Archive | November, 2017

Cindy Wilson – Change

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Cindy Wilson – Change

Posted on 16 November 2017 by Joe

Most bands struggle to get by with one good singer. How they must envy The B-52s, who are blessed with three great vocalists – Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider.

Of this trio Cindy is the favourite for many, with her impassioned vocals making tracks such as Give Me Back My Man and Dance this Mess Around among the band’s best.

Cindy Wilson change

The surprising news for those getting hold of this first ever solo album from Wilson, is that the Cindy Wilson of then is nowhere to be seen here. There are no screams of love, no sultry Southern delivery. Instead her delivery is soft, whispering at times.

But that’s not to say this is to be dismissed.  In fact the opposite is the case as  this collection from a ‘changed’ Cindy Wilson is very fine indeed – full of smart electro pop and one that will please fans of St Etienne in particular.

The Tubeway Army sounding synth sounds on Mystic make this a particularly striking track, the heavy bass on Brother is a joy and there’s a lovely pop melody to the funk infused No One Can Tell You.

While this album doesn’t play to her incredible vocal strengths it does still showcase her role as one of the all time great pop artists, and one that is more than happy to embrace new styles.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

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Eilen Jewell – The Maze, Nottingham (November 12, 2017)

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Eilen Jewell – The Maze, Nottingham (November 12, 2017)

Posted on 14 November 2017 by Joe

A very difficult decision had to be made tonight as Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band were also in town. But a quick listen to Down Hearted Blues, a collection of reworked classics by Eilen Jewell, and that Sunday night gig quandary became a formality.

Originally from Boise, Idaho, Eilen Jewell is a waif like presence that belies a sensuous, confident and sensational performer. A fantastic, authentic interpreter of the blues and countrified Americana, with such a special voice that is equally at home in both camps.

Eilen Jewel

Eilen Jewel

She and her band effortlessly invoke the spirits of Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon, Memphis Minnie and Betty James. The band tonight are tremendous, on huge double bass is Shawn Supra, the suave Mr Jason Beek is on drums, brushes and washboard..oh yes, we have a washboard scenerio!

And on the sweetest guitar you’ll ever hear is the legendary guitarist Jerry Miller who has an illustrious career playing with the likes of Johnny Cash and was part of the nascent hippy movement as prime mover in the band Moby Grape with Skip Spence. He also knew Jimi Hendrix and is one of the greatest exponents of the guitar this side of Atlantis.

This was a mammoth set, two hours by my reckoning and covering all bases, including Shelf Blues, Rio Grande, Needle and Thread, Rich Man’s World from her vibrant back catalogue.

Eilen Jewell’s new recordings were superlative too. Another Night to Cry, Don’t Leave Poor Me and especially Walking with Frankie really cooked up a storm. In virtually all the songs Miller played some incredible guitar licks. Restrained and concise, the epitome of a truly gifted musician and a privilege and pleasure to experience.

Between these beautiful tunes Eilen Jewell talks about her love for the blues, busking, falling in and out of love and how music got her through the hard times.

She tells of discovering her father’s record collection and her early years in Boise, where she longed to break out and connect with something bigger. This desire to break free of your roots appears to be a common thread to many musicians.

She seemed genuinely grateful to receive vociferous calls for an encore and finished with a glorious version of Bang Bang Bang and a solo stab at Bob Dylan’s Walking Down the Line which was mesmeric.

Support was from Sophia Marshall, a name you should remember for future reference, hailing from Leicestershire this singer songwriter has an easy relaxed style with a nice set of self penned tunes. Flanked by Andy Jenkinson and Sarah Marshall who contribute backing vocals and bass, the resulting melange of acoustica is a sweet thing, gentle, harmonious and blessed with some nice tunes.

Her latest album is called Bye Bye, from which most of tonight’s short set came from and heartily recommended it is too.

Big eyed beans from Venus nil…….Eilen and Sophia, three.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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Chickfactor 25 – London, The Lexington (November 12, 2017)

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Chickfactor 25 – London, The Lexington (November 12, 2017)

Posted on 13 November 2017 by Dorian

Tonight’s Chickfactor 25 gig at The Lexington is part of “a series of fortunate events” to celebrate 25 years of the US-based indie pop magazine Chickfactor. Across the events (happening in New York, Portland and London) dozens of bands are playing, but this event alone is a pretty impressive selection of indie pop acts from the last quarter century.

The Catenary Wires

The Catenary Wires

Amelia Fletcher has been part of my musical life for 30 years now, first as a vocalist on a Wedding Present record and later fulfilling the same role for Hefner. I’ve never owned any records by the many bands she has fronted, but I have enjoyed seeing her play live in a number of acts over the years. The Catenary Wires, a duo with long-time collaborator Rob Pursey, are perhaps the most pleasant of all these bands, playing a low-key acoustic set that wouldn’t shock fans of Tallulah Gosh or the Tender Trap.

Would-Be-Goods

Would-Be-Goods

Next up at Chickfactor 25 is the Would-Be-Goods, who play the liveliest set of the night, sporting a full band for the evening. This is a band that I had never heard of before booking tickets, but one that has a career dating back to the late 1980s. Singer Jessica Griffin is as English as can be, both in her sung accent and her on-stage demeanour. The band is pretty good and they come close to rocking out a couple of times which is refreshing on such a restrained musical bill.

Stevie Jackson

Stevie Jackson

The last time I saw Stevie Jackson play a solo set was at Indietracks in 2012 where, backed by a full band, he played (to my knowledge) no Belle and Sebastian songs. Here, alone with an acoustic guitar, he plays a set that is heavy with songs by his band. This includes an as-yet-unreleased song from their next album and an inevitable performance of Chickfactor. Perhaps the best moment of the set (and perhaps the night) is when Rose Melberg joins him on stage to play a Gene Clark cover. Although his bluesy version of Step Into My Office Baby is another highlight.

The Softies

The Softies

Rose Melberg has played in seemingly dozens of bands over the last 25 years, and they all seem to have fairly fleeting existences. She has three basic musical styles that these acts work around, Go Sailor and Pups offer bouncy guitar pop, Tiger Trap and Knife Pleats a fuzzy downbeat guitar pop and solo and with The Softies an introspective and soft type of guitar pop (there are other bands too, but I’ll not list them all). The thing that unites all these bands is that they are all great, largely unheard and feature her wonderful singing voice. The duo, with Jen Sbragia on guitar and backing vocals, are perhaps her best-loved incarnation and you can see why tonight. At Chickfactor 25 their voices meld perfectly and the subtle melodies work perfectly without a backing band. The duo doesn’t play often, and there were some false starts and abandoned solos in the set, but the songs and voices sounded pretty great and the fan-heavy audience clung on to every note.

By Dorian Rogers

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Granite Shore – Suspended Second

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Granite Shore – Suspended Second

Posted on 06 November 2017 by Joe

With Brexit approaching we could perhaps all do with listening to this second album from Granite Shore – the musical project of Nick Halliwell, who runs Exeter based label Occultation Records.

Here all our fears of the unknown, the anger (well for remainers at least) of the decision and sense of hopelessness are laid bare.

the_granite_shore_suspended_second_RHEA7E1056_LP_1024x1024

There’s anger too that his fellow artists have largely ignored the issue. This comes out on I Suppose So when he sings “I’m not sure this is my responsibility, but no-one’s stepping forward as far as I can see”.

The tone also helps convey this swell of emotions. This is particularly the case with Halliwell’s deep, quivering at times vocals, that perfectly encapsulates the UK’s new vulnerability.

Opener So It Begins is a great example of this. Here Halliwell’s calm turns to rage at what he calls Britain’s “self-harming anxiety episode”.

Brexit is indeed scary. One minute we are nestled nicely in the world’s most powerful economic, political and social organisation. The next we’ll just a be a rainy, tiny island. Trump one side and on the other the fall out from a bitter divorce battle.

The 1970s pop feel from Granite Shore also helps give the album a wistful feel, and a reminder of happier times in Europe. It was after all the decade where our relationship with our continental neighbours was brand new and the Eurovision song contest actually produced quality pop.

“A pop record is the obvious format for in-depth social-political analysis so I allowed my lifelong love of ABBA free rein,” says Halliwell of the album’s style.

There’s a cast of label mates to help out too. John Howard is perhaps the most noticeable. His beautifully preserved 1970s pop vocals prove ideal for what Halliwell is trying to achieve.

In keeping with Occultation’s focus on presentation with its albums there is also a deluxe version of this Granite Shore offering, featuring separate stereo and mono mixes.

For more information about Granite Shore visit Occultation’s website here.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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