17 September 2008
|Deadstring Brothers/James Apollo - Darvel Music Festival - 6th October 2006|
Review by Mike Ritchie
The power of Darvel. Four times as many people turned out to see the Deadstrings for this show than their Glasgow gig earlier this summer but, no doubt, the following they are deservedly building up played a part as well as the persuasive charms of the 5th Darvel Music Festival organisers, Neil and Sheila McKenna. The Detroit band have been working hard for the past five years at their particular brand of country blues with its obvious and well documented debts to The Stones, The Band, Gram Parsons while a little bit of U2â€™s Angel of Harlem feel definitely oozed through. It was a tight performance and a fine way to round off the night.
Although there were no particular highlights, and thatâ€™s not a criticism, they have a steady flow of songs to promote a party atmosphere. I felt we should have been playing pool, leaning on a bar and watching a saloon door swinging open and shut while they performed, as happens (Iâ€™ve just discovered) in their latest video release Sacred Heart from their second CD â€œStarving Winter Report.â€
Their slower tracks are meatier and sleazier and these appealed more to me but the party atmosphere generated by the up tempo offerings seemed to generate most reaction. Their style of music can stick to your ribs, itâ€™s the familiarity, I suppose. It doesnâ€™t push many new boundaries but thatâ€™s not to say their live performance isnâ€™t without appeal. With songs like Sacred Heart, Get Up Jake and All Over Now from â€œStarvingâ€¦â€ they pull together a lot thatâ€™s worth listening to, even if you close your eyes and think that the Glimmer Twins had wandered in and beat Gram to the mic.
Support act James Apollo, originally from Arkansas but now living in New York, was a hard one to follow with his layers of roots rock, country crooning, pounding bass lines and echoing vocals. Alamo, from his current release â€œGood Griefâ€ drove forward good style while Libertyville was an intriguing mix of calypso plus anything that seemingly took his fancy â€“ it was a memorable track from a guy who is
|Slaid Cleaves - Hitchin Folk Club - 8th October 2006|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Well, I only knew Slaid Cleaves from 1 song (Last of the V-8s on Uncut magazine's "Inspired by Springstein" cover disc), but the venue was reasonably convenient to travel along to, and cheaper than travelling into London to see him at Dingwalls. The Hitchin Folk Club is in The Sun Inn, which is in Sun Street, in Hitchin, not too surprisingly. It was voted the best club in the country in 2005's BBC2 Folk Awards, and has a capacity of ~150.
Support came from Albert & Gage (Christine Albert & Chris' Gage). Both play guitar, Gage is the lead guitar and Albert is lead vocals. It works well. They sang a half dozen or so country style songs of love, loss, children leaving home, and (a little surprisingly) Nazi concentration camps. This last topic covered in the song "Back against the wall" was inspired by a visit to Dachau - and would be perfect for someone like Richie Havens to cover. A good solid opening act who could easily and deservedly headline at this venue.
Chris' Gage is an excellent guitar player, and also acted as Slaid's "band", with good rhythm support, and plenty of hot flat-picked licks. Great to watch as well as listen to. Slaid plays rhythm guitar, and has a singular voice like a honeyed rasp crossed with a whisper. His songs cover the ground of love, bars, loss, cars, death, hard-times and defiance. Not a bad mix of themes really.
Slaid was promoting his new album "Uncovered", on which he covers songs by (to me) unknown songwriters, but the set also drew heavily on his previous 3 albums. He has a fine mix of folk/country/rock sensibilities, with the first being perhaps his predominant concern on this evening. As well as singing great songs Slaid has also mastered stage banter, with genuinely interesting introductions to his songs, often peppered with humour (bookending a song about dying with two songs about workplace accidents, he wryly noted that "the difference between folk and pop music - pop's about sex and money, folk is about death !").
There was also a very nice "give'em what they want policy" as it seems that he rejigged pretty much the whole second set list following requests during the interval CD signing session - opening the second set with my request for "Last of the V-8s" was a real bonus ! Following this up with "My drinking days are over" made a great pairing. A couple more tracks from Unsung ("Racecar Joe" and "Millionaire") had been requested by the youngest members of the audience ("Millionaire, that's kinda a dark song for a nine year old") and then it was time for the Maine born Slaid ("I had to pick up a Texan twang 'cos the people in Austin can't just say 'yankee', it really is 'damn yankee' every time") to show off his Texas yodel. Now, had I been told I was going to see a yodelling Texan, I might have imagined it would be cringe worthy. It was excellent - done with neither irony nor any semblance of artistic embarrassment. The man sings the music he likes, and you can come along, or you can skip the ride, it's up to you.
Partial set list in incorrect running order - Horseshoe Lounge, Everette, Flowered Dresses, Another Kind of Blue, Broke Down, This morning I am Born Again, Last of the V-8s, My Drinking Days are over, Racecar Joe, Millionaire, Horses & Divorces, Bring It On, Lydia
The only question I had in my mind, as I left with my 3 new CDs, was : "can I make that Dingwalls gig after all ?".
|Steve Forbert -The Phoenix Centre Exeter - 7th October 2006|
Review by Andy Riggs
From Croydon to Exeter to see Steve Forbert? Oh yeah. Steve Forbert is currently on tour in the UK, not promoting a new record - just playing live and entertaining his loyal fan base over here. For me Forbert is one of the great lost singer-song writers that has emerged from the US in the last 25 years. Whilst various record companies have dropped him over the years (CBS, Geffen) Steve has survived that fall-out and is now recording on Koch Records where he seems to have found a record label that supports brilliant song writing whilst ignoring fads and the number units shifted. His last record 'Just Like There's Nothin' To It' is a one of his strongest covering as diverse subjects as the death of Rick Danko (Wild As The Wind), the day to day treadmill (I Just Work Here) and the passage of time on 'Autumn This Year'. Now anyone not familiar with The Phoenix Centre will not be aware that it seats about 150 people and tonight it's almost full - as Steve arrives from behind the curtain half the audience don't recognise his silhouette and he has to announce himself. Initially Steve complains about the 'hushed' response to his arrival, but after a couple of songs the audience starts to relax and he establishes a easy-going rapport with most of the crowd. Steve mixes his back catalogue, with several covers which include Gordon Lightfoot's 'Early Morning Train',The Beatles 'Goodnight' and 'Moon River'. This is live music at its very best - good venue, great songs and the ever youthful Jack Rabbit Slim playing his songs that seem to be timeless. The highlight tonight? Probably a superb rendition of 'It Sure Was Better Back Then'. Afterwards Steve meets the audience for signing of posters, CDs and his recently released DVD anthology. Sunday morning for me leaves a 250 mile drive home in the company of Aled Jones and Chris De Burgh (on Radio 2) - what a contrast? Being a sadist I listen to De Burgh talking about how important his music is and that he believes he's been reincarnated; apparently in a previous life he was a soldier in the trenches on the Somme. I relay this story to you as I almost drove into Stonehenge when this complete claptrap was being broadcast.
|Steve Forbert - The Ent Shed Bedford - 13th October 2006|
Review by Keith Hargreaves
A coup for the tireless East/West promotions in their pursuit of bringing Americana to the apathetic hordes of middle England . They booked a 'name' and were rewarded with a packed house (some from as far afield as Denmark and Germany) . The date didn't bode well but that didn't stop a class act from delivering a strong and varied set . It was just a man, guitar,harp and wooden floor (for a stamped out rhythm) and for over an hour that was what you got .
The set consisted of love songs , Jimmie Rodgers covers ,protest songs and more all delivered in an effortless guitar style and slightly mannered vocal delivery which unfortunately kept reminding this reviewer of the gurning antics of Phil Cool (uncanny up close!!). Forbert was not in the best of humours as a result of playing in Falmouth 2 days previous and Inverness the day before but the audience were partisan to a fault and were singing along from the opening number and despite this there was no coasting from the man. . The highlights for me were a powerful anti war song Bagdad Dream delivered in a walking blues style with lyrics that bit and a tribute to Rick Danko that was affectionate ,witty and moving . Patently the real deal this is a show worth travelling to see( even from Denmark).
|Bastard Sons of Johhny Cash - Borderline, London - 11th October 2006|
Review by Andy Riggs
The BSOJC returned the UK this week for their second European tour of 2006, their last record from last year 'Mile Markers' having firmly established their credentials in Americana music (or alt country) - with three records under their belts it's evident from tonight that they have enough material to play for 2-3 hours. Prior to the show Mark Stuart (song writer and lead vocals) attended to the BSOJC shop where all their back catalogue plus their new DVD recorded live in Bern in March of this year, were on sale. I think the DVD is only available at live shows and from <SPAN STYLE="font-family: Arial; color: #666666; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none" onMouseOver = "this.style.color = '#CC9933';" onMouseOut = "this.style.color = '#666666'">http://www.bsojc.com</span> - I can't see HMV stocking this nugget, featuring 21 songs (3 unreleased) one of which 'Carolina' is worth the price of the DVD alone. The live show is a fabulous display of Mark's song writing and vocals - and the superb band behind him. The BSOJC cover songs from The Blasters & JC tonight, clearing showing where their influences and roots lie, and whilst they have absorbed these artists they have created a very individual sound. There is no filler tonight; Mark intersperses the songs with stories of his life in California, what inspires his song writing and how lucky he is to able to earn a living by making music. The 90 minute show encompasses what BSOJC are all about - intimate live shows with superb songs: any doubters check out 'Radio Girl' from Mile Markers, a highlight for me tonight.
|Tunng - South Street, Reading - 18th October 2006|
Review by David Bird
Whoâ€™s that invigorating folk? More nu-folk friends of Davendra returning to the late 60â€™s or early seventies? Nah its half a dozen Brits collectively known as Tunng who may have been listening to ambient and trance thatâ€™s who! Their second CD â€œComments of the Inner Chorusâ€ has been out a while on Full Time Hobby, and theyâ€™re out in October/November on their first headlining tour.
Intriguing stuff their records, folk roots with a hint of prog laced with beats, samples, loops and smatterings of radio like background noise, but what do you get live? Well just that, the 5 fellas and 1 gal use 3 acoustic guitars, 4 voices, computer wizardry, a rhythm section comprising bunches of decorative stuff you might buy to hang in your garden dangling from a length of rope - shells? Wind chimes?, kids toys, melodica and numerous things shaked and rattled to create a sound as much influenced by Joao and Bebel Gilberto as anyone else. I thought of Scots My Latest Novel who are also taking British roots music out for a walk, and Califone doing the same with American blues.
Playing a set culled from both CDs out with what I guess were a couple of newer songs, they work up quite a groove that frankly demands to be danced to â€“ yes at a folk gig! Tunes like Engine Room and Stories reverberate with a thudding electronic beat while more delicate Jenny Again and Sweet William show off delicate picking and harmonies. A request for Itâ€™s because weâ€™ve Got Hair was met after a moments wondering about whether the IT could cope â€“ it could. I very nearly got to say â€œNot a finger in the ear to be seenâ€ but that went during the encore! Frankly this is quite possibly the best injection of life British folk has had since the Fairports 30 years ago, and I reckon this is where the Fairports would be if they were starting out now.
Theyâ€™re touring the UK the rest of October and Europe in November. No steel guitars and the only hat was 1 baseball cap but go and see, buy the CDs and celebrate British folk being taken in new directions. Only black mark goes to the label for â€¦â€¦.a special edition release of the still new CD with 2 additional tracks on it. Grrr!
|Steve Forbert - The Spitz, London - 17th October 2006|
Review by Jonathan Aird
I'd never been to The Spitz, in the old Spitalfields Market, before. It's not easy to find the first time. It looks like a converted market warehouse / office building, and the top floor concert area (capacity 250) has a stage which projects into the room, allowing the audience to stand on 3 sides of the stage. There was a steady trickle of people arriving, and it must have been at capacity by the time the main event kicked off. There was a support from Newton Faulkner. He was a fine guitarist, but (and this is a personal thing of course) I didn't take to his vocal style (fast and/or mumbled). Seemed like a good guy though.
Steve came out at 8:50, and after a little tuning lurched into Thinkin', but not a sing-along version, the phrasing was quite different. This continued into Going down to Laurel, and I started wondering if this "new Dylan" was doing a Dylan with his back-catalogue, rephrasing and twisting the songs to keep them fresh. If so, then this was only moderately successful - you had to concentrate on where the emphasis of a line was going to be, which was maybe the point. And Forbert's song craft is different to Dylan's and perhaps less amenable to such flexibility. Unfortunately, Steve was also struggling with his tuning, and seemed unhappy with the mix of vocal and guitar levels and also with the stage monitor. After a somewhat strained version of Complications I was starting to get worried. It wasn't really until about 6 songs in that he seemed to have settled into this show. He wasn't helped by the irritating not-quite in time / inappropriate clapping along (and occasional whistling) from one audience member behind him, who blithely ignored Steve's repeated requests to stop. There is always one.
But things really picked up when Steve started in on his more recent material, particularly songs from the last studio album - just like there's nothing to it - from which was taken wild as the wind, autumn this year, I just work here, there's everybody else (and then there's you), and about a dream. These songs really stand up as well as anything he has written, and they seemed to lift his enthusiasm for the older songs too. Mixed in with these were more tunes from Alive on Arrival (Midsummer Night's toast, What kinda guy ?, You cannot win if you do not play) which were delivered with full force, a couple of Jimmy Rodgers songs and Baghdad Dream (which is only available as a free download track from Steve's website) which went down a storm. And, of course, Romeo's Tune, which is Forbert at his most poetic.
Other highlights were a bunch of excellent covers : Starstruck (with audience participation), Get offa my cloud, and Honeypie, which were all appropriated with style. An excellent version of Steve's sure was better back then was introduced with a snatch of Old Cottonfields Back Home. And at 10:30 he was off the stage, and he wasn't coming back despite a lengthy appreciation from the audience, although he did a fine job of signing CDs & LPs etc afterwards. An enjoyable evening - we bopped, we cheered, we applauded, we sang along - but I kind of wished I'd caught him at one of the out of London gigs instead.
Just as an aside, I can't help asking myself if whoever booked this UK tour (Scotland, the west country, back to Scotland, then the south, then north again...) owns a map ?
|AJ Roach/Nels Andrews - Fallen Angels Club, Laurieâ€™s Bar, Glasgow - 26th October 2006|
Review by Mike Ritchie
AJ Roach admitted he was lucky to make it to this gig â€“ and all the others on his current tour as well. The highways and by-ways of the UK are proving difficult to negotiate from his position behind the wheel on the â€œwrongâ€ side of the road but, thankfully, he made it to gear up for another splendid Fallen Angels Club promotion with his buddy, Nels Andrews. It was a free-wheeling set that left a sizeable crowd well pleased. AJ is a man with mountain music in his blood but on this outing, he used his banjo sparingly, preferring acoustic guitar to accompany songs of loss, love of his family and places in the States his heart has led him, including Omaha, where he found heartbreak among â€œ14 feet tall, six-feet wide localsâ€ although his woman was more moderately proportioned and, obviously single minded, as she buzzed off to Australia.
Heâ€™s a fine singer and hugely accomplished musician whose well-crafted, thought-provoking songs are a pleasing sour mash of country, folk, bluegrass.
AJâ€™s delivery is intense, his emotional ties to the songsâ€™ content not in doubt. Sears and Roebuck Suit from his new album â€œRevelationâ€ was a perfect example of this. It was an elegant and moving tribute to his dad, although Mr Roach senior didnâ€™t, seemingly, recognise himself in the lyrics and issued a rebuke for a swear word in them. The chorus â€œI love you more than you loved yourself, I wish it wasnâ€™t trueâ€ was a heart-on-the-sleeve tribute to his old man, sincere and gently moving and no way maudlin. It was a great track. Chemicals, also from the â€œRevelationâ€ CD, was in a different vein (sorry) altogether as he sang about â€œdesperate love being a chemical reaction.â€ He revealed that his Mom hated the song so it was probably his dadâ€™s favourite. Hazel Blue, also from the new album, was â€œwritten for a bonnie lassâ€ and his soulful voice and clever guitar work raised a simple tune to a warm and intriguing level. His debut CD â€œDogwood Winterâ€ received good reviews and from it he plucked Granddaddy, Cold As Christmas and the wistful Temporary where he suffered â€œâ€¦.arms full of everything but you.â€
Nels Andrews, now re-located to New York City, shared the bill and, we learned, is hoping to release a follow-up to the excellent â€œSunday Shoesâ€ that grabbed so much attention when released. Donâ€™t know when, though. His songs have a way of taking you by the hand as storylines stick in your mind, like Jesseâ€™s Mom about a young child. I was in a minority at the gig but I would have got more out of his fine set if a band had kicked in from time to time. My DJ son, Martin reckoned that was just my Attention Deficit something-or-other taking over. As a result, Nelsâ€™ highlight track was his Meadowlake duet with AJ, on banjo, harmonising. With Jim Lauderdale and The Believers as well as Boo Hewerdine due to appear in Glasgow in the coming weeks, Kevin Morris of the Fallen Angels Club continues to ply followers with superb roots music.
|Peter Bruntnell + Special Guests - The Borderline, London - 27th October 2006|
Review by Keith Hargreaves
The problem with special guests is you don't know who you are going to see or in this case miss . As I tripped down the steps into the subterranian comfort of the Borderline I was greeted with the words "My name's Jason McNiff, thankyou and goodnight." Curses, not a good start as this was a performer I had been wanting to catch for some time - sorry Jason .
Next up, the Beautiful Losers a four piece from Surrey . If you like your chiming harmonies and tight guitar work these are your men . A strong whiff of 70s west coast a la Steve Miller was accompanied by accomplished musicianship and catchy original songs which brought the punters from the back of the room and by the end of the set everyone was facing the stage (which is always a recommendation).
The Peter Bruntnell Band took the stage with little fuss and maximum impact , starting with 'Gone', they reeled off the first five songs with barely a hello and these included Domestico and Here come the Swells amongst them. It is amazing to me that a band that gigs so infrequently should be so tight but as the evening progressed Bruntnells songs were teased and stretched but never broken by five people at the top of their game - just having fun with some very strong material. The Borderline is not the best place for a decent sound mix and as a consequence I was missing some of Dave Boquists guitar work but because of where I was standing I did catch every note of Dave Littles excellent keyboards. There was no between song chat and calls for favourite songs were cheerfully ignored as the set list was rigorously followed and after a riotous 8 Lane they exited the stage . The calls for encore were answered quickly and surprisingly as PB introduced the band and then invited Dave Boquist to sing,which he duly did. It was an exquisite cover of Little Feats 'Willing' which delighted both audience and band. Thereafter followed 'Cold Turkey' and the gig was over by 10.30pm.
To many of us it is a mystery why Pete Bruntnell is not a major artist; his songwriting is peerless and performance and musicianship skills undoubted but despite a full(ish) house tonight he continues to plough a fairly arid field . Why? Is it perhaps a lack of ego (that allows him to give the encore to another to sing someone elses song) or is it a stubborn refusal to play any games that would require personal compromise? Either way performances of the quality of tonight re inforce the common consensus of those in the know that Mr Bruntnell is a very special talent.
|Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucault - The Cluny, Newcastle - 22nd October 2006|
Review by Helen Mitchell
This was the first time I had seen either Kris Delmhorst or Jeffrey Foucault, having heard one of Krisâ€™ CDâ€™s and a couple of Jeffreyâ€™s tracks on Bob Harrisâ€™ show and been sufficiently impressed to want to see them live.
New York native, Massachussetts resident, Kris, began proceedings with her set, having tossed a coin apparently. She admitted she had cold and would have to sing some songs a bit lower. Sadly, this eliminated my favourite, Waiting Under The Waves, but Kris more than made up for it with a great mix of her songs, and a voice which at times made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Among the highlights for me, were Weather Vane, a beautiful song about changing something you are not happy with, Hummingbird, a simple love song, and a brand new song which was simply breathtaking; Anybodyâ€™s Heaven which is already being recorded for her new album.
Her husband Jeffrey joined her onstage for her new songs, from her album titled Strange Conversation, which has been described as "a vital and celebratory meditation on art and its ability to speak across time and distanceâ€¦.." Kris joked with the audience that â€˜The dead poets make great collaborators â€“ they never say they donâ€™t like your ideas.â€™ The most intriguing of these were â€˜Light of the Light (Walt Whitman), Galuppi Baldassare (Robert Browning) and Let It Burn, inspired by The Death of Virgil. Having explained how Virgil wanted the manuscript destroyed when he died, She went on to demonstrate her incredible understanding of these poems, by explaining â€˜The message of The Death of Virgil is that part of human pursuits lie in aiming beyond our reach, not in achieving perfectionâ€¦so thatâ€™s good news I thought.â€™ Everybody smiled, but her explanation of that only proved even more why she chose to be a songwriter, and why she is making such a name for herself. Certainly I enjoyed her performances of these songs very much, having heard her explanations beforehand.
Kris exited and left Jeffrey onstage, to begin a set from his stunning new album Ghost Repeater. He began with a song called One Part Love which is the only song he has written here in the UKâ€¦actually here in the North East last June. It mentions the River Tyne, Gateshead, Newcastle and Durham, which made us all proud, but it is a wonderful song apart from that. Iâ€™d like to think it will paint enough of a picture to make Americans want to visit in the same way songs have led me to visit so many US towns. He told us his next song he wrote in a Mexican restaurant in Mesa Arizona, then strangely decided to call itâ€¦â€¦ Mesa Arizona! One of the stand - out tracks is definitely the title track, Ghost Repeater. He explained to us that a ghost repeater is to do with radio, when you think it is closer than it is.
"Dark was the night
Cold was the ground
I could barely make out the song
Of the Ghost Repeaters
His truth is marching on"
Kris returned to the stage and they treated us to an encore including a truly beautiful, moving version of a song called Theresa by a Boston songwriter called Dennis Brennan, someone I will definitely be looking up.
Suffice to say that this was the first time I saw these two acts live, and it will not be the lastâ€¦..I left not only with memories of another great night of live music, but two new signed CDs to add to my ever expanding collectionâ€¦â€¦I am sure this will expand even further when they return to our shores in 2007 complete with new music, which I for one canâ€™t wait to hear, along of course with Waiting Under The Waves which Kris has already promised me next timeâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..
|Eileen Rose + Bone-Box + Jake Flowers Scandal â€“ Night & Day CafÃ©, Manchester - 7th October 2006|
Review by Stu Gibson
From a faltering opening while the sound took an aspirin or two the Jake Flowers Scandal bolted outta the stable way past any grudging grumblings about yet another guitar and drums two bit two man one horse town set-up and shoe-horned enough potential into the set of flunker-flamencan twisted folk-billy rockinâ€™ for Dan Sartain to at least lend him a new hat.
With the sound settled and silky Bone-Box weave webs of faded fairytales and cross palms with slivers of shattered tales of the everyday thrown from an out of control carousel for a brief, bewitching half-hour. Songs like â€˜The Devil Is In The Detailâ€™ and twilit highlight â€˜Dragging Wiresâ€™ form a ghostly gospel of drama and dented dreams far more feral than the plaintive lap-steel sometimes suggests. As an epic whole, â€˜The Master and Margharitaâ€™ filmed by Glenn Ford and scripted by Tom Waits with executive producer Leonard Cohen.
After a warming by the hearth of Bone-Boxâ€™s funereal splendour Eileen Rose wouldnâ€™t have been mistaken in thinking sheâ€™d be made more welcome, to say the least. Where many may struggle against an audience mainly made up of would-be Mancunian hip priests out for a late drink Roseâ€™s tough Boston demeanour and voice suggest sheâ€™s weathered far more than mere disregard. Wherein lay the tragedy as, in a city that boasts many a singer/songwriter show a rare gem slips by un-savoured. A voice marrying Marianne Faithfulâ€™s crooked croon with the extravagant grace of Maria McKee and the lyrical luxury of Springsteen or Tom Waits as best man Rose and her band defiantly deliver. Guitarist Seth Goodmanâ€™s flamboyant Townshend / Thunders guitar heroics are a treat atop such classy roots rock that from opener â€˜Trying To Lose Youâ€™, beautifully haunting â€˜Still In The Familyâ€™, unscheduled masterpiece from a gallery of grandeur that is â€˜Good Manâ€™ to the rambunctious blues of â€˜2 in 1â€™ and ebullient Rockabilly encore â€˜Booze Talkinâ€™â€™ never falters far from perfect. As with the Stewboss gig across town scant weeks earlier itâ€™s an astringent shame that such artists remain undiscovered saints.
|Hellwood â€“ Mean Fiddler, London â€“18th October 2006|
Review by Nic Fildes
This tour has been a long-time coming. After nearly a decade talking about it, Johnny Dowd and Jim White finally found the time to record the fabulously twisted â€˜Chainsaw of Lifeâ€™ earlier this year and to tour it despite White having a newborn at home. The merging of two maverick artists risked a messy collaboration but this proved a superb show. Whilst Dowd dominates the album, Whiteâ€™s towering presence on stage balances Hellwoodâ€™s clash of styles fantastically.
The normally sharp-suited Dowd took to the stage in a gaudy disco shirt (â€œI got this shirt from John Travolta,â€ he joked) while White sauntered on in a goofy yellow cap. White opened proceedings but not with his trademark hypnotic and dreamy melodies. Instead the punky â€˜Alien Tongueâ€™ and the frenetic â€˜Man in a Plaid Suitâ€™ got the crowd jumping early. Both singers wielded Telecasters but it was Dowd that led the way with chunky riffs and aggressive solos. During â€˜Godâ€™s Back Pocket,â€™ White took over egg-shaking duties while singing through a toy microphone. The song is a highlight on the record and it proved even better live with Dowd and White rapping the chorus like some bizarre Southern Beastie Boys cover band. Drummer Willie B and keyboardist Michael Stark laid down a wall of sound with Willie B impressively tapping out a bass line with his foot while thumping his skins.
White kept the crowd laughing with a half-finished anecdote about Dowd, â€œThe King Pin of Sinâ€, getting into a fight in Glasgow. Dowd refused to take the bait even when White teased him with the line â€œWere you wearing that shirt when you attacked the guy?â€ White also proved the master of the retort when shouted requests emanated from the crowd: â€œYou better get some of that mental insecticide called beer.â€ Although he did a couple of slower songs, Hellwood proved a punkier place. â€˜Chicken Shackâ€™ had the stage shaking almost as much as the tubes rattling the venueâ€™s roof while Whiteâ€™s cheeky â€˜God Was Drunk When He Made Meâ€™ sounded more like a bar-room sing-along in this setting. â€œDonâ€™t worry about it Lord, you just had a bad day in the office,â€ he sang.
White also took on some of Dowdâ€™s swagger, taking on the lead vocals for â€˜Fireworks Factoryâ€™ and revealing that the barely audible ranting at the end of the song is the factory worker warning his boss that he has a Zippo in his pocket. Dowd - who excelled with â€˜Thomas Dorseyâ€™ and â€˜Ding Dongâ€™ - then ushered in a â€˜homage a troisâ€™ to ZZ Top with Stark kicking up a storm on his keyboards. This was the last planned gig for Hellwood but given the two friends seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the crowd, I doubt it will prove to be the final curtain for Hellwood.
|Roger McGuinn - Bloomsbury Theatre, London - 31st October 2006|
Review by Jonathan Aird
I wanted to go to this gig. Having foolishly not seen Roger McGuinn on his last jaunt over to the UK I was determined not to make the same mistake again. The main man of the Byrds for the whole of their career - highs and lows and highs again. The curator of the Folk Den on the internet, with spin-off albums and a box set. A man that Dylan gave songs to (Up To Me). The man of whom Dylan said (having just whipped off the first line of Ballad of Easy Rider) "give this to McGuinn, he'll know what to do with it". The Byrds are my all time favourite band, at their best they were head and shoulders over the Beatles. Yes, I did really want to go to this gig. I'd heard that it was mostly to promote the Folk Den albums, that'd be ok, but maybe there'd be some Byrds mixed in too.
There was a support act - Jade Gallagher - who sang and played guitar nicely and whose publicity says "she has been compared to Katie Melua, but says her influences are artists like Sheryl Crow" which is probably reasonable (these days any girl in the UK with a guitar is going to be compared to Katie Melua or K.T. Tunstall). An album is due February 2007 and I expect she'll be everywhere next year.
A short interval and then the unmistakable chiming opening bars of Tambourine Man. Roger McGuinn walked on from stage left, bearded, bespectacled and wearing his now trademark hat and singing THAT song and encouraging us to join in "if you know it". If we know it ! Wonderful. Taking a seat and a 7-string acoustic built to his own requirements (as he explained later on), Roger took the audience on a tour of his folk music beginnings and the Byrds back catalogue, interspersed with anecdotes, including the Easy Rider story, all told with an easy wit and charm. And modesty. I'd seen a similar style show - "my life in music" if you like - with Donovan at the Jazz cafe earlier this year, and when he dropped names then they stayed dropped, but Roger McGuinn seemed more at home with his famous friends, as if he had less to prove.
Roger is in great voice, and his guitar playing is still wonderful - an amazing version of Eight Miles High on the acoustic guitar showed off his skill. The sound quality was superb, and an attentive audience as well ! The Bloomsbury is a "proper sized" theatre, and yet on a bare stage one voice and a guitar was riveting stuff.
There were several "mini-sets" of related songs within the performance :
â€¢ how folk and rock and Dylan got together - All I really want to do, Sweet William, Easter Morn, You Showed Me
â€¢ The Byrds and Gram Parsons and Dylan - You ain't going nowhere, Drugstore Truck Driving man, Pretty Boy Floyd
â€¢ The animals - Old Blue, Chesnut Mare (a real highpoint of the set), ("so we've had a dog, a horse, how about a space alien"), Mr Spaceman
And on top of this there was also : Wasn't born to follow, St. James infirmary blues, Going back, Turn, Turn, Turn, Bells of Rhymney, Feel a whole lot better, wasn't born to follow and a superb encore of Chimes of Freedom, He was a friend of mine (what president since Kennedy would have inspired such a tribute ?), and a final farewell with : May the road rise to meet you.
The only thing missing was any songs from his solo career, which never shone as bright as The Byrds, but which still has many highlights (Back from Rio, for example, which sounds like The Byrds without the country excursion) and many, many fine songs none the less. And of course, who didn't want a little more than 1hr 20min ? Nit-picking, only nit-picking.
It's a great thing to achieve an ambition. It's an even greater thing when it doesn't disappoint. I have wanted to hear Roger McGuinn live for...well, for a very long time. And now I have. And it was better than I could have imagined.
|â€˜Love Storyâ€™ - The Ritzy Brixton (BFI 50th London Film Festival) - 29th October 2006.|
Review by Andy Riggs
As part of the BFI London Film Festival there have been two showings of a new documentary about the life of Arthur Lee and Love (mainly covering the years 1965-1967). First time filmmakers and fans Mike Kerry & Chris Hall have produced a gem of a film seeking to tell the story of the enigmatic, combustible, multi-racial LA phenomenon that was Love. Mike & Chris spent several years trying to get access to Arthur Lee and the surviving members of the band in addition to Jac Holzman & Bruce Botnick.
Arthur Lee passed away in August of this year and this superb documentary raises as many questions as it does answers, to the enigma that was Love in the halcyon days of mid 60s of LA. Unlike many cult figures that were around with Love such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix & Janis Joplin, Arthur survived the self-inflicted drug onslaught.
The film is a revelation, when the group first formed there was resistance about having two black musicians, and for the cover of Forever Changes there was an artistâ€™s drawing of the group which avoided the fact that this was one the first mixed race â€˜pop groupsâ€™.
There are some terrific home photos of Arthur, his great adversary in the band Bryan MacLean & surviving member Johnny Echols in addition to live footage from 1965. Arthurâ€™s competition with Bryan led to many conflicts within the group â€“ and it was clear that the band should have been called Arthur Lee & Love. When they first signed up with Elecktra records the $5,000 dollars signing on fee was paid in cash to Arthur, Jac Holzman recalled that Arthur immediately went out and purchased a two-seater Corvette costing $4,500 â€“ the balance was shared out amongst the rest of the band. Jac Holzman recalled with some emotion driving through LA and hearing Loveâ€™s brilliant rendition of â€˜My Little Red Bookâ€™ on the radio (it became their highest chart entry). You can see the writing the wall as success brought the cash and the â€˜hangers onâ€™.
The conflict between the two leading songwriters Bryan & Arthur contributed to the split in the original line up, with Arthur looking to create music with a â€˜messageâ€™ and Bryan concentrating on the more melodic side with Softy To Me, Orange Skies, Alone Again Or & Old Man under his belt Arthur obviously felt threatened.
The film concentrated on their first three releases, which rank as some of the best music of the sixties, even allowing for the rather eccentric and experimental 18 minute jam on Da Capo. In addition, the film elaborated on the role of the Elektra team and how Love introduced The Doors to Elektra (John Densmore was interviewed). The Doors debut was released in 1967 and stole the thunder from the peerless Love record of the same year Forever Changes. As we all know Loveâ€™s career high was Forever Changes, refusing to tour outside of LA combined with Elektraâ€™s apparent decision to promote The Doors instead of Love contributed to the lack of sales and the demise of the original line up.
Arthur is interviewed driving through LA, and itâ€™s very clear Arthur had his own take on the Love Story, he comes across as shy, introverted, egoistical but hugely charismatic. There is a terrific segment from 2004/5 where Arthur wanders through the legendary Bela Lugosi Castle where Love held court after the release of their first two records.
The film features music from all three records and allows the story to unfold. Lasting almost 2 hours the film never treads water, each interview peels back the layers of this legendary group whose story has never really been told.
After the show the two directors & original member Johnny Echols answered questions for about twenty minutes. The directors aim to get distribution in the UK and US â€“ letâ€™s hope they get the DVD issued before Oliver Stone decides to make a film about Arthur with Will Smith as the lead!
When I got home I played Forever Changes all the way through, testament to this terrific film and enduring hold that his music has on many of us, and the enigma that was Arthur Lee.
Arthur Lee R.I.P.