Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Truck Festival 2014 - Guitar bands, and all that...

I think that is fair to say that Truck Festival leans towards guitar bands, especially electric ones. This is exemplified by the head-liners; The Cribs (Friday) did the honours and White Lies (Saturday). That is just fine by me and I shall return to that later. I have never really been one to choose my festival choices by dint of the headline acts --- Arcade Fire at Latitude 2007 being a huge exception and sine qua non the reason for my festival going renaissance.
The point here is that, being typically Richard, I didn't actually see any of either set last weekend and purely out of choice. I have seen both on the main stage at Latitude Festival in the past, enjoyed them hugely, but I just felt it was time to turn my attention to music on other stages. It wasn't something I had planned in advance. It just turned out that way.
The first message here, I suppose, is that it would be wrong to consider Truck Festival to be hidebound in that regard. I am of the opinion that much of the best that the vibrant festival scene has to offer is to be found by looking at the artist list entirely the other way about: as though in a mirror, starting with the first artist on the least significant stage.

"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop."

That sound advice, as well as being in this case an apposite Oxonian reference, is truer of festivals than Lewis Carroll could possibly have known when writing in the third quarter of the nineteenth century.  The Cheshire Cat and The Mad Hatter's* tea-party aside --- Truck and all other festivals have robust policies that militate the use of illegal substances --- but to be fair they weren't proscribed when he was writing.
That, however, is history. There is speculation, of course: maybe Fleetwood Mac will headline Glastonbury 2015, maybe they won't. That is a discussion for another day. This is all about the music that actually happened on a farm in Oxfordshire last weekend.

I'll tell you something about this.  The little digital thermometer on my camera strap was reading 39ºC (102ºF) inside the Market Stage early on Saturday afternoon and I was wilting whilst just watching.
Guitar banditry this most certainly is not. 

Accompanied only by sparse, but therefore also very effective, keys and acoustic guitar - Ella Martini.

Recording status: unsigned.
Category: urban (the kind of urbs that Romans, and us too, would aspire to).

*The Mad Hatter was actually a victim of hydragyria, mercury poisoning, and as a result of the felt making process. That affliction was also well attested in Roman times but as a result of the use of mercury in other applications.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Truck Festival 2014

This weekend gone I headed off into the Oxfordshire countryside for two days of music at Truck Festival 2014. Now I have had a little time to reflect on it and also look at the pictures it is time to start writing. First of all a picture that I didn't take myself, and some thanks to the weather gods...

It was a weekend in which much of the UK experienced some unusually violent summer storms. Viewed over the camper-van area and car park on Saturday afternoon this one just missed us but visited hailstones 2cm in diameter on Oxford, which is barely ten miles away. For the most part however, it was hot and sunny.
I'm always keen to catch the opening acts on as many stages as I can and this was no exception. I will add a link as soon as I can (there are many bands called Heavy Heart worldwide) but this one from South London, with its New Wave echoes, was a good first act to see.
The Veterans and Virgins Stage, early Friday afternoon.
I visited all five stages at some time or other but little from the Barn Stage will feature as I spent almost no time there for one reason or another.
The smallest is The Saloon Stage and I spent a great deal of time there, as I did last year. On Friday the artist list was curated by Clubhouse Records and on the Saturday by At The Helm Records and was home to more great acoustic, roots and Americana music, both home grown and imported, than you could shake a stick at. As often as not it was packed to bursting. Very much from across 'The Pond' comes this artist.
Otis Gibbs - Saloon Stage, Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Music piracy (still) isn't just an internet phenomenon...

It is a while since I have written a post such as this but a news article today put me in mind of it once again. It may not be quite the topic that it was but it certainly hasn't gone away. I first commented on it in these pages almost seven years ago - how time flies! - with this illustration from the 1980s.

The means have changed but perhaps not so much as we might have thought. It still isn't all individuals or organised crime file-sharing by any means.
There is a waiting list, and often then delays to the promised delivery, if you want your latest released pressed on vinyl for legal release. Several acts have told me about this based on their own experiences. That is a reflection of the vitality of music in physical format.
Police in Germany have revealed that, after a two-year investigation, they have busted a huge counterfeit operation involving physical music, both CD and vinyl. The article comes with a stock picture of a collection of vinyl and this is not it.
This one is home-based.

New Music 2014 - Part 25 - Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin - Live In Calstock

Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin were relatively little known until s 2012 when, nominated for, and then winning, 'Folk Duo' at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2013 their public profile changed a little. They seem not to have changed at all.
Less than a week after they were receiving the aforementioned award at London's Royal Albert Hall they were were playing to a capacity crowd of ninety at Marnhull Acoustic Sessions (and they had played Dulverton Village Hall in the meantime).
Somewhere along the line they had hatched a plan to record a live album - a proper live album - recorded in a single take with a real audience in a small venue. This is that album, released 14 July and recorded 14 May at Calstock Arts.

I have mentioned this release before in the 'Something Else To Listen To' section of the blog side-bar. I have to say that if there is a better acoustic live album released in 2014 then it will be truly a year to remember and I'd like that to be true.
For a much more detailed analysis I commend to you this one from Folk Radio UK.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 24 - Bella Gaffney

I am not at Priddy Folk Festival, and Bella Gaffney is not in so far as I am aware one of the artists advertised to play there either. That said I have somehow become aware of her music and, I have to say, I like it. She is from Bradford and to be quite honest the North Midlands of England have been giving UK folk a rare treat over the last decade and more.
If I could find a Bella Gaffney LP or EP to tell you detail about then I would do so; at the moment I can't but that is just how it is and simply count this as another 'artist to watch', if you will.

I don't think, for one moment, that this is the last that we shall hear from Bella and probably sooner rather than later.
It is not a summery song in the slightest.
The really frustrating thing is that I know that there is an album 'The Clock That Didn't Stop' and I currently can't find it to buy for love nor money in any format. I can find some of the songs from it but that is not quite what I was looking for. If you know more then please write a comment. [Please note that any comment might not appear at once - all comments are moderated by me, but at least that way you know that I have read them.]

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 23 - Joanne Shaw Taylor - The Dirty Truth

Barely a year after the release of the live LP/DVD 'Songs From The Road' and less than two after the release of her third studio album 'Almost Always Never' in 2012, Joanne Shaw Taylor returns on 22 September with her studio LP 'The Dirty Truth' and this is the artwork for it and the track list.

1. Mud, Honey
2. The Dirty Truth
3. Wicked Soul
4. Fool In Love
5. Wrecking Ball
6. Tried, Tested And True
7. Outlaw Angel
8. Shiver And Sigh
9. Struck Down
10. Feels Like Home

It is to be released on her own bijou label 'Axehouse Music' on physical formats including two heavyweight vinyl options. For this project, more blues rock than the last two LPs perhaps, she is reunited with Jim Gains who produced her début 2009 LP 'White Sugar' and if you haven't listened to that then now is the time to do so.
If you have never seen her play live then you ain't heard nothing yet!
The most recent time I saw her live was at The Brook, Southampton on 12 June.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 22 - Sylvan Esso

I'm learning to do things that once I could never do. One of those is recognizing voices that I have heard before when they crop up in unexpected new places. This is an example of that and neither is the artwork of their self-titled LP going to leave you any the wiser.

In 2013 Amelia Meath put her former band, female folk harmony vocal trio Mountain Man, on indefinite hold and teamed up with electronic musician Nick Sanborn as duo Sylvan Esso. This is their début self-titled LP and while the combination might on the face of it seem a little improbable, if not exactly problematic, then the outcome is that both bring their respective strengths to bear and the result  a thing redolent of the dreams of summer. The electronic twists and turns, that at times sound like a xylophone or glockenspiel, never overpower the melody or vocals. Not only have they managed it on the recording, recently released by Partisan Records, but they seem very capable of recreating it live too. Suffice it to say that Sylvan Esso is added to the list of artists that I want to see live.
The lead track, that preceded the LP by months, was the very promising 'Hey Mami' and it turns out not to have been a prelude that flattered to deceive.

This is the penultimate song on the LP, 'Play It Right' recorded live recently.
I can certainly see myself listening to the album many times over the coming months and indeed, because it has made me take notice, you will probably see me mention more from the Partisan roster of artists in the forthcoming weeks.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Frome 2014 - this is the town in which I live.

Wherever my focus of new music listening may currently lie - and actually it is still in the US - this coming weekend is going to focus on those events playing out in my home town of Frome, Somerset, UK.
It is raining at the moment but the forecast isn't bad; so let's see how things turn out. I'm planning to take my camera and simply see what comes my way and how it all pans out. It is the start of the festival season, after all, and where better to start than at home? 
It is also Frome Festival 2014 between 4 and 11 July. There is a great deal more to music and performance arts in Somerset than the admittedly rather famous Glastonbury Festival, not least during the other 362 days of the year, and there will be little, if any, mention of mud.

I don't intend to lose sleep prefiguring the outcome but I least I know the layout, the pitfalls, and the short-cuts. On the other hand, should anyone try to tempt me into opinion on music in 2014 then I've been thinking about that too. It is halfway through so, based on simple logic alone, I should have heard half of my favourites of the year.
It is akin to saying that Frome is a small/medium-sized country market town (pop. ~25,000) where nothing much happens and it probably never has. It doesn't work quite like that.    

Carnival-style. Frome Street Bandits. Live in the audience. This afternoon.
From my point of view at least it was going to be difficult to imagine any other artist to be the highlight of the music stage. It is a running joke that because she hails from Bristol... this however is the third time that I have seen Daisy Chapman play live in Frome. And then the sun came out, at last.
It is fair to say that she was likely to be the highlight of the evening.

She played some, at least to me, new songs. I wonder if a follow up to 'Shameless Winter' is in the works?

Between the two aforementioned acts came the Celtic folk of Frome based eight-piece Milk Street. I had never seen them all playing live together before and (all my own fault) was actually in a poor position to capture all of them in the same picture.
An up-beat selection was just what was required at this point in the proceedings. They served it up admirably.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 21 - The Secret Sisters - Put Your Needle Down

After a spell in which the 'New Music' series has predominantly been about UK based artists the pattern, like the weather does, seems to have wandered west to feature North American ones once again. As usual this is often dominated by ones that I have seen live, are going to see live or simply wish to see live. This one falls in to the first of those categories.

'Put Your Needle Down' is The Secret Sisters recently released second LP. 
They opened the Garden Stage at End of The Road Festival 2011 around noon and, true to festival form I got off to a very poor start with photography. I only took two and this is the better of them!
These days I am aware of this problem and, while I still don't really know why it happens, I am consciously able to compensate for it to some degree. One thing is evident here: that had I had wished to be up against the barrier, towards the left of this picture and a spot that would have been ideal, then there was absolutely nothing to stop me.
WTF was I thinking?
One answer, given that I only had the faintest idea about what to expect, is just how astonishingly good it was. The self-titled début LP had then only recently been released and I had not heard it. Unlike some such sibling-named acts Laura and Lydia Rogers really are sisters and, since these things matter more than they seem to in some forms of music, their home town is Muscle Shoals, Ala.
The title of this LP may be rhetorical; I don't know and I have no knowledge as yet of this LP released on vinyl. That is no matter but I can tell you is that it was considerably cheaper (delivery to the UK included) to buy it brand new and sealed (it arrived thus) on CD from the USA than to download it on amazon.co.uk.
That says something.  It took a few days longer; I'm quite down with that. I'll buy LPs direct from the artist if I can.
It certainly won't please everyone ( and that I regard as a good thing) but for me the overarching thing about 'Put Your Needle On' is that it is perfectly poised between being reverential of tradition and a contradictory need to seem to out-grow the same. Some of the new songs could have been written in the late 1950s or early 1960s except to say that they weren't.

There is a cover of a much more recent song in PJ Harvey's 'The Pocket Knife' and then, from the early 1980s, something more than a cover - Bob Dylan never completed 'Dirty Lie' and so, about twenty years down the line he offered Secret Sisters the demo recordings and a plea to pull it together, which they duly did.

There is a whole lot of good stuff coming out at the moment, and even the 'major labels' have stepped up to the plate, at least to some extent. It is hopeful, but temping, to say that 'Times They Are A Changin...'. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 20 - Free The Honey - In Our Hands EP

Much as I like my music in a physical format, sometimes vinyl, I have to say that (legal) download and the internet has the huge bonus of immediacy sometimes.
This EP is a great example of that. There is probably no physical release and its digital release was only yesterday.

My attention was bought to it by Folk Radio UK and it is one of the most stunning pieces of Americana that I have heard all year. That isn't for a lack of such things. If you like Carrivick Sisters or their more expansive outlet Cardboard Fox then likely you will covet this and, at seven tracks it is more of a mini-album. It is available to download here (in almost any format) and I chose MP3 320. It costs from $4 but that seems so mean when a pint of beer costs more than that and I know I will, indeed probably already have, got more enjoyment from it.

The three young women hail not from the perceived home-ground of Americana or bluegrass rather from Gunnison in the high mountains of Western Colorado but don't let that put you off, and not least for the other sounds that they bring to bear.

This is 'Iridology', the third track on the EP and one that has touches of gypsy fiddle on it. Given the status that folk, roots and Americana is currently enjoying in Europe don't be at all surprised to see them touring over here in the coming year.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Behind The Castle Festival 2014 - Part 4

I can't remember when I last wrote six posts in the space of a week.
That it has been dominated by coverage of Behind The Castle Festival, which I was attending this time last week, finds me quite unapologetic; it only goes to show the impression that it made on me. I am not unused to festivals either and, judging from what I saw and heard, Behind The Castle made a far more important and favourable impression on those who clearly were.
It was, for many I suspect, their first taste of the arena-action of a multi-day festival but one that just happened to all take place within the space of twelve hours. The setting was exquisite, of course - this was taken from next to the main stage during Newton Faulkner's set.

The Castle Behind.

The setting is not enough a successful festival for to make. I heard nothing but praise for the toilets - and that always seems to be one of the worries most exercising festival newbies.
So the bar was busy, and was later drunk dry, but that only serves to to show that it was offering drinks that folks wanted at prices that they were willing to pay. The only problem was it became a victim of its own success...

This was taken towards the end of the Boat To Row set on Stage 2.

Later in the afternoon, when the weather threatened a shower that never materialised, I returned to Stage 2.
Cara Dillon

The final artist on the MAS stage was another that I had never seen live before. This is despite the fact that originally from Amarillo, TX he now lives in Frome, Somerset as do I.
It was a great set but the tricks came at the end and it did sound good. Here are two versions of it.

Rodney Branigan plays two guitars at once.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 19 - Clara Engel - Looking-Glass Fire

I seem to be in a writing mood at the moment so I guess that it is best just to roll with it. In any case I just keep finding out about stuff that interests me and, as it often does, this tends to result in a positive-feedback loop all of its own. For times when this pattern fails I keep a list of things that I really ought to investigate but simply haven't done anything about. It may seem a curious way to work but that is how it is.

This is the latest release from Canadian artist Clara Engel, whom I have written about before in respect of the Madagascar EP (2011). It is another EP/mini-album and I am currently unaware if a physical release is planned, but no matter.

You can stream below but if you like what you hear please buy it. Only this way can independent artists subsist, let alone continue to record and thus make our lives a much richer place.      

There is plenty more by Clara to explore and enjoy. If you like the above then try her most recent full LP 'Ashes and Tangerines' (2014).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 18 - Table Scraps

Whilst pursuing my New Year Resolution to listen to more new (at least to me) music - my target was 8 hours/week and I'm doing well almost six months in - I was listening to Simon Raymonde's show on Amazing Radio yesterday evening when something came on which, although quite new wasn't as simple as that.
It was 'At The Bottom of Our Stairs' by Birmingham duo Table Scraps.

It immediately struck a chord as there was something about the female vocals that was distinctly familiar but from a long while back. I'd decided that it wasn't one or two possibilities when it was announced that the band was Scott Vincent Abbott and Poppy Twist. It could have been a coincidence, just possibly, but it certainly wasn't. This post could just as easily have been titled 'Whatever happened to Poppy Twist?'
The last time I heard of her was the 2007 release of the six-track  mini-LP 'Follow Me Down' as the lead singer of female four-piece Poppy & The Jezebels. Here is that record, Reveal Records REVEAL 19LP.

To say that this had influences beyond their years is not the half of it - many an artist would kill to write the song 'Gracelin'. The passage of time has, if anything at all, only made it slightly easier to classify. It certainly hasn't detracted from its worth.

Table Scraps keep the angular, feral sound. I like this.

Behind The Castle Festival 2014 - Part 3 - and on it goes

That I can fill three posts with the result of ten-and-a-half hours live music says a great deal about what was on offer at Behind The Castle 2014 (BTC). There are a couple of acts that I don't mention and simply because I didn't get to listen to, see and photograph everything!
One case in point was Steve Knightly on Stage 2, which was the busiest that venue was all day. That said I saw him recently on his on-going tour of village halls and covered that here. I headed to the MAS stage to catch Dorset duo Ninebarrow instead.

I have seen Ninebarrow live before but could listen all day.
The album 'While The Blackthorn Burns' was released in April 2014.

The same ability to listen also applies to the next artist, also on the MAS stage, who I have never seen live before. Indeed, before the BTC line-up was revealed I was quite unaware of Lizzyspit. This is another fine example of why I like festivals so much.

Arresting original songs and a fine interpreter of others' songs.

If I had to choose just one highlight, and I strongly think that many others shared my opinion here, it would be Megan Henwood and her band on Stage 2 in the early evening. The new songs, from the forthcoming album 'Head, Heart, Hand', are so good and the whole set was a delight.  I couldn't tear myself away and this is why I didn't get to see any of the set by Tinderbox. I'll just have to wait until North Dorset Folk Festival on October 25, 2014.
I haven't even mentioned Rodney Branigan yet...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Behind The Castle Festival 2014 - Part 2 - The Main Stage

The four main stage acts were scheduled that they did not coincide with those on either Stage 2 or the MAS stage, which hosted acts simultaneously. This resulted in two things; it was possible to see all of the main stage acts in entirety without sacrificing anything else and that there was almost no down time in which there was no live music taking place. Another advantage is that never could the sound from the main stage bleed over into the other two stages whilst allowing the site to be compact but never feeling overcrowded.
The first artist on the main stage was one I had never seen live before - Irish acoustic songwright Paul Brady. I must admit I knew shamefully little of his work before Saturday and it was probably an omission, and certainly a mistake on my part, not to check it out before the event once I that I was aware that he was playing.

The early afternoon slot saw most of the crowd sat on the grass, which was a shame.

After another hour interlude on the other stages, about which more in 'Part 3', it was time to head out to the main stage for Newton Faulkner. He again is someone that I had never seen live before but at least I was well aware of his catalogue and so with baited breath I wondered...
In the glorious mid-afternoon sun there would be no danger of the soporific attitude mentioned above. It was some set and I was well impressed by the good-natured fervour of many of his fans - this was less folk festival than many might have thought. 
His set was text-book showmanship without actually showing off. That is a fine line to tread.

After another sojourn it was the time for the prolific Seth Lakeman to take to the stage. It seems that hardly a few months pass during which he does not release something or other in one of his guises and collaborations. I have seen him live on several occasions and you are being lectured by one of the converted - it's my blog and so I can be biased in it! Indeed my bias largely determines all that is covered, including Behind The Castle Festival.
Much fierce fiddle playing included. 'Solomon Browne' saw the tenor guitar bought to bear.
It is a tale of a tragic modern disaster told in the traditional folk idiom.

The festival was finished in style by a band that deserve the epithet legendary - The Levellers. When in 1991 their second LP 'Levelling The Land' was released it did what it said - it changed the map. The Pogues had done this kind of thing, and to some degree so had The Stranglers and others, all with great success but this really album bought it home to roost.
It was hot on that stage.

I'll finish with a quote overheard... "This is absolutely f*****g amazing."
It was. Exactly that. He was quite right to be proud of it.

[Behind The Castle Festival - Part 3 will follow soon.]

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Behind The Castle Festival 2014 - Part 1

I spent yesterday at the inaugural Behind The Castle Festival in Sherborne, Dorset. As you may have gathered I had great expectations and, I have to say right at the start, they were exceeded. There were three stages; two tented - Stage 2 and Marnhull Acoustic Stage (MAS) and the out-door main stage. The setting is a dream.
From the start it was clear that this was going to be something rather special. These are just a few of my first thoughts and pictures...

Sun hats and a parasol -- I didn't see a pair of wellies all day!
The main stage seen from outside the MAS stage at about 5pm, during the latter part of Newton Faulkner's set.
The first to play that I saw was not even on the bill...
Tom Clements testing the MAS stage as one of the sound crew.

Stage 2 also incorporated the bar, which proved to be very popular indeed, and also some terrific performances including the first artists on the programme.

Jack McNeill and Charlie Heys.
Their LP 'Any Other Morning' was released just last Monday and here is a sample from it but be warned, to see them live is quite something else: