Stuart Woolfenden in a sixteen year old singer-songwriter hailing from Redditch, who to date has played in and around Worcestershire, taking in a number of venues, whilst honing his sound.
Are You Vulnerable Or Just Insane? is Stuart’s debut EP, a four track affair that combines a love of rock, indie, pop and beyond forming an instantly likable and at times unique sound that belies Stuart’s tender years, he also showcases an impressive ability to craft a catchy melody and an infectious chorus or two.
The EP open’s with The Union Jack, a short yet memorable tune, that should find favour with both fans of edgy pop and breezy rock. The song opens with a crunchy stomping riff, before the vocals join the mix with Stuart delivering a bright melodic croon, whilst the chorus up the ante further with some tasty harmonies and an instantly addictive chorus, as Stuart delivers the perfect introduction to his brand of power-pop.
Both Latex, Glitter & Flesh and Blood On Your Hands both straddle that rock/pop divide effortlessly, with each track featuring the obligatory hook-laden chorus, the former is a more melodic affair, with Stuart weaving acoustic strums into an already potent mix, whilst Blood On Your Hands is a more bombastic affair with its use of pounding drums and buzzing riffs, each of the two tracks have their individual charm, whilst both contain that all important allure that urges repeat spins.
No-One Ever Has Ambition Anymore is somewhat aptly named as Stuart pulls out all the stops with a stunning take on near chamber pop, beginning with a solo piano and an aching vocal combination before developing into a sweeping, majestic number complete with strings and chiming guitars, whilst Stuart’s lyrics are both stirring and compelling proving himself to already be a writer of depth and passion on his first tender steps in the world of music.
This EP genuinely took me by surprise, its well crafted, it shows ambition and Stuart already knows how to pen a memorable hook, this is a seriously impressive debut from start to finish.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 9
Andy Fairweather Low has done it all in music, a guitarist (and frontman with Amen Corner) with a CV that includes stints with the likes of Eric Clapton, Roger Waters and Bill Wyman, sessions with everyone from Dylan to The Bee Gees via BB King and Kate Bush to name but a handful, as well the sessions and countless tours with a who’s who of rock royalty Andy also finds time to regularly perform and record with his own band The Lowriders, so just how he’s still managed to remain under the radar of most music fans is one of the modern mysteries of the world.
Zone-O-Tone is Andy and the aforementioned Lowriders latest album and once again showcases Andy’s varied musical loves from upbeat rock n roll to slow jazz and 50’s styled crooners. The album is a varied affair but the quality never once dips with Andy and his band on top form throughout despite their advanced years.
The album opens with the wonderfully spirited Dance On, a glorious slice of infectious rock n roll complete with an instantly memorable riff and a spritely vocal delivery as the extended band kick up a storm propelling the number onwards. From there the band deliver a couple of slower number in the shape of Deep River Blues and the jazzy Let Me Be Your Angel with Andy’s warm weathered croon (think modern day Nick Lowe) shining brightly before returning to their early rock n rolls roots with the brilliant hook-laden Roll Ya Activator.
The album continues in much the same vein with highlights coming thick and fast in the shape of the ballsy blues rock of Breakin’ Chains with its combination of hard hitting riffs, parping horns, driving rhythms and a gloriously ragged lead vocal, La La Music is a swinging rock number with pulsating horns, crunchy rock n roll riffs and a suitably bolshy vocal that could have been lifted straight from the pages of The Blues Brothers script. Whilst You’ll Never Beat The Devil combines an infectious blues riff and Paul Carrack’s addictive Hammond organ to create a brilliant, blustery blues number featuring the devil himself on backing vocals!!
Zone-O-Tone continues Andy’s rich legacy as one of the nations most underrated hard working blues/rock n roll crooners out there, the intoxicating varied mix of genres compels throughout, Andy’s voice is as strong as ever whether he’s delivering a delicate croon or a full throttle rocker, whilst the musicianship on offer from Fairweather Low and The Low Riders is second to none. Perhaps Zone-O-Tone will finally help Andy Fairweather Low receive the recognition he so richly deserves.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 9
Competition: I have three copies of Zone-O-Tone to give away for those of you that can answer the following question:-
What was the name of Andy’s first solo album released in 1974?
Email your answers and name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org (before Nov. 30th) winners will be picked at random
Thea & The Wild will be a new name to pretty much one and all unless you happen to be reading this from deepest, darkest Norway, where Thea Glenton Raknes is known in the music industry as a songwriter, lyricist and front woman.
Strangers & Lovers is Thea’s debut album, following on from a handful of successful singles and a recently completed a tour across Norway in support of Sivert Hoyem and performing a couple of festivals in the summer.
The album sees Thea combine infectious synth pop melodies with 80’s retro guitars to create a collection of short concise blasts of alternative pop covering all the typical and well worn subjects of love lost and life struggles, all hand-crafted to contain a catchy, winning hook that’ll have the listener humming along gleefully despite the subject matter.
The album opens with the title track and instantly sets the mood with those aforementioned nagging synths before Thea delivers a wonderful pop croon lifting the song to another level, from there Thea delivers a masterclass of aching pop, from the sow burning Cry Sometimes to the strummed acoustic guitar intro and twinkling synths of the harmony enriched, Mourning Song.
Further highlights include the stripped down Heartattack with it’s panting backing vocals, floating chorus and chiming guitars, the stunning Roy Orbison, a track that begins as a downbeat ballad with piano and percussion clicks before blooming into a beautiful, seductive cooed chorus. Whilst in direct contrast, but no less impressive Murderous blends driven guitars, bubbling bass, striking synths and icy cool vocals as Thea lives out her inner alternative indie pop fantasies, bringing to mind fellow Scandinavians, (and criminally underrated) The Sounds.
Strangers & Lovers is an infectious, energetic debut from Thea & The Wild that should help introduce Thea & The Wild to a larger audience across Europe and beyond. If you’re rather partial to a slice of alternative hook-laden pop Thea & The Wild are well worth investigating.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 7
These Reigning Days are a three-piece hailing from Devon, over the past couple of years the band have been busy honing their craft and playing up and down the country taking in numerous high profile support slots (Metronomy, Echo And The Bunneymen, etc) and festivals along the way (Glastonbury, Hop Farm, Liverpool Sound City, etc). This year has also seen the band venture abroad performing in front of 60,000 fans at the San Siro in Milan as well as playing in Eastern Russia (Vladivostock Rocks), Mumbai, Dehli and Bangalore in support of their debut album Opera Of Love.
The band have also found favour with the likes of BBC Introducing, Janice Long (Radio 2) and the Daily Mirror among others to the sing the band’s praises.
So has all the hard work paid off? The opening track Stand Down quickly answers with a resounding yes, the track begins with Dan Steer’s vocals ringing clear before a marching beat and shimmering guitars join the mix before pulsating synths join the mix around the two minute mark to create a dazzling indie-electro crossover, all topped with a vocal hook that’ll keep nagging you to the point of submission.
Changes continues the electro peppered indie as the band layer infectious synths over a barrage of riffs, beats and vocal croons creating a brooding epic in the process. Too Late, was an early pick for a single and it’s easy to hear why, a hand-crafted indie club floor filler where swaggering urgent riffs and urgent drums collide with a big hook-laden chorus. In direct contrast I Need Time sees the band strip their sound back for a stunning reflective number featuring Jazmyn Mary sharing lead cooing duties with Dan, showcasing a sensitive and more restrained side to the bands craft (further showcased on the piano led closer In The End). Further album highlights include the future stadium rock classic Fishbowl and the mesmeric Living It Up, a track that starts slowly before exploding into a dazzling indie classic, with it’s stomping riffs and killer chorus encapsulating the band’s impressive use of rise and fall to captivate the listener.
Opera Of Love is an incredible statement of intent from a band very much on the cusp of a wave, the clever use of light and shade throughout the album’s duration is intoxicating, whilst the combination of epic towering indie riffs with simmering shards of synth and Dan Steer’s instantly infectious deliver should see band destined for big things in the very near future.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 8
Ever song a love song to your favourite garment? you know one of those made up laments about how much you love that comfortable, shapeless jumper that you should have cast out years ago, but you just can’t bring yourself to chuck, or those garish leggings you once wore when you were into hair rock all those many years ago? No? well maybe you don’t need that jumper or whatever quite as much as you think you do.
You see Biscuithead & The Biscuit Badgers know exactly how to tread their threads and in this case a tweed jacket, the singer serenades that jacket, knowing just how damn cool he looks and just how versatile that jacket is, not only does he croon his love for the jacket, he then asks his mates to play a combination of tuba, drums and twanging guitar in a 50’s style to create a swaying lament that really conveys his love .
By now you may have come to conclusion that Biscuithead and the boys may not be the most serious of artists, but I think you might be missing the point, you see jacket (or anything other garment for that matter) love is a serious subject and only a band like the Biscuit Badgers can really convey that message of love.
If you love your jacket, partial to a bit of 50’s music hall jazz and enjoy a good old croon I suggest like me you become a friend of the Biscuit Badgers and that enigmatic crooner and well attired young man Biscuithead and sing out about those tattered old white jeans hidden away in your wardrobe.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 8
- Stuart Woolfenden-Are You Vulnerable Or Just Insane?
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