it is worth remembering was recorded just months after the band coalesced. I am not currently aware of any planned UK dates, but I want to be there...
End Of The Road or Green Man would be ideal for me!

1. Sound & Colour
2. Don't Wanna Fight
3. Dunes
4. Future People
5. Gimme All Your Love
6. The Feeling
7. Guess Who
8. The Greatest
9. Shoegaze
10. Miss You
11. Gemini
12. Over My Head

This is the official video to 'Future People'.

I hesitate to sat that it is in any way "typical" of the album because I don't think it will be an album that can be judged in that way and is certainly not albu mike 'Boys and Girls'. It is therefore very high on my list of albums that I want to hear in its entirety. It is also one that I am very likely to buy on vinyl.

Monday, March 23, 2015

2015 Festivals --- New music, artists and everything else...

I was in the supermarket today and in front of me in the queue was a group of four people, all in their 30s I'm guessing, two male and two female, discussing the idea of going to a festival this summer - I don't know which one and I suspect that they had no particular target. The discussion, which was loud enough for me to be able to hear most of it, went along these lines...
Person 1: "I can't make a decision before the (headline?) acts are announced."
Person 2: "Or until we see the weather forecast."
Persons 3 & 4 then added various caveats - involving camping, toilets, showers and the like.

I just smiled to myself: I can see that this is a plan that is almost certainly not going to happen. This approach is 
a sure-fire way to never go to a festival. Even if they did do so the arguments about what to see would be likely be catastrophic.
I really wanted to say why doesn't one of you simply commit to going. If nobody else follows the leader then just go anyway and  face the music. At least you can say you were there and report back on the brilliant/awful time that you had!
Of course there is the utterly selfish approach, which is to go alone by design. That way you can't spend all the time with your friends. You have to meet and talk to strangers and it just happens. What is more you can go see whatever you want, plan a military-style campaign if you wish to, and yet change your mind as often as you please. This is the diametric opposite of loneliness.

That brings me to albums released today in the UK by two artists that I have seen before at festivals and that I plan to see again in 2015.

Laura Marling is confirmed, as of today, for End Of The Road Festival 2015.

The Staves are playing Green Man Festival 2015.

This will be the third time that I have seen each at festivals (and never anywhere else).  Indeed I have seen both at EOTR in the past and each once at a different festival too. I may look out some pictures of those performances. I shall certainly comment on both albums once I have had the chance to listen to them sufficiently to form a stable opinion.
I shall return to the artists and acts that I have not seen before very soon.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Live - Mad Dog Mcrea and Sound of the Sirens

I have recently mentioned the various threats to live music venues and I shall come back to that sooner or later. There are equally some too-little known and this is one of them - The Lights, Andover - and I have mentioned it here before.
So here we are again, surrounded by the Tellytubby ambience that it it is worth a visit alone, and which headline act Mad Dog Mcrea immediately picked up on!
This was however far more than that --- for with a sizeable and enthusiastic audience this is really quite some treasure. I was unaware that there would be a support act until I arrived but I soon saw the signs -  as they flitted back and forth across the foyer - which happens to be between the Green Room and the venue itself.

Sound of the Sirens - The Lights, Andover - 20 March 2015.
Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood, from Exeter, played a quite extensive set of their variously interwoven brand of folk-rock with tinges of surf pop and country. Many were from the 2013 LP 'A Long Way To Fall' but others older and more recent too.
Following them was Plymouth-based folk-punk six-piece Mad Dog Mcrea, whom I mentioned just a week ago. I'm more than glad that I did post that; equally that I took my chance to see them live. Yes there were a few niggles with the sound, a tendency to feedback being the main one, but that did not detract to any real degree from a memorable gig. It was however a big photographic fail on my part and I have no excuses.  Looking on the bright side it is a very good excuse to go and see them live again and even if I had taken the most stunning photos I would be more than happy to do that in any case.
Here they are badly photographed and in apparently deserted Tellytubby-land...

This was pure fun, they got folks dancing, told silly stories and all.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 21 - Hattie Briggs - Red & Gold

UK music is combustible. In fact it has been a raging fire for several years now. The sparks have even taken root far beyond these shores and the incoming influences vice versa.
As long as it remains as such I don't think I will ever tire of it and, in particular, the tidal wave of acoustic.
It has become very obvious to me these last few years that the artists playing this music were becoming ever younger than their audiences. I have the inkling, particularly recently, that this is finally starting to change too - in the sense only that that they are also attracting younger audiences. 
Where once Celtic or Celtic-influenced music was the mainstay of UK and Irish folk output, whether traditional or contemporary, the balance has become more even in recent years too. To put it another way, English folk, similarly categorised, has found its sense of purpose and it has become to be realised that it is not, however it may have been perceived to be be, simply the accompaniment to Morris Dancing.  Whether these thoughts and observations are relevant only time will tell. It is however a preamble to this - an interesting story of an astonishing change of career direction.

Hattie Briggs is from the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire. This is her soon-to-be released, as on April 6, début LP and there is an involved story behind it.

This is the official video to 'A Beautiful Mind', taken from it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

'P' stands for Paddy, I suppose...

Given that it is St. Partrick' Day, and only yesterday I decided to return to the subject of live LPs...
Ireland has for centuries, and still continues to be a treasure chest of music of all sorts. I like a great deal of it too. I could certainly name a few (famous) exceptions but to do so would, however, go against one of the very earliest policy statements I made when starting this blog.
This was actually not something I forethought, even yesterday, but if you don't believe me then it really doesn't matter to me or alter the idea here.
If I listened to one band's recordings more often in the late 1980s than those of Thin Lizzy I don't know what it was. If you wish to condense as much of it as possible into just an hour-and-a-half then 'Live and Dangerous' is that which you need. It was recorded over a period of time and at different venues and there are rumours of over dubbing.
Do not worry yourself about any of that for now - just take it as it comes and let it wash over you. In one sense it doesn't matter how it was imagined and then realised given the technology of 1978. It is astonishing even thirty-seven years later because, played loud on decent speakers, and not through even reasonable earphones, it feels real. That is the best that a live recording can hope to do, howsoever it was recorded and mixed. It was and it remains one of the true classics of its kind. In this case P stands for Philip, without a shadow of a doubt.

My 'P' initial does indeed stand for Patrick so, from the more traditional side of Irish music, comes my favourite version of 'P Stands For Paddy I suppose'. It is taken from the 1974 Planxty LP, 'Cold Blow and the Rainy Night', which I also have on original vinyl.
For your convenience here is a link to that version of this classic; also listen to the lyric about what W. stands for.
Of course there is so much more where that came from and this is without mentioning the Irish influence on American music or vice-versa.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kelly Richey - Live at The Thirsty Ear --- one of the best live recordings I have.

Anyone except newbies here, and you are indeed most welcome to my curious world, will probably realise that I like much music, new and not-so-new, live music and especially music on physical formats, including vinyl. You may also notice that I'm certainly not averse to availing myself of legal on-line sources, especially for increasing my exposure to and therefore knowledge of, new music. I have indeed mentioned that I have been using Spotify to just that end for some months now.
Whilst doing this over the last few days, primarily thinking about artists at festivals that I am attending this summer, it has come to my attention that such sources do not find all things, even some recent ones. 

Then it is time to dig deeper, sometimes digitally or alternatively into my collection of physical recordings. This is a good example of a live CD that, although less than a decade old is not that easy to track down though if you can it is not actually particularly expensive. It is also one of the very finest live albums I have. Kelly Richey - Live at The Thirsty Ear (Columbus, OH, recorded 2006, released 2007).

I have no real expectation to see Kelly Richey live. She rarely tours outside the US and then only fitfully and in a fairly limited geographic range. LPs are distributed on her own label, Sweet Lucy Records. This live set consists of only eight tracks:
  • Tears Like Rain
  • Red House (Jimi Hendrix)
  • I Don't Feel So Good
  • The Longest Road
  • Nobody's Fault (Nina Simone)
  • Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
  • Is There Any Reason
  • Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
That might seem short change, indeed four of them are covers, but it really isn't so. The covers are quite something but then so are the originals and it isn't a short CD either - only the third and fourth tracks are less than nine minutes long. Much guitar is indeed shredded, but not at the expense of the overall mood and the more reflective aspects in particular. 

I have several of her studio LPs, which are easier to source, of them  Sweet Spirit (2013) is the most recent and at least in my view slightly underwhelming. Taken in counterpoint to the live album that is perhaps not surprising. If I might recommend another studio album to try in particularly because it is stronger and more plangent, even political, than Sweet Spirit that would be Carry The Light (2008). It is easy to source physically (CD) and also available to stream on Spotify and elsewhere.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 20 - Mad Dog McRea - Almost Home

At last I get to review a band from Plymouth.  I am going to see  Mad Dog McRea, trailing the latest album 'Almost Home', this coming week. More on that after the event.
It is released on d/l on 15 March and on CD 23 March 2013 in the UK.

It is perhaps appropriate to start with an introduction. Mad Dog Mcrea is a six-piece comprising the following artists:
Michael Mathieson  ---  guitar and lead vocals
Dan Crimp  ---  whistle and flute
Nicki Powell  ---  fiddle
Podmore  ---  bouzouki, banjo
Jimi Galvin  ---  bass
Pete Chart  ---  percussion

With much garnered from the ranks of the folk-punks that have come before, comparisons with the likes of The Pogues, the Levellers and others come all too easily but that they are indeed worthy of such comparisons does not necessarily follow.
The former is certainly no criticism and that they are worthy is certainly not the only thing to admire. What I like as much as the foregoing is that, with the flute and fiddle, one or two of the softer songs made me recall the very best of Jethro Tull.
I don't say that lightly. It may not be a fashionable comparison, to be fair, but it is a complement nevertheless.

Almost Home
  • Almost Home
  • Talking Through The Walls
  • I've Seen Things
  • You Can't Find Me
  • Cher
  • The Sound
  • The Devonside
  • Heart of Stone
  • Whiskey Man
  • The Juggler
That is the track list of the album.
Buy. Listen. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 19 - Girlpool - Before The World Was Big

Just when you thought all-female garage rock couldn't get any better and with Girlpool confirmed as booked for End Of The Road Festival 2015 it is now a real challenge; can Cleo Tucker (guitar and vocals) and Harmony Tividad (bass and vocals) better the set that Deap Vally produced on the Thursday evening in 2013 at EOTR, only to then better it themselves with an astonishing one at Truck Festival 2014 when playing on the main stage?
Here is the reason that I mention this. The stakes are suddenly raised for the début Girlpool LP has come to be known...

Girlpool - 'before the world was big' (Wichita Recordings) 1 June 2015 in the UK. (2 June in USA & Canada.)

Maybe I should have shared this, the first single lifted from the LP, yesterday.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Thoughts on music - Introspection versus the bigger picture

Oh how a few weeks can change my perspective.
Only a short time ago I was happily enjoying writing about new music, either recent or soon to be released, without much thought about the wider picture. Then suddenly it changed and I decided that it was time to comment on other issues again whilst set in context  - today's issue just happens to be the various threats to live music venues, of which more later.
I don't really understand why this happens to me from time to time.
I could claim that it is the anticipation of forthcoming festivals but, were I to do that, I know it is not the whole story. It is true that in the last few weeks I have had some very interesting, sometimes surprising, discussions concerning music. I am unsure if this is causal or symptomatic but inclined to the idea that the latter predominates.
While writing this I am listening, in toto, to an album so new that it has no release date and no final artwork as yet. I have however already mentioned it here and Danni Nicholls is an artist who seems blissfully unaware of the affliction known as DSAS (Difficult Second Album Syndrome). The title 'Mockingbird Lane' almost hints at that but I'm almost certain that this was unintentional - or a very dangerous gambit indeed.
That said, the game is now on; the début album by The Shires, already the first UK act ever signed to Universal Music Nashville, yesterday became the first UK country act or artist ever to reach the Top 10 in the UK album chart - 'Brave' is #10 on the week of release. 

Should you want to hear something new, yet old and a train-wreck revisited, I can't think of anything more beautiful than this. Jessica Lea Mayfield and Seth Avett have recorded an album of covers of Elliott Smith songs. It is not yet on general release in the UK or North America and I suspect that the link is time limited, so enjoy this now. It is as good as anything that I have heard this year and that is saying something. There are reasons why I suspected Jessica Lea Mayfield could pull this off and resulted from when I saw her play live at End Of The Road 2010 - she played solo. It was hauntingly beautiful yet painful at the same time and if looks could kill I was in big trouble here.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tipi stage - End Of The Road Festival 2010.

The LP is released in the UK on 16 March 2015.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Interesting conversations... sometimes overheard.

More than once quite recently it has been mentioned to me that my blog, which unsurprisingly reflects my interest in music more widely, tends to feature more female artists than male ones.
As an observation that is true but my reply is always this or a close variation on it;
"Do I have a problem with this, do you have a problem with this or do you think that they [the artists] have a problem with this?"
I have never received a cogent answer. I like what I like and, to a great extent, that is what I go to see, hear and also write about. I have certainly never been given a response that goes any way to explaining the reason behind the original question. The result has for the most part been an embarrassed silence, but not one that has embarrassed me. I just wonder what they anticipated I might have said as some kind of apologia...
Life is not long enough to worry about nonsense like that. US commercial radio is, I am told, seemingly still almost entirely dominated by male presenters playing male artists...
A similar debate has recently surfaced in the UK, specifically concerning the line-up recently announced for Leeds/Reading Festival 2015.

Tomorrow is International Women's Day 2015.
I am going to listen to nothing other than female (fronted) music following the lead by Amazing Radio today. That is a given.
What should I listen to?
I might just post a play list after the fact. Please keep this serious in intent, but light hearted in tone, if possible. We should all give and take when it comes to poking fun at each other...

To get things started here is a little-known gem, 'Britney', from Tasha Taylor Johnson and her 2013 début album 'Feed Your Ego'.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Democracy, debate, voting, and also music awards...

The disagreement over televised debates between political leaders is fascinating, up to a point, and mostly for the divisions and therefore the possible motives, on behalf of both politicians and broadcasters, that it has bought to public attention and a wider audience. I'm not going to enter the debate on UK politics here but this very public fiasco has focussed my attention on a long-standing case of double-standards that applies on all sides of the argument.
The distinctions between democracy, enfranchisement and transparency tend to be forgotten here: Without the last, the first is a poor guide to those that enjoy the latter and quite useless to those that don't. 
The broadcasters, including the BBC, are not entirely on the moral high-ground either.

We jump to music in the sense that this applies to the BBC Radio2 Folk Awards:
Emma Hartley has been on the case for a long time now and, despite her knowledge and persistence, it is like digging a tunnel with a candle and a toothpick. This link is not the start nor the end of the matter to date, but a good point to start on the stalling and frustrations that it has and likely will continue to provide:
This is neither open Government nor an example of the much-vaunted transparency promised by the BBC after a spate of revelations in recent years.

That is not to say that the short lists are flawed, nor the selection panels - any such venture needs some group of people that create a long list - for that is not so. That which is suspect is the undeclared voting members and, possibly, their commercial interests. There are actually many very splendid artists on the list of BBC Radio2 Folk Award nominations and this is that for 2015:
Another matter is that in the BBC Radio2 Folk Awards only one category is determined by a public vote, hence the issue with enfranchisement. You cannot vote for something or someone when you have a no vote at all.
On the other hand, just announced, are the Spiral Earth Award nominations 2015:  I don't know how these lists were chosen either and you will find that some of the same artists feature here, which is as it should likely be. There is one major difference and that is between now and noon BST (UTC+1) on Wednesday, 14 April you can vote on all eleven categories, each comprising a short list of four acts or artists.

I know that I might attract some flak here but so be it. As a matter of transparency I have posted all links fully and visibly, so that you can see what they are before you choose whether or not explore them
You should explore the music regardless.

Added 7 March 2015:
Timely as it is, here is a post regarding the approach that Glastonbury Festival takes in selecting the act or artist for its 'Emerging Talent' competition:
Included within the above article is a link to the 120 artists that comprise the long-list. That is still a long list, in any sense of the phrase, but consider the fact that this represents less than 2% of the total entries. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Festivals in 2015 - whither do I go?

The question in the title has been on my mind for some weeks now. There were already two given results here, as I have had a ticket for Behind The Castle and End Of The Road for months now. Last year I went to south Wales and Green Man Festival for the first time. I had a wonderful time despite driving most of the way there through the impressive remnants of Hurricane Bertha! In fact it was so good that last week I committed to going again this year.
Much as Glastonbury does, Green Man holds an emerging talent competition 'Green Man Rising' and the winner gets to open the Mountain Stage (the main one) on Friday. I was reminded of that this evening  - in 2014  it was London three-piece Wyldest - this is what 'The Telegraph' had to say quite recently and I wouldn't disagree. I came to much the same conclusion about five minutes into their set and here they are that day.

The band's first proper release, an EP, is imminent. This track taken from it is why I got back on to this today.

I'm interested to see what both Wyldest and the Green Man new music panel come up with in 2015. Its Glastonbury counterpart too for that matter but you can take it as read that Glastonbury is one 2015 festival that I am not, and never had any intention of, going to.

Added 7 March 2015:
Wyldest are included on the long list of 120 artists for the 2015 Glastonbury 'Emerging Talent Award'.