Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 43 - Trash Kit - Confidence

When I wrote this post, about their self-titled début album back in 2010, I didn't really anticipate reviewing its sequel. Although I had liked it, as the years passed I thought nothing more of it. It seemed just to be a case of the three artists doing exactly what they felt like doing on the spur of the moment with little thought to convention, let alone thoughts of the future, as it blasted through seventeen tracks in twenty-seven minutes. I am glad to say that once again I was wrong!
The core trio of Rachel Aggs, Rachel Horwood and Ros Murray remains, as does the contribution (brass in this case) of Verity Sussman, on recent release 'Confidence'.

In this the eleven tracks make up a play-length of just over 29 minutes. The second one 'Medicine' nears the four-minute mark!
Fear not - the self-imposed restrictions on song structure, particularly the lack of chorus, and the ways and means to avoid problems with that are reason enough to persevere. So too the often almost impenetrable vocals, that are usually low in the mix. This tendency is brought over from Murray and Sussman's previous life in Electrelane - I'm really thinking 'No Shouts, No Calls' (2007) in particular, though the prog tendencies are much less pronounced here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Betwixt the old year and New Year.

At this time every year I feel like writing; that inclines me to think I should be able to write either about the past year, the coming one or even both with some insight. The fact is, and this year is no different, that to a great extent I cannot and that is not for a shortage of content.
Be that as it may I still feel like writing and so I have settled on a suitably time-indeterminate solution. Here are a couple of LPs or suchlike that I have not mentioned in 2014.

This first, released as the end of 2014 approached is a good example of the fact that some of the best Americana comes out of Canada and it isn't that easy to find on physical format in the UK at the moment.

'Chasing The Sun' is the third LP from the female three-piece The Sweet Lowdown based in Victoria, British Colombia. The sound is entirely acoustic and based on traditional and Appalachian playing but many of the songs and tunes are self-written.

Little May is also a female three-piece, but in this case from Sydney, NSW, Australia., and again not that easy to find all that much music from except to say that which I have heard I like. More about this very soon.

To finish a post that has wandered the world more or less on the theme of Americana perhaps less well known I will finish with one from the USA. That is this release by Pennsylvania-based Caroline Reese and The Drifting Fifth.
Electric Year EP (2014).

This track is not from the above but from the 2013 album Slow Code.

I can't wait to see and hear any/all of these artists, and many more, live in 2015. Now that I have started listening, reading and writing after the welcome Christmas break who knows where this will go next? I'm not sure that I do but when I started I didn't know that either. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ten years of writing - and some thoughts on music

Having finally got something of the festive feeling, and also read the suggestion from one of my fellow bloggers that writing a blog displays a certain vanity, I thought I might indulge myself a little.
First things first and a very simple luxury - make a tartiflette and sit in front of a real fire to eat it, accompanied by some wine and recorded music.

This specific idea for this post actually came about as the result of a Spotify advertising link - “What did your 2014 sound like?”
My thought was "Why did my 2014 sound like it did?"

One thing I must say about 2014 is that without doubt I have listened to more music, both live and recorded, than in any previous year. I can't put numbers to that but, trust me, it is true and by some considerable margin. I'm not sure that eight years of writing a blog has done much, whether positive or negative, for my vanity. What it has certainly done is provide me with huge satisfaction and at times a sanctuary from the everyday and the mundane. Not just the writing that is, although it has; the live and recorded music that I have heard and all the people that I have met along the way and the ones that I anticipate meeting in the future. One thing is certain; it is both absorbing and time-consuming. It is also absolutely fascinating. I have spent a great deal of time mulling (perhaps I should have done that with the wine too) over the music of 2014 this last month or so. I suppose with good reason that my 2014 has been dominated by acoustic-folk-Americana-roots. I can see that trend continuing in 2015 but that's not all that I like by any means.

The first time I wrote about music in the public domain was some amazon.co.uk reviews in 2005. I was reminded of this the other day while reading reviews and suddenly finding myself confronted by one of my own - that for the LP 'Old World Underground Where Are You Now?' (2003) by Metric.
That I suppose, and then the desire for freedom to write just what I wanted, led to this blog starting in September 2006 if only by accident rather than design. In 2007 this led to my going to festivals although it had been on my mind for a while. This was hastened by the new-found need to have original material to write about. Then came photography to go with it because festivals are as much about watching as listening. This bare-bones timeline says nothing at all about the music that accompanied it .

This got me thinking about how my current tastes in music have evolved to the point at which they are now. That is proving a tricky thing to do and harder to explain, not least because of the self-analysis that it predicates.

This evening I decided to listen to absolutely any LPs that I thought inspired my, or the purchase of which was inspired by my, decision to start (and then continue) going to festivals back in 2007. Whilst my liking for acoustic folk goes way further back it would seem, on reflection, to have had nothing to do with this particular decision. It seems to have been largely indie-driven; my choice of Latitude Festival 2007 as a starting point was specifically because Arcade Fire was headlining the Sunday. One thing yesterday's playlist demonstrated was that I still like much of what attracted me then and not all of this indie in the period 2007-9 was indie-rock; that appellation doesn't apply to New Young Pony Club or Polly Scattergood, both of which I first became aware of by seeing them play live at Latitude Festivals. I then bought the LPs and indeed have continued to do so. Both have disco as a pulsing heart - the twisted nature of 'Bunny Club' (Polly Scattergood) and 'Ice Cream' (NYPC) have both stood the test of time I think. 

To use a geological analogy, the growth of my music collection in the last ten years has been a largely sedimentary (rather than volcanic) epoch. It does, however, include a couple of fault planes within it. The most obvious of these is connected with my decision to go to End Of The Road Festival for the first time in 2009. This decision was certainly responsible for stirring my interest in Americana and roots and (while I don't much care for the descriptor) 'alt-country' too.
This fed-back into a revived interest in UK folk music (both traditional and new) that served to fill the gaps in live music between festivals.  That is when things became really interesting. It gave me the idea to go looking for new music myself, be that local in origin or further afield, rather than just wait for it to come to a venue that I was at.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions - Pete Robson & Rodney Branigan

I have just returned from another excellent evening at Marnhull Acoustic Sessions that was arguable made even more special as a result of a minor electrical hitch, of which more later. As I have mentioned before I count myself as truly lucky to live within easy reach of so much good live music of all kinds. For anyone within reasonable travelling distance, if you have been wondering whether to give it a try then I strongly recommend that you do. You get to see and hear artists of national stature, at the very least, in an intimate venue. To whet your appetite Marnhull Acoustic sessions return on 22 February 2015 with Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston headlining with, no doubt, some cracking support.

Support artist this evening was Pete Robson whom I had never seen live before. This saw things get under way with a distinctive acoustic blues slant and a melange of covers and his own compositions. I listen to quite a bit of blues inflected music, although more often of the electric and rock-blues persuasion, so this made an interesting and very welcome change.

Rodney Branigan does things with guitars (or occasionally a mandolin and hand drum) that Health and Safety would advise that you never try at home. He hails from Texas and so, although now resident in Somerset, the rules don't apply in his case. Some of them are not actually dangerous; just both hands to the fret.

During the first half-hour or so of the set there was an intermittent issue with the sound and this resulted in a brief pause to investigate the problem. It was swiftly resolved: the performance would continue front of stage. Sometimes you get more than you bargained for.
We got to hear a couple of OutKast songs played in a folk-roots style unplugged, interspersed with his own compilations, some of which are very much blues influenced and all punctuated with the tricks that he does (only video could really do this justice - the point when he swaps them over without ceasing to play either, in particular).
WTF live - this went from the amazing to the quite astonishing almost by accident.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 42 - The Leylines - Let It Go

The problem with this time of year is that amongst all the others I get to discover some of the things that, due to inattention or oversight, I have managed to miss over the previous eleven months. This is one of them and only made worse by the fact that the band is fairly local and the influence of another although not local, The Levellers, of whom I was writing praises in June, is clearly important but not overbearing.

The Leylines is a five-piece, based around-and-about Weston-super-Mare in Somerset. The first release was an EP Let It Go at the start of 2014. Better still have a listen now and then buy it.

The Leylines are most certainly on my list of acts to see live in 2015 as are another, somewhat better known and longer-established one. Mad Dog Mcrea, to pursue the above analogy, might just be Plymouth's answer to (the early days of) The Pogues.
The recent song 'Am I Drinking Enough?' certainly suggests a kindred spirit. More importantly, so does their reputation and especially that for live performance.

Simply because such a thing is possible, here it is - recorded live in a very special shed in Somerset!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

My 2014 in Music - Live Albums & New Music 2015 - Part 2

A few years ago I thought that EPs were a dying breed. I was wrong about that. More recently I thought that live LPs were for the most part a highlight of the 1970s and 1980s; I have plenty of those, almost all on vinyl, that attest to that. My inclination even then was that the costs involved were something that only well established acts, with major label resources both logistical and financial, could really contemplate and that therefore they tended to be recorded at large venues or festivals and where such facilities were more likely to be found in any case, only served to reinforce that idea.
I am happy to report that I was seemingly wrong about this too. Whilst obviously no replacement for seeing the artist actually playing live they have interest. Here, in no particular order, are a few that have caught my attention in 2014.

  • Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin - Live in Calstock
Overlooking the Tamar in far-eastern Cornwall this venue is something of a hidden treasure.

In a wider sense that was also somewhat true of the artists until they won the 'Best Duo' award at the BBC Folk Music Awards 2014. I have been lucky enough to see them live on a number of occasions. Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin are confirmed to play Behind The Castle Festival, Sherborne, Dorset on 13 June 2015.
  • Rachel Sermanni - Live in Dawson City
I have mentioned this in some detail here. Suffice it to say that Dawson City makes Calstock and Carrbridge seem like accessible places to play and record! The march of technology has had more than a few downsides in music - the ability to make very respectable recordings at reasonable cost in small venues is not one of them. I'm hoping that her follow-up to Under Mountains (2012) will appear in 2015.
That turned out to be more prescient than I could have known when I wrote the foregoing paragraph last week. Sometimes, but rarely, not finishing posts has unanticipated advantages!
It was announced only today. 
'Tied To The Moon'. This, I believe, will be the album artwork. It is due for release in late February 2015.

  • Dana Fuchs - Songs From The Road
In the last couple of years the live CD/DVD format presented by Ruf Records 'Live On The Road' has been a major influence and I have mentioned several of these already. This one by Dana Fuchs is the latest to find favour with me and the album artwork is, as ever, totally generic. It was recorded in a single take before a sold-out audience. In this case it was the Highline Ballroom, NYC, March 14, 2014.
The label favours blues but the remit is liberally interpreted and I don't have any problem with that - soul blues, blues rock; whatever and however it comes it is likely to at least catch my attention, to be quite honest. The production is, however, uniformly top-drawer as are the performances so recorded.
I will probably never understand why, as I approach fifty years of age, I like a far wider range of music than I did when I was eighteen or twenty-one. I reckon that I am amongst the lucky ones.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

My 2014 in Music - Albums - Part 2

I seem to have the bit between my teeth at the moment as regards remembering, researching and writing so it is my inclination to just go with it. This list of ten albums is in no way a second-tier one in comparision to the first. The emphasis is slightly different however. The first list, viewed simplistically, comprised six UK artists, three US ones and a Canadian one. This next regarded similarly consists of six US artists, three UK ones and again a single Canadian one. It is also less heavily biased towards acts that I have seen live, at least in 2014, and more heavily towards those that I wish to see live in 2015; quite how this might influence my festival choices in 2015 remains to be seen.

  • Angaleena Presley - American Middle Class
  • Barr Brothers - Sleeping Operator
  • Chloë Warren - The Midnight Novel
  • Hannah Aldridge - Razor Wire
  • Hurray For The Riff Raff - Small Town Heroes (*READ THIS!)
  • Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker - Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour
  • Otis Gibbs - Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth
  • Red Molly - The Red Album
  • Samantha Crain - Kid Face
  • The Willows - Amidst Fiery Skies
In this list I have seen six of the above live at least once. Of the other four one of them is UK based but I've got it covered. That band is The Willows and playing Behind The Castle Festival on 13 June 2015.
This is the sole Canadian act in this list and the second time that I have seen Barr Brothers live. They are playing seven UK dates at the end of January 2015.
Tipi stage, End of The Road Festival, 30 August 2014.

When I took this picture, at one of the smallest stages, I knew almost next to nothing about the artist. I did however implicitly trust the curators of the stage because I was familiar with it and them. I wasn't to be disappointed.
Otis Gibbs - Saloon stage, Truck Festival 2014.

This next artist is one in the above list that at the start of the 2014 UK Festival season might have been regarded as a very long shot for inclusion here. This is how live music plays such a huge part for me;  I saw her twice in three weeks. I was it would seem far from the only one to come away with a very favourable impression. I wonder if I will be able to take a photo quite like this again...

Samantha Crain - Tipi stage, 30 August, End Of The Road Festival 2014.
Her recent touring, supporting First Aid Kit in the US and beyond has been very well received indeed and I hope has propelled her to a new level. Be that as it may, the album Kid Face is certainly worthy of all the praise that it has gathered.

This next one may be a curiosity: Amazon UK will tell you it is to be released in 2015 and also offer it for near immediate delivery. 
That might matter but it is so good and legally available that it shouldn't; I don't much care for this apparent nonsense of geographic distribution.
She, nickname 'Holler Annie', is the least known member of the Pistol Annies and the last to release a solo album. Does this matter?

On the basis of this recording the answer is a resounding NO and that is exactly why it is here. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

My Music in 2014 - EPs and mini albums

Just four out of so many possibilities are included in this list but there could always be a 'part 2'. These are not in alphabetical order either but rather in ascending order of the number of times I think that have listened to them since I came to be aware/it was released and this is not adjusted for the time factor in each case - I don't keep statistics in that detail.  It is also less influenced by that which I have seen live but I have designs on that too.

  • Aimée - Codes
Originally the solo project of Aimée Mackenzie from Liphook, Hampshire, Codes is the latest EP and one on which she has been joined by younger siblings Freya (violin and backing vocals)  and Ross (cajón).
The first Aimée LP should appear sometime in 2015 and this is not only something I look forward to because I have never seen this outfit live either. It should not be a problem; Aimée is announced to play at Behind the Castle Festival, Sherborne, Dorset on 13 June 2015. Their music while predominantly acoustic is really quite a challenge to categorize, which is no bad thing I hasten to add, for it jumps styles and genres between, and sometimes even during, songs.

  • Cardboard Fox - Cardboard Fox
This is the most recently released of the four in this list and it is a début release of kinds - three of the four members of this acoustic quartet have featured in these pages as the still fully functioning Carrivick Sisters - Charlotte and Laura Carrivick and John Breese are joined by Joe Tozer on mandolin and acoustic guitar in Cardboard Fox.
Still very much folk based and with self-penned songs this is rather less heavily bluegrass influenced than the Carrivick Sisters' recordings.

  • The Black Feathers - Strangers We Meet
This is a duo that I have seen live twice in 2014 and I'm planning on making that three times at Nunney Acoustic Café later this week.
I'm rather hoping that Gloucestershire-based Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler's Strangers We Meet EP might presage, in a wholly good way however, an album sooner rather than later. I just have a feeling that it could be the start of something big. 
The Black Feathers, Cheese and Grain, Frome, 24 October 2014.

I have, unusually for me, chosen three acts based more or less in central southern England here. This next, although I was alerted to it by Folk Radio UK, comprises three young ladies from thousands of miles away.

  • Free The Honey - In Our Hands
Free The Honey is from Gunnison in the high mountains of western Colorado, USA. 

This EP had, in so far as I was aware until this week, no physical release and so it marked a rare foray into downloads as far I am concerned. 
This it seems is not true any longer. The rest of this shop looks fascinating too!

That it is my most played EP or mini-album of 2014 says a great deal. As I mentioned back in June it is a delight of unexpected twists and  turns. At seven tracks it is the only one in this list that truly counts as a mini-album although as strictly-defined EPs should have only three, not more or less, and all the above fail on that criterion: Strangers We Meet has five and the other two four tracks each. The really key thing and I think it important to the renaissance of EPs and mini albums in the last several years, is that there is no need for filler. New music, even just a small body of work, can be made available in a physical format, as well as on-line, as a unified whole far sooner and at less cost than heretofore.

Monday, December 01, 2014

New Music 2015 - Part 1 - Leveret - New Anything

I decided that my consideration of Music Lists 2014 should be punctuated by other posts, especially those concerning that which is forthcoming in 2015.

At the very end of September I wrote a post that really should have been the first 'New Music' post dated 2015. At that time of year the whole idea felt premature but, now we are into December 2014, it does so no longer.

The band Leveret is new - the début LP 'New Anything' is released (in the UK at least) on 26 January 2015. The members of the trio are not new and are all astounding musicians in their own right and between them have worked with almost everyone folk-famous in the last twenty years...
Andy Cutting is a melodeon player of the highest order and fame, possibly even more renowned on that instrument than John Spiers of Bellowhead. That connection is real however, for Sam Sweeney is a fiddle player of repute and indeed a bona fide member of Bellowhead. The line up is completed by Robert Harbron, a multi-instrumentalist just possibly best known for playing the concertina.
I know that many people hate the family of "squeeze-box" instruments (piano accordion in particular) with a passion that I would only reserve for rice pudding with pineapple chunks stirred in to it. I am not one of them and Leveret is just the kind of band I want to see live.

It doesn't look like this will be a problem on 20 February 2015.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My 2014 in Music - Albums - Part 1

With December, traditionally the start of the pre-Christmas hiatus in meaningful musical releases, just hours away it is time to start mentioning those releases of 2014 that have for whatever reason been highlights for me.
One change is that while the acts are grouped in alphabetical order the number of entries has been reduced to ten in this list. This is not due to a shortage of possibilities, far from it indeed, but rather to make compiling and writing each post more manageable.

One thing that changed not a jot is the influence that music I have seen live during 2014 has had on the outcome - eight of the ten above fall into that category and of those eight I have seen four live on at least two distinct occasions. Of the ten, five are LPs that I own on vinyl.

I just felt the need to get the ball rolling on this late autumn afternoon. It is easy to keep putting the start of such things off for another day for while it is certainly not a chore, a certain activation barrier has to be overcome nevertheless. Links - some might be my own and others to the artist or label - and probably some relevant photos will follow shortly.
I am happy if people would like to make comments and suggestions. I will be equally so if this leads anyone to find music of which they were previously either unaware of had forgotten about. If it tempts you to head out and see some live music then that is a real bonus. It is also, truth be told, quite simply the music that I really liked.

The alphabet is as it is; it starts this list with an artist that was a complete surprise, and a revelation, to me. I had heard it said that, as a performer, she is at best diffident and at worst obtuse. Be that as it may I can now go only with what I heard and observed myself. Those descriptions are quite harsh I believe; reserved and self-absorbed maybe, which means it admirably mirrors the album title 'Burn Your Fire For No Witness'. 

Angel Olsen - Green Man Festival 2014.

A bonus that accrued from starting a blog is that I really had to go out to see live music and soon armed with a camera. I often don't go far at all...

Ward Thomas, Cheese & Grain, Frome, 2 August 2014.  The opening date of their début headline tour.

The Moulettes are currently supporting Bellowhead on tour, but often playing as a four-piece and good though this is (dubbed the Moulllites by Hannah Miller) when I saw them thus live at Reading Hexagon just a couple of weeks ago you really do need to see them live as a six-piece playing a full set because that is in another league entirely. This was fresh on my mind as I had seen them thus just ten days previously at Marnhull Acoustic SessionsYou can do exactly that at Behind The Castle Festival on 13 June 2015.

One of the Reading absentees: Ruth Skipper, Marnhull Acoustic Session, 9 November 2014.

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 with 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 '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, recorded, via radio, streaming or suchlike - 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 of 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 comprised 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, from the LP The Bear's Revenge.
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 six-piece usually, 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 that there is just so much available means just to keep abreast of it, 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 six 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).