|(06) Live Reviews June 2005|
Quick-links to sub-sections:
Jason McNiff - Americana UK House Gig, Liverpool - 24th June 2005
Steve Earle – Glastonbury Festival, Somerset - June 2005
Neal Casal, Richard Buckner, Crooked Fingers, Danny George Wilson - The Borderline, London - 28th June 2005
Mark Olson & the Creekdippers - Hanbury Ballroom, Brighton - 22nd June 2005
Patty Griffin - Oran Mor, Glasgow - 23rd June 2005
Crosby, Stills & Nash - The Brighton Centre - June 27th 2005
The WIYOS - Hell’s Ditch, The Pilgrim, Liverpool - 21st June 2005
Jeff Klein and People In Planes - The Glee Club Birmingham - 16th June 2005 / The Social Nottingham 19th June 2005
Larry Love / Broken Family Band - Lynton & Lynmouth Festival - 12th June 2005
Eels - Nottingham Royal Concert Hall - 11th June 2005
Twisted Folk: Vetiver, Micah P Hinson and Curritick Co – Carling Academy, Birmingham – 11th June 2005
Mark Erelli - Fallen Angels Club, Laurie’s Bar - Glasgow - 3rd June 2005
Dinosaur Jr - The Forum London - 8th June 2005
M. Ward - The Social, Nottingham - 5th June 2005
Magnolia Electric Company - Bush Hall, London - 2nd June 2005
|June 2005 Live Reviews include:
Jason McNiff (Americana UK House Gig, Liverpool), Steve Earle, Neal Casal/Richard Buckner/Crooked Fingers/Danny George Wilson, Mark Olson & the Creekdippers, Patty Griffin, Crosby, Stills & Nash, The WIYOS, Jeff Klein and People In Planes, Larry Love / Broken Family Band, Eels, Twisted Folk: Vetiver, Micah P Hinson and Curritick Co, Mark Erelli, Dinosaur Jr, M. Ward, Magnolia Electric Company.
|Jason McNiff - Americana UK House Gig, Liverpool - 24th June 2005|
Review by Chris Stevens
This year has seen an excellent series of house gigs hosted by Americana UK. In a friendly and intimate setting we have witnessed some truly great performances and this, sadly, was the last at least until after the summer. Jason McNiff, someone who in all honesty I hadn’t heard of prior to this gig, proved to be a fitting act to draw this ‘season’s’ gigs to a close, complete with the quality of material and committed performance we have come to expect. First up - due to an ear infection preventing the appearance of scheduled support Anna Kashfi - was Americana UK’s own Barry Jones providing a set of his preferred “You won’t get a lot of laughs around here” songs, though splendidly abbreviated throughout with humorous tales of life as a tv soap extra and failed auditions for soap powder commercials, “Isn’t Daz shite!”. And so to Jason McNiff, performing with a complete band - bass, drums and keyboard - in the small space available they huddled together to deliver two sets of intensely simmering songs built around Jason’s excellent and quite unique guitar playing and featuring vocal performances that at times were totally spellbinding. Skinny and waif-like his songs seemed to possess him, almost too much for him to retain as his body twitched and buckled under the effort. His vocals, often delivered through gritted teeth like some sort of puppet-less ventiloquist, ranged from quiet and mournful to quietly intense and passionate. Currently completing work on a new album, they performed as a cohesive unit with a genuine empathy for each others contributions. The record promises to be a cracker. Spectacle of the night was, at the interval, watching the very tall keyboard player unfold himself from behind his instrument, rather like a hermit crab exiting it’s shell! I do hope there’s more to come in the future.
|Steve Earle – Glastonbury Festival, Somerset - June 2005|
Review by James Clark
Those little moments, you know? Those little things which turn a day, or a week, or maybe even more. Here’s one: you’re sat in a tea tent in a field one Thursday with friends hiding from the searing heat, unaware of the monsoon around the corner, blowing cigarette smoke and generally slipping into the Glasto vibe when someone you know pipes up: “Aye aye, I see Steve Earle’s playing an acoustic set in the Leftfield tent on Sunday night. They kept that quiet.” And there you are. One minute you’re staring into space, the next you’ve flicked through an obscure union-sponsored leaflet and you realise that one of the acts you were dying to see but certain to miss thanks to clashes with others is playing an unannounced second gig. What makes this a truly religious experience is that you also notice that Earle’s on directly before Billy Bragg, present as ever for his annual two-hour barnstormer to reinvigorate the masses for the fight against the BNP et al – but that’s a story for another time and place. Earle played on the Friday at Glasto in the Acoustic Tent. Your dedicated correspondent is unable to advise you of how that went having had an urgent appointment to keep with a sea of mud, a deal of pear cider, some other odds and sods and the White “siblings”. However, he can tell you that Earle’s second gig of the weekend was a triumph. For the uninitiated, the Leftfield is one of those Glasto oddities that started tiny and has grown and grown. A tent it may still be, but it’s a tent with its own bar, numerous campaigning stands and room for 5000 punters. You get the idea.
Sponsored by the union movement, it showcases acts which support its wider ideals, be it comedy, oratory or, most often, music. Nobody sane doubts Earle’s commitment to the causes he champions (notably union rights and an end to capital punishment), but if anyone does it’s worth noting that he didn’t fly in to play his headliner on Friday and agree to stay on for the less glamorous and little-advertised Leftfield gig – in fact he agreed to play the Leftfield gig at Billy Bragg’s invitation and only later, when festival big cheese and landowner Michael Evis realised he was there, was he offered a “proper” gig. By the time he walked on he’d filled the place, which is encouraging bearing in mind the modern Glasto crowd. Anyone who wasn’t sure what they were in for soon got the gist when the harmonica faded and, to the accompanying acoustic chord-fest, Earle’s opening lyrics advised them: “Fuck the FCC, fuck the FBI, fuck the CIA, I’m livin’ in the mother-fuckin’ USA.” Over the next hour he pulled out all the favourites, sans Copperhead Road which doesn’t really work without a band. Between songs there was much ruminating on the state of the US, the way the UK is heading, drugs, prison, death, union rights and Iraq. Earle’s style in this is different to Bragg’s. BB is an agitator, and a damn good one. He grabs you by the heartstrings, via the gut, and reduces grown men to tears with a mix of humour, passion and absolute belief. Earle chats, tells stories and wins you over more gently, although by the time he got around to the classic closer “Christmas in Washington” complete with sing-a-long chorus line “Come back Woody Guthrie” there was plenty of wiping of eyes on muddy sleeves. Those of us up front were surprised to see that by the time he went off the crowd was out of the tent and into the road – although I use the word “road” in the loosest possible sense. In short then, a great cameo appearance by one of the great alternative voices of US folk/country music. Unexpected, but not to be forgotten.
|Neal Casal, Richard Buckner, Crooked Fingers, Danny George Wilson - The Borderline, London - 28th June 2005|
Review by Barry Jones
Fargo delivers the goods. Following a celebration in Paris two nights before, four of Fargo’s growing stable of good quality acts arrived, a little late, at the Borderline. Celebrating five years of the French based record label seems as good a reason as any for the event and The Borderline is an ideal venue for the people involved. First up was Danny Wilson, who played some Grand Drive material, credited to him and his brother Julian, and some of the new stuff from his solo album, The Famous Mad Mile, released the day before, accompanied by Simon Alpin on mandolin, who also produced the album. Very good they were too, and the album is well worth checking out. Neal Casal also joined in on one song and Danny reciprocated by joining in with Neal at the end of his set, little events which made the night quite special. Danny is due out on a tour soon, with Jess Klein, who appears on the album, adding vocals, that should be a real treat.
Eric Bachmann (Crooked Fingers) was up next, playing a nylon strung guitar which gave a very Spanish feel to his set, a flavour of his new Dignity and Shame album, which has tracks about matadors and bulls and suchlike, and is also worth checking out. The production of the album includes trumpets and cellos to give a very sophisticated sound, which couldn't be recreated solo, but the presence of Australian singer songwriter Lara Meyerattken, who also appears on the album, really helped. Two strong, colourful voices which blended very well. Richard Buckner is a very fine artist, with a stunning voice, rich and rumbling, and he played tracks from his latest album Dents and Shells, which again, is a very good album (sorry about this apparent lack of criticism, but Fargo have really got a good bunch of artists here, and I can recommend any of them, they are amongst the best things I've heard all year). Unfortunately, he did seem to lose the audience a bit, as his method of running all the tracks into one, using different quick change guitars to set up loops, which link the songs together, leaves no gap for applause, or interaction with the audience, and anybody unfamiliar with the material could be mistaken for thinking it was one long song. In a different venue, with a seated audience, it would probably work better, a bit like a symphony does, but for a warm Tuesday night Borderline audience, the chatter threatened to drown the stage sound. It's a shame, because he deserves better, as his soundscapes, in my humble opinion, are real "works of art" and mark him out as a special talent.
Neal Casal topped the bill, and was great. It's surprising that he isn't a bigger "star", but maybe the next album, currently underway for Fargo, will be the one which catapults him to greater things. His current retrospective Leaving Traces illustrates how good his songs can be, and the latest Hazy Malaze offering, Blackout Love, has some real gems, I was bit surprised to discover, considering the criticism the band have drawn in some quarters. Jeff Hill, the bass player from Hazy Malaze, in town working with Rufus Wainwright, provided additional vocals and some great upright bass playing. Neal apologised for the recent Hazy Malaze tour cancellation, caused by the broken wrist of drummer Dan Fadel, and promised to be back soon. Let’s hope so! The sound on the night was very good, as usual at the Borderline, in my limited experience, and the beer is a terrible bloody price.
|Mark Olson & the Creekdippers - Hanbury Ballroom, Brighton - 22nd June 2005|
Review by Mike Morrison
It is quite easy to see why Mark & Gary Louris had ‘artistic differences’ ten years ago which led to Mark leaving the Jayhawks. Gary wanted to take the band into a more consumer friendly Eagles (but better!) type, melodic area of country rock, whilst Mark has always veered towards a modern version of old time acoustic Appalachian music. Of course there was also the consideration that Mark’s wife, Victoria Williams, needed to live in a dry climate due to her health problems which left the mid west out! Gary & Mark have just started doing some work together again, in fact I’ve just been listening to a recent bootleg of their American tour. Sounds very promising, so fingers crossed? Anyway, I had been looking forward to this gig for sometime, particularly as it was just Mark & the 2 male members of the Creekdippers. Sadly Victoria was unwell & couldn’t come over on this tour & thus add her appealing quirkiness to the proceedings. Having said that, I saw them at the Komedia in Brighton last year & thought the gig was spoilt by this very quirkiness which soon became totally directionless. Since his Jayhawk days I have loved the songs that Mark writes & prefer the sound of his voice to just about any other singer around! He could have been born to play alt. country & has the same soulful feel to his voice as Jay Farrar. There was very little of his singing at the Komedia gig, although, having panned it, I do love Victoria Williams music. Most of her albums are excellent & having seen her live in the past & enjoyed it maybe that night was just one of those things!
Sadly, & inexplicably, on this particular Thursday night the Hanbury was far from full. It’s really difficult to understand how the people of Brighton & Hove are not fighting to get in & see musicians of this quality, & for such a low cost as well! All three were at the top of their game with Mark taking lead vocals, acoustic & electric guitar, bass, & for a couple of songs, the dulcimer. The just as talented Mike Watson took backing vocals, electric guitar, bass & fiddle. His vocals, without even trying, sound more like Willie Nelson than Willie Nelson himself does! I happened to mention this to Mike after the gig & within earshot of Mark who burst out laughing. Apparently he has been telling Mike this for years. I suspect plenty of others will have noticed the same. On drums, & for one song, bass, was the superb Ray Woods. During the first set Mark broke a guitar string & for the remaining songs up until half time it surprisingly seemed to unnerve him. Mind you, the high quality of the music was not affected!
The song selection was excellent with a couple of Jayhawks songs & the rest being taken from the various Creekdippers (or the ‘Original harmony Ridge Creekdippers’ to give them their original title!) albums. The sparseness of the instrumentation gives the songs room to breathe whilst the very laid back attitude of the musicians helps to emphasise the song matter & give this folksy alt. country a downhome feel. The highlights were just about every song in the gig, but I’d like to give particular mention to the superb ‘Say you’ll be mine’, ‘Ben Johnson’s creek’ ‘Still we have a friend’ & ‘Pacific coast rambler’. They in particular, but also most of the other songs, were actually better live, having a little more edginess. ‘Portrait of a sick America’ was heartfelt & thought provoking but was not the only song that seemed appropriate in these troubled times. Mark seems to be quite happy to reveal his political leanings without actually over emphasising them. Probably makes you think more than someone who is preaching at you. There was also a superb version of the so far unissued ‘Condalisa’s pride’. They closed with a three song encore leaving you with the feeling that the band, along with the audience, were in no particular rush to end the evening. However, end it did, & everyone went home feeling more than satisfied that the band had given a great evening of music. It’s just a shame there were not more there. Still, their loss….
P.S. Does anyone know the name of the band that Mike Watson has with his wife. He told me the name after the gig & I stupidly made a mental note instead of a written one! I’m sure the nice people who run this site will pass the name on to me if anyone can help.
Eyes are the window
Pray for me
Say you’ll be mine
Walk with them
Portrait of a sick America
Ben Johnson’s creek
Thought a tear / Walked out into the yard
Walking through Nevada
Still we have a friend / Condalisa’s pride
Pacific coast rambler
My own Jo Ellen
Bells of Mary
End of the highway
Climb these steps
One eyed black dog Moses
|Patty Griffin - Oran Mor, Glasgow - 23rd June 2005|
Review by John Hinshelwood
Neds or rednecks - which are worse? This tricky problem provided the topic for a mid gig debate which a somewhat bemused looking Patty Griffin conducted with members of a typically vocal Glasgow audience. No conclusions were reached, and although further aspects of transatlantic communication difficulties were touched upon later, no such communication problems were encountered on a musical level.From the opening a cappella " Wade in the Water" with its frenzied percussion accompaniment, it was evident that this was destined to be a grade A performance from Griffin and her band with the mainstay of the 70 minute show being, predictably, the current "Impossible Dream " CD. In a beautifully balanced set, Griffin exhibited to great effect the more soulful side of her vocal prowess on the gospel tinged trilogy of " Silver Bell", " Love throw a line".and "Standing" . It was quite startling to witness such power coming from such a seemingly fragile frame, with a delivery to out - raunch Bonnie Raitt at her finest, and this was contrasted with her gentler, but none the less gritty approach with spine tingling versions of "When it don't come Easy" and " Useless Desires" particularly hitting the mark . The highlight of the short solo segment was a magnificently stark reading of " Cold as it gets" with the mystery of its intended target seemingly remaining intact, and the stunning " Top of the World"( covered ecently by the Dixie Chicks ) and its lighter companion piece " Making Pies" rounded off an evening which surely enhanced Griffin's claim to elevation to the songwriting premier league. Her compositions , though for the most part simple in structure, nevertheless harbour an intensity of emotional depth and lyrical complexity which never fail to totally engage the listener .The guitar/bass / drums line up provided subtle and understated support throughout with Doug Lancio's spacey Lanoisesque guitar excursions impressing with their combination of restraint and short, but telling phrases. Earlier, the evening was kicked off with an assured and stylish performance from local songwriter Yvonne Lyon. Her well crafted songs were delivered with panache and conviction in a compelling voice which displayed just the right balance between power and delicacy.
|Crosby, Stills & Nash - The Brighton Centre - June 27th 2005|
Review by Andy Riggs
Following on from the highly successful C & N tour from earlier this year, the lads returned to Brighton tonight with their old cohort the Stephen Stills. The much maligned and troubled Stills in my opinion, was the most talented of CSN & Y (yes I know that the sacred cow of Neil Young has been much more prolific over the years), but the first two Stills records & the epic double Manassas stand out even 30 years plus down the road. In the last 12 months we've had a fine C & N new record, and Stills has just released his first record since 1991. Arriving in Brighton, CSN and Neil Young t-shirts are in abundance, and I was worried about the evening as it was billed as a 'Greatest Hits' tour in support of the latest needless compilation. I think this is the first CSN show in the UK since 1992, so I was intrigued to see how Stephen looked, having lived with numerous demons over the years it was good to see 'Captain Manyhands' back in the UK. Nash led them out with the full band, Stills picked up his guitar and we were straight into the classic 'Carry On', unfortunately the vocals were drowned out by some over heavy riffing, playing safe the CSN albatross 'Marrakesh Express' was next up.
Stills offered us several songs from his latest record 'Man Alive!' - first up was 'Feed the People', with Live 8 nearly upon us (I'm heading for the hills for that), this song seemed to reflect CSN's views on poverty with some fairly naive lyrics, but the second new song from Stills was 'Wounded World' which is one of the best songs Stills has written in the last 25 years. But the real revelation was Stills cover of 'Ole Man Trouble' which could have been written for Stills, his voice now sounds like a blues man the lyrics offered us an insight into the turbulence that has engulfed some of his middle years. CSN were augmented with a full band - James Raymond (keyboards), Jeff Pevar (Guitar), David Santos (bass), Mike Finnigan (keyboards) and the great Joe Vitale on drums. After a brief break CSN returned for the real 'Greatest Hits' part of the evening featuring 'Love the One You're With' and 'Chicago'. Throughout the night Nash leads the banter on stage and with the audience, Crosby, has some excellent self-depreciating humour. C & N have always been known for their self-indulgent back slapping humour but tonight they kept this to a minimum. Stills says very little and disappears off stage from time to time, but on the evidence this evening Stills guitar playing is as a fluid as ever, he's never been given the credit for his guitar playing but tonight I just wondered what it must have been like to see him trade riffs on 'Down By The River' with Neil Young - at their peak in 1970/1. The evening descended into a Karaoke type sing-along which for the majority of the audience seemed to be what was wanted. But for me it was a wasted opportunity. Yes it was a 'Greatest Hits' package but I would have traded half the show for Stills singing 4 + 20, Crosby's 'Page 43' or Nash's 'Simple Man'. It was a magical evening with CSN, but there were so great many songs left unplayed - sacrificed for crowd pleasers such as 'Teach Your Children'. In their sixties now, this could be their last UK tour but you never know, having grown up with their 'good' and 'bad' records it was good to see them together and clearly enjoying being CSN.
Long Time Gone
Jesus of Rio
Feed the People
In My Dreams
Ole Man Trouble
Lay Me Down
Milky Way Tonight
Don't Dig Here
Love the One You're With
Almost Cut My Hair
Teach Your Children
|The WIYOS - Hell’s Ditch, The Pilgrim, Liverpool - 21st June 2005|
Review by Barry Jones
A good time to see a good-time band. The Pilgrim pub is the new venue for Hell’s Ditch, a supposedly monthly alt. country night in Liverpool. I say supposedly because, in an effort to support touring American acts Chris and Martin (No not Chris Martin!) have set up a couple of extraordinary nights, and haven’t they been worthwhile? Last month saw the very fine Nels Andrews and the El Paso Eyepatch, and last night saw the wonderful WIYOS from New York City via time travel from somewhere in the 1930’s. All this as well as the normal monthly nights which are developing a well deserved reputation for good quality local acts and the great and the good of the UK alt.country. Local singer songwriter Chris Elliot got the night underway with a selection of this own songs and the odd Dylan cover. Good songs and a strong vocal style give him an excellent chance of future success, although investment in a proper capo should be considered, one which doesn’t spontaneously fall off at inopportune moments! Chris made the point at the end of his enjoyable set that he had only one harmonica, but The WIYOS had thousands. The exaggeration for the point of emphasis wasn’t too far off the mark as it happens as there were certainly a vast array of instruments on show, I’ve never seen so many kazoos in my life (not an expression I ever expected to use, although a day out to a kazoo factory has not yet been ruled out). The WIYOS line up of resonator guitar, string bass and washboard/kazoo/harmonica etc. owes some of its style to Hokum, some to Django-era Hot Club, some to Blues and some to pure old-fashioned entertainment. Looking suitably wacky, with trilbies and suits and waistcoats (or should that be vests?) every song elicited whoops and hollers and cheers from the audience, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves from start to finish. Their in-between song patter was funny, their hat juggling accomplished, but most of all their musicianship was outstanding. Using a megaphone to recreate the sound of an old recording on one of their own songs worked very well indeed, and to operate it while playing harmonica on a rack and as well as playing a washboard, with all accoutrements, was just showing off, but why not? If you like The Old Crow Medicine Show, Hot Club of Cowtown and great entertainment, you’ll love these; they’re off to France for a while, but back in July for a few dates. Catch them if you can, for only a few pounds as well, a bargain!
|Jeff Klein and People In Planes - The Glee Club Birmingham - 16th June 2005 / The Social Nottingham 19th June 2005|
Review by Patrick Wilkins
Jeff Klein loses out to the BBQers but still cuts the mustard. There's something about venues in Birmingham, the Academy group inflicts upon us the legendary sticky floors, plastic Grolsch bottles, last minute venue switches, stupidly early starts to fit in a 'club' nights after the show, and apathetic chattering audiences, its no wonder so many bands play Nottingham or Leicester and skip Birmingham altogether. Here was another example of typical Birmingham disorganisation, though this time at the Glee Club rather than the Academy, this Jeff Klein show was intended t be full on electric, but for reasons not entirely clear, possibly the room that had been allocated for the event, it was an acoustic show. This was not without its problems in that Jeff himself admitted he hadn't even brought an acoustic guitar with him. Luckily the openers, People in Planes, were well equipped with acoustic instrumentation and were able to provide Jeff Klein, and band, with enough kit to put on a show. People in Planes were a surprise, from Wales and generally in a 'Bends' era Radiohead mode, or a less pretentious Muse, though when acoustic there were hints of Jeff Buckley and Turin Brakes in their songs, thankfully they played with enough raw guts to avoid falling into the increasingly common British band trap, you know, the one that has you singing under your breath 'Are you Coldplay in disguise?'. They have a full length record out later in the year, and there was a chorus of 'I'll think I'll be getting that' from the bunch of people I was with, which considering we had just seen a short set from a band none of us had ever heard before, with a makeshift instrumental set up, tells you they have a certain instant impact something. Jeff Klein started his set solo on keyboards for a rendition of 'California' from his 'Everybody Loves A Winner' record, despite the difficulties the venue had inflicted he was in good spirits and said he wasn’t sure how this would turn out given the circumstances, but it turned out pretty damn fine. There is a new record out in a month 'The Hustler' recorded in New Orleans (described by Jeff like it was the location for 'Sin City') with Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers fame, so naturally much of that was played. The band joined in after a couple of numbers, a drummer and keyboard player brought along from Jeff's hometown, Austin TX, and a bass player scooped up in Wales only three days earlier, though nothing sounded under rehearsed. It says something for the development of Jeff Klein as a writer that even taking into consideration the familiarity of the old material, the new songs are stronger, have more depth, more soul, more hooks, greater variety and all round ambition than anything we've heard up to now. Melodies are still going round in my head days later. Some of the songs were not suited to an seated troubadour acoustic treatment, Jeff said something along the lines of 'Gonna be difficult to make this sound rock'n'roll!' while thrusting his guitar against the monitor in an attempt to squeeze out some feedback, but you got the idea.
Such was the impressive nature of this set I made the journey up to Nottingham three days later for the electric version. The Nottingham show, at the Social, was not well attended at all, less than 20 people, surprising as there had been a reasonable turnout in Birmingham, but it had been a scorching hot Sunday so maybe everyone was still BBQing. Nevertheless a good show was still put on, People in Planes were loud and electric this time, I think they actually sounded more original and interesting in acoustic form, but they were still enjoyable none the less. Jeff Klein played more or less the same set as in Birmingham, but all electric, again a couple of old songs the wonderful 'Five Good Reasons' (Im convinced the lyrics of that had some new twists and turns) and 'Take The Wheel' were both striking. Of the new songs '19th Hole' (a reference to a 19th Street bar in NYC, not a golfers hangout!) really stood out. No problem making things sound rock'n'roll now, with some screeching feedback being used to maximum effect amongst some memorably fierce playing. This album will be something.
|Larry Love / Broken Family Band - Lynton & Lynmouth Festival - 12th June 2005|
Review by Nic Fildes
The north-Devon coast isn't the first place you'd look for pockets of UK americana support - yet that could change thanks to the burgeoning Lynton & Lynmouth Festival. Both the Broken Family Band and Larry Love, of Alabama 3 fame, came back to perform at this year's event, and judging by the enthusiasm of the locals, they could make the trip across Exmoor again in 2006. It is fair to say this relatively modest festival is unique. Events are spread between "upstairs" in Lynton's main street and "downstairs" on Lynmouth's coastal green, the two stages connected by the historic funicular railway up and down the cliff-face. While Saturday night's Lynton showcase, compared by the Broken Family Band's Steve Adams, proved farcical - headliners Zion Train coming on roughly two hours late to a very thin and barely-conscious crowd - the downstairs session in Lynmouth on the sunny Sunday was about as pleasant as you could hope for. The Fence Collective, a 'non-hippy' beardie bunch from Fife, warmed up the crowd with impressively odd songs that crescendoed from slowly-built innocous riffs. This resonated well with the increasingly groggy and sun-kissed crowd. The Broken Family Band, who seem to be playing just about everywhere at the moment, introduced themselves as "Memories of The Broken Family Band," given 50% of the players were missing. Yet the two replacements - including the Fence Collective's guitarist - did a pretty decent job given they'd only heard the material that morning. Obviously, a lot of finisse was lost but the band skipped through their set without a hiccup - some achievement given the patch-up job required. Larry Love brought proceedings to a close with only an acoustic guitarist, a harmonica player and a female vocalist - not the usual array of dubious types that crowd the stage at an Alabama 3 show. Love let his female counterpart kick off with a rootsy House of the Rising Son, but quickly got into gear with a rousing Folsom Prison Blues. Somehow, "I shot a man in Lynmouth, just to watch him die," didn't sound naff. Hell, even dragging tots onto the stage to proclaim "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash," in tiny voices seemed acceptable. With a few well-placed covers and the now ubiquitous Woke Up This Morning and Ain't Going To Goa, Love got the sozzled crowd up and dancing as the sun faded. Suitably, the set finished with Peace In the Valley, topping off a crowd-pleasing show - and festival.
|Eels - Nottingham Royal Concert Hall - 11th June 2005|
Review by Patrick Wilkins
Orchestral manoeuvres in 'Hottingham.' So E must have decided that for this tour what he wanted was an approximation of a formal 'recital' rather than a rock show, the choice of a string section to back him, and the style of venue, reflected that. At one point after a particularly slow and ponderous song he said 'Ok are you ready to rock?' 'YES' shouted the audience with some relief, 'Well then you’re at the wrong show!' replied E. How much you like this show probably depends on how much you like ‘Blinking Lights’, much of that record was played. Because of the string arrangement of all the songs after 45 minutes or so I did find things dragging a bit, it all seemed rather one paced, sterile even. The band consisted of four evening dress clad women, two on violin (Julie Carpenter, Paloma Udovic), one on viola (Heather Lockie), and one on cello (Ana Lenchantin) all occasionally becoming percussionists, plus Alan Hunter (Big Al) on double bass, and on everything else Chet Lyster, this included guitar, keyboards, and an unusual drum kit made up of an upturned dustbin/trashcan and a suitcase as bass drum, I'm not sure of any advantage or point in the latter choice of instrumentation, beyond whimsical eccentricity, but to be fair they sounded fine.
E was dressed in what looked like a tweed suit, usually smoking, and walking with a cane and intermittent fake limp, he seemed to be enjoying himself though, from time to time he even turned to his ensemble for a spot of mock conducting. Reviews of previous shows reveal that E's on stage patter is tried and tested, but hearing it for the first time it was funny and did lighten the mood between some sombre songs, his comic delivery reminded me of a rock'n'roll Garrison Keillor. At one point he asked for any requests and then, after being deluged with shouts for particular songs, admitted he was waiting for someone to shout for the song he was going to play anyway (which was ‘My Beloved Monster’)! And to amuse the natives he revealed that the crew referred to the town as 'Hottingham', a reference to the fact, or at least the popular myth, that females vastly outnumber males in this city!
To emphasise the nature of the show an electric guitar didn’t make an appearance until the encore, the third encore I think, of 'Dog Faced Boy'. Of the ‘Blinking Lights’ material the highlight was probably the jaunty 'Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)' with the band shouting 'Hey' every few bars with some enthusiasm, again that was an encore. 'Railroad Man' was impressive and atmospheric, 'Trouble With Dreams' worked well too with that odd percussion powering things along nicely. 'Im Going To Stop Pretending I Didn’t Break Your Heart' was surprisingly moving, that song is a prime candidate for some movie soundtrack. ‘I Like Birds’ cropped up from ‘Daisies Of The Galaxy’ as did ‘Grace Kelly Blues’ in one of the encores. Only one song from Shootenanny (that I remember) which was ‘Dirty Girl’, Dylan’s ‘Girl from the North Country’ also made an appearance. The multiple encore aspect, I think there were four, was odd as at the end of the main set E talked about cat and mouse game of encores, saying ‘We’re going to pretend to go away, like we have somewhere else to go, but not really!’ that joke was worn rather thin by the band making multiple re-appearances after the ‘end’ of the show. It ran for about an hour and a half in all. Opening was a Russian animation movie, followed by a short Eels movie with several snippets of interviews with E that were pretty funny.
|Twisted Folk: Vetiver, Micah P Hinson and Curritick Co – Carling Academy, Birmingham – 11th June 2005|
Review by Mark Whitfield
Damn Carling Academies and their club nights – having thought it was just a Liverpool issue, it was slightly irritating to see that they apparently have a national policy of starting gigs on weekend evenings at such an anti-social early time (in order to facilitate the venue becoming a club by 10pm) that the majority of punters will inevitably miss the support if not the main act themselves. Such was the fate that fell on the shoulders of the opening act for tonight’s “Twisted Folk” artiste trilogy, the poor Curritick Co, who were generously shoved on stage literally five minutes after the doors opened before being allowed to play for twenty and then being whisked off again. Consequently, this is actually a long winded way of explaining my own inadequacies – ie: that I managed to almost completely miss them, but the way their merchandise was selling when I arrived, they must have been something pretty special to the people who did make it for the beginning of the night. Next up (or first up, whichever way you look at it) was Micah P Hinson, a Tennessean now based in Texas with striking ears and a slightly nervous stage presence but a catalogue of extremely likeable songs. Sporting a cap and whispering cracked vocals close up to the mic, he reminds you of Kurt Wagner at his more melodic – indeed the beginning of the set had Micah displaying far more virtuoso than we’ve seen from Wagner of late, even if the set did slide into something more lowkey as it went on. In terms of painful life experiences, the much overplayed and often contrived holy grail for rock stars, Hinson is the real deal, and the depth of some of his lyrics, heard here tonight for the umpteenth time for many of the audience, still goes through you like a jolt sporadically.
Meanwhile the final act tonight, of indeed the whole “Twisted Folk” tour, were Vetiver, Devendra Banhart's band whose output easily rivals the best of his solo work. Banhart himself was on fine form, sublimely playing his way through a really very pretty catalogue of songs in between conducting his own musical research into which rock and roll greats came from the UK’s midlands (UB40 were a particular favourite, it seemed, although we’ll never know if he was taking the piss until we hear his cover of “Red, Red Wine”) In terms of the anti-folk genre, if that’s where their heart lies, the music is about as melodic as you’re likely to hear – beautifully arranged while still managing to sound stripped down and organic. Andy Cabic’s vocals managed to be both engaging and under-bearing at the same time, allowing each member of the band to leave their own imprint on their performance. The “Twisted Folk” concept is a superb idea which presents a night of equals to an audience open to music they may not necessarily know well alongside music they probably do. Early finishes notwithstanding, any one of tonight’s acts would have been worth seeing in their own right – you could have shoved the order around and it wouldn’t have mattered. For those with any kind of interest in modern takes on folk/roots music in the broadest sense, the “Twisted Folk” series offers audiences an evening that’s not just genuinely innovative but memorable too.
|Mark Erelli - Fallen Angels Club, Laurie’s Bar - Glasgow - 3rd June 2005|
Review by Mike Ritchie
For the second time in a couple of months, hats (stetsons?) off to the Fallen Angels Club, aka Kevin Morris, for bringing to Glasgow yet another outstanding act. The Fallen Angels Club hosted the storming Darrell Scott gig back in April and New Englander Erelli, in a more restrained style, delivers an excellent, intimate performance. He is, undoubtedly, a hugely talented singer-songwriter who deserves, and will surely gain, a bigger fan base. Polished, warm and hugely entertaining his songs range from Western swing to folk-rock with layers of country as well. His faultless acoustic guitar playing caresses and stimulates his lyrics and his voice is……well, Grammy winner, Dave Alvin is on record as saying: “If I had a voice like Mark Erelli, I could go places” which Erelli has, naturally, got pasted up on his website. The gig, one of a series being staged around Scotland in some far-flung venues out of the cities, is over far too quickly leaving us to reflect on a musician who draws enthusiastic applause after each and every track.
From his current CD release “Hillbilly Pilgrim” he effortlessly delivers “Brand New Baby,” “Troubadour Blues,” “Bend In The River,” “Pilgrim Highway” and the outstanding Farewell Ball, about a small nowheresville town facing extinction. His voice is gentle and smooth or forceful when required and he switches emphasis with accomplished ease. But he’s certainly no slacker and, as he mops his brow, he declares: “Perspiration proves you are working hard.” “Darkness on the Deep,” a song about a shipwreck, is brilliant. “It’s my first shipwreck song, the first of many, I hope,” he jokes. It’s evocative and haunting as he sings “..beneath the waves, too many souls to count.” His set also has the love song “Compass and Compassion” telling the tale of a car journey which, he reckons, might lose him points in the folk singer league table, because it’s not about a car crash or a train wreck - but it’s another cracker. There’s also a terrific version of the Patty Griffin number “Tony” before he closes with “Northern Star” which drifts into the marvellous Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On,” what a great touch. Next time he reaches these shores, you folks south of the border will get more chances to see him and he’s certainly worth the effort to go to see.
And that leads to the question: “Where was everyone else tonight?” There must have been something fantastic happening elsewhere in this music-mad city or maybe it was National Don’t Go To A Gig Day, which was ignored by me and the others at Laurie’s. Barely two dozen, albeit folk with impeccable taste, turned up for his show so we almost got a song each. Erelli, to his credit played as if he was top of the bill at a televised Nashville show with Dolly Parton serving him beers and he even got us to sing along to his final offering. This charming guy is good company to be in. He’s got a quick smile and we’re smiling, too, as he shares his class repertoire with us.
|Dinosaur Jr - The Forum London - 8th June 2005|
Review by Patrick Wilkins
Has there ever been a more aptly titled 'best of' collection than 'Ear-bleeding Country'? The left hand side of the stage had a pile of Marshalls that called to mind the self parody of that Darkness video, and more than once in the first couple of songs I did find myself thinking 'Im watching Spinal bloody Tap''. J Mascis has the same shaggy mane he's always had, but its now silver grey, or that's how it appeared in these lights, and he was flinging it, his guitar, and himself around like a muppet getting an electric shock. It took a while for me to take things seriously, but it did get better, quite a lot better. For this tour J has reunited the original band line up of Lou Barlow on bass and Murph on drums, a decade and half or so after they split up. The initial focus seemed to be on volume loud enough to rupture internal organs, high speed rifferama, fuzz and phase. The distinctive croaky vocals were completely lost in the guitar and rhythm assault. A hardcore element in the crowd (dishevelled 30 somethings, 98% males) loved every move however, this is as nutty as Ive seen an audience go for sometime. With inaudible vocals the songs tended to merge together into an indistinct mass of noise, but every now and then some sublime playing found its way through, J's still got it. 'Repulsion' stood out as sounding like a song rather than the the riff/croak/solo/riff/croak etc. sequence that preceded it. The classic 'Freak Scene', with pause for the audience to shout the line 'So fucked I can't believe it', closed a set of about an hour, which may sound short but was enough after such an aural battering. An expert informed me that all the material played was from the first three albums (those will be the ones just re-released then!), so nothing from 'Where You Been', my wait for the great 'Start Choppin'' was in vain, wrong personnel! During the first encore playing of 'Just Like Heaven', they did that thing where the whole place was in bright light so both crowd and stage could be seen by all, and we could all wave at each other and jump up and down etc.. Revealed at the side of the stage were a bunch of the bands 'people', rather than having the usual blasé 'seen it all before' demeanour of road crew, managers, partners etc, this small gathering was going as mad as the front-of-stage audience, hands clapping above bobbing heads, fists punching the air, there was definitely something endearing about that, but then it was good to see this band back!
|M. Ward - The Social, Nottingham - 5th June 2005|
Review by Patrick Wilkins
Back at the Social to see the bloody marvellous M Ward taking time off from the Twisted Folk tour for some headline shows. M Ward started his set alone, thin, dishevelled, baseball cap pulled down tight, head bowed. An instrumental folk-blues, and straightaway his playing was quite extraordinary. He was working every conceivable facet of the guitar, so not only were strings picked, plucked, pulled and strummed, but the body of the guitar was thumped, beaten and shaken. Sometimes all these actions appeared to be taking place simultaneously. I kept thinking of the line from the Beth Orton song 'Stolen Car', 'Your fingers like fuses', those long fingers, and incredibly pliable thumbs, a blur of action, ready to explode at any point. It was hard to believe one man and an acoustic guitar could produce such a range of sound and rhythm. Normally I don't set any great store by virtuosity, but to see someone so supremely skilled, well it simply takes your breath away. Its no surprise his talents are in demand, recent work mates include Bright Eyes and Cat Power. The great David Rawlings has a rival! The music, mostly drawn from the last record,'Transistor Radio', has a timeless feel, at first listen some songs suggest a pre rock'n'roll influence, a jazz-lite crooner style, but once the songs become familiar the retro grip loosens. Naturally a big part of the crooner connection comes from M Ward's incredibly distinctive voice, it has a gentle rasping quality like a soft focus Tom Waits, or at the other end of the scale, a grunge version of Nat King Cole, in equal parts understated and addictive. Although some low key songs sound like they have come from a parallel universe where it's perennially 1950, like the beautiful 'Fuel For Fire', the gospel-esque ‘One Life Away’, and 'Paul's Song', a gentle tale of life on the road, this show was not all subdued and subtle, indeed at times it was much louder and rockier than would seem likely from listening to the records. The up tempo 'Helicopter' for example was wonderful, it stretched its legs, compared to the version on 'The Transfiguration of Vincent', into a much longer, more rambling, but equally effective rendition. The song, about cutting your losses and making a break for it, was clearly an audience favourite, 'I have done all I can do in this town' yelled the packed in crowd over the freight train rhythm.
For the full band numbers M Ward was backed by Norfolk and Western, also from Portland Oregon, who doubled up as opening act, Rachel Blumberg certainly earning her corn here covering an unusually tricky combination of drums, mandolin, and glockenspiel. Adam Selzer played bass in M Ward's band but sung and played guitar in Norfolk and Western, difficult to comment on their performance as I only caught the end of their set, but what I saw was good enough for me to wish Id got there earlier. Zak Riles, played second guitar, he wasn’t exactly a slouch either! From a personal point of view it was a minor disappointment that 'Sad Sad Song' didn’t crop up, but 'Four Hours In Washington' is similar and that did get played, also I'd heard he covers Creedence's 'Green River', but not tonight, that would have put me into some kind of heaven, but the second song of the encore, after a rocking and raucous 'Big Boat', was a reverbed-up, twangy, rock'n'roll number which in itself was hugely enjoyable and impressive. At one point, between songs, someone behind me muttered to no-one in particular, 'this is bloody marvellous', and it was!
|Magnolia Electric Company - Bush Hall, London - 2nd June 2005|
Review by Nic Fildes
It's been years since Jason Molina played a London gig which is somewhat of an outrage given the quality of the music he has produced in that timeframe under the Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company franchises. Thus expectations for Thursday's long-time-coming gig at Bush Hall were high - the former pool-hall was full before the support act even appeared. Having followed Molina's progress since 2002's eery acoustic masterpiece Didn't It Rain, I never suspected that when I finally saw him live, he would be fronting a five-piece band closer in sound to 'Tonight's the Night' than 'Harvest.' Yet Molina and his cohorts ripped up the tiny Bush Hall stage, crucially without drowning out his voice. With Coldplay fast rivaling U2 for stadium-filling blandness, Molina must wonder how his superior vocal abilities and lyrics haven't caught more of a headwind in the U.K. - although I'm almost glad that he remains in such relative obscurity given the intimacy of smaller shows like this. Magnolia Electric Company sprang out of the traps with a clutch of songs from the new record "What Comes After the Blues," most notably the catchy The Dark Don't Hide It and Hammer Down. The material sounded great in a live setting, even accounting for the very bass-heavy mix. I don't rate the record as one of his best, but the new songs seemed to gain a new lease of life live, with lap-steel player Mike Brenner particularly impressive. Unsurprisingly, songs like Riding With The Ghost and Hold On Magnolia from the sublime eponymous Magnolia Electric Company album got the biggest cheers from a packed house. Farewell Transmission, a lap-steel driven epic from the same album, proved the highlight of a fantastic gig. There was little to gripe about, although personally I was desperate for Ring the Bell from "Didn't It Rain" - one of Molina's finest songs that made the cut for the recent "Trials & Errors" live album. His loose, but brilliant, cover of Conway Twitty's Hello Darling would also have been a treat. But topping off the night with two Warren Zevon covers - Carmelita and the rollicking Werewolves of London - no one walked out of this gig disappointed. I'd never made the connection between Molina and Zevon's wry classics, but listening to that familiar voice belting out werewolf howls, a new dimension to the music was unveiled. I hope that by selling out Bush Hall, Molina will be tempted to return to these shores in no time at all.