Winter Mountain’s album “I Swear I Flew”, which was released in mid-November last year was one of those that worked perfectly as a coherent, self-contained project; you should really listen to it. It was also one of those that made you want to hear the songs played live. I got the chance to do that at 229 Venue 2 and I was absolutely right; it was exceptional, but not quite in the way I’d imagined. The album is mainly (but not completely) quiet and introspective but the live show was a very different beast.
Support on the night was Cornish singer-songwriter Josiah Mortimer, who warmed up a gradually-increasing crowd with a mix of the traditional (“Cadgwith Anthem”) and twenty-first century protest songs like “Build a Wall” – you can probably guess what that one’s about. With a decent voice, some interesting chat between songs and a playing style that uses a thumb instead of a pick (anyone remember Richie Havens?), Josiah got the audience onside and ready for the headliners.
Winter Mountain’s set opened with the wistful, impassioned romanticism of “Girl in the Coffee Shop”, a chance to set the tone for the evening, demonstrating Joe’s soulful voice and allowing the band to ease their way in before the Springsteenesque roar of “Sunlight, Good Roads”. Joe Francis has created a unique mixture with Winter Mountain, blending influences from the worlds of folk (mainly Gaelic), roots, country rock, southern boogie, straight ahead rock and many others. Springsteen aside, you can hear echoes of Hothouse Flowers, The Waterboys, Rob Thomas and Gin Blossoms (remember them?). The set had its quieter, more reflective, moments, particularly the (almost) solo interlude featuring “The Morning Bell”, the poignant “January Stars”, “Lucky Ones” and “Stronger When You Hold Me” but the set really caught fire when the band were playing full-tilt songs like “Things That I’ve Done Wrong” in balls-out Lynyrd Skynyrd mode as Joe started throwing lyrics from Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” into the mix. So hats off to Alik Peters-Deacon (guitar), Jake Galvin (bass) and Garry Kroll (drums) for a great, dynamic set and also to 229’s sound man, who did a lovely job in a venue that was barely half full.
Anything else you should know? The songs were split almost evenly between the first and second albums and the set ended with a Beatles cover, the early “Oh! Darling”. The audience was completely silent during the quiet songs and went bananas during the raucous ones. The band covered all the bases of the glorious musical mash-up perfectly, while Joe’s powerhouse voice left you in no doubt that he has a massive rock voice as well. It wasn’t quiet the night I‘d expected, but it was a belter; that’s the way to spend a Thursday night in London.
Coming to a festival near you soon, I imagine.
You can see some photos from the gig here.
Every time I go into a venue in Soho like The Borderline, I wonder if it’s going to be the last time; the headlong rush to gentrify messy, sordid old Soho seems to be progressing at a frantic pace and it doesn’t look like there’s room in the planners’ brave new world for basement venues where you can hear great musicians play loud, beautiful and sometimes messy music. So I’m making the most of it while I can.
The occasion this time was the launch of Aidan Connell’s “Grio” album, and Aidan celebrated by putting together a programme which built steadily toward his headline appearance. The opening band on the night was The Wang Dang Doodle playing their version of Chicago electric blues; they sounded good and workmanlike, but really caught fire when Laurent Mouflier evoked the spirit of Little Walter with his blistering harmonica solos.
Next up was Southbound, a five-piece from Hertfordshire delivering a set of original songs inspired by (surprisingly enough)seventies multi-guitar bands from the Southern states of the USA; if you start with the Allman Brothers and throw in a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd, then you’re probably fairly close. The rhythm section was tight and funky, allowing the two guitarists space to play together or trade solos, and the vocals were always convincing. They’re very good at the moment, but you can’t help thinking that there’s a lot more to come.
But this was Aidan Connell’s party and he was never going to disappoint. Throughout the set the band play in the tradition of the sixties power trio; rock-solid most of the time underneath the lead vocal and guitar, but with the ability to loosen up and improvise (or follow the leader) when required. The relatively short set opened with the uptempo “Everybody Else” from “Grio” and about half of the songs were from the album, including the absolute standout single, “I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll”. The songs are strong, the playing’s spot on and there was even a bit of fun at the end of the set when Laurent Mouflier stepped back up to join the band for the final number, trading licks with Aidan and generally having a great time.
Aidan Connell’s a very interesting proposition; he’s heavily influenced by the original blues greats and the power trio era, but he brings some twenty-first century influences to the party as well. His voice is a bit more soulful than bluesy and he likes to introduce a bit of a psychedelic element as well. While some blues players can be a bit serious, or even precious, about the music, Aidan likes to have a bit of fun as well, playing solos with just the left hand while having a drink, playing behind his head and with his teeth; it’s not even showing off, really, it’s just someone who’s really, really good having a bit of a play while doing his job. Wouldn’t we all like to do that?
“Grio” is released on October 2 and we’ll have a review for you very soon.
When you find out that a rock band’s from Norfolk, there’s one connection that you have to make and, yes, there is a link to The Darkness. Bad Touch made their debut EP in the Leeders Farm studio owned by The Darkness, but that’s where the link ends. This isn’t spandex hair metal; from the opening gently-picked guitar spiced up by a bit of slide, it’s obvious that Bad Touch’s roots go much further back than the noughties. Mix up a brew of the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zep, throw in a bit of Chris Robinson and you’re just about there.
The single “Wise Water” is a taster for their new album “Halfway Home” which is released at the end of this month and it’s pretty successful in that respect. You get a sledgehammer guitar riff, a slide solo, a breakdown to drums and vocals (you know, the bit where the audience clap along) and a big live ending. It’s a pretty good single and if you like what’s on offer here, you’re probably going to like the album. We’ll find out in a few weeks.
“Wise Water” is out now.