It’s fair to say that music’s a lifetime’s work for Kimberley Rew. From his first band The Waves in 1975 through Robyn Hitchcock’s Soft Boys to a long stint with Katrina and the Waves and his 21st century incarnation as a member of Cambridge band Jack, with his partner and bass player Lee Cave-Berry. He’s written a fair few songs along the way as well. We reviewed his retrospective “Sunshine Walkers” in September of this year and we highly recommend it; it’s packed with perfectly-crafted examples of the songwriter’s art and laced with a very wry British humour. Here’s Kimberley’s take on this strange and tragic year:

 

1.

There is a singing, writing and arguing husband and wife team called Kim and Lee, from Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK, then St Ives, Cambridgeshire, which we prefer because it’s not so vibrant.

Kim and Lee have been members of a rock band called Jack for twenty years. Jack is the stage name of Roger, and hence his band, deriving from his signature song, Screaming Lord Sutch’s Jack the Ripper. Roger, Lee and Kim attend the Wednesday Session in Cambridge on March 11 2020. We all get ‘flu-like symptoms. Roger tests positive for Covid-19, and dies in hospital. Lee and I recover. Lee and I get special permission to attend Roger’s funeral, which the rules stipulate is immediate family only. As a matter of interest Lee subsequently tests positive for Covid antibodies, I don’t.

Roger’s 6- and 8-year-old grandsons write a tribute song to Roger titled Black Ribbon (after the trademark ribbon on Roger’s Panama hat). They record it with Lee, Kim and drummer Tony. Watch this space!

 

2.

Kim and Lee have been the house band for the Cambridge, UK based John Wright’s Wednesday Session for twelve years. The fact that it’s John Wright’s session, not our own, is a great advantage because it means Kim and Lee don’t have to turn up absolutely every week, sometimes going on expensive holidays to Aberystwyth, Cromer, Weston super Mare etc.

To supply some background; for many of those years the session is based at the Boathouse in Cambridge, but the licensed trade being what it is, landlords change frequently and eventually there comes one who says she doesn’t like live music, so we have to find a new home. The Session moves to the Station Tavern. It is tense when we arrive as on the telly, England are playing football (soccer) to decide whether they will remain in the World Cup. We lose, and the football fans drift away morosely. We hastily set up, the session is a cracking success, then a letter of complaint arrives from the hotel next door. We move to the Brook in Cambridge.

In the ensuing lockdown, after the second to last live Wednesday Session on March 11 2020, Lee uses her technical ability to continue the Wednesday Session from our front room, streaming live to Facebook. The two of us do half an hour, then the ‘headliner’ does his or her half hour from his front room. Our regulars rally to the screen, with messages saying hello to each other, the weekly session having been their social glue; strangely also, scattered enthusiasts from around the world start to join the social group.

Come the summer and slight easing of the rules, we, and several mosquitos, relocate to the gazebo in our garden. John Wright is reinstated, also Tony on the (very quiet) drums, plus whatever ‘headline’ act. A neighbour complains about the noise. Lee protests on Facebook. Nick from The Plough in Shepreth reads this and invites the Wednesday Session to the Plough. He has built a marquee in his garden, with a stage, and stoves like space rockets which radiate smoke. After a few weeks ritzy silk curtains appear too.
We have another lockdown. We relocate to inside the empty pub. Nick is determined, in the face of having to limit the number of his customers, seat them out in the cold etc, to keep the live music happening. His sound, light and technical streaming crew eventually outnumbers the band (tho they responsibly leave two metre gaps between themselves of course), and it includes Justine, landlady of the Flying Pig in Cambridge, who is also determined to keep live music going, and if she can’t do it in the Flying Pig that night, she’ll help to do it in the Plough.
Go to Facebook and type in The Wednesday Session; watch an old one (they stay there for ever until they mysteriously disappear), or watch live at 8 30pm on Wednesday.

 

3.

without Lee there would be no Kim

no one would’ve ever heard of him

confined to the marginalia

brief success then instant failure

(this rhymes if you say it in a British accent)

Lee’s smile is the driving force

and her thumping bass of course

it’s why every week we’re there

tho she often cries ‘what shall I wear’

but then everyone says ’that was fun!’

so let’s do some more in 2021!

 

4.

In 2020 a coffee table book appears called 1001 Songs. Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves (written by Kim) isn’t in it. But it is in a coffee table book called 1001 Singles. Kim isn’t listed as a ‘notable alumnus’ of his school, Harrow County Grammar. But he is down as a ’notable alumnus’ of his college, Jesus College Cambridge.

 

5.

When you have finished buying Tunnel into Summer by Kimberley Rew (featuring Lee Cave-Berry) because 2020 was its 20th anniversary; and Underwater Moonlight by The Soft Boys (featuring Kimberley Rew) because 20+20 was its 40th anniversary (this one IS included in the companion volume ‘1001 Albums’), don’t forget to buy the latest Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry compilation, ‘Sunshine Walkers- The Best Of…’, available now, a collection 21 tracks heading into 2021! 

Earlier this year, we reviewed “Twang” by The James Oliver Band. He’s from a long line of Welsh guitar wizards he has a lot in common with, including the ability to inject a bit of humour into their music. Anyway, Allan loved the album and would have been really happy to see the band play live. And then COVID reared its ugly head and all bets were off. For someone breaking through and relying on live performance to do that, lockdown was the worst thing that could happen. As you can see below, James has made the best of it. Here are his High Fives:

 

Photo by Mick Schofield

Hi. For those who don’t know me, I’m a rock ‘n’ roll guitarist from South Wales, following in the footsteps of the likes of Dave Edmunds, Mickey Gee and Man. My debut solo album Twang came out in April and has done way better than I would ever have thought, which makes up for going from playing 250 gigs a year to a mere handful. It spent five weeks at number 1 on the Amazon Blues Chart; got three plays on BBC Radio 2 from Cerys Matthews (keeping the Welsh flag flying!) loads of press and reviews. Just a shame I couldn’t really support it on the road.

 

 

Photo by Beverley Oliver

I started my YouTube channel in March for something to do, and since then I’ve gained 10,000 subscriptions and over 5 million views. Also got positive comments on social media from Albert Lee, Bill Kirchen, Greg Koch, Kenny Vaughan and the legendary John ‘Drumbo’ French from Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band. A real buzz to be recognized by some of my heroes. People might not associate me with Beefheart’s music from the stuff I play, but he’s absolutely one of my favourites. I even genuinely like Trout Mask Replica!
 

 

Photo by Mick Schofield

During lockdown I’ve also been lucky to have lessons from Eric Klerks of The Magic Band and, in a different style, one of the masters of the Telecaster (my guitar of choice too) Redd Volkaert – two major influences on my guitar playing. They’ve really helped me improve as a guitar player.
 

 

 

Many of my friends know I’m a huge Pirates fan, especially their guitarist Mick Green. I was asked by Romek Parol and BJ Anders to join a band called Gibson Martin Fender, which is the title of a Pirates’ track. Romek and BJ played with Green in the ’90s. They made 3 records with him and toured the world. It was put on hold because of COVID, but I’m looking forward to playing my Mick Green licks in this cool side project.
 

I had the shock of my life earlier in 2020 when I won the UK Blues Federation’s Emerging Artist Of The Year Award. I hope to be a Re-emerging Artist in 2021…!

 

 

 

 

And by way of a bonus here’s a video clip for you as well:

James oliver band stay outta trouble official video – YouTube

 

 

 

 

This is the final album review of the strangest year I’ve had in a very, very long time. It’s quite unusual to release albums of original material in December; it’s normally a time for retrospectives, compilations and TV personalities singing Christmas songs. This year, however, all bets are off as the virus has closed so many doors while opening a few new ones. Musicians have been adapting to a rapidly-changing environment throughout this century, so what’s the big deal about a pandemic? Home studios have been with us for a long time and it’s routine now to share huge audio files online; you can make an album with dozens of musicians without ever meeting them.

The album “Mayone”, by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Steve Mayone, has a couple of reference points. The uncertainty generated by COVID 19 gave the Steve the impetus to get this album together, and the first Paul McCartney solo album “McCartney” (fifty years old this year) gave him the inspiration. The parallels between the two aren’t just around the experience of working alone in the studio alone as therapy; Steve has echoed the ebb and flow of Paul McCartney’s album, and some of the themes as well (more about that later).

The first listen to this album left two lasting impressions; that it was a guitar player’s album and that it had a very seventies feel. Before reading the press release, I felt that the album had the feel of a solo Beatles project (right) and that the solo Beatle was George Harrison (wrong). It’s definitely a guitar player’s album, though; there are multiple layers of acoustic and electric guitars throughout the album, with the additional spicing of mandolin, banjo, ukulele and lap steel. I’m sure one of Steve’s aims was to make people revisit “McCartney”; it worked in my case and I’m recommending it to you as well.

“Mayone” has thirteen tracks (as does “McCartney”) and mixes up instrumental soundscapes with some beautifully-crafted songs. The instrumentals are perfect little vignettes scattered across the album, starting with the finger-picked acoustic, “The Sweet Suzanne” referencing McCartney’s “The Lovely Linda” even down to the alliteration in the title; Steve Mayone is paying serious attention to detail here.

There’s a huge variety to the songs here, from the no-prisoners-taken rock of “Sweet Little Anchor”, hinting at Bob Seger and Tom Petty to the melancholy “Airport Goodbyes” and the archetypical Christmas song (with an ironic drunken stupor twist), “Happy Alcoholidays”. These are all great songs but the perfect McCartney match is still to come. “Stuff” is a takedown of consumerism on a personal and global level that moves McCartney’s “Junk” on by fifty years, but Steve takes it a stage further. The McCartney “Junk” appears in a vocal version on track six and as “Singalong Junk” (an instrumental) on track eleven; guess the track sequencing of the “Stuff” vocal and instrumental on Steve’s album?

Steve Mayone has created an album of material that’s totally original, while cleverly referencing and emulating McCartney’s “McCartney”. “Mayone” is a 2020 classic; let’s hope it lasts as long as “McCartney”.

“Mayone” is released in the UK on Friday December 18th on Mayone Music.

 

Here’s Allan’s final set of photos for this restricted year. He’s saved the monochromes until the end this time and we think we can see why.

All but one of these photos were taken before the first lockdown (incidentally, using bodies and lenses that have all been replaced now, if anyone’s interested) and they’re examples of the different reasons for using monochrome processing. I started taking family snaps in the sixties using black and white 120 roll film and I’ve had a bit of a nostalgic soft spot for it ever since (I was way too young to know anything about the culture wars over monochrome/colour played out by the pros – there was just no way I could afford colour film at that time). Moving forward nearly sixty years, I’m enjoying monochrome photography again, this time as an option.

Will Sexton @AMAUK Showcase January 2020

Will Sexton is the musical and marital partner of Amy LaVere and they played as a duo at AMAUK in Hackney this year. One of my usual reasons for monochrome processing is bland stage lighting and that was the case here as well. However, as soon as I flipped from colour, the shot took on a whole new meaning. Will’s stage image took the shot back about sixty years and evoked Ronnie Hawkins and maybe Duane Eddy. From Hackney to Memphis with one toggle:

Roseanne Reid @AMAUK Showcase January 2020

Yep, that Roseanne Reid; daughter of Craig of The Proclaimers and a cracking writer and performer. This wasn’t a question of the monochrome processing as an option, it was a necessity because the lighting was horrendous. It took a bit of time to find the angle where the lighting worked, but it was worth it:

Hope Winter @The Bedford

Oh those happy days at The Bedford when you could wander round the entire venue without a mask and get up really close to the artists with a 35mm lens. There’s a lot of luck involved in this because I happened to be right in front of Hope when she dropped really briefly into this pensive mood with her long hair highlighted and the embroidered jacket picked out perfectly:

Nicole Terry @The Essex Arms Brentwood

This was only a few weeks before lockdown. I was with my mate, fiddle and mandolin player Steve Stott who was seeing Morganway for the first time. I love Morganway; I love the quality of the playing, the songs and the energy. Nicole is a ball of fire on stage so this shot is a bit uncharacteristic, but it shows a contrast with her usual frantic bowing and backing vocals in one of those serene and focussed moments:

Iago Banet @Luna Lounge, Leytonstone

Just a few weeks ago, but it seems much longer now. This was an Acoustic Sanctuary livestream with Foxpalmer from the basement of Luna Lounge (which is a great venue) that I was invited to shoot some stills for. If you get a chance to see Iago solo or with ColorColour, I recommend you take it; you won’t be disappointed. This was one of those gigs that had monochrome stamped all over it from the start. Iago’s fairly mobile on stage and it’s usually just a question of catching the right moment:

When you think that this is the year music went over the cliff (well, live music certainly) we’ve been pretty busy with album reviews as artists faced difficult choices about whether to release their material in a time when they couldn’t tour to promote it. Despite those difficult decisions, we still reviewed over thirty albums this year and we asked Allan to pick out five of his personal favourites.

I’ve always loved the MusicRiot ethos of reviewing; it’s not about trashing albums that we aren’t keen on, it’s about highlighting the albums that we really like and telling the world why we like them. We don’t review high profile albums, nothing we say will help Springsteen, Dylan or Young sell half a dozen more units, but we might actually help someone self-releasing their work, even if it’s only with a quote to use on their next press release. Now I’ve got that out of my system, I’ll tell you about five albums that I’ve had on high rotation this year. As always, in no particular order:

“What in the World” – Michael McDermott

Michael McDermott keeps cropping up in these year end lists, with good reason. He’s a great songwriter and he knows how to present his songs on record and live. “What in the World” was a bit of a departure for Michael; his focus has shifted towards protest songs. When Michael takes a pathway, he commits to it completely. The title song is “Subterranean Homesick Blues” for 2020; it’s a headlong rush through the final year of Trump’s presidency and pulls no punches – ‘It’s not hard to see The President’s a criminal’. While “What in the World” is one of only two protest songs on the album (the other is “Mother Emanuel”), its power and ferocity mean that it defines the album, although there are plenty more songs from Michael’s post-addiction and recovery space to make a great and varied album.

“Can You See Me” – Maya Rae

This one was very different from the MusicRiot staples. Maya Rae isn’t the kind of artist we usually hear about from our sources. She sent a demo tape to producer Steve Dawson (Black Hen Records) and he hastily put a band together to record the album in three days. Maya wasn’t even eighteen at the time and she had already been singing professionally for six years. The album’s fresh and zingy and full of the insights about young people’s lives that you can only get from a young person. The musicianship on the album is superb as the band step effortlessly from pop to sinuous funk. Try it, you’ll love it.

“Iago Banet” – Iago Banet

I don’t think I’ve ever featured an entirely instrumental album before in my High Fives, but I’d never heard “Iago Banet” before this year. Iago plays in a style that he describes as Galician finger-style from south, south, south, south London. If you haven’t seen Iago play live you would think that each song features at least two guitarists (a bit like Martin Harley’s Weissenborn playing), but only one track on the album features a second guitar and that’s the fun blues hybrid ”Octopus One”. Iago’s playing evokes pictures ranging from Greater London scenes (“Morning at Greenwich Park”) to more prosaic domestic scenes (“There’s a Mouse In my Kitchen”). And there’s also a wonderful swing arrangement of Van Morrison’s “Moondance”. What more could you want?

“Tangle of Souls” – Scott Cook

To paraphrase the Marks & Spencer advertising strapline, this isn’t just music. “Tangle of Souls” as a standalone album is a superb piece of work, but it comes packaged with a hefty booklet containing Scott’s writings, printed on had-crafted paper. It all adds to the experience, but the album stands on its own musical and lyrical merits. The album’s centrepiece “Say Can You See” is a political statement that isn’t partisan; it’s about not trusting anyone from the DC elite. The album has more of a political edge than some of Scott Cook’s earlier work, including an update of Dick Blakeslee’s “Passin’ Through”, which includes a reference to 1970s Chilean martyr Victor Jara. It’s an album that will make you listen and make you think.

“The Sleepless Kind” – Andy Fleet

This was another one that came out of left field. Andy is a musician who makes a living in the same way as a lot of musicians these days; a bit of performance, a bit of recording, a bit of teaching and a bit of anything else that comes along. “The Sleepless Kind” tells the stories of the musicians who entertain us in our clubs and bars every night (or did before the onset of this plague) and gives us a unique perspective on Soho through the eyes of an owl. It’s an album that rewards repeated plays and has an end of the day feel to it. You should probably listen while nestling a single malt in one hand.

And here’s a little bonus ball for you. I wouldn’t normally include a compilation in this selection, but this one merits a mention.

“The Man from Leith” – Dean Owens

This is a seventeen-song Dean Owens retrospective. I’ve followed Dean’s work for nearly ten years now and he’s a songwriter who writes beautifully about Scottish and global themes. There are songs about family, songs about friends, songs about events and even a sing inspired by Ronnie Lane. If you want an introduction to Dean’s body of work, then this is the perfect place to start. And whether he’s playing solo or with a band you should try to see him live as well.

Is anyone ready for a few more of Allan’s photos? He hasn’t had the bumper gig year he was expecting but he still managed to get in a few before lockdown, a few over the summer and a few more after lockdown lite. Let’s see what he has to say about this set of images.

From the end of January 2020 it was obvious that 2020 wasn’t going to be a normal year for anyone. I was cramming in as many gigs as I could get pre-lockdown and hoping that post-lockdown might be a bit easier; so much for that. Over the last few years, I’ve done a fair amount of monochrome work, partly because it worked for certain images and partly because of lighting that was a bit meh. At the limited number of gigs I’ve done this year, I’ve had some decent lighting for colour, so here we go:

Tales from the Towpath (1)

Belle Roscoe had an album to promote and very few opportunities of getting punters to gigs so someone had the radical idea of taking the gig to the punters; on a barge. Starting at Hackney Wick and moving north during the afternoon. This was the second time I’ve shot a gig on a barge. The first one was at Kings Cross on a gorgeous summer day; this one wasn’t quite so warm, in mid-October, but the sun was shining. Matty Gurry just looks like a rock star (as does his sister Julia); all you have to do is get the right angle and press the shutter. I suppose the wind-swept look didn’t do any harm either:

Tales from the Towpath (2)

The album Matty and Julia were promoting (and still are) is called “Talking to the Walrus”, so why not have a walrus to help with the promotion. Not a real one obviously, but a very sinister walrus mask. Now, it’s not every day that you get introduced to a walrus, is it? Did you know they speak with an Australian accent? So, a photo of a walrus in a naval jacket? Works for me:

Greenwich Blues & Beer, Eddy Smith

Eddy Smith has a great blues/rock/soul voice and is a cracking keyboards player. He’s also a really good bloke. I’ve photographed him many times, solo and with his band. Eddy creates on particular problem for photographers; he wears a baseball cap which throws a shadow on his face when lit from above. Fortunately at this gig at The Old Joinery in Greenwich he was lit from below and not in full-on blues shouter mode. The soft, warm lighting emphasises the serene mood of the shot:

Greenwich Blues & Beer, Georgia and the Vintage Youth

From the same mini-festival at August Bank Holiday, I had another opportunity to photograph Georgia Crandon. It doesn’t matter how many times you photograph Georgia, you always get something different. The look is never the same for any two gigs and it’s always interesting. Like the previous shot of Eddy, the lighting’s quite soft and portrait-friendly and Georgia’s rose-tinted glasses add the finishing touch. I’ll be photographing Georgia in 2021, absolutely no doubt:

SJ (Morganway)

Two weeks before the first lockdown I met up with my friend, mandolin and fiddle player Steve Stott in Brentwood to introduce him to the Morganway experience. If you haven’t seen or heard Morganway, you really should. If the world returns to something resembling normality in 2021, they should be playing bigger venues and building a massive fanbase. They are the real thing; a live band where everyone plays an important part and they and do the whole lot from unplugged acoustic to no-holds-barred rock. Here’s singer SJ, giving it plenty:

Bit of a bonus, here’s Morganway’s “Hurricane” live:

Morganway – Hurricane [OFFICIAL VIDEO] – YouTube

 

We try to keep him out of the way for most of the year, but a sudden bout of Christmas generosity has prompted us (probably unwisely) to let the curmudgeon have access to a laptop and share his highly debatable and probably scurrilous opinions with you. Just a reminder for you that the views of our correspondent don’t reflect the values of MusicRiot or possibly anyone else in the world. You’ve been warned. This is the return of Isitjustme.

You’ve been warned. Indeed. You would think that they were expecting me to say something controversial but I’ve mellowed and I’ll be sticking to the party line by looking at the positives of the COVID pandemic. As a response to Steve Jenner’s piece, I’m sharing some of the things that I definitely haven’t missed about live music.

Soundchecks

I know, I know. The soundcheck’s vital to getting the sound right so the artist can sound good. There’s an insider joke – ‘When does soundcheck end?’, ‘Ten minutes after doors (scheduled opening time)’. How many times have you stood outside venues on nights when brass monkeys are looking for welders waiting for the doors to open, while the door staff tell you that the soundcheck’s still going on. It doesn’t build up anticipation, it just winds people up. I know it’s a radical solution, but why not start soundchecking a bit earlier. And it happens from the biggest to the smallest venues. At the Steve Miller/John Fogerty Bluesfest at the O2 (and I hate the O2 and all the other enormodromes) doors opened about 45 minutes late and they were still soundchecking. To add insult to injury, even after a bang-average opening duo, the sound was still terrible – the drums sounded like a filing cabinet being thrown down a lift shaft and the keyboard player might as well have been miming for most of the set. And why do VIP packages include soundcheck access; it’s the most tedious part of the live process. Nobody likes it and it’s just something the band has to do before getting stuck in to the rider.

Bar Queues

It’s all about the profit margin isn’t it? You deliberately under-staff the bar and boost your margins by keeping your costs down. Maybe you could increase your margins by selling more drinks (by having more staff to sell them)? It’s a bit of a difficult staffing problem because there are periods (when the bands are playing) when there isn’t a lot to do (gig expert tip – that’s the time to go to the bar). So with no gigs at all, that’s not a problem and with socially-distanced gigs it’s a different problem – table service. There are two ways for this to fail – you’re either constantly being hassled by over-eager staff to buy more drinks or you’re so thirsty you’re tempted to go down the Sarah Miles route (just google it). Don’t do this in a group, you don’t want to pick up the wrong glass. And while we’re talking about the bar…

Craft Beers

When I were a lad, you went to gig and you had a choice of bitter or lager (or a short if you’d screwed the leccy meter that week). You got a pint in a glass (a real glass that smashed when you dropped it or threw it at the support act, maybe after doing a bit of a Sarah Miles). It was cold, fizzy gnat’s piss but we loved it. So what happens now at a gig? Unless you go to The Picturedrome in Holmfirth (which sells real beer), you get floor-to-ceiling chiller cabinets packed with cans (cans?-when did that happen?) of beers that you’ve never heard of even if you could read the branding through the condensation on the doors. So you take a random stab at something that’s in a can you like the colour of and flick your credit card at the reader, just about registering that you’ve paid the equivalent of a main course in a restaurant for a 330ml can. But that’s not worst thing. The can describes the dubious fluid inside it as pale ale – that can’t be bad, can it? You can’t beat a good IPA with a big stick. But it’s either an American pale ale or a British copy – it doesn’t really matter, they’re both specifically brewed to be undrinkable. The ingredient that gives beer its bitter taste is hops and it’s perfect when used in moderation. Craft beers are brewed on the principle that more hops equals better beer – honestly, no, it doesn’t. The first taste is mouth-puckering and it doesn’t get any better – this is when you thank whatever gods you believe in that it’s only a 330ml can. Of course, you might get lucky and find a plastic bottle of Doom Bar on display. You might, and it ight even be chilled.

Background Music

It’s not really background music that naffs me off. It’s part of the night out (or entertainment offering, if you like) and it’s an important part. It’s not difficult to get it right with a bit of musical knowledge, so why do so many venues totally screw it up (even the good ones). Ever been in a venue that you visit regularly and you know exactly what’s coming next on the playlist – sort it out folks, it’s boring. Have a bigger playlist, set it to shuffle – you can thank me later. The other classic is the inappropriate playlist randomly chosen by one of the barstaff or the sound engineer. You know the kind of thing – thrash metal at an Americana gig or a Christmas playlist in November. Take control of it and give the punters what they deserve. You could even get a DJ to ‘curate’ your background. Just sayin’.

Rude punters

We’ve all been hacked off with them at gigs and we’ve let them know and it still makes no difference – they’re oblivious to criticism. You want examples – there’s the obvious one that wants to talk loudly at an acoustic gig. For your information, I don’t give a flying one about how busy the Northern Line was on the way to the gig and I care even less about what your bonus was last year – I just want to hear the gig I’ve paid for. How about the one person at a seated arena gig, right in the middle of the auditorium that wants to hippy-dance standing up and blocking the centre-stage view for about 200 people behind them – that’s way beyond selfish. Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to go to gigs.

My only wish for 2021 is to get back to normal gigs again. If we can do that, I’ll put up with all of these things (for the first gig).

 

We reviewed The Danberrys’ third album “Shine” in April this year and Allan was pretty keen on the album. The band’s name comes from a contraction Dorothy Daniel and Ben DeBerry and they’re based in Nashville. Here’s a piece of trivia for you – the person playing guitar, trombone and tuba on “Shine” is Neal Pawley (originally a native of Sheffield)  from one of Allan’s favourite bands, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (and Johnny’s Americana outfit, The Poor Fools). Here’s the Danberrys’ positive takeaways from the year of the COVID:

 

The Wood Brothers – Ryman Auditorium 2/14/20

Little did we know, this would be the last live concert we would attend in the year 2020. It was Valentine’s Day and we received a last minute invitation to join a wonderful couple for the concert. Our friends Stoney and Susan, who own the amazing Purple Onion restaurant/music venue in Saluda, NC, called us & said they had two free tickets to a concert we had wanted to attend but had procrastinated too long in buying tickets before they were sold out. Hooray! We usually don’t do much on Valentine’s Day because the restaurants are always obnoxiously packed & we’re never too keen to participate in overly-commercialized holidays, so this was quite possibly the best Valentine’s Day in the books. The Wood Brothers ALWAYS bring it but with this being the tour closer at the Ryman in their hometown, it was an extra special performance. 

The 8 O’Clock Howl

At some point early on in the pandemic, some East Nashvillians decided that we should join in on the 8 o’clock howl that was also happening in other cities. For the entire summer if you happened to be outside at 8pm you could hear thousands of people howling. It was reminiscent of the uniquely Nashville custom in which entire bars break out into song together, and it brought a sense of community and quirky artistic ridiculousness back to the hard-hit neighborhood. Howling with a bunch of strangers is predictably cathartic.

live stream icon

Live Streams (duh)

On the night of March 2, a deadly tornado came through middle Tennessee. The famous Five Points area as well as other areas in East Nashville were heavily affected. Less than two weeks later, live music event cancellations began following the COVID 19 lockdowns. Things in our neighborhood changed very quickly. The transition to virtually no social interaction and no gigs was just plain scary. And weird.

Thankfully, the music world quickly adapted and did the best we could with what was available. Soon we were watching others perform online, and not long after we began playing our own livestream shows. We had never done livestreams before, so there was a definite learning curve along with lots of awkwardness at first. But it was totally worth it. It’s undeniably cool to be able to play for people all over the world at the same time. The interaction and comments from fans and friends to the simple task of wrapping wires at the end of the show brought back a much needed sense of normalcy and connection. There has also been a silver lining in our personal music consumption – artists we’ve never seen live and thought we maybe never would are now easily accessible. We’ve been getting glimpses of rehearsals and other behind-the-scenes-type content from artists we love. It’s been so inspiring to watch the creatives being creative with the limitations of lockdown. We hope the livestreams are here to stay.

Gilmore Girls

This show saved our sanity. Mostly because it’s not serious at all, and we had a full 7 seasons of 20+ episodes plus the 2016 four episode re-boot to watch. It started off as a fun and light-hearted way to pass an hour or so in the evenings and turned into a quest. We had to finish the whole thing before quarantine ended. This was our all-important task. Stars Hollow was a magical reprieve from the reality of the pandemic. The story lines never gave us anxiety or nightmares, only joy and laughter. Thank you Lorelai. Thank you Rory. And most of all, thank you Kirk.

Ollie

Our daughter, Ollie Grace, was 10-months-old when COVID 19 hit the U.S. She had just taken her first steps when the world went into lockdown. She graduated from infant to toddler in May of 2020, at the height of the pandemic. Ollie is definitely not a chill baby. She’s smart & active & demands a ton of attention and constant entertainment. Raising such a tiny human is challenging in any environment, but the pandemic took away the life-blood of any parent’s toolkit: playdates & social activities. We had to be creative. We bought a tow-behind baby carriage for the bikes. We went on long hikes in and around the parks and lakes of Nashville. We bought a plethora of plastic backyard water toys. Focusing on her – watching her grow into a walking, running, talking personality of a person over these months – has been the joy of our lives. We comment to each other constantly that she is the reason we haven’t gone crazy with boredom and anxiety during the pandemic. And the pandemic also afforded us the opportunity to be with her almost every single moment of her first months of life. More silver linings.

 

We decided to let Allan share another set of photos from 2020 while we wait for contributions from some of his fellow photographers. He was more than happy to pick out a set that reflected the positivity we’ve been seeing from our contributors so far.

It’s a privilege to work with performing musicians to create photographs of people on stage doing what they love and creating a shared experience with an audience; I’ve missed it for a big chunk of this year and I’m desperate for its return. The beauty of working in smaller venues is the intimacy between the performer and audience (and the photographer); everyone’s closer together and everyone can make eye contact. Here are a few photos where I think I managed to capture the artist’s response to the audience (and the camera) and a few big smiles:

 

Simeon Hammond Dallas @Greenwich Blues & Beer Festival

This was from the first gig(s) I did after the first lockdown ended. It was initially an outdoor event at the end of August, but the traditional August Bank Holiday weather meant that most of it was moved indoors. This is from one of the sessions that wasn’t; it was the first session on Sunday and let’s just say it wasn’t a balmy British summer morning. I’ve photographed Simeon Hammond Dallas a few times before; her songs are powerful and her delivery is perfect. She puts everything into her performance and when she laughs, she really laughs. Can you tell how cold it was on that Sunday? Simeon definitely dressed for the weather.

Lisa Canny @The Big Gig

This wasn’t an intimate little venue; it was the main room at 229 The Venue and Lisa was playing with her full band. I’ve photographed Lisa in many different venues, both solo and with her band and she always gives the absolute maximum. She plays harp (the Celtic not the blues kind) and banjo, does loop mixes and has a great line in anecdotes as well. This was a full band gig on a big stage celebrating the second anniversary of the Talentbanq organisation; the room was full and the band was cooking on gas. There’s an intensity to Lisa’s performance that shows on her face; it’s all about knowing when to press the shutter.

Isabella Coulstock @The Bedford

Way back in pre-lockdown days (and my first gig of the year), this gig was a cracker. The line-up was Rebecca Riedtmann, Hope Winter and Isabella Coulstock, three gifted performers and songwriters. The Bedford’s a fabulous live music venue with some great photographic angles and (pre-lockdown) the opportunity to get really close to the performers. Which is exactly what I was doing, with a 35mm lens, when that lovely interaction between performer and photographer happened and Isabella stuck out her tongue, creating a perfect cheeky shot.

Martha L Healy @ Cash Back, The Woodside, Aberdour

I was so chuffed to get an invitation to this gig but concerned that it might not happen because of the impending lockdown. It did go ahead and I saw some incredible performances from established Scottish legends and new talents. This is no criticism of the venue, but the lighting for most of the performers wasn’t perfect for photography; it’s something you have to live with. However, there was a sweet spot on Friday during Martha’s set where there was a bit of contrast and colour. It’s not a typical performance shot, but I think it captures Martha’s warm personality. This was a case of eventually finding the right angle with reasonable lighting and grabbing something that worked.

Sadie Horler @Eccleston Yards

Between lockdowns and following lockdown lite, Talentbanq has been providing artists for a music stage at the Sunday markets at Eccleston Yards in Victoria. I’ve had a few good Sunday afternoons there and managed to grab a few good shots. On this particular afternoon, Sadie Horler, who I first met when she supported Sound of the Sirens, arrived breathless and just in time for her closing slot, did a quick sound check and went straight on stage. Sadie performs a lot of her own material and has a certain knack with a cover version as well – how about an acoustic version of “Creep”? Another thing you should know about Sadie is that she has a smile that lights up a room (or a yard in this case). Again, find the right angle, just wait and press the shutter at the right time.

Graeme Wheatley’s a bit of a veteran of the High Fives thing; his first contribution was in 2015 and his band has had three names since then. They’re now ColorColour and the line-up really works; Amanda (drums), Iago (guitar) and Dre (vocals) fit together perfectly and the latest album “Strange Ways” (under the band’s previous name of Deep Blue Sea) is packed with great songs built around interesting subjects. How does a song about the Cable Street anti-Fascist protests sound? It works for us. Like all musicians, Graeme’s been incredibly frustrated by the COVID restrictions and, like most, he’s tried to find the positives:

 

When Allan McKay asked me if I’d like to write a High Five for 2020 my head spun! What could I do to find 5 high points of 2020? Had there been as many as 5?

Normally, 5 great gigs or 5 fun moments at gigs, or 5 silly things at gigs, or 5 weird things at gigs, at gigs, at gigs, at gigs……

Last year, I think I selected 5 cover versions of songs that were better than the originals. While I was doing that, I also selected 5 cover versions that should never have been recorded. Things like Paul Young’s version of Love Will Tear Us Apart. Of course, this year, the list is blown out of the water by William (The Shat) Shatner’s new album – every track of which is a travesty. Which I think maybe just about sums up 2020. But I can’t add to the woe. It’s got to be high 5 not low. Not this year.

So, I’ve not been to a gig since March at the 100 Club. Our band, ColorColour, has not been together in a studio, bar, venue or anywhere other than online since then. We’ve written songs, tried recording over the interweb, even made some clips of new songs and old songs and bits and bobs and Dre and Iago have been able to do some solo broadcasts and recordings and Amanda and I have recorded some drum and bass things but really the band has been in suspended inanimation “Another year over, and what have we done?”  

So, wracking the old grey stuff for 5 high points from this mother of all “anus horribluses” (intentional mis-spelling) – I stumble on something in the gloom. 5 things to look forward to in 2021?

 

  1. The vaccine – I am not going to listen to conspiracy theories – if you stand next to a 5G mast after having the vaccine you turn into a werewolf – whatever – I’m a big Warren Zevon fan – gimme the shot Doc – soon as you can – but not before anyone who needs it more than me gets it. I can wait in line behind the Keys – the people who have kept us going – the people who deserve a whole lot more than a clap – pay these people what they deserve you snivelling toads. Meantime, I’ll listen to some music and dream of the day we all go out to play.

Here’s my choice of music while I’m waiting for my shot.

I’m waiting for the man

 

  1. Standing in a crowded venue with loads of people watching a great band blasting out some rock and roll – nuthin fancy – nuthin too clever – all together – good times. Pushing to the bar, getting a couple of cold ones, standing, eyes closed, rocking back and forward, can’t get that smile of my face – it’s only rock and roll – but I like it. Start me up. I’ll be jumping like Jack, we can spend the night together. Remember, it’s just a shot away.

Gimme Shelter

 

  1. There will be parties. Dancing in the street. It’s not like we had to go to war to win this one – but people have done great things – small things and big things. And I know there will still be more tears. But someday, there will be tears of joy mixed with the tears of sad remembrance. And I want to focus on 5 good things coming down the line. So, yeah, sure Brexit will screw us up even further and prices will probably go up even more and my lovely band of gypsies from round the world will find it harder to go play in places where we wanna play but we will find a way and even if they charge us £20.00, we’re gonna party like it’s £19.99

 

  1. So, the last film I saw at the Peckhamplex (best cinema in London, or at least Peckham) sometime in February 2020 was JoJo Rabbit. We went twice. And bought the DVD. I always loved this song off The Vindicator album but in this film it became even better. Pointless to say it was my favourite cinema outing of 2020 cos it was probably my only cinema outing – so I’ll say it is one of my favourite films of all time – I don’t have to wait another 10 years to decide. It’s up there with another few hundred that make me laugh and cry and feel the human condition open and revealed. If you haven’t seen JoJo Rabbit, you need to. Now. I’m not saying it’s a Christmas movie, but it will work at Christmas just as well as any time. Give yourself a treat, we can all do with another yippie ky-aye.

Everybody’s gotta live

 

  1. Now you can say I’m a dreamer – but I’m not crazy – I know we aren’t going to get back to Woodstock. Those times are gone – and to be honest – I’m going to stick my neck out here and say – I’m guessing the toilets were pretty basic – and the whole concept of washing hands while singing Happy Birthday is probably not compatible with the 60s festival thang but:

 

someday

not too far away

we will stand in a field

there will come a time

the sun will shine

there will be wine

and chills down the spine

and upon a sign

standing in line

hands waving, yours and mine

some perfect day

not too far away

 

So, till we meet again, may you stay forever young, and if by chance you don’t know the band, let a little ColorColour into your life right here www.colorcolourband.com