Ward Thomas are a pop tinged country duo hailing from the unlikely location of Hampshire, a twin sister act who grew up on a rural live-stock farm from a family line of authors and artists. The sisters embraced rural lifestyle and along with it the rustic sounds of American mainstays Johnny Cash, Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood among others.
The duo were heard by renowned Nashville session musician Bobby Blazier, who embraced their sound and encouraged them to record over in the country state with a number of country’s top musicians as well as Grammy winning superstar Vince Gill, resulting in an album set to be released later on in the year as well as this, their debut EP, Footnotes.
Now if you like radio friendly country with pop hooks, Ward Thomas are the band for you, this four-track affair serves as a nice introduction to the stunning close harmonies and obvious pop hooks.
The EP opens with the rowdiest number, The Good & The Right, a blustery country rock number that’s simply hand built for day time radio with it’s instant hook, infectious vocal and long lasting swagger, that does bring to mind the aforementioned Dixie Chicks or perhaps The Wailin’ Jennys. From their the band strip back their sound, turn up the country influence and deliver the harmony enriched twanging title track, Footnotes. Take That Train is a true story based on love lost and redemption inspired by a chance encounter on a train, that once again showcases that sisterly bound with, it’s touching harmonies and rich melodies.
Ward Thomas finish up with a nod to their influences with a heartfelt and passionate rendition of Dougie MacLeans classic, Caledonia, that see’s the girls majestically cooing, making the often covered number very much their own.
Footnotes is a lovely showcase of the many attributes of Ward Thomas, from their close knit harmonies and intelligent instrumentation to their radio friendly pop hooks and heartfelt lyrics, the sisterly duo have certainly whetted the appetite for their forthcoming full length album.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 7
Karl Culley is a singer-songwriting originally from North Yorkshire, but currently residing in Krakow in Poland. Phospor is Karl’s third following on from his critically acclaimed debut, Bundle Of Nerves and The Owl (2011), both of rich found favour with the mainstream press with the likes of Mojo and The Sunday Express delivering four star reviews with the latter even going on to mention Karl in the same breath as John Martyn, Newton Faulkner and Tim Buckley among others.
Phosphor does bring to mind the aforementioned artists, but that’s not to say that Karl Culley is a mere sound-a-like, far from it in fact, the album blends a stunning mix of stripped back acoustic folk, blues and off-beat pop to create a sound that’s unique and often intoxicating. One minute Karl is delivering a stripped back passionate bluesy number, such as the arresting opener, Bag Of The Tricks, the next he’s showcasing a stunning, frantic finger-picking whilst delivering the funky oft-kilter Icarus And Whiskey.
If Karl had dazzled enough, he then harnesses the spirit of Jura (the album was recorded on the mystic Scottish isle) with the spectral folk of Silver Set of Bones, an atmospheric number complete with understated guitar work and evocative lyrics that draw the listener into Karl’s bewitching vision.
Spell is an obvious highlight with Karl delivering a gorgeous, haunting vocal whilst complimented with the majestic yet barely audible harmonies of Melanie Pappenheim over a combination of a strummed acoustic, piano and a chiming bell. Whilst, Qualifier is Karl Culley in solo mode, plucking his guitar beautifully accompanying his own slightly weathered vocals, showcasing that previously mentioned folk blues influence. Another track well worth a mention is Trebuchet a real sinister gloomy ode of vengeance, complete with down-tuned guitar and rattling percussion, creating a bleak doom-laden blues number that has to be heard to be believed.
Phosphor is a stunning acoustic album by a striking and inventive singer-songwriter, who’s musical ability, compelling songwriting and effortless ability to cross genres should continue to find favour with both public and critics alike.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 9
Forget about sound-a-like, two-a-penny landfill indie or inspired middle of the road dull rock, throw out any pre-conceptions Brighton’s Birdeatsbaby defy classification, straddle genres and eat away at cliche. The four-piece take numerous musical influences from a wide spectrum of styles blend them together and create a sound that’s unique, dramatic and instantly memorable.
Tom Robinson of 6 Music formally described them the band as “howling mad and brilliant” whilst the likes of The Independent, Quietus and Music Week issued were all seduced by the dark, majestic indie noir meets circus tent cabaret.
The Bullet is Birdeatsbaby latest single and once again showcases the originality and unique identity combining lush strings and the passionate vocals of Mishkin Fitzgerald with a widescreen cinematic sense of grandiose drama. The rise and fall of the instrumentation intoxicates whilst Mishkins lyrics, instantly capture the imagination of the listener urging repeat spins and further immersion into the band’s compelling sound.
The single is a glorious introduction into a unique and infectious band, if you’ve not heard the contagious sounds of Birdeatsbaby, I highly recommend a bit of detective work into this spellbinding group.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 9
Buzzard Left The Bones is the debut album by London cellar dwellers The Damn Jammage, an ensemble from the dark side of the tracks that merge numerous genres from gypsy folk to rock from jazz to punk to create a unique and darkly seductive sound, a sound that both intrigues and chills to the bone.
Picture if you will a seedy club on the wrong side of the tracks, with a maverick DJ spinning a mix of Nick Cave, Gallon Drunk, The Pogues, Barry Adamson, Dream City Film Club, John Murry and Tom Waits. Now imagine a band set up in the corner of the club that welds all those influences together, throws in a heap of attitude, a dose of originality and feature among their number a frontman with the swagger of Jim Jones (of The Jim Jones Revue) and the gravelly voice that can only be achieved by gargling a combination of whisky and sand,conducting from the front. Add to that already potent mix a dusky female counterpart on vocal interplay and harmonies, piano, violin, accordian, mariachi horns, sharp guitar riffs, marching drums, the kitchen sink, etc and you might just have an idea where The Damn Jammage are coming from.
The album opens with a sampled slice of spoken word before No Rest From The Crooked kicks in, a devilish opening salvo, instantly setting the mood with a collision of tinkering piano, stomping drums and frontman Danny Rapscallion’s grizzled Nick Cave meets Waits-esque croon. The track is a glorious ramshackle introduction to the album that careers to a wonderfully frenzied crescendo whilst the vocals become more a frantic howl before the conclusion.
Following on from the rowdy opening number we’re served up the aforementioned vocal harmonies and sawing violin as the band deliver Life Goes On, showcasing a more subdued side to the band’s sound, before the band deliver an early highlight in the shape of the macabre brilliance of She Drowned, a piano and percussion led oddity that adds a jazzy dramatic anti-folk feel to proceedings, complete with a wonderful male/female vocal hook.
The title track adds a further dimension beginning with a solo guitar being plucked before developing into a widescreen, cinematic dusty Americana number with muted trumpet, that wouldn’t sound out of place on something like The Proposition soundtrack. If You’re Paranoid And You Know It (Clap Your Hands) is a two and half minute, sinister, creepy alternative nursery rhyme that has to be heard to believe, it’s disturbing yet completely compelling and impossible not to hum along to.
Beautiful Drunk is another firm favourite, opening with a rumbling double bass, The Damn Jammage explore that jazz influence further, with New Orleans styled horns and piano complimenting Danny and fellow singer Jasmine Cave as they trade vocal licks. In complete contrast, In My Dreams (I’m Still Drinking With You, The Damn Jammage deliver the perfect 60′s pop homage, with restrained crooned vocals (think Shane MacGowan meets Sinatra) and twangy electric guitar hooks.
Buzzard Left The Bone is an inventive, darkly seductive and ultimately fun romp from start to finish, straddling genres and avoiding classification whilst leaving the listener with a nagging hook and a sly grin welded to their face. If you’ve not heard The Damn Jammage I highly recommend you down tools and take a walk on the wild side.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 10
Nice Little Upper is the debut album by Worcester based band Skewwhiff, a band that have been busy performing locally and writing material for the past five years or so, whilst gracing festival stages along the way. The band take their musical cues from post-punk, indie, skewed pop and new wave predominately whilst casually nodding at a ska (or is that dub) influence along the way.
Skewwhiff along with the help of producer Dave Draper have set about trying to capture that raw energy and serrated hook-laden pop edge on Nice Little Upper and as debuts go (or perhaps introductions) they’ve done a pretty damn good job.
The album opens with a crashing strum of electric guitar and a howl of feedback before the drums summon in Skiddadle, with the band immediately stamping their identity with a bombastic torrent of drums, slashing riffs and the infectious female lead vocal courtesy of Beanie, it’s a noisy no nonsense opener that brings to mind (to this reviewer) a more abrasive, spikier version of Elastica or Peel favourites Blessed Ethel.
From the punchy opener, the band offer up a couple of delicious slices of infectious indie-pop with Startrite, complete with a massive contagious vocal hook and the bouncy Gizmo that features a glorious bit of wordless, scat like vocals that are impossible not to hum along.
Bittertaste proves to be an album highlight offering up an observational view on the poverty line, whilst also providing the first hint of that aforementioned ska (dub) influence, with it’s choppy guitars, elastic bass and groove-laden drums bringing to mind the likes of The Slits or a female fronted Ruts. Other album highlights include the brilliant hand-clap friendly, sing-a-long indie anthem, It Girl (think Ladykillers era Lush!!!), the acoustic led, stripped back, Doorstep and the joyful jangly indie pop of album closer Nice One to name but a few.
Skewwhiff have delivered a catchy ten-track affair, with the somewhat aptly entitled Nice Little Upper. it’s a fun collection that will leave you with a nagging hook, a big grin and a desperate urge to hit the repeat button.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 8
Skewwhiff Launch Their Album Live @ The Marrs Bar With The Cracked Actors On April 19th
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The Dirt Tracks-Never Been To Mars (7 votes)
Dan Webb-Hyperspace Clearance (5 votes)
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Huron-Mary Celeste (5 votes)
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Das Sexy Clap-So So Sick (4 votes)
Jil Is Lucky-Jil Is Lucky (4 votes)
Interview With Dana Jade (3 votes)
Rendezvous-C Sharp (3 votes)