Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 53 - Red Butler - Nothing To Lose

Red Butler is shortly to release its second LP and the follow-up to 2014's 'Freedom Bound'. In that time the Brighton-based four-piece has been garnering fans and acclaim both in the UK and further afield. I first saw the band live here in Frome, as part of the Blues, Rhythm and Roots festival in May 2016. It proved to be my favourite act on the day.

Guitar tomfoolery was adeptly done, but that alone is not enough to really make an impression.

Red Butler still did that however; this band write most of their songs as a co-operative outfit and occasionally also reinterpret a cover in a very interesting way.
It's the real deal, clinched by the distinctive but wholly appropriate vocals of Jane Pearce.

Red Butler, Cheese & Grain, Frome - 8 May 2016.

Most of this set was taken from their début album 'Freedom Bound' (2014) but a few new songs were included too and we were told that they were to be included on their second LP and that this was to be produced by Wayne Proctor, who also happens to be the drummer for King King. These songs sounded very promising indeed. I would travel to see this band live once again - no doubt about that at all. This is an album that I really want to hear. Gone, it seems, are the days when beyond the start of October the only releases were those aimed at the Christmas market. That is something for which we should give thanks and spend some cash.

Red Butler - Nothing To Lose (self released, 11 November 2016).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 52 - Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker - Overnight

I have seen a great deal of live music in 2016 and this it the latest release from one of the highlights of those endeavours. I know that this duo is a Marmite thing in UK folk circles. I make no apologies. I'm totally on-board here.

Overnight - Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker (Rough Trade Records, 14 October 2016)
  • Nine Times Along
  • Something Familiar
  • Sweet the Sorrow
  • Dawn of the Dark
  • Dark Turn of Mind
  • Weep You No More Sad Fountains
  • The Light of His Lamp
  • Sleep
  • Milk and Honey
  • The Waning Crescent
  • Overnight
  • Light of Day

'Dark Turn of Mind' is a Gillian Welch cover but what you are really hearing here is the pushing of boundaries. Most of these songs are originals. Most of them are tales of loss and regret. Therefore there is a clear bond with traditional folk themes.

This is the Garden Stage, End Of The Road Festival 2016.

Seeing the duo play live is something else. Josienne is quite the compère spinning the miserabilism and self-deprecating threads, between the songs, to the point that it becomes impossible to divine reality from construct. Then there is her voice.

'Something Familiar'

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bob Dylan - A Nobel Laureate

I have to admit that when today dawned I could say that my knowledge of the works and the authors that have been deemed worthy of the Nobel Prize for Literature was very limited indeed. I had no reason to expect that situation to change any time soon.
What I certainly did not expect was to end the day listening to (original) vinyl, that I already own, written by a Nobel Laureate. This was astonishing development in a world seemingly so weighed down with rancour and atrocities of almost every kind imaginable.
It is recognition not only of the lyrics Bob Dylan has actually written, many though they are, but also for all those that he has inspired others to write.

There is nothing more for me to write; I'm going back to listening.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 51 - Bel Blue - Our Places

Not very often does this happen. I'm delighted to share it when it does. This is self-released on Wild Dog Rose and all nine tracks are self-written. It is almost entirely acoustic, a smidgen of electric guitar features on two tracks, but more importantly it is astonishingly whole.
This time last week I'd never even heard about Bel Blue or, if I had, I had forgotten all about it. Hearing three songs from it on Monday evening made me think that the latter scenario is very unlikely indeed.
It was bought to me by the twin powers of local radio and the worldwide access to it via the internet. In this case the distance between Hailsham FM (in Sussex, England) and my location in Frome, Somerset, England is barely 125 miles. The result was I purchased the LP there and then - on that slightly old-fashioned format that is CD. Royal Mail delivered it to my door today.

Here it is:

Bel Blue - Our Places:
  • Longing's Gone
  • Our Places
  • In Its Time
  • Waterfall
  • Wild Dog Rose
  • River of Dreams
  • Somewhere
  • Nant Ddu
  • Along the Way
  • Our Places (live by the River Ely)
  • In Its Time (radio edit)

Bel Blue - In Its Time (radio edit, official video).

It is a début album but I suggest that if I had told you otherwise then you might well have left the fact unquestioned. It is also independently released. I'm not, although a few may think otherwise, out to denigrate major labels. They have made a few steps to attempt to rescue their tattered corporate reputation but thus far only a fraction of what might be required, if that is indeed possible.
That is not what really excites me and makes me want to go to certain festivals. This sort of music is exactly the kind that does.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

I've been quiet for a reason...

I haven't written a post for ten days now, which is not actually particularly unusual. Indeed I am saving some festival commentary for the long evenings of autumn and there is more than one reason for that.
I have been making an inevitably incomplete long-list of the recordings - LPs, EPs and those that fall somewhere in between - that I think might be worthy of  inclusion in my end-of-year consideration. Needless to say there will be some yet to be released (I have a watch list for those too) but nevertheless the list is long. Longer indeed than ever before.
I have previously listened to each item all the way through at least twice after long-listing and before making the decisions and I intend to do the very same once again. With the list likely to reach an estimated 160 items, each with an average length approaching 40 minutes, that is set to be a Sisyphean task, at least in endeavour if not necessarily ultimate futility. One thing is guaranteed: it will, of necessity, be accompanied by really good music.
Some items will be well known to many and more to those that have read these pages. I hope that there will also be some surprises for everyone.

Here is one of the recent additions to the long-list:

Elizabeth Cook - Exodus Of Venus (Agent Love Records, 17 June 2016).
  • Exodus of Venus
  • Dyin'
  • Evacuation
  • Dharma Gate
  • Slow Pain
  • Broke Down in London on the M25
  • Methadone Blues
  • Cutting Diamonds
  • Orange Blossom Trail
  • Tabitha Tuder's Mama
Country, blues, soul, rock.
Please arrange these descriptors as you see fit depending on the song and your reaction at the particular time of listening. Needless to say her band are totally on the ball but not overpowering. The same is true of the production.
It even includes a paean to that English nightmare that is the M25 motorway (freeway is a word that it has rarely, if ever, deserved) 
that orbits London at a distance of approximately 20 miles from the centre!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 50 - Billie Marten - Writing of Blues and Yellows

Many have been hailing Billie Marten for some time now and with good reason I might add, based on a few EPs and her live performances. On the other hand I think that this can put unrealistic pressure of expectation for a debut LP on the shoulders of the artist in question. All the indications are that at least in this case it hasn't.
I listened to this start-to-finish three times yesterday evening and, as well as not having tired of it eventually I got tired myself instead and retired to bed. Sometimes I woke up briefly and the songs were still playing in my head. 

Billie Marten - Writing of Blues and Yellows (Victor/RCA, 2016).

What I have concluded is that it is the perfect record to spend an early autumn weekend at home with.
  • La Lune
  • Bird
  • Lionhearted
  • Emily
  • Milk & Honey
  • Green
  • Heavy Weather
  • Unaware
  • Hello Sunshine
  • Live
  • Teeth
  • Untitled
  • It's a Fine Day
It's far from easy to chose any clear favourites, which is a good sign too. The penultimate track, over six minutes long and with it's non-committed moniker, is rather interesting to my mind.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 49 - Lady Maisery - Cycle

'Cycle' is released on 28 October 2016 and the third LP from English folk-harmony trio Lady Maisery that comprises Hannah James (piano accordion and foot percussion), Hazel Askew (bells, concertina, harp) and Rowan Rheingans (banjo, fiddle). The first was 'Weave and Spin' in 2011. This is all the more remarkable because all three members are also members of at least one other active group, but that is how folk tends to work.
Lady Maisery records and performs songs and ballads, both old and modern. The name actually derives from an old Anglo-Scottish ballad Lady Maisry (it is Child Ballad 65) and it appears in a new guise on second LP Mayday (2013). The traditional variations are many and varied but the outcome is always far from happy.

The upcoming release will be tremendous musically but to be quite honest I want it on vinyl just for the art nouveau cover alone! It also a cycle of the seasons, which is very appropriate as we head into Autumn because it is in the middle.

Lady Maisery - Cycle (Rootbeat Records, 28 October 2016).
  • Sing for the Morning
  • Quiet Joys of Brotherhood
  • Honest Work
  • Season I - The Sun Returns
  • Bagpipers/Sheila's 70
  • A Father's Lullaby
  • Season II - Beautiful Leaves
  • So Far
  • Diggers' Song
  • Eostre
  • Order & Chaos
  • Land on the Shore
When people try to tell me that things were all far better in some unspecified former time then I'm inclined to treat that with dose of perspective reality. I think that, at least in some ways, music has become more accessible than before. One sense in which that is particularly true is that genres have broken barriers in a way that the old hegemony worked to, if possibly not deliberately so, stifle.

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 48 - Seth Lakeman - Ballads Of The Broken Few

This is not perhaps what you might have expected Seth Lakeman to do next. All I can say is that I am mighty glad that he did. I did wonder if his focus on music about or from the South West of England might have run it's course. Well now we don't know, at least for now.
Seth and his band toured the UK in 2015 with Devon trio Wildwood Kin, whose own music is acoustic Americana folk with much UK influence, as his primary supporting act. This is the musical development of that.

Seth Lakeman featuring Wildwood Kin - Ballads Of The Broken Few (Cooking Vinyl, 16 September 2016).

This is certainly no lash-up. The two acts seem to have bought the very best out of each other - that is Seth Lakeman was tempted into Appalachian territory and Wildwood Kin self-deployed in three-part-harmony heaven on nine of the eleven tracks. So who might buy into this vision? 
Ethan Johns produced the record, much of it was recorded as live takes, and that says a great deal. There is a single cover song - and a surprising one - for it is 'Anna Lee'. Written by Laurelyn Dossett it first appeared on Levon Helm's 2007 album 'Dirt Farmer'.

Ballad Of The Broken Few - live at Torre Abbey, Devon.
Some of the other videos were recorded in the rather ramshackle parts of Poltimore House in East Devon. As well as all that Wildwood Kin is recording its own début album but that's for another post...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 47 - Gitta de Ridder - Feathers

Feathers is the debut LP by Gitter de Ridder - now London-based but hailing from the Netherlands and between which she regularly commutes.

Gitta de Ridder - Feathers (Little Memories Records, 21 September 2016).

Following her earlier live performances and the Come Find Me EP (2015), which largely showcased finger-picked guitar and delicately sung, self-penned songs relating themes close to the artist comes a ten-track full length record that also includes her (almost entirely acoustic) four-piece band. If you have a burning need to file it in some pigeon-hole then modern folk will suffice, at least for now.
I'd rather leave it on a pile of things that are to be played on rotation.

This is a live version of 'Stay A Little Longer', recorded in London in May 2016.

I hesitate to say it but this could easily meet or indeed surpass that which I hoped a few fairly recent albums might have achieved if only (what I imagine to be) interference with the artists' intentions had not intervened at some stage or other. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 46 - three doses of garage rock

I feel like a change from narrating my thoughts on festivals because I haven't written a post on new music for what seems like an age (it's about four weeks in truth) and I mentioned female-fronted garage rock in relation to Seratones at End of The Road Festival 2016. This is about that sort of thing.

The first is the only one of the three albums released as of today but all three are by bands that I have seen live.

The band's latest LP is 'Get Gone' (Fat Possum Records, 6 May 2016).

Released tomorrow is this from the Californian duo of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards. It is their second full-length release following 'Sistrionix' (2013) and a change of label.

Deap Vally - Femejism (Cooking Vinyl, 16 September 2016).

Towards the end of the year Scottish duo Stina Tweedale and Cat Myers pitch in with their own second album. The first, released in 2014, was self-titled.

Honeyblood - Babes Never Die (FatCat Records, 4 November 2016). Vinyl, CD and d/l.

Babes Never Die - Honeyblood
  • Babes Never Die
  • Ready For The Magic
  • Sea Hearts
  • Love Is a Disease
  • Walking at Midnight
  • Justine, Misery Queen
  • Hey, Stellar
  • Cruel
  • Gangs

I imagine all the smallish people had a lot of fun playing the parts in this!

Three bands (two from the US and one from the UK) released on three different independent record labels (one from the US and two from the UK). Track listings, more details and live pictures to follow soon.

Monday, September 12, 2016

End Of The Road Festival - Part 2 - The Woods Stage

Two three-day music festivals in quick succession, as I recently attended, do two things. The minor one concerns sleep patterns. That is no revelation, it lasts just a few days and is basically tiredness compounded by a lack of routine.  The less obviously explicable one, and it doesn't kick in for about a week, is that it totally messes with all idea of what recorded music I wish to listen to.

This doesn't particularly predispose it towards or away from artists that I heard live; rather it induces some kind of restive state that requires me to jump from one artist or genre to another. This is handy in some ways as it helps with listening to new releases as well as old things. Streaming services are a boon here with almost limitless instant access to all kinds of music at the standard monthly charge. Equally likely however is that I will dive into my collection of vinyl and CDs for something that I had long forgotten (but was reminded about by hook or by crook) or something by an artist that I have just heard.
In some cases it is actually that I want to play it for real - from a physical thing - simply because I can and that is illustrated perfectly by this, an artist who certainly wasn't one of the stand-out acts when originally announced, unless one happened to know otherwise for she was then only about to release her début album. All credit to the EOTR team for this.

Margo Price, Woods stage, Friday afternoon.

That LP is Midwest Farmer's Daughter (Third Man Records, 2016). I'm making no secret that it will be up there amongst my albums of 2016. Now it is mid-September it is time to start thinking about such things and not least because there are so many to consider (some of which may not yet have even been released)!

One thing that I certainly have is a very poor record of watching main-stage headline acts at festivals. In that regard I was really rather diligent at EOTR 2016. There is a specific reason for that, at least in part. The genesis of this blog is inextricably linked with the Saturday headline act at End Of The Road and that is Bat For Lashes. To find that, ten years later, I am writing this today... well what happened there?
Before Saturday evening came around several people whose thoughts and integrity I very much respect had said that they were surprised that Bat For Lashes had been chosen to headline the main Woods stage when Ezra Furman was playing the Garden stage. Luckily I had at least seen a that potential clash coming and headed it off at the pass by catching Ezra Furman play at Green Man a fortnight earlier. One thing I could reliably inform them that he was absolutely on-fire then. I was told a couple of hours later, when we reconvened in the Tipi tent, that he still was.
So was Natasha Khan.
Bat For Lashes, Woods stage, Saturday evening, End Of The Road Festival 2016.
There is another thing about all of this. It is not at all uncommon to that I come across an act that quite unknown or not blows me away playing live. I'm pleased to report that it has happened a number of times this summer. What is truly rare is an artist and song (both absolutely new to me) that do that simultaneously. It happened at Green Man 2016.

A topic of discussion in recent times is that, taken together, festivals apparently favour male artists over female ones and especially near the top of the bill, on any given stage. End Of The Road has certainly never been this way and this year only served to underline that.  I just mention this because having written and included pictures of seven EOTR 2016 acts, so far, all of them female fronted. Is that therefore an indication that I am guilty of sexism in my photography?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

End Of The Road Festival 2016 - Part 1 - The Tipi Stage

End Of The Road Festival may not have the physical rigours associated with the sheer size and the mud to be found at Glastonbury but it is without doubt, if one is to take full advantage of what is on offer, the most mentally demanding of festivals that I have been to. This was my eighth EOTR, so I know what to expect, but that doesn't actually make it less challenging.
In some ways it is akin to a residential course in that, as well as the supplied live content 12 noon - 02:15 daily and that
included watching thirty-nine live sets in eighty hours, there is the interaction with fellow attendees to be considered. It is wise to assume that they know what they are talking about and will expect you to do likewise.
This is not a weekend break with some music included; it is far more intense than Green Man and yet I can't quite imagine exactly how this has come to be the case. It is certainly a festival that artists enjoy playing because they know that they really are being listened to. In general terms both festivals focus on a similar part of the musical spectrum - indeed there is some artist overlap each year - and this can be used to advantage in order to minimise clashes at any given one, if attending both.

On rare occasions it is an excuse to see the same act twice in quick succession, as I chose to do here.

Mothers, Tipi stage, Friday evening.

It was inevitable that I would spend a great deal of time at the Tipi stage. I was always thus and so this post will focus only on, but not all of, what I saw there last weekend. Some of this comes from the late night/early morning surprise shows. Some of it comes from the convenient truth that when it started to sheet with rain early Saturday afternoon I was already comfortably ensconced right in front of the Tipi stage. I decided to stay there and as a result I saw a couple of artists that I might have missed otherwise. Greta Kline's band and de facto alter ego Frankie Cosmos is one of them.

Frankie Cosmos, Tipi stage, Saturday afternoon.

Great off-kilter pop with electro-twists from, but not entirely typical of, New York. The recently released album, the band's second, is 'Next Thing' (Bayonet Records, 2016).
Nobody that I found could recollect another lilac guitar although surely it must have happened? This one is a Danelectro model.

Let's jump back two generations, relative to the above.
For many years Kath Bloom has very rarely played solo shows outside of her home state of Connecticut. EOTR 2016 was treated to one such and that was not something I was planning to miss.

Kath Bloom, Tipi stage, Sunday afternoon.

As far as I am concerned two of the best grabs on the Tipi stage are bands that I had earlier failed to see on larger stages as a result of the inevitable timetable clashes. This is every bit as off-kilter and genre-disregarding, though rather tending towards rock, as Frankie Cosmos. Weaves hails from Toronto, Canada. Indeed EOTR 2016 featured rather a lot of Canadian artists.

Jasmyn Burke of Weaves, Tipi stage,  2:08am Saturday.

The last of the group of five is another band that I failed to see on Friday on Saturday afternoon on The Woods stage (the main one).  It was raining cats-and-dogs then but rain aside this is a band much better suited to a night-time slot. Seratones, from Shreveport, Louisiana is difficult to categorise exactly - a very good thing I might add -  but certainly garage rock isn't too far adrift here and it is absolutely wonderful live. The band says that it formed because there was simply nothing else to do. If so then good-luck-to-us because début LP 'Get Gone' (Fat Possum Records, 2016) was a splendid use of time.

A.J. Haynes of Seratones, Tipi stage, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A brief hiatus in posts...

Please bear with me because there will be a short hiatus here... it will last until the beginning of the coming week but with it should come rewards, or at least I hope so. In the meantime here a a few more memories from Green Man 2016.  Two acts that call Devon home:

Sam Green and The Midnight Heist, Chai Wallah stage, Friday evening, Green Man 2016.

Ardyn, Walled Garden stage, early Saturday afternoon, Green Man 2016.

The reason for this hiatus is End Of The Road Fesival 2016. This is a picture of a band that is performing there but one that I took at Green Man 2016. 

From Athens, Georgia, this is Mothers. Walled Garden stage, Friday afternoon.
Mothers is a four-piece band; this is Kristine Leschper and Drew Kirby thereof.

It takes a determined attitude to entitle your début LP 'When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired'.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Green Man :: 2016 :: Dyn Gwyrdd - Part 4 - five more acts; all are new to me live.

In three days time I shall be at End Of The Road 2016, so I had better get on with this! Here are five more acts from Green Man 2016 that I had never before seen play live. I have mentioned already that I really rate the Walled Garden stage and particularly in its new configuration. Three of these artists played that stage but I shall start and finish with the ones that played the smaller Green Man Rising stage.

Opening the Green Man Rising stage on Sunday was London's Paradisia, performing as a six-piece formed around the core of Anna (harp), Sophie-Rose (vocals) and Kristy (keyboard and vocals), and much influenced by Bruce Springsteen.

Their set included, as well as their own material, a cover of 'Dancing in the Dark'.

Now we shall head over to the Walled Garden stage on Friday afternoon to catch an artist who quite deliberately doesn't rock.
Trevor Sensor from Illinois just rambles.

It was a shame in so many ways that he played to such a small audience. It was easy to detect the vibe of the audience that was there however. It was like being a guest at a private performance and therefore a highlight of the day or indeed of the festival; totally captivating.

Trevor Sensor, Walled Garden stage, Friday afternoon.
Texas Girls and Jesus Christ EP (Jagjaguwar Records, 2016).

This is the Walled Garden stage on a Saturday afternoon of fleeting sunshine and blustery showers. She commented that it would be regarded as a fine day where she comes from and the flattery worked for the sun shone, albeit briefly, on this performance.

Emma Pollock, Walled Garden stage, Saturday afternoon.

The Magnetic North started as a one-off project with an album of the same name about the Orkney Islands. It could have ended there but in 2016 a second LP was revealed and it had one of the most unlikely titles in recent history: Prospect of Skelmersdale - and yes they really can pull these songs off live  - and the patter was just as good too.
Tracks from both LPs were included, and explained.

The Magnetic North, Walled Garden stage, Saturday evening.

What is less than obvious is that, lurking in the background, there is a string section - violin and cello.

To finish this post we return to the Green Man Rising stage on Saturday afternoon and the artist known as Bryde; the solo project of Sarah Howells who was one half of Paper Aeroplanes. This, however, does not sound anything like Paper Aeroplanes. It is rather more forceful and that might be an understatement.