Saturday, December 16, 2017

The rogue's gallery - a live music journey in 2017.

To break up the infernal list-making, much as it appeals to me, I have decided to have a bit of fun. The artists that make it on to the lists aren't necessarily those that I have had the most fun watching live. Nor, for that matter, are the artists that are not featured in lists any less deserving of attention. 
I have posted a couple of "road trips" in the last year or so. They were virtual and very rewarding to compile but also hard work.
This one, and I'll be compiling it over the next couple of days, is put together from a very different perspective. It is what I saw; vitally it is what I pointed my camera at.

It is sometimes possible to catch acts sound-checking; rarer still to capture the rituals that accompany this and so that is where we shall start. I have to say that if there is a theme here then you are probably going to have to identify it yourself.

Hinds - Far Out stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2017.

Two long delays, both on Sunday evenings, provided the material for these photos of acts very late on stage. This first was due to the total failure of the sound board for the stage monitors.

Marika Hackman - Tipi stage, End Of The Road Festival, 3 September 2017.

Owing to the set being delayed by six hours because of extremely adverse weather this next gig became virtually a private show for the couple of dozen of us that turned up to see it. By this time most of the potential audience had thrown in the towel and gone home wet, muddy and dispirited. I had no real reason to leave early. It also had the advantage that it no longer clashed with anything else that I wanted to see. This is amongst the very best live sets that I have witnessed in 2017 and that now numbers over 150.

Billed as Michele Stodart but The Magic Numbers in all but name. Nest stage, Truck Festival, 23 July 2017.

There is also a situation, and I guess artists feel this too, where the question is 'can it work like a dream?' I had exactly that issue with 'Hurray For The Riff Raff' at Green Man. On one hand I wanted thousands to come watch. On the other hand I wanted to be right at the front of the Mountain stage come what may. 
Even given the positive reception of 'The Navigator', Alynda Segarra took a big risk and played a full-on, politically-liberal set. It could have gone horribly wrong. It was another of the highlights of 2017 for me because it was beyond what, even in my wildest imagination I had thought it could be. The crowd swelled to a surprising size. Then the crowd started singing to her un-encouraged. It was a wonderful place to be and the sun came out. This is the point at which she couldn't really hear her own vocals any longer. Priceless.

Hurray For The Riff Raff, Mountain stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2017.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

My Music in 2017 - Albums - Part 2

Is it easier to continue something than to start it?
I'm not quite sure where this is heading; hopefully straight to the heart of music that was new and important to me in 2017, or at least in my mind.

This list is possibly more eclectic than the last. Of the ten four are British, four are from the US and there is one each from Canada and Sweden.
Of the acts/artists I have seen seven of the ten play live at some point in the past. I have seen one of them live five times but not once in 2017! Only one of them have I seen live in 2017 and that was a serendipitous mistake on my part.
Leaving my lair that was The Saloon Bar stage I braved the mud but paddled to the wrong stage at the right time.  I saw this band, a four-piece from Scotland...

Vukovi, The Nest stage, Truck Festival, 21 July 2017.

I'd never heard Vukovi until this happened. A good result I have to say. As for the band that I was intending to see and were playing the Market stage, well that worked out for the best later in the summer in any case. That was 'Goat Girl'.
Vukovi was however far from the only remarkable gig of Truck Festival 2017. Tired now, late on Sunday evening, who could imagine a full band set in the Nest stage with just twelve of us in the audience when it started?

is was the time to forget about Monday morning and how I was going escape from all of this and return to something approaching normality. Sometimes you need to dig deep into the moment.
I think that would be a suitable subject for another post. This idea has got a hold in my mind now.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 37 - Coco & The Butterfields - Battlegrounds

It has been a long time since I saw Coco & The Buttterfields live but here is a reminder that they have a lot of new music coming soon. This is the video for Battlegrounds that appeared almost exactly one year ago. It's still worth the wait.

The last time was at Cambridge Folk Festival 2015 and this was taken then.

I intend to continue my lists of 2017 music over the coming weekend and I hope there will be some surprises in the selection.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

My Music in 2017 - Albums - Part 1

Right then, the time for year-end lists is with us once again. This led me to consider that it is my twelfth year of doing such things. The first was posted on 10 December 2006 and that was just three months after starting this blog. It was also before I started attending music festivals. It was to be the driving force for that, and attempts at music photography soon followed.
That list of ten albums from 2006 is here.

The rules have changed little since: there will be several lists of albums as well as other categories. All entries in each list are alphabetical by artist and inclusion in a first list does not imply that I regard these releases to be superior to those in a later list of the same category.
Why do I do this? The answer to this question, which I have been asked surprisingly often, is that it serves to crystallise my thoughts on all the music that I have heard in the past year. That is more important than ever. I don't have exact numbers but I am in no doubt that in 2017 I have listened to more music than in any previous year. That includes approximately 150 live acts.

Music by artists that I have seen live at some time or another continues to have a profound effect on my listening habits. To make that point this list consists only of albums released in 2017 by artists that I have also seen live in 2017.
The reverse is also holds true; I have made an effort to see a number of artists in 2017 as a result of falling for their music in recorded format. John Moreland is a very good example of that. His LP 'High On Tulsa Heat' was on this list last year. The follow-up 'Big Bad Luv' is on this one and therefore here he is...

John Moreland, Garden stage, End Of The Road Festival, 2 September 2017.
  • Angel Olsen - Phases
  • Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life
  • Holly Macve - Golden Eagle
  • Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator
  • John Moreland - Big Bad Luv
  • John Smith - Headlong
  • Otis Gibbs - Mount Renraw
  • Pumarosa - The Witch
  • Rosie Hood - The Beautiful and The Actual
  • Stevie Parker - Blue
Less than an hour later...

Courtney Marie Andrews, Garden stage, End Of The Road Festival, 2 September 2017.

I guess it is fair to say that I have rather indie-traditional leanings in the music I favour but in fact I have listened to a surprising amount of pop and electronic music this year too. I'm neither proud nor embarrassed about that.
The highlight is possibly that the last few years of political turmoil have re-energised the whole gamut of narrative music based on protest, hardship and (voluntary or otherwise) displacement.

My first attempt at seeing Pumarosa live, at Truck Festival 2016, was entirely successful. Taking photos was not however, thanks to a tetchy memory card. With a new memory card and as it happens a different camera I fared somewhat better in 2017.

Pumarosa's Isabel Munoz-Newsome, Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2017.

John Smith, Tipi stage, End Of The Road Festival, 2 September 2017.

If there is a curve-ball it is the inclusion of 'Phases' by Angel Olsen because it is in a sense a compilation. My reason is this. I first saw her live at Green Man 2014, knowing next to nothing of her or her work, and was blown away. In great part by the music but also by her faintly diffident approach. Three years on, and after the release of 'My Woman' in 2016, she returned to Green Man in 2017. I was interested to see what might have changed. Quite a lot to tell the truth and much as I expected to be honest. Totally amazing and still playing that 1979 Gibson S-1.

Angel Olsen, Far Out stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2017.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 36 - The Railsplitters - Jump In

Based in Boulder, Colo. The Railsplitters is a quintet and a string band that displays not only its independence of traditional constrictions within the genre - traditional bluegrass did not involve women; lead vocal here in the charge of Lauren Stovall, originally from Jackson, Miss. - but also its own ethos as to where it should head musically and therefore the sort of topics that the songs relate to follow likewise.
The band members are as follows:

  • Lauren Stovall - lead vocals
  • Dusty Ryder - banjo
  • Peter Sharpe - mandolin
  • Joe D'Esposito - fiddle
  • Jean-Luc Davis - upright bass
This is the band's third LP. Like the two that came before it, self-titled 'The Railsplitters' (2013) and 'The Faster It Goes' (2015), it has been entirely cloud-funded and self released.

Jump In - The Railsplitters (self-released, 10 November 2017).

The Railsplitters - Jump In:
  • Everyone She Meets
  • Jump In
  • Lessons I've Learned
  • Durango River
  • To Do
  • Somethin' Sweet
  • Citronella
  • Lemon Lime
  • Bay of Five
  • Baxes
This is a true touring band. As I write this their schedule shows that the next gigs are at the Woodside Folk Festival in Queensland, Australia between Christmas and New Year. An extensive tour of the UK follows early in 2018 and I am intending to see the band live. The dates for this tour are as follows:

Jan 25 Thu --- The Old Fire Station, Carlisle
Jan 26 Fri --- The Hippodrome, Eyemouth 
Jan 27 Sat --- Letham Nights, Letham
Jan 28 Sun --- Birnam Arts, Dunkeld
Jan 30 Tue --- Celtic Connections, Glasgow
Feb 1 Thu --- Eastgate Theatre, Peebles
Feb 2 Fri --- Sage Gateshead, Gateshead
Feb 3 Sat --- The Greystones, Sheffield
Feb 4 Sun --- Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
Feb 6 Tue --- Helsby Bluegrass Club, Frodsham
Feb 7 Wed --- Musically Monstrous at The Three Horseshoes, Towersey
Feb 8 Thu --- South Holland Centre, Spalding
Feb 9 Fri --- Selby Town Hall, Selby
Feb 10 Sat --- Sands Sessions, Farnham
Feb 11 Sun --- Whitstable Sessions at St Mary's Hall, Whitstable
Feb 13 Tue --- The Canteen, Bristol
Feb 14 Wed --- Biddulph Up In Arms, Stoke-On-Trent
Feb 15 Thu --- Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Feb 16 Fri --- The Live Room, Saltaire
Feb 17 Sat --- The Lights, Andover

'Jump In', live from Albino Skunk Music Festival, Greer, SC, October 2017.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

New Music 2018 - Part 1 - Stick In The Wheel - Follow Them True

Divining the future has to start somewhere. I have chosen this as my starting point for music in 2018, not least because Stick In The Wheel is exactly between the future and the past.
I have no idea what the songs on this, the second LP, will be but I'm happy to trust that I shall like them and so I have pre-ordered it on vinyl.

Follow Them True - Stick In The Wheel (self released, 26 January 2018).

This is the follow-up to astonishing 2015 début 'From Here' and I can't think of an act better qualified to be my first suggestion for music that is to be released in 2018, but there are plenty more snapping at the heels.
This is 'Over Again':

In 2017 the band released a record of other artists singing traditional songs live and that is well worth an hour of your precious time too. It features well known artists and also many less so but no less worthy.

FROM HERE: English Folk Field Recordings (From Here Records, 2017).

The idea was to capture what the essence, the making and the performance of English folk music means in the here-and-now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 35 - Angelina - Vagabond Saint

This follows from my previous post in that I realise sometimes it takes new music time to reveal itself to me. This is a more extreme case in that I first heard it almost a year ago. It has more recently become a a go-to album especially when I find myself in a somewhat ambivalent mood. There is something about it that works for me. That mood is not actually the case just now and probably why I have finally seen my way around to writing about it.
Vagabond Saint - Angelina (WONDERFULSOUND, 2 December 2016). D/l & vinyl.

Vagabond Saint - Angelina:
  • Dark Heart 
  • Rose Cascade 
  • Mandolin Man
  • I Don't Cry 
  • January Butterfly
  • Prayers and Grace
  • Vagabond Saint
  • Smokes Like A Dream
  • Manola
  • Wild Cloud
  • Sometimes
It's soulful, smoky, southern, pastoral and she wrote the songs too. The artist comes from the nearest that the UK has to an island in the delta, the Isle of Wight, but don't let that put you off.  Had I found it in time last year it would have been on my year-end list. That it was released when it was is a great commitment to the fact that fine new releases no longer stop at the start of November in fawning to the 'don't-offend-anyone' Christmas market fare of decades past.

It is better to buy (or give, or be given) an album you love and an album you detest than end up with two albums that don't evoke much response either way. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 34 - The Delta Bell - Hold Fast the Fire

The Delta Bell is the work of Brighton-based musician and song writer Kate Gerrard; performing solo or as in the case of this, her second full-length, with a full band.

  • Kate Gerrard - vocals, guitar, hammond
  • Beth Chesser - backing vocals, keyboard, piano
  • Andrew Blake - guitar
  • James Bandenburg - bass, harmonica
  • Bob Baker - drums
  • Mark Jesson - cello
  • Sophie Jesson - violin
 The first Delta Bell LP was 'Bow Out Of The Fading Light' in 2015 and I wrote about that here.

Hold Fast the Fire - The Delta Bell (Random Acts Of Vinyl, 27 October 2017).

Hold Fast the Fire - The Delta Bell
  • Berlin 
  • Lonesome Song
  • Little Girl Lost
  • Rain On Love
  • Catacombs
  • Modern City
  • Golden
  • Killing Heart
  • Ride Out
  • These Days
Some albums are immediate in their appeal and although I liked it from the start it is not exactly one that I would describe in that way. For the 'shuffle playlist' generation this will likely not be a big deal unless something snags your ear, resulting in a kind of musical emergency brake application.
I hardly ever listen to music on shuffle.  That is why I am only writing about it almost a month after its release, despite the fact that I had pre-ordered it on vinyl several months before release.  Immediacy and longevity are certainly not two mutually exclusive sides of a coin but neither are they to be conflated. I would suggest that the very title of the record indicates the side of this divide it was intended to inhabit.
It takes some growing into. That's not to say that is an effort, less a burden, but it takes time none the less. The lyric of 'Modern City' seems to sum that for me and the repetition of them heightens that further.
A similar construct straddles its shapes of isolation and inclusion:

'I pulled up my roots and hang from the branch'
...from opening track 'Berlin' doesn't seem hopeful on the face of it but things work themselves out in one way or another. It's a recording that really requires your attention, almost certainly best alone and with coffee and some cake, played end-to-end before if gets to you. You'll know when it does. It's actually very reassuring.
Not may artists write albums that require this singular level of attention any more. You might, like I am, looking to find more somewhat like it.

The Delta Bell is also a fine live act, be it Kate playing solo or any combination of musicians beyond that.

The Delta Bell - Saloon Bar stage, Truck Festival, 16 July 2016.

Joanne Shaw Taylor - live at The Royal Festival Hall

It is rare that I venture to London for live music. Last Wednesday was an an exception and with good reason. It was for to see this artist live a fifth time but the fact that I had never set foot inside the iconic Royal Festival Hall did no harm either.

Photo credit: John Bentley

The artist was Joanne Shaw Taylor and despite a cold that had caused the cancellation of the previous day's show at Bristol Colston Hall we were treated to an awesome set. Her voice held but, sensibly in the circumstance, the guitar parts and the addition of an entirely instrumental number were to the fore. It was to be quite stunning. I have never seen and heard guitar played quite like that by anyone...  the acoustics of the room playing a full part here. The whole set seemed to go so very quickly but was not in fact any shorter than might have been anticipated.
Support was provided by the impressive South African blues-rock artist Dan Patlanky and his band of which I have to admit that I was previously quite unaware. On the other hand I really like being caught off-guard by new music.
Rather suspecting that I would not be permitted to use it I didn't take a camera. In some ways that was liberating too. The whole evening, involving company and travelling to London and back, seems to have pressed some sort of reset button in my mind.  Since the summer's festivals I have been listening to absolutely loads of music but had somehow lost the wish to write about it for a month or two. 
It has to be spontaneous. It isn't something that I can make myself do though I often think in some detail about what I might post even when I don't actually do it.

Friday, October 27, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 33 - Dryadic - In My Blood EP

You might know about my love of the EP format by now. This is a shining example of why that is so.

In My Blood EP - Dryadic (self-released, 20 October 2017).

Dryadic is a Brighton-based two-piece one half of which is Zora Macdonald, formerly the lead of The Tatsmiths. We are going back a few years but that is fine by me. The Tatsmiths recorded an LP Curiosity Shop (2012) here in my home town of Frome, Somerset. That was followed by the Occupy EP (2015). You need to listen to these and not least because they place the new direction and therefore this release in a context that makes complete sense.
This latest is a true EP, comprising just three songs, and includes the use of a fantastically rare English language verb in a song title. Sometimes less is actually rather more than you bargained for.
It is a wonderful thing.

Dryadic - In My Blood:
  • Colours of the Hedgerow
  • Gongoozling for Two
  • In My Blood

Saturday, October 14, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 32 - Eilen Jewell - Down Hearted Blues

I intended to write about this a few weeks back and did nothing.  This is the latest release from a prolific songwriter, touring artist and, as in this case, an interpreter of the songs of others and she did this on the album 'Butcher Holler: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn' (2010).

This is all about the last mentioned trait but here it is blues and for the most part it is not blues 'standards' that is the focus of attention here.

Down Hearted Blues - Eilen Jewell (Signature Sounds, 22 September 2017).

Eilen Jewell - Down Hearted Blues:
  • It's Your Voodoo Working
  • Another Night to Cry
  • You'll Be Mine
  • Down Hearted Blues
  • I'm a Little Mixed Up
  • You Gonna Miss Me
  • Walking with Frankie
  • Nothing in Rambling
  • Don't Leave Poor Me
  • Crazy Mixed Up World
  • You Know My Love
  • The Poor Girls Story
I thought about mentioning the sources of the songs here but decided that it is probably more fun if you explore them for yourself, should you wish to do so. Another point to note is that Eilen and her regular band have not been slavish to the original and have added whatever interpretation that was felt to be appropriate.

All this as well as her own music with the band, her gospel-influenced recordings with The Sacred Shakers, a young family and a vast touring schedule.

New Music 2017 - Part 31 - Half Deaf Clatch - CrowSoul

As well as starting my consideration of all the new music that I have had the pleasure of finding or otherwise being introduced to in 2017 there is absolutely no shortage of brand new releases that are coming my way.  This is one of them.
A solo acoustic blues artist from the UK that I have seen live a couple of times --- Half Deaf Clatch is the project of Kingston-upon-Hull based Andrew McClatchie. This is stomp-box and (often slide) guitar accompanied music from the Humber "delta" of  East Yorkshire.  This is his latest release and whilst running for over forty minutes it comprises just two tracks. He is possibly a 'Marmite' thing – love or hate but nothing between.
CrowSoul - Half Deaf Clatch (Speak Up Recordings, 12 October 2017).

He is a determinedly independent artist (Speak Up Recordings is his self-run label) and also an extremely prolific one so if you like this style of music you are in luck. CrowSoul is his second full-length release of 2017. The other, which is of songs inspired by consideration of The Great War, is 'Forever Forward' that came hot on the heels of  'Simple Songs for These Complicated Times' (2016) and 'The Life and Death of A.J Rail (2015).

If you are having a Hallowe'en themed occasion in the coming weeks you could use this as part of the soundtrack.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

North Dorset Folk Festival 2017 - a preview

So you thought that the 2017 festival season is over now? Well for the most part it is...
You might still be able to snag a ticket for this, the 6th edition of North Dorset Folk Festival and probably Britain's smallest festival - less than 100 tickets were available at the start of sales - if you get on it quick. The food is to die for too.

TICKETS: here (£29 + £2.61 booking fee)
This is the poster:

I shall be adding details of the artists during this evening and tomorrow. I hope to see you at Marnhull Village Hall in less than three weeks time. I'm super excited for this because, although I am one of perhaps a dozen people other the organisers and crew that have been to all five previous editions of The North Dorset Folk Festival, five of the seven acts are ones that I have never seen live here or anywhere else. In that sense it beats any of the previous five!
The two artists that I have seen playing full sets live before actually have what I think are the two most challenging slots here: Tom Clements opening and Megan Henwood as first support.

Headline artist Lisbee Stainton released her fifth album in the spring of this year so rest assured that she has no shortage of quality material from which to choose for her set. 

Lisbee Stainton - Then Up (Active Distribution, 21 April 2017).

Megan Henwood is not likely to have that problem either and she is a veteran of NDFF. Her third album is due for general release on Friday 27 October. No promises, but it's just possible that you might be able to purchase it person-to-person a few days early. Signed. If you don't ask you don't get.

Megan Henwood - River (27 October 2017).

From Somerset, Kitty Macfarlane and an artist that inexplicably I have managed to avoid seeing live for no obvious reason at all. That is despite the fact that her EP Tide & Time is well known to me and I wrote about it last year!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 30 - India Ramey - Snake Handler

It's been a good weekend for happening upon really fine artists and music of which I was until now quite unaware.
We swap the glitter of California of my previous post for the dismal depiction of a childhood lived far away across the continental US. This next artist grew up in a town with the idyllic name of Rome, Georgia. As it happens neither her early life nor the town itself matched up to the name and this is in large measure a chronicle of that. It is also a fine addition to the canon of what for want of a better (maybe even bitter) moniker is often called alt-country.  I'm more inclined to 'outlaw country' but it is certainly something I would include within Americana.  That however is a discussion for another time.

Snake Handler - India Ramey (Little River Records, 4 August 2017).

This is the track-list:

India Ramey - Snake Handler:
  • Snake Handler
  • Devil's Blood
  • The Baby
  • The Trees
  • Drowned Town
  • Devil's Den
  • Stone's Throw
  • Rome to Paris
  • The Charlatan
  • Saying Goodbye
There is a group of artists that is developing a whole thing around this kind of songwriting and production. The album is produced by Mark Petaccia, who was the sound engineer on Jason Isbell's 2013 album 'Southeastern', and the restrained production ethic that allows artist and music to sound very near to live (because it often is) comes through.
One of the highlights for me so far is the song 'Devil's Den'. As well as being lyrically razor-sharp it allowes me to draw parallels. One is with the artist Angaleena Presley (who I have mentioned before and also seen live) and specifically her song 'Dry County Blues' from 2014 LP 'American Middle Class'. The songs sound quite different but the two-faced detail is much the same - poverty, corruption and addiction all disguised behind a respectable facade as presented to the casual observer.
Another point of reference here, particularly when it comes to songs digging into their writer's past experiences, is obviously Margo Price. Her 2016 début 'Midwestern Farmer's Daughter' was released by Green Man Records but only after a couple of years without being able to find any label wishing to do so on her terms not theirs. This album changed the game, not least here in the UK where she toured it extensively and I saw her live at End Of The Road 2016. She releases her second LP 'All American Made', also through Green Man Records, on 20 October 2017.
Another artist in this category is Kashena Sampson and I mentioned her début album 'Wild Heart' a few weeks ago.
The most important thing here is that there is plenty of room for all these artist to co-exist. This is not a major label hunt for "the one", its rather more a community.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 29 - Calico the Band - Under Blue Skies

I spend a considerable amount of time trying to keep up with new music but, be that as it may, one of the greatest delights is to stumble upon something quite unexpected.
Exactly this happened yesterday evening and just how it came about eludes me now. I was feeling somewhat 1970s-nostalgic. I could have listened to all sorts of things. Stevie Nicks, CSNY and even Simon & Garfunkel came to mind, but for some reason I decided to try to find something new, at least to me, that fitted the required specification. By luck or judgement I happened upon a review of this LP. It sounded promising so I listened and it was just what I needed.

Under Blue Skies - Calico The Band (California Country Records, 15 September 2017).

Of course you can hear their influences beyond those mentioned already:  Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and also their predecessors including The Beatles as well as others less well known.  That is not even to mention a cover of John and Michelle Phillips' co-written California Dreamin'. It is one of those songs, and they are numerous, that is recognized by most but the origin of which is known by few. 
With three female vocalists Calico the Band doesn't really sound like any of them. Nor does it sound anything like bands from Texas with the same format but coming from quite different musical bases. The themes are often similar but the treatment very different.
This means that there is a significant population that will hate it and everything it represents. I accept that to be so, but I am not of that mind.

This is indeed the band's second album. In the spirit of research I thought that I should also investigate their first LP too. Why not?

Rancho California - Calico The Band (2 September 2014, California Country Records).

I like it just as much, so that's a win-win situation.  Another way to describe it that came to mind as if in a dream is to imagine that The Pistol Annies came into a bit of money and headed west in search of the dream.

This is the song 'Runaway Cowgirl' from the album 'Rancho California'.

And this is 'The 405' from the LP 'Under Blue Skies'.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 28 - Top Floor Taivers - A Delicate Game

This has nothing directly to do with the festivals I have been to over this summer. It has a great deal to do with the variety of music that garners my attention. It is also a possible pointer towards my change of direction when it comes to festivals that I'm considering visiting in 2018. I'm almost certain that I have never seen any of the four artists that form the core of Top Floor Taivers live in any of their many and various other guises. This is their first album together as such. Their recorded works as individuals or other bands are a however a different matter and I have listened to them.

A Delicate Game, Top Floor Taivers (TFT Records, 28 February 2017).

Recorded it is a slightly different consideration - as a
 trans-Britain-and-Ireland collective this is quite something. It treats traditional songs with grace and pressure, but also includes versions of modern folk songs such as Richard Thompson's '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'. The best 
comes with some new compositions such as 'Jeanie and the Spider' that rate alongside anything else here.
If you want my opinion then it is that this album is under-rated. The version of the traditional Scottish song 'Johnnie of Braidieslee' is as good as it could be. The origin, and age, of the song is anyone's guess; possibly 17th century in approximately current form but it might have origins older than that and have been updated and reconstructed to suit the times. It really doesn't matter that much.
For the curious, here is the track-list:

Top Floor Taivers - A Delicate Game:

  • Johnnie of Braidieslee
  • Princess Rosanna
  • The False Bride
  • Everybody Knows
  • 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
  • Jeannie and the Spider
  • Campfires
  • Ramblin' Rover
  • 10 Little Men
I  don't think that I could leave you hanging, with nothing to listen to, so here are a couple of tunes that are not on the album.

'Captain Ward' (traditional) and 'The Porterhead Reel' (Gráinne Brady).

Monday, September 11, 2017

End Of The Road and all that...

So why have I written nothing since I returned from End Of The Road 2017 a week ago? Well I've been busy at work for a start, catching up on my sleep too and thinking about all the things I saw that weekend. Assisted by, and whilst working through, all the pictures that I took.
I've also been listening to a whole lot of new, some even forthcoming, music and started thinking about those many great albums already released in 2017; equally those still anticipated. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to intertwine my memories of EOTR 2017 with some of these forthcoming things and, also, a few releases the first nine months of 2017 that I have not mentioned up to now for whatever reason. That this will keep me more than busy is something of an understatement.

Le's start with something from last weekend and an artist that I have wished to see live for some years now.

 Lucinda Williams, Garden stage, Friday 1 September.

This stage is unsurpassed in atmosphere in so many ways so I shall stick with it, and a diet of artists from the US, for this post. Of the four artists here this is the only one that I had seen live before at EOTR 2015 but on the Woods stage then. The picture above was taken after nightfall.

Ryley Walker, Garden stage, Friday lunchtime, 1 September.

When the greatest stage light of all, the sun, is in play the Garden stage is unimpeachable. It was to be so again for much of Saturday.

Courtney Marie Andrews, Garden stage, 2 September.

Opening the same stage at lunchtime the same day was an artist from Oklahoma whose recent albums astound me only slightly more than the lack of appreciation that he garners. Yes there was a fair gathering here, certainly a very appreciative and dedicated one as the songs-sung-back attested. It caught a few others by surprise; some of these songs are devastatingly bleak but curiously hopeful rather than depressing.

John Moreland, Garden stage, 2 September.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dyn Gwrydd :: 2017 :: Green Man - Part 4 - three vital bands on Friday.

I have said that I wouldn't go to a festival that I didn't believe had strength in depth. Green Man and End Of The Road tick that box with abandon. Here are a few more acts that I saw at Green Man and that come highly recommended in my humble opinion.
The first, and one that criminally I have failed to see live twice before, is a world away from the more "serious" music that some might think preoccupies me. From Madrid, with garage-rock attitude and a pop sensibility to match, comes all-female foursome Hinds.

Hinds' Ana Perrote. Far Out stage, 18 August 2017.

This is a move to a different stage and a very different artist. One that I seen live before but never at a festival.

Stevie Parker, Rising stage, 18 August 2017. Her first album 'The Cure' is out now.

Another act known to me but one that I had never seen live was Cobalt Chapel, touring their self-titled LP. Let's face it all three acts here were on my must-see-live wants list and this is yet another reason that festivals such as this work for me.

Cobalt Chapel, Walled Garden stage, 18 August 2017. (Klove Records, 20 January 2017).

Cecilia Fage fronts the show.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Green Man :: 2017 :: Dyn Gwrydd - Part 3 - vox pop

Some people choose festivals based in large measure on the main stage headliners. I have to say that I have never been one of them and on several occasions I have been to multi-day festivals and not seen a single one of said acts. This was not true last weekend and I saw much of Ryan Adams' set and all of PJ Harvey's magnificent closing act on Sunday.
There are no picture of these because I don't want to spend hours, and in the process miss artists on other stages, to be near the front. I'm happy just to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a grandstand view from the back --- something that the topography of the Mountain stage at Green Man means that it is surprisingly easy to do.
While that set was indeed a true highlight of the weekend it was also the culmination of the work of many others. One artist I was delighted to see on the list - the one that prompted me to buy a ticket, some six months back and just before the release of the latest album, was Hurray For The Riff Raff.

When I first saw Alynda Lee Segarra and her band live at End Of The Road 2012 they were almost unknown, almost totally so in the UK. It occurred to me then that were there any fairness in the world then that should not remain true.  
2017 LP 'The Navigator' saw a change of direction, more reflecting her Puerto Rican heritage, and with a largely new band. Following on from 2014 album 'Small Town Heroes' not everyone saw this as a positive development. 
Almost five years on and this was an artist that I was willing to take time and effort to see live at close quarters. Time and circumstance have conspired to make Hurray For The Riff Raff one of the live acts of 2017 --- and one cause of that is a growing sense of injustice about fundamental issues of human rights; in particular the selective application of them.
crowd was already rather larger than I might have suspected. The moment she walked onto the stage on Friday afternoon I knew that I had made the right decision.

She had the audience round her little finger from the get go and both parties knew it. Stood by the barrier between audience and stage while trying to take pictures that made any sense of the circumstances was doubly interesting. Long story short, this was a humanist rally, combined with a concert, spontaneously happening in South Wales.

The greatest achievement is that although done with serious intent it was never preachy or indeed overtly political. It simply didn't need to be.  

We got to hear pretty much all of the album 'The Navigator' and the band does it proud live.

This was for people to enjoy - these folks had paid for tickets after all - and now the vox pop was singing Pa'lante back to her, swearing and all. This was amongst the most remarkable live sets that I have ever had the fortune to see close up.

The undisputed star of the show.