Alex Diaz (Xela Zaid) has been on the Miami music scene for more than three decades. The album Orange Violet was self released digitally back in 2013 and I reviewed it at the time. The vinyl version was recorded live and released in February 2016.
The feel of this ‘new’ old album is intriguing.Whooshes of sound could be heartbeats or an ultra scan, albeit with Moroccan overtones.Rain Dance could be a form of sympathetic magic and Ghost Ride just that and just as chilling. Experimental tracks lend themselves to the world of psychedelia, where repetitive,orderly sounds move along side gentle, electronic, rhythmic insistence, what my husband describes as an audio equivalent of a Jackson Pollack painting.He’s right, these tracks could well be the soundtrack to abstract expressionism. The video Twelve released in February 2016 encapsulates all these impressions and adds dance and movement to the mix. It is also an example of a new and exciting development in Zaid’s work which can only leave us wondering what comes next?
Seattle born Scott Yoder released this debut album in March 2016. Reaching a low point in his musical career, he decided to work out how he really felt about music and how to write songs in a way that he describes as ‘a person to person perspective’.
This resulted in songs that feel stripped back to the bone and have an honesty at the heart of each track because he hasn’t been tempted to give way to what he describes as the commodification of music – a bold and a brave move. These songs don’t have to be anything but what they are.The overall feeling of the album is that each track contains just the right notes,just the right words and that even these have been carefully chosen piece by piece,word by word, note by note to support his decisions on the authenticity and truth that he wants to shine out in his work.
He has forged tracks that are an exploration of emotional pain in varying forms .Striking descriptions,especially the extraordinary images of ‘Silver Boy’ are all supported by music which is pertinent and evocative, particularly in ‘Songs to Strangers,’ the haunting blues effect in ‘ Where She Goes’, and the delicacy of ‘Looking Back in Blue.’ Having got the words and music in place Yodel now needs to work on his voice. There are too many slips,he needs to work on phrasing and emphasis and make a decision as to whether he wants to speak or sing the words and the delivery has got to reflect the authenticity and truth of his songs. A tall order and a big ask but the result would be something extraordinary.
He plays The Lexington in London on 17th April. See his website for more details of the European Tour.
This ten song CD is the Blueberry Moon’s first album and was released on 25th March. Soaked in country music which laps soothingly at the edge of the lyrics,the album is heartrending and melancholic,tugging at the listener’s musical heartstrings. McKean’s voice is clear to the point of allowing the listener to hear every word and carefully judged to project just the right amount of pathos and emotion ,heartbreak and regret so that the album doesn’t slip into sentimentality. With a depth of detailed social observation and perception, Blueberry Moon reflect influences such as Johnny Cash or in the lyrics to ‘The Redeemer’, Leonard Cohen as well as Dylan in his country phase. A great debut album which they will be promoting at the Monarch in Camden on 21st April.See their Facebook page for more details.
The Convent in Woodchester is one of the most amazing music venues I’ve reviewed from in the last seven or so years that the lpproject has been running. John McCullagh from Doncaster played there on a bleak Thursday evening to a very small ,live audience but also to a massive worldwide audience on Netgig. McCullagh has split from his band and so the audience were expecting a young man,a guitar or two and some good tunes. However, this turned out to be a gig with a difference.At the the very beginning we were asked not to applaud.Apparently this was due to contractual agreements,everything was designed to fit in with filming and so to an extent,the live audience didn’t exist. We all obeyed and sat quietly and gradually it dawned on all of us that this was going to be a very strange gig to watch. Firstly, it is very difficult not to applaud. McCullagh simply said ‘Cheers’ or ‘Thank you for coming out,” to a silent audience. By the end, none of us really knew what to do.Would he come back for an encore? Would it then be ok to applaud and show our appreciation? How were we to know when it was ok to do something to let him know how good he was because he turned out to be very good indeed.
He is influenced by Bob Dylan and Nick Drake amongst others. He also has the same passion allied to a brilliant voice,a flair for interpretation and the quiet confidence of someone who knows his worth. He chose to deliver a few covers of Dylan and Drake and also his own material and he didn’t put a foot wrong.When he described himself as clumsy for dropping an item on stage,it simply endeared the audience to him; brilliant musicians rarely have a reputation for perfection. He simply owned the stage, played a strong, sustained performance for an hour, shared some intelligent and thoughtful lyrics on love and loss and did it all with a maturity beyond his years by harnessing a seamless whole of musical influence to his own talent. When I spoke to him at the end, he told me that he hadn’t known that the audience wouldn’t be applauding so add flexibility and resilience to the mix. In a world where it seems that plastic pop rules, McCullagh is not just an antidote but also an inspiration and the best thing of all is that this is just the beginning.
I now live in Nailsworth ,Gloucestershire where there is an amazing music scene such as the local Village Inn with different music nights and The Convent in Woodchester. The Convent is both a music venue and a TV studio and is probably the most beautiful music venue in the country. It also broadcasts The Convent gigs on Netgig. It is well worth a look . It was recently mentioned during the BBC 2 Folk awards as well.
I am still recreating my old site. The above image shows you a bit of what the old site used to look like but I’m still battling to get the old reviews back. So…..time to start again! I review online as well as going to gigs.The mail address should now be working again but if you don’t hear back from me, I have now included contact details which are the same as the ones on my business cards.
I hope you like the new site .