New Town Kings are a nine-piece Essex based band that combine ska, reggae and rocksteady to create a potent, infectious sound unites both the traditional Jamaican sounds and a more modern UK twist.

This year New Town Kings have been hard at work, performing live and bringing their sunshine grooves to the likes of Boomtown Fair and the Rebellion Punk Festival winning over new fans with their contagious summer vibes.

Four track affair, Pull Up & Rewind is a stunning showcase of the band’s unique and genre straddling vision from the political and socially aware lead track Change to the laid-back groove-laden Grabbed My Hand, New Town Kings prove their equally adept at addressing the nation as they are winning over the ladies. Change is a rousing, fiery ska infused number fueled by a driving bassline, a flurry of horns and frontman’s Dabs Bonner’s chant like vocal urging us to change, the track could be lifted straight out of the Specials song book. whilst in direct contrast Grabbed My Hand is a wonderful soulful reggae love lament with Bonner’s vocals becoming a Dennis Brown like croon, whilst the band create a delicate background of bubbling bass, uplifting horns and choppy guitars.

Between the lovers lament and the political fire of Change, the band also offer up a glorious sub two and a half minute Luna Rosa, a frantic, vibrant, latin inspired, funky ska number complete with rapid fire verses and hook heavy chorus, whilst Cool The Pressure brings the EP to a close with a lovely mild and mellow slice of rocksteady enriched by a brief yet enthralling saxophone solo, and a suitably easy-going, placid lead vocal asking for calm in a high pressured world.

Pull Up & Rewind is a brilliant and addictive affair from start to finish, bringing some much needed sunshine into our lives over the cold winter months ahead, forget the outside world you can now have the sound of the summer inside your homes all year round!!!

Rhythm & Booze Rating 9

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Your Favorite Enemies maybe something of a new name on this side of the pond but over in their native Canada, the six-piece have managed to hit number 2 on iTunes on the day of release of their previous recording, whilst the band have also shifted 60,000 physical copies of their past releases to date, which is impressive when you think that the band take their musical cues from the likes of Fugazi, Sonic Youth and Mars Volta among others.

The band have already made their first steps in this country with a high profile tour in support of seminal post rock legends ……And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead  taking in Glasgow, Manchester and London during their four date stint.

Listening to this ten track affair you can imagine that Your Favorite Enemies may well found favour with the Trail Of Dead crowd, as they combine lo-fi post hardcore, evocative vocals and dense bouts of feedback to create a gloriously wide reaching racket that should appeal to post rockers and abrasive alternative rock fans alike.

The album opens with a short introduction entitled Satsuki Yami, where the band sharpen their instruments, building up to a howling feedback enriched crescendo before unleashing the first track proper, Empire Of Sorrows, a six minute plus epic that mixes spoken-word lyrics with jarring banks of dense instrumentation, punished drums and waves of guitar abuse to create an unsettling yet compelling introduction to the bands sound.

Following on, the band deliver the stunning A View From Within, with a somewhat serrated and swirling, shoegaze inspired guitar sound that could have been lifted straight from the grooves of Loveless (My Bloody Valentine), whilst Alex Foster’s vocals are more of a refrained hush, adding a welcome, melodic side to the cacophony of sound. Where Did We Lose Each Other is different again, featuring an instantly infectious guitar hook, vocal harmonies and a glorious chorus refrain, as the band impress with a fine slice of shimmering alternative rock.

Under A Stretching Skyline proves to be another highlight, the seven minute track opens with the band creating a storm of driven guitars and crashing drums before Alex delivers a vulnerable touching lead vocal whilst keyboard player Miss Isabel adds barely audible whispers peppering the track to create a softer layer, near hidden beneath the waves of glacial guitar work.

The album finishes with the stunning Muets Aux Temps Des Amours, a brooding melodic number with both male and female spoken word vocals, a delicate crooned lead from Alex and restrained shimmering guitar and keyboard work, completing an intriguing and diverse album on a dreamy high.

Between Illness And Migration may well take it’s cues from the likes of Sonic Youth, Fugazi, My Bloody Valentine and perhaps Shellac, but Your Favorite Enemies have very much mastered their own unique and compelling sound straddling the divide of abrasive post punk and glistening shoegaze, a contagious outing from start to finish.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 9

www.yourfavoriteenemies.com

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Claude Bourbon at The Fleece, Bretforton 30/11

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Claude Bourbon is an enigma, he is a classically trained musician, who fuses every conceivable genre of acoustic guitar music into a master-class of a stage performance. There are Latin, Spanish, Gypsy, Jazz and Delta Blues influences throughout, and often within one seamless stream of perfection. If I had to be critical of any weakness, to an admittedly untrained ear, it is in his vocals, not the fact that they have a distinct Gallic touch, but more that Claude’s soulful voice cannot hope to match his dexterity on his well travelled Gibson acoustic guitar.

He started with a long, distinctly Spanish sound of water babbling over a rocky shallow bed, before opening to lush rolling hills, yes you can hear all this, even me! Somewhere along the way it slipped into ‘If You Go Away’, from Flemish writer Jaques Brel and lyricist Rod McKuen, an appropriately cross channel success.

Next, a nice bit of blues, ‘Did Somebody Make A Fool Of You’, probably many times, but not this evening, it was a good call! Also rather fitting, given the extensive, European and US tour, that is finally nearing its end after 170 gigs, another exceptional song from his repertoire, ‘The Road Is Long’, just a little further, back home to Portsmouth. A softly sung, but dark folk song in ‘Twelve Red Roses’ talks of a return to a lost love, and perhaps lost soul. Back to the blues with a aptly named ‘How to Stretch It’, and for sure, it was stretched and played wonderfully, Claude’s right thumb, plucking out a solid base line on the heavy top string, as his fingers sought out the intricate train of notes below, superb and I would have been happy for it to have carried on beyond this marathon stretch. I did not check my watch, its not the first thing you consider! But, I know by past reports, it can be 15 minutes long, and that’s not ‘stretching’ imagination, no part of the guitar is ignored, even flexing the body to bend those notes. JJ Cale was slipped in with ‘A Drifters Life’, before Claude needed to ease his fingers and take a short break.

What came next I find hard to describe, an almost endless amalgam of different influences, melting into each other as we moved from classical openings, across a whole continent of cultural roots, from the Balearic’s to the Balkans, and then across to the Mississippi Delta, and shoehorned into all that was music that would not have been amiss in the courts of emperors and kings.In all of that, I must give mention to a beautiful rendition of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’, there are of course, many interpretations out there, but this is up with there with the best. Its not easy to begin to describe the breadth or mastery of the music you will hear if fortunate to catch one of Claude’s gigs, he sort of finished ‘Sitting On A Cliff’, but of course its not that simple, its a sort of sensory experience, those of you who have seen him will know. Do look out for a return, you will be richer for the experience.

Words & Photos Graham Munn

 

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Sons Of The Delta at Prince Of Wales Ledbury 23/11

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Back at my Sunday haunt, The Sons Of The Delta appeared in duo form, Mark Cole, powerful vocalist, harp player, and sometime guitarist! and Rick Edwards, guitarist and sometime vocalist. Their music is an eclectic selection of blues, finely crafted classics, sit alongside original music. There is also the odd dip into related genre, bluegrass, and Americana.

Here on a Sunday evening, the blues is coming over strongly, Mark is in fine voice, ‘Key To The Highway’, starts us rolling. Not too far down the road, we slide nicely into a bit of Booker White, with prison song, ‘When Can I Change My Clothes’, obviously not recorded in Booker’s teenage years! We are not going to progress much further without a bit of a nod to the great Howling Wolf, the boys delivered an excellent ‘Smokestack Lightning’. Both pick up a slide, to use with some old ‘mail order’ guitars, earning their keep, a lovely old Teiso in the hands of Mark, with Rick selecting an even more nondescript, but tuneful hollow bodied guitar.

A Jimmy Rogers inspired song suggests of drinking muddy water, but wisely I stuck to the ale, before an unusual bit of gospelling. Written by Tom Waites, and given air more recently by Beth Hart, Mark tucked into a ‘Chocolate Jesus’, interspersed with some nice harp touches and a bit more slide from Rick. Superb, its a wonderfully quirky song, again presented very much in their own style.

Another unusual choice from the Chuck Berry song book, ’13 Questions’, not sure about the answers, because it led to a folk song and turn toward Americana before switching back into blues mode. Tampa Red this time, and ‘It Hurts Me Too’. I thought we were going for a Pink Panther riff, but those opening bars took us into one of their own songs, ‘Its Me’. A quick bit of jump jive blues, ‘Skin ‘n Bone’, was squeezed in before more Americana, with Mark taking to his sweet sounding mandolin, and Rick picking up his acoustic Martin guitar. All climbed aboard for a harp simulated train ride, is their any instrument more suited to that sound? I doubt it. While back in first carriage, Curtis Mayfield implored all us ‘People Get Ready’, there was more to come. This pub is a music lovers haunt, and the gathered crowd was not going to let these boys leave easily, a few more songs were extracted before they could desert their seats.

From their first CD, ‘I’m Going Out’, seemed the only suitable way for the Sons Of The Delta to be allowed to leave. An excellent evening of entertainment, rumour has it, the full band will return in the near future, I will be their for that.

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Matt Schofield at Huntingdon Hall, Worcester 26/11

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Matt Schofield comes to stage with an impressive pedigree, the first guitarist to be invited to the British Blues Hall Of Fame, following awards in 2010,2011 and 2012. He stands up their with all the greats of blues, Hendrix and Vaughan come to mind, Matt stands firmly in the echelon of today’s guitarists like Robert Cray and Robben Ford.

His demeanour on stage is relaxed, appearing with just bass and drums, ably executed by Carl Stanbridge, who brings a little funk to the evening, and Jamie Little, a Birmingham based session drummer, favoured by many visiting Blues men. Relaxed Matt may have been, but he was also suffering a little from the cool air of the venue, fast moving fingers, do not respond well to cooler atmospheres, with his Fender’s also needing occasional tweaks to keep them on tune.

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Straight into his Far As I Can See tour album, Matt brought us in ‘from Far Away’, his honey toned guitar registering its intent alongside Matt’s vocals. Long passages of exemplary guitar solo’s, with the underlying bass and sympathetic drums, mapped out the way the evening would run. We were being invited to watch and listen to a master-class of electric blues, Matt’s Stratocaster was doing the talking, the crying and lamenting. His fingers working every millimetre of the strings from headstock down to bridge, nothing is left unexplored.

An absolutely superb rendition of ‘The Day You Left’, a lovely slow burning blues, soulful lyrics,with a great platform being provided by Carl and Jamie. OK, I am biased, but this track really stands out for me on the new album, live, it exceeds every expectation, perhaps only lacking the touches of Jonny Henderson’s piano. A funky, ‘Sifting through The Ashes’ took us back to Matt’s 2007 album, before we took a break, and a chance for all to warm up a little!

Back on stage, Matt has dipped into his last album, and worked his way through to ‘Where Do I Stand’. Stripping the song back to nuts and bolts, to the slow throb of base and pulse of the drum, reassembling and restructuring the complex sound and rhythm. The build up continues and plays out extensively, in times of old, it would taken up the side of an LP, absolutely engaging. Matt changed direction for a brief excursion to Elmore James for a great take on ‘Stranger Blues’.

Those bass and drums start up the funky rhythm, with distinctly latin, Carlos Santana overtones, ‘Dreaming’, turned to a full on jam between the three musicians, closing an evening of rare quality with ‘Oakville Shuffle’.

A bubbly happy go lucky instrumental, played with considerable style.

Words and photos Graham Munn

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