Blues band At The Artrix, Bromsgrove 20/09
The Artrix theatre was a sell out for the return of The Blues Band, Paul Jones addressed the fans with an introduction to an old video from 1980, Live At Rockfest,from the bands fledgling days, apparently distributed widely throughout Europe, only Scotland missing out!!!! ‘Come Into My Kitchen’ was an invite to Dave Kelly taking lead and some lovely slide with ‘Talk To My baby’. Son House’s, ‘Death Letter’ follows, as with all Blues Band gigs, the baton is passed around, Paul, Dave, Tom McGuinness, with an occasional song from Gary Fletcher, the bassist. That’s not to overlook the significance of Rob Townsend on drums, silent vocally, but very much heard. Each ‘sample’ their own albums from past and present, its the hard sell; with tongue placed firmly in cheek, a problem for harmonica players perhaps? You also get a potted history of the blues from both Paul and Dave. A very nice ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’, in EC style, then Tom was ‘Heading For A Breakdown’ before a superb ‘Dust My Broom’, from Dave, sighting the time he paid 12’6p to see Howling Wolf and Elmore James on the same bill! Gary Fletcher drops in his one and only, to date, album and growls through ‘I Am The Doctor’, but at last, a Blues Band joint effort, takes us to the break with, ‘Suddenly I Like It’.
Now, what I do appreciate is the band comes straight into the foyer, and yes, they flog their individual CD’s, (whilst their ‘agent’ takes care of the Band recordings); BUT, they also mix and chat to their admiring fans. It does not matter whether you are buying or not, they give you a little time, sadly not all bands remain so grounded, after all, its the fans that create the stage for any performer.
Back to the stage, the band are on full flow, a bit of fun from Mr Kelly, ‘I Can’t Get My Ass In Gear, Too Much Wine And Too Much Beer’, sounds OK to me. BB King’s ‘Stepping Out’, and straight into ‘These Shoes’ with some excellent harp from Paul. A quick step ‘Outside My Head’, from Gary with mandolin, and Paul moves to demonstrate why he rightly has his place in the ‘Hall Of Fame’, launching into ‘Flat Foot Sam’ and a stretched out, superlative solo. Tom has his Fender behind his head, for a bit of shake rattle and roll, as we head toward the end, but not quite yet. The Blues Band gave us ‘Aint Gonna Work On Maggie s Farm No More’, their one and only chart success. It had been an entertaining evening, plenty of chorusing and lively banter, its The Blues Band, you would expect nothing less.
Words and photo Graham Munn
Wildest Dreams, Matt Woosey, Album Release November 3rd
Most of you who have seen and heard Matt Woosey perform, either solo, or with his band, will know him to be a talented blues man, acoustic guitarist and an excellent writer. Matt does not need to fill his set with blues classics, though sometimes the odd song may be slipped in. He is also gifted with an excellent voice, capable of gentle, melodic country songs or spitting out the grit when a bit of passion is required. His last full album, ‘On The Wagon’, has provided plenty of material for a Woosey gig, a follow up EP bridged the gap to this new release, Wildest Dreams. This is where we find new elements to Matt’s work, the style is more expansive. There is still a blues connection, its an anchor that does not lift easily, but the album opens into new areas, Matt is spreading his wings. My initial thought on first play through was, wow, this is bloody good. Dissect it and you will certainly find blue veins, but you’ll also find a a massive heart, pumping out rock, country, maybe even some gypsy jazz. It starts with a beautifully written and performed,’Exactly As We Please’, a song about shared moments alone with someone you love. Then comes Wildest Dreams, bags of reverb opening with Tom Tom, and finding an ethereal Matt, evoking feelings of Woodstock and an almost forgotten era of peace and love.
‘I’ve Seen The Bottom’, starts slightly sullen and blue, but quickly bursts into a glorious rock anthem complete with Hammond Organ, and great, emotive, one liner lyrics. ‘Don’t Tell Nobody’, is a deliciously dark tale of forbidden fruits, and is, quite simply, superb.
Here we switch to the near 3 minutes of mesmerising gypsy jazz finger picking guitar lead in to, ‘Love Is The Strangest Thing’, where the lyrics float in like a sea mist, and still that guitar plays on. Two songs are lifted straight from The previous EP, always destined, I suspect, for an album, ‘Hook Line & Sinker’ is joined by ‘let It Flow’, both very worthy inclusions. This album was recorded, mixed and mastered in 4 days flat, at Monnow Valley Studio under Tony Hobden. Dave Small on percussion, was also joined by Paul Quin on Hammond, and Rob Newell on bass. Including ‘Hook Line & Sinker’, is pretty appropriate, because that is exactly how it grabs you. Its difficult to select a favourite or stand out track, they are all that good, but I do particularly like the steamy, ‘Don’t Tell Nobody’. This is a long way from being a formulaic album, the genre are varied, with the common thread of Woosey talent stitching it all together. To record this in just a few days, points to the select group of collaborators and the inspiration engendered by Lisa, Matt’s partner.
I cannot find the words to do justice to this CD, it is stunningly good, it deserves to find a much wider market than the blues genre alone, can provide. Matt has long demonstrated his musical credentials, a good vintage has matured into a premier Cru.
Words Graham Munn
Nervous Twitch are a Leeds based four-piece who blend 60’s garage pop, punk and good time rock n’ roll to create a glorious infectious racket that brings to mind The Ramones, a lo-fi adrenaline fuelled Shangri-La’s, the surf punk of the 5,6,7,8’s or a punkier Helen Love.
Last year the band performed over the UK, honing their stage craft and sound as well as releasing two EP’s Bad Reputation and The Modern Year, this year has seen the band continue their hard graft around the country as well put together their first album, which double A-side single, Somebody Else and Taratino Hangover have been lifted from.
Somebody Else is a brilliant sub-two minute anthem to lost love, complete with buzzing guitars, handclaps aplenty and a more contagious, than the common cold chorus that combines bratty punk attitude with 60’s girl band pop melodies, creating an instant, fun, fizzy single perfect to jump around your room to. Taratino Hangover is rather aptly named and equally as thrilling, as the band deliver a near two half minute instrumental surf number complete with Link Wray like twanging guitars and the obligatory rumbling rhythm section beloved by the namechecked film director.
On the evidence of this two track single, the debut album by Nervous Twitch is set to be a blast, a rollercoaster of short, snappy punk, surf and garage pop, full of addictive thrills and spills that you won’t to miss, essential stuff.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 9
The majority of the readers of this piece, should at least have an inkling about Brighton based six-piece The Levellers, the band have graced every music venue and festival (worth their salt) across the land in a twenty-five year career (to date). The band have regularly crossed over into the charts (twenty of the tracks featured on this compilation have charted!!), throughout their career, with their blend of fiery folk, rock and punk. Whilst their political and social commentary has received both critical and commercial acclaim, whilst paving the way for the likes of Frank Turner, The Leylines, The Roving Crows and perhaps to a lesser degree the likes of Mumford And Sons, Dry The River and the alike.
In recent years the band have continued with their heavy work ethic, constantly cropping up at festivals including the likes of Hop Farm, Lakefest, Wychwood and their own Beautiful Day festival, curated by the band themselves. During the little down time the band has had over the years, frontman Mark Chadwick has found the time to release a couple of solo albums along the way, whilst the other members of the band have also collaborated and produced on a number of other projects.
Disc One kicks off with three of the biggest guns in the Levellers armoury in the shape of Fifteen Years, Hope Street and What A Beautiful Day, each one showcasing everything that’s to like about the band, punchy riffs, contagious hooks, socially aware lyrics, fiery forays of violin and stomping rhythms combine to create a trio of long term live favourites. Hope Street still sounds as potent as the day it was released with its quiet-loud-quiet dynamic, barbed wire riffs, barrage of drums, weaving fiddle and Chadwick’s tale of social and political injustice, whilst What A Beautiful Day has that instant fist in the air upbeat chorus right from the off.
This Greatest Hits package, two CD’s and a compelling documentary serves as a brilliant overview of the band’s twenty-five years together, bringing together all their well known sing-a-long anthems, a few rarities and four classics newly recorded with very special guests.
From such an impressive opening shot the band continue to dazzle with choice cuts lifted from the entire duration of their career, including the harmonica and horn assisted Dog Train, the new wave inspired duo of Belarus (notable, particularly for the edgy punk rock riffing and pounding drums middle section) and The Last Man Alive (with it’s pulsating chorus, thunderous rhythms and spiky guitar). Whilst the likes of Truth Is highlight that folk (perhaps even gypsy) influence with it’s rolling drums, upbeat fiddle and strummed acoustics, whilst Just The One and Before The End are both sensational, quirky indie pop numbers that bring to mind the likes of XTC and Celebrate is a gorgeous acoustic ballad, complete with female harmonies, whilst Too Real is an unworldly slice of baggy indie all proving there’s much more to the Levellers than blazing violins and punky riffs.
Disc Two continues the varied waltz around the pages of the Levellers successes featuring memorable hits such as One Way, Make You Happy and a fantastic live rendition of Exodus that captures the band in full flight as well the likes of Carry Me and a explicit run though the band’s War Child offering and political tour de force, The Recruiting Sergeant among numerous others.
But perhaps for long term Levellers fans talk should all be about the four re-recorded tracks (two a-piece on each CD) featuring guests Imelda May, Frank Turner, Bellowhead and Billy Bragg, helping out and giving old classics a new twist. May gives the aforementioned Beautiful Day a celtic soul twist with her glorious voice towering over an already potent mix, Frank Turner fronts up a lovely harmony assisted, widescreen folk of Julie, Bellowhead embellish Just The One with all manner of instrumentation (horns, strings, etc) and vocalization (including name-checking all manner of alcohol beverages) on a completely bonkers yet take. Whilst the Levellers rope in fellow folk-punk balladeer and social commentator Billy Bragg on a beautifully restrained Hope Street to close a stunning thirty-five track history lesson.
Sometimes when you get a greatest hits album you wonder how they ever filled an entire disc, in the Levellers case you wonder how they managed to keep the collection down to two CDs and a DVD, this is a loaded collection of the Levellers finest moments, so whether you’re a long-term fan, a newcomer or want a handy reminder this compilation does a find job of chronicling one of the UK’s finest musical institutions.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 10
Alex Rainsford is one of those singer-songwriters that I’d heard about, from playing around the local (Worcestershire) music scene, without ever managing to catch him perform live. Now having listened to the Bromsgrove based performer’s second EP, I can see I need to rectify that situation at the next possible opportunity, before he can only been seen gracing the UK’s biggest stages.
Looking through a brief biography I stumbled upon online, it would seem that Alex is already on the cusp of big things, back in 2013 he manage to grace the likes of Glastonbury and Oceanfest, sharing a stage with the likes of Gabrielle Alpin Bastille and Willy Mason among others, whilst a trip around Europe saw him support both Hudson Taylor and Broken Bones.
Reading the self same blog online there are comparisons to such names as Ben Howard and Mumford And Sons, however I’d say that Alex has a sound that’s very much his own, sure there are folky elements in places, acoustic guitars run throughout the six track duration of Gone Away, however there’s more drama than either of the aforementioned artists mentioned, the clash of quiet subtle acoustic verses and the soaring choruses catch you off guard but you can’t help being caught by the passionate delivery and the uplifting indie-like hooks.
The EP opens with a glorious statement of intent in the form of Better Man, a track that begins with that strummed acoustic guitar, broken with bursts of electric before breaking into a spellbinding, soaring chorus that lifts the already impressive track to another level.
Alex has this ability throughout the EP to deliver a soulful croon one minute and a big sing-a-long vocal hook the next and the second track, Same Kind, showcases that ability perfectly, one moment he delivers this restrained soul like vocal, the next he unveils a massive wordless hook that sucks the listener, urging them to holler along. The title track shares that same light and shade, subtle and subdued passages give way to an anthemic hook, whilst the closing number Blood Lines is a big indie folk anthem that the likes of the previously mentioned Mumford And Sons or Noah And The Whale would give their right arm for.
However my favourite track is the short yet rather wonderful Lady Traveller, a solo acoustic number that features a stunning weathered vocal that belies Alex’s years, before finishing with a near falsetto that again points at the diversity of Rainsford’s sound.
Gone Away is a wonderful six track affair that deserves to be heard and enjoyed the masses (and I highly suspect it will, given the right push!!), I highly recommend you join me next time Alex graces a local stage and marvel at one of the most intriguing and infectious singer-songwriters to hail from round these parts in some time.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 10
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