Mark Harrison @ Fleece Bretforton
The Fleece is an ancient Inn belonging to the National Trust, it has an equally aged barn in the courtyard, which is used to host a variety of music and arts. Sunday evening was designated Blues In The Barn with Mark Harrison performing with a ’34 National resonator guitar, a 12 string guitar, and to help him, percussionist Ed Hopwood, alongside Charles Benfield on double bass. Mark started off the evening in a relaxed, country blues style, a ‘Panic Attack’, was linked to a film, with Mark as source material, and shown in Cannes Film festival. ‘Mississippi’ is inspired by old ’20’s blues, performed on dusty porches in the cotton fields of the deep South.
Mark’s songs are written about life experiences, both his own and those from the past that have moved him to express his feelings in word and through his guitars. The old National itself had a bit of heritage, having belonged to Eric Bibb, who Mark tells us, promises to drop bye one day to reacquaint himself to the old ‘woodie’. There are plenty of other asides and anecdotes, most of them creaking with a dry humour, it adds to the evening and links the music nicely.
A nod to the likes of Muddy Waters, people with no paper trail, no definitive origins, like many of Afro American descendants born in an indifferent America, ‘Next Of Kin’, played with finger-picking, style tells the story. Time to loose your inhibitions getting ‘Reckless’, before waking up to a superb ‘Crematorium Blues’. Ed, empathetic to Mark’s lead, stroked his stripped down drumset, mainly with brushes, but sticks, mallets and even a cowbell, were never far from reach. More tales and songs relating to temperance, the demise of workers and loss of livelihood to mechanisation, an oddly named Chicken Sandwich Train from that era with ‘Changes Coming Here’. We are hearing a brief history of the roots of blues before Chicago and electric had its influence.
Mark has written 3 albums over a 4 year period, the songs he performs are taken from across the 3. ‘Pearly Gates’, is from Crooked Smile, and seemed apt a title to lead into ‘your Second Line’ which relates to the musicians following the funeral cortège in New Orleans.
We are nearing the end of what has been an entertaining evening, some background stories, well written songs and fine musicianship, in the lovely old timbered barn of The Fleece Inn. Time to give a bit of freedom to Ed and Charles, as they grasp their moment to ‘Shake The House’
Words And Photos Graham Munn
Chantel McGregor @ The Artrix 17th May
Pocket rock dynamo, Chantel, returned to the Artrix with her band to play before a strong audience of young and, perhaps, more aged ‘head bangers’, and rock guitar lovers. It was loud, guitar gluttony, Chantel’s Bradford tones, sometimes a little indistinct from my position, as ‘Caught Out’, exploded from the stage. Having said that, there was an awful lot of head nodding and foot tapping going on, so its probably down to my old ears. Accompanying her on stage were her band of fellow ‘Northeners’, bassist Richard Richie, and new father, drummer, Keith McParthling, I hope he’s much more gentle on the new born than the skins of his drums. Chantel uses pick & mix from her album ‘Like No Other’, and a confection of blues classics. Hendrix had to stand aside for ‘Screams Everlasting’, a beautiful song that demonstrated Chantel’s vocal qualities. A voice easily overlooked as she is lined up for the numerous guitar awards that will, no doubt, be bestowed on her slight shoulders. That Ernie Ball Guitar was put to the test for the out and out rock blasting ‘Disco Lover Suicide’, as the thunderous bass of Rich joined Keith’s crashing drums, powered through, I need ear plugs! A lovely version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s classic ‘Help Me’ cried out, deftly played, as she kicked her heels aside, to feel the stage at her feet, the audience were already there, Chantel could do no wrong.
A short break, she is out in the foyer, chatting and signing, comfortable with her fans, before returning to stage for an unmissable, short acoustic set. I was looking forward to this, to listen and reflect on this talented young artist, stripped from the power play and band. ‘Rhiannon’, is served as aperitif, a taste of Hendrix, ‘All Along The Watch Tower’, and the delicious dessert of Bruno Mars ‘Grenade’. Superlative, I could watch a whole set of Chantel McGregor playing acoustic, she is exceptionally good, and deserved winner of the British Blues Vocalist Award last year. The boys return to stage, ‘Daydream’, the slow burning Robin Trower classic, is played to perfection. ‘Fabulous’, is soon following, and is an apt a description of this show as you could find, Chantel is as fabulous as ever, an easy rapport with her audience, plenty of humour and completely at home on this stage. A brief moment of hesitation as the encore is demanded, no point in stepping back too far from the microphone. It came in the form of the excellent ‘Freefalling’. If Your a guitar rock lover, and have not seen Chantel, then make the effort, failing that find her album, she is ‘Like No Other’. Thank you Artrix.
Words and photos Graham Munn
ANNOUNCES DEBUT LONDON SHOW IN JAN 2014 & CELTIC CONNECTIONS FESTIVAL
“Jordie Lane’s debut album may come to be regarded as one of the most assured ever by a local artist” – Rolling Stone Magazine
Acclaimed Australian indie-folk artist Jordie Lane will perform in the UK for the first time in January. Jordi is excited to be headlining the Green Note in London on January 22nd before performing at the prestigious Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, alongside five-time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Described as “Australia’s brightest new roots music star”, Lane has released two critically acclaimed albums since 2009 and toured with The Moody Blues, Billy Bragg, Cat Power, Old Crow Medicine Show and Neko Case.
Based in Los Angeles, Lane has been touring North America and Australia throughout 2013, building a global fan base for his unique blend of folk, country and blues.
Raised by a comedian and a clown, Lane is known for his ability to disarm and charm any audience with his storytelling, self-deprecating humour and remarkable, resonant voice.
“Jordie Lane really does epitomise everything I want in a folk singer…his fingerpicking style reminds me a little of Justin Townes Earle, the way he’s able to combine rhythm and melody in the same movement, and his voice sounds as though it’s from another time.” Timber & Steel
Wednesday January 22nd 2014
Green Note, London
Doors at 7.00pm – www.greennote.co.uk
Friday January 24th 2014
Celtic Connections Festival w/ Mary Chapin Carpenter
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow UK
7.30pm – www.celticconnections.com
Saturday January 25th 2014
Celtic Connections Festival w/ Malcolm Middleton, Papon & Dark Northumbrian
Platform Venue, Glasgow, UK
7.30pm – www.celticconnections.com
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