Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Live but not local, again.

I couldn't resist re-posting this.

Ryan Adams, supported by Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell, plays 'Jacksonville Skyline'. Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, 25 April 2015.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Live and local - Hannah Robinson and Megan Henwood

To spend a Sunday evening at Marnhull Acoustic Sessions is always a pleasure. To spend two there in a row is probably a sign of greed. Oh never mind, I did it anyway.
There were changes - a new, eleventh-hour support artist  - Hannah Robinson, replacing Lizzyspit as a result of her loss-of-voice, and I had never seen her play live before.

Here she is, playing 'Starts A Whisper' from her 2015 EP 'Water, Carry Me'.

Headlining was Megan Henwood, playing solo this time. I have seen her play live several times before but not recently without a band. Her much anticipated second LP, and I mean that in the best possible way, is ·Head·Heart·Hand·.
It is released on 6 July 2015 and it is with full band, strings and all.
Some of the album is even a little bit electric. It is certainly thought-provoking.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Live and not at all local...

'Thoughts on Music' is taking a time-out for a couple of days. It will return early next week. Rather than mull over last night's BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, which I considered doing, I will hold that comment over until next week.
I decided upon sharing this instead. In a way it is more vital.
I have mentioned 'Free The Honey' before and whilst purveyors of for the most part Appalachian music that is not to say that gypsy fiddle and more beside will not be included, for they are. The four band members - 
Katherine Taylor, Jenny Hill, Lizzy Plotkin and now made complete by Andrew Cameron (upright bass) come from a wide milieu but are all based in the high mountains - Gunnison, in western Colorado. Free The Honey is working towards a début LP.
This was a support set to further that project. You will have to suffer, or fast-forward, the rambling introduction but that has nothing to do with the band. We have all been there, I'm sure, in similar circumstances. I'd recommend that you start 7 minutes 19 seconds in.

Once you get to the music they play nine songs or tunes; it is a delight.
Free The Honey is currently recording the band's début album, which is scheduled for release in September. As yet untitled it can be pre-ordered here, including signed copies.
The pound Sterling reached a three-month high against the US dollar at the end of the week, so of course I took advantage of that!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 33 - Lau - The Bell That Never Rang

This release is much awaited and not least by me. It is the latest LP from Lau, a three-piece band that I saw live at End Of The Road 2014 and that I mentioned here.

The LP is 'The Bell That Never Rang', released (in the UK) 4 May 2015.

It is also an example of something else, which might be of interest and not only to thrifty neophiles...
It is free to stream, legally and in full although not necessarily of the highest bit-rate, before its release and possibly only for a limited time. You can find this example at... 
No, that's not fun at all. I'll let you find it yourself. An added twist is that production duties on 'The Bell That Never Rang' were helmed by Joan Wasser. There are only six tracks on it and the title track is seventeen minutes long.
If you are interested in music from at least of now little known artists (and they all have to start somewhere) then the world is your oyster. There are also ways to get music in advance that might cost no more than buying the product when and if it happens - PledgeMusic, Kickstarter are example of this crowd-funding approach and there are many others. I have several LPs that are yet to see public release this way and the bonus is that they are signed copies.

The point may sound Holmesian but is that you have to keep eyes and ears wide open at all times and discretely carry a pocket notebook* so you don't forget things. It is amazing what you can learn at live events, especially festivals, even if it is merely overheard chatter. [Alcohol loosens tongues but certainly doesn't help with remembering what you saw or heard/were told the previous day.]
Beyond that it is up to you and your ingenuity to find out what, if anything, that which you heard or saw means in the great scheme of things. The most important insights are the subtle ones.

*a notebook and a soft black pencil:
It is a passé concept I know. Here's why it is important. You can write in the dark and the damp and your notes will almost certainly survive in a legible form even when the paper dries out. It doesn't have batteries that might go flat or a lit screen that attracts attention to what you are doing (inevitably so in the dark).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Live and local - Simon Kent, Blair Dunlop and Emma Stevens

In between hopping across the Atlantic with this blog, if only metaphorically though I would given the chance, it is more than refreshing to trundle a score of miles through the English countryside full of spring blossom to a gig in a village hall to hear such quality as was showcased last Sunday evening.
It was supposed to be a double bill. That it was a triple was the source of some pre-event strife, but did not impinge on the evening for the audience. The 'extra' was Simon Kent playing with only a drummer for company and at short notice due to unforeseen circumstances. I have to say that he was someone who I was only peripherally aware. It was a short set but it has certainly inclined me to investigate further.

The other two acts were a joint-billing - and this was the only date on that tour that was not a city. Blair Dunlop played first on this occasion, To be honest it would not have mattered one little bit had Emma Stevens played first. I don't think that they are competitive in that particular sense.
Blair Dunlop has been on my list of 'ones to see live' for some time and I can't think of a better venue than this. It is  I think not be going to be possible to do it in such a small venue without paying a high ticket price for much longer - in might, indeed, have been the very last time.
He played tracks from both his released LPs, and three brand new ones (the bedroom sessions!) and also this. It is a cover of kinds, I suppose.
It is a tune (instrumental)  'Si Bheg, Si Mhor' - written by blind Irish harpist and, rather more importantly composer, Turlough O'Carolan (1670 -  1738). How can a guitar sound like a harp? Played like this... that's how.
Emma Stevens is also two albums into her career as a solo artist, 'Waves' being the latest. Here she is captured playing an instrument that gives some people the creeps. As far as I know she doesn't play piano accordion.
She played this only on one song, and played nothing whilst singing another one, but otherwise played guitar and sang. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 32 - Samantha Crain - Under Branch & Thorn & Tree

Today is Record Store Day 2015 on both sides of the Atlantic. The press will be covering that on all levels without the shadow of a doubt. I will leave them to it, at least for now, in favour of the tenets that underpin it.

There would be none of this without the independently-minded artists and the labels, venues, festivals and stores that support them, and hopefully the mutual benefit they derive from that. It takes a certain mentality for all of this to exist, let alone thrive. I decided to choose one artist to represent all of this. From the many possibilities it is Samantha Crain.
I first heard about her a couple of years ago, although I forget quite how, but last summer I saw her play twice at festivals.
She is a story-telling songwriter above anything else and that scenario often works best in an intimate live setting. Here she is playing the Tipi stage at End Of The Road Festival 2014.

She releases her fourth studio album 'Under Branch & Thorn & Tree' this coming summer on Ramseur Records in North America and Full Time Hobby Records in the UK.
This recent interview, first published in the Tulsa Voice (OK, USA), is too interesting to miss out on.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 31 - Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

Less than a fortnight ago I mentioned the forthcoming Jason Isbell studio LP. This is confirmation of 'Something More Than Free' and some of the material that will appear on it. The eleven songs include:

  • 24 Frames
  • Children of Children
  • Flagship
  • If It Takes A Lifetime
  • Palmetto Rose
The musicians involved will be top-drawer as ever, including his wife Amanda Shires and they are expecting their first child. Production is by Dave Cobb who did the same with honours on the 2013 LP 'Southeastern'. It is released (in North America at least) by (his own label) Southeastern Records on 17 July 2015. UK/Europe release date is unknown to me at this time but, as things currently are, that might actually be 16 July 2015. It is by all counts a whole lot more cheerful than the last release, as might reasonably be expected in the circumstances. As he puts it "a lower head count".
This might even be the album artwork but I wouldn't bet on that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 30 - Orchard Hill - Make It Out Alive

So how did this happen?
Well I was just following this and that, about festivals and stuff. They say never judge a book by its cover - and that applies to music - even digital artwork I suppose. I didn't get a chance because the music came first - I had to search for the artwork myself but it was worth it.

I think it sets the tone of the EP 'Make It Out Alive' perfectly.
I'm not even sure yet how to to categorise the music - there are three songs - on this 2014 self-released EP. It isn't folk, that is certain, but most other descriptors have connotations that I don't really want to attach to it. The answer, of course, is to listen to it yourself.
Forced to put a finger on it this female-fronted four-piece from the south coast of the UK is either pop-rock or rock-pop.
That it is not worthy of the lazy comparisons, particularly with certain American acts that may be held to be in that category, and with which Orchard Hill has seemingly come to be compared is without doubt.
In that sense the subdued artwork says as much as it possibly could.  This EP is an example of the British sentiment for understatement, if ever there were one. Never maudlin, 
it is a fine example of cheerfulness in adversity; the title alone bears that out. 

Listen to this.

See Orchard Hill live. ASAP [also a note-to-self]

A few recent (live) videos.

I never sure whether to make this sort of addendum a post on its own or to add the items to (recent) posts about the same act or artist. In this case I have avoided the issue as such and chosen a combination of the two concepts. These first two are added to recent posts (links included below):

  • Sound of The Sirens - 'Faith in Fire' (live, Plymouth, 11 April 2015) here.
  • Annabelle Chvostek - 'Be The Media' (live studio session) here.
I have a few more to share but they relate to earlier posts, some very much so, and I will therefore add the new content below but with links back to earlier posts or references as appropriate.
This next is in a sense a cover of a cover. The song 'Fields Of Gold' was written by Gordon Sumner, aka Sting, but the famous version is that by the late Eva Cassidy. This is a live version of that recorded by Hattie Briggs, and from her recent début album 'Red & Gold', that features violin and was also mixed by Eva Cassidy's brother Dan Cassidy. 

The rest of the album, and that comprises her self-written songs, is stunning too. It topped the iTunes folk chart yesterday. The next question is how soon we can get to see her play live in Frome - Rook Lane might be the ideal venue but The Grain Bar would be very good too.

This next is rather a different prospect and certainly a change of style and tempo. I have quite happily driven a total of four hundred miles to see Joanne Shaw Taylor live three times. Next time it is going to be a fifteen minute walk from home. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 29 - Jenny Lysander - Northern Folk

To be honest it wasn't going to be long until Sweden reasserted its claim to producing some astonishing music. The Söderberg sisters - aka 'First Aid Kit' - may have seemingly crossed the ocean, and very successfully too, but that leaves a gap of kinds, I suppose. She might not like this billing, or indeed some of the other comparisons that have recently come her way, but the chances are that she can outflank that. She is Jenny Lysander.

Her début album 'Northern Folk' is released by Beating Drum Records on April 27 in Europe.

Behind The Castle Festival 2015

It is almost 13 April as I write and Behind the Castle Festival is therefore just two short months away.

Get your tickets here and especially if you wish for camping on Saturday for these are very limited and will all be gone soon. The line-up is of course stunning from start to finish. There is nothing not to cherish, which it just as it should be. With three stages there will be some agonising choices to make; I have been promised that. Bring it on, this as a festival compact enough to see part of one set and then part of another without missing much whilst between them.
I'm not saying, because I won't decide until the very moment, what I want to see most.  Here is a Spotify playlist including some, but not all, of the artists that will be there on the day. It is entirely my own choice of songs, of course, but hopefully provides some idea of what is on offer. 
There will almost certainly be additions and updates. I just needed to post something at the point that I had got to. It might just help fend off some of that the Monday feeling too - it is nearly 100 minutes long.
The Spiral Earth Awards 2015 have now been announced and two of the winners, both for albums, are playing BTCF 2015:
Moulettes - best album - Constellations
Larkin Poe - best Americana album - Kin
If that weren't enough another  of the winners -  Blair Dunlop , best solo artist, is playing Marnhull Acoustic sessions this coming Sunday (19 April) and that is not all; Emma Stevens is supporting.

New Music 2015 - Part 28 - Du Blonde - Welcome Back To Milk

This artist has featured in these pages a few times before but not as Du Blonde. The new LP 'Welcome Back To Milk' is released on Mute Records on 18 May 2015 in the UK. It was always extremely unlikely that she, so therefore the album or its artwork, would become bland. Her pop-art illustrations and often black and white photography are quite something. She makes her own stage costumes too.

The music is heavier than heretofore but the artist Beth Jeans Houghton remains unmistakably herself, which is nothing but a good thing.
Here she is with 'The Hooves of Destiny' at End Of The Road 2011. Du Blonde is confirmed for End Of The Road 2015.
The first track released from the new LP is 'Black Flag'. 

Du Blonde - Black Flag (Official Audio) from Mute on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 27 - Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp

This artist, and her new album 'Ivy Tripp', handily combines the themes of artists from across the Atlantic and those that I'm looking forward to seeing live at a festival in 2015.
Waxahatchee is the project of Katie Crutchfield, originally from from Birmingham, AL and this is the latest LP. It is already released in the UK/EU/RoW by Wichita Recordings. In North America it is released by Merge Records. This, taken from it, is 'Under A Rock' and there is a whole lot more than this one song to be gained from this LP. I'm set on the idea that the tracks released as "singles" may not be those which are most important live - that is hardly a revelation but it is an important consideration nevertheless. I'm not even convinced that this is one of my favourites in any case, which is far more a recommendation than at first it might seem.

She plays Green Man Festival 2015 and that is where I intend to see her play live; something that I have not experienced before.
There is a video to this song too, as has now come to my attention.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Nothin' But Blood - Scott H Biram

I have been listening to so much music lately and in part connected to the festivals that I am attending this summer. This album however, although in some ways connected to my previous post,  really needs a post of its own.
It also nicely illustrates two points: the first is that I can't possibly keep up with all new music that I might wish to in real time and therefore that once again it is wise to keep note of independent labels that one trusts.

In this case the artist Scott H. Biram is not new and this (2014) is his fifth LP release with Bloodshot Records. It is loud, direct and dirty, often to the point of profanity, heartfelt blues-country-rock. The original songs are are every bit incisive; as much are the wisely interpreted covers including Willie Dixon's 'Back Door Man'. Originally written for Howlin' Wolf (1961) it later appeared on his own LP 'I Am The Blues' (1970). It has needless to say been covered, in whole or in part, many other times in the meanwhile. I'm thinking Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush in particular here, but I have yet to find it in my vinyl collection. It is in there, somewhere.

This is the opening track to the LP and 'Slow and Easy' is a pretty gentle introduction as its title might suggest. I can do no better than this summary:
Rock 'n' Roll ain't pretty and neither is Scott H BiramBelow the link to 'Slow & Easy' is the full track listing.

  • Slow & Easy 
  • Gotta Get to Heaven
  • Alcohol Blues 
  • Never Comin' Home
  • Only 
  • Jack of Diamonds
  • Nam Weed
  • Backdoor Man
  • Church Point Girls 
  • I'm Troubled
  • Around the Bend
This is one album that I just had to have on vinyl. What you might not guess is that he is a one-man-band. In that sense I think that he would be absolutely perfect for the tiny Saloon Stage at Truck Festival 2015! But then, since I'm going to Truck, it is just my selfish streak.

So, my second point about all of this is...
Well... I'll just keep y'all waitin' for that.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 26 - back across the ocean

I was always intending the theme of new, or new to me, music from North America to be the theme of a few upcoming posts. I have been listening to plenty of it, across various genres, recently.

It is with much happiness that I heard the condition of Joni Mitchell is improving. It is with sadness that I heard that, on Friday evening, Robert Lewis Jones Sr. and the original drummer with Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd,was killed in a car accident. He had already left the band before three of its then members were killed in a plane crash in 1977.
I have a 12" single of 'Freebird', it was on the band's 1973 début album, and I'm giving it a spin right now:

If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?
For I must be travelin' on now, for there's too many places left to see.

Southern Rock hasn't been such a big deal, certainly viewed from a UK perspective, in recent times but maybe that isn't the way things will remain. This next band was going to figure here regardless of the foregoing. It is not the same, I don't suppose they ever intended that, but it is worthy of a listen I think.
I guess that, as regards to this band, I'm a bit slow to the nose-bag with this release.

Staying down South, but changing genre, this news is to me as good as it gets.
Amy LaVere and Will Sexton's 'Hallelujah I'm a Dreamer' is released today, 7 April,  in the US as a download by Archer Records. It is said the CD follows on 19 May. As for UK/Europe release I just don't know - yet. I'm on the case not least because it is a live album by one of the artists that I would most like to see live but thus far never have.
This is the track-list:
  • Cricket (At Night I Can Fly)
  • Dreamer
  • Day Like Any
  • Cupid's Arrow
  • It's the Thing to Do
  • Last Rock 'n' Roll Boy to Dance
  • Overcome
  • Red Banks
  • Tonight Will Be Fine
  • Lesson
  • Tennessee Valentine
It would be remiss of me to leave music from Canada out of this post. This looks intriguing too and Annabelle Chovstek is coming to the UK soon and not least to Marnhull Acoustic Sessions on 10 May. She brings a new LP 'Be The Media' into the equation too.

I don't know a whole lot about it yet but it is said to see her largely play electric guitar (of 1957 vintage) and that it includes a cover of fellow Canadian Neil Young's 'Like A Hurricane'. It was notably covered by Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit on the 2013 live LP 'Live From Alabama'. On that subject Jason Isbell has just about finished work on his latest studio LP that is the follow-up to 'Southeastern'.

That said, this is the track-list I believe:

  1. Be The Media
  2. Jerusalem
  3. Black Hole
  4. This Night
  5. Carnal Delights
  6. You Can Come Now
  7. Like A Hurricane
  8. Inside The Scream/Screen
Here is the title track from it:

Friday, April 03, 2015

Live and local - where music meets politics for real

If you have been drowning under the deluge of media concerning the forthcoming elections, both national and (at least here in Frome) very much localthen here is an antidote to the traditional yawn-inducing stuff this coming Tuesday. Bear in mind, however, that music and politics have a long and glorious connection...

Luke Concannon (one half of band Nizlopi) and Al O'Kane play The Grain Bar from 8pm this coming Tuesday, 7 April. £5 on the door or available on line in advance here.

So what is that to do with politics? Quite a bit, actually.
This event is a fund-raiser for Frome and Somerton branch of The Green Party. Al O'Kane is standing as a candidate for Independents for Frome in the forthcoming Frome Town Council elections. What happened the last time there were elections for Frome Town Council, in 2011, has become the stuff of legend. And then, palpably, they delivered. That applies to their plans
 but also and rather importantly it seems, to the wider attention that it has garnered for Frome both nationally and sometimes internationally.
The £½ million spent on bringing the Cheese and Grain venue up to modern standards, in the café-bar of which this concert is being held, is just a small part of that. There may well be more to come. Let's hope so.

What is more it has just been announced that Al O'Kane is one of the six finalists competing next Saturday, 11 April, at Sixty Million Postcards in Bournemouth, for a slot at Larmer Tree Festival 2015 in the final of The Larmer Tree Breakthrough Music Awards 2015. I have to admit that I have never really been to Bournemouth, and certainly not to see music.
It is the deep south. Maybe I should reconsider that.