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Lisbee Stainton playing ‘Word Games’@ The Artix

Nov. 7th

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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.


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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!

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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!

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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


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Artrix May 8th

The Blues Band:


Here once more at the Artrix, who are hosting what has become a regular visit from The Blues Band. What I might ask, can I add to the well documented biography of this mature and skilled gang of Blues practitioners.


Paul Jones, he of the Monday night Radio 2 slot, a near encyclopaedic knowledge of the Blues world. Who’s playing where, and who’s no longer playing at all. All this, and he still finds time to tour, either with this band or parts thereof, a fine harmonica player, singing and playing since the early 60′s. (that means he is actually older than me)


Dave Kelly, one of the finest exponents of the Blues guitar complete with slide. Another man who can dig down to the roots of blues, he has played with the greats, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and John Lee Hooker. The man’s got provenance!


Tom McGuinness, he’s played with Clapton in Eric’s early years, Manfred Mann (as did Paul of course) McGuinness Flint, and later joined Paul to form this band.


Rob Townsend, another man rooted in the 60′s, drummed with Roger Chapman’s ‘Family’, Medicine Head, and has toured with Duane Eddy.


Gary Fletcher, the apparent ‘baby’ of the band, he has been a workman bassist over many years, had played alongside Dave in bands, and was asked along to join The Blues Band.


None of the above need an introduction, they have been around a long time, and not surprisingly, the audience, a sell out, also tend to be of a certain age. They know what to expect, are prepared to pay for it, and they know they will go home with a satisfied grin…………and maybe a few CD’s. They will also be back next time, many grew up through the late 50′s, early 60′s, listening to those same Blues legends as this stalwart band.


Having said all that, I confess to doing much the same (not 50′s). We are all here because these guys can still do the business, well trodden blues songs, some roots, some self penned, all played with enthusiasm and finely honed artistry. Paul, Dave and Tom tell their tales of paths crossed, stages played and the availability of their numerous CD’s, as individuals, or variously formed bands, outside, for sale, in the foyer.


This is a recurring theme between songs, thankfully done with a large dose of banter and humour. Unlike many musicians of their stature, they also are in the foyer, yes to sell, always to sign, and find a bit more time to share a joke and a bit of chat. The queue was long, sales no doubt as good as ever, and a lot of happy people. They were here to see and listen to one of the UK’s most popular Blues bands, maybe to take back a few souvenirs.


A small diversion from the play list as the second set opens, Its a request from a member of the audience. Enter Paul Jones, no accompaniment, he sings ‘Miss Otis Regrets’, the packed auditorium didn’t, regret that is, and he show moved on, all take a turn on vocal leads, with the exception of drummer, Rob.


Plenty of Blues, a bit of gospel, a bit of Rock & Roll in ‘Shake rattle and Roll’, and one I particularly enjoyed, apparently from their ‘Cross Borders’ DVD, ‘Lets Talk It Over. The Blues Band, no doubt will be back, this audience will be back, and so will I.


The Artrix as ever, attract fine bands, who know they will play to full houses, its arguably the outstanding theatre venue in our area, meeting the demand for top performances whatever the show.


Words and Photos By Graham Munn

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Stomp & Holler Live @ The Artrix; Bromsgrove


Last year at Worcester Beer Festival, I saw and listened to Stomp & Holler’s first ‘outing’. Oliver and Abby had evolved from the Blues Tribe, were playing alongside Chris in ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ and had gathered a drummer, Martin, guitarist, Lee, and saxophonist, John. It had been a good evening, though possibly not fully appreciated by the ale enthusiasts glued to the muddy fields of last ‘summer’.

Enjoyable as the evening was, I felt Martin, the drummer, was not fully relaxed into his role. I saw a more complete and accomplished show at Ledbury theatre a few months later, and now here I was at the Artrix to see the band again, I knew Martin was a drummer of repute, and am pleased to say he has, in my humble opinion, grown roots in the band.

John I had seen before when guesting with the old Blues Tribe, and can really appreciate his breathing life into an array of sax’s, as well as some very nice touches on the flute.

Lee is a talented guitarist who has a distinctive influence on the overall sound of this Orleans style band.

The ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ element, Abby, Chris, and Oliver, fit well together as you would expect, but the style and direction is much livelier, with a mix of Blues, Jazz and Swing.


They open at full bore with signature piece ‘Crazy Up In Here’, with strong vocals from Abby and Oliver. Abby takes lead vocals, and she has a fine voice, in ‘Start It Up’, with Lee stepping forward for a spot in ‘Lucky Man’.

This is the aperitif  for one of my particular favourites, sung with some real Cocker mouth grit (that’s Joe, not the little place in Cumbria), ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’. This is played at a funereal pace, suitable perhaps for the opening dirge at a New Orleans procession; it fits Oliver’s gritty vocals as if tailor made.

The first set ends with a strong driving blues of ‘Webstop Checker’, with leads coming from Lee, supported with Oliver’s trumpet and John’s sax, Martin firing up the furnace with Chris shovelling in the coal!


Second set kicks off with a heartfelt ‘Lonesome town’, with Oliver’s unique vocal qualities coming to the fore.

‘Whys It Always Me’, is a more cockney lad style, with Chris taking the vocals, feeding in back to Oliver for a gravel laden ‘Hadn’t Been For Love’, back in blues mode.

The evening seems to rush through, as is always the case when enjoying good music, Abby taking lead again with ‘Tell it Like It Is’; a chorus of ‘happy birthday’, were there really that many birthday’s in the Artrix that evening? A crowd pleasing ‘Evangeline’, running through to a reprise of ‘Crazy Up In Here’; which is where we came in. The difference here is the interwoven, layered vocals from Abby, Oliver, Lee, and Chris.

Overall a good night’s entertainment from 6 very accomplished musicians that have gelled well together since inception.

The music is eminently suitable for getting up and dancing, which I suspect many on the night would have liked to do, I believe the original plan was for the Artix to leave a floor are and partial seating. For whatever reason, it was fully seated, which meant much ‘squirming’ in seats, the standing ovation was inevitable, lets have more!


Words And Photos By Graham Munn

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Counterfeit Stones Live @ Artrix Theatre 27/01/13

Well what can you do when Jagger, Richards, Watts, Wood and co. still desperate to fund their lifestyles and pay the alimony, will only play the big arenas at a price that would require me to take out a small mortgage for the tickets. Not forgetting to take a good pair of binoculars and a set of step ladders. What you do when you cant get no satisfaction is make do with a substitute…..Who, well these guys have been around a time, but it was fresh ground for me, The Counterfeit Stones, playing at a theatre near you!

A full house (both nights) were weaned into the opening ‘Route 66′, with a tongue in cheek video trailer; videos being used throughout as the band passes through its various stages, both dress and line up.

We see a subdued Brian, guitar and sitar, a ‘young’ Mick, strangely ageless! A youthful enthusiastic Keith, a Cool Charlie, who has seen it all, and Bill, oddly managing to stay with the band to-date; why man? Start to finish this show is a polished rock riot, plenty of humour, outfit and ‘line up’ changes (Brian Jones/Mick Taylor/Ron Wood seem all very familiar!) but the era’s are covered well. ‘Brian’s’ Sitar opens ‘Paint it Black’, many of the Stones greatest songs are featured, but ‘White Horses’, ‘Gimme Shelter’ and personal favourite, ‘Sympathy For the Devil’ stood out.

The band played to a sell out, partisan audience and could do no wrong; Keef may not have the dexterity of the real thing, and Mick could do with a stretching and loosening on the rack, but this was start to finish an entertaining evening. My biggest regret is not seeing the Stones in my earlier years, when they were accessible, and I had no cares, could travel to London for a few quid and a beer was 2’6d… a club. They may be counterfeit and on close inspection, look suspect, but it sounds and feels like the real thing; or as close as I’ll ever get.

At a theatre near you, they are playing Worcester Swan on April 25th, it will be a sell out, so dust off your drainpipes, dig out the shades, roll that joint and get your tickets now for a nostalgic trip into the legend that is The Stones, counterfeit or not!

Photos And Words By Graham Munn

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Artrix, Bromsgrove – Friday 8th February


CLASSIC CLAPTON the World’s No1 Eric Clapton Tribute Band featuring front-man Mike Hall will be making a welcome return to Bromsgrove in February.


The band will be performing at Artrix Arts Centre, Slideslow Drive, Bromsgrove on Friday 8th February.  Doors open at 7.30pm.  Band on stage at 8pm.  Tickets priced £15 are available from the box office – Tel: 01527 577330 and also on-line at   Their previous performances at Artix in 2008 & 2010 were a great success.  Fans are therefore advised to book early for their next appearance.


They will perform all of EC’s classic songs including Wonderful Tonight, Tears in Heaven, Crossroads, I Shot The Sheriff, Cocaine, Lay Down Sally and of course Layla!  There will even be an “UNPLUGGED” segment.




The band was formed in 1985 in Newcastle upon Tyne long before the term “tribute band” was invented, and named themselves ”After Midnight” after Eric Clapton’s first solo hit.  In guitar/vocalist Mike Hall, they have a front man who not only looks like Eric, he sings and plays guitar like him too! 


In 1999, Mike won a national look-alike competition held at Madam Tussauds in London.  Mike has met Slowhand twice, and even received a message of encouragement from the guitar maestro (written on a Concorde menu).


TYNE TEES TELEVISION were so impressed, they made a programme about them, called ‘COVER THEIR TRACKS’.  It was shown in August 2000 and received rave reviews, leading to national recognition. Recently Mike was filmed by Japanese TV for a documentary about Slowhand’s classic song Layla. The programme was shown on BS Fuji TV Japan on 3rd January 2013.


In 2001 the band embarked on an extensive tour of UK Theatres.  They called the tribute show “CLASSIC CLAPTON”.  Since then, they have continued to perform throughout the UK and Europe including concerts at The Royal Festival Hall, London and a triumphant appearance at Glastonbury Festival in 2002.  In the past few years they have performed numerous concerts in Europe including Spain, Estonia and Holland.  In July 2009 they appeared at St Andrews Auditorium in Mumbai.  A 10,000 mile round-trip for 1 gig, but it was a great experience.


In the past 27 years CLASSIC CLAPTON have become something of a rock institution.


CLASSIC CLAPTON comprises 4 excellent musicians:-  Mike Hall (lead vocals/guitar) & Paul Warren (keyboards/ backing vocals).  Since their last appearance in 2010 they have been re-joined by Danny Davison (drums) and Dave Robson (bass guitar /backing vocals).  Dave is a former member of chart band Geordie.  In fact he was with them at the time Brian Johnson left to join AC/DC.  Dave & Danny were both original members of CLASSIC CLAPTON.


CLASSIC CLAPTON have released three albums.  Firstly “THE MUSIC OF ERIC CLAPTON” contains brilliant cover-versions of 17 Clapton Classics.  Their second is a live double CD ”CLASSIC CLAPTON Unplugged”  recorded at Belfast Waterfront Hall.  In 2005 they released their third album “CLASSIC CREAM” – featuring 20 songs made famous by the sixties supergroup.  All three albums will be available at Bromsgrove.


Eric Clapton has been a major international star since the mid 1960′s, when he revolutionised electric guitar playing, with his virtuoso performances in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.  He has won an incredible 19 Grammies and is the only triple inductee into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of The Yardbirds, Cream and as a solo artist).


Eric Clapton’s recent tours unfortunately have visited only a limited number of large UK venues.  If fans want to hear all of his hits performed in more intimate surroundings, they really should attend a CLASSIC CLAPTON concert.  The whole of Clapton’s illustrious career will be covered including Cream, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Yardbirds, Blind Faith, Derek & The Dominos and the solo years.     


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