Tuesday, September 29, 2015

An interesting dilemma.

About this time last year I mentioned that I was going to start listening over again to all of my long-list of music (EPs and albums together) that I had noted should be considered for those end-of-year rituals. In the end I did that, twice over, and the result was that I whittled that list of fifty-something down to just twenty LPs and a handful of EPs. Some were something between; let us agree to call them mini-albums for sustained quality, not length, is the defining criterion here. That process now needs to commence all over again.

I'm fine with that but there is a nascent problem. I'm pretty sure that my qualifications for inclusion on this long list are every bit as discerning as was the case last year. It is absolutely vital that this is so; as it stands today my long-list currently runs to one-hundred-and-eight items. A quick survey suggests that on average each is 40 minutes in length. To put it another way, if I were to start listening now (21:15 Tuesday) with no breaks at all I would get to the end of it early on Friday evening!
I'm not planning to do that, not least because I also have live music to go and see tomorrow evening.
It also brings me to another issue. That of all the live music that I have seen in 2015 and the discussions, both in person and remotely, about that. The good thing about this is that I certainly have a lot to reflect on!

My next two posts will both be in the series 'New Music 2015'. Both about albums released in the last couple of weeks, that should logically be included in the category of UK folk, and yet they are two very different beasts indeed.
I shall aim to make sure that both posts are published simultaneously. 
The order in which they actually appear will be decided by the toss of a coin. I'll get someone else to do that for me and with the outcomes known to them beforehand.
What remains true from the start is that, even as my taste in music has evolved over these last nine years and it most certainly has and in ways I might not have anticipated, I will not chose to write posts about things that I don't much care for. I do make comparisons in order to explain why I favour one thing over another. I regard that as something inevitable.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 70 - Francis Pugh and The Whisky Singers - A Place Back West EP

The Oxford music scene is vibrant and nowhere more so than in the inter-related genres of folk, roots, bluegrass, and thus also the behemoth that is Americana. It is not so long since I mentioned Great Western Tears in that regard. This is another and the two are commonly found as part of the pop-up live performances known as Oxford Roots Rambles.
Francis Pugh and The Whiskey Singers is a six-piece and the latest Roots Ramblin' event that took place yesterday evening also served to launch their EP 'A Place Back West'.

In the original tradition of EPs it has just three tracks - two originals and a cover in this case. These are they:

  • A Place Back West
  • I Saw The Light (Hank Williams)
  • You Can't Fix A Heart That's Been Broken
For all the downbeat lyricism of the first and last tracks the theme and the joyous music, including the combination of banjo and brass playing together, results in an effect that is entirely one of positivity in quest for the fabled 'sunlit uplands'. The other vital component is not only do these songs and the stories fully hold their places they are actually enhanced by the choice of the song that separates them.
The inclusion of Hank Williams 1947-composed 'I Saw The Light' is interesting not only for its range of interpretation and the virtuosity of the playing displayed within it by the band, but also for its history.

It became, mostly through covers rather than Williams' own performance, a gospel-country standard and probably his best-recognised creation. In actual fact it was written about a comment that his mother made while driving the band back from a gig. 'The Light' in question was that emanating from Dannelly Field airport and it signalled that they were approaching their home town of Montgomery, AL.
God moves in mysterious ways.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 69 - Old Hannah - Iron and Wood

In the last month or so circumstances have conspired to make me realise that I have mentioned relatively little music that comes from Ireland in contrast to, for example, Wales. The main catalyst to do something about this in one sense was seeing Lisa O'Neill, of whom I was quite unaware until that point, play the Tipi Stage at End Of The Road 2015.
In the intervening few weeks I have quite consciously been paying attention and this is the first example I have chosen to mention.

It is also a fine example of the importance that I now attach to that once threatened format the EP.

Old Hannah is a four-piece from Co. Sligo in the north-west of Ireland and this EP, which involves several artists from beyond the confines of the band and also instruments such as steel guitar (pedal and lap) not usually associated with Irish music, is very much the real deal. It neither abandons the strictures of traditional Irish folk nor adheres slavishly to them. What makes it actually work in the way it does is the attention to both the basics of the genre and the detail of the execution.

It is as good as any EP that I have heard this year and that is saying something. Here is 'West' taken from it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

End Of The Road 2015 - Across All Stages - Part 2

After a week away from reminiscing over the festivals of the summer just gone I return to the last one I visited once again.
I mentioned the release of the LP 'Sprinter', the second by Torres from Athens GA, right back near the start of the year. When it was announced that she was playing EOTR 2015 she went straight on my list of must-see live acts and therefore here she is.

Mackenzie Scott and her band played The Woods Stage on Friday afternoon.

Opening The Woods Stage that is the main, as in largest, one on Friday lunchtime was another artist I have already mentioned in connection with his album 'All These Dreams'.
Andrew Combs and his supporting band.

Over to the tented Big Top Stage and something that, owing to the unavailability of another act, was a late switch to this stage from the much smaller Tipi Stage. This was fortunate for two reasons: the new venue was better suited to the music and, given the turnout, the Tipi Stage would have proven too small (this is an increasing problem more generally).

Jane Weaver, Big Top Stage, Friday evening.
I must admit that this is a case where, until she was announced in the line up for EOTR, Jane Weaver was an artist of who I was aware but little more despite the release of several albums.  I listened to her latest release 'Silver Globe' then in fact two, with the arrival of 'The Amber Light', and decided that she should be on my list of things to see live. It was a good choice, albeit rather different to the majority of the music I tend to favour, as well as being the only non-American artist featured in this narrative.

To return to type, this is an artist who I have seen before and would quite happily see again and again. Even Sufjan Stevens, headlining The Woods Stage on what was his first ever UK festival performance, couldn't keep me away for very long...
Mark Lanegan headlined the Garden Stage on Saturday evening.

Last but certainly not least, also on The Garden Stage but on Sunday afternoon in the glorious sunshine, was another US band that are blazing a trial through UK consciousness in 2015 due in large part to the 2014 LP 'Colfax'.
They played a number of new songs and these were at least as good as any that have come before in my opinion.
I interpreted that to be a statement of intent.

I shall be back with more about festivals soon, I'm quite sure. In the meantime it is time to catch up on new music and start considering all the music from 2015 that I have already listened to and await some choice releases that will appear over the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 68 - Rainbow Girls - Perceptronium

One of the greatest pleasures of having an excuse to listen to lots of new music is the surprise of discovering things totally by chance. This is why I am a habitué at the opening sets and indeed the smaller stages at festivals. That it is now the end of the outdoor festival season in the UK doesn't matter as much as perhaps it might seem it should.
Frome has plenty of new music of all kinds on offer and then there is all the rest. This is a very good example of how that, and a little serendipity, can work out when applied to the wonder that is internet radio. Yesterday I was listening to this - Hailsham FM - a transient UK broadcaster and specifically a two-hour slot hosted by Chris Giles.
The good news is that it was a Folk Is Not A Rude Word production and as such this can be listened-to from wherever you are on Mixcloud here.
Loads of good stuff on it and an eclectic mix too, so many boxes ticked, but the interview guests were an act of which I was previously unaware. Rainbow Girls.

Album 'Perceptronium' is released in the UK at midnight tonight. (Blue House Music)

How to summarise it? Well, I have already listened to it more times than might be expected and you might have spotted that I like quite a varied palette of music, from acoustic to rock via folk, roots, indie and blues amongst other things.
Sometimes mixing all this up might be a bad idea but not always. It is most certainly not some kind of musical smoothie at all. It is like the best hearty soup - dark and thickly silky between the delightful lumps of individuality. I could make some tentative comparisons but I think that I won't because I don't think that it would help you much. The track listing, indeed, might in itself be more informative so here it is:

Rainbow Girls - Perceptronium
  • The Naked Song 
  • She-bop Nation
  • Step Down from the Mountain
  • Stars
  • No Girls Allowed
  • Syd Barrett
  • Lumière
  • Yuba
  • George Lassos the Moon
  • Dinner Was Yellow But the Shit Was Gold
  • Windy Bitches
Four female artists from California - Caitlin Gowdey, Erin Chapin, Vanessa May and Savannah Hughes - with a wealth of instruments and styles in train.
Rainbow Girls - Can We Keep This Love Alive?
This is not on the above mentioned album nor indeed is it on the début LP Sound Of Light (2013) but you might want to give that a listen too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 67 - Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin - Watershed

Nothing gives me more pleasure than writing about this. It is a couple of years since I was introduced to this duo by Ian Lyster via North Dorset Folk Festival and Marnhull Acoustic Sessions. I have seen the duo live at least five times now and it can never be once too many.

It is not really so long since Mynd was released (2013).  This is about the new studio album but in the meantime they have released the CD Live At Calstock (2014).

Watershed is released on 25 September by Dragonfly Roots.

Less concerned with historical themes than their earlier work it is indeed a watershed. To assert otherwise would be wrong I think; the track titles alone give lie to that:
  • Watershed
  • Stones
  • Tonight
  • Yarrow Mill
  • Conkers
  • December
  • January
  • Letter (Unsent)
  • Foundling
  • Lament
  • London
  • Taxis
More immediate and intimate it is certainly is, but no less stunning. This is just a sample of it and, amazingly, adding video from FB wasn't quite the total pain that I thought it would be.
Should you want it ASAP then Proper Music have it on a limited pre-order deal for £10.99 and that includes UK delivery and the CD is signed!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

End Of The Road 2015 - Across All Stages - Part 1

Here is an interestingly useless statistic.  EOTR 2015 saw me break my own records for both the longest and the shortest time to see two complete sets by the same band (comprising the same band members with no additions or deletions) ever. Three of the four sets happened last Saturday. 

This is US trio Ex Hex playing the Big Top stage late on Saturday afternoon. It was just 5hr 8 min between the start of the first set and the finish of the second set, on The Tipi Stage, of which more later.

The other is London five-piece The Duke Spirit. I somehow missed seeing them play at Latitude 2010 but not on the (main) Woods Stage at EOTR 2015.
The first time was one of my first ever trips away to see a live band since my student days: on 21 May 2005 I ventured to The Astoria, London to see The Duke Spirit play [I took no pictures of that]. That is also fifteen months before the first EOTR took place! 
The Astoria is no more - it was demolished in 2010 and the site is now part of the soon-to-be-opened Tottenham Court Road CrossRail station. I guess you might say that I got the live-music bug. Other than that very little has changed except to say that, 3758 days later, their music is rather back in fashion...
Liela Moss, The Duke Spirit, EOTR, 5 September 2015.
The band finished the set with 'Love Is An Unfamiliar Name' from the 2005 album Cuts Across The Land.

I have long held The Garden Stage to be the most beautiful festival venue and I'm not about to change my mind now. Headlining it on the Sunday evening is an artist whom I have seen live a number of times but, again, not for longer than I might have wished. To be fair this was a pairing of artist and stage made in Heaven and she had enough time to showcase songs both new and from way back, including 'My Manic and I' from the originally vinyl-only 2007 EP of that name.
Laura Marling - The Garden Stage - Sunday evening.

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 66 - The Rosellys - The Granary Sessions

I mentioned the then forthcoming release of 'The Granary Sessions' a couple of months back, when I saw The Rosellys live at Truck Festival 2015. Time flies - it was released a week ago now, at least in the UK, by Clubhouse Records.

I knew already that I really liked their previous records, 'One Way St.' (2008) and 'Two Much Like Trouble' (2011) and the new material that they show-cased was every bit as strong and varied.
It was the first time I had heard them live. They performed live with a full band; this new LP differs from the aforementioned records in that it is the first recorded with a full band. Simon and Rebecca are joined by 
Allan Kelly (pedal steel/resonator), Drew Bridges (percussion) and Matt Kirby (bass). It was recorded in Gloucestershire, England and produced by Alex Elton-Wall, a leading light of UK alt-country act Redlands Palomino Company.

This is the track listing:
1. A Thousand Miles
2. Not That Old (But I'm Not Eighteen)
3. Maryland
4. Asheville 1784
5. Made A Choice
6. Red, White And Blue
7. James' Song
8. It's Not Me It's You
9. Number One
10. Rose Tinted Glasses
11. Memories Of Me And You

One comment that I might make is that almost all reviews and comments on the album are from America, rather than the UK, and also that almost all of them are distinctly positive.
Here is Maryland from the album, live at The Golden Lion, Gloucester Road, Bristol, UK.
They are coming for you too - the US tour is still adding dates - so watch out for them in October.

The Rosellys, Saloon Bar Stage, Truck Festival 2015.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

End of The Road 2015 - The Big Top

After a rather soggy, but quite wonderful, Green Man 2015 I am happy to report that apart from a short shower at an unimportant time on Saturday morning End Of The Road 2015 was blessed with dry and, as time went on, increasingly sunny weather.
By Saturday afternoon it was pretty much sunny so, having visited it hardly at all in 2014, I decided to spend much of the afternoon inside the tented Big Top stage! The first act that I saw there was actually one that had impressed me a fortnight earlier at Green Man - The Drink. This was just the start of what turned out to be a run of female-led acts on this stage.

Dearbhla Minogue of The Drink, Big Top Stage, End Of The Road Festival, early Saturday afternoon.

This next is Beth Jeans Houghton and an artist I have seen live a number of times before, not least several times at EOTR. This was the first time I have seen her with her new band project Du Blonde.
I could write a full post about this. Had it been the the culmination of an afternoon in the Big Top I would not have been disappointed. It turned out to be the end of the start. The backing bands for both the above are all male.

When I first heard the song 'Jane' last year it made me take note of its perpetrators - female duo Girlpool from Los Angeles. I can honestly say that at that time what it might sound like live never even crossed my mind. In fact I still don't know for, following the prudent idea of not playing live the song(s) that first garnered attention, they didn't play it.
Without the slightest pretence Harmony Tividad (bass and vocals) and Cleo Tucker (guitar and vocals) set about dismantling a whole raft of preconceptions about modern music in the space of forty minutes. I'm not at all convinced that I have seen a more affecting live set this year.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

End Of The Road Festival is 10!

I have to say that this last weekend was only my seventh EOTR (2009 - 2015) and I met at least two with a complete record. I have my ticket for EOTR 2016, however. I think that this goes bare-bones statistics to show just how people that have experienced it once tend to become attached to it in some way. It is intense because there is so much there and so it is tiringbut in the best possible sense.

By Sunday afternoon even the resident Larmer Tree Gardens peacocks were chilled.

The limited music on offer on Thursday evening was delayed by an hour by the sudden unavailability of the band scheduled to open the proceedings. That was not to matter one little bit when, at 7:30pm, the now-festival-openers took to the Tipi stage. 
When a band comes from Iceland and is also signed to Bella Union then all worries just melt away.

About seventy-two hours later, on the Tipi stage early on Sunday evening, the wonder that is EOTR was effectively book-ended by what was for me a total chance discovery. It is why festivals matter so very much.
Irish artist Lisa O'Neill playing, at this point, baritone ukulele.

Now I just have to get to grips with all the rest of it. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 65 - Thunderbitch - Thunderbitch

This is a bit out of the blue.
Not so long ago Alabama Shakes released the band's second album Sound & Color and I mentioned it then. Brittany Howard has now revealed this, on vinyl and download, as a completely-executed side project Thunderbitch. What is more at least for now you can stream it all here.

  • Leather Jacket
  • I Don't Care
  • I Just Wanna Rock'n'Roll
  • Eastside Party
  • Closer
  • Wild Child
  • Very Best Friend
  • My Baby Is My Guitar
  • Let Me Do What I Do Best
  • Heavenly Feeling
I'm not going to mince words: this is exactly what I had hoped that Sound & Color would sound like but didn't.