musicriot 2017How’s everyone doing? We’re almost a third of the way through the year now and it’s about time to look at how things are shaping up and to give you some news about the direction we’re taking here at MusicRiot. Over the years we’ve evolved from reviewing everything that popped through the letterbox (and now it pops in to the inbox) to our current approach of only reviewing things that we really believe in and want you to hear (and there’s plenty of that to keep everyone busy at Riot Towers). And we don’t like negativity; you can get enough of that in the NME or letters/comments pages of the specialist music magazines and websites. So, if you think there aren’t many one or two star reviews, that’s the reason. There’s so much good music out there that we want to focus on, whatever the genre.

And we’re having a pretty good year so far. Of the 2017 predictions, Ags Connolly has released a very good and critically-acclaimed second album, Stone Foundation signed to 100 Per Cent records and charted nationally at 25 with their “Street Rituals” album, Sound Of The Sirens have their album “For All Our Sins” released at the end of May on DMF Records and they’re playing the Fields of Avalon stage at Glastonbury. Hannah Aldridge’s stunning second album “Gold Rush” is out on June 16, and Dean Owens has delayed the release of his latest album “Southern Wind” until (probably) early 2018 to focus on yet another side project named Redwood Mountain with traditional fiddle player Amy Geddes. Watch this space for more on that one.

As for MusicRiot, we’re going to launch a new review feature very soon called “Sound Bites”, where we take a brief look at albums and singles that are interesting and worth listening to but don’t quite get the full review treatment. No star ratings, no judgements, just a recommendation to give it a listen.

That’s about it for now. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open and check out our Facebook page to find out what we’re up to.

Salute_Logo_Black copyThis might be the perfect antidote to the swamp of Saturday evening TV talent shows. Just launched at Omeara in London Bridge today, Salute Music Makers is an initiative created by entrepreneurs Lars Bylehn, Michael Bylehn, Minesh Patel, Patrick Butterfield and Jean-Claude Charnier, with media partner Unilad and fronted by Feargal Sharkey.

Here’s the way it’s going to work. From April 3rd, five thousand ‘Music Makers’ will upload their music via a phone app, and the Salute team, along with industry curators will whittle the five thousand down to a hundred. As this is happening, all of the music will be shared via the app to create an online new music community. The hundred acts will then be the subject of a live public vote to narrow down the field to six acts, each receiving a £10,000 prize. The final six will take part in a TV show with a different theme each week and the task of writing an original song for every show.

At the end of this, the winner will take away £40,000, raising their total prize to £50,000. I don’t know about you, but I think this might actually be a talent show worth watching (and listening) to.

Hannah & Abbe Scroller

 

Remember the High Fives feature we run throughout December each year? Come on, it’s only a few weeks ago. Well, when we got in touch with Sound of the Sirens, they were really busy (as they were for most of the year) and promised to get back with something in the New Year, and they did. This came through in a series of messages yesterday and all we had to do was reconstruct it. Abbe and Hannah have had another great year and 2017’s looking pretty good as well. Got to say I love the way they seamlessly slipped in that plug for the new album in the second paragraph.

 

1) Rick Astley ed

We are doing our top 5’s with pictures of our year. In March 2016 we were given the opportunity to go on tour with the nicest man in Pop. He and his team were so welcoming and friendly and we learnt so much on the road with them all. Every night we got to play to an audience of a 1000+ in some of the UK’s most beautiful and prestigious venues. Rick Astley’s crowd are super loyal and have followed him for decades and yet they welcomed us as his support. We sold tons of CDs every night and talked to the fans and met some lovely, lovely people. It was the perfect opportunity to try out new material to a friendly and big crowd every night for weeks. We loved every minute of it. We also met our new best mate Dave ….Rick Astley’s Stage Manager who adopted us and looked after us. Thanks Rick x

 

2) Choir

In June we set out to record our new album which is out on May 5th 2017. We are now under the watchful eye of DMF records and they put us in touch with a great producer called Mark Tucker. We’ve written many new songs but have taken 3 old songs and tweaked them with a bit of production. It’s been a brand new way of working for us and has really helped us to grow as artists. For one song we invited friends, students and general Siren support round to ours to create a choir. This has been included on the new album and we love that our friends are in on the act. Thank you to the Sirens choir!!!

 

3) Stilt men

In July we were asked to play at The House Festival in Twickenham. It was unbelievable to say the least. We were invited to play a small set in the Ebay corporation tent and when we had finished we were let loose into the most extravagant playground. We could help ourselves to cocktails, play on the carousel, eat olives and cheese until it was coming out your ears, have your hair done, glitter your face, make a music video and hang out with giant people on stilts …..and then Kylie arrived along with Tinie Tempah. It was a surreal day.

 

4) Cropredy

In August we were invited to play on the main stage at the very popular Cropredy Festival. We weren’t quite sure what to expect and whether we would be received well. Upon arrival we were given a dressing room, given drinks, they took our pictures, we did interviews, they wouldn’t let us carry a thing. The set went so well and we enjoyed every second. Afterwards we did our first signing in a tent and it was such a great experience. For an hour solidly we spoke to people, had pictures, heard stories and we laughed alot. We sold all of our merchandise (a first for us) and we felt euphoric. Cropredy …..pleeeease have us back . It was our first whole day of ‘working’ at a festival. If we can call this work then we are lucky girls.

 

5) Bryan and Woody

In August we played at Carfest to another big and exciting crowd. It’s been an incredible year for us. We knew Bryan Adams was playing and we couldn’t wait to see his set. After our set we were asked if we would like to join our friend for a tequila in one the backstage rooms. Whilst we were sat about swapping stories and sharing drinks in walked the one and only Bryan Adams. Our jaws dropped and we both hugged him. This is definitely one for the album. 2016 you were a right cracker ……roll on 2017. Let’s fill the rest of our album x x x.

2016 brought more than its fair share of challenges but also a respectable amount of great music, live and recorded. With 2017 knocking on the door, this is probably a good time to start looking forward again. I’m not making any rash predictions this year; I’m just going to highlight a few things that you should look out for.

ags-scrollerAgs Connolly

 Ags Connolly has his second album, “Nothin’ Unexpected”, out in February and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. It’s produced once again by Riot Towers favourite Dean Owens (more about him later) and it should capture Ags in fine form, delivering his fine Ameripolitan songs in his rich, smooth baritone voice. Since his debut “How About Now”, Ags has been touring extensively in the UK and across the pond, including a high profile support slot for Rosanne Cash in 2014 and he’s never been on better form. We should be reviewing this one very soon.

09) Stone Foundation Stone Foundation

 These guys have been working their butts off for years now pursuing their new soul vision with a combination of hard work on the gig circuit to build up a devoted following and release some quality albums. They’ve raised their profile year on year and been rewarded with a record deal for their upcoming album. Each of their albums has been a progression from the previous one, so this one should be a bit special. They also have a reputation for attracting some interesting special guests, so we’re eagerly anticipating this one.

04) Hannah Aldridge Hannah Aldridge

 I know, this starting to sound like a broken record (whatever that is), but you really should be listening to Hannah Aldridge. Like many artists, she’s gone down the crowdfunding route to get her new album made. It’s her second, following her superb debut “Razor Wire” and Hannah tells me that the style has shifted towards a more rock sound (she did a lot of the writing using a Telecaster rather than an acoustic) and from the songs she’s played live already, it sounds like another outstanding album’s on the way, with an eta of June 2017.

 01) DeanDean Owens – “Southern Wind”

 Another example of 2016 crowdfunding; Dean Owens wrote most of the album before raising the money to record it in Nashville with his dream team, including producer and guitar player extraordinaire Will Kimbrough. Dean’s been working incredibly hard, over the last couple of years particularly, to get some attention for his songs and he’s been rewarded by national exposure from Bob Harris and a support slot for Rosanne Cash. Here’s hoping “Southern Wind” pushes him into the mainstream.

07) Abbe & HannahSound of the Sirens second album

 Oh god, he’s not still going on about Sound of the Sirens, is he? I am, and like everyone else featured here, the reason is that they’re very good. Despite playing just about every festival in the UK this summer, Abbe and Hannah still found time to record an album. I’ve tried to get some details, but the Sirens are staying schtum, apart from the fact that it’s a bit different. If the new songs I’ve heard live are any indication, it’s going to be very good. Onwards and upwards. 2017 here we come.

 

We asked promotion company Quite Great to tell us about some of the interesting new bands that are breaking through at the moment (or just about to) and they came up with this High Five.

Kid Cupid

1-kid-cupidThis quartet captures the atmosphere and attitudes of society, focusing less on relationships but rather on the wider picture, acting as thought provoking social commentaries. Their unique outlook on life is represented in the feisty single “Broken Down”, about someone fighting back and making a change for the better. From the song’s hauntingly slow build to its defiant crescendo, it takes us on a journey of self-betrayal to discovery full of driving beats and swelling cello.

Although drawing comparisons to London Grammar and Chvrches, Kid Cupid focus on backing vocals that compliment lead vocalist Laura Shaw’s strong voice. Gang vocals are also used in many of their tracks, whereby the band layer their vocals together, creating an enchanting sound. Geordie singer, Laura Shaw, is also a huge advocate for equality in the industry and feels very strongly about current attitudes worldwide towards gender divides.

The Hallows

2-the-hallowsClassically infused alternative pop trio The Hallows explore life, relationships and how things can change over time with their debut album ‘Of Time And Tides’ to be released 13th January.  Championing their own very unique sound, The Hallows are an enchanting concoction of Kate Bush, Muse, Portishead and Tori Amos with their own individual dreamy essence thrown in.

The group’s eclectic sound is a result of the band members’ individual musical meanderings. Sarah has played as a backing vocalist/keyboard/Glockenspiel for Hafdís Huld supporting the likes of Paolo Nutini, Mika and Bloc Party at festivals as large as Glastonbury and SXSW. Joe meanwhile has supported notorious cult pornographic band Rock Bitch (a band renowned for rarely sporting support acts). He and Sarah have also played a number of television performances. The band are a tight knit unit that has forged over many years of friendship. Meeting at university, the band shared a house together, in which third band member Dave subjected the group to strict drinking game rules, whilst also ensuring they all ate proper meals (now holding the unofficial title of ‘band chef’).

Line Mari

3-line-mariLine was born in Tromsø, also living for some time in Svalbard, one of the most Northerly inhabited places in the world. As a child, she grew up regularly witnessing the beauty of the Northern Lights, as well as once having a close encounter with a polar bear whilst at Kindergarten. A highly versatile musician, Line not only sings and writes her own music, she also plays a number of instruments including guitar, piano and harmonica (she is currently also learning to play the fiddle). She has a keen interest in vintage music and vintage guitars and owns several custom made guitars and her own custom-made pedal-board.

Current single, “Haters” and previous single “Crush” appear on Line’s album, which is out now. The album was recorded at the legendary Abbey Roads studio, with major producer Rob Cass and electronica producer Pearse MacIntyre.

Lasso Moon

4-lasso-moonNew alternative rock group Lasso Moon merge major Liverpudlian bands BROKEN MEN and SANKOFA to release the love song to the drug codeine “Kimota Codeine” in January 2017. Taking influence from Pixies, Sonic Youth and Nick Cave, Lasso Moon has a minimalistic sound to create more honesty in their music. The single is being released alongside a homemade video that took inspiration from Jim Jarmusch’s “Down By Law”, which was filmed in black and white with one static shot.

The minimalistic modern guitar sound mixes genres of hard rock, grunge and punk to form a raw honest style like no other. Lasso Moon aim to say something with their music and with “Kimota Codeine” the track explores the theme of transformation, particularly in reference to codeine and how it numbs the stress of modern life. The theme is mirrored in the music video, which shows front man Bobby Westhead searching for a distraction, conveying that no one gives time to art anymore due to the constant diversion of the internet.

Big Lenny Bunn

newsdesk_thumb1478623605blueberryhill-artworkFrom sharing a stage with Razorlight, Noah And The Whale and Feeder, to supporting Scouting For Girls and Wilkinson, Big Lenny Bunn has dedicated his life to the industry. Returning with a classic cover of ‘Blueberry Hill’, Lenny has collaborated with major musicians to create a track in dedication to his adopted father who sadly passed away last year.

“Blueberry Hill” was Lenny’s adopted father Lyddon Thompson’s favourite track. Being Jamaican, Thompson opened Lenny’s eyes to another way of life and thinking, inspiring his music massively. The loss of Thompson made Lenny want to record the song, featuring Ibo from the Jamaican reggae band Third World and singer-songwriter Melissa James.

 

I’ve listened to a lot of new albums this year and a huge chunk of those have been very good indeed. I’ve reviewed a lot of Americana/country/roots albums, but there’s been thrash metal, blues, London indie, British folk, jazz instrumental, European electronic pop and one or two that defied classification. Here, in absolutely no order are my five favourite albums of this year; theses the ones that stayed with me, refusing to be replaced by new kids on the block. I’m including links to them where possible so that you don’t have to trust me, just click and listen for yourself.

Shaky Path to Arcadia” – Phil Burdett Group

Shaky Path to ArcadiaPhil Burdett released two albums almost simultaneously at the beginning of the year, leaving me with a really difficult choice about which to include (not the only example of that dilemma this year) and I think it’s “Shaky Path to Arcadia” by a hairsbreadth. It’s a great example of Phil’s work pulling together lyrical references from the American popular songbook, Dada,travel across the American continent, and Basildon (where Phil grew up and was in a band with a pre-Depeche Mode Martin Gore). Match up a breathtaking range of references with pure poetry and some lovely ensemble playing from Southend’s finest and you have an album that’s a thing of rare beauty. I really can’t understand why the world has never discovered this singer/songwriter/poet/renaissance man. Maybe this year. No Spotify link for this, but check out the first album in the trilogy “Dunfearing and the West Country High

Read the original review here.

“Six on the Out”- The Westies

The Westies - 'Six On The Out' - cover (300dpi)The Westies is Michael McDermott’s band project, running parallel with his solo work as Michael McDermott. In 2016, within the space of a few weeks, he released this Westies album, followed by the “Willow Springs” solo set (which could easily have made this list). “Six on the Out” is mainly the darker side of his past; the twilight zone inhabited by losers, petty criminals, addicts and misfits. It’s a dark and almost unrelenting journey through the things that did happen and the things that could have happened at the whim of fate. The ideas and the inspiration behind the songs are solid, but Michael’s lyrics (inspired and informed by the likes of Dylan and Springsteen) turn them into perfect little vignettes. When an album opens with the song “If I Had a Gun”, you know it won’t be easy listening; “Six On the Out” will leave you emotionally wrung out but elated to be in the presence of songwriting greatness.

Read the original review here.

“Double Take” -- Frankie Miller

double-take-scrollerFrankie Miller; best soul singer ever from the UK? No contest. Frankie had a massive brain haemorrhage in 1994 which incapacitated him for over a decade and from which he’s still slowly recovering. Around four years ago a batch of seventies demo tapes of unpublished songs resurfaced and Frankie’s supporters (with some firm guidance from Frankie) decided that they were suitable for release and that the perfect way to get them noticed would be to create duets with other singers. Not surprisingly there was no shortage of takers, including Rod Stewart, Paul Carrack, Kim Carnes and Willie Nelson and “Double Take” was born. But it’s not those cameos that make it great; it’s a whole bunch of great three-minute songs, simple and effective, and that phenomenal voice. The quality of the vocals is so good that it’s hard to believe that these are demos; this is the business. The duet idea’s been handled fairly well, none of them sound jarring, and Elton John sounds like he’s having a great time, but the highlight for me is still the three band demos with “Full House” proving what a superb rock ‘n’ soul outfit they were.

Read the original review here.

“Big Sky Country” -- Sofia Talvik

Sofia Talvik - 'Big Sky Country' - cover (300dpi)In a year when I reviewed a lot of Americana , “Big Sky Country” stood out from the crowd because of the way it blended American and Scandinavian influences to create a voice that’s uniquely Sofia Talvik. The album was a result of a lengthy tour of the USA and manages to capture the vast open spaces of the deserts and prairies while keeping the intimacy and melancholy of tales of broken relationships and depression. Sofia’s pure, ethereal voice floats gently above a variety of musical stylings, creating an atmosphere that’s widescreen and ethereal, grandiose and mundane, summed up by these lines from the title song : ‘I’ve seen the Blue Ridge Mountains rise tall, I’ve heard the San Francisco sea lions call, I left my heart in a dirty old bar, in Laramie, Wyoming, I slept in my car’.

Read the original review here.

“Truth is A Wolf” -- Mollie Marriott

MollieThis one’s the album that never was. I had a review copy for months, played it to death in the car. Loved the songs, the singing, the playing, the whole lot. As the release date kept slipping, I held off publishing the review until I just had to get it out there. Apparently the album won’t ever be released in that form, but some dodgy reviewers have been selling copies on eBay. Mollie has a tremendous voice that’s backed up by impressive songwriting (and choosing her collaborators well) but the album works so well because you can feel that it’s a real band. They’re all great players, but it’s more than that, you can feel a sense of unity running through the entire album. I’d love to be able to share the album with you, but the best  can do is share this single video for “Ship of Fools” and point you in the direction of YouTube:

Read the original review here.

 

Ags is a regular contributor to this feature, bringing a unique Ameripolitan twist to the proceedings. We always like to hear what he has to say about music in general, so here are some of his favourite things from 2016. Oh, and by the way, Ags has his second album coming out in February and it’s produced that other Riot Towers favourite Dean Owens.

In no particular order…

Show w/ Jack Grelle and Ryan Koenig at Off Broadway, St. Louis MO,  28th February

1-agsIn February this year I undertook a US tour with a full band, including co-headliners Jack Grelle and Ryan Koenig. Jack and I toured the UK and Ireland in 2015 so this was the ‘return leg’ for me. The band included Jack’s bass player Brice Baricevic, Pokey LaFarge’s drummer Matt Myer and Ryan himself, who is also an integral part of Pokey’s band as a multi-instrumentalist sideman. Jack played lead guitar when I was on stage. Needless to say the band were superb and over the course of 16 dates around the South and South East we honed our act until the final show of the tour – a homecoming for the band at Off Broadway in St. Louis. A nice crowd turned up including the other members of Pokey’s band (and the man himself) and we played our tightest and most enjoyable show of the tour. Probably one of my favourite gigs ever, in fact. I hope I’ll have the chance to play with these fellas again.

Jack Grelle – “Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down”

2-jack-grelleSpeaking of Jack, in October this year he released his second studio album (under his current solo guise). It may seem biased for me to include this in an end-of-year list but, having played countless shows with Jack and heard these songs many times, I think I’m well-placed to say whether they stand up to scrutiny or not. And they do. Along with the title track and all the other country/honky tonk/Cajun etc. sounds on this album, I love the song “Birthday Cards” about his Grandmother, which he’d mentioned to me during its writing. It could’ve been written by John Prine or any of the great country singer-songwriters you care to mention. Listen and find out.

Luke Bell – “Luke Bell”

3-luke-bellLuke is a guy I discovered a while ago, and later found out, as coincidence would have it, that he is a friend of Jack Grelle’s. His self-titled album released this year includes some of the songs that featured on his previous effort ‘”Don’t Mind If I Do”, presumably to ensure they reached a wider audience. Luke has one of the most engaging and natural sounds of all the new breed of country traditionalists. I was due to meet up with Luke in Nashville last year but he was too busy opening for Willie Nelson. If there is any justice he’ll be kept busy like that for a good while.

4-mo-pitneyMo Pitney  – “Behind This Guitar”

It’s not often the current young darlings of the modern Grand Ole Opry would make it onto any positive list of mine, but Mo Pitney is an exception. A young, skinny -as-a-rake lad in his early twenties, Mo is unquestionably the heir apparent to Randy Travis, Alan Jackson and every other neo-traditionalist that was left in the dust by pop music. His voice and the songs he’s put together with other excellent writers demand attention. His first album has been a long time coming but was worth the wait.

5-robbie-fulksRobbie Fulks“Upland Stories”

Robbie Fulks’ last album, “Gone Away Backward”, was one that grew on me and became one of my favourites. In fact, a lot of Robbie Fulks’ albums are my favourite albums. 2005’s “Georgia Hard” is a case in point. With “Upland Stories” Robbie revisited the sparse arrangements of “Gone Away Backward” and mixed it with his always exceptional songwriting. It was recently announced that this album has been nominated for two Grammy Awards, a better-late-than-never slice of recognition that will hopefully bring a new audience to this songwriter’s songwriter.

Ags is way too polite to mention this, but his second album “Nothin’ Unexpected” will be out on February 3rd on At The Helm Records.

Even when a gig’s going really well, there’s sometimes a very special moment when all the stars align to produce a musical epiphany (as the NME described Thin Lizzy’s seamless shift into “The Boys are Back in Town” on “Live and Dangerous”). These perfect moments can have many forms and they aren’t always strictly about the music. Let me explain.

Wade Bowen and Willy Braun @The Borderline

wade-scrollerTowards the end of a great set where Wade and Willy took turns to perform their own songs and a few covers, Wade started to play the audience a little by asking who had travelled furthest to see the gig. The audience managed to cover a fair chunk of England, but then Wade stopped in his tracks and repeated the question to someone right at the front of the stage who confirmed that, yes, he did say Spain. Luis, and his son (also Luis) had flown from Spain that day and were flying back straight after the gig. Wade made sure that they got a huge ovation and, judging by the beaming grins, topped off a perfect night for father and son. Next time I think that I can’t be bothered to go all the way to Camden or Shepherds Bush for a gig, I’ll remember Luis and what dedication to live music really means.

Hannah Aldridge @The AMA UK Showcase, Hackney

04) Hannah AldridgeThe acoustic room at this showcase was truly acoustic; no amplification at all for vocals or instruments. All the artists, including Dean Owens and Danni Nicholls rose to the occasion, and Hannah Aldridge played a flawless set to a spellbound and appreciative audience. The night peaked when Hannah introduced a new song from her upcoming second album. The song was “Gold Rush”, a haunting tale of growing up and growing old in small-town America that transfixed the audience from start to finish; not a whisper and barely a breath until the song was over. Hannah’s the real deal: singer, player and superb songwriter.

Sound of the Sirens@ Bush Hall

09-abbeThis was a big deal for Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood, headlining their own show at the prestigious Bush Hall in Shepherds Bush. Following great performances from Sadie Horler and Wildflowers, Abbe and Hannah soon hit their stride and demonstrated their dynamic range and exquisite harmonies. They featured a cover that I’ve heard them play before, the Simon and Garfunkel song “Sound of Silence”. Something about the ambience of the room, the pure and perfect harmonies and the way song highlights Abbe and Hannah’s vocal and instrumental power created a moment of magic in west London on an October night.

The Mighty Wah! @Water Rats

pete-wylieStart to finish, all killer no filler. Pete Wylie still has it and his fans still adore him. The band didn’t need to win over the crowd but they still gave it the beans. Pete joked about hoping that musicians would stop dying soon, because Wah! were constantly adding songs to the set as tributes. All of the anthems appeared in all the right places, but just as “Sinful” was simmering away nicely something almost mystical happened; fans looked at each other in disbelief as the song morphed seamlessly into “Heroes” as a tribute to the Thin White Duke. No big fanfare, just an effortless transition from one anthem to another.

Underhill Rose @Green Note

03-salleyThis was already a memorable occasion. A local power cut in Camden, the room lit by candles and tea lights and a completely unplugged set by Eleanor Underhill, Molly Rose Reed and Salley Williamson meant that no-one would forget this gig in a hurry, but the most surreal part was still to come, with a cover of “These Boots Were Made for Walking” featuring a lead vocal from bass player Salley Williamson and a spontaneous eruption of clapping, singing and whooping all through the room. This was a band and a crowd that were determined to have a good time whatever it took.

 

I met Di Holmes just over a year ago at a gig at The Union Chapel, where our mutual friend Dean Owens was supporting Rosanne Cash. We were introduced, saw each other’s camera bags and started talking photos (the way you do). I’m honoured that Di has agreed to share her five favourite images this year with MusicRiot; this is live music photography of the highest order (and with tech specs included). Cheers Di.

The Kwashibu Area Band – Womad Festival

01-diThis is my favourite shot of the year taken at my favourite music festival!

No opportunity of being in the pit for this one so I fought my way to the front.

I’ve come to realise that the three song rule for us toggers is great in order to get those close-ups but most of my favoured images are taken during the closing of the set, when the performers are reaching their euphoria. I think this shot depicts that euphoric energy: the evidence is clear that at this moment there is no better place to be!

The band are fronted by ‘Pat Thomas’, who throws some lovely shapes.

The bond between the band members throughout the set was obvious. These guys were simply having a ball!

1/250 sec at f/2.8, ISO 250.

The Lone Bellow – Komedia, Brighton

02-diOh Boy! I discovered these guys on ‘Later with Jools Holand’ & was immediately hooked! Desperate to see them live & even more desperate to capture some images. I saw them no less than 7 times over the following few months.

It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions, with each of the three front liners taking their turn in the spotlight. A lot of sweat flies around their stage.

I have umpteen shots of the whole gang but I particularly like this one of Zach Williams & Kanene Pipkin snapped during a moment of appreciation for fellow band mate Brian Elmquist.

It was a small, intimate gig, but as with every audience fortunate to be in the presence of this amazing band, they grow wilder with every strum!

If you’ve ever seen them play live, you’ll know how much energy they create on stage… it’s sheer electricity, and I love it!

1/40 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Charles Bradley – Womad Festival

03-diHaving nonchalantly walked past the Siam tent I was stopped in my tracks by a huge roar of the crowd & shuffled in to investigate. Charles Bradley was strutting like a peacock. I particularly loved his outfit & wanted to get a shot, but I discovered that this was his encore. There wasn’t time to get down to the front so I quickly put on my 70 – 200mm f/2.8 lens & fired a few shots… capturing Charles in all his glory… I can almost hear his note!

1/2500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400.

Howe Gelb – Café Oto, Dalston

04-diThis was the last gig of a three week tour for ‘The Howe Gelb Trio’ who were playing songs from Howe’s new album ‘Future Standards’.

I was lucky to be included on the guest list, though not lucky enough to bag a seat on the front row.

A little frustrated by my position, an unclear view with obstacles of bobbing heads, I decided to use them to my advantage, creating a frame to accentuate the action. It seemed to work & I was more than pleased with the outcome.

It was a magical evening with the crowd respectfully leaning in to the maestro from Tucson, Arizona.

Joined by fantastic musicians Thøger Tetans Lund & Andrew Colberg, Howe named this his “favourite show ever” so I was delighted that I’d helped capture this memorable evening of sonic beauty.

1/50 sec at f/2.8, ISO 2500.

Lucinda Drayton 

05-diMy passion for photography extends from the stage to ‘Location Shoots’, enjoying the creation & direction in a controlled environment.

Here is an image that I took of beautiful songstress Lucinda Drayton during one of those sessions.

We started the shoot in Britain’s oldest public house, ‘The Royal Standard of England’ in Beaconsfield, which has a wonderful medieval feel. We then moved on to a glorious spot amongst the autumn leaves & finally ended up here, on an industrial estate close to home. It’s a place that I particularly love due to the multi-directional light that seeps in. For this shot I used a video light to create a soft glow on Luce’s face.

I previously photographed Lucinda for the cover of her latest album ‘The Road Least Travelled’.

Accompanying her on this particular road was Willow, Lucinda’s loyal lurcher who immediately struck an attentive pose whenever I uttered the word ‘rabbit’.

Good girl Willow!

Much respect Lucinda!

1/60 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1250.

We reviewed Rod Picott as part of a great bill at Green Note this year and he was superb. We were mightily chuffed when he agreed to chip in to the 2016 High Fives with his five favourite novels from 2016.

01-barkskins “Barkskins” – Annie Proulx

 “Barkskins” is a roaring firestorm of a novel that tears through decades over its 700-plus pages. There are so many characters the book contains two family trees in order for the reader to stay on course. Proulx’s writing is poetic, expansive and intimate simultaneously. Essentially the story of the North American lumber trade from pre-colonial America through to the industrial revolution, “Barkskins” stands as an allegory to the destructive nature of man. The characters enter the novel, wildly tear across the pages and give way to the next generation in this amazing piece of work.

 02-ella-minnow-pea“Ella Minnow Pea” – Mark Dunn

 “Ella Minnow Pea” is a curiously odd political satire written in the form of letters between characters in the fictional island town of Nollop. This strange novel is short, punchy and darkly funny as the letters trace the totalitarian nature of the local government and its banned use of particular letters as they fall from a revered local memorial statue. This short novel is a marvel of invention and imagination.

03-farmerFarmer – Jim Harrison

 “Farmer” is a quiet marvel of a novel. Its protagonist is a rural Michigan teacher caught between two lovers – one, a far too young nubile beauty and the other his lifelong friend and confidant. This description doesn’t come close to capturing the tortured beauty of the protagonist’s journey. Harrison is a poet of a novelist, both literally and figuratively, and “Farmer” is an eloquent telling of the complications inherent in life itself – no matter how simple it appears at its surface.

04-angelas-ashes “Angela’s Ashes” – Frank McCourt

 I’m always suspicious of a read that receives as much praise as McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes”. It’s the iconoclast in me. This novel, however, is stunning. Written in the voice of McCourt’s own poverty-riven childhood, the novel crawls slowly forward across his youth from pain to pain. The mainstays are familiar; the drunken father, driving poverty, the unforgiving judgement of the church and the mother trying against odds to hold the entire mess together as a home. “Angela’s Ashes” is a stunning work worthy of its Pulitzer.

 05-the-ancient-minstrel“The Ancient Minstrel”– Jim Harrison

Three compact novellas makeThe Ancient Minstrel”. I can’t think of anyone aside from Hemingway who writes about the human condition in contrast to nature as effortlessly and effectively as Jim Harrison. That comparison sounds trite and easy but Jim Harrison has the force of a hurricane in his language. These three novellas are brilliant, ruthless, compassionate and brimming with both melancholy and life. Harrison was a master. The best 45 minutes I spent in 2016 was watching Harrison reading his poetry on a YouTube video from a few years back. What a brilliant, funny, unique writer we lost this year in Jim Harrison.