Derek Piotr is a US-based folklorist, performer and composer from New England. His work focuses primarily on the human voice and covers genres as diverse as folk, leftfield pop, classical, and dance but he has a particular interest in Appalachian versions of traditional ballads. He has collaborated with a number of different artists including Thomas Brinkmann, Scott Solter, and Bradford Reed across various disciplines. Derek was nominated by the jury for Prix Ars Electronica in 2012, and has featured on UbuWeb and the BBC.
Derek Piotr’s CV includes an impressive ten solo albums to date in spite of only just hitting his 30s this year. I ask him about the latest Making and Then Unmaking which was released back in May.
Derek Piotr:“My tenth album, Making and Then Unmaking, is an extension of the folkloric work I’ve done in Western North Carolina, with a heavy emphasis on Appalachian ballad singing and folk and country instrumentation. Originally I was meant to work on this album in a studio in North Carolina, but due to Covid, I ended up recording 90% of the album remotely and putting the performances together via filesharing. Making and Then Unmaking features a much broader instrumental palette because of this workflow, with instruments appearing including bagpipes, clavichord, saxophone, harp, pedal steel guitar, viol da gamba, autoharp and dulcimer.”
Of particular interest to British folk enthusiasts who follow this blog is that Derek has been working in the UK all through the summer, carrying out fieldwork.
Derek Piotr: “My fieldwork in the UK has predominantly focused on collecting recordings of ‘non-singers’ in North Yorkshire. This is a direct continuity of my work in North Carolina documenting non-singers, in other words, informants who have no formal background in vocal performance but nevertheless have living knowledge of traditional song and can still sing or recite these ballads from memory. One of the informants I’ve met on my UK journey was 102…it has been a rich and valuable experience for me to collect ballads from their origin source; most of Child’s ballads were collected in Northumberland and Scotland.”
Mel Biggs, who has recorded several albums as part of acclaimed trio Moirai, is one of the UK’s leading diatonic accordion players. She releases From Darkness Comes Light her debut solo album on 1st October. Over twelve stunningly inventive instrumental tracks, Mel Biggs takes us on a journey through the seasonal changes, both natural and cultural over the course of the year. Accompanied by fiddle, mandolin, piano accordion, guitar and cittern she invites us to join her on this deeply personal and evocative journey.
I ask Mel how the album came about:
This album has taken over a decade to be made. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the physical album, which took 9-ish months in lockdown, but the mental health journey I’ve been on since my early 20s. The darkness of living with anxiety and depression, a binge eating disorder, and menstrual health issues brought forth the light that is my music and composition. Further to this, and rather poignantly, the album’s completion earlier this year coincided with me being diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. Knowing this has given me the missing pieces on my past diagnoses and, well, literally everything in my life! Especially my sensory crossovers which influence my creativity so much.
The diatonic accordion (or melodeon) became my closest friend and confidante early on when Iwasn’t able to understand and process the difficult emotions I experienced. It gave me a way to escape and meditate on the natural world around me. The healing power of the great outdoors is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. A sunny day in spring watching washing dry on the line brought forth Shivelight In Spring. Being high up in the Norwegian mountains breezed Oppland Upland into my brain. Zoning out of a difficult day whilst viewing winter’s golden light in the garden gave me Silver Linings. Meditating on the heat haze obscuring the view out the back of my house shone Shimmer into my life. Let me travel the world with my accordion and I’d write and write and be very content!
Mel fills us in on the themes that emerged for the album:
When it came to making the album, I looked at what material I had and realised the running theme was light states in nature through the seasons. Each piece relates to a different point in my personal discovery journey. From Darkness Comes Light is a symbiosis of seasons, nature, and light and their combined effect on mood and mental health recovery. It’s also become a statement to myself of never giving up on finding those missing pieces to understanding and accepting yourself for exactly who you are. Feels like a pretty big thing to say about an album of instrumental folk music, but I prefer using sounds to words any day!
From Darkness Comes Light released 1st October 2021 by Talking Cat Recordings
Maniac Squat were the art punk band from Colchester who had a cult hit with ‘F**k Off’ in the mid-90s – a record which secured them the coveted single of the week slot in Kerrang! no less. Performing over two hundred gigs, including support slots for Babes in Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp as well as tours of mainland Europe, Maniac Squat made their last record in 1996 and promptly split. Now they are back, with three members of the original line-up reconvening to record a stunning concept album of experimental art-rock. The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary, which also leans heavily towards jazz, has been inspired by the work of eighteenth-century Christian mystic, author and philosopher, Karl von Eckhartshausen.
For The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary the band have teamed up with an all-star ensemble of guest musicians headed up by legendary Bowie/Iggy Pop sideman, Kevin Armstrong, who also produced the album. Joining Kevin – and the original Maniac Squat alumni of Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto – are Iggy Pop’s drummer, Mat Hector; PJ Harvey’s sax player, Terry Edwards; and rising star Manchester-based rapper, El Zeeko. The release is accompanied by an equally stunning video seventeen-minute video by art director/film producer, Robert Russell, whose vibrant, other-worldly imagery deftly captures the intensity of emotions that the band delve into via their experimental soundscapes.
Original Maniac Squat frontman, Tom Wilcox, says: “Plato observed that ‘we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’
“Our wilderness years were spent stumbling horny from one fix to the next. In the course of trying to repair our complex and multi-faceted personal relationships, Scott, Michael and I were profoundly affected by both the teachings of Karl von Eckartshausen and the key change rubrics of Gustav Mahler. These inspirations provoked us into composing separate elements of a larger piece of music. We gradually brought the disparate movements together to make one work. There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
Producer and guest musician, Kevin Armstrong, adds:“I have had many twists and turns in my nearly 50-year career in music but the things I will carry with me to my deathbed are those moments of fearless invention that do not yield to any commercial constraint nor any fear of ridicule. The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is one such moment. When I was presented with the opportunity to help realize the revival of Maniac Squat little did I imagine that our efforts would produce such a savage and desolate beauty.”
About Maniac Squat:
Forming in Colchester, Essex, Maniac Squat pursued their own brand of art punk for five years between 1991 and 1996. They first played at Colchester Arts Centre in 1992 and were immediately banned for using an industrial grinder in their performance and for making a hole in the stage while smashing up a guitar. Maniac Squat persevered and went on to notch up the much coveted ‘Single of the Week’ accolade from Kerrang! magazine for their single ‘F**k Off’. They played over 200 gigs in their career – including tours of Germany and the Czech Republic – also releasing two singles and an album and being the go-to local support act for bands such as Babes In Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp when their tour itinerary took them to Colchester. After splitting in 1996, Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto would later re-appear in the mid-2000s as part of The Chavs, with several of their tracks used as MTV theme tunes, including ‘Nuclear War’.
The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is released on 23rd September on all the main digital platforms and in a limited-edition vinyl format, too. It will be available via: http://maniacsquat.com/
The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary – release information:
Written by Michael Giaquinto/Scott Pearce/Tom Wilcox/El Zeeko
Lyrics adapted from A Cloud Upon the Sanctuary by Karl Von Eckartshausen
A side: The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary (Giaquinto/Pearce/Wilcox/El Zeeko)
B side: Overbevisende Mareritt (Giaquinto/Pearce/Wilcox/El Zeeko)
Tom Wilcox – vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, percussion
Scott Pearce – guitars, keyboards, percussion
Michael Giaquinto – bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion
Featuring special guests:
El Zeeko – rap vocals
Kevin Armstrong – guitars, bass
Terry Edwards – baritone Sax
Alan Newcombe – tenor Sax
Mat Hector – drums
Produced by Kevin Armstrong
Engineered by Kevin Armstrong and Mat Hector. Mastered by Ed Woods
Video by Robert Russell
Maniac Squat are:
Tom Wilcox was the front man of Maniac Squat finding notoriety with their 1995 ‘hit’ ‘F**k Off’. Tom has since produced albums for Gillian Glover and Lisa Ronson; the latter, co-produced with Paul Cuddeford, receiving a 4-star review in Mojo and widespread recognition. As a songwriter Tom has provided material for many bands including Lover, Jesse Smith and Florence Sabeva. More recently, Tom has been the producer and singer with London based art rock band Last Day Sect.
Michael Giaquinto wasbass player with Maniac Squat in the 90s and also played bass with punk legends Vice Squad, touring extensively throughout the US and Europe. He then spent several years in Brazil, where he played in Marca Diabo, the resident house band at the infamous cultural centre Casa Amarela, backing performing artists of all types, from contortionists to beat poets. Returning to the UK with an increased appetite for experimentalism, he became involved with London’s improvised music scene and has played with some its well-known figures, including Eddie Prévost, John Russell, and Steve Beresford. He has worked as a bassist for hire in a number of bands, has a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and works in music education.
Scott Pearce – (aka Arsepiece) was the guitarist in 90’s DIY punk band Maniac Squat and later in The Chavs who created the soundtrack of MTV/Viacom’s TV series ‘Blaggers’. Scott moved into music supervision and publishing for TV and Films. He now runs his own independent soundtrack label, The Nerve, and has produced over 250 albums sound tracking networks such as BBC, ITV, HBO, C4, Discovery, Viacom/CBS and ABC. He gave up drugs in 2014 which he now deeply regrets, only binge drinks at weekends but still very much enjoys amorality – if only as a keen spectator which, regrettably, makes him a somewhat duller version of his earlier self.
El Zeeko was raised in a crosshair between Old Trafford and Stretford and enters the music scene with a south Manchester confidence and 90’s hip-hop energy. With exceptional wordplay reflective of his love for English language, El Zeeko graces us with a humble yet raw and honest account of his love life, brotherhood, survival and the road code in his first biblical self-titled EP project as an artist titled 25:17. Starting out as a producer at 13 inspired by his brother’s rap group Manchester’s notorious blueprint to Grime RAW-T, he learned the art and craft of production leading him to be signed to a deal with Universal as a teenager. Working both as an artist and a producer, El Zeeko continues to work with homegrown soul duo Children of Zeus, Tyler Daley, Sleazy F Baby and more due to his musical ear in the Neo-Soul and Hip-Hop space in Manchester.
Kevin Armstrong began his musical life with his own band Local Heroes SW9. After two albums, his career began thriving as a writer, producer, bandleader and guitarist. Most notably, Kevin met David Bowie in late 1984, and worked with him on various projects including putting together his band and performing at the legendary Live Aid in 1985. Bowie introduced Kevin to Iggy Pop as guitarist on the 1986 album Blah Blah Blah and Kevin became Iggy’s bandleader in 86/87. He put together Iggy’s touring band again from 2014 until 2019. He has worked with Morrissey, Grace Jones, Sinéad O’Connor, Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby, Transvision Vamp Brian Eno, Paul McCartney, Sandie Shaw, Gil Evans, Alien Sex Fiend, Keziah Jones and many more.
Mat Hector has become widely known for his hard-hitting groove and stylistic adaptability as drummer in Iggy Pop’s band. In addition to working with Iggy, Mat has worked with Razorlight, Thomas Dolby, Marc Almond and legendary Bowie pianist Mike Garson.
Terry Edwards is an acclaimed and much in-demand session musician, playing the saxophone, trumpet, guitar, keyboard and the flute. He’s worked with artists as diverse as Nick Cave, Ronnie Spector, PJ Harvey, Eric Mingus, Madness, Gallon Drunk, Tindersticks, Jimi Tenor, Mike Garson, Glen Matlock, The Blockheads, Siouxsie Sioux, Hot Chip, Robyn Hitchcock and Rhoda Dakar.
Alan Newcombe is interested in producing combinations of sound on a saxophone mainly using alternative fingerings, flutter tongue and so on. He also plays desiccated bebop and 32 bar standards. He appears with numerous ad hoc improv groups and workshops in London and does a daily show for his neighbours.
Robert Russell created the ground-breaking video for The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary and is a multidisciplinary graphic designer and art director whose design, branding and communications work includes projects for the likes of Virgin and Liverpool Everyman. He is passionate about music, performing, writing and producing for both personal and commercial projects.
Playing their first gig in April 1985, the band April 16TH were late to the party in terms of the UK’s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene. By then many of the bands that had started up in the late 70s and early 80s had either packed up, moved on or dramatically changed their style – bringing in keyboard flourishes and, with an eye on the more lucrative American market, a more commercial sheen. April 16TH resolutely didn’t go down this route, opting for a gutsy raw feel reminiscent of the likes of early Tygers of Pan Tang et al.
April 16TH were John Fisher (drums), Chris Harris (guitar), Lawrence Mills (lead guitar), Eric Puffett bass) and Dave Russell (vocals) – and unlike many bands of the era their line-up remained stabled throughout their entire tenure 1985-91.
“Musically APRIL 16TH always preferred a raw guitar base sound to that of the cleaner and ‘less real’ sound afforded by keyboards. The bands rough edge was further enhanced by the use of a single vocalist instead of the more traditional backing vocals set up,” states the band’s retrospective biog.
“Philosophically the band truly believed in the power of rock music as a form of expression. Their stage presentation was a totally unpretentious and honest, yet powerful and exciting experience. “APRIL 16TH” despised the use of stage clothing and over-hyped theatrical performances with larger-than-life egos. At gigs you could find and could talk to the band at the bar or the pub next door, not locked away in the dressing room.”
Gigging extensively around the south east the band’s early recordings began generating interest from regional radio stations and bookings started to come from further afield. An album Sleepwalking followed in January 1989 which led to further exposure for the band. Radio One invited April 16TH to record a session for the Tommy Vance Rock Show and there was also a slot for London Weekend Television. Sadly, however, financial woes put paid to any future success, bankruptcy forced their departure from the music scene and April 16TH played their last ever gig at the Cartoon in Croydon on Saturday 13th July 1991.
The story doesn’t quite end thee however and thirty years later we now have a newly released CD chronicling all of the band’s studio recordings.
Why now? I asked guitarist, Chris Harris, who kindly sent me the CD.
Chris: “During our ‘career’ we produced two audio products. The first was a C60 cassette recorded at Cherry Studios in Croydon that we called the Cherry Jam tape. The second was a vinyl LP also recorded at Cherry Studios entitled Sleepwalking. The Cherry Jam tape was essentially a gig getting Demo tape but the Sleepwalking album was a ‘FOR SALE’ LP released by our record company – High Dragon Records of Paris. After the band went bankrupt it was always my intention to self-release a CD containing all the tracks that appeared on both the C60 and the LP. But this dream did not become a reality until July 2021.”
“I don’t like the word compilation,” adds Chris. “The title Epitaph was chosen to reflect the sombre memory of our demise and to present all the (recorded) material that the band had available. And so Epitaph was compiled by using the original 1986/87 master tapes. The CD is an exact duplication of the original sound of the band and was not enhanced or re-mixed in any way.”
Although not one of the big names of the era Epitaph is a hugely enjoyable compendium of April 16TH’s recorded output and should be of interest to anyone with a love for the NWOBHM scene and in particular those who enjoy those bands who went for the hard, rootsy, gutsy approach and weren’t like the proverbial kids in a sweetshop when they got inside a recording studio but stuck to the basics.
Visit April the band’s Facebook page at April 16TH
After eighteen months of meticulous crafting, Across The Sea are set to unveil their much-anticipated second album The Wayfarer Triptych, scheduled for release on 1st October. A nine-track concept piece, the album narrates an original story penned by the band themselves, marrying fantasy and folklore, fairytale and philosophy, to present a stirring tale of drama, adventure and mystery.
An artistic endeavour near-cinematic in its scope and ambition, The Wayfarer Triptych sees the genre-defying progressive duo push every aspect of their signature sound to the extreme in order to create an immense work of astonishing musicality, vivid storytelling, dizzying virtuosity, and staggering emotional resonance.
Hailing from Worthing on the West Sussex coast in the south of England, Across The Sea sound unlike any act you’ve heard before. Evocative, otherworldly, and utterly captivating, they defy categorisation, inhabiting a place where the boundlessness of the imagination transcends genre limitations and conventions. A breathtaking synthesis of the haunting, siren-like vocals of classically trained soprano Hannah Katy Lewis and the dynamic, unorthodox and experimental guitar style of Pete Ferguson, their mesmerisingly unique sound is wildly eclectic, fiercely inventive and singularly distinctive.
Their critically-acclaimed first album Infinite Worlds was released in December 2018, featuring on HMV Brighton’s recommended list and being lauded by a diverse range of outlets as a startlingly original debut. The June 2019 stand-alone single Behind the Looking Glass gained further recognition for the duo, picking up considerable airplay in the UK and internationally.
Playing over 150 shows since their inception, the pair have earned a reputation as one of the most tirelessly active and genuinely innovative acts on the live circuit, whose immersive and theatrical performances have enchanted audiences at venues throughout the south and – as part of a successful 2019 summer tour – festivals such as Victorious, Wickham and Rhythmtree.
So, prepare to join Across The Sea on their enthralling musical odyssey The Wayfarer Triptych, as a girl, inspired by her discovery of an extraordinary and beguiling triptych painting, embarks on an epic journey through the remains of a broken world in search of hope, purpose, and a forgotten truth…
The Wayfarer Triptych will be available from Across The Sea’s online store on CD and a variety of digital formats www.acrosstheseauk.com
Across The Sea – what they say:
“Early Joni Mitchell meets Hawkwind in this Space-Rock-fuelled, Folk fusion journey. Set the controls for a far-flung flight of fantasy to a distant galaxy where Space Rock, Folk and Opera are one. Brimming with complex musical ideas and literary concepts, Across the Sea will challenge you to consider where one genre ends, and another begins.” – Alistair Goodwin, Music Producer & Events Organiser, Wickham Festival
“A unique musical act that is virtually impossible to pigeonhole genre-wise, combining amazing vocals with breath-taking guitar work.” – Ivan Roberts, Riff Taff Music Networking
“Something to get drawn into and swept away with.” – Metal Meyhem Radio
“…uncompromising, dark, ethereal beauty…the extreme juxtaposition of Hannah’s exquisitely pure vocal and Pete’s deep and intricate guitar playing is extraordinary and compelling.” – Clare and John Fowler, Dandelion Charm
“Combined they’re a 2 piece that sound like a 10 piece.” – Headlights and White Lines
“Hannah Katy Lewis’ vocal is startlingly good, ranging from Kate Bush theatricals to Middle-Eastern chanting…” – Listen With Monger
“Wow! I’ve never heard anything so intense. This is the best I’ve heard Hannah’s vocal – absolutely stunning! Brilliant guitar work by Pete too.” – Mike Five, New Music Saturday (discussing recent single ‘Nightfall in the Labyrinth’)
The Wayfarer Triptych – release information:
3. Nightfall in the Labyrinth
4. Of Mist, Mountain and Sea
6. Conjure the Tempest
7. Serenity and Chaos
8. Light the World with Wisdom’s Flame
Vocals – Hannah Katy Lewis
Guitar – Pete Ferguson
Written, recorded & performed by Across The Sea
Recorded at Humber Studios & The Mothership, August – October 2020
While not an obsessive fan (I have a greatest hits CD and a copy of Highway 61 Revisited in my collection but that’s all I’m afraid) Bob Dylan’s presence has loomed large in the history of many of the bands, such as Fairport Convention and The Byrds, that I am pretty obsessive about. Moreover, many of the music biographies I have read make frequent references to Dylan’s sundry visits to London in the early to mid-1960s – both in terms of the impact he had on London’s folk and nascent rock scenes and vice versa.
Given what a pivotal figure Dylan is then, the idea of having a proper contextual overview rather than relying on what I’ve pieced together through a series of fleeting appearances in other people’s biographies was therefore appealing.
‘Bob Dylan in London: Troubadour Tales’ begins with his first visit to London in the Winter of 1962. We start off in the King and Queen pub in Fitzrovia, where Dylan made his first live appearance in London, and take in iconic folk-scene venues such as the Pindar of Wakefield (now the Water Rats) in Kings Cross, home of Ewan MacColl’s Singers’ Club, and the Troubadour in Earls Court.
One might assume that the remaining chapters would take us on similarly meandering detours of the capital for each of Dylan’s subsequent visits. However, ‘Bob Dylan in London’ is as much guide-book as it is biography and the publication is generally arranged geographically rather than strictly chronologically and includes a 16-page colour sections with maps and illustrations.
Two long-time Dylan devotees, Jackie Lees and KG Miles, take us through several decades of Dylan in London, bringing to life the writer/performer’s presence in a series of locations through a mixture of contemporary concert reviews, anecdotes from fellow artists and recollections from audience members, with some of their own personal memories thrown in for good measure. At one point we even get to hear from a homeowner whose Crouch End property was on the market and Dylan’s early 80s visit as a prospective buyer is recalled.
The most fascinating parts of the book, however, are the ones where Dylan was at his creative and commercial peak in the 1960s. Insightful anecdotes from this period abound, including Donovan and Joan Baez in Dylan’s Savoy hotel room helping him write out the cue cards for the iconic trailer for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, filmed in a nearby alleyway off The Strand called Savoy Steps.
The recollections do not always put Dylan in a favourable light. The treatment of Joan Baez on a 1965 tour leaves a particularly unpleasant taste. However, this short, concise book is highly readable, entertaining and informative. Anyone with an interest in London’s musical heritage and Dylan’s artistic legacy will find much to enjoy here.
In the late ’60s Vanilla Fudge were known for their slow extended heavy rock arrangements of contemporary hit songs, including their take on the Supremes smash ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’.
Now all of the original line-up have come together to release a ‘fudged up’ version of another Supremes classic in tribute to departed bandmate, Tim Bogert, who died in January.
The original Vanilla Fudge line-up of Mark Stein, Carmine Appice, Vincent Martel and Tim Bogert, came together one final time for a psychedelically-tinged version of the ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’.
Vocalist and keyboard player Mark Stein put the idea to the others back in 2019 with the idea of recapturing some of the magic of their classic arrangement of ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’, which has enjoyed an extended life thanks to it’s appearance in the soundtracks of several Hollywood blockbusters.
Stein:“So back in mid 2019, I put together a blueprint for an arrangement for ‘Stop in the Name of Love’, while the Fudge was out there doing shows later that year. We went into the studio and recorded the track. We planned to complete it, there were delays, and then the pandemic put everything on hold.”
They planned to complete the recording with bass-player Tim Bogert on the track. However, the band ran into some unavoidable delays due to the pandemic but Bogert had been living with cancer for some time and didn’t know how much time he had.
Drummer, Carmine Appice took the matter into his own hands and when he went to Los Angeles’ NAMM show in January of 2020; he arranged for Tim to record at Jorgen Carlsson’s (the bass player for Gov’t Mule) studio in LA.
Vince Martel:“It was very cool that we were able to get Timmy on the track. I’m glad he was strong enough and gracious enough to record with us one last time – he gave me a great template to build on with my guitar. I created an East Indian raga intro in the spirit of our early albums and rocked out at the end. Hold on tight everybody,’ cause here comes The Fudge…”
Pre-Save/Pre-Order ‘Stop In The Name of Love’ HERE
Following Bogert’s passing the band also recorded tributes to their departed bandmate with producer Leslie Gold and a special tribute recording ‘To The Legacy Of Tim Bogert’ aslso scheduled for release.
‘Stop In The Name of Love’ released September 6th 2021
Kent-based blues rock band Big River were formed back in 2016 with their debut album Redemption released in 2019. The band took a fair bit of inspiration from that early seventies golden era of blues rock and turned out a nice line in meaty rhythm, soulful vocals, catchy hooks and big fat riffs and lush guitar solos.
Since then there’s been a bit of a shift in personnel with Damo Fawsett (guitar), Ant Wellman (bass) and Joe Martin (drums) now being joined by new boy Adam Barron who takes over from former vocalist Adam Bartholomew. This is almost certainly the best career move a band like Big River could possibly have made.
Barron came to prominence as a contestant on The Voice and then secured the lead vocalist position fronting Mick Ralphs’ solo band. Sadly, that venture came to an end with Ralphs’ debilitating stroke but Barron teaming up with Big River is a stroke of genius. One of the finest blues rock singers around these days, Barron is the perfect fit for Big River and takes the band to new heights.
The new single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ sets an exceptional standard and was released on all platforms for digital download on 20th August. Written by Barron is an old school classic rock song with a summer vibe and a catchy hook with singer’s soulful, emotive, bluesy vocals taking centre-stage.
Barron says: “I love my family, I love my friends and I love life, even with all the complications and shit that comes with it. I really believe we have to grab any and every bit of joy we can every day, because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, (last couple of years have certainly shown us that!) and that’s what this song is about.”
Big River are currently working on a second album and preparing for tour dates in Summer / Autumn 2021.
My last big gig before the pandemic hit was Supergrass at Alexandra Palace back in March 2020 and, lo and behold, my first big gig post-lockdown is… Supergrass at Crystal Palace. Last year I had numerous other gigs lined up for 2020 and this year I had several gigs lined up for the earlier part of 2021, too – from the Stranglers to Fairport Convention to Sparks. However, the vagaries of tour cancellations, postponements and seemingly endless rescheduling meant that, once again, it would be Supergrass, who I would have the honour of seeing when I first set foot in front of a large concert stage.
I’m certainly not complaining. Always my favourite band of the Britpop era by a mile, I was rather upset when Supergrass called it a day back in 2010 and was utterly delighted when they announced they would be reforming. It therefore felt suitably poignant to be seeing them, once again, for my re-introduction to live music.
It was also rather poignant to be going to an iconic concert venue that has been out of use for far longer than the start of lockdown. Thanks to the work of the Crystal Palace Trust the natural ampi-theatre of the historic Crystal Palace Bowl has bounced back to life after laying dormant for more than ten years. Branded as part of the ‘South Facing’ series, tonight’s Supergrass concert is one of several major gigs at the park throughout August.
Although the band had jiggled around the order, the setlist wasn’t massively different to a year and a half ago. ‘Seen The Light’, Bad Blood’ and ‘Lose It’ were dropped from the setlist in favour of two extra songs from second album In It for The Money: ‘Tonight’ and ‘Hollow Little Reign’. All the obvious hit singles from the band’s original seventeen-year tenure were there, of course, along with a hefty chunk of their first two albums: I Should Co-Co and In It For The Money, the hyperactive punked-up teen angst of the former blending with the more mellow, melodic musical complexity of the latter.
The band are on fine form and the crowd are absolutely loving it. One thing that was very apparent to me is that when I saw them at Alexandra Palace back in March 2020 there was a constant sea of mobile phones held aloft as fans strove to document as much of the gig as possible. Tonight, however, it’s hard to pick out more than a tiny handful of mobile phones screens glimmering in the crowd. Admittedly, this is not a long-awaited reunion tour so people may not feel the same compunction to film and snap every part of it but, on the other hand, maybe it’s a case of us all spending far, far too long staring at screens over the past eighteen months and tonight, instead, was all about living for the moment.
Welcome back Supergrass and welcome back into my life…concerts.
I’d Like to Know Mansize Rooster Diamond Hoo Ha Man Mary Moving She’s So Loose Sitting Up Straight In It for the Money Tonight Hollow Little Reign Going Out Late in the Day Richard III Intermission (Coffee in the pot) St. Petersburg Grace Alright Sun Hits the Sky Lenny Pumping on Your Stereo Encore: Caught by the Fuzz Strange Ones
I’m delighted to report sales of my book, which was published in the UK by Sonicbond on 30th July, have been brisk.
Amazon and other retailers will be dispatching to customers in the US from 24th September. When writing the book I did take care to ensure the book would be relevant to US readers – putting Billboard chart positions in as well as UK ones, for example, as well as explaining some peculiarly English turns of phrase like w*nk and Sweet FA…
My book also picked up a very nice review from Jason Ritchie at Get Ready To Rock recently:
“An excellent overview of The Sweet, appraising the band’s 70s output and tracking the band’s ups and downs during that decade. Well researched and referenced too, with the final part of the book giving a whistle stop tour of what the band did from 1980 to the present day.”
Over on Amazon it’s been picking up some very encouraging customer reviews, too:
“The Sweet In The 1970s is an excellent and concise book about rock’s most underrated band who transformed from ‘bubblegum’ to ‘glam rock’ to ‘hard rock’ to something a little more progressive throughout the aforementioned decade. It also reminds the reader how Sweet managed to ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory’ on many occasions.”
“Fabulous book. It does what it says on the cover it tells the Sweet story in the 70s. That doesn’t mean that the 60s and 80s are totally ignored.”
“Whether you a big Sweet fan or not this is a really interesting story written and presented very well. I’ve learnt a lot!”
At one point it made it to number three on Amazon’s UK best sellers list for music history and criticism, as well number ten in its popular music books and number fourteen in its rock music books. All beyond my wildest dreams really. When I began writing and researching the book it very much became my lockdown project. Any success in terms of sales was going to be the icing on the cake rather than the main reason for doing it.
However, I’m really pleased it’s selling so well and it’s been a very positive experience working with Sonicbond Publishing who have an excellent range of other music books in their portfolio.
On with the next one!
‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ is available from:
You can order ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ direct from the publishers via the Burning Shed on line shop here