Monthly Archives: September 2019

Folk-rock: DVD review – Merry Hell ‘A Year In The Life of Merry Hell’

Evolving out of an ad-hoc reunion of 90s folk-punk band, the Tansads, Wigan-based folk rockers, Merry Hell, have been making a decisive impact on the UK’s folk and festival scene over the past nine years. With several albums under their belt they now come at us with a DVD. Titled ‘A Year In The Life of Merry Hell’ it’s a documentary that follows the band between February 2018 and February 2019 – and when we say documentary it is very much a carefully-crafted film worthy of the name rather than a video of concert footage with a few dressing room interviews tacked on to the end.

Made by the band themselves and produced, directed, filmed and edited by Merry Hell fiddle player, Neil McCartney, it’s a fascinating insight into this tightly-knit band of close family members and long-term friends.

We see the band on the road – at festivals and backstage at various venues – but we also see individual members at home, in pubs or visiting some of their favourite places. We get to hear about musical influences (punk, Susan Vega, Nick Drake and hymn melodies…) but we also get to hear about literary influences, too. Orwell looms large, and not just for Wigan Pier, either.

Engaging, funny, moving, and highly personal, as band documentaries go ‘A Year In The Life of Merry Hell’ stands head and shoulders above many films about far, far more famous musicians. In fact, I’d go so far as saying that even if you’d never heard of Merry Hell and you had zero interest in folk rock, this documentary would still be compulsive viewing for the warm and very human portrayal of its subject matter.

Released: September 2019 

http://www.merryhell.co.uk/

documentary-cover

Related reviews:

Album review: Merry Hell ‘Anthems To The Wind’

EP review: Merry Hell ‘Bury Me Naked’

EP review: Merry Hell ‘Come On England!’

 

 

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News: ‘Say It All The Time’ – East Sussex duo Milton Hide release fund-raising single to raise awareness of male suicide

Released: 10th October 2019 (World Mental Health Day) in digital formats

Prompted by a bleak mood that came over him during a walk on the South Downs one day and the subsequent death of a musician friend who had tragically taken his own life, East Sussex-based singer-songwriter, Jim Tipler, was inspired to write a song putting all those feelings into words. Recording it with his wife and musical partner, Josie, the duo joined forces with acclaimed producer and musician, John Fowler, and talented local film-maker, Alex Thomas. Proceeds from sales of the single will go to CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably. CALM is leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. They run a confidential advice line seven days a week.

Milton Hyde’s Jim Tipler comments:
“The inspiration for Say It All The Time was in fact a short film called ‘Black Tuesday’ which I made for a competition entry a couple of years ago. It was a three-minute long movie of a walk on the South Downs. I was in a very bleak mood and I just started filming what I saw and then came up with a script. I’ve never felt ‘suicidal’ but on that day, for no apparent reason, my mood was very dark. I don’t usually write songs about feelings. They tend to be more kind of story or situation-based but the lyrics of this song tie in quite closely with the script of the movie and speak of how many of us, particularly men, hide our feelings, when actually the ‘brave’ thing to do is to share them. I came up with the idea for turning the script into a song shortly after the shocking news that a fellow musician and friend that I had only recently got to know had taken his own life. This was only a few months after a member of my extended family had done the same.”

“I’m really hoping the record and video boost awareness of what can only be described as an epidemic of male suicide and will maybe raise some money towards running a helpline that could save a life or make life a little more bearable for those who have lost loved ones this way. CALM seemed like a great fit. Josie, my wife and bandmate, and I have three grown-up sons so we are only too painfully aware of the terrible statistics around male suicide.”

Simon Gunning, CEO of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), said:
“As an organisation that has always worked closely with the music community, we’re delighted that Milton Hide have chosen to support CALM with their new single. Music can be a powerful forum for conversation and expression, so it’s great to see the band sharing such a positive message and using their platform to raise awareness of the issue of suicide and of the services that are available to anyone who may be going through a tough time.”

Reflecting on the process of recording the song and filming the accompanying video, Jim, comments:
“John Fowler’s treatment of the song is incredible. He is such an amazing musician and producer. He discussed what he wanted to do with it in terms of giving it an epic sound whilst retaining the dreamy ethereal quality of Josie’s voice. He did most of the instrumentation, with me doing my acoustic guitar thing and backing vocals. those people that have heard Milton Hide before might be a little surprised but we are so excited by what he’s achieved. Independently of that, a talented film-maker friend of ours, Alex Thomas, said he really wanted to do a video of it. We thought it churlish to refuse both of these generous offers and thought that we could repay that generosity by helping a charity. We roped in loads of mates to help depict a party scene where the host is the centre of attention but feels isolated. A brilliant way of showing the loneliness we can all experience in a crowd.”

Information about CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) can be found at: https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Milton Hide is Jim Tipler and Josie Tipler

Website: https://www.miltonhide.com

Say It All The Time cover image

Live review: Slade at Concorde 2, Brighton 21/9/19

Put together in the early 90s following the demise of the original band, Dave Hill and Don Powell’s version of Slade has now been around even longer than the twenty-five years that the classic Noddy Holder-fronted line-up managed. The band are at Brighton’s Concorde 2 for a rescheduled date following a cancellation last Christmas when drummer, Don Powell, was hospitalised after his legs gave way and both tendons snapped.

Since their last gig at this venue in 2016 there’s been a few changes. Don Powell is absent tonight. He’s making a good recovery, Dave Hill tells us, but is still under doctor’s orders not to resume work behind the drum-kit just yet. Stand-in drummer, Alex, does an admirable job filling in. The more lasting change, however, is that former lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Mal McNulty, has gone – to be replaced by keyboard player/vocalist, Russell Keefe. This has had a significant impact on the band’s sound and set-list.

On the plus-side it means that several of the hit singles that were built around Jim Lea’s piano-playing can be performed in a way that’s a far closer approximation to the original recordings. The likes of ‘Look Wot You Dun’, My Friend Stan’, ‘Everyday’ and ‘My Oh My’ do sound far, far better on stage with keyboards. On the minus side Keefe is really not a very appealing singer at all. Noddy Holder had a famously gravelly vocal delivery but there was a warmth to Holder’s voice and there was a fantastic range. Keefe’s voice is gravelly alright but has none of the latter and very little of the former.

The good news, however, is that Keefe only performs lead vocals for around half the set. Bass-player, John Berry, whose vocals began taking on a more prominent role in Slade’s stage-set during the latter period of McNulty’s years, takes lead vocals on many of the slower numbers. Keefe, meanwhile, is left to murder the out and out rockers, singing on the likes of ‘Gudbuy ‘T Jane’, ‘Bangin’ Man’ and ‘Get Down and Get With It’. My advice to Dave Hill is this: get John Berry doing vocals on everything. He’s got a great voice, he’s been a loyal member of the band for a good number of years now and while he never pretends to sound like Noddy Holder he’s got an authentic delivery and a passion to his vocals that suits Slade’s style.

Dave Hill is, of course, Dave Hill. Eccentrically-dressed as ever: a diminutive figure bouncing all over the stage, delivering the familiar solos and holding the whole thing together. The crowd respond accordingly. Both he and they genuinely look to be having a really great time. I am delighted he’s still out on the road and still giving his all to Slade. Hopefully, both Dave Hill and a returning Don Powell have a few more years of Slade left in them yet. I do just hope that they get to rethink the situation with the vocals somewhat.

https://www.slade.uk.com/

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Related posts:

Jim Lea For One Night Only – At The Robin
Interview with Jim Lea
Slade at Donnington 1981
Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the greatest Christmas record ever made
Slade at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 2015
Giants of Rock, Minehead 26-29 January 2018

Live review: Justin Hayward at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 18/9/19

Strolling along the seafront earlier this summer I spot a poster advertising a Moody Blues tribute band at Hastings’ White Rock Theatre and a few paces along I spot another poster advertising Justin Hayward doing a solo gig at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion. Hmm a difficult one – £22.50 for a tribute or £39.50 for the lead singer of the real thing. Unsurprisingly, I forked out the extra seventeen quid and plumped for the latter.

It’s a stripped-down but not quite acoustic set from My Hayward tonight. With the man himself on vocals and guitar he’s accompanied by young guitar virtuoso, Mike Dawes, keyboard player, Julie Raggins, and flautist, Karmen Gould. Hayward’s voice is a deeper register than the one we know on the classic recordings but it’s still in very, very good shape and still instantly recognisable.

At one point in the proceedings he talks about being haunted by a ghost – the ghost of Justin Hayward, young singer of the Moody Blues between 1967-1973 – as he contends that every media interview he does, after a few pleasantries about what he’s up to these days, immediately moves on to extensive questioning about what exactly was going through his mind in great detail at very precise moments during those heyday years. A cardboard cut-out of the young ‘ghost’ in question is brought on stage to emphasise the point. Though Hayward confesses he struggles to recall much of the period, it doesn’t stop him from giving us a few choice anecdotes. And of course, it doesn’t stop him from delivering some gorgeous versions of many of those classic songs. This ‘All The Way Tour’ promised an extensive look-back at Hayward’s back catalogue and, indeed, delivers.

‘Tuesday Afternoon’, ‘Voices In The Sky’ and, of course, ‘Nights in White Satin’ among many others from the Moody Blues catalogue, ‘Who Are You Now?’ from his recording work with John Lodge, not to mention ‘Forever Autumn’ from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Even in more stripped-back mode without a full electric rock band behind them the songs are still lush and beautiful and highlight what a fearsomely talented song-writer Hayward is.

Coming back on stage for an encore he picks up his red electric for a wondrous rendition of ‘Blue Guitar’. It’s back to the acoustic for ‘The Story In Your Eyes’ and ‘I know You’re Out There Somewhere’ and Hayward and his band-mates leave the stage to rapturous applause.

Set-list:

Who Are You Now?
Dawning Is the Day
Tuesday Afternoon
Voices in the Sky
The Actor
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Haunted
The Western Sky
Forever Autumn
Never Comes the Day
Your Wildest Dreams
Question
Nights in White Satin
Blue Guitar
The Story in Your Eyes
I Know You’re Out There Somewhere

http://www.justinhayward.com/

Hard rock: album review – Big River ‘Redemption’

It’s been a long time coming and they’ve whetted our appetite with a handful of singles along the way but Kent-based hard rock outfit Big River have finally released their debut album.

Meaty guitar, soulful vocals, catchy hooks, great solos and chugging rhythm, not to mention some nice touches of harmonica, Redemption has a pleasingly retro feel to it with echoes of some of the great hard rock albums of the early to mid 70s.

Recorded over a two-year period at Rochester’s Ranscombe Studios in Kent under the guidance of producer Jim Riley, close to thirty songs were written for the album but they’ve narrowed it down to nine (ten if you buy the CD which includes a bonus track). Stand-out tracks include Blues Blood Baby, ‘Hometown Hustler’ and ‘Blackened Rain’ – all previously released as singles – alongside the anthemic ‘You Are My Sun’ and the soulful ‘Who Do You Want Me to Be’.

Big River are: Adam Bartholomew (vocals), Damo Fawsett (guitar), Ant Wellman (bass) and Joe Martin (drums). Guitarist, Damo Fawsett, comments: “To capture the energy and chemistry in every track, we record it live, we’re all in the same room playing the songs & that really does make for something special, no click tracks, no gimmicks and very minimal overdubs. What you hear on the recordings is how we sound live on stage.”

Redemption is available in two formats: 10-track CD which includes a CD-only bonus track and as a 9-track album on all digital platforms.

Fans of genuinely classic-era classic rock will find plenty to like on this album.

Released: 16th August 2019 on Trouserphonic

www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

Big River

Related review:

Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 2016