Wille And The Bandits at The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham Nov.21st
inc. Album review ‘Grow’
Grow, is the latest release form Wille & Co. It follows the bands philosophy of lyrics reflecting life today, our loves, failures, politics, mankind and self respect. But, as they say, its the way they tell ‘em. My first listen through, left me with thinking ‘Got To Do better’ had a slightly commercialised feel to it, before ‘Gypsy Woman’ kicks in, with the dangers of forbidden love. Then, into another gear for a full on Wille special, ‘Try To Be Yourself’, gritty edged vocals pour over the galvanising instrumentation. ‘Under The Sun’ starts slowly with heartfelt lyrics, before Wille’s slide guitar takes it to another level as the voice fades away.
Unmistakable bass and percussion are provided by the mesmerizing 6 strings of Matt Brooks and spellbinding rhythms from Andy Naumanns. Wille Edwards, steel lap slide guitar worked to fabulous effect.
That slide, strongly evident in the weeping solo breaking into the mid part of ‘Why D’you Do It’ and ‘Son Of The Gun’, bracketed by dirty guitar and that gravel voice of Wille’s. ‘Keep Moving On’ opens with Matt’s double bass accenting the track, following on with his bow sawing through those heavy strings in the opening bars of ‘Forgiveness’, wonderful, I can see Matt eyes closed, lost in his dark rhythmic jungle. Wille opens ‘Angel’ with ‘Spanish’ flare before that heavy base and drum beat punches in, a superb instrumental that goes stratospheric 2 minutes in, soaring guitar, percussive outbreaks and that sticky thick base, before anchoring back into a beautiful groove and that slide into heaven, 10+ minutes of heaven.
I don’t know of another band quite like W&TB, they produce stunning sounds, favourites of the blues and roots festival circuit and now at gig’s playing previous signature songs like the lovely ‘Mammon’, alongside this new work. I’m still not fully sold on the opening, ‘Got To Do Better’, but they certainly do, the album is a superb collection of music, turn the sound up, the light down, lie on the floor and let it flow over.
Wille And The Bandits, produce a unique sound, mesmerizing, all pervading throughout the room and into everybody’s very soul. They have an enviable list of songs from multiple albums to select from, at the Hare & Hounds, Breakfree and the new Grow, provided most of the material. ‘Got To Do Better’, my least favourite of the new album, proved much better in its raw performance mode. We were treated to the bands take on Peter Green’s ‘Black Magic Woman’, Santana would weep with frustration if he heard WATB’s reworking, superb. It could only get better as we listen to the beautiful ”Mammon’ from Breakfree, gently delivered by Wille. ‘Chillout’ opens with Andy’s tongue drum, as Wille’s vocals sandpaper the mike, his slide is working its magic. Andy sits at the rear watching Matt and Wille like a hawk, controlling the tempo, as Matt uses his 6 string base in ways that would embarrass many a lead guitarist. ‘Under The Grove’ starts with a nice acoustic opening from Wille, Matt comes in taking bow to the skeletal double bass, as Andy caresses the cymbals and drums with ‘soft’ sticks. The blues charting ‘Gypsy Woman’ and rattling ‘Son Of The Gun’ fire, off Grow. The whole room is full of moving, musically intoxicated believers, as we build up to a full 10+ minutes of the fabulous ‘Angel’, which showcases all of there artistry, wonderful bass rhythms, stunning drums and the hypnotic sounds conjured up by the Wille on his lap guitar, unforgettable. BUT there’s more, they close to a version of Dire Straits, ‘Money For Nothing’, words fail me, I’ve heard it before, but I am still in awe of the sound from this band of sorcerers. Look out for them, they are festival favourites, with blues and roots particularly, once heard never forgotten; a word I hate but cannot avoid, awesome.
Supporting Wille And The Bandids at the Hare & Hounds, was local folksinger Chris Cleverley. With some self penned work and traditional songs, like, ‘Oh Shenandoaha’, and an acapella ‘Polly Vaughan’, very nicely done. I particularly liked his tale of the boy doomed forever to live in a church bell tower ‘The rafters’. A fine voice and acoustic guitar are his hallmark, I’m sure I will see more of Chris in the future.
Words & Photos by Graham Munn
Lisbee Stainton playing ‘Word Games’@ The Artix
First a brief review of the new Lisbee album, Word Games. Before we proceed, I will admit to being very selective in my musical tastes, they would not normally cover Lisbee’s style of ‘acoustic pop’, though I sometimes surprise myself with what these old ears are switching on to!
The opening track is ‘Red Dog Running’, which is well written and could slip into the charts quite nicely, and is far better than much that masquerades as music playing on pop radio stations. Following on is for me another of the stand out tracks on the album, ‘Navigating’, which has underlying military drum rolls and a good solid bass. ‘Make Me Stay’, is jointly written with Eleanor McEvoy. This song about seduction opens nicely with plucked notes evoking the sound of rain drops in a puddle, before breaking in to a more pop like sound. ‘Madron’s Well’, is a lovely song co-written with Seth Lakeman, it tells of a Cornish wishing well, with mystical healing powers, where ‘clouties’ are left to rot as health returns.
‘Word Games’ closes the album, inspired by a supporting gig with Judy Collins at Worcester Cathedral, its a beautiful haunting ballad of the travelling whispers within the high walls, in contrast to the inaudible storm blowing outside; peace and solitude found a mad world. A very nice song worthy of anyone’s music collection.
Overall though not my choice of music, the album does grow as you listen, it very well produced, by Mikko Gordon. The songs listed from the album, were my selection of choice, I am sure many will find take more from Word Games, it is a finely written and crafted set of songs that will stand out in its genre.
Supporting Lisbee on her tour is Eleanor McEvoy, from Dublin, an extremely talented singer songwriter, with an impressive catalogue of songs, and albums. Eleanor’s lyrics tell fascinating stories of everyday life, she delivers them with a distinctive Irish brogue and a comfortable, humorous, rapport with the audience. Some of her songs remind me of Suzanne Vega. ‘You’ll Here Better Songs Than This’, begs the question, would you? And ‘For The Avoidance Of Any Doubt’, no probably not!
I enjoyed her set, her vision of life, and stories of past times, a quality artist, who seems more comfortable as a support, rather than taking the spotlight, shame. I think she would be in her element, sat in the corner of some cosy intimate bar, retelling her tales, accompanied by her guitar. She finished on a bit of blues ‘The Way You Wear Your Troubles’, bliss!
Lisbee Stainton is on tour with a full band, Simon Johnson, guitar, mandolin and uke, Pete Randall, double bass and guitar,Andy Chapman, in the shadows, on drums, plus a return to stage for Eleanor with violin.
Lisbee of course carries her trade mark 8 string acoustic.
She opened with ‘Wrench’ from her previous Go album and ‘Girl On An Unmade Bed’, from the album of that name, alluding to life as a student.
Also off that album, is the excellent ‘Red’, that Lisbee played a little later.
‘Eloise’, she reprises ‘Navigating’ and ‘Red Dog Running’, both, for me, highlights of the album.
Eleanor is back on stage to accompany Lisbee for ‘Make Me Stay’, plucking those violin strings for the opening bars, before bringing bow to play. This was all delivered beautifully by Lisbee, live on stage, indeed the stage performance, brings the album to life for me.
With songs taken form past albums, like Go, Girl On An Unmade Bed and now Word Games, Lisbee has a depth of original and distinctive music to select from fro her tour. All seem to benefit from her live performance. Returning to Word Games as the set nears it end, the haunting title track, memorable, just close your eyes and imagine the magnificent isolation of Worcester cathedral, away from the bustle outside.
The closing song draws from Go, ‘Find Me Here’, seems very appropriate, at the start of the tour. An excellent start at an equally excellent venue, for Lisbee Stainton.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Eric Bibb, Jericho Road Album And Tour
Robin 2 Oct. 24th
Eric Bibb is a world class blues roots musician and writer that is currently releasing his new album Jericho road. The album is drawn from his years of travelling, and experiencing different countries and cultures, reflected on man’s inhumanity to man.
The tracks ‘Drinkin Gourd’ opens the album, a gentle acoustic opening followed by ‘Freedom Train’, with its South African undercurrent and the rhythm of the railtrack carrying it forward. ‘Let The Mothers Step Up’, ups the pace with a funky style of modern blues, that reflects on the conflicts and the men and money behind them.
The album preaches of rights and wrongs and for us all to have a little more mercy and compassion in our soul. There are inspiration taken from gospels, jazz,soul, blues and folk roots, we are talking world music in every sense. Eric implores us to do ‘The Right Thing’, but for the grace of it could be any of us on the wrong side of the track, born perhaps into poverty or repression.
This is a finely crafted album, Eric has some excellent collaborators in Glen Scott, who appears on many tracks and producer Phillippe Langlois. I confess to having to played this a second time before starting to loose myself in the intricacies of the sounds. I particularly like the horns coming through on ‘The Lords Work’ and a good solid blues found in ‘With My Maker I Am One’. I suppose it mirrors my love of good blues that I am definitely at one with this fine song. The album as a whole may not jump straight into your play list, but it will grow, its gentle, varied rhythms easing into your subconscious, along with the feeling and messages carried in the meaningful lyrics. The world could be a better place if we all paid heed. My only personal reservation, is that tucked on the end of this CD are 2 ‘bonus’ tracks, which I do not feel add to the album as a whole.
Jericho Road is a journey, one which Eric is going to travel down again at The Robin, I will join him for that evenings trip.
Eric Bibb at Robin 2
First I will pay tribute to a short but very nice opening support from Michael Jerome Browne, a Canadian, award winning, folk and roots singer, who happens to be playing in Eric’s band on this tour. Some very good acoustic guitar and slide in the blues song ‘At It Again’, followed by a bit more blues and a dash of mountain folk, a very good start to the evening at Robin 2.
Having just reviewed Eric’s new album Jericho Road, I was keen to see him live for the first time. Also the first time I have seen The Robin seated!
Eric is a major artist in roots blues and world music, he has an arabica voice, just like the coffee, warm and rich yet still mellow. I had expected this tour to highlight the new album, but that only gets dipped into occasionally. Soft easy listening opening songs, fed into some excellent blues in ‘Turner Station’, followed shortly after by one from Jericho Road, ‘Drinking Gourd’, which is the beautifully crafted opening track from the CD. There were songs with African roots, such as ‘Bamako’ and plenty of old gospels and hymns, with strong links to South American slavery. ‘Connected’ was for me another that stood out, an old Scottish Hymn, taken to the deep American South and reworked into gospel blues. Opening with some superb ‘soft’ but lingering percussion from Paul Robinson on drums, it was very atmospheric.
Eric became our preacher again for ‘Needed Time’, the whole room joining in for a second run of the chorus lines. That really sums up the evening well, Eric and his band, had that connection with the 250+ (guess) who were gathered there as his disciples, close and intimate; as if, sat, chatting and singing in his own living room. He finished his set rising to his feet, and losing himself in ‘Angels’, memorable.
No one was going to let him slip away that easily, he returned for a nice bit of solo blues with ‘Going Down Slow’, the band joining in with a few more songs from Eric’s book. The band were, Michael Jerome Browne, acoustic guitar and slide, Neville Malcolm, bass various, the lovely soft drums of Paul Robinson, and keyboard, and multiple instruments, Glen Scot.
I left with no ringing ears, no shell shock, not even an air of excitement, just a nice warm glow, an absolute pleasure to have been there. The Tour continues.
A MURDER OF CROWS
settling in the Tithe Barn, Bishops Cleeve
This night, a large gathering of feathered acolytes hovered and perched around this lovely old converted barn, awaiting their spiritual leaders, The Roving Crows.
The Crows band were here to launch the new album ‘DeliberateDistractions’, a follow up to ‘Bacchanalia’, indeed it was from this album that the show burst into life. ‘Days In The Sun’, is an energetic fusion of folk with a bit of Eastern promise thrown in. From start, the whole gathering was moving as one, the contagion was instant and highly infectious. Adding to the party delirium came nights of wine with ‘Nancy Valentine’, from the new DD album. So it went throughout the evening without pausing for breath, hopping from the appropriately named Bacchanalia, diverted to a Deliberate Distraction.
The hugely popular, Celtic influenced ‘White Petticoat’, brought Irish jigs to the floor, had Michael Flatley arrived? Its impossible to keep still to this instrumental behemoth, Caitlin’s fiddle taking the lead, with Greg Wilson’s trumpet sneaking in. How to follow that, ‘Weather’ rumbled in from ‘DD’, wonderfully atmospheric drums from Tim Tolhurst, open this dark haunting song, which I particularly like, perhaps it reflects my soul. As does the Gregorian Chant opening and underpinning of the superb ‘Journeyman’s Blues’.
So at some point we (Helen & me) were exposed as ‘virgin crows’, perhaps the only ones owning up to having never being exposed to this ‘pecking order’ of band and adherents. I was subjected to the awesome power of the sign of the crow, before the evening could proceed any further. No matter I had already been intoxicated by the fusion of sounds pulled from all styles of music, North African, Asian, New Orleans, Eastern European, and Caribbean all laced together with Irish spirit.
‘Guns’ lulls our senses, but as the crows rise and circle, Caitlin stirs the air with her fiddle, driving all before.
The Roving Crows excelled this evening, a partisan crowd, yes, but there is no denying the onset of drunken (not necessarily literally) hedonistic pleasure to be experienced at this party. The warm vocals of Paul, fabulous fiddling from Caitlin, Greg’s tantalising trumpet trips, Loz Shaw, bass rhythms and the rumblings of Tim’s percussion, all combine to produce an unforgettable musical confection that’s hard to resist. I am not a fan of folk music in its purest sense, but I do like a good party atmosphere, and the Crow’s provide this in spades, I will certainly be back for more.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Chantel Mcgregor @ Gloucester Guildhall
Multiple award winning guitarist and vocalist, Chantel walks on stage, and establishes her Northern credentials and humour with the room full of rock and blues fans alike. The rapport with the audience stayed throughout the evening. She is very fond of chicken based curries and the like, probably having a chicken chart rating running on through her travels.
Apart from being an outstanding rock blues guitarist in the mould of a female Bonamassa, she has a fine voice, which shines through in her solo acoustic session as drummer Keith and bassist Richie take they’re break.
Outstanding was Ian Anderson’s ‘New Day Yesterday’, also reprieved by the said Joe as title to his first album. ‘Slow Gin’ followed with Chantel’s vocals coming through strongly before breaking into a bit of guitar hedonism.
Keith’s phenomenal drum bashing and Richie’s big bass are certainly fine foils for Chantel’s lead along with her humour, but I find her solo’s really showcase her ability as an artist. Stevie Nicks Rhianon, and a reset Bruno Mars ‘Grenade’ are superb. After a short debate with the audience, she launched into her recent ‘find’, Tory Amos’s ‘Cornflake Girl’. An odd, quirky, mad little song, excellent!
Self penned ‘Fabulous’, ‘Freefalling’, and the lovely ‘Screams Everlasting’, with vocal intro breaking into fabulous guitar riffs, give testament to Chantel’s artistry as a songwriter. She is a growing talent, not to be missed, and thankfully is a fairly regular visitor to the Midlands, maybe its the chicken biriani. She has played Robin 2, Gloucester and Bromsgrove Artrix, which is due for a return early next year, I look forward to it. If you like your guitar rock, try Chantel’s album ‘Like No Other’, its a mix of covers and self written songs, well worth reviewing.
Photos & Words Graham Munn
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