Saturday, February 25, 2017

Girls That Own The Blues

This follows on from my previous post about Rebecca Downes. It is easy to underestimate what is going on here and the title of this post is adapted from the title of one of the songs on this next EP
Quite possibly you have seen me reference Joanne Shaw Taylor in the past and both are, coincidentally, from the West Midlands. The thread of live music, including recorded releases thereof, continues here.

Elles Bailey is from Bristol and her second EP, 'The Elberton Sessions', was recorded  live (self-released, 2016).

I very rarely post links like this but listen and then buy it and maybe her previous EP 'Who Am I To Me' (2015) too.  She is right near the top of must-see live artists in 2017.

This next artist is one I have seen live several times before and would quite happily see once again. This is her latest LP, and the follow up to 'Dirt On My Tongue' (2013). This picture harks back to the days of this self-released début album, the interest it garnered and the touring that ensued.

Jo Harman, Cheese & Grain, Frome. 27 October 2013.

Jo Harman - People We Become (Total Creative Freedom, 3 February 2017).

She has released a live album too, for live is the theme here, and it was recorded in 2014 for the BBC, no less, and the venue was hardly shabby either.

Jo Harman and Company - Live at The Royal Albert Hall (Total Creative Freedom, 27 October 2014).

New Music 2017 - Part 10 - Rebecca Downes - BeLive

My liking for, and the revival in fortunes of, the live album is something that I have mentioned in the past. Few are more welcome or rewarding than this.

Rebecca Downes - BeLive (Mad Hat Records, 27 January 2017.)

I have seen Rebecca Downes live a few times and she and her band are always top of their game. The studio CDs are good, really good, but live there is just a whole new dimension there. For want of a better one that word is tension - you discover that the power she sings with is far away from some studio-created phenomenon.
Rebecca Downes was voted 'Best Emerging Artist' and 'Best Female Vocalist' at the British Blues Awards 2016 and this thirteen-track recording, that includes a few covers as well as many of the band's own songs, is where you get to find out why. Nothing, of course, is a substitute for attending a live gig.

Cheese & Grain, Frome, 8 May 2016.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Festivals - a road trip through music

In the last week or so all three festivals for which I have a ticket have released details of the first tranche of artists that are appearing. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in all cases these are festivals that I have attended on multiple previous occasions and so I had established trust sufficient to purchase tickets prior to having any associated acts announced.

Not all of this post concerns artists announced as mentioned above but it does go some way towards explaining my method and rationale for discovering music that is new or new to me and why festivals play such an important rôle in that. The road trip analogy is apposite - it is a journey for which there is a defined starting point but neither is there a predictable end point or a route.
In addition there is the BCR analysis of this approach, which is similar to the formula applied to assessing the economic value of public works projects. In this case it stands for Benefit-Cost-Risk (as a calculation), rather than Benefit : Cost ratio!

Festival tickets are good value in comparison with individual concert tickets (assuming one makes good use of what is on offer) and there is far less time and money spent on travel.  One can take risks on seeing artists that are little known because if disappointment strikes, and occasionally it does, there will always be others to see instead.  There will also be completely unexpected delights (one from EOTR 2016 here), however much pre-festival homework one does. Indeed I am coming to the conclusion that it is possible to do too much beforehand and that it stifles instinct.

With that in mind here are a few artists that I have on my radar.

Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life (Loose Music, 2017) plays End Of The Road 2017.

This one however is not playing the UK festivals as far as I am currently aware.  If she turns up at a festival I am attending then I'll be watching. This is another great album of careworn alt-country.

Goodluck Man - Carson McHone (Good Horse Record Company, 2015).

In recent years there have been accusations that a number of festivals (and I'm not going to name names before you ask, just figure it out for yourself) book a relatively small proportion of female (or female-fronted) acts, particularly as headline artists.
Just for a moment let us put that aside. Here is something that is almost never mentioned at all.
Gaelynn Lea is one of the most astonishing virtuoso fiddle players of recent years, of both her own and traditional music, but you may possibly never even have heard of her. She is playing End Of The Road 2017 and is on my must-see list.

Here are her interpretations of the traditional Scottish song 'The Parting Glass' although it is now often most associated with emigration from Ireland, and 'Brenda Stubbert's Reel' (and similar spellings) that is an Irish tune that has become particularly associated with Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Music travels!  Gaelynn Lea herself is from none of these places; she hails from Duluth, Minnesota.

The Songs We Sing Along The Way EP - Gaelynn Lea (CDBaby, 2016).

Consider it and then read this article and watch the longer live set. You hadn't guessed that had you?

That seems a natural place at which to end this post. I shall return to the road-trip theme soon. There will be some male artists too on the second leg of this haphazard journey.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Festivals - from 2016 into 2017

It's time to start thinking about festivals again except of course for Glastonbury 2017; that sold out months ago and I had no desire to even consider it!
I have tickets for a few, no secrets there, and now that the first artist announcements are revealed it has reminded me that these things have - as well as so many options to see acts that are new, or just new to me - a rather likeable sense of continuity and even community.
This is Green Man 2017, as currently revealed.

Of course I want to see PJ Harvey and Ryan Adams headline. I must say that Future Islands is unknown by comparison in my experience, but the forthcoming album 'The Far Field' is getting great previews and I guess that, at least from their perspective, Green Man would count as exactly that!
Of extreme interest are those a little lower down in this list.

Angel Olsen was astonishing on The Mountain stage at Green Man 2014.

I have never seen Micheal Kiwanuka live, and I very much want to. There are others that I have seen live and that I very much wish to see again. Here is one that for some reason I haven't mentioned before and I can't imagine why. She opened the Tipi stage, the smallest regular one, on the Saturday of End Of The Road 2016. It isn't that I failed to pay attention, because I did.

Julia Jacklin. Tipi stage, End Of The Road Festival, 3 September 2016.

Another fine artist hailing from Australia. In 2014 Green Man served up Courtney Barnett and in 2015 End Of The Road bought us Tame Impala.  Julia Jacklin isn't much like either of them. She is another one-off; Australia has strength in depth.

Julia Jacklin - Don't Let The Kids Win (Transgressive Records, 24 October 2016).

Her début album passed me by at the time of release. That annoys me. Clearly I had lost the plot here because it was released only a few weeks after I saw her play live. There is no excuse for that.

Note added 8 February 2017:
Julia Jaclkin is now confirmed to play End Of The Road Festival 2017.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 9 - Dryadic - Gongoozling for two

I'm not sure that I'm actually allowed to share this but I'm going to do it anyway. There are at least two burning reasons to do so. The first is that this is a new song from an artist that I have been missing for some time now, albeit in a new outfit and style - as duo Dryadic. Dryads are the wood nymphs of Greek mythology just in case you were wondering.
The other thing is this song involves in its title a very unusual English word seemingly derived from the 18th century dialect of eastern England  - gongoozling. You may think that this is a Trump-era "alternative fact" but I believe with good reason that it is not so!
Gongoozling is, in effect, the canal equivalent of train-spotting and with that comes a whole lot of time when nothing much happens on the waterway.

It is far too good not to share, to be quite honest! And I can't wait to see those spring bluebells.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 8 - Ags Connolly - Nothin' Unexpected

The second full-length from West Oxfordshire native and resident Ags Connolly has been a while in the making, quite deliberately so it would seem.
The first was 'How About Now' and  it appeared back in 2014. That was around the time that the blossoming of the indigenous UK Americana scene was starting to be noticed
 as the real change it was, rather than just the preoccupation of die-hard fans and would-be journalists.

Nothin' Unexpected - Ags Connolly (At The Helm Records, 3 February 2017).

The title of this latest is 'Nothin' Unexpected' and might sound almost underwhelming but that is quite deliberate too as the music is no such thing. The point here is that it is not flash or crass in any way at all. It is however very well done indeed - from the ten songs (nine originals and a cover of the Loudon Wainwright III song 'I Suppose'), to the instrumentation that accompanies them and the carefully balanced production values. It ticks boxes.
  • I Hope You’re Unhappy
  • Do You Realise That Now
  • When The Loner Gets Lonely
  • Neon Jail
  • I Suppose
  • Nothin’ Unexpected
  • Haunts Like This
  • Fifteen Years
  • Slow Burner
  • I Should’ve Closed The Book
It is certainly often wistful and resolutely stoical, especially about times spent alone and this applies as much to the honky-tonk influenced numbers as to the others; there's both a time and mood for that.  I happen to be listening sat in front of the fire on a dark and wet winter's evening but it would be just as good heard in the early hours around the dying embers of a summer campfire, with the last few burnt BBQ ribs and a beer to go with it.

One thing even better would be to see him play live, preferably in one of the old small-town bars that are mentioned in a couple of songs. Rather like this...
Ags Connolly, Saloon Bar stage, Truck Festival 2015.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 7 - Otis Gibbs - Mount Renraw

Serendipity has played a large rôle in determining that which appears in these pages and so it is with this artist, whom I knew nothing about until I poked my camera lens over the door of the Saloon Bar at Truck Festival 2014. This is that picture. Why wouldn't one want to be party to a gig like this?

Otis Gibbs, Saloon Bar stage, Truck Festival, 18 July 2014.

It was around  a month before the release of his LP 'Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth'. I was smitten - it was exactly the start of my ongoing infatuation with this most unlikely, yet astonishing, of festival stages.  That album, like the others before it is down-to-earth roots songwriting and performance. It is also far more complicated than it might seem on first listen.
This is the follow-up by the native of Indiana and released into a world now full of uncertainty, which is grist to his mill.

'Mount Renraw' - Otis Gibbs (Wanamaker Recording Company, 13 January 2017).

Otis Gibbs - Mount Renraw:
  • Ed's Blues (Survival)
  • Bison
  • Great American Roadside
  • Sputnik Monroe
  • Empire Hole
  • Blues For Diablo
  • 800 Miles
  • Copper Coloured Fools
  • Kathleen
  • Lucy Parsons
  • Wide Awake
If this, from the previous LP, doesn't resonate with you in some way or another then I wonder why I write about stuff at all.

'The Darker Side of Me' (official video).
The railway footage in this is actually entirely shot in the UK. It will, obviously, make putting locations to the lyrics quite impossible!

Friday, January 13, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 6 - Scott H. Biram - The Bad Testament

Thus far my series of 'New Music 2017' posts has taken a predominantly acoustic path. This is where it takes a turn towards electric squalls...  well almost certainly it does, for this album has not yet been released. It could turn out to be an album of lullabies and  gentle ballads but neither artist nor label history make that seem anything other than extremely improbable!
The title of the LP tends to reinforce that idea too...

'The Bad Testament' - Scott H. Biram (Bloodshot Records, 24 February 2017).

It seems that the often-solo Texas bluesman will be taking us down the rutted dirt roads, rusting rails and haunted backwaters once again. Should you be wondering what I thought about his 2014 LP 'Nothin' But Blood' than that is here and it was my first introduction to the world of his music.

This is the track list:

Scott H. Biram - The Bad Testament
  • Set Me Free
  • Still Around
  • Red Wine
  • TrainWrecker
  • Long Old Time
  • Swift Driftin'
  • Righteous Ways
  • Crippled & Crazy
  • Feel So Wrong
  • True Religion
If you buy CD or d/l versions then you get the three tracks from his 'Lost on the River EP' too. I have a certain feeling that I will head for this option.

Here is a taster from the new record:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 5 - Wildwood Kin - The Author

This is the new release from the trio Wildwood Kin based in the south-west of England.  The music strays far beyond that locale and furthermore 'The Author' is a song more contemplative when compared to 'Warrior Daughter' that was released in 2016.

In addition to the release of this new song, and an album to follow soon, the band has just been announced as the recipient of an award to be presented at the UK Americana Awards 2017  that take place at St. John's, Hackney, London on 2 February.
To put that in proper context, Bob Harris has been around the sun a fair few times and in the top echelons of new and independent music discovery for a very long time too: 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' with Bob presenting ended decades ago (it ran thus from 1971-1978). In that sense he has been there since the start of my music experiences. I still remember seeing bits of that as a child. Since then he has become something of a lodestar for those interested in roots and acoustic music beyond simply UK and Irish folk and through most of those decades it wasn't a part of mainstream musical fashion, to say the least. How times have changed!

The Author (Croft Sessions, in collaboration with Sidmouth Fringe).

It would appear that I didn't mention the release of 'Warrior Daughter' at the time, although I certainly intended to do so, so I shall make amends now.

Here is the video for that song too:

Warrior Daughter (official video).

As soon as learn more about the album I'll be reporting back; don't imagine otherwise.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 4 - Emily Mae Winters - Siren Serenade

Looking back on my recent post concerning 'EPs and mini albums of 2016' it has struck me that there are several rather surprising omissions. One of them is the 'Foreign Waters EP' by Emily Mae Winters.

I'm going to get out of this particular problem by subsuming it into the announcement of her début LP 'Siren Serenade'. Produced by Ben Walker, as was the aforementioned EP, but this time also in collaboration with Lauren Deakin-Davis, it will be released in April 2017.

The first track from it, it least as I can find is 'The Star' and a song inspired by John Keats' poem 'Bright Star':

'The Star' (official video)

This is the artwork for the album cover.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 3 - Cup O'Joe - Bluebirds

I can't tell you how many bands I have mentioned in recent years that include the participation of siblings but it is considerable. It's a theme of kinds and I see no reason to discontinue it. 
Here is another - three siblings in this case - that were you not to know otherwise might be imagined to hail from the far side of the Atlantic. That isn't the case at all and this is their first EP.

Bluebirds EP - Cup O'Joe (self-released, 2016).

Cup O'Joe is Benjamin (upright bass), Reuben (guitar, mandolin) and Tabitha (banjo, fiddle) Agnew and they actually call Armagh, Northern Ireland's smallest city, home. The EP has six tracks:
  • Bluebirds
  • Pretty Fair Maiden
  • Blackwaterfoot
  • Homesick
  • Tell Me Darling
  • Black Coffee
They play predominantly self-written material that crosses the range from bluegrass and gypsy to old-time, western and jazz and all three contribute vocals. Definitely another band that I want to see live in 2017.
If you have a little while to spare for listening then there is this.

Cup O'Joe, Coastline Bluegrass Festival, Llangollen, North Wales, June 2016.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Music 2017 - Part 2 - Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator

In my opinion there is never a bad time to welcome a new album from Hurray For The Riff Raff but, as it happens, early 2017 seems an especially propitious one for a number of reasons. Alynda Lee Segarra and her band are always ready to take on social, cultural and political challenges in their songs and there is no reason to think that things will change at least in that respect, this time around.

'The Navigator' - Hurray For The Riff Raff (ATO Records, 10 March 2017).

The Navigator - Hurray For The Riff Raff:
  • Entrance
  • Living In The City
  • Hungry Ghost
  • Life to Safe
  • Nothing’s Gonna Change Girl
  • The Navigator
  • Halfway There
  • Rican Beach
  • Fourteen Floors
  • Settle
  • Pa’lante
  • Finale
The lead track is Rican Beach, about which some reviewers have expressed surprise at the direction of the sound. I like it and even if that were not so I wouldn't be overly concerned. I'd actually be rather more worried if it just sounded like an out-take from an earlier LP and to that end I have pre-ordered the album. I have trust in certain artists, festivals and labels. Hurray For The Riff Raff is most definitely one of the former.

Rican Beach

My Music in 2016 - EPs and mini-albums:

In a decade of writing this blog few things have pleased me more than the relentless rise of the EP and the mini-album: the format, from vinyl to digital, doesn't matter a fraction as much as the use it has seen in releasing small bodies of completed work to a wider audience. Not only does it allow the artist, new or established, to provide rapid exposure to new material it is also bite-sized for the diminished attention span of many consumers in the digital age. With that in mind here are just six such that have grabbed my attention in 2016.

All six are female led; four from the UK and one each from Ireland and the US. I have seen all the UK-based ones live at one time or another, but neither Wyvern Lingo (Ireland) or Lily Mae (US).

Janileigh Cohen, Rising stage, Green Man Festival, 21 August 2016.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

My Music in 2016 - Albums - Part 2

Seconds away; round 2.
The rules are exactly the same as before and in no way should you think that this list is 'second fiddle'. One of the featured acts would soon disabuse you of that notion simply because of its four members three play fiddle, almost always concurrently!
In addition, this list includes an entry for which the primary language is not English.

Anian - 9 Bach
Applewood Road - Applewood Road
The Black Feathers - Soaked To The Bone
Cale Tyson - Careless Soul
Fara - Cross The Line
The Honeycutters - On The Ropes
Joanne Shaw Taylor - Wild
Kelsey Waldon - I've Got A Way
Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
On Dead Waves - On Dead Waves

This post is entirely me fighting my own corner as concerns the kind of music that I like. The links above might have indicated that. It includes one of the two US artists that I most wanted to see live in 2016 and I did so.

Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey, wife & husband, Woods stage, End Of The Road Festival, 2 September 2016.

The other US artist I really wanted to see live in 2016  was Jason Isbell and I did that too, at Green Man Festival 2016. The above list also includes two of the US artists that I would most like to see live at a UK festival in 2017 - The Honeycutters and Kelsey Waldon. It's looking promising.

This is from the Saloon Bar stage at Truck Festival in slightly challenging circumstances.

Applewood Road, a capella. 15 July 2016.

The few invading troublemakers - they were not merely drunk and disorderly - were soon removed without any further fuss by Security. This is the first time in ten years of festival-going that I have ever been in a situation like this and it was reassuring in the way that everyone reacted to it. Such things happen in many towns each weekend, more is the pity. Ten minutes later everything had returned to normal, but with even more camaraderie.
This is the 'Saloon Bar Stage' after all, so perhaps it isn't such a surprise?

Should you wish to attempt to prefigure 2017 then there is this. Its title is 'Powerplant'. I'm not saying much about it because crystal-ball-gazing is not my thing and look where professional pollsters led us in 2016! I would be lying if I were to deny that there are a couple of items that are interesting prospects indeed. The second album from this duo is one of them.

Girlpool, Big Top stage, End Of The Road Festival, 5 September 2015.

Monday, December 12, 2016

New Music 2017 - Part 1 - Holly Macve - Golden Eagle

A break from lists and an opportunity to start looking forward to 2017 releases.
I actually started to write this about a fortnight ago when the schedule became clear but I soon ran into a problem. I saw Holly Macve live during the summer but could I find the photos? No!
I knew they were not amongst a few lost to a faulty memory card because the issue was resolved by that time. Just now I had an
 idea - by this time I was using two cameras interchangeably, one much more than the other and it was the first time that I had such luxury. It turned out that these pictures had been taken with 'the other one' and I hadn't looked for them where they were to be found even though I had downloaded all the images from both devices. Mea culpa.
With that little mystery solved here she is. As I said ten years ago, when this blog project commenced, I don't have the time or the inclination to review things that I don't care for. My listening tastes may have changed over time but that is a completely different matter. 

Holly Macve, Garden stage, End Of The Road Festival, 4 September 2016.

Her début album 'Golden Eagle' is released by Bella Union on 3 March 2017 and this is the track-listing.

White Bridge
Corner of My Mind
Heartbreak Blues
All of Its Glory
No One Has the Answers
Golden Eagle
Sycamore Tree

Taken from the album, this is 'No One Has The Answers'.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

My Music in 2016 - Albums - Part 1

It is time for the first of several lists of my favourite albums of 2016. As ever releases are alphabetical (articles, whether definite or indefinite, are included in the list entry but ignored for alphabetical purposes) by artist within each list and inclusion in a given list implies no preference over ones in a later list.
Artists that I have seen live tend to feature highly in these lists and it is true that this applies just as much in 2016 as in previous years. In order to try to prevent that bias affecting opinion I have decided that this first list will include only artists and acts that (performing as such) I have not seen live this year or previously. The result of doing that has, as it turns out, transformed into something of a 'wants-list' for 2017 festivals!
Be that as it may, and with no way of knowing how it might pan out, here it is:

Billie Marten - Writing of Blues and Yellows
Case/Lang/Veirs - Case/Lang/Veirs
Dori Freeman - Dori Freeman
The Drive-by Truckers - American Band
Elizabeth Cook - Exodus Of Venus
John Moreland - High On Tulsa Heat
Layla McCalla - A day for the hunter, a day for the prey
The Moon and You - A White Light That Shines
On Dead Waves - On Dead Waves
Red Moon Road - Sorrows & Glories

All but two are acts from North America but this isn't actually an accurate reflection of my listening in 2016, be that live or otherwise. I think that my subsequent lists will make that clear. Indeed if you know me then you will likely have already spotted a few very glaring omissions of North American artists that have released LPs in 2016 from from this list. What is certainly true is that it has focused my attention on artists that I would very much like to see live in 2017.

[This is just the bare outline of this post but having started just earlier and on a whim, I decided I wanted to get something published this evening. More details, links (those other than to my own comments) and so on will follow shortly. If you find some music new to you and that you like then I'm a happy bunny!]

Comments are always welcome.
They are moderated only for reasons of law, order and decency.