New book coming soon: ‘Slade In The 1970s’ by Darren Johnson out in April 2023

Following my books on The Sweet and Suzi Quatro I’m absolutely delighted to confirm that my third book for Sonicbond’s ‘Decades’ series, Slade In The 1970s, will be published next April.

You can pre-order from Amazon’s website here and it will also be available via the publisher’s online shop at Burning Shed as well as other major retailers in due course.

Slade In The 1970s – synopsis

Slade were one of the biggest British bands of the 1970s. One of the early pioneers of glam rock they enjoyed an incredible run of six number one singles, four top-ten albums and a succession of sell-out tours. However, after a failed attempt at an American breakthrough in the mid-1970s, Slade returned to Britain and faced dwindling record sales, smaller concert halls and a music press that had lost interest in them. By the end of the decade, they were playing residencies in cabaret clubs and recorded a cover of a children’s novelty song. But then came a last-minute invitation to play the 1980 Reading Festival, setting into motion one of the most remarkable comebacks in rock history.

As we come to the fiftieth anniversary of Slade’s 1973 annus mirabilis that saw ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’, ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’ and ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ all enter the UK charts at number one, this book celebrates the music of Slade. From the band’s beginnings in the mid-1960s through each year of the decade that gave them their biggest successes, every album and single is examined, as well as their raucous live shows and colourful media profile.

About the Author

A former politician, Darren Johnson spent many years writing about current affairs but after stepping away from politics he was able to devote time to his first love: music. His first book, The Sweet In The 1970s, was published by Sonicbond in 2021, followed by Suzi Quatro In The 1970s in 2022. Now he turns his attention to the first band he truly fell in love with: Slade. A keen follower of both rock and folk, he maintains a popular music blog Darren’s Music Blog and has reviewed albums and gigs for a variety of publications. He lives in Hastings, East Sussex

Related posts:

The Sweet In The 1970s

Suzi Quatro In The 1970s

‘Birds’ – the new single from UK Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore, released 2 December

“Storytelling is at the heart of Duffy’s songwriting but she finds a unique angle or topic on each track that brings a fresh perspective to a common and relatable issue.” – Maverick magazine on the debut Little Lore EP

‘Birds’ is the latest single from Little Lore, the alter-ego of London-based Americana singer-storyteller Tricia Duffy, released on 2 December 2022.

With the lush instrumentation from Oli Deakin beautifully complementing Little Lore’s heartfelt vocals, ‘Birds’ came out of a visit to the Hampshire countryside, close to where Tricia grew up. With the chorus of birdsong that rang out around her providing a calming backdrop as she wrestled with some challenging personal news, all the while gently strumming her guitar with just an ageing and rather deaf cat for company, the melody took shape and the creatures around her began to inspire the lyrics.

Little Lore: “I wrote ‘Birds’ at a friend’s home in Hampshire.  They live near the Hamble river, very close to where I grew up just outside Portsmouth. I had been devastated by a terrible event that had happened to someone close to me a few weeks before, which all sounds a bit cryptic, but without going into details I’ll just say I was craving some time away to be inside my head.  My friends have a gorgeous black Manx cat called Scooter. Poor Scooter is rather old and almost completely deaf, but seemed to enjoy the vibrations created by my guitar. He spent my entire stay close to me, purring a lot of the time at full volume. The birds in that area are also incredible, doves, blackbirds, thrushes, woodpeckers were enveloping me in warm calming song.”

“So that’s the scene – which you can hear described in the first verse. Along with that, I was trying to challenge myself to try different approaches to song-writing. My usual process is to start with lyrics, then build harmonics and melody comes last. This time I was playing guitar – building a palate which included some gorgeous suspended chords and I started singing what I could see and what I was feeling over the top. It was one of those rare moments that songwriters become quite addicted to, when you almost lose awareness of time and motion and you’re just in the song.  What seems like ten minutes later (but in reality is a lot longer) you have a song and it feels like it wrote itself.  So ‘Birds’ was created.”

Released in all the main digital formats on 2 December, available from https://littlelore.uk or https://littlelore.bandcamp.com 

About Little Lore:

Little Lore is a London based, Indie-Americana singer-storyteller whose songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging. You’ll want to listen twice. When you combine British wit and wordplay with cherished Americana roots, musical magic starts to happen. Based in Chiswick, west London and originally hailing from Portsmouth, Tricia Duffy started her singing career in a live covers band performing popular rock classics. Over time, however, a strong desire emerged to begin writing and performing her own material and she formed an acoustic Americana duo with fellow musician, Al Bird. Duffy & Bird released a well-received album ‘5 Lines’ in 2017 and a follow-up EP ‘Spirit Level’ in 2019. While Al subsequently decided to take a back seat from recording and performing, Tricia was keen to take things a step further. Little Lore was born. Her debut solo EP, Little Lore, was released in 2021 to glowing reviews. A follow-up single, ‘Shallow’, was released in April 2022 to similar acclaim, followed by ‘Brown Liquor John’ in October 2022. In her songs, Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds.

Production and instrumentation: Oli Deakin.

Drums: Morgan Karabel

Artwork by: Afiya Paice, a West London-based artist and designer.

Website: https://littlelore.uk

Satisfy / So You Say – Double A-sided debut from The Resolve

The Resolve are a five-piece rock band from Kent who channel the big choruses, catchy melodies and high energy delivery from bands like Oasis, Kasabian and The Who with those stadium-sized guitar riffs instantly reminiscent of the mighty Foo Fighters.

Formed in 2019 as the covers band, Paisley Park, they cut their teeth on the local music scene around London and Kent and soon gained a faithful following, rapidly progressing to regular slots at local festivals – including headlining the Danson Park Firework Spectacular for an audience of 35,000. Now, with a new name and a new determination to create high-quality original music, The Resolve released their debut double A-sided single. ‘Satisfy’ / ‘So You Say’ on 25th November.

The Resolve: “After a number of years working the circuit as a covers band, we cannot wait to release our own music. We are so excited to finally get the songs out there, and to see where this new path will take us. The first track of our debut double A-side is ‘Satisfy,’ which is a song that jumps straight in to capture that feel of a great classic rock tune. For the second track, ‘So You Say’, we wanted a song that grabbed your attention from the start and then took you on a journey, from its mellow acoustic feel early on into that huge great chorus!”

“The inspiration for our music has come from all over, and from knowing exactly what a crowd wants through all our past work as a go-to covers band. Our mission is to channel the high energy from bands like The Who and The Foo Fighters with the crowd-pleasing, catchy choruses that define all of those great songs from The Beatles, The Jam and Oasis.”

The Resolve are:

James Cox – Drums

Simon Hawkins – Lead Guitar

Matt Kemp – Rhythm Guitar

Chris Regan  – Bass

Tom Wiltshire – Vocals

Both tracks were recorded at The Joplin House studio by producer Dan Lucas who says of The Resolve: “After nearly twenty years in the production chair, it’s amazing how many bands I’ve encountered who can play but can’t really write a ‘song’. I had my faith restored this weekend. So many artists are out there with cobbled-together tunes, throwaway lyrics or tracks that are devoid of any substance. There’s a reason the ‘90s was such a successful decade for guitar music!”

Work is currently underway on The Resolve’s debut album, scheduled for release in 2023. The album promises everything from hard hitting rock tracks to melodic catchy belters.

‘Satisfy’ / ‘So You Say’  – released 25th November on all the main digital platforms.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TheResolveMusic/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheResolveMusic

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TheResolveMusic

Latest folk reviews: Siobhan Miller, Arthur Coates, Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe & Daniel Quayle, Pauline Vallance and The Magpies

Siobhan Miller – Bloom

Back in 2020 I reviewed Siobhan Miller’s fourth solo album, All Is Not Forgotten, praising the pure voice that is “just made for Scottish folk”. Now Miller is back with a fifth album, Bloom, that reunites the all-star line-up from her celebrated second album, Strata, which was released back in 2017.

Siobhan Miller: “I wanted to capture the energy of performing with these incredible musicians – the energy that happens when you’re in a room together making music and feeding off each other.”

Kris Drever, Eddie Reader, Louis Abbot and Ian Carr are all back, along with other leading musicians, to deliver an album that celebrates traditional songs and much-loved classics of the Scottish folk scene.

Joining ‘I’m A Rover’ which was released as a single back in the summer are the likes of ‘Queen of Argyle’, Cold Blows The Night’ and ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, serving to make this a truly joyful album from one of Scotland’s most talented folk singers.

Released 16 September 2022 https://www.siobhanmiller.com/

Arthur Coates – Trapdoor To Hell

Whenever I’ve been at folk festivals I’ve always found acts like Le Vent du Nord from the Québécois folk scene to be an exhilarating ride. 20-year-old Arthur Coates takes some of that energy, blends that with the influences of the Scottish folk scene he’s been steeped in since early childhood, throws in a Lancashire folk song, some Irish tunes and a bit of blues and comes up with the rather splendid Trapdoor To Hell, his second  album.

Arthur Coates: “The trapdoor to hell is a funny expression my dad uses for the plank of wood we use in Quebec music for the feet-tapping, and it felt like a fitting name that matches the tone of the album.”

Joining Coates on fiddle, vocals, foot-tapping, guitar, bass, synthesiser and percussion is a talented line-up of supporting musicians, including his musical collaborator, Kerran Cottterell and Québécois folk luminaries, Eric Beaudry and Pierre-Luc Dupuis. An album just ramp-packed full of energy and verve.

Released 6 October 2022 https://www.arthurcoates.com/

Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe & Daniel Quayle – The Coast Road

No sooner had I written that I hadn’t heard much from the Manx folk scene before (while reviewing the recent album from Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair) when another one turned up in the post. The Coast Road is the debut album from Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe & Daniel Quayle. Now both based in Douglas, the island’s capital, fiddle-player Davidson-Blythe is originally from Boston while multi-instrumentalist Quayle (bouzouki, guitar, piano, samples, synths) is Manx born and bred. The album’s nine instrumental tracks bring together a mixture of contemporary and traditional tunes, some originating from the Isle of Man itself while others come from Ireland, Scotland and Estonia.

The duo are hugely talented, the quality of the playing is simply exhilarating and the choice of tunes inspired. This is an instrumental album well worth checking out.

Released 30 September 2022 https://elizabethdavidsonblythe.com/

Pauline Vallance – The World’s A Gift

Pauline Vallance is a singer-songwriter and clarsach harp player from Ayrshire in Scotland and The World’s A Gift is her fourth album. A lovely album with gentle yet captivating story-telling, it explores the theme of legacy.

Explaining in the sleeve-notes, Vallance writes: “The idea came after losing my parents within a year of each other and going through all the material ‘stuff’ left behind. I quickly came to the realisation that the important legacy people leave is that of ideas, of principles, of arts and culture and not of material possessions.”  

Ten of the eleven tracks are self-composed, including the title track which gives a flavour, both of the album and of Vallance’s gorgeous harp-playing.

Joining her on the album are James Grant, who also produces, (guitar, harmony vocals); Maya Burman-Roy (cello); Signy Jakobsdottir (percussion); and Ursula Grant and Niahmh McElhill (harmony vocals).

Released 30 September 2022 https://www.paulinevallance.co.uk

The Magpies – Undertow

The Magpies are a folk trio comprising Bella Gaffney (guitar, banjo, double bass, vocals); Holly Brandon (fiddle, vocals); and new addition, Kate Griffin (banjo, vocals). The Magpies burst on to the folk scene with their debut, Tidings, back in 2020. They now follow that up with Undertow.

Holly Brandon: “Undertow was written following two years of lockdowns at a difficult moment in the arts. It features themes of reflection and the passing of time, but with a forward-looking optimism that we hope resonates with listeners.”

As well as a handful of traditional songs that are elegantly arranged by the trio, along with the self-penned material that makes up the bulk of the album, there is also a surprise cover of the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’.

Somewhat quieter and more contemplative than the other albums reviewed here, it is no less enjoyable for that. The Magpies deliver a beautifully poignant album which expertly soaks up traditional influences from both sides of the Atlantic .

Released 14 October 2022 https://www.themagpiesmusic.com/

‘Ain’t Done Nothing Wrong’ – new single from Burnt Out Wreck ahead of December album

In advance of their forthcoming album, Burnt Out Wreck have released a second single. ‘Ain’t Done Nothing Wrong’ follows an earlier single, ‘Stand And Fight’, which will also be the title track of the new album when it is released on 2nd December.

Formed by Gary Moat, drummer and chief songwriter of 1980s rock/metal band Heavy Pettin’, Burnt Out Wreck released their debut album, Swallow, back in 2017. That was followed by This Is Hell in 2019. Their brand of swaggering, old-school, rock and roll boogie immediately found a receptive audience and many comparisons to Bon Scott-era AC-DC have been made in the five years that followed. That basic template remains unchanged but Moat is especially proud of this latest album.

Gary Moat: “These are eleven of the best songs I’ve written. This really was the ‘difficult third album’, inspired by the worst one and a half years in my life, but the end result was worth the struggle, and this is something I’m really proud of. I invite you all to ‘Stand And Fight’.”

Burnt Out Wreck are:

Gary Moat: lead vocals and rhythm guitar
Alex Carmichael: bass guitar and backing vocals
Andy McLaughlan: lead guitar and backing vocals
Richard Upson: lead guitar and backing vocals.
Paul Gray: drums

Stand And Fight is released on 2nd December.

https://www.burntoutwreck.com/

Related posts:

This Is Hell – Album Review

Interview with Gary Moat

Heavy Pettin Reissues

Anvil / Burnt Out Wreck / VOiD at The Underworld, Camden 2018

Burnt Out Wreck at Classic Rock Weekender 2018

Burnt Out Wreck at Classic Rock All Dayer 2018

Live review: Diamond Head and Saxon, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 13/11/22

Back in the day Diamond Head seemed to be one of those bands I constantly read about but somehow passed me by, neither seeing the live nor owning one of their albums. I’ve made up for it in recent years and this is now the third time I’ve seen them. Hugely influential as early pioneers of the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) era and later lauded by bands on the US thrash scene, like Metallica, they never really quite got the recognition they deserved to make it into the big league. But after being absent for the latter part of the 1980s and much of the 1990s the band reformed in the early 2000s and have been solidly active ever since.

Lead guitarist, Brian Tatler, has been the one constant presence in every line-up of the band from the start but the latter-day Diamond Head are a really strong unit and seem to have carved out a niche for themselves as a go-to support act. I saw them at this same venue three years ago supporting Uriah Heep and it’s great to see them, once again, now supporting Saxon. While there may be something of an ‘always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride’ about that, it is nevertheless fantastic to see them perform on a big stage in decent-sized venues like De la Warr. The band’s combination of hard riffing and bona fide heavy metal classics assure them a hugely appreciative audience tonight. Definitely,  a support band you don’t want to miss.

While some veteran rock acts might be content to ease off on the writing and recording of new material and focus primarily on a greatest hits set for their live shows, Saxon continue to deliver some excellent albums and this tour is very much about promoting the latest, Carpe Diem, released earlier this year. Indeed, the name of this tour (‘Seize The Day’) comes from a line in the album’s title track. There’s no shortage of material from the new album on this tour and the first part of the set is heavily dominated by tracks from Carpe Diem. Having bought the album when it first came out back in February, I’ve had a good few months to familiarise myself with it. So as the band blast out tracks like the aforementioned ‘Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)’, ‘Age Of Steam’ and ‘Dambusters’, they sound more like welcome old friends than strangely unfamiliar new material. It helps, of course, that Saxon have always had that knack of turning out memorable songs with great riffs.

There’s room, of course, for plenty of the old classics, too.  ‘And The Bands Played On’, ‘Wheels Of Steel’, ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’, ‘Denim And Leather’ and ‘Princess of the Night’ all get a welcome airing before the end of the evening. Unforgettable anthems of heavy metal all of them, they have ensured Saxon have remained up there as my personal favourite to come out of the NWOBHM scene.

Biff Byford is in fine voice and remains a compelling frontman, the band power through the songs with incredible energy as those trademark heavy riffs are unleashed and the songs, whether new or old, make for a hugely memorable gig. Thank you, Saxon!

https://www.saxon747.com/

Setlist:

Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)

Sacrifice

Age of Steam

I’ve Got to Rock (To Stay Alive)

Dambusters

The Thin Red Line

Living on the Limit

Dallas 1 PM

Heavy Metal Thunder

Metalhead

The Eagle Has Landed

Black Is the Night

And the Bands Played On

Wheels of Steel

The Pilgrimage

Strong Arm of the Law / Solid Ball of Rock

747 (Strangers in the Night)

Denim and Leather

Princess of the Night

Related reviews:

Diamond Head and Uriah Heep at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 6/12/19

Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 5/11/16

Saxon – album review: Battering Ram

‘Denim & Leather: The Rise And Fall Of The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ by Michael Hann

Singer-songwriter: album review – Greg Harper ‘Vignettes’

Based in Worthing on the West Sussex coast, Greg Harper is a singer-songwriter whose most recent album, Vignettes, came out in September.

While the songs were mainly written during lockdown they were initially recorded as ‘bare bones’ demos comprising just Harper’s vocals and acoustic guitar. However, Harper then worked with producer and multi-instrumentalist, Paul Linale to flesh them out more fully into an album, with the latter contributing piano, guitars, bass drums and percussion.

Harper’s songwriting has long explored a variety of ecological themes, from fracking to the decline of the bee population to the loss of ancient Woodland, and this latest album is no exception.

Although it is ostensibly a song that looks back to the 1953 North Sea Floods, the impending threat of devastating climate change in the modern age is really the overarching theme. Climate Change is the key theme of ‘Gathering Storm’ on reference, Taking The Time, meanwhile, is an intimate celebration of the sounds of the natural world.

Another track, ‘The Old Boneyard’, is a tribute to the occupants of Worthing’s Broadwater Cemetery, both those who were laid to rest there as well as the flora and fauna who have made it their home. “Once lovingly maintained by James Stoner, its sexton for 27 years. Now a haven for nature, contemplation, memories and imagination,” notes Harper.

That element of local history and sense of place is another thread running through the album, too. ‘Twenty Miles From Shore’, is a song about his own uncle’s experiences aboard the HMS Wren which was sunk off the coast of Aldeburgh in Suffolk during World War Two; whereas ‘The Fire Inside’ is a celebration of the joys of heritage stream railways.

Vignettes is a thoughtful, thought-provoking album that’s been lovingly put together by Greg Harper and his musical collaborator, Paul Linale.

Released: 16th September 2022 https://gregharpermusic.com/

Latest folk reviews: Barry Nisbet, Katie Grace Harris, Alastair Savage, FARA and Jackie Oates

Barry Nisbet – The Springbank Voyage

Springbank Voyage, the new album from Shetland folk musician Barry Nisbet tells the story of the Springbank and the ship’s perilous voyage around Cape Horn as it made its way from Europe to Mexico. The ship’s crew included several Shetlanders and Orcadians.

Nisbet: “The story of the Springbank has fascinated me since I first heard it from storyteller Lawrence Tulloch in Shetland as a child; my retelling for this album is inspired by many of my own experiences sailing square rig ships in the Pacific between 2000-2008.”

A skilled guitarist and fiddler, Nisbet’s musicianship and gift for storytelling are both on display here. The album features a strong cast of supporting musicians as well as some spoken interludes that provide some fascinating historical insights into the dramatic and often traumatic story of the Springbank.

Released: 12 August 2022 https://barrynisbet.com/home

Katie Grace Harris – The Toledo Sessions

Described herself on her website as a “multi-tasking,  foot tapping, piano and accordion playing singer and story-weaver”, the debut album from Katie Grace Harris was released in August. The Toledo Sessions shows huge promise, both in terms of Harris as musician and songwriter but also in her ability to pull in some of the big names among folk royalty. ’ The album includes two songs developed in collaboration with Reg Meuross as well as featuring musical contributions from Phil Beer, Odette Michell and Lukas Drinkwater.

Harris traces her folk roots to singing along with her dad on family car journeys as a child. The car in question was a Triumph Toledo, hence the title of her debut album. Harris: “We would sing songs from Joni Mitchell, The Spinners, Ralph McTell and James Taylor.”

Clearly, those car journey left their mark and listening to her album we witness both some fine original songwriting as well as some entertaining but gently enigmatic arrangements of more familiar traditional songs, too.

Released: 27 August 2022 https://www.katiegraceharris.com/

Alastair Savage – Tunes From The River

Alastair Savage has established an impressive CV across the worlds of classical, popular and folk music. A member of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra since 1997, he has also worked with many leading artists including Belle and Sebastian, Karen Matheson, Justin Currie, Ricky Ross and legendary Scottish band The Whistlebinkies. As a renowned fiddler and solo artist, he’s put out numerous albums. Tunes From The River, released in August 2022, is his sixth album, to date.

It features music composed by Savage over the past decade, presented in a mixture of studio and live and studio recordings. This collection of tunes is the final piece of a planned trilogy of albums following the unaccompanied fiddle album Alone With History (2016) and When Barley Reaches Shore (2018) which features long-term collaborators Euan Drysdale (piano and guitar) and Iain Crawford (double bass).

This final release in the trilogy again features Crawford and Drysdale alongside an impressive line-up of musicians on the Scottish folk scene. These include flautist Eddie McGuire, piper Rab Wallace, woodwind virtuoso Ewan Robertson and fiddler Pete Clark, alongside two celebrated Finish musicians, Vilma Timonen on kantele and Timo Alakotila on piano.

The title track, ‘Tunes From The River’, is dedicated to those lost in the Clutha Bar helicopter disaster in Glasgow in 2013; whilst ‘The Rocks Of Kilchoman’ is a tribute to those who lost their lives in the HMS Otranto shipping disaster off the coast of Islay towards the end of the First World War.

Other tunes on the album have been inspired by the Scottish islands of Skye, Harris and Lewis as well as Savage’s Ayrshire homeland. If you like your fiddle playing haunting, evocative and exceptionally beautiful then do check out the tunes on this album.

Released: 11 August 2022 https://www.alastairsavage.co.uk/

FARA – Energy Islands

Now onto their third album, FARA are the Orkney folk musicians, Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price who each play fiddle, along with newer member, Rory Matheson, on piano.

As someone who is passionate about both Scottish folk and tackling the climate crisis there’s lots to love about this album which has been inspired by Orkney’s embrace of renewable energy. 100 per cent of the islands’ electricity needs are now regularly met through local renewable sources (predominantly wind power but also solar and heat pumps) and it has meant that Orkney now produces more energy than the National Grid can actually take. Catriona Price: “Having been born and raised among the breath-taking natural beauty of Orkney, we wanted to highlight its role in raising awareness and curbing the climate crisis.”

Featuring a mix of songs and tunes, the result is a rather stunning album with a very important message at its heart. There have been quite a few folk albums with an ecological message, of course, but this is something innovative and unique. Fantastic melodies, rich harmonies, great storytelling and wonderful interactions between the four talented musician, Energy Islands is well worth a listen.

Released: 26 August 2022 https://faramusic.co.uk/

Jackie Oates – Gracious Wings

Kicking off a career in folk back in 2006, Jackie Oates has been an industrious presence on the traditional music scene ever since, this latest release being her eighth studio album. With a guest artist list that includes John Spiers, Mike Cosgave, John Parker, Megan Henwood and Jon Wilks who each complement Oates’ pure, delicate vocals and beautifully warm viola-playing, Gracious Wings is her first solo album in four years.

Oates describes the eleven-piece album as a mixture of “traditional English folk songs, self-penned material and the odd unexpected cover version.” Of the latter, the album includes a cover of ‘Time Time Time’ by Tom Waits as well as a rendition of the song ‘On and On’ by British indie-rockers, The Longpigs.

Traditional material includes songs like ‘The Ship In Distress’ which Oates discovered while researching for material for a project with Kathyrn Roberts, which celebrated the work of Cecil Sharp, as well as a rendition of the Basque folk song, ‘Iruten Ari Nuzu’ (I Am Making Wool)’. Self-penned material includes ‘Robin Tells Of Winter’, written during lockdown in the winter of 2021. Oates: We were all longing for signs of summer and an end to the perpetual ‘frozen in time’ feeling.

From a consummate musician, engaging singer and thoughtful songwriter and interpreter of others’ material, Gracious Wings is a welcome addition to Jackie Oates’ illustrious catalogue.

Released: 2 September 2022 https://www.jackieoates.co.uk/

Synth-rock: album review – The Cathodes ‘So Clear’

The Cathodes are a Greater Manchester-based synth-rock band and their debut album, So Clear, came out this summer. The band describe themselves as “influenced by the melodies and sounds from the ‘80s with a small dash of the ‘60s thrown in.”

The three-piece are Dave Forward (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Paul Cargill (bass, backing vocals) and Barbara Verrall (keyboards, backing vocals). Although relatively new all three are experienced musicians with an extensive track record playing in local bands. Classically-trained, Barbara Verrall teamed up with Dave Forward after meeting at a local church. The duo then came across Paul Cargill at an open mic night in the Derbyshire village of Charlesworth on the outskirts of Greater Manchester. The Cathodes was born, the trio finally coming up with the name just two days before the UK went into lockdown back in 2020.

Although I must confess to often finding a lot of the music of the ‘80s a little synthetic and over-produced and it wasn’t particularly my thing at the time (even though it’s the backdrop to my youth!), So Clear is a tasteful and intelligent album with great melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Songs like ‘North Of England’ (written by Forward’s then musical collaborator, Jon Dean, and originally recorded by the duo back in the 1980s) perfectly captures a mood and immediately takes me back to my own teenage years in Preston around that time.

‘In From The Cold’, meanwhile, is the band’s latest single and, like the majority of tracks on the album, is written by Forward. Written back in 1990 and inspired by Forward’s many late-night freezing walks as a student, it was finally recorded in 2021 and features some superb lead guitar from guest guitarist, Dave Townson, but also includes some classic analogue sounds from the 1980s giving the track a real ‘80s feel.

The album was voted number one in the Chart Of Gold over nine consecutive weeks and for any lovers of ‘80s synth-rock is well worth seeking out.

Released: July 2022 by Creative Dreams & Music Network

https://www.thecathodes.com/

Latest folk reviews: Fritillaries, Dan Whitehouse, Jamestown Brothers, Bush Gothic and Owen Moore

Fritillaries – Fritillaries

Fritillaries are Hannah Pawson and Gabriel Wynne, a Bristol-based folk and Americana duo who have been playing together since childhood. They’ve been gigging extensively around both the UK and Australia over the past five years and released their eponymously-titled debut album back in July.

It’s a stunning debut that’s been picking up plenty of favourable reviews. Pawson’s crystal clear vocals have an English folk sensibility while the instrumentation (mainly acoustic guitars, banjo and mandolin) gives their music a strong Americana feel; and their song-writing has echoes of that golden era of American singer-songwriters, with nods towards Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

It’s a captivating package and the music and the lyrical themes (“about people missed, places found, and things unearthed from the spaces the light doesn’t reach,” say the duo) lead us through an equally captivating range of moods and emotions.

Released: 15 July 2022 https://fritillaries.uk/

Voices From The Cones: Songs inspired by stories from the glassworks in Stourbridge

Voices From the Cones is a fascinating double disc album that arose out of a collaboration between singer-songwriter, Dan Whitehouse, and the Ruskin Mill Trust. With support from the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund it’s a project celebrating the rich 400-year history of the glass-making industry in Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Musically, the album is as varied as the vast array of artefacts on display in the museum’s Stourbridge Glass Collection, which features pieces dating back over the past 400 years.

Across the twelve tracks on the first disc we skip between folk, Americana, dance, music hall, sensitive singer-songwriter and shiny pop. Some of these genres appeal to me more than others but there’s some superb musicianship on offer here from a stellar line-up than includes Lukas Drinkwater, Chris Cleverley, John Elliot, Kim Lowings, Gustaf Ljunggren and Nicole Justice.

The second disc, meanwhile, is a narrated oral history featuring fascinating first-hand insights, integrated with music from the project – including a reprise of the beautiful ‘Voices From The Cones’, the opening track on the first disc. Wonderful stuff!  

The album will be launched live at a special launch night at The Glassworks Arts Centre, Stourbridge on Friday October 21st . Tickets available here 

Released: 30 September 2022 https://www.dan-whitehouse.com/

The Jamestown Brothers – Just Is

The Jamestown Brothers are a nine-piece band from Somerset. On their website they sum up their approach as playing “original songs influenced by folk, country and blues, with lyrics that mine the rich history and social tapestry of Great Britain and Ireland.”

All the songs on the six-track EP, Just Is, are written by the band’s vocalist/guitarist, Colin Batchelor, and their rowdy, raucous and irreverent brand of indie folk-punk puts me in mind of bands like Ferocious Dog and Hastings’ own Matilda’s Scoundrels. The nine-man line-up encompasses guitars, banjo, piano, bass, drums, fiddle, recorder, trumpet and trombone.

It’s never less than entertaining and I can see them going down brilliantly at festivals but there’s a serious side behind the fun though, with songs about homelessness, togetherness and vicious, old-time, football sectarianism. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for these guys playing live but, meanwhile, do check out their excellent EP.

Released: 12 August 2022 https://thejamestownbrothers.co.uk/

Bush Gothic – Beyond The Pale

The intriguingly-named Bush Gothic are exactly what it says on the tin: a trio of Aussie musicians who delve into the rich tapestry of traditional Australian songs and apply their own unique brand of folk noir. Or, as they put it themselves: “A post-modern, counterculture bush band who like old tales and new ideas.”

Bush Gothic are Jenny M. Thomas (vocals, fiddle), Dan Witton (bass) and Chris Lewis (drums), the three having previously played together in the band, Circus Oz. Beyond The Pale is the trio’s third album and they’ve built up a solid record for live performance and spectacular collaborations in both Britain and Australia.

Delving into old transportation ballads; that Aussie favourite, ‘The Pub With No Beer’; along with tales recounting homesickness, heartache and rural agricultural life – including a song about the 1891 sheep shearer’s strike (co-written by Witton’s own grandmother) it’s a fascinating insight into Australian settler culture and history that’s beautifully performed by the trio. Dark, brooding, haunting but utterly enthralling, Beyond The Pale brings something unique and genuinely creative to these traditional numbers.

Released: 29 July 2022 https://www.bushgothic.com/

Owen Moore – Blue Sky Songs

The Irish-born, Dorset-based singer-songwriter’s prodigious work-rate shows no sign of abating. His eleventh album of original songs, Blue Sky Songs, came out in July. Here we have ten new songs served up, once again, with Owen Moore’s characteristic brand of folk-infused acoustic Americana, relaxed vocal delivery and instinctive ear for a catchy melody. The Byrds-meets-rockabilly vibe of ‘Fireglo’ is a particular favourite of mine, Moore’s own tribute to the delights of the Rickenbacker.

Blue Sky Songs, along with all of Moore’s self-produced albums are available from his website. A good starting point, however, is the recent compilation album, Sixteen Easy Songs For Voice & Guitar, which features highlights drawn from across each of the ten previous albums and spanning the period 2011-2021.

Released: 29 July 2022 http://www.owenmooremusic.com/