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Neil Ivison Live @ The Gardeners Arms, Droitwich 12/3/15


The Gardeners Arms is fast becoming the place to be over in Droitwich, with regular nights of musical merriment being the order of the day. In recent months we’ve seen the likes of Hattie Briggs, Sunjay and Melvin Hancox and continuing the rich pickings, tonight’s entertainment was provided by Neil Ivison (of the Misers).

The pub was moderately populated, but those that did attend were treated to an infectious set lifted from across the hallowed songbooks of rock n roll and beyond, as Neil delivered a set littered with timeless classics, requests and a handful of originals thrown in for good measure.

From the opening rendition of Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down, the sheer enjoyment of just performing was etched on Neil’s face, his gravelly vocals rang out, as he fingered the chords masterfully. The first request came in and Ring Of Fire by Johnny Cash was expertly despatched, Neil’s vocals mirroring those of the country legend perfectly, whilst the patrons around the bar mouthed along contently.

Neil’s set continued with takes on U2 (Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With or Without You), The Beatles (Ticket To Ride), The Boss (Dancing In The Dark), The Eagles and beyond.

As the set continued I found myself humming along to near enough each and every song, a passionate take on Heard it Through The Grapevine and a mass sing-a-long to Don’t Look Back In Anger provided early second set highlights. Before the audience requested a few originals, Bantam Weight, Get Up For Love and a fantastic stripped down (and personal favourite) Lord, Shuffle My Feet were delivered, each of the songs sitting comfortably alongside the well known covers and appreciated in equal measure, proving Neil’s songwriting and delivery credentials.

Neil finished up his second set with a slice of Queen, leaving the audience with a collective grin on their faces and a song in their hearts, having seen a performer at very much the top of his game, whether playing his own or other folks material.

The numerous occasions I’ve seen Neil (and the Misers) I’ve never failed to enjoy the night, if you want a fantastic, fun night out and a good old sing-a-long, I highly recommend catching Mr Ivison, when he hits your local.

Video And Photo Taken @ Prince Of Wales in Ledbury by Graham Munn

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Since Worcester’s finest music venue opened all those years back, I’ve witnessed countless bands and numerous singer-songwriters pass through the hallowed doors, from the good, the bad and the ugly, there have been packed out gigs and there’s been the woefully unattended, the forgettable and the never forgot, the Marrs Bar has seen it all (and so have I).

On an unassuming Sunday evening The Marrs Bar welcomed a young singer-songwriter for the first time by the name of Ethan Ash and in front of an audience of around about twelve people (don’t get me started about the apathy of the so-called Worcester gig-goer) he proceeded to deliver what has to go down in history as one of the most impressive debuts (if not gigs) at the venue since the grand opening.

From the opening number, Would You Mind, Ethan, with just his guitar for company, grabbed the attention of the few in attendance and bewitched them with his stunning, mesmeric voice, his instantly likable stage mannerisms and those all important hook-laden songs. Tales of love and loss were delivered with such emotion, such passion that every note hit by Ethan yanked at the heart strings, it was almost difficult to comprehend how a guy, short in stature could reach such impressive heights, his voice swooped and soared whilst his guitar (both acoustic and electric) rang out.

On the sole cover, As Long As I can See The Light (originally Creedence Clearwater Revival) you could almost imagine a gospel choir joining in as Ethan made the song his own with a stunning soul makeover, whilst originals such as Seems Like Love Has Died, Face To Face and Boy Like Me all equally impressed, whilst the encore of Chasing Your Love has hit written all over, with it’s compelling folky melody and infectious vocal hook.

Sure there may not have been many people in attendance, but there wasn’t a single person in the building not moved by Ethan’s jaw-dropping set, soul has a new name and that name is Ethan Ash.

Before I run off into the sunset proclaiming Ethan as the new messiah, I must also mention Alex Rainsford, who offered support on the night, he delivered an interesting set that combined an indie sensibility to the standard singer-songwriter fare, time changes and anthemic vocals, creating stirring anthemic like songs such as Better Man and brand new track Left Behind, both standouts of an impressive slot, proving Alex to be a more than capable writing and performer, who’s well worth keeping an eye out for in the future.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 1o


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Doc Bowling & His Blues Professors/Sunjay/Final Measure Live @ St Georges Hall, Bewdley


Bewdley, quaint but hardly renowned as a musical mecca, sure a few pubs put on regular music nights, but it’s not high on the list of places to play, but all that could be about to change, if the years first music at the hall gig is anything to judge by, a packed out venue of music fans of all ages just waiting to be entertained.

The hall itself ticked all the right boxes, decent stage, lighting and sound, well organised and just about the right size to have a dance and still feel intimate for those who wanted to remain seated.

By the time local band, Final Measure took to the stage the hall was already full of expectant music lovers and the young four-piece were not to disappoint. The four piece (expanded to six with guest singer and saxophonist) paid tribute to 60’s British Blues with a set littered with John Mayall covers and for a band of such tender years, it was remarkable how well they paid homage. As a four-piece the band performed muscular instrumentals before singer, Roxxi joined for a sterling rendition of Feeling Good (Nina Simone), the rest of  the band’s set was lapped up gleefully by the assembled masses and they left to rapturous applause.

Tonight’s blues performance was all about showcasing the various variations of the blues and the evenings second performer, Sunjay did just that, armed with just an acoustic guitar for company, his set moved from acoustic blues to folk and everything inbetween. Over the past year or so the likes of Radio Two (Sunjay was nominated for the young folk musician of the year award) and R2 Magazine have been clambering to sing Sunjay’s praises and with the likes of the stunning bluesy set opener, I Love You Like A Man it easy to see why this young musician is held in such high regard. During Sunjay’s set he regaled us with tall tales and a set of stripped down perfection, whether performing originals such as London Road or impassioned covers such as the brilliant encore rendition of Bo Diddley’s Who Do You Love?. If you have even a passing interest in roots, folk or blues, I highly recommend catching Sunjay somewhere down the road, you won’t be disappointed.


Tonight Doc Bowling & His Blues Professors were launching their new album Black Country Boy (reviewed elsewhere) and after watching the band I can only go to imagine how many of the audience left with the disc in their grubby mitts. The ever expandable band played their socks off and the audience soaked up the group’s infectious energy and responded in kind. From the opening number Let The Good Tines Roll, the gravelly voiced Doc grabbed the crowd in the palm of his hand, half way through the first number and the first dancers hit the floor, by the time the band ran through Shake Your Money Maker (Elmore James) the floor became a mass of jutting bodies.


As Doc Bowling & The Blues Professors continued their set they moved from hard hitting blues complete with wailing harmonica to the fiddle led country blues of Look Into My Heart, from gravelly holler to heartfelt croon the versatile band effortlessly moved through the gears. A mesmeric run through blues standard St James Infirmary Blues saw violin, harmonica, saxophone and guitar flurries lifting the often performed blues staple to a new level, whilst Way Down In A Hole (Tom Waits theme music to The Wire) suited the good Doc’s vocals down to the ground.


The band played into the night and still people shook and whooped in delight, until the very last chord. Bewdley had never witnessed anything like Doc Bowling & The Blues Professors before.

As an opening night of what promises to be a monthly regular music night at St George’s Hall, the organisers have set their standards at an incredibly high standard, it’ll be fun to see where they go from here.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 9



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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

A wise man once said “there are only two types of music good or bad” and I guess my wide ranging music collection echoes that ethos, spreading over genres and time encompassing everything from the blackest metal to traditional folk via hip-hop, jazz, world and beyond, but in recent times I find myself turning to the more stripped down roots end of the musical spectrum, fueled by a desire to hear a story rendered in it’s purest musical form.

With this in mind The Carrivick Sisters were always going to be right up my alley, an acoustic duo that weave compelling and majestic tales with a handful of stringed instruments (guitar, banjo, fiddle) and bewitching vocal harmonies, straddling between folk and country whilst occasionally dipping into a bluegrass direction, to bring their stories alive.

Although Huntington Hall was only half full, those that were in attendance were captivated right from the opening, jaw-dropping acappella number, to the very last wrung note, the unique bond between the two was evident from the off, with both their vocals entwining beautifully whilst their deft sawing, picking and plucking complimenting each tale wonderfully.

Highlights came thick and fast with the likes of the stunning harmony drenched Over The Edge proving to be an early highlight along with the likes of originals such as Garden Girl, and Bird, whilst the duo showcased their influences on spirited renditions of the traditional roots ballad Darlin’ Corey, Sweet Baby James, (James Taylor) and Gillian Welch’s Americana tinged Dear Someone among others.

The audience were suitably engaged throughout with not only the sisters set but also the evocative back stories to each song and the sisterly banter about among other things banjo competitions and tea, giving the gig a warm intimacy fail to deliver. Understandably, not wanting the night of rootsy goodness to end we all beckoned the sisters back for one last song before heading into the night, leaving us with a collective song in our hearts and a hope that The Carrivick Sisters return our way soon.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 9

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Jo Harman @ The Artrix 06/02

Support Tom Gee


Jo Harman has been on my ‘must see’ list for a while, voted Best Female Vocalist and runner up for the song writing award in the 2014 British Blues Awards, she is definitely a star in the ascendancy.

But first a few words about her support, Tom Gee, who was in acoustic mode, leaving behind the 7 musicians, that make up the Tom Gee Band. His only accompaniment was his 6 string, and a dry Yorkshire wit, the rapport with the audience, was measurable, and the response warm. ‘Dead In The Morning’, is more about clearing the fog of sleep than a TV vampire diary. Well written and well performed, it features on the full bands album Swapping Stories, a bit of soul with a splash of funk. A bit more banter and a song pointing to past girlfriends, ‘Listen To Yourself’, the genre of the full band is funked up Northern Soul meets contemporary blues, without the brass and percussion, the songs become much more personal. Tom has serious writing credibility, the band perform in festivals across the country, Cheltenham Jazz to Hebden Bridge Blues. Closing the set, again from the album, ‘Thinking About You’, needs no explanation, suffice to say, from interval chatter, Tom’s set was well liked, one commented to say if this had been a stand alone gig, it would have been well worth the ticket purchase.

Now Jo has been ‘claimed’ by the Blues fraternity, and can be found appearing in Blues sessions and festivals everywhere, but, she really sits in that orbiting moon that broke away and produced the great divas of Soul. We are talking from the Jazz and Blues roots of the likes of Billy Holliday through to Nina Simone, along with all the wonderful female singers that emerged throughout the 50’s and early 60’s. Fundamentally Jo has a stunning voice, rich and dark like a Yucatan honey that’s been lightly ‘smoked’, and as if that is not enough, she has also been recognised for her writing talents. Jo opened with a gospel laden soul classic ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’, people have been recording this from way back in Charley Patton’s day, changed to ‘we’ for the civil rights movement, Jo presented it superbly. The tempo was switched up for ‘Heartstring’, sharp edged percussion, gives way to some funky, jazz orientated keys from Steve Watts. Those keys keep Jo solo company for a gentle soulful ‘This Is My Amnesty’, then on to an exceptional ‘Aint No Love In The Heart Of The City, simply memorable.


A full on hard rock edged, ‘Through The Night’, driven along by the drums of Martin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Jo’s hair fanned over her head as she lost herself to the rhythm. Another of Jo’s songs followed closely behind, ‘Cold Heart’, borrows some lyrics from bygone classics, but the whole is distinctly Jo’s work, slow and heartfelt, lovely. A complete change of direction as the massively popular Pharrell Williams, ‘Happy’, lifted the auditorium, though we were all happy where Jo had taken us, it was a bit of fun and the band obviously enjoyed themselves. Its time for the guitars to be put to work, Dave Ital has his moment to demonstrate his skills, ably supported by some solid funky bass from stand in Yolanda Charles (she has played alongside the likes of Adele, Jagger and Weller, quite an accolade) for ‘Underneath The River’. This is rock blues, a song from Jo’s pen, that allows her to give full range to her voice, and that range is indeed wide, the keyboard kicks in then the guitars take full control. Brilliant.

We are not quite finished yet,

A truly beautiful ‘prayer’ is about to be heard, Jo wrote this in memory of her father, she sings it with all her heart and soul, it would not feel out of place in any house of God.

How do you follow such a song, the show has to close, Jo dips into the classic soul bag, and pulls out, ‘I can’t Stand The Rain’, I can honestly say, I have never heard better, performed live, an absolutely fabulous close to an evening in the company of an exceptional artist.


Words & Photos Graham Munn

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