Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Looking forward... 2015 and all that.

Only yesterday evening, while writing my little piece on forthcoming lists and then touching on festivals in 2015, did the bigger picture start to coalesce in my mind. I must have kept thinking about it too as I woke up whilst dreaming about it  --- and so I never did get to find out what the denouement of this really very curious "festival" was. That the whole thing was devoid of real-world viability was beyond any doubt.
It has however made me turn my attention to some more of those 2014 festivals that I attended and the ones I might be anticipating a visit to in 2015.  I shall start will the upcoming announcement of (almost all) the line-up for the second edition of Behind the Castle Festival, Sherborne, Dorset, 13 June 2015.  It is to be announced on 27 November and, while currently embargoed, I'm quite certain that it will not disappoint. It will also be featured in an article in The Western Gazette.
Tickets go on sale on Monday 1 December. It is also one of the first festivals to declare any, yet alone the majority of, acts for 2015. Ticket prices remain essentially as last year but various new options are available.

Yesterday I mentioned the poll of 'UK Blogsound 2015'. It coincides with the BBC 'Sound of 2015' list, with which it often shares a degree of commonality - George Ezra and Royal Blood, two acts that arguably share little other than popularity in common, appeared in both lists in 2014 -  and both long lists will appear at the start of December with the top five in each announced in early January.
Here is an artist that featured on the 'UK Blogsound 2014' that I subsequently saw live in 2014. Only after this did I decide to seek out the LP 'Mirrors the Sky' (Sub Pop, 17 March 2014).

Lyla Foy - Garden Stage - End of The Road Festival - 31 August 2014.

It is also just one example of why, once again, my lists of 2014 will be dominated by artists that I have seen live or those that I am determined to ensure that I see (for the first time or once again) in 2015. The surprise factor, both artists and audience, that festivals provide is one of the aspects that most appeals to me. That said you might regard this next as just thirty years of wilful ignorance on my part. I'd never real bothered to engage with Pavement and so Stephen Malkmus' post Pavement career had also largely passed me by until, for a reason that was not pre-planned and I can no longer recall what provoked it, I suddenly decided to make amends. I discovered that I enjoyed it a whole lot and I totally appreciate their stance, which is to not to dwell on the past at all and eschew the playing of any Pavement material whatsoever.
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Woods Stage - End of The Road Festival 2014.

Before that, in early February, I have a ticket to a gig that requires just a brisk ten minute walk from home to attend. Fairport Convention. Cheese & Grain. Frome.

What happens at festivals can change the course of bands too, as this very recent review indicates of Saskatoon-based based 'Slow Down Molasses'. The revelation, or so the band would have it, was playing at End of The Road 2011. I'll tell you something about that too - it was awesome.
Not all band members are in the picture. Slow Down Molasses, Tipi Stage, End of The Road Festival 2011.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Carpe diem quod tempus fugit.

To put it simply - December beckons and it is soon to be time for those ubiquitous lists. I have already made a contribution to one that concerns bloggers' 'Artists To Watch 2015', about which more to follow. All talk of this is currently subject to embargo.
It is also time to start seriously considering the festival options in 2015 - though some seven months out that seems a strange thing to relate - and indeed I am actively doing so.

First, however, come the lists of 2014 of which I shall contribute my own as I have done every year since 2006. I'm not planning to make many changes to the format of the last few years but, as I promised at the start of the year, and it is one of the few New Year resolutions I have ever kept, I have listened to more new music - be that live or recorded via radio, streaming or the like - than ever before. I set myself a weekly target that seemed ambitious at the time. I have comfortably exceeded that. This has however caused new problems all of its own making!
Once-upon-a-time the category of EPs was a niche concern and I used to start with that list as it was easy and self-contained. It is now a huge issue. I am going to choose six, at least that is my current thinking, and that's going to involve some pretty harsh choices.

A more recent development, and I might start with this on November 30, is the rise of albums that are recorded live...  It is a genre the zenith of which was between the early 1970s and early 1980s. Its return is in part a result of the revival in popularity of live music in general but also, and in practical terms most importantly, the available and affordable options to record live in almost any venue.
Occasionally I have wondered whyever it was that I started writing; this year I think it is true that I have never done so.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Emma Ballantine, Beth Porter, and Winter Mountain - The Green Room, Frome

This is only the third edition of The Green Room but it is showing signs of becoming one of the best new-music showcases this side of anywhere. It is also good value: £8 advance, £10 on the door, with cabaret-style tables and seating.
First to play was London-based, though originally from Salisbury, Emma Ballantine. That she made the gig at all was itself a triumph over adversity. Her car was stolen yesterday and so she and her guitar made it to Frome by rail instead.

She played songs from her self-released 'Flying Machine EP' (2013) and other compositions too.
I had never heard her live before and one thing that I should mention is that she has none of that awkwardness that solo artists often display when introducing or describing themselves or, particularly, their songs.

Next to play was the flagship project of someone that you may very well already have heard, though are unaware of nevertheless. Bethany Porter is one on the most sought-after session cellists in the UK but there is a great deal more to enjoy than that.
Her headline project is Beth Porter and The Availables. The début LP 'Open Doors' will soon be available, on vinyl and download only. It has been a long time in the works due to pressure of commitments. 'The Availables' is just what the term implies: yesterday that was Emma Hooper (viola) and Ian Vorley (violin and baritone saxophone) with both adding vocals. Beth plays instruments other than 'cello and not all of them have strings.
The recorder is not the most fashionable of instruments. This is a treble recorder. Then again the even less common tenor recorder features in one of the most remarkable modern folk albums of 2014 - played by Josienne Clarke in that case - so just possibly its time is coming.
Top of the evening's bill was Anglo-Irish duo Winter Mountain. Joe Francis is from St. Agnes, Cornwall and Marty Smyth from the northern tip  of Co. Donegal. They met by chance at Union Station, Chicago and the rest is history.
Winter Mountain is signed to Frome-based Charcoal Records and this set was recorded live in its entirety.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lotte Mullan, Heg & the Wolf Chorus and The Moulettes - Marnhull Acoustic Sessions

It is fair to say that it has not always proven easy to tempt sufficient numbers to commit their Sunday evening to acoustic music, however exceptional, in an intimate (as in less than 100 seat) venue in rural North Dorset. I wonder, and very much hope, that the well-attended event will be seen as something of a game-changer.
The Moulettes were the big draw and quite rightly so, but something that those drawn in by that possibly appreciated even more was the whole package. I knew what to expect in that sense but I too had never seen either of the support acts live before. I don't worry about that too much; once I have the measure of some event or other  I'm happy to take it on trust and buy a ticket. A few misses are part of the rough-and-tumble and have, taken over time, been far overshadowed by the surprise hits.
First to play was Lotte Mullan - and I have an admission here: not only had I never heard her play live I had never even heard of her at all.

Her songs are pretty intense and personal.
She released 'Claw Marks EP' earlier this year and an LP will follow in Spring 2015 by the looks of things. I did think about asking what the title might be but I never quite summoned up the courage before it was too late and things had moved on.
The next to play was Heg and the Wolf Chorus in a diminished line-up as a three-piece (they should be five) owing to the winter lurgies. I was at least aware of them and some of their music but again had never seen them play live. I  managed a pretty poor job of photography too. Please believe me that this band sounded a whole lot better than this looks! I need to see them live again
Dramatic it most certainly is - the songs and the arrangements both.

This also tuned out to be the perfect bridge between Mullan's introspection and The Moulettes decidedly cosmic perspective - from the title track from LP 'Constellations' to a brand new track pondering the secret life of nematode worms.

So new was it that the rest of the band left Hannah Miller to play it all by herself, on Ruth Skipper's auto-harp!
That, and the real possibility that the set would dissolve in fits of giggles at any moment, only made it seem even more surreal and wonderful. It was a long set but still it was over far too soon. That despite the fact that they played two encores, one of which was Songbird.
This is the whole band in action.
There is much more that I could add and in time I probably will. The above is probably sufficient to explain why I think that events such as this matter very much indeed.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 41 - French For Rabbits - Spirits

It is one of those late autumn days where it is raining outside and the best bet, if one is able to do that, is to stay in and try to keep it all at bay. Thus I find myself in front of the fire, with a bowl of home-made leek and potato soup, listening to this LP. It is just about perfect for days such as this and I'm a sucker for this kind of dream-pop anyway. Where they come from it is, however, spring.

Spirits is the début LP by New Zealand duo French For Rabbits. I don't know enough about music from New Zealand, nevertheless that which I do find I tend to like. This next might be a myth but I don't want it spoiled now, thank-you: the band-name apparently came during a discussion as to whether lapins, presumably a possible band name, was indeed the French word for rabbits.
'French For Rabbits' was, in any case, a far better choice.

Originally from Christchurch, but relocated to Wellington, the duo of (nominatively-determined) Brooke Singer on voice and keyboards and John Fitzgerald on guitar do a fine job of evoking the subtle wisps of autumn that try to sneak in wherever there is a chink in the defences. I believe that Brooke is also the principal songwriter too.
The album is very much a thing to be listened to in toto. I purchased it as a download but it will soon be released on vinyl too. I'm now more than tempted to upgrade to real.
See what you think. Have a listen:

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Moulettes - Marnhull Acoustic Sessions - 9 November 2014.

This is your final warning.
You will most probably never be able to see this again. One of the UK's finest bands, The Moulettes - a seven-piece, live in a 90-seat venue.
Sunday 9 November from 7pm, Marnhull Acoustic Sessions for tickets.  If you miss this then you will be asking yourself why before very long.

It is not folk music like you ever knew it. Moulettes is supporting Bellowhead for many dates on the the latter's UK autumn tour and taking a day off to visit Marnhull. Bellowhead is playing Birmingham Symphony Hall that same evening and you can't now sneak off to that instead as it is sold out!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 40 - Lynne Hanson - River of Sand

'River of Sand', released in September 2014, is actually the fourth LP from Canadian folk-roots artist Lynne Hanson but the first that I became aware of. What took me so long is the obvious question. My weak excuse is that is the first she has released in four years.

Back in 2010 I was nowhere as inquisitive about new music as now I am - no doubt about that - but also with that change the range of music that I like and, at least to some extent understand, has burgeoned. I have not yet listened to this LP enough times to make stable comments on individual tracks but my inclination is that I never will. It is certainly not the polished 'Nashville product' and quite deliberately so. Suffice to say that if you like an album with a lot of meaning and a good dose of darkness and light then this as good as any I have found this year.

Hope is a just four-letter word when the feeling just ain't there.
'This Too Shall Pass'.

These are songs lived-in; well worn through good and bad, scruffy in places and threadbare in others, therefore now totally comfortable. This is music for the season, as winter approaches, to be appreciated seated near a real fire and with a glass raised to the passing of such times.
'This Too Shall Pass'. The Guitar Bar, Nottingham, September 2014.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The challenge for this weekend.

Is to not see any live music at all.
I can do that, probably.

Also to listen, by any legal means, to as many of the albums of 2014 that I have intended to listen to but still haven't. My focus just now is those by artists that I have seen live in 2014. I think I'm going to keep Spotify busy...

Without rhyme or reason I started with The Voyager - Jenny Lewis. Here she is.
Woods Stage, End Of The Road Festival 2014.

I'm having my Saturday lunch while listening to Fear In Bliss - Horse Thief. Lead vocalist Cameron Neal chatting to fans after the set on the Tipi Stage, End Of The Road Festival 2014.

This next is a bit worse as admissions go. I saw Samantha Crain live twice this summer and I still don't have the album 'Kid Face' to call my own. This mistake will shortly be rectified.
Again this the Tipi Stage at End Of The Road Festival 2014. I promise to choose another location soon.

'The Hum', the third LP by O'Hooley and Tidow, is yet another case in point. Booked for the subsequently cancelled Frome Folk Festival 2013, this was another act that I had never seen live before. I was rushing between stages at this point, and so I didn't take as many pictures as I might have liked, but being there just to listen was very well worth the effort.
Walled Garden Stage, Green Man Festival 2014.
They have just finished a year also involved in supporting Lucy Ward as part of her touring band and are now focussing attention on their fourth album as O'Hooley and Tidow. Lucy Ward is another whom I have never yet seem live and, as it happens, she was also booked to appear at Frome Folk Festival 2013... I do however have both albums, 'Adelphi Has To Fly' (2011) and 'Single Flame' (2013) and I recommend both very highly. Seeing Lucy Ward play live is one of my ambitions for 2015.

You might gather that my thread here is there is just so much available that simply to keep abreast of it, just treading water if you will, is quite some exercise in memory if nothing else.

Then I found something new - a 2014 album by a Canadian artist that I had never ever heard of before. This needs to have a new post of its own...
'New Music 2014 - Part 40 - ...'.

The last in this post therefore will, as promised, be from a different stage and indeed a different festival.  A different artist too; one that, particularly outside the UK, is far less well known than the above.
Mary Epworth. Veterans and Virgins Stage. Truck Festival 2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Black Feathers - live and on video.

Watching the video below seems to me weird in an undefinable way. I find the juxtaposition of images from live performance and recorded video slightly curious but I don't really understand why that should be so.
This is The Black Feathers playing live at the Cheese and Grain last Friday evening and I took the picture.

This the official video for the same song, recorded in Nashville TN just a few weeks back.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Old Music. New Music. - Photos. Fires. Fables.

I know that, as Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo embark on their tour and it is likely to be the last for a little while as the various members pursue their many other projects, Photos. Fires. Fables (2005) is soon to be re-released on CD and this news will please many people. It is in no way a curiosity simply because it was her first release as a solo artist. It still stands as an incredible record.
I am one of the lucky ones: I snapped up the very last copy at the Rough Trade pop-up shop at End Of The Road Festival back in 2009 - and I knew absolutely nothing at all about the artist until this point - about ten minutes after I heard her play live. When music does that to me then it really matters; it is history in the making.
Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo headlined North Dorset Folk Festival in 2013.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 39 - Caitlin Rose - Cold Answer

There are a few for whom one always needs to keep an eye open and a ready ear. This is one of them.

Cold Answer was co-written with Matthew Perryman Jones in 2013 and recorded in early 2014.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

North Dorset Folk Festival 2014

I'm back home from the above mentioned. Was it good? Don't even get me started!
This was the third edition and the second at its current venue of Marnhull Village Hall. I think I have said each time that the latest will be hard to better. Take it as read that it applies here too.
The word bijou applies to this festival more than any other that I can think of. A jewel is usually very small but perfect and, for some reason, in English we borrowed the French word when used as an adjective. 
As a demonstration of the intimacy of the setting I took this picture from the back row of the seating and without zoom of any kind. The sound desk was perhaps 2 metres behind me and the back wall of the hall immediately behind that.
This is headline artists Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin and I shall return to them.
I'm a big fan of seeing opening acts and as it happens in this case he was the only one on the bill that I had never seen live before. This just shows the strength-in-depth on offer here. 
It was Gavin Davenport and he is hardly unknown, as the link will attest. He played a variety of instruments of which the concertina is a favourite of mine.
The next artist to play may not be known to you unless you were at Behind The Castle Festival in 2014, which is where I first saw her live. That should change very soon and I'm interested to hear how she sounds with backing musicians. Why so? See here.
Lizzyspit releases her first full length recording 'Villains' in January 2015.

I remember the next act, Tinderbox, from my visit to the first North Dorset Folk Festival (NDFF) in 2012. Totally new to me then, seeing them play again yesterday was quite the nostalgia thing.
They were, as in 2012, joined by Bob Burke (right) and he is now the only artist to have played all three editions of NDFF, where he played solo in 2013. Tinderbox release a live album 'Live! At The Cottage' shortly. Indeed, and thanks for the link information, you can now pre-order it here.  I have to say that, while you can take Monique Houraghan out of Dublin you can't take Dublin out of her. Later we were treated, by Hannah Martin, to an apposite Oscar Wilde quote! And that is not to mention the fact that Tinderbox challenged Ninebarrow (see below) to a cover 'duel' - and it seems that both parties freely accepted.

Next was the UK based but bluegrass-influenced and all-round inventiveness of three-piece Jaywalkers - from left to right: Mike, Lucy and Jay. They are working on their third LP.
The old-time Appalachian style, whether the tracks are new or traditional, was just the ticket at this point in the day.
After these four acts there was a longer interval before the next three sets. This was to allow for food, drink and also reconfiguring the stage set-up for what was to come. On the subject of food I'll say only this: Cake was clearly pretty much the only food that the artists coveted.
The music resumed with Dorset duo Ninebarrow that also play a mixture of traditional and new compositions, the latter mostly inspired by history and landscape.
I think that perhaps the most incisive comment in the link above is provided by the duo that were headlining. There is something about their take on music that really matters. They played some new songs and that really mattered too. This was taken during one of those new songs. It is astonishing to remember that their first released recording, 'Kingdom EP', was released in 2013 and début LP 'While The Blackthorn Burns' as recently as April 2014.

First support was an artist who played at the first NDFF in 2012 and that was also the first time I saw Megan Henwood play live although I was well aware of the 2011 album 'Making Waves' before that. I have seen her play solo, as a four-piece and, as here, a three-piece.
Any which way it is an experience.
The vicissitudes on the path of a musician are many and as such have delayed the release of her second LP 'Head Heart Hand'. It is now happening in March 2015 and all the omens are good.

That only leaves me to mention the headline artists - Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. To be honest they did exactly that which I have come to expect.
They came, they played, they conquered but they are no conquistadors for they do it with guileless style rather than with fire and sword. If there were any present that hadn't seen this live and remain unconverted then I have to say its a bit like cooking mussels - if they haven't opened up after a few minutes then they were probably already dead.
Their latest studio LP 'Mynd' (2013) is excellent but, and it is relevant here, equally so is their 2014 release 'Live In Calstock' and it was recorded at another venue about as small as this. One of the best live acts in the UK today; it is as simple as that.
One more thing is that you can see another of the very best at the same venue on 9 November! Marnhull Acoustic Sessions presents The Moulettes. All seven of them accompanied by even more instruments, often large ones, on that same small stage. You can see them supporting Bellowhead too, and you should do that, but I guarantee that it won't be an atmosphere quite like this and you may never be able to see them in a venue as small as this again. Tickets are £11 (including £1 booking fee).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Live and Local - The Green Room, Frome

I mentioned this new monthly event here four weeks ago. I was impressed then but this instalment only served to underline that. It featured four acts this time, all excellent, and was a fundraiser for local charity Positive Action on Cancer Frome. It was good to see some familiar faces on stage and in the audience and also to see two acts that I had never seen live before.
The event was largely put together and compèred by Griff Daniels and his friends (known as 'The Valleys', apparently) and they opened with a set to get the ball rolling. Here they are:

Next to play was Lauren Castle. She released her début EP 'Vintage Dress' in June 2014. She accompanies herself on either acoustic guitar or keys and at least I was already familiar with the EP.

Wildwood Kin are a trio from Exeter comprising Beth Key, Emillie Key and Meghann Loney. Their original songs, and they played several that are very recently written, are interesting in a number of ways and not least for the use of cajón on many; it is often quite dominant - and I can't decide which best sums my thoughts up - military marching band or tribal - but either way it works and so do the vocal harmonies
They are recording their début EP in Brighton this coming week. The release is end of 2014 (I suspect that is really rather optimistic) or early 2015. Any which way it is certainly one that I shall be waiting for with bated breath.

The Black Feathers topped the bill tonight and I stand by everything that I wrote after I saw them live, just six months ago but seems like an age, also in The Cheese and Grain.

I shall write more about all of this in due time but I'm off to North Dorset Folk Festival all day Saturday. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 38 - Elise Yuill and Hattie Briggs

As I know that I shall be busy listening to live music this coming weekend and I shall write about that in due course. I thought that I would try and sneak this post in before then.
This really is new music; two unconnected artists that don't have a released LP between them - yet.

Hattie Briggs, based in Gloucestershire, released EP 'My Shepherd's Hut' all the way back in 2013. It does I strongly suspect suggest the angle that her début LP 'Red and Gold', which is to be released in 2015, will take. Don't fear if you read that that one of the album's producers is Peter Waterman - he is not the same as Pete Waterman, the maestro of pre-millennial UK pop and preserved railways! The other producer is Dan Cassidy and he is, truth be told, brother of the late lamented Eva Cassidy.
For some reason I am in a mood for watching songs with video this evening. So, while it totally recommend the above mentioned EP this is a track that is not on it!

Elise Yuill is based in Plymouth but originally from Somerset. Her music is folk/roots but, as it is in the following song sometimes firmly lodged in the Americana mould. I can find no trace of released recordings but if this, a song called ' The Five Regrets', is anything on which to base judgement that should change if only by popular demand.
Five Regrets from Elise Yuill on Vimeo.
I have spent much of the evening listening and watching these.