Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 2013 in music

You might think that my posts during the year should sum the title of this post. In a sense that is true but, in another it is not so. If I knew of another year that I enjoyed music as much as I did in 2013 then I would tell you about that. The fact is I can't.
It took in all sorts of music and in many places...
Jon Spiers and Bellowhead. Cheese & Grain, Frome, 19 November.
Bellowhead is a band with which I am well acquainted but it is no less a thrill to see them live once again and that could be said of many others too.
Not least though is the new...
I see no reason to think that 2014 can't be at least as good. On the other hand I doubt that any blog can start with a post more astonishing than this.

Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 isn't over yet...

If you think that my last post, and the ensuing hiatus, signalled the end of my blogging in 2013 then think again:

The casual chemistry between Amy LaVere and John Paul Keith makes it seem like this happens all the time - boy meets girl, boy plays girl some songs, boy and girl form band.

“It’s not that we really decided to have a band” as Keith tells it.  
“It’s just that by the time we got done having coffee she’d decided we were a band and was already booking shows for us. By the time I got home, we were exchanging ideas for band names.”
If you want a cover version then try this. Eddie Berman, from southern California, and Laura Marling take a shot at Springsteen's 'Dancing in the Dark'.
To be fair that is only just a part of it, even as regards cover versions, but this is one I love.

I'm particularly interested to hear about your own favourite covered-songs this year, be they recorded, live or whatever. You are welcome to comment here or via Twitter @thoughtsonmusic.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 in Music - My favourite list so far...

I have read many lists of 2013 music and shall read many more I expect, in part as a reference to compiling my own humble additions to the canon. Of all of them this is the most interesting so far by a country mile...

I shall return to this list and what I think it means for 2014, perhaps beyond, in the coming weeks.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

2013 In Music - EPs and mini albums

This is the post that I delayed from earlier in the week. I've been thinking about it all the while and yet I am still not sure quite how it will turn out. I think that it will just evolve over the next day or two...

There a few times, when one hears for the first time a new artist or act of which one was previously completely unaware and the first instinct is simply WTF? Festivals are happy hunting grounds for this... indeed albums by two artists that first took me this way have already appeared in this year's lists of albums.

This is not my first mention of an artist that I had first seen live at End of The Road Festival 2011 (although then under a different name). It was a foregone conclusion, before End of The Road Festival 2013, that this would be here...
Available in, as well as other formats, 12" vinyl (as pictured here).

The Graphite Set live at End of The Road 2013.

THESE STREETS, The Graphite Set from Louis W Hudson on Vimeo.
This next EP might be a tough one to convince you of the merits of and for the very same reason that may also affect one album on each of my two lists so far! The last song is the only one sung in English and will hopefully make it all worthwhile. Even finding the EP on CD can be a challenge but your best bet is here. Another artist I want to see live in 2014.
This post, as you might have already noticed is not in alphabetical order by artist. It is not in any other known order either. In the spirit of my first ever such round-up post, also of EPs and back in 2007, I'm going with whatever eligible recordings suit my mood.
It would be wrong to include any act other than on merit. If that happens to be one from not so far distant then that is all the better.
Wolfhound is signed to Bristol-based Jelli Records.
Whilst on the subject of bands including sisters, Natalie and Sally Joiner in the case of Wolfhound above and Anja Quinn on the far right, here is another .
Lily & Madeleine Jurkiewicz have now released their eponymous début album.
This EP however, on 10" vinyl, was their beautiful calling card. The comparison to the Swedish Söderberg sisters, aka First Aid Kit, is valid but not to be dwelt on to excess.
In all probability this thread will have a second post, just as the album thread will have a third. Good times.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

2013 In Music - Albums - Part 2

Despite what I said I might do in the last part of this review series, this is not EPs and mini- albums of 2013. It is the second tranche of 'albums of 2013'. The former category is proving far more fascinating, and therefore complex, than I imagined even a couple of weeks ago. It will have to await my attention this coming weekend. The first part afforded you one album that was largely sung in a foreign language. This will include another but the comfort is that at least both of them are sung in the same foreign language. I make no excuses about this, the links, or indeed the variety of music included. You won't catch me adding a link to NME very often but here I chose to do so:

I've seen seven of these acts live, four of them more than once, and the other five are well and truly on my list of 'ones to see'. Choose your own favourite, not from these, unless you really want to do that, because it is your turn. Write about it - somewhere, anywhere legal.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Blog Sound of 2014 – the long list.

I have to say that I'm a newbie as far as this goes. Thank-you Robin Seamer and Breaking New Waves for inviting my contribution. None of my three suggested artists/acts made the long list and in some ways I'm happy about that, for myself but also for them. If bloggers agreed about much then, sooner rather than later, the situation would be back to the hegemony of old. I'll risk suggesting that none of the artists on our lists really want that.
The artists on the long list (full version with links) is as follows:
...an eclectic selection and I like that. There are a few acts here that I have seen live and also several of which I was completely unaware. That is also very important. Don't doubt that I shall continue to root for my nominations in 2014.

The list of blogs that were part of this exercise is as follows:

Sunday, December 01, 2013

New Music 2014 - Part 2 - The Banshee and The Moon

This is in part a reflection on my thoughts about why I like listening to new music so much and also the part the festivals play in that. Back in 2008, whilst at Latitude Festival, I happened across an artist whom I had never heard of before performing on the small Sunset stage at the start of play on Sunday morning, which is the quietest of times for audiences. That artist was Tallulah Rendall and I was impressed. I took some pictures then and this is one of them.

At that time I was not so good at keeping up with new artists as perhaps I am now and I had largely forgotten about her after that. Fast-forward almost five years, to last spring and the emerging artist list for Sunrise Festival 2013. I was already minded to buy a ticket, not least as was to be held a mere five miles from home. I had however remembered the name and when Tallulah Rendall appeared on the list of artists playing that finally tipped the balance and I bought a ticket there and then.
There she played the main stage on Friday afternoon.
During this set she mentioned that she was recording a new album and revealed that it would be titled 'The Banshee and the Moon' and that it would be crowd-funded in large part. It is to be released in early 2014.

The Banshee and the Moon - Tallulah Rendall
The album is currently available only as a limited edition, signed and numbered, 12" vinyl release in a gate-fold sleeve and with a unique download code for the whole album in <.wav> format.
One to see live in 2014.

2013 In Music - Albums - Part 1

There a few subtle changes in presentation from the last three years. The lists of albums remain strictly in alphabetical order, by artist. There may however be more than two lists and indeed nobody noticed that my first 'dozen' last year was a baker's dozen in so much as it had thirteen entries!
The next list will most probably be one concerning EPs and mini-albums. On the other hand as this is so tricky, it might not. This is another category in which I have acquired an unprecedented selection this year. In no way is this intended to be a balanced list, far from it in fact and the albums in this first part are not chosen as being "better" than those in subsequent list(s): It is quite utterly biased by what has caught my attention in a lasting way in 2013.  It is vastly influenced by artists that I have seen live, either this year or somewhat previously, and I make no bones about that fact. The others are all on my list of 'ones to see live'.
Here it is:

Comments are always most welcome!
It is what this is all about - whether negative, positive or simply mystified!  All comments are moderated (by me alone, so you know that I read them) and while I prefer it that you can put your real identity to your piece, because you should believe in what you are saying and be prepared to stand up and be counted, I will often sanction the publishing of "anonymous" comments.
Comments that are defamatory to artists or others (but not necessarily me and my choices), offensive or irrelevant will not be published.

I don't bite either. I'll attempt to answer questions and comments either directly if that is appropriate, in comments of my own or in a more general 'round-up' post.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shameless Winter

Do you remember those mirage summers?
Tousled hair and golden skin
Writing lyrics on the heath and smoking Luckys
It didn't matter what month we were in.

It is that time of year again, the one that invites the writing of lists. Take my word for it, this year the compiling of them has probably occupied my mind more than all the ones that have come before combined, and yet I like that very much.
I simply couldn't resist the lyric from a song from one album and that is why it appears above.
Live music thoughts - well don't even get me started...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Live Music - Marnhull Acoustic Sessions

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions take place in Marnhull Village Hall, a small but intimate and well appointed venue in North Dorset that recently hosted the rather wonderful North Dorset Folk Festival 2013, about which I have already posted (1) (2) (3) and that shares the same organization.
This is simply my thoughts on why I'm so looking forward to the forthcoming artists as the event enters its second year early in 2014.
Tickets are £6.60 (including £0.60 booking fee). This is exclusively secure e-ticketing, so you do not have to worry about the post arriving in time! All the necessary information is on the website linked above.
The next date for your diary is a week tomorrow, Sunday 24 November, and features The Moulettes. If you were at North Dorset Folk Festival 2012, held at Sturminster Newton High School, you will know of them. There's a lot going on.
The Moulettes - North Dorset Folk Festival 2012.
If I haven't convinced you that you need a ticket then perhaps this will. Just now the Mike Harding Folk Show Number 47 (on Mixcloud here) also featured 'Songbird'.   In support this coming Sunday, apparently Liz Green. If this is real then what are you waiting for?
The following event is a Ceilidh on 22 December. I have to say that I shall be giving that one a miss. Not only do I have two left feet but it is close enough to Christmas that I shall likely be unavailable in any case.
After recovering from the Christmas and New Year excesses Marnhull Acoustic Sessions return with a vengeance in February.
On 2 February another veteran, although he might not see it quite that way, of North Dorset Folk Festival 2012 returns in the guise of Tom James originally from Falmouth. I seem to have taken few photos of that and this is the only remotely usable one, so hopefully I will be able to take some better ones in February!
Joining Tom on the bill that evening is an artist quite new to the Dorset acoustic scene. Travelling all the way from near Richmond, the one in North Yorkshire, is Pip Mountjoy. She certainly made it as far south as Somerset in 2013, as she played for BBC Introducing at Glastonbury Festival. I saw her live at Deer Shed Festival 2012, up near Thirsk in North Yorkshire. I didn't take any convincing that her star was rising after that and both are certainly ones to watch in 2014.
This is followed, just three weeks later, by Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. In a year that has seen many remarkable albums, and of which more soon, at least from my perspective their latest 'Mynd' is certainly one of them. I have had the pleasure of seeing them twice live, both times at The Cheese and Grain here in Frome.
As of today Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin are nominated in the category 'Best Duo' at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2014.
This picture was taken the first time I saw them play live - at Acoustic+ in the Cheese and Grain, Frome, 25 March 2011.

Hmm... I'm not sure why, but I have a feeling this is going to become something of a regular fixture.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Music 2014 - Part 1 - Snowbird 'Moon'

I'm so glad that I can mention this now, but also that it is not released until 2014! I have never forgotten seeing Stephanie Dosen live at my first festival in the new era, Latitude 2007, performing songs mostly from her second album 'A Lily For The Spectre'.
Well, finally she is back with a band Snowbird that includes a very surprising line-up, and the album 'Moon' is to be released by Bella Union in early 2014 and to be quite honest I can't wait. This is an album that just has to be purchased on vinyl and I can't see that Bella Union will disappoint.

All that does not detract from the vocals however. This is the lead single from it:

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Frome Blues Festival 2013

Well that's North Dorset Folk Festival 2013 reviewed but I'm quite sure that you haven't heard the last of it. 

There is no rest for the wicked and so the following day it was all change. I was closer to home, less then a fifteen minute walk, at Frome Blues Festival 2013. I have to say I wondered how it, and the change of genre, would fare with me in comparison to the previous day. My stamina was one thing I was pretty confident about - this was no test like End of The Road Festival in that respect!

The good news is, that at least from my point of view, it was all good and I have now had ten days to think about it. What I haven't done much of is working through the pictures that I took that day...
It was opened byAlbany Down that I first experienced live saw live at Rook Lane Arts in Frome earlier in the year as support for Chantel McGregor; a few months after she had played Frome Blues Festival 2012 as first support.

Here is my first take on Albany Down at Frome Blues Festival 2013 and, no doubt about it, they were very impressive.
That isn't the quite the term that I would have chosen six months ago.
I couldn't have taken this then either but it was, in all probability, not there to be taken.
To be quite honest Ron Sayer Jr. had no intent to be taken lightly, and with some reason, if not always exactly perhaps the one that he had in mind. 
He was good but his band kept him on tip-toes all the time and that is well worth seeing.
Innes Sibun was new to me but blues-rock of some impact. Indeed I thought in the moment that it might even become the highlight of the day but, while that ultimately was not to be so, it says a great deal about Frome Blues Festival. 
Innes Sibun on lead guitar.
With album 'Lost In The Wilderness' to trial. It is released 18 November 2013 in the UK.
Jo Harman and Company became the first and only act to play both editions of Frome Blues Festival. Last year I noted that I was impressed and this year was a step change.
Here, during an instrumental interlude, is the eponymous vocalist with a quite different take on blues-rock. Jo Harman is one-to-watch in 2014, there is no doubt about that.
First support was Nimmo Brothers and kicked some ass... as well as it falling to them by fâte to announce the sad demise of of Lou Reed. Their response was anything but a sombre set but then again I don't think that is what he would have wanted. As live performances go this could truly be described as visceral.
This was at the start of the set and shows all of the band. While clearly committed it gave little hint of the intensity that was to follow. Not least the brothers' dual lead guitar work and certainly not that it would become quite as complicated as this. I took this next picture on a hope and a prayer, whilst simultaneously trying to believe in that which I was watching.
It would be a good trick if...    and they certainly could.
In some ways this repeated last year's festival when the first support act, Chantel McGregor, pitched the headline act into what proved to be an impossible situation. The Climax Blues band headlined this year, and it was excellent too. It was made quite clear however that it was fully aware of what it had to follow. On any other occasion either could have been the highlight of a marvellous day for the pleasingly large audience. It just so happened that Frome Blues Festival came with more than one highlight... and I for one can't help but look forward to the next edition.
Here are a few pictures of Climax Blues Band and, I have to say, I must start with their astonishing saxophonist.

Some slide guitar to die for...

...and a lead singer for whom the epithet 'craggy' is something of an understatement.  
What a wonderful day that was. See you next year!

Monday, November 04, 2013

North Dorset Folk Festival 2013 - Part 3

I was sold on North Dorset Folk Festival 2012 pretty much from the get-go and was quite happy to buy a ticket for 2013 without knowing any artists - just as I do for End of The Road Festival (EOTR) - I simply trust that it will be excellent and I have never been let down yet. On the other hand, when I discovered that Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo was to headline NDFF 2013 I could hardly believe what I was reading - and I checked that it wasn't 1 April. It certainly wasn't, and I wasn't dreaming about it either. I first saw them, previously quite unknown to me at EOTR 2009 and was totally taken. Here is that occasion:

No drummer back then. The kit was there for other bands on the stage to use as required.
Other than that the line up remains the same. Here is how it turned out at Marnhull Village Hall on 26 October.
L - R (in both pictures): Anna Jenkins, Jo Silverston, Emily Barker and Gill Sandell.
Emily Barker and Gill Sandell in an acoustic guitar and piano accordion duel.
It is easy to forget in the seamless sound the individual contributions of each member.
Anna Jenkins on fiddle.
Nostalgia really doesn't get much better than this.
If percussionist Nat Butler thought that he was not going to be mentioned on account of his very recent inclusion in the Red Clay Halo then that is not so.
Percussion and bass underpin much of Dear River. Jo Silverston on electric bass.
That two of the artists have also recently released music as side-projects is very worthy of note. Gill Sandell's second solo album, Light The Boats, in September 2013 and the second after Tarry Awhile (2010 and which is also excellent). Emily Barker also participates in London-based collective Arctic Circle that released its first five-track EP 'Lantern Waste' today. Here, taken from it, is 'Hushabye Mountain' to stream and the EP to buy. I have to say that I have a particular fondness for track 4 ' Unreasonable Dreams'.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

North Dorset Folk Festival 2013 - Part 2

So there. That (as in Part 1) was the lower half of the running order and how good was that, I thought to myself a week ago yesterday, sometime mid-afternoon. My only concern, though I dismissed it, was whether it was possible to maintain this momentum.
The next to play was again a duo - Jack McNeill and Charlie Heys. This is the point at which folk, or folk inspired music, actually becomes quite challenging both in subject and treatment. They played a number of new tracks from their forthcoming LP (due early 2014) too.

One to watch, for sure, and so NDFF 2013 powered forward with Boat To Row as the next act to take to the somewhat small stage. I had heard a short section of a Boat To Row set at an outdoor festival earlier this year and I wanted more. This was my chance to put it right.
All five of Midlands-based Boat To Row. North Dorset Folk Festival 2013.
Deriving from a university solo project this has developed quite some momentum.  Hannah (far left above) is the latest addition and, just a few weeks in, she is a fully integrated band member - which is as well as they have a distinct tendency to swap instruments, some of them rather unusual.
Faye Haddon on table-harmonium.

The first support needed no introduction in so far as I was concerned. Emily Baker is the the only artist to play both editions of North Dorset Folk Festival as a named artist and this was also the fifth time that I have seen her play live.
This time she did so live and unplugged - never fear - you could hear it all perfectly from the back of the hall. The highlights, some of which she previewed at NDFF last year, are songs from her 2013 album All At Sea.
Emily Baker, playing as first support, at North Dorset Folk Festival 2013.

Headlining was Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo and this was the first time that I had seen them live since End Of The Road Festival 2009. They amazed me then and proved more than equal to the task of doing so again last Saturday night. The same four as back then but recently with Matt on drums too. The 2013 album Dear River was just a part of this.
'Nostalgia' live. This set actually deserves a post all its own. It will happen sooner than later.

Friday, November 01, 2013

North Dorset Folk Festival 2013 - Part 1

Let me make this clear right from the start. While last year's inaugural NDFF was excellent (see here) this was better on any and all objective measures that I can think of. It was indeed only matched by one or two other days in music that I have experienced in the preceding year. Now I need to try and explain why. It is likely to involve more than one post.
This year, at Marnhull Village Hall, North Dorset Folk Festival commenced with Bob Burke. He was to be seen at North Dorset Folk Festival last year too, if you remember, appearing with Tinderbox. This time he was solo and while his blend of acoustic singer-song writing is ample, it is better show-cased live by his in inter-song banter about the road-trips shared with his teenage son and suchlike. It seemed infectious too, and that it is a very important aspect of folk music of all kinds.
He did, however, suffer from a perennial problem of mine - that being that right at the start of any event I have an inability to take worthwhile photographs. I don't know why this is so, but it is true. I've tried several suggested remedies but none has proven to be in any sense reliable. It is not unfamiliarity with the venue, because it happens at ones I know very well, and at least as it seems to me not nervousness as it doesn't feel that way to me at the time. 

Bob Burke - North Dorset Folk Festival 2013.

The next on stage was James Findlay - winner of the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. This set was for the most part composed of traditional material and always performed to the highest calibre. Sometimes he accompanied himself on any one of a variety of instruments, other songs he sung unaccompanied.

The next to play was duo Ninebarrow, who are local and hail from Swanage, Dorset. Ninebarrow is a hill topped with ancient burial barrows in that locality and to which many legends and superstitions are attached. Their song writing is mostly about places and times but that which sets them apart is their vocal harmonies. 
I had never seen or heard Ninebarrow live before and it was a pleasure to do so. You can stream some of their songs here - but I wholeheartedly recommend seeing them live. They are currently recording a new album too.
As regards the next act I have an admission to make - I had never even heard of it before it was announced to be playing. ODi is another duo - who both sing and play stringed instruments and sometimes a small piano accordion. This is ODi live last Saturday afternoon.
They were mighty impressive, and Dave Readfearn's contribution is absolutely vital, but the secret weapon is Claire Odlum's song writing and astonishing voice. A native of Co. Wexford, where not much of interest happens apparently, she has certainly made good use of her time there. ODi may yet not be that widely known but I suggest that this is just a matter of time. Listen to some songs here. The craic, and the all-round stage presence, is already there too.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Live and local - just part of one weekend in October.

The title says it all. This weekend just gone was a blast - right up there with anything else in my 2013 in music. It is true that on Saturday I ventured a full twenty miles away from my home town of Frome to a tiny hall in a village that, I guarantee, most people even round here are quite unaware of. Why would I do that?
We won't start there. On Friday evening I was less than a mile from home - Acoustic+, Cheese and Grain, Frome. Usual format: four bands, roughly half-hour set from each, all for a fiver. To be honest, can you go wrong with that? The answer is no. In this case it was more a matter of pinching oneself in order to check that this was indeed for real. That is not a trivial thing to say, but that I still feel the same in the light of that which I saw on Saturday says a very great deal.
Of the three acts that I had never seen live before I can't speak more highly. Blue Midnight is the exception, I have seen them live several times and so I hope that their omission from this post is excusable. This is Salisbury-based Arch Garrison, with acoustic tales of landscapes and the thoughts that they evoke. He was prescient: this would prove to be something of a theme throughout the weekend.

That the next chance to catch him live is at Union Chapel, Islington says a great deal about the artist and also the standard that Acoustic+ sets for itself.
The opening act was another that I had not seen live before - Kelly and Alana, so here they are.

First support was South Divide. I'd say that this was my highlight of a very good evening. It is not just about the music for all of that was excellent, nor raw ambition either, it is about the presentation of it as a coherent whole. On that basis this is why I think it the most impressive of the four acts that evening. Here are a couple of photos from the set.
Full band, in the usual Acoustc+ setting.

On lead vocals and keyboards - Chloë Warren.
As I have recently been commenting on the remarkable resurgence of the EP, both physical and digital, you will find it continues with this one.
If you missed the forgoing then all is not lost. On Saturday, November 9, South Divide is playing The Griffin, Frome.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An annoyance revisited and a work around...

Thank you to all the many people that have added reports and suggestions to work around the problem updating links and list in the sidebar. I have tried these and, for me at least this has restored functionality that has been missing for almost a week now!
Go here:
In the 'Go To Post' Tab, chose 'More Options' > 'Layout'
Create new side bar widgets and edit existing one exactly as you would do it you had reached this point from the options at the head of your blog page. The only difference, aside from being slightly long-winded, is that when you click 'SAVE' something actually happens!

The only blot I have discovered thus far is that, at least in list widgets, it adds new items to the bottom of the list rather than the top and, while they can be "promoted" using the up/down arrows it is a little tedious. Maybe there is an 'invert list' option that I have yet to find? It is however less tedious than simply waiting for Google/Blogger to fix the primary problem.
In addition, so another slight issue, I cannot add links to the list items but I haven't the faintest idea why that might be. It is, I guess, just all part of the fun - the learning process. Were that not so I would no doubt have given up long ago.
No doubt Blogger will fix the underlying problem, probably sooner rather than later. It may be frustrating, particularly at first, but don't quit for there is plenty of free help out there and, at the very least, a carefully worded Google search will point you towards it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thinking ahead... Folk Festivals 2014

I've only just got back home, from something completely different, and now I am listening to Mike Harding Folk Show Number 43. You can also find it, and all the previous editions, on Mixcloud here but I recommend consulting the former for it also has a plethora of links to all the acts/artists ever featured and to listings of forthcoming live music events.
One more good piece of news is that Bristol Folk Festival is to return in 2014, after a hiatus in 2013, and at two new venues. Indeed venues that I believe are ones far better suited to it: 3 - 4 May 2014 at St. George's, Clifton, Bristol and Bristol Folk House.
To go with that theme, here is another 2013 album of which I was quite unaware of until today. Bare Foot Folk, the second album by Somerset-based Ange Hardy.

Amazon.co.uk only have it to download but the CD is available, signed if you wish, directly from the artist.
How one chooses to define 'folk' or 'roots' is open to endless debate but, any which way you chose, I doubt that I have ever listened to more of it than I have in 2013.