Wille And The Bandits at The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham Nov.21st
inc. Album review ‘Grow’
Grow, is the latest release form Wille & Co. It follows the bands philosophy of lyrics reflecting life today, our loves, failures, politics, mankind and self respect. But, as they say, its the way they tell ‘em. My first listen through, left me with thinking ‘Got To Do better’ had a slightly commercialised feel to it, before ‘Gypsy Woman’ kicks in, with the dangers of forbidden love. Then, into another gear for a full on Wille special, ‘Try To Be Yourself’, gritty edged vocals pour over the galvanising instrumentation. ‘Under The Sun’ starts slowly with heartfelt lyrics, before Wille’s slide guitar takes it to another level as the voice fades away.
Unmistakable bass and percussion are provided by the mesmerizing 6 strings of Matt Brooks and spellbinding rhythms from Andy Naumanns. Wille Edwards, steel lap slide guitar worked to fabulous effect.
That slide, strongly evident in the weeping solo breaking into the mid part of ‘Why D’you Do It’ and ‘Son Of The Gun’, bracketed by dirty guitar and that gravel voice of Wille’s. ‘Keep Moving On’ opens with Matt’s double bass accenting the track, following on with his bow sawing through those heavy strings in the opening bars of ‘Forgiveness’, wonderful, I can see Matt eyes closed, lost in his dark rhythmic jungle. Wille opens ‘Angel’ with ‘Spanish’ flare before that heavy base and drum beat punches in, a superb instrumental that goes stratospheric 2 minutes in, soaring guitar, percussive outbreaks and that sticky thick base, before anchoring back into a beautiful groove and that slide into heaven, 10+ minutes of heaven.
I don’t know of another band quite like W&TB, they produce stunning sounds, favourites of the blues and roots festival circuit and now at gig’s playing previous signature songs like the lovely ‘Mammon’, alongside this new work. I’m still not fully sold on the opening, ‘Got To Do Better’, but they certainly do, the album is a superb collection of music, turn the sound up, the light down, lie on the floor and let it flow over.
Wille And The Bandits, produce a unique sound, mesmerizing, all pervading throughout the room and into everybody’s very soul. They have an enviable list of songs from multiple albums to select from, at the Hare & Hounds, Breakfree and the new Grow, provided most of the material. ‘Got To Do Better’, my least favourite of the new album, proved much better in its raw performance mode. We were treated to the bands take on Peter Green’s ‘Black Magic Woman’, Santana would weep with frustration if he heard WATB’s reworking, superb. It could only get better as we listen to the beautiful ”Mammon’ from Breakfree, gently delivered by Wille. ‘Chillout’ opens with Andy’s tongue drum, as Wille’s vocals sandpaper the mike, his slide is working its magic. Andy sits at the rear watching Matt and Wille like a hawk, controlling the tempo, as Matt uses his 6 string base in ways that would embarrass many a lead guitarist. ‘Under The Grove’ starts with a nice acoustic opening from Wille, Matt comes in taking bow to the skeletal double bass, as Andy caresses the cymbals and drums with ‘soft’ sticks. The blues charting ‘Gypsy Woman’ and rattling ‘Son Of The Gun’ fire, off Grow. The whole room is full of moving, musically intoxicated believers, as we build up to a full 10+ minutes of the fabulous ‘Angel’, which showcases all of there artistry, wonderful bass rhythms, stunning drums and the hypnotic sounds conjured up by the Wille on his lap guitar, unforgettable. BUT there’s more, they close to a version of Dire Straits, ‘Money For Nothing’, words fail me, I’ve heard it before, but I am still in awe of the sound from this band of sorcerers. Look out for them, they are festival favourites, with blues and roots particularly, once heard never forgotten; a word I hate but cannot avoid, awesome.
Supporting Wille And The Bandids at the Hare & Hounds, was local folksinger Chris Cleverley. With some self penned work and traditional songs, like, ‘Oh Shenandoaha’, and an acapella ‘Polly Vaughan’, very nicely done. I particularly liked his tale of the boy doomed forever to live in a church bell tower ‘The rafters’. A fine voice and acoustic guitar are his hallmark, I’m sure I will see more of Chris in the future.
Words & Photos by Graham Munn
Eric Bibb, Jericho Road Album And Tour
Robin 2 Oct. 24th
Eric Bibb is a world class blues roots musician and writer that is currently releasing his new album Jericho road. The album is drawn from his years of travelling, and experiencing different countries and cultures, reflected on man’s inhumanity to man.
The tracks ‘Drinkin Gourd’ opens the album, a gentle acoustic opening followed by ‘Freedom Train’, with its South African undercurrent and the rhythm of the railtrack carrying it forward. ‘Let The Mothers Step Up’, ups the pace with a funky style of modern blues, that reflects on the conflicts and the men and money behind them.
The album preaches of rights and wrongs and for us all to have a little more mercy and compassion in our soul. There are inspiration taken from gospels, jazz,soul, blues and folk roots, we are talking world music in every sense. Eric implores us to do ‘The Right Thing’, but for the grace of it could be any of us on the wrong side of the track, born perhaps into poverty or repression.
This is a finely crafted album, Eric has some excellent collaborators in Glen Scott, who appears on many tracks and producer Phillippe Langlois. I confess to having to played this a second time before starting to loose myself in the intricacies of the sounds. I particularly like the horns coming through on ‘The Lords Work’ and a good solid blues found in ‘With My Maker I Am One’. I suppose it mirrors my love of good blues that I am definitely at one with this fine song. The album as a whole may not jump straight into your play list, but it will grow, its gentle, varied rhythms easing into your subconscious, along with the feeling and messages carried in the meaningful lyrics. The world could be a better place if we all paid heed. My only personal reservation, is that tucked on the end of this CD are 2 ‘bonus’ tracks, which I do not feel add to the album as a whole.
Jericho Road is a journey, one which Eric is going to travel down again at The Robin, I will join him for that evenings trip.
Eric Bibb at Robin 2
First I will pay tribute to a short but very nice opening support from Michael Jerome Browne, a Canadian, award winning, folk and roots singer, who happens to be playing in Eric’s band on this tour. Some very good acoustic guitar and slide in the blues song ‘At It Again’, followed by a bit more blues and a dash of mountain folk, a very good start to the evening at Robin 2.
Having just reviewed Eric’s new album Jericho Road, I was keen to see him live for the first time. Also the first time I have seen The Robin seated!
Eric is a major artist in roots blues and world music, he has an arabica voice, just like the coffee, warm and rich yet still mellow. I had expected this tour to highlight the new album, but that only gets dipped into occasionally. Soft easy listening opening songs, fed into some excellent blues in ‘Turner Station’, followed shortly after by one from Jericho Road, ‘Drinking Gourd’, which is the beautifully crafted opening track from the CD. There were songs with African roots, such as ‘Bamako’ and plenty of old gospels and hymns, with strong links to South American slavery. ‘Connected’ was for me another that stood out, an old Scottish Hymn, taken to the deep American South and reworked into gospel blues. Opening with some superb ‘soft’ but lingering percussion from Paul Robinson on drums, it was very atmospheric.
Eric became our preacher again for ‘Needed Time’, the whole room joining in for a second run of the chorus lines. That really sums up the evening well, Eric and his band, had that connection with the 250+ (guess) who were gathered there as his disciples, close and intimate; as if, sat, chatting and singing in his own living room. He finished his set rising to his feet, and losing himself in ‘Angels’, memorable.
No one was going to let him slip away that easily, he returned for a nice bit of solo blues with ‘Going Down Slow’, the band joining in with a few more songs from Eric’s book. The band were, Michael Jerome Browne, acoustic guitar and slide, Neville Malcolm, bass various, the lovely soft drums of Paul Robinson, and keyboard, and multiple instruments, Glen Scot.
I left with no ringing ears, no shell shock, not even an air of excitement, just a nice warm glow, an absolute pleasure to have been there. The Tour continues.
Beth Rowley @ Birmingham Institute
What I should say is Laura Mvula, supported by Beth Rowley, but Beth was the one that had drawn me here, more of Laura later.
Beth Rowley released ‘Little Dreamer’ back in 2007, an album that was very well received and had considerable play time on the major radio channels, being on BBC 2 play-list for an extensive time. I was lucky to see her several times in her inaugural performances, a slightly nervous but bubbly young artist with a shock of blonde, tightly curled hair, and a beautiful voice. She sang a fusion of blues, soul and jazz songs some self penned, some influenced by the likes of Nina Simone and Billy Holiday
She toyed with a harmonica, but it was mostly about a superlative vocal quality she possessed. Then nothing; Beth all but disappeared, I found it hard to believe there was not more to come. Occasional web searches showed odd appearances around London, last year Bristol at Colston Hall, and Bristol, her home town, again earlier this summer. Out of the blue a mailshot with the pre-release of an EP, and dates for shows.
So here I was, to hear from Beth again, it just happened to be Mvula’s home coming to Birmingham as well.
She opened with one of my all time favourites, and fortunately hers, Blind Willy Nelson’s ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, superb soulful blues. Beth followed with her own material. ‘Wretched Body’, opens with a staggering heavy reverb on guitar overlaid with self deprecating, deep lyrics. Undeniably,Beth still sings as beautifully as ever. Deliciously dark, moody lyrics come with ‘Princess’.
These are taken from an EP, ‘Wretched Body’ which is a part of a possible forthcoming album. All the tracks seem to point to inner battles, its not uplifting in style, BUT for all its deep and soul searching style, I like its spartan presentation, allowing Beth’s vocals to come through strongly; I await the next offering with anticipation. I briefly spoke to Beth off stage, she had taken time out, not enjoying the conveyor ride she had stepped on to, and perhaps the expectations of a demanding media. She has always sung and has continued to do so in a much smaller way, and seemed comfortable with her support roll this evening. I think Beth is wonderfully suited to small venues and clubs, she has a fabulous voice, well worth listening out for.
Mvula, I confess to knowing nothing of this daughter of Birmingham, but had heard some of her music on the airwaves, without realising it. She has been Mercury and Mobo nominated, and certainly, given the crowd here at the Institute, seems to have a big following. On stage are harp, violin, cello and double bass, along with drums and her keyboards. She is certainly a striking woman, with a voice that sits between Amy Winehouse and Adele, with dress perhaps influenced by Erykah Badu. The songs are soul with electro and string vibes, the stage production and sound are excellent. Also, what I tend to measure an artist by, is an appreciation of the audience, an obvious and comfortable rapport was established by Laura, back from her US tour. She can easily relate to the differences either side of the Atlantic, in lifestyle and our common language, English, but not the same. ‘Green Garden’, opens with the tinkling sound of rain on the Xylophone? Its vocal harmonies flick over Laura’s vocals as the beat picks up, very enjoyable. ‘She’ is more stripped back soul, still with strong waves of backing harmonies, strings picking up as the song warms up. ‘Thats Aright’ a drum driven infectious rhythm, contrasts with the simple soulful ‘Diamonds’. ‘Is There Anybody Out There’ (not Pink Floyd) that breaks out in to Marley’s ‘One Love’, started out distinctly soulful, and kicked into the familiar reggae favourite. Altogether an interesting, enjoyable set, performed in style, a bonus for my visit.
A last note, the whole evening was set in motion by Peter and Kerry, a young pair of musicians from the South East, combine to produce songs that appear to sit between Pet Shop Boys lite, Portishead at rest, with perhaps elements of Lilly Allen in the lyrics. An interesting sound, maybe one to watch out for.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 9
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Chantel Mcgregor @ Gloucester Guildhall
Multiple award winning guitarist and vocalist, Chantel walks on stage, and establishes her Northern credentials and humour with the room full of rock and blues fans alike. The rapport with the audience stayed throughout the evening. She is very fond of chicken based curries and the like, probably having a chicken chart rating running on through her travels.
Apart from being an outstanding rock blues guitarist in the mould of a female Bonamassa, she has a fine voice, which shines through in her solo acoustic session as drummer Keith and bassist Richie take they’re break.
Outstanding was Ian Anderson’s ‘New Day Yesterday’, also reprieved by the said Joe as title to his first album. ‘Slow Gin’ followed with Chantel’s vocals coming through strongly before breaking into a bit of guitar hedonism.
Keith’s phenomenal drum bashing and Richie’s big bass are certainly fine foils for Chantel’s lead along with her humour, but I find her solo’s really showcase her ability as an artist. Stevie Nicks Rhianon, and a reset Bruno Mars ‘Grenade’ are superb. After a short debate with the audience, she launched into her recent ‘find’, Tory Amos’s ‘Cornflake Girl’. An odd, quirky, mad little song, excellent!
Self penned ‘Fabulous’, ‘Freefalling’, and the lovely ‘Screams Everlasting’, with vocal intro breaking into fabulous guitar riffs, give testament to Chantel’s artistry as a songwriter. She is a growing talent, not to be missed, and thankfully is a fairly regular visitor to the Midlands, maybe its the chicken biriani. She has played Robin 2, Gloucester and Bromsgrove Artrix, which is due for a return early next year, I look forward to it. If you like your guitar rock, try Chantel’s album ‘Like No Other’, its a mix of covers and self written songs, well worth reviewing.
Photos & Words Graham Munn
Babajack Album Launch
‘Running Man’ launched from the blocks tonight at the lovely Grove in Malvern. Home to Julia Parker-Price, who plays cello on the album. Assembled in the auditorium were many invited guests, most of whom had pledged the support required to make this new release come to fruition.
The full band of Becky, Trevor, Tosh on drums, Adam on bass and Julia, gave the album its first, full, live performance to the gathered followers.
Notable pledges were acknowledged as the evening proceeded, with the help of some fine refreshments sourced from suppliers, who had also given support.
Though a partisan audience, the band, as ever, gave everything, a scintillating show from the bare, soulful, ‘Hammer and Tongs’, and ‘I’m Done’, through to the full on ‘Rock n’ Roll Star’ and ‘Some People’. The only additions were from previous album Rooster, appropriately,‘The Moneys All Gone’, ‘Gallows Pole’, along with the frenetic show closer, ‘Black Betty’. All in a wonderful evening, delivered in appreciation of the bands many adherents.
Sept. 24th sees the first ‘open house’ show at the iconic 100 Club in Oxford St. followed by Redditch palace Theatre on the 27th.
Words and Photos Graham Munn
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