Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 58 - Fiddle & Banjo - Tunes from The North, Songs from The South

It will soon be time for me to head off into the fields of folk for four nights and three days. It seems therefore a good idea to get attuned to the idea that certain instruments will be far more prevalent than is usual at a more general music festival.

This little gem from Canada is doing just that for me right now all thanks to the folk at FATEA for bringing it to my attention.

Daniel Koulack (banjo) and Karrnnel Sawitsky (fiddle) as Fiddle & Banjo, and guests Joey Landreth and Amy Matysio (vocals on the five tracks that are not tunes).
Their stated aim is to marry the Northern (Canadian) tunes played on these two instruments with the Southern (Appalachian) songs that use the same - and do so very well. In fact, historically it goes back longer and further than that. The part of Saskatchewan that Sawitsky comes from still has a strong musical influence originally brought to Canada from immigrants from what is now Ukraine in particular, as well as from o
ther parts of northern and eastern Europe. The history of Appalachian and bluegrass music has stronger ties with far western Europe, particularly the British and Irish tradition but with definite French and Spanish influences. I suspect that, if you listen to it all a few times that you will spot plenty more.

There is no reason why the concept should not work; this LP serves to show just how spectacularly well it was done. It was released by Kos Green Music on 10 March 2015. I am unaware of any physical availability as yet - I have been too intent listening to be honest - but it is available on d/l from Amazon and to stream on Spotify and Rdio (and doubtless others too).

Friday, July 24, 2015

Truck Festival 2015 - Part 5

One last post about Truck Festival 2015 and of course that will feature the Saloon Stage again. It was expertly curated by At The Helm Records on Friday and Clubhouse Records on Saturday except that they swapped one act each between the days.

The watching and the watched are not so far apart. About 10 seconds and 3 metres in this case.

Ags Connolly. His 2014 LP 'How About Now' is quite some statement of intent.

On Saturday the At The Helm act to play was Porchlight Smoker.
Porchlight Smoker's latest LP is 'Water Into Sand', released in January 2015.

If you have been wondering about the owners of the drum-kit that has appeared in several pictures, it of course belongs to The Rosellys but had seen service as-and-when-required on this stage. The Rosellys' forthcoming LP 'The Barn Sessions' will be their third but the first recorded with a full band and also their first for Clubhouse Records, to which they recently signed.
This is The Rosellys, live at Truck Festival 2015.


All of this is what makes the 'Saloon Stage' at Truck Festival unique.

It is time to start anticipating Cambridge Folk Festival now and that is something new for me. One big problem I have is that whenever I go to Cambridge it always rains and it is usually unseasonably cold.

New Music 2015 - Part 57 - Sofia Talvik - Big Sky Country

When it comes to listening to new music (and also music that is new to me), both live and recorded, I am on something of a roll at moment. This is more Americana it is true, and this LP was released only a month or two back, but Sofia Talvik is not new to the scene as 'Big Sky Country' is her sixth full-length studio release. She isn't American either - she is from Sweden although, when not touring, she is currently resident in Berlin.
I'm only really just getting the measure of this album but I can see it will be around for a long time. Much of it comes from observations she made during a 16-month, 38-state road trip touring her earlier songs around the US. It is full of the kind of observations that someone new to somewhere recognises as special in some way but that those local either simply take for granted or don't even notice at all.
You see it put very simply in the title track and her response to Idaho, but the more I listen the more I am starting to notice the subtleties - not just in the lyrics but in the way that they are played out. Once I've got my head around this I shall be delving into her back catalogue, which also includes the 2013 LP 'Drivin' and Dreaming LIVE'.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Truck Festival 2015 - Part 4

This is no secret; I've been working up to it all week. The real reason that I go to Truck Festival time and again is the Saloon Bar stage. It is a microcosm of a festival in its own right; and all in a space of about 8 x 16 metres. This is what it looks like from outside.

That fuzzy blob is a rain drop on the lens filter, not some alien thing...


This is the view from the front porch, with the Market Stage on the left. Let's go inside.


You will find an audience of all ages and the music will be Americana or some such in its many guises.


I'm not sure what Paul McClure (who hails from the back-woods of Rutland) would make of this but, as previously at Truck, he was wonderful. He played solo and also played a few songs with band backing - mostly members of other acts performing that day.

This is very much a trend on this stage and is definitely to be applauded.

Don Gallardo does hail from the USA, and he has his latest and very arresting LP 'Hickory' in tow.
Don Gallardo and friends.  Just the drummer and bassist for company here. As it turned out that didn't last long...


In almost no time this swelled to six-piece backing. OMG this was good.


That folks is probably not even the half of the goodness on this little stage last weekend. You have been warned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 56 - Della Mae - Della Mae

You never know where the next thing will come from... This time it was a tip from a locally based band that have something of a bluegrass thing going on. Della Mae is an all female four-piece from Nashville, TN and while not entirely bluegrass there's plenty of that in the mix. The rest is traditional country and roots. This is actually their third LP and the band is on tour in the UK and mainland Europe at the moment too.

It was released by Rounder Records (distributed by Decca Records in some countries) on 10 July 2015.

The original compositions are quite on point but as it so happens it also includes a cover of 'To Ohio', which is one of my favourite tracks by The Low Anthem and from the 2008 LP 'Oh My God, Charlie Darwin'. It is pure speculation but I do wonder if this is something inspired by how Jocie Adams might have liked it to sound. Just thought that I'd mention that.
Overall things can't get much better, except to say that now I need to see Della Mae live!

Truck Festival 2015 - Part 3

I wrote on Monday, in the first instalment, that I wasn't going to do this by stage. So far I haven't but now I shall. The "new stage" at Truck 2015 was the Palm City Stage but its greatest attraction was that from start until early evening on both days it was home to Gorwelion - Horizons, a joint project by The Arts Council and BBC6 Music, that seeks to promote music of all genres that comes from Wales. It is nothing specifically about traditional music, although that can of course be included, and although I didn't hear all of it the variety on offer was wide. I have a soft spot for music from Wales and therefore I have mentioned plenty of it over the years in these posts.
This first artist I mentioned recently and was therefore delighted to see that, when the line-up was revealed, she was part of it.

Hannah Grace, who hails from Cardiff.

Her powerful voice makes me think of North Wales' Casi Wyn, although the latter predominantly writes songs in Welsh. I'm not quite sure where she is with new music other than to say that she played the Gorwelion-Horizons stage at Brighton's Great Escape 2015 back in May.
This next artist, with his acoustic Americana, would not have been at all out of place at the nearby Saloon Bar stage (of which much more soon!).
Dan Bettridge, described here in the words of Gorwelion-Horizons.


These next two acts are as different to each other as they are to either of the aforementioned. That was the big appeal of this stage but also one that makes it difficult to write about. Saturday saw Haula perform a very well attended set, complete with enthusiastic audience participation. 
That is far from being something that can be taken for granted for it requires a almost indefinable empathy between artist and audience. Very well known artists can have epic fails with this kind of thing and yet she made it seem natural therefore oh-so-easy. Her heritage is Ugandan but Wales is now where she calls home.

Finally although it is actually from late Friday come the small, for it is a trio, but very determined crew of HMS Morris.
Heledd Watkins on guitar and lead vocals.

This is pop music, but not quite as you expected it. Another of the wonderful discoveries of last weekend. Some of this was sung in Welsh. 
The best discovery since the weekend is that Gwenno is indeed playing Green Man 2015. Result!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Truck Festival 2015 - Part 2

As of 2015 Truck Festival has six music stages but I concentrated my attention on just four of them. I did make occasional forays to the main stage however, catching part of Augustines' set thereon (I saw their whole set at Green Man 2014) and the set by Scottish garage-rock duo Honeyblood.

Stina Tweeddale.
Cat Myers drums, while both usually contribute vocals.

The comparisons with Californian duo Deap Vally, who played the same stage at Truck in 2014, are obvious in as much as of the core power trio format - guitar, bass and drums - both do without a bassist. An interesting comparison with another format, in which there is no drummer but a bass player instead, will come at End of The Road Festival in September when I shall have the chance to see Californian duo Girlpool, that comprises Cleo Tucker (guitar, vocals) and Harmony Tividad (bass, vocals). The three bands are at a similar career point too, in so much as all three have released one LP.

After this I wandered down to the curiously named Virgins and Veterans stage.  The logic is as follows: on the Friday it hosts acts that have never played Truck Festival before, on the Saturday only ones that have and that are returning favourites.
This next act falls into the former category and coincidentally is a band that I have serially missed seeing live, even at festivals that I have attended and they have played, for one reason or another.  This is Polly and The Billets Doux as the sun set on a stage-smoke-filled tent on Friday evening...



We got new songs, old songs and it did occur at the time that if it were not to get any better than this all weekend I wouldn't be heading home disappointed.

Far be it for me to choose a single highlight but, suffice to say, this set was equalled by several on the Saturday.
To blow away any cobwebs the music on Saturday started with the rather improbably named Wallflower. Tell me that a band was called that and I wouldn't have imagined that it would be like this.
The phrase "a shy wallflower" comes to mind... not five alpha-males playing shoegaze of sorts. That, combined with the full glory of the coloured Market stage in bright sunlight would have been kill-or-cure for any hangover. The reason I mention Wallflower is because they were good - very good - at what they do.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Truck Festival 2015 - Part 1

Since I got back from my fourth visit to Truck Festival yesterday I have been working through my thoughts and also the associated photographs.
Sometimes I tackle such things on a stage-by-stage basis or a chronological one, but this time I'm going to do it on an how-I-remember-it basis --- that is as a mixture of the different kinds of music I like all jumbled together. I did, however, start the way I always espouse, which is to see the opening act of the festival and also those on as many stages as possible.

That duty, for opening a festival is not easy, fell to Delora, an overtly cheerful indie-pop three-piece from London that is soon to release its first EP 'Superglue'.

Delora - Market Stage - Friday lunchtime

The strange colouring of this marquee always puts me in mind of that curious creation that is 'Neapolitan' ice cream (for those of a certain age in the UK at least). This kind of music is just the thing with which to start a festival in order to create the idea of a world-apart from the ordinary. The challenging stuff - full of contrasts - is best left until later.

Once I started writing [this post] I decided that it will have a theme of  a kind after all and that is of artists confirmed to release new LP/EPs shortly. The hardest thing is to actually start writing; thinking about it is very easy indeed.
The next is Delta Bell and an artist that I mentioned only recently. The début LP 'Bow Out Of The Fading Light' is released by At The Helm Records on 31 July. It is quite... well you'll just have to wait and see. Live she and her band, that includes pedal steel, were awesome.

Delta Bell - Saloon Bar stage - early Friday evening.

The final act in this, my opening salvo relating to Truck Festival 2015, is a duo pure and simple. So pure and simple that they only use one microphone, which is very old-time but it works wonderfully.
Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou - Virgins and Veterans stage - Saturday evening.

This is not the first time I have seen them live, not even the first time at a Truck Festival, but it was without doubt the most memorable by far. The new songs, and they played several, are memorable and the execution of all of it faultless. Their latest LP 'Expatriates' comes out late summer/early autumn. It is produced by Ethan Johns and to me that says a great deal.

Now it is time to think about 'Truck Festival 2015 - Part 2'.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thoughts on music: statistics without comment.

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" was supposedly popularized by Mark Twain who in turn attributed it to Benjamin Disreali, UK Prime Minister 1874 - 1880. There is little to support the truth in that particular attribution to Disreali (he should however have been proud of it, if indeed that were so) but the phrase has most certainly stuck in the wider mind of the public for a very long time, and especially when it concerns politicians.
Maybe, as in the case of stereotypes, the idea continues to exist because there is at least some underlying perception of truth in it. Many a politician, but certainly not all, would like to believe that this is not so.


This then is an interesting set of statistics from the music industry from the first half of 2015...   I have kept the link location fully visible for reasons you might well understand - it is important to know from where such statistics come before you even commit to viewing them:
http://www.discogs.com/blog/music-sales-in-2015-numbers-that-make-your-head-spin

I'll leave the thoughts and the comments to you, at least for now.

Monday, July 13, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 55 - The Lone Bellow - Then Came The Morning

After almost a week of not writing I thought that I would add this. I have discovered that the longer I spend away from writing, even when that is necessary for whatever reason, the trickier it is to get started again. The root of that problem is often simply where to pick up the thread. As it happens yesterday was pretty damp and gloomy hereabouts and so I spent much of the time indoors and listening to music, if only incidentally. At some point I dug out Fleet Foxes eponymous album from 2008 on vinyl. That reminded me of how much I enjoyed seeing the band live at EOTR,  how much I'm looking forward to seeing Father John Misty at Green Man 2015, and reawakened my interest in this particular thread of acoustic Americana. The writer's block was solved when I happened across The Lone Bellow and, specifically, their second LP 'Then Came The Morning'. I spent much of the evening listening to it.

The acoustic three-piece - Zac Williams, Kanene Pipkin and Brian Elmquist - now call Brooklyn's Lower East Side home but all originally have roots in the south. The LP is released by Descendant Records, a small independent label, and it also put me in mind of the late. lamented Civil Wars. It turns out that the former supported the latter so perhaps I was on the right lines there - and then I had to listed to 'Barton Hollow' again just to check if I was correct, by which time it was past Sunday bedtime!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Thoughts on... how many festivals?

It is only possible to do so much...
I'm rather regretting the fact that, after much consideration, I decided not to head off to deepest Suffolk for Maverick Festival last weekend. There is however an excellent review of it - that attempts the impossible and almost succeeds - by Three Chords and The Truth. To some extent that makes up for not being there but more importantly it does put it firmly in my sights for 2016. A lot of temptation was indeed put in my direction when I was a EOTR 2014 I have to say. 
There is an argument to be made that I should have yielded to it. 
Lots of great artists there, including some of whom I was not aware of until this review (this is always a good thing in my opinion) but also some that I was.
One that the author of the above was not able to see (because of the inevitable clashes that we all know about) was The Rosellys, newly signed to The Clubhouse Records family. I hope that I've got this band covered - as I mentioned here they are playing The Great Western Saloon Bar at Truck Festival 2015. I'm set on seeing that and for good reason. Their new album 'The Granary Sessions' will be released on 7 September. It is their first record with a full band.

Here is a taster (somewhat hazard strewn) from that.



The Rosellys - Two Much Like Trouble (2011).
That said, while it has been a very close run thing, in the last fortnight this has been listened to as much as any other LP here; that is actually saying something.

It is Priddy Folk Festival this coming weekend and I am not going to that either albeit that it is just ten miles away. Outcider Festival is not much further away and is the following weekend (and therefore clashes entirely with Cambridge Folk Festival). 
There are only so many things that I can do and I have to make choices as best I see fit. 

Monday, July 06, 2015

NME - A brave new future?

NME magazine, which started as New Musical Express in 1952, has been battling falling print sales for years. Once-upon-a-time it had sales well into six figures on a week-by-week basis; now it manages about 15,000 but it remains a weekly publication. Its on-line alter ego was one of the earliest music magazine websites of note and today nme.com announced the biggest shake-up in the history of the whole brand...

You might have expected that the announcement would be that the paper, physical version at least, would be no more but then you might have said that about vinyl records fifteen years ago. What it revealed is that, from September, it is following the model that turned-around the daily London Evening Standard newspaper some years back. It too had seen off much of the competition but still couldn't make the paid-for model work in terms of sales versus market penetration required to support the required advertising revenue.
NME currently retails at £2.40 ($3.80 , €3.40), although subscription prices are considerably lower than this as is standard fare in the existing model.

NME will become free, distributed at railway stations, colleges and wherever ever else the demand is, or is discovered to be, nationally. The print run is expected to be in the region of 300,000 copies.
It has many great writers and, consistently, is not afraid to air opinions that might ruffle feathers - be those of readers, artists or other industry concerns. 
It is a brave move and I wish it well. It deserves no less.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 54 - The Honeycutters - Me Oh My

I'm going to stick with the American theme - it is 4th July after all - and The Honeycutters come from the Appalachian tradition that dates back to the earliest years.


The five-piece is fronted by songwriter, lead vocalist and sometime guitarist Amanda Platt and hails from Asheville, NC. This leads one to suspect a Blue Ridge influence and, to an extent, that is what you get here. One thing you most certainly do not get is manufactured Nashville country - it's homespun but with nice flourishes where they make a real difference. 
I suspect that they are not at all well known in the UK at the moment even though Me Oh My is their third album. On the other hand with the fast changing relationship between the US and UK in terms of folk/roots/Americana the timing is nothing if not propitious.


The Honeycutters - Me Oh My (UK release - April 2015)

It is nothing ground breaking in style but that was not its mission. If it makes your corner of the world seem a little bit better or even just more understandable, then it has succeeded it the minds of it creators.  If you like it then the 2012 LP 'When Bitter Met Sweet' might be worth a listen too.
It is also worth mentioning that, as someone who regards lyrics as important, I like this for that reason too. I can imagine them sung in a English, Scottish or Welsh accent and (without the pedal steel, possibly a fiddle might come in handy) they would seem every bit as plausible.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 53 - Los Colognes - Dos

Given that which I wrote at the end of my last post - so barely an hour ago - I am not actually in favour of conscious selection. I like what I like and catches my attention and the bottom line here is that this was too good not to share. That Los Colognes happens to comprise five guys from Chicago who have since relocated to Nashville just happens to be one of the facts.
Dos is the début album (*when the title makes no sense) from Los Colognes and it is slated for release in early September.

This is the track listing:
  • Baby You Can’t Have Both
  • Backseat Driver
  • Drive Me Mad
  • Take It
  • One Direction
  • Golden Dragon Hut
  • Hard to Remember
  • All That You Know
  • Cherry
  • They Got It On



This is 'Backseat Driver'.

* Or, then again. maybe it is not. These guys are busy...
Working Together (2014)
It has ten tracks on it and these are they:
  • King Size Bed
  • 99 Ways
  • Working Together
  • My Doorway's Open
  • Buyin' time
  • Hi Road
  • Long Time Comin'
  • I Don't Believe
  • Get Down
  • Birds of Paradise
Plenty of influences from times-past in there, and I doubt I have even spotted the half of the most obvious ones yet. Check it out. One for late in the evening at a summer BBQ, I'd wager.

New Music 2015 - Part 52 - Hannah Grace - Meant To Be Kind

Continuing my theme of artists I'm intending to see at forthcoming festivals here is one who plays the new Palm City Stage at Truck Festival 2015
She hails from Bridgend, South Wales, and this is her first EP. 



It was released by Never Fade Records in 2014 and is available to buy digitally (from the usual sources) and on CD and 12" vinyl either from Never Fade or from Rough Trade. The vinyl pressing is quite unusual in that it is single sided.

The background to Never Fade Records is an interesting example in the changing face of music in the digital age. It was founded in 2010 by Gabrielle Aplin and James Barnes so that the former could self-release her first EP (it was followed by two others). In time it has evolved to do the same for a small, but growing, group of other artists now that Aplin's LP releases (of which more in due course) are released by Parlophone, which is now part of major label Warner Music Group. [I have chosen Wikipedia links over those of the respective companies simply for the reason that they are more informative in the historical perspective, whereas the websites of the companies themselves are understandably pre-occupied with the here-and-now.]
'The First Time' - recorded live at The Unitarian Church, Dublin, in 2013 - is one of Hannah's own songs and it bodes very well for her performance at Truck Festival I think. It is not one of the four included on the aforementioned EP. Those songs are:

  • Meant To Be Kind
  • Broke
  • Walk Away (The City)
  • Chasing Butterflies



There are also several interesting cover versions to be found on-line and this - The Staves' 'White Winter Trees' is one of my favourites.
In the light of this recent blog post from Breaking More Waves, and the various sources it mentions even if they do no meet the rigorous guidelines for peer-reviewed sociological research, I shall continue not to worry about mentioning female artists as long as I deem the music worthy of inclusion. I don't think that I'm likely to suffer a crisis of logic any time soon.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 51 - This Is The Kit - Bashed Out

I thought that I had mentioned this release in a post already as I have been listening to it often, but seemingly I did not. Be that as it may, This Is The Kit is very much on my 'to see' list at End of The Road Festival 2015.

'Bashed Out' is the band's first full LP, released by Brassland Records a few months ago.
The title of the album is slightly curious, albeit precise, and that the seventh track on it is 'Nits' only reinforces the feeling that this is indeed something slightly odd. It is also very good indeed.
For those that need to have music categorized, I sometimes find it (un)helpful, this is a big problem. It is not folk, it is not entirely acoustic either and then we find ourselves in the territory of alt-folk/nu-folk/freak folk.

The problem is that, in as far as I can tell, we are no better off than the mediaeval map makers whose works tailed off at the edges of what they understood and when things got really tough included mythical creatures, possibly as a warning to those that might wish to venture from the "known world". That territory is now musically well populated but remains, in designation at least, 'beyond the pale' and that in itself is a very old term indeed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Truck Festival 2015 - Palm City Stage

It is only a few days since I posted the artist list for The Saloon Stage at Truck Festival 2015 and started to comment on it. There is plenty more about that to come, even in the three weeks before the event!
In what has in many ways been a rather dismal week, nothing good in the news, more generally the music side is keeping me sane. I do wonder if, instead of M. Hollande and others amongst 'the great and good', the NSA has taken to snooping on me instead because soft targets are easier to go for after all. Here's how it plays out; the results are impressive [announcements] when it comes to festival line-ups and particularly the ones that I am going to. Please keep up the good work!


Today Truck Festival announced a new stage and one that will make my plans for that festival even more problematic. It is 'The Palm City Stage' and its logo seems to be flamingos and tropical vegetation. It is, despite that and I have no problem there, dedicated to music from Wales and that is a big part of the problem for me. It is no secret that I could spend much of Truck Festival in the Saloon Stage (roots and Americana from both sides of the Atlantic).
It is also no secret that I have long had a soft spot for music from Wales, sung in either Welsh or English, for reasons that I have never really been able to identify, let alone explain.
There will be a lot more from me about this list. 

The first is to mention an astonishing trans-lingual pun. The music can wait, just for once.

If HMS Morris sounds like a rather off-kilter band name, and to be fair it does, then perhaps you should see this from Glastonbury 2015 [strong language warning].