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There’s nothing more reassuring than a packed venue and for Skewwhiff’s album launch party, Worcester’s premier music venue was rammed to the rafters from the off.

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Before the headliners unleashed their recent wares, the assembled masses were treated to Skewwhiff’s handpicked support act of choice 8-piece original skunk rockers (and longtime Rhythm & Booze favourites), The Cracked Actors, a Birmingham band who mix punk ethics with ska and dub grooves to create an infectious groove-laden, attitude fueled sound that makes you want to strut, skank and holler along.

Right from the opening number Writ In Stone, frontman Fudge and his cohorts held the audience in the palm of their hands, choppy punk riffs collide with vigorous horns to  dazzling effect, whilst the rhythm section locked into a tight groove propelling the band forward. From the band’s opening salvo, they continued with the same rich blend with the likes of Puppet On A String, the dub enriched Naked When I Dance and the effervescent, long term favourite Flowers, with each and every track welcomed like a long lost friend by the dancing fraternity.

The Cracked Actors never fail to deliver, the band have a contagious sound that is nigh on impossible to ignore and once again they left me (and by the audience reaction, a great deal many more) wanting more.
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By the time Cracked Actors finished their set the audience were suitably warmed up and primed for the main event, Skewwhiff, took to the stage like conquering heroes, guitarist Mark Hogan cranked up the opening riff and they were off, hurtling through their set of spiky indie new wave anthems led by the sultry tones of lead singer, Hannah Raybould (Beanie).

The crowd responded instantly with a further surge towards the front as the quartet ran unleashed the likes of Gizmo, Ska-Whiff and the hook-laden It girl, whilst Skewwhiff’s rendition of it’s Obvious (originally by the Au Pairs) was delivered with all the attitude and swagger of the original.

Skewwhiff live, much like on CD are all about the hooks, whether that’s an instantly memorable vocal or a fuzzy serrated riff, the band’s set was loaded with hook after hook from start to finish and you can’t really ask for more than that.

When I go to a gig, I want to leave with a smile on my face and exhilarated, with The Cracked Actors and Skewwhiff I felt just that, both bands delivered a “Nice Little Upper” and I look forward to seeing both in the near future.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 9

http://www.skewwhiff.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/crackedActors99/

 

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Roving Crows win Best Live Act in prestigious Spiral Earth Awards 2014

 

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The ‘Roving Crows’ have received the highly coveted title of ‘Best Live Act’ in the Spiral Earth music awards announced on 6th March. Other nominees included Larkin Poe and the Goat Roper Rodeo band. This award has previously been won by the Bad Shepherds (2013), the Lock In (2012), 3 Daft Monkeys (2011).

 

The Gloucestershire based folk-fusion 5 piece can proudly add this highly sort-after prize to the FATEA ‘Band of the Year’ award which they won in January.

 

 

Really individual Celtic Folk Rock group”, Mike Harding, 2012.

 

“Great party music…I love that band”Paul O’Grady, BBC (April 2012)

 

all combine to produce an unforgettable musical confection that’s hard to resist”, Slap Magazine, live review – 2013

 

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The Roving Crows, having lit the touch paper, the spark was never going to extinguish, and now the boosters are kicking in ready to thrust them into orbit. By the time you read this, their tour will have blasted away with a run of dates through the Cheltenham race festival, culminating in Paddy’s night at Gloucester Guildhall. No worry, because there are plenty of opportunities to find them in April, on the 4th at St James C Of E Church, Welland, followedby, Hay, Llangollenand The Artrix, Bromsgrove on the 25th. The tour continues through May, June, and July, warp driving them into the festival season, and inevitably, Lakefest, on August 10th. A brilliant family festival for a brilliant feathered band!Mark your calenders, the crows are circling and about to land, causing a ‘Deliberate Distraction’

 

 

STOP PRESS: For those wishing to get the real flavour of a Crow gig, here is your chance,‘Live Distractions’is now available as a download or, if your quick out of your nest, a limited pressing may still be up to get your claws on. Then just find a gig and have fun.

 

 

Roving Crows at Gloucester Guildhall 15/03

 

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It was definitely a week for the Irish, especially around Gloucestershire. The Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup, won by Irish Jockey, Davy Russell, was the icing on the cake, but not quite, as Roving Crows front man Paul, was only too pleased to announce, Ireland had just won the 6 nations! So here we were, rapidly heading toward St. Patricks Day, where else was there to be, but here with a band firmly rooted, if not residing, in Ireland. Even some of the support acts had that ‘green’ heritage. Both come from Tewkesbury, first up, for a short set, 15 year old Ciara O’Neill, accompanied by Dad, Martin, on guitar, was just about near ‘Perfect’, undoubtedly a name to look for in the future. Future was exactly where we stopped off next, with Future Set, an acoustic 5 piece folk band, inclusive of a double bass and cello, guitars and cajon. Highlight for me in their self penned set was, ‘Executive Song’, some very nice duel guitars feeding into harmonising vocals.

 

What do I say about the remarkable Roving Crows, without doubt this award winning band has a stage presence, an intoxicating mix of folk fusion, heavily influenced by the bands ancestry. Their music is home-grown and very distinctive, did the earth move? well certainly the floor of this grand, guildhall venue did, as the devoted feathered fans moved as one to the music.

 

Past albums were dipped into, but much of the offering was also sourced from their recent release, Deliberate Distractions. A slow burn and the firecracker explodes into ‘White Petticoat’, its impossible to keep still once Caitlin strikes the match. We have ‘Days In The Sun’, and the delightful Nancy Valentine, Greg Wilson-Copp’s teasing trumpet, ever present, breezing in and out. Tim Tollhurst rumbles up a storm in the hauntingly atmospheric ‘Weather’, ably abetted by the bass of Loz Shaw. 2 new songs were aired, ‘On The Road’, which seemed particularly fitting after 5 days continuous gigging, and temporarily titled ‘Spicy Wedge’. Is this a clue to another album in development, we will have to wait and see. Paul is ever present, with his lead vocals, banter and interplay with the band, but he excels himself with the beautiful, spellbinding, lament of ‘One Day’. The Crows, jump, strut, and hop around the stage, its more than just the music, truly entertaining. ‘Long Time dead’, takes us up to the finale, and what else could it be, the only ‘imported’ but very worthy, Charlie Daniels song, ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’, Caitlin excels, the violin strings singing under her spell, superb.

 

I can only urge you, if you have not experienced this band, get out their and find them. You have opportunities in April, the 4th at Welland, 25th at the Artrix, maybe Hay in May, Jinny Ring in June and on into festival season. So no excuses! Visit their website for more dates and details, www.rovingcrows.com

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Words & Photos Graham Munn

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Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)

Rodney Branigan @ The Bedwardine 22/02/13

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Back in December, I was fortunate to have been mesmerized by Rod Branigan’s performance, culminating in his ‘duel guitar flip trick’, how could I not return for his Feb. date.

Once set up, he goes straight into ‘Body Language’, taken from his Sketches album, a very good bit of Americana/blues. A quick breath and an interpretation of Ian Moore’s Muddy Jesus, performed with an 8 string uke across his back, acoustic 6 string to the front and the little conga drum, ready to hand. That sort of hints at what to expect, combinations of ever present guitar, uke, conga, and a tambourine under his foot. Rod is not adversed to reworking good music to mix in with his self penned songs. A bit of rap from Kanye West, Outkast’s, ‘Hey ya’, and a truly outstanding demonstration of ‘slap’ and fingering his acoustic feeding in to Lennon’s ‘Come Together’, simply, superb. Rod stopped for a well earned break, but not before a twin guitar bit of schizophrenic musicianship.

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‘Creep’, borrowed from Radiohead, is the excellent restart to the evening, we are all spellbound, by Rod’s skills, two brains maybe? and a liberal splash of banter and humour. Requests for guitar songs were invited, back came the shout, Black Sabbath, we’re almost launched full on into an acoustic ‘War Pigs’, but alas no, it looked promising, I think he should go for it.

There are the songs taken from Sketches, a mix of reworks and self written music, along with the more blues orientated set from his Nothing Better ToDo, album. Notables from these tracks are Muddy Waters, ‘Champagne and Reefer’, and his own ‘Buckets’, not about bailing out the floods, though ‘Stop The Rain’, written at Glastonbury, probably is. You can feel the rivulets of water running down your neck! An excellent acoustic version of Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’, far less explosive on the ears, was followed by a beer glass slide with tambourine accompaniment of Rod’s take on the Brady Bunch, which compares very favourably with the rather cheesy 1960′s opening theme from the TV series. A truly stunning evening at the Bedwardine, could only be complete with Rod doing his 2 guitar flip trick, as previously demonstrated in December. For those new to a Branigan gig, it is indeed awesome to behold, as ‘Slot Machine’ and ‘Clean Up’, from Sketches, are combined into a phenomenal display of guitar playing.

I can only say again, this man is unmissable, he returns once more on May 21st, for you to get another chance, this time he is bringing along fiddle player extraodinaire Tim Snider. I have already marked my place, I suggest you all mark your calender.

Words And Photos Graham Munn

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Crows Christmas CAWker @ Watson Hall Tewkesbury Dec.21st

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This was the annual gathering of our feathered friends, The Roving Crows, holding their Bacchanalia for the converted. A crowded hall of accolades were introduced to some new musical talents by Paul to open the evening.

First up for a clutch of songs was local 15 year old Caiara O’Neil, accompanied by her dad on guitar, Martin. Opening with Mary Black’s ‘Only A Woman’s Heart’, onto ‘Ceelo Green’s ‘Forget You’, and ending with, appropriately, ‘Perfect’ by Fairground Attraction. Caiara has an extraordinary voice for such tender years, will she be a name of the future?

Paul came back to the microphone to welcome Tewkesbury band Future Set to the stage, a 4 piece band of 2 guitars, double bass and cajon. They moved up the pace from gentle folk to an altogether rockier close with ‘Wild Eyed Ambition’.

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The Crows arrival on stage was loudly greeted as they fired up into ‘President Garfield’s Night Out’. ‘When I Was Young’ and the delightful ‘Nancy Valentine’, set us on course for the glorious reel that is ‘White Petticoat’, Caitlin fiddling all into a dance frenzy for this maelstrom of musical magic. The atmosphere was conjured up by drummer Tim Tolhurst as the storming performance rolled into ‘The Weather’, the wonderfully paganistic views of dark clouds blown aside by the fantastical thrash of ‘Guns’. The Roving Crows, have rightfully, a devoted following, some of whom have gathered for this show in the gracious surroundings of Watson Hall, Tewkesbury. Caitlin, Paul, Greg, Tim and bassist Loz Shaw provide all with a memorable performance.

With Christmas upon us, what finer present could they offer us than The Pogues ‘Fairytale Of New York’, this has to be the finest piece of seasonal populist music created, accepting the sad demise of Kirsty MacColl it could not have been bettered, than here tonight.

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The Roving Crows do not need to stray from there own fantastic library of songs, but following up from their happy go lucky ‘Long Time Dead’ with the lovely sounds blown up by Greg Wilson-Copp on his trumpet is the ‘stolen’ set closure. The fabulous ‘Devil Goes down to Georgia’, is made to measure for this band, and they play it with all the drive and enthusiasm this Charlie Daniels song deserves. This Bacchanalia has been an excellent way of reviving the soul ready for the spirit of Christmas to take over, a warm welcoming experience, that I can look forward to repeating in 2014.

 

Words & Photos By Graham Munn

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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Who would have thought it, a rammed to the rafters Marrs Bar on a Tuesday night all jumping on demand and hollering in unison, it could only mean one thing, the return of local ska legends Spunge!!!

It’s been awhile, far too long in fact (bar an un-announced 15 minute set a year or so ago) since Spunge graced Worcester with their blend of infectious ska pop punk, but to celebrate a newly recorded best of and twenty years in the business they’re back and sounding better than ever, but before I talk about conquering heroes there’s a couple of support acts to mention.

First to take to the floor were local post hardcore/rock n rollers, Fights And Fires, since the last time I caught the band they’ve been busy pounding Europe with their contagious racket and the constant touring really showed, the band delivered a tight and energetic set complete with wandering guitarist and a singer who spent more time in the audience than on stage. The crowd down the front showed their appreciation by bellowing along whilst the band delivered wave after wave of melodic hardcore including a glorious run through set highlight Chase The Blues. The only one criticism I can level at the band was the off microphone shouted introductions, do it once fine, but throughout the whole set, marred an otherwise impressive performance.

If you read my previous appraisal of the debut album by Hey You Guys! or indeed their album launch party gig, you’ll already know I’m something of a fan, well once again  the band delivered a highly engaging, infectious set drawing from the aforementioned album, Gasp! Shock! Horror! and beyond, as the band showcased a couple of brand new tracks. Within seconds of the opening number, frontman Pete careered into the audience as the rest of the band laid down their brash punky foundation, from then on in there was no stopping them as they unleashed their fluid blend of spiky riffs, galloping drums and half spoken/half shouted vocals. Individual highlights are always hard to pick out but once again Difficult Second Album and the 3 Ronnies deserve a special mention.

What can I say about the main event, they delivered a fan favourite set (with a couple of newbies chucked in for good measure) of pogo inducing, fun fuelled, catchier than the common cold, ska influenced pop punk, inciting mass bounce and sing-a-longs. It’s impossible to argue with the likes of Jump On Demand, Ego, Kicking Pigeons, No Woman No Cry and Centrefold, it’s impossible not to be carried away by the groups energy, banter and delivery or the crowds bouyant enthusiasm. Spunge are one of those bands that weld a massive grin on your face right from the opening chord. You don’t go and see Spunge expecting indepth social commentary or mind blowing musicianship, you go expecting to have a good time and that’s exactly what they deliver.

A sweaty audience depart with a smile on their collective faces and a vocal hook or two that takes days to fully exorcise (actually as I write this Kicking Pigeons is still reverberating around my noggin). Let’s hope we don’t have to wait so long for Spunge to return.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 10

 

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

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