Let The River Answer -James McKean and the Blueberry Moon

6th January 2017

James McKean has released the new music video for his download single ‘Let The River Answer ‘taken from the album ‘No Peace for the Wicked.” See my review of April 2016.The single is backed by a cover of Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker’s ‘Homemade Heartache’.

McKean’s voice does justice to both tracks,Johnny Cash’s influence still stays strong in the vocals and the music is sensuous and languid. The video narrative simply adds to the charm, three small pirates playing in and around the river, chocolate treasure, blueberries (of course) used as lipstick and a bemused pirate dad asleep on the grass.

The album was released in December 2016 and ‘Let The River Answer’is the third single released from the album. See the video on You Tube.

Harry Pane ‘Changing’ 24th October 2016

Harry Pane is a folk and blues  singer- songwriter originally from Northamptonshire now based in London. He has played at Glastonbury and supported ‘Flight Brigade’ at The Convent in Woodchester last night.

The EP ‘Changing’ comprises four tracks. They are gentle, restrained yet bleak- a  perfect vehicle for the blues in all its forms.His guitar work is hauntingly evocative of the Deep South especially where the slide guitar creates a  particularly effective contrast such as in ‘Cold Light Of Day’  and although this is only a taster of his work, it is enough to see why he is so in demand. The only criticism is of the ‘stomping’ which at times feels heavy and intrusive  particularly when contrasted with the delicacy of vocals and music . Harry tells me that he is a busker so next time you are in London you might be able to check him out. Otherwise ,see his website for further news of gigs.

Flight Brigade – The Convent – 23rd October 2016

Flight Brigade already have  an impressive  track history so it was no surprise that this band delivered a storming performance at The Convent in Woodchester last night.

The very first act I ever reviewed was a solo artist who played to a handful of people  as though he was headlining Wembley. The impact he made was tangible. Flight Brigade, normally a seven piece band  had six superlative musicians playing to a tiny audience and the impact was the same. This is music that grabs both heart and intellect because it directly transmits the emotions of the musicians and their sheer joy in their performance. Intelligent lyrics, intricate, nuanced tunes,each musician contributing a beautifully judged and balanced offering to the whole experience built up the layers. These were then enhanced but never overshadowed, by showmanship from violinist Dorry  and vocals and narrative from Ollie. Their debut CD ‘Our Friends Our Enemies’, which they showcased on stage, is a delight, being one those rare examples of a band who can entrance an audience both on stage and on a recording.They have also been in demand at festivals including Bestival and Glastonbury and no wonder when they would be riveting to watch, no matter what  the weather!

Lynched – The Convent – 27th August 2016

‘Lynched’ are a four piece Irish traditional folk band from Dublin but this is folk with an edge, drawing on an established tradition whilst adding contemporary detail.  Listening to this fascinating band and their music (a  combination of  uilleann pipes, a Russian accordion, concertina, fiddle and guitar amongst others, all overlaid with superlative four part harmonies), they produce an eclectic mix of music hall singalong, anti war anthems, murder ballad ,traditional and original songs, that resonate in the soul. The harmonies are both delicate and muscular and where the music speaks for itself, the effects range from melancholic to jaunty to downright eerie and hypnotic. The chilling ‘The Old Man from over the Sea,’ contrasts with the gaiety of ‘Daffodil Mulligan,’ and we are drawn into ‘Billy O Shea’, a lively sea shanty, all the while being given snippets of information and background to each song, although there may not be many takers for a drink involving red wine mixed with meths!The band’s first album ‘Cold Old Fire’ was released in May and there are hints of another album to be released early next year.

LaVendore Rogue – The Convent – 13th August 2016

LaVendore Rogue

This is a band of two halves. In one camp is JoJo Burgess ,the very charismatic and roguish lead singer of LaVendore Rogue and Joel Fisk who I reviewed years ago in Colchester.In the other, is Rob ‘Tank’ Barry on bass and Warren Lynn on keyboards. The bridge between is provided by Stephen “Cupsey’ Cutmore on drums. ‘Easter Day’ kicks off proceedings and the band sets a benchmark. Burgess is theatrical,a showman,an expressive and choreographed  lead singer who deserved a much larger audience to hold in the palm of his hand.He dresses the part; a top featuring a sparkly cross to compliment the venue was a nice touch and his energy is overpowering. However, it was difficult to decipher the lyrics for those of us sitting at the back of the venue.Fisk is stunning; effortless,nuanced and spell binding, making his guitar sing, taking it to the limits but the danger is that they are almost a separate unit within the band. Rob Barry seems to be overshadowed, a cool and calm presence  to offset Burgess’ powerful presence and when Warren Lynn played on keys,I wanted to hear more.He appears to be an exceptional musician yet his strengths are in danger of being subsumed. Cutmore holds the two camps together, an award winning drummer who understands and reacts to the complexity of both sides and manages to support both. A mix of covers and original songs gave us an idea of the band’s range, showcasing their mix of Roots and Rock and I’m sure that their next album will be as warmly received as their recently released debut album ‘Light Up With LaVendore Rogue.’ I believe that it is available for ‘ten of your English pounds’ if you attend one of their gigs'(the band is currently on tour)and slightly more online. See their website for more details.

The Black Feathers – The Convent- 29th July 2016

Sian and Ray Hughes, aka The Black Feathers, are a duo from Cirencester who held a hugely appreciative audience spellbound at The Convent last night.Taking us through a range of narratives including  the first song they ever wrote together and one based on a dream, the chemistry between this couple is unmistakeable and soaks into their work.The vocals are sublime, utilising delicate ,sophisticated pauses and phrasing, notes left hanging in the air to shimmer and dissolve , nuanced guitar work that supports without ever overshadowing and harmonies that depend on perfect timing. The whole effect that this duo create is breathtaking. They are currently on tour,see their website for details.

Mark Radcliffe and Galleon Blast- The Convent -18th June 2016

Mark Radcliffe and the 6 musicians who make up Galleon Blast had  invited the audience to dress as pirates for this gig and a  good percentage of the audience joined the staff in wearing amazing costumes. The Convent itself had been appropriately decorated and although it was the first time that I’ve seen  pirate rigging on an altar it seemed appropriate. The middle section of The Convent had been cleared to allow for potentially drunken dancing to sea shanties and it simply remained for Galleon Blast to get the party started. The whole experience was pure and simple fun,singing and dancing took place and the music was suitably raucous.Sea shanties,the trials and tribulations of being at sea and the fun of outwitting authority worked well alongside cover versions of The Pogues and Waterboys and who cares if Christmas is sung about in June? Radcliffe is a well known presenter, an expert in dry humour  and within seconds had the audience in the palm of his hand where we willingly stayed.The Convent is the first music venue I’ve been to that gave away free shots of rum which simply added to a real sense of celebration.This took on another dimension when Matt, the owner of The Convent, took to the stage at the end of the gig, to  tell us how he regarded Radcliffe as a hero and then revealed how  his own wife was a hero too, supporting him through a recent illness where he almost died.Personally,I would nominate Matt for hero status for what he and his wife Charlotte, together with their team, are doing at The Convent. This is a music venue that is becoming a byword for excellence. Take a look at their website for details of gigs for the rest of the year.

Jim Causley The Convent Woodchester 9th June 2016

Jim Causley and his band, Becki and Nick played to a small audience on Thursday evening.Perhaps the finale of ‘Peaky Blinders’ was the root cause of this but for those of us who went to The Convent and then caught up with Tommy Shelby on iPlayer we got the best of both worlds. The Convent is a small venue and at first it seemed that Causley might have to work extra hard to increase the ambience and energy that would have occurred naturally if the venue had been full. However,with practised ease, he used the venue to his advantage by chatting to the audience about each song and giving just enough detail to keep us interested and alert to the interpretation of each song whether it was one he had modified,one he had made up or one that he had taken from his Great Uncle , the poet Charles Causley and set to music.

It worked brilliantly.The audience also learnt about different times of history concerning the people of Devon and Cornwall.Who knew that tin squeaks when it is bent into shape?A song dedicated to asking permission of the tin to be mined might sound mawkish but wasn’t. Nostalgia seeped into narrative in a song about Rosie, a childhood sweetheart, in ‘Back in the Day’. The defensive and heartbreaking ‘Who?’ made a massive impact on my husband Ray and although not Hallowe’en it seemed appropriate to sing a song about a woman entering a ghostly church having seen all the corpses enter- which proved to be far more fun than the title might suggest .The excellent use of piano,guitar,fiddle and accordion simply added to the sense of authenticity from a trio that genuinely love celebrating a much loved part of the country and for a far too brief period of time shared that affection with us.

‘Anachronicle’- Big Mountain County – 23rd May 2016

‘Anachronicle’ is the second LP of this four- piece Italian band and was released in April 2016. Their genre is wild and dirty psych rock and roll and they have had a lot of success touring Eastern and Central  Europe in November 2013 and April /May 2014.  Second albums are always tricky and this nine track album is no exception.

The music is dense and muscular,fusing psychedelia with rock that swirls in repetitive loops of sound  controlled  perfectly and I think it would have been a good idea to have focused on including a couple of tracks that were just of their music, as there’s a lot going on and it’s worth showcasing.The downside is that the vocals  don’t yet match the strength of the music, lyrics are difficult to hear and for me the vocals aren’t coming across as a defined and important part of each song. This LP also contains two tracks from a previous EP plus one previously unreleased .  ‘MyTime’ sounds bluesy and might have been better omitted from this album. Second albums can present problems but Big Mountain County have a made a very creditable attempt with ‘Anachronicle’ and I look forward to their development in their next album.

Orange Violet (PS 022) / Twelve – Xela Zaid 18th April 2016

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?