Paradise Circus are the latest indie sensations to hail from the musical mecca of Birmingham, the three-piece band have to already courted plaudits from the likes of Counteract magazine, whilst their mixture of gritty lyrics, energetic delivery and infectious melodies caught the ear of renowned producer Gavin Monaghan, who agreed to record the band.
Drunk is the first fruits of the bands labour with Gavin and serves as a decent enough introduction to the band, it’s a catchy number full of big riffs, Artic Monkeys-like lyrics and a hook-laden chorus that’ll probably be received like a conquering indie anthem in the live arena.
On the evidence of this one song alone, Paradise Circus have oodles of potential but perhaps need to develop more of an original identity of their own t0 really make an impact, I’ll be intrigued to hear the bands next move.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 7
In recent times “folk music” has had something of revival in both commercial and critical terms, folk light bands such as Mumford And Sons, The Lumineers and the likes of singer-songwriter Laura Marling, have perhaps helped fuel the resurgent interest in a more stripped down, rootsy sound and the success of the likes of (the all-conquering) Bellowhead and Oysterband’s collaboration with the legendary June Tabor (the critically acclaimed Ragged Kingdom), have both consolidated and widened the appeal of folk as a genre of genuine interest.
The aforementioned Ragged Kingdom received numerous plaudits from everyone from Radio 2 (winning three R2 Folk awards) to mainstream music press such as Mojo, whilst an appearance on Jools Holland propelled the veteran band’s profile even further, enhancing an already impressive fanbase.
Diamonds On The Water is The Oysterband’s follow-up to Ragged Kingdom and where that album was something of a re-immersion of traditional song, the new album see’s the band flex their songwriting muscles, their first set of originals in seven years and perhaps the band’s finest to date.
The album opens with A Clown’s Heart and instantly showcases the band’s close harmonies with a gorgeous, short acapella introduction before a combination of shuffling drums and acoustic guitars join the mix, to create a subtle, rock tinged folk complete with instantly infectious vocal hooks and a beautiful burst of mournful violin. As opening numbers go, A Clown’s Heart grabs the attention from the of and entices the listener to embrace the album further.
The aforementioned violin opens the second track and an early album highlight, A River Runs, the track opens in an almost stripped down Levellers manner before developing into a stunning, melody infused rocker, with frontman John Jones delivering a warm croon that urges repeat spins.
Highlights come thick and fast during the duration of the twelve track affair, from Spirit Of Dust with it’s soulful, soaring female vocal harmonies to the stripped down, country tinged hushed beauty of Lay Your Dreams Down Gently to the fuller, rockier sound of Palace Of Memory, with it’s galloping rhythm and powerful guitar riff laden verses and the upbeat No Ordinary Girl that once again features an instant punchy riff and a big hum-a-long chorus.
Diamonds On The Water is a fabulous album from start to finish, showcasing a band very much on the top of their form in both songwriting and performance, if you find kinship with anything on the rockier side of folk you owe to yourself to purchase the latest by Oysterband.
Rhythm & Booze 9
Steve Ajao Jazz Quartet at Symphony Hall Jazz Lines 14/02
Well, I’ll be honest, I know nothing about jazz, no understanding about this improvised, seemingly unstructured, form of music. Its been around for about a century, coming from black American roots, as so much does.
I enjoy some forms which are closely associated with the blues side of Jazz, who cannot enjoy Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and so on, its the free form stuff I am lost with, Maybe that’s the idea!
Anyway, I found my way here to see Steve Ajao, who happens to be a very good Blues man, take to the saxophone and play some jazz.
The rush hour session at Symphony Hall, is a bit surreal, behind the glass backdrop, dark silhouettes, sheltering under umbrellas, bustle past. A crowded number 72 slowly, silently rolls bye, whilst inside a full foyer of music lovers, sip their beers and coffees as Steve plays ‘Falling In Love With Love’, he deftly substituted Lunch for all Love themed songs.
A swing along opener, followed by ‘Tenderly’, pretty laid back, cool jazz, best found in dark cellar bars in the early hours, with good company and a bottle of fine wine. ‘We’ followed at a rip roaring pace, and an entertaining drum solo from Miles Levin. Steve moved onto soprano sax for appropriately, ‘My Funny Valentine’ as the Dudley Double Decker slipped through the rain outside.
Some fine finesse’d fingering, on piano, from Tim Amann, stood out alongside Steve’s sax playing. One thing is very notable with this session and that is the undoubted passion with which the music is played. Double base was provided by Alan Gilchrist, who seemed most comfortable when accompanying Tim on the keys.
I had a train to catch, but not before an excellent ‘You Don’t Know What Lunch Is?’. Have I learnt anything? Only to be open to listening to all sources of music. I still find difficulty in this freestyle form, but I can accept that it seems to produce superb musicianship, which feeds into, and influences so many other genres. If you have the time, and make the effort, sitting in the foyer of Symphony Hall, during ‘rush hour’ is free, you’ll hear some good music, which changes from Jazz to Blues in the spring. It does fill up, so if you want to sit comfortably, be there no later than 4.30
Words and Photos Graham Munn
Rodney Branigan @ The Bedwardine 22/02/13
Back in December, I was fortunate to have been mesmerized by Rod Branigan’s performance, culminating in his ‘duel guitar flip trick’, how could I not return for his Feb. date.
Once set up, he goes straight into ‘Body Language’, taken from his Sketches album, a very good bit of Americana/blues. A quick breath and an interpretation of Ian Moore’s Muddy Jesus, performed with an 8 string uke across his back, acoustic 6 string to the front and the little conga drum, ready to hand. That sort of hints at what to expect, combinations of ever present guitar, uke, conga, and a tambourine under his foot. Rod is not adversed to reworking good music to mix in with his self penned songs. A bit of rap from Kanye West, Outkast’s, ‘Hey ya’, and a truly outstanding demonstration of ‘slap’ and fingering his acoustic feeding in to Lennon’s ‘Come Together’, simply, superb. Rod stopped for a well earned break, but not before a twin guitar bit of schizophrenic musicianship.
‘Creep’, borrowed from Radiohead, is the excellent restart to the evening, we are all spellbound, by Rod’s skills, two brains maybe? and a liberal splash of banter and humour. Requests for guitar songs were invited, back came the shout, Black Sabbath, we’re almost launched full on into an acoustic ‘War Pigs’, but alas no, it looked promising, I think he should go for it.
There are the songs taken from Sketches, a mix of reworks and self written music, along with the more blues orientated set from his Nothing Better ToDo, album. Notables from these tracks are Muddy Waters, ‘Champagne and Reefer’, and his own ‘Buckets’, not about bailing out the floods, though ‘Stop The Rain’, written at Glastonbury, probably is. You can feel the rivulets of water running down your neck! An excellent acoustic version of Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’, far less explosive on the ears, was followed by a beer glass slide with tambourine accompaniment of Rod’s take on the Brady Bunch, which compares very favourably with the rather cheesy 1960′s opening theme from the TV series. A truly stunning evening at the Bedwardine, could only be complete with Rod doing his 2 guitar flip trick, as previously demonstrated in December. For those new to a Branigan gig, it is indeed awesome to behold, as ‘Slot Machine’ and ‘Clean Up’, from Sketches, are combined into a phenomenal display of guitar playing.
I can only say again, this man is unmissable, he returns once more on May 21st, for you to get another chance, this time he is bringing along fiddle player extraodinaire Tim Snider. I have already marked my place, I suggest you all mark your calender.
Words And Photos Graham Munn
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