There’s a couple of interesting tours coming up in late November/early December that we really thought we should share with you. First up is a tour by the absolute legend Ronnie Spector with her “Ronnie Spector Sings the Fabulous Ronettes” tour, featuring the greatest Ronettes hits, including “Me My Baby”, “Baby I Love You”, “Do I Love You” and “Wallking in the Rain”, plus Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector originals that became hits as covers, such as “I Can Hear Music” (Beach Boys) and “Chapel of Love” (Dixie Cups). The tour follows the release earlier this month of “The Very Best of Ronnie Spector” on Sony Music.
As if that wasn’t enough, Ronnie’s also working on her new album “English Heart”, a set of covers of songs by the sixties British invasion bands including The Beatles, The Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Animals which is scheduled for release in April 2016 on 429 Records. If you want to see the greatest hits tour, Ronnie’s doing the following dates:
November 28 Philharmonic Hall Liverpool
November 29 Royal Concert Hall Glasgow
November 30 The Sage Gateshead
December 1 Town Hall Birmingham
December 3 The Barbican London
December 4 Colston Hall Bristol
In early December, the European leg of the Light of Day tour comes to the UK. The Light of Day Foundation is a charity raising funds for research into Parkinson’s and related degenerative diseases, which originated in New Jersey in November 2000 and has been supported by many performers including Bruce Springsteen (whose song gave the Foundation its name), Michael J Fox, Southside Johnny, Darlene Love, Willie Nile, Jakob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Badly Drawn Boy and Gary ‘US’ Bonds.
The headline band for the UK tour this year is Joe D’Urso, Vini ‘Mad Dog’ Lopez, Eric Bazilian, Ed Manion and Jake Clemons. If you want to see some incredible musicians and donate some cash to a very good cause, then you can catch the Light of Day tour on the following four UK dates:
December 4 Oran Mor Glasgow
December 5 TAPE Arts Centre Colwyn Bay
December 6 The Musician Leicester
December 8 The Half Moon, Putney London
You should catch both of these tours if you can, and maybe we’ll see you at The Half Moon for the Light of Day gig.
OK, let me say this right up front; this album isn’t for everyone, but you could say that about Tom Waits, Neil Young and Bob Dylan and it hasn’t done them any harm. Malcolm Holcombe’s voice is an acquired taste but if you already have a taste for anyone mentioned above then it wouldn’t take a lot of acquisition. It’s the voice of a man who’s lived a life and seen a lot of dark sides; it’s the voice of a man who gargles with gravel, spits sparks and tells stories of how life is, not how you think it should be. His music has roots in blues, folk and country but it’s not really any of these; it’s a strand of Americana which weaves in all of these influences without falling neatly into any of them.
“The RCA Sessions” is a retrospective with a difference. Malcolm Holcombe has picked out sixteen songs from the period 1994-2014 and re-recorded the lot live in the RCA Studios in Nashville, while filming the process for a CD/DVD package. The band for the sessions was Jared Tyler (dobro, electric guitar, lap steel and vocals), Dave Roe (upright bass and arco), Tammy Rogers (fiddle, mandolin and vocals), Ken Coomer (drums and percussion) Jelly Roll Johnson (harmonica) and Siobhan Maher-Kennedy (vocals), all regular contributors to Malcolm’s work, plus Maura O’Connell who duets on the final track, “A Far Cry from Here”.
This collection weaves its way through various instrumental settings, from the intimate Malcolm Holcombe/Jared Tyler configuration on “Doncha Miss that Water” (with a hint of Jackson Browne and David Lindley) to the full country band sound of “My Ol’ Radio”, the riff-based country rock of “To Drink the Rain” and the two songs featuring Jelly Roll Johnson’s harmonica, “Mister in Morgantown” and “Mouth Harp Man”.
There’s a melancholy lyrical feel to most of the album, from the mournful mood of “The Empty Jar” to the world-weary nostalgia of “Early Mornin’” and “Goin’ Home”. There’s a bit of social comment (“Down the River”) and even a parable (“I Call the Shots”), showing a wide range of subjects and lyrical styles. The imagery is never ornate or flowery; this is the poetry of everyday (and sometimes bone-grindingly hard) life; warts ‘n’ all with no airbrushing, but also incredibly powerful, honest and moving.
The songs on “The RCA Sessions”, selected from the work of twenty years, are strong, potent and evocative and paint a picture of someone who’s lived a life and just managed to survive it. At times you feel he squeezes so much of himself into the songs, you wonder if he can make it to the bridge, never mind to the end of the song, but you could often say that about Neil Young, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan as well. Anyway, Lucinda Williams and Justin Townes Earle are fans and I’m sure their recommendation counts for a lot more than mine.
“The RCA Sessions” is out on June 22 on Singular Recordings/Gypsy Eyes Music.
This made-in-Nashville, contemporary country album is full of sweet surprises, the sometimes quirky arrangements, the lyrics, the instruments… It has different moods and tempos and Eileen Rose makes you want to listen to her latest offering, she speaks clearly to her audience, one to one. She’s no newcomer either; a few albums in and plenty of touring and festivals to support them, this is an accomplished and confident sounding album.
She started writing at 14, trying to emulate her idol, Kate Bush, but was listening to an eclectic diet of music from Bowie to Linda Rondstadt. Eileen Rose has both American and Irish heritage and her first gigs were around Boston when she was playing mainly folk music. Since then she has also lived in urban Essex and gigged in London for a stint, when she also released two CDs for Rough Trade. She has toured the UK and US with such reputable company as Ryan Adams and Beth Orton, before expanding her growing fan base to Europe. There are many hints on this album, that there is more to her than country as the Jive-paced, “Just Ain’t So” prove and the sultry “She’s Yours”, with fiddle and brushed drums, a well placed accordion also lends a European touch to some tracks.
“Be Many Gone” opens with a bouncy “Queen of the Fake Smile”, complete with lively fiddle. The mood then shifts to a slower pace including the bittersweet, “She’s Yours” and stand-out “Prove Me Wrong”. “Each Passing Hour” features Frank Black as a duet, which doesn’t work so well for me but sonically it rolls nicely with castanets and Mexican sounding trumpet. Eileen Rose plays guitar and taught herself piano, but she also picks up other instruments (including bongos) and is just setting up her own label Holy Wreckords with her collaborator and producer, mixer and engineer of “Be Many Gone”, Rich Gilbert, so it appears that Eileen Rose is experiencing a period of enormous creative growth.
This is an emotionally wrought set of songs where she wears her heart visibly, but in no way is it depressing; Eileen Rose clearly also has a sense of humour, “I can be a good friend, I can be a joker, but you can choke me up now baby with a single glance” (“Comfort Me”). Not that she comes from the old Patsy Cline school of victim lyricism, she clearly empowers herself and shares this, while retaining a capacity for vulnerability and intimacy. Vocally Eileen Rose has a country voice pitched somewhere between Kirsty MacColl and Lucinda Williams, while she doesn’t stretch her voice much on this album, the comfort in her voice contrasts nicely with the sometimes uncomfortable lyrics. If you like country music with European and folky twists, this is definitely an album to check out. Eileen Rose is currently considering playing dates in the UK and if past accolades are anything to go by, it will be a hot ticket!
“Be Many Gone” is out now on Holy Wreckords HWER12714.
Klare rated this album at 3.5 stars, but we can only rate in full stars, so this is 4 stars because I think it’s a great album as well (Ed.)
It’s been an exciting year, particularly for live music, so my high 5 features 4 live acts, 2 of which I’ve previously reviewed for Music Riot, apologies for any repetition. Here goes (in no particular order):
Angelique Kidjo has taken over the mantle of Queen of African music, from the late, great Miriam Makeba and with today’s media has probably spread her reach further, having collaborated with dozens of Western bands and musicians. The festival concert at The Dome was the first time I have seen her in an indoor venue and the containment worked very well for the atmosphere. Kidjo criss-crossed between traditional forms and pop styles to great effect singing in four of her fluent languages, with an easy wit and story-telling in English. As well as her extensive back-catalogue, she covered Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and Santana among others, but it was Makeba’s “Pata Pata” that got the crowd to their feet and she had them dancing for the rest of the show; everyone left with a smile on their face.
Lucinda Williams at the Brighton Dome was a very different proposition, intimate and largely downbeat. She took to the stage with her ballad book from over the years and largely stuck to it. With a backing band of just two, her guitar playing was a feature as well as her husky voice. Although, she somehow managed to avoid playing my favourite tracks I was introduced to others from her catalogue and it was a great show for the festival goers, many of whom were not long-term fans. Those expecting the most recent album ‘Blessed’ were disappointed however as she skipped it completely, this was a festival set, but one that left you with the sense of what a fantastic veteran singer-song writer Lucinda is.
Coco & The Butterfields are a newish delightfully up-beat, festival-ready band of real musicians from Canterbury. They feature a unique blend of instruments including banjo and violin; percussion and drums are played entirely by vocal beat-box. They played a lively and eclectic set, featuring tweaked covers from Dolly Parton and Supertramp to Flo Rida & T-Pain. But it was their set of original material, such as ‘Astronaut’ and ‘Warriors’ that got the locals dancing. The energy was huge for a small band in a small venue with, sadly, a small audience. Let’s hope C&TB reach further in 2014…
The Lily was the first material I had heard from Canadian Blues trooper Layla Zoe and what an introduction to her 7-album catalogue. This album is a collaboration with Henrik Freischlader, a German multi-instrumentalist and guitar trail-blazer, whose searing blues is the perfect accompaniment to Layla’s original voice. Although it is very positive and reflective blues, an interesting development for the genre, this album is very deeply felt. Tracks include those about ex-lovers and her Father as well as a couple of cover versions. Layla is planning to gig here in the UK in 2014 and I’m planning to see her beautiful blues live then.
Boy George has certainly lived the life, from drug-use to DJ to internment and it shows in his husky voice, which surprised me by sounding stronger live than it sounds on “This Is What I Do”, the new album he was promoting in this compact but versatile venue. He and his band, including brass, played the entirety of that album of country-tinged, low-slung reggae as well as most of the Culture Club hits that made him famous in the 80’s. A very tender version of ‘Victims’ was almost sabotaged by the noisy crowd and I’ve seen George in a better mood, but overall this was a concert offering variety and depth. It was great to see George out from behind the decks and back in the limelight.
I came across Jimmy Livingstone when he supported Lucinda Williams at the Brighton Festival in May and was impressed enough with the live performance to buy his CD. Then it was one man and his acoustic guitar, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the album has horns and strings (both competently arranged by Livingstone), keyboards and percussion to enhance his sound.
Jimmy has twangs of country, blues riffs and strums of folksiness to add to his essentially acoustic sound, yet his voice is almost Neil Diamond; his inspirations must therefore be pretty broad, though he never sounds derivative. The CD kicks off with “Getting By”, a good way to introduce himself and his troubadour lifestyle, but track 2, “Desert Song”, his first single is more swinging. Although he sings, “I’m crawling out of the wreckage at the bitter end of love” there are thankfully few clichés here about women or rock ‘n’ roll; he sings “I don’t need to blow my brains away, I’m not that rock ‘n’ roll”, but the track hits its stride well. The torchier “The Waiting Room” sees him waiting for love and Doggen Foster lends some authentic bluesy electric guitar at the end. Then it’s more upbeat again…
Track order is important on a recording and Jimmy has probably got it right here, although the part of me that likes my artists tortured would have liked the downbeat tracks to have been placed together. I can understand the man wanting to keep precious creative control, but I wonder if he had relinquished production altogether (credits are to JL and Eric Liljestrand) he might have been pushed to explore his depths just a little more; instead it sounds like he decided to try to keep it reasonably upbeat-sounding.
If anything, Jimmy Livingstone sometimes tries to cram too many ideas into one song and occasionally they suffer from too much verse and not enough refrain to make a song immediately memorable but, I suspect, in his creative process the lyric comes first.
“Useless Man” starts almost like the Rolling Stones with electric guitar and unique percussion and rocks with attitude; as a result his voice is stretched a little further. This track should have been the single in my opinion, as he really speaks up for himself and sounds comfortable doing so but it is less representative of the collection as a whole. “In Your Own Sweet Time” is a piano-led song of longing “I’ve gotta let you come to me, come to me, in your own sweet time, sweet sister of mine”. It reminds me of Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” and is the best of the ballads, although it’s a little unclear if the song is written to a soul-mate or sibling.
As a bonus the physical CD, as opposed to the download, includes a lyric book, although it needn’t have as Jimmy’s diction is crystal clear. There is range here both musically and lyrically and this is an above average contribution to various genres. It’s an album that sounds like it was a long time coming and I hope that future offerings have intentions and production values that allow for further exploration of both his wandering lifestyle and his musicality because, ultimately, he does not really take risks with this, his first disc.
And an extra half star to take it up to 3.5.
It’s been a while since Lucinda has graced the UK with her presence and tonight she fitted in a Festival appearance as part of her north European tour. ‘An Intimate Evening With…’ is a chance to showcase her last album, 2011’s “Blessed”, probably her best offering since “West” in 2006. But she does not take to merely promoting her most recent work, instead preferring to cherrypick songs from over three decades for the festival crowd. But make no mistake, this is no greatest hits package as defined by sales but, thankfully, carefully selected songs from a vintage singer/song-writer. A few technical issues of sound and dry ice distract initially (“We’re not Whitesnake, y’know, I feel like I’m playing in a smoky bar!”)
She kicks off with “Passionate Kisses”, the Grammy-winning track she wrote for Mary Chapin Carpenter. The concert continues her themes of heartbreak and loss, but it takes a specialist to dissect the human heart without merely going over the same ground and Lucinda succeeds. Although repetition is a strong feature of her writing style in terms of turning some of her songs into drawling incantations of powerful lines, there’s not enough of this for me tonight as her song choices on the whole avoid such relentless intimacy. Writing prowess aside, an artist like Lucinda was born to tell her tales live and she certainly is a powerful performer and effective communicator; she also plays a mean acoustic guitar backed only by bass and lead guitar.
Lucinda is “so in the moment” that she forgets her set list and instead works her way through the ballads in her folder, before upping the tempo slightly. Williams’ voice attracts every Bourbon-soaked cliché but let’s just say she really sounds like she’s been there, and probably on more than one occasion, but at 60 years she still walks with her vulnerability; tonight we hear more of the songwriter and less of the singer. First person experiences form the bulk of her canon, which ranges from ballad to blues to rock edge which makes Lucinda an exciting live ticket. Long regarded as a competent live artist, Lucinda delivers those contrasts in tempo well, building the energy of the set that peaks at the much requested “Drunken Angel” and angry anthem, “Joy”. The audience are Lucinda’s contemporaries age-wise and sadly there are very few younger converts in evidence here and mostly festival goers taking a punt on a recommendation, but a core of fans enthusiastically make themselves known between songs.
Most of her albums were represented here including “Jackson” from “West”, the album that did the best, chart-wise in the UK and she showcased 2 new songs including “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, hopefully from a forthcoming disc as she admits that she is longing to get back into the studio.
The encore was an acoustic rendition of Nick Drake’s “Riverman” followed by the gratitude anthem, “Blessed” and it was all over after an impressive set of over 100 minutes. A quick mention is deserved for Jimmy Livingstone, support act who had his moments also on a singer/song-writer ticket.