High Fives 2018 01 Neil Sheasby

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It’s High Fives time again and we had to check twice because we couldn’t believe it the first time – this is the fifth successive year that Neil Sheasby, co-songwriter and bass player in the astonishingly good Stone Foundation has contributed a piece to this feature, so we had to give him another Number One to add to his collection of singles. Stone Foundation have been huge favourites with the Riot Squad ever since a copy of “To Find the Spirit” popped through the letterbox (yep, that was letterbox, not inbox) in early 2013. It’s fair to say we’ve all come a long way since then. Anyway, let’s see what Neil has to say about 2018.

1 – TINY DESK CONCERTS

The Tiny Desk Concerts are a series of short performances broadcast by NPR music from Washington DC, it’s been a thing for around ten years now I believe but really started to gain momentum via you tube over the past year or two.
I’ve been kind of hooked on them this year and have discovered some great new artists and witnessed sets by heritage acts such as Tower of Power, Trouble Funk, Roy Ayers etc… The ones that really left an impression though were the artists that I didn’t know too much about prior to their stints on Tiny Desk, artists like Tank & the Bangas, Tom Misch, Tuxedo, PJ Morton.
It’s a musical treasure trove, when I get into it I’m there tuned in for hours. Very Inspiring.

2 – DIG THE NEW BREED

I think 2018 has been a really incredible year for new music, I’ve probably discovered more stuff than ever before.
Sometimes it may just be a single tune or it may lead to checking out a whole project that really strikes a chord.
I was really taken by “The Midnight Hour” album, a collaboration between Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Lots of guest vocalists and also a smattering of instrumentals that remind me of David Axelrod. I also really liked the Tom Misch Album “Geography”, he’s like a young jazz guitarist with cool tunes, I went to see him with my son recently.
“Girlfriend” by Christine and the Queens qualifies for my song of the year, 80’s revisionist stylings delivered with two feet firmly planted in the future.
I also dug records by Seinabo Sey, Leon Bridges, Neil Frances, a band called The Internet and that Childish Gambino tune “This is America”, I thought the video was genius. Real cutting edge.

3 – ELVIS COSTELLO – LOOK NOW

Somewhat of a pleasant surprise. I think this new album is up there with his best work, a great collection of songs that tick all the different boxes and previous guises of EC. His voice is great too, seems to be improving with age.
I thought Paul’s (Weller) album was really special too, a reflective charm to mark his 60th year.
Nice to have the old guard deliver as well as new delights.
They are two of our finest craftsmen when it comes to songwriting. Long may their flames burn bright.
One other complete surprise from a group I would have possibly wrote off was the new record from China Crisis “Autumn in the Neighbourhood” fantastic songs, still mining a Mersey take on Steely Dan!

4 – DAYS IN EUROPA

Somewhat ironically in the wake of the confusion and fall out over Brexit, we have been spending a lot of time touring over in Europe. We did a couple of particularly rewarding jaunts around both Spain and Germany. Really great gigs, attendances were fantastic and audiences were so responsive.
They value the arts and culture & invest in it a lot more than we do here.
I respect and enjoy the more considered approach abroad, there seems to be more emphasis on community and an air of positivity & solidarity.
I’m mystified as to why we would want to distance ourselves as a nation from the great bonds that have been forged for so many years with our neighbours across Europe.
I can understand & appreciate some EU rulings & laws are flawed but the bigger picture of us alienating ourselves from the rest of Europe as people on a humanitarian level just can’t bode well for future generations.
I’m not so sure it was broke to the extent of forcing such extreme changes upon us.
We loved our time touring out there this year, a real highlight of the 2018 calendar.

5 – HOME TAPING (still killing music?)

The week our album “Everybody, Anyone” was released I was asked to make a playlist by our friend Danny Champ for his Union music store Spotify feature. I sent over about 20 songs that I liked and Danny published them on Spotify which in turn made me finally investigate the merits of it.
I soon realised the joys to be found in making playlists on there, I found it kind of replaces my love of compiling songs on cassette for people, I’d missed that.
Home taping. It’s kind of a musical love letter.
I’ve embraced Spotify this year and not only pieced together several (very well received) compilations that I sent out on social media for anyone that was remotely interested, I also found it to be another avenue to discover new tunes & artists, which of course has to be a good thing right?
Record collecting via the physical format will always remain my passion but I was buoyed and excited to find another way of connecting and sharing great music.