All posts by Darren Johnson

About Darren Johnson

PR, writing, campaigning and blogging

Shallow: the new single from UK Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore

Released: 29 April 2022

“I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love”

London-based Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore, won many, many plaudits, bags of airplay and glowing reviews for her debut EP as a solo artist last December.

“It is clear every word and every note is well thought out. The pedal steel swoons beneath Duffy’s vocals” – Maverick magazine on the Little Lore EP

The eponymously-titled Little Lore EP followed two well-received releases as part of her previous musical outfit – the duo, Duffy & Bird.

Now, Little Lore, (aka Tricia Duffy) returns with a brand-new single. ‘Shallow’ channels the spirit of Kurt Cobain, throws in some classic Neil Young influences and marries them up with Little Lore’s trademark vocals and thought-provoking lyrics to produce an exhilarating slice of Americana that really swings. 

Little Lore: “I wrote this song during that big news week when it was all coming out about how Boris had attended parties at Downing Street while people were dying alone, and also that Prince Andrew was trying to avoid his day in court with Virginia Giuffre. I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love. So I decided to juxtapose the idea of being let down by people in power with heartbreak and this song is the result. It is probably a bit on the opaque side from a political point of view… but there are a few lines that give us some clues. When I talk about eating lies with dinner, I’m really thinking about the Six O’Clock news when so many people sit down to watch the headlines over their evening meal – we ate Bojo’s lies with our dinner. “There’s no truth, no-one remembers who said what to the man on the yacht” – we know that only a very small subsection of society can afford even a day on a yacht so that was directly inspired by Andrew (formerly known as Prince).”

“Finally, I had been reading a lot of Jeanette Winterson. In Sexing The Cherry she wrote about the impact it has on society when the King is executed. In her story, Charles II is beheaded and she describes how the entire country goes into freefall. Everything they could predict and understand is derailed in one instant – life becomes very unpredictable. The same thing has been happening in this country for a while now, with Brexit, the pandemic, the uncertainty of political power, it is impossible to predict so many things, to see the future clearly. I write: “The King is dead, and with his head futures altered, wounds are salted.” The whole song is designed to make use of a subtext style with the use of triplets where the last line is the realisation comment.”

Once again, Little Lore’s emotive vocals and compelling storytelling is complemented by stunning production and beautiful instrumentation from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Oli Deakin.

Little Lore: “Musically, I had a swing vibe in my head when I came to record the guide track for Oli to work with. He really enjoyed that idea and built on it. I hadn’t realised it at the time, but the song has no minor chords in it at all, so we discussed allowing ourselves to be influenced by Kurt Cobain as he famously rarely used any minor chords in his writing. Couple that grit with my Americana style and a bit of Neil Young influence thrown in, too, and I think we have a driving, swinging song that tells a story of the shallow coward that let everyone down.”

Released on 29 April, the single is available in all the main digital formats via 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. 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.

Release information:

Produced by Oli Deakin (Lowpines), vocals recorded in his home studio in Ealing London. Artwork created by Afiya Paice a West London-based artist and designer.

Website: https://littlelore.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/littleloremusic

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

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

Related post:

Little Lore: the magical new project from UK Americana singer-storyteller Tricia Duffy

Live review: Suzi Quatro at the Royal Albert Hall 20/4/22

Given I’d spent a good chunk of 2021 and the first part of 2022 living and breathing all things Suzi Quatro, the timing of the celebratory Royal Albert Hall concert  couldn’t have been more perfect. Coming, as it did, just weeks after getting the final draft of Suzi Quatro in the 1970s off to the publishers, Suzi’s gig at the Royal Albert Hall was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time.

There is no support tonight, just Suzi and her band in this packed iconic venue, performing two sets equally packed with hits and other highlights from across her fifty-year solo career. Kicking off with ‘The Wild One’, the hits rolled thick and fast: ‘I May Be Too Young’, ‘Daytona Demon’, ‘Tear Me Apart’, Mama’s Boy’, ‘Stumblin’ In’ and ’48 Crash’. The backing band is polished and versatile and sounding great – and if you’ve not encountered Suzi Quatro live for some considerable years or your main memories are of seeing her performing on Top Of The Pops, the band now encompasses a brass section and backing singers.

Photo credit: Gary Cosby

We were promised some additional special guests, too, and I half-wondered whether Chris Norman would be brought on stage to reprise his role in ‘Stumblin’ In’ but it’s the guitarist, Tim, who gets to sing the duet instead. We don’t have to wait too long for the first special guest to appear, however, as Suzi brings up her guitarist son, Richard Tuckey, who worked with her on her two most recent albums, 2019’s No Control and last year’s The Devil In Me. Both albums picked up very favourable reviews at the time and together they perform a song from each. The mother and son dynamic works incredibly well, both in the studio and live on stage, recapturing the energy and raunch of Quatro’s early solo career and adding a contemporary edge. After the classic Chinn-Chapman glam era, this new Quatro/Tuckey partnership is fast becoming my next favourite chapter of Suzi’s long career.

We don’t have to wait long for the next set of special guests to appear, either. Paying tribute to the great bands that were around in the 1970s, Suzi welcomes her next two guests: Sweet’s Andy Scott and Slade’s Don Powell. The three worked together a few years ago, of course, releasing the excellent Quatro, Scott & Powell album back in 2017 and undertaking a successful tour of Australia. This will be the first time a British audience has had the chance to see the three perform together, however. Launching into ‘Slow Down’ from the trio’s album together they give us a gloriously energetic slice of 1950s rock and roll, followed by a blistering cover of Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’. I do hope we get to see more of this glam-era power trio in the not too distant future.

In a complete change of pace, and to prove that she can do soft, emotive balladry as well as any of them, Suzi sits alone at the piano for the final song of the first set, a beautiful rendition of ‘Can I Be Your Girl’ from the Unreleased Emotion album which is dedicated to her mother and father.

The second half sees more vintage hits as well as more songs from the new album. Indeed, the set opens with that wonderful tribute to her Detroit home-town, ‘Motor City Riders’, from The Devil In Me. Although she will always be best known for the thumping, raucous sounds of the Chinn and Chapman early ‘70s hits, Suzi Quatro’s illustrious back catalogue explores a range of styles and genres. Suzi and the band delve into a number of these tonight, including the funk groove of ‘Your Mamma Won’t Like Me’, the heavily new wave -influenced ‘She’s In Love With You’ and the country rock of ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love’, as well as more traditional Quatro fayre in the form of ‘Can The Can’ and ‘Devil Gate Drive’.

By the time we hear these two, of course, it’s a sign that things are starting to draw to a close, sadly. There’s just time for a riotous rendition of Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Rock n Roller’ before a complete change of mood, once again, this time with a cover of the Eagles ‘Desperado’.

Photo credit: Gary Cosby

Almost fifty years since she had her first big hit and almost forty years since I first saw her at Reading Festival when I was seventeen, Suzi Quatro gives a masterclass of a performance tonight. Still rocking, still singing, still pumping out those powerful bass sounds and still the consummate entertainer, Suzi Quatro definitely still has it.

My book Suzi Quatro in the 1970s will be published by Sonicbond Publishing on 28th July 2022. Details here

Set-list:

First half:

The Wild One

I May Be Too Young

Daytona Demon

Tear Me Apart

Mama’s Boy

Stumblin’ In

48 Crash

No Soul/No Control (with Richard Tuckey)

The Devil In Me (with Richard Tuckey)

Slow Down (with Andy Scott and Don Powell)

Rockin’ in the Free World (with Andy Scott and Don Powell)

Can I Be Your Girl?

Second half:

Motor City Riders

I Sold My Soul Today

Rock Hard

She’s in Love With You

Your Mamma Won’t Like Me

Too Big

Glycerine Queen

Can the Can

Devil Gate Drive

If You Can’t Give Me Love

Sweet Little Rock & Roller

Desperado

Related posts:

Interview with Andy Scott

Interview with Don Powell

New book: ‘Suzi Quatro In The 1970s’ by Darren Johnson coming in July 2022

Folk/electronica: album review – Barry Reid ‘Breathing Space’

A noteworthy figure on the Scottish music scene, Barry Reid has made his presence felt both through membership of bands like the Treacherous Orchestra and Croft No. Five, and also as a studio engineer and producer. Breathing Space, however, is Reid’s debut solo album.

Inspired by the rural landscapes of Ross-Shire and Inverness-Shire and recorded at his own Rose Croft Studio in the Highland village of Muir of Ord, Breathing Space fuses folk and electronica to create ten self-composed instrumental tracks.

Alongside Reid, the album boasts an impressive line-up of guest musicians in Lauren MacColl, Hamish Napier, Laura Wilkie, Innes Watson and Ali Hutton.

“For many years I’ve wanted to make an electronic based album of music that not only reflects myself as a musician but also the places I love to be in, where I find calm amongst all the chaos,” Reid writes in the album sleeve-notes.  

He’s not the first to do this, of course. A number of musicians have been tempted to explore that intersect of folk and electronica and in recent years we’ve been seeing more albums treading this same path. However, both for the sheer wealth of instruments involved (which include acoustic guitar, synthesizers, harmonium, drums, samples, keyboards, percussion and vocal drone as well as fiddle, flute and whistles from the assorted guest musicians) and for the incorporation of mood-setting sounds from the natural landscape, Reid has come up with something that’s both evocative and highly inventive.

Released: 2 March 2022

www.spad.org.uk

Folk: album review – Bird In The Belly ‘After The City’

One of the best of the new bands on the contemporary folk scene in recent years, Bird In The Belly, first emerged in 2019 when their debut album scooped up a swathe of glowing reviews. Now, the Brighton-based four-piece are back with their third album, After The City.

It’s a concept album of sorts, inspired by the work of Victorian-era nature writer, Richard Jefferies, whose novel, After London, described an apocalyptic breakdown of civilisation following an unspecified disaster. The first part of the novel explores society’s descent into barbarism while the second concentrates on nature’s reclamation of a wrecked city.

Bird In The Belly, with their typical mixture of meticulous historical research and dark, gothic ‘folk noir’ are on hand to catalogue every twist and turn in magnificent detail. With some of the songs adapted directly from the novel and others taken from various poems, texts and traditional folksong, the four take us on a spectacular journey through plague, war, famine, death, destruction and, eventually, sunshine, growth and rewilding.

As with previous albums the juxtaposition of Ben ‘Jinwoo’ Webb’s raw, earthy vocals and co-vocalist, Laura Ward’s, crystal clear tones, is a classic folk pairing, every bit as compelling as that of, say, Maddie Prior with Tim Hart more than fifty years ago.

Ward and Webb are joined by Tom Pryor (guitar, violin, backing vocals, organ, piano, bass pedal, synth) and Adam Ronchetti (guitar, bass pedal, bodrhan, percussion) with Ward also providing flute.

Another spectacular folk album from Bird In The Belly.

Released: 25 February 2022

https://www.birdinthebelly.com/

Related review:

Album review – Bird In The Belly ‘Neighbours and Sisters’

Folk: album review – Suthering ‘If We Turn Away’

The Devon-based duo previously known as Julu & Heg have reinvented themselves as Suthering and recently released their debut album. Partners in life as well as in music, the duo are Julu Irvine (flute, guitar, whistles and vocals) and Heg Brignall (piano vocals) and their album, If We Turn Away, came out at the end of February.

Suthering is an old regional dialect term meaning the sound of the wind through the trees or wind under a bird’s wing, the band name inspired by the Robert Macfarlane book Landmarks. That celebration of the natural world and closeness to nature is a running theme through the duo’s music.

Another key theme is feminism. The duo are on a mission to champion female characters in folk song, both through their interpretations of traditional material and through their own compositions.

The results are captivating. Crisp harmony vocals, deft musicianship and a natural gift for storytelling all serve to make If We Turn Away a very pleasing album.

Original material on the album explore themes from climate change to dysfunctional relationships to reflections on the pandemic, while the two traditional songs are ‘Sovay’ telling the tale of a triumphant female highwayman and ‘Blood and Gold’, a song popularised by the Silly Sisters.

The album is co-produced by the duo and Lukas Drinkwater with the latter also contributing bass and percussion. A further guest musician, Aaron Catlow, adds violin.

A beautifully-produced album with equally beautiful cover art, If We Turn Away is a fine debut.

Released: 25th February 2022

https://www.suthering.com/

Folk: album review – Peter Knight & John Spiers ‘Both In A Tune’

First brought together for a one-off performance at the FolkEast festival back in 2016, the pairing of Peter Knight and John Spiers proved to be an inspired match. An album and a tour followed and Spiers’ famed melodeon even made its way into the expanded version of Knight’s acclaimed Gigspanner project. The pair are now back with a second duo album, however.

Both In A Tune, taken from a line in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (“I’ faith, i’ faith; and both in a tune, like two gypsies on a horse”) is the follow-up album to 2018’s Well Met.

While no-one would have expected these two to have played it safe, the inventiveness of this latest album is simply stunning. Even though the album starts off with something as widely known as that old favourite in the repertoire of every pub folkie ever since the revival, namely ‘Scarborough Fair’, within a few bars they’ve taken us to places we’ve barely even contemplated.

Peter Knight: “Since recording our first album, John and I have far more experience of playing together. With Both In A Tune I felt it was important to push the boundaries further, without forsaking the integrity of the tune itself. Combining my interest in folk music and free improvisation is not always easy, but I feel the endeavor is absolutely necessary for the world of music. It’s probably more risky but I believe it’s a risk well worth taking.”

The risk-taking has certainly paid off. Like the previous album it’s an entirely instrumental affair, containing a mix of the duo’s interpretations of traditional tunes and their own compositions. But whereas the previous album provided a platform for the pair to let rip on a number of jaunty Morris-inspired tunes, this one is an altogether darker, broodier and more experimental affair. It’s all rather magnificent and acts as an exhilarating showcase for the breath-taking interaction between the world-class fiddle-player and the world-class melodeon player. Wonderful stuff.

Released: 11th February 2022

https://www.peterknight.net/shop/details/both-in-a-tune

Gigspanner at Hastings 2021

Gigspanner at Hastings 2017

Gigspanner Big Band at Hastings 2016

Gigspanner ‘Layers of Ages’ album

Steeleye Span in London 2015

Gigspanner at Hastings 2015

Gigspanner at Whitstable 2014

Folk: album review – Rachel Newton & Lauren MacColl ‘Heal & Harrow’

Witches have been in the news of late, with Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, issuing a formal apology to those who were executed under Scotland’s sixteenth and seventeenth century witchcraft laws.

Sturgeon’s apology was in response to the ‘Witches of Scotland’ campaign which has sought to obtain an official pardon for those, mainly women, who were persecuted as witches. The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft has pulled together a comprehensive database of known prosecutions taking place, between the first execution in 1479 and the final one in 1727, revealing that at least 2,500 people were killed.

It’s not only in the Scottish Parliament where the plight of those persecuted has resonated. Acclaimed Scottish traditional musicians and composers, Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl, have been equally moved by this dark period in Scotland’s history. Collaborating with author and academic, Mairi Kidd, Heal & Harrow is an album of original music, songs and readings drawn from Kidd’s specially-commissioned writing.

Kidd writes in the accompanying booklet: “Heal & Harrow is a dream project for a writer, but a challenging one, too. Choosing ten women from the thousands persecuted for witchcraft was a daunting task, never mind selecting also from the legion of sister who experienced less extreme versions of the same forces.”

The result is a haunting but compelling album that honours the memory of women who fell victim to that lethal combination of misogyny, superstition and paranoia which gave rise to the witch-hunts. Women like Lillias Addie, who is commemorated in the opening track. She was accused of witchcraft after being shopped by a neighbour but died before her trial. Escaping the horror of being burned to death she remains the only person in Scotland that was accused of witchcraft to have a known grave.

Newton’s  harp, stark and slightly other-worldly, and MacColl’s fiddle, brooding and melancholy, are the dominant sounds on the album, providing a beautifully evocative backdrop for Newton’s pure yet fragile-sounding vocal or the duo’s soft, gentle spoken-word interludes.

Sorcery and witchcraft have been a recurring theme in folk for centuries but amidst the melodramatic, cartoon-like portrayals it’s sometimes easy to forget the horrendous human tragedies that resulted from society’s obsession. Heal & Harrow redresses that balance and gives a voice to those so accused. A stunning album.

Released: 4th February 2022

https://www.healandharrow.com/

New single from Graham Bonnet out now ahead of new studio album in May

Former Rainbow, MSG and Alkatrazz lead vocalist, Graham Bonnet, has announced his forthcoming studio album will be released on 13th May. Ahead of the album, a new single and video, ‘Imposter’, is out today (8th March).

On the album, entitled Day Out In Nowhere, Bonnet is joined by his regular bandmates Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass) and Conrado Pesinato (guitar) along with keyboardist Alessandro Bertoni and drummer Shane Gaalaas.

Bonnet: “In a similar way to the first two [GBB] albums, this new record reflects different eras of my career, but with a contemporary twist,” states Bonnet. “I’m also delighted to be playing with original band members Beth-Ami Heavenstone, who has been my constant partner on and off stage since we met in 2012, plus Conrado Pesinato, whose innate musical style elicits some of my best songwriting. They were also both involved in the album production, which helped make the whole process seamless.”

The album also features guest contributions and co-writing credits from the likes of Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore), John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie), Mike Tempesta (Powerman 5000), Roy Z (Halford, Bruce Dickinson).

One particularly significant guest is current Deep Purple keyboard player, Don Airey, who, of course, played alongside Bonnet on the classic 1979 Rainbow album, Down To Earth.

Bonnet: ” I’m very excited to be playing on an album again with Don. Aside from being my long-time friend and former bandmate, he is one of the most incredible musicians I have ever had the pleasure to play with, he’s a ‘real’ keyboard player and a classically trained pianist.

The album follows his three recent critically-acclaimed albums: The Book in 2016 and Meanwhile, Back in the Garage in 2018, plus a  2020 reunion album with Graham Bonnet’s Alcatrazz entitled Born Innocent.

DAY OUT IN NOWHERE
TRACKLISTING

1  Imposter
2  12 Steps to Heaven
3  Brave New World feat Roy Z
4  Uncle John
5  Day Out In Nowhere
6  The Sky is Alive
7  David’s Mom
8  When We’re Asleep feat Mike Tempesta & John Tempesta
9  It’s Just a Frickin’ Song feat Don Airey
10  Jester feat Jeff Loomis, Kyle Hughes
11  Suzy

Released by Frontiers on 13th May 2022

https://www.facebook.com/grahambonnetmusic

Related posts:

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire 2017

Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 2016

Graham Bonnet Band at The Garage, Islington 2014

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow at Birmingham Genting Arena 2017

Deep Purple at the O2, London 2015

Singer-songwriter: album review – Garnett Betts ‘Moonlight Door’

Following his 2020 album Highfield (reviewed here), Canandian singer-songwriter, Garnett Betts, has a new album out. Like its predecessor, this latest offering Moonlight Door is another pleasingly eclectic selection of original songs rounded off with a couple of instrumentals.

“The thread of story is always central to my love of songwriting, and often the twill is spun from my observance of a friend, the village that surrounds us, or a personal event,” says Betts. “Gone Like The Wind is my telling of a friend’s life with his band-mates, who would throw their gear and a generator in the van and head out to the Joshua Tree Forest, from their regular house gig at the Starwood in L.A., to play in the desert for a day or two. Though his recounting of those days was richly detailed, I found that I could only ‘speak’ of it from the point of view of my imagined and mystified listeners in the desert.

With his laid-back country-tinged, bluesy vocal delivery and influences that take in rock, jazz and blues, Betts makes for a compelling storyteller. He’s also a fine guitarist, too. Top-notch musical back-up courtesy of acclaimed jazz pianist Karel Roessingh (piano and keyboards), Rick May (bass) and Sascha Enns (hand percussion) makes for a highly listenable package. Beautiful original cover art is provided by Lorraine Thorarinson Betts. Once again, another fine album from Mr Betts and well worth checking out.

Released: December 2021

Available via: https://garnettbetts.com/

Related review:

Album review – Garnett Betts ‘Highfield’

Loud, proud and still going: new album from Nazareth due out on 15th April

Veteran Scottish hard-rock band, Nazareth, have released a new single, ‘Strange Days’, ahead of a brand-new studio album out on 15th April.

Surviving The Law is the band’s twenty-fourth album since Nazareth formed in 1968 in Dunfermline. After the departure of founding vocalist, Dan McCafferty, in 2013 – for health reasons, there were some questions about the band’s future viability with new vocalist, Linton Osborne, joining and then rapidly leaving after less than a year. However, with the arrival of new lead singer, Carl Sentance, the band found a new lease of life. Sentence has brought a real energy to the band and Nazareth continues to be a popular live draw and their 2018 album, Tattooed On My Brain, picked up dozens of favourable reviews.

The band today are founding member, Pete Agnew (bass), Carl Sentance (vocals), Jimmy Murrison (guitar) and Lee Agnew (drums). All four members have contributed their share of song-writing and, like the previous album, this latest one has been produced by Yann Rouiller at Sub Station in the band’s home town of Dunfermline, Scotland.

Surviving The Law – tracklisting:

1  Strange Days

2  You Gotta Pass It Around

3  Runaway

4  Better Leave It Out

5  Mind Bomb

6  Sweet Kiss

7  Falling In Love

8  Waiting For The World To End

9  Let The Whisky Flow

10  Sinner

11  Ciggies And Booze

12  Psycho Skies

13  Love Breaks

14  You Made Me

Released by Frontiers: 15th April 2022

http://nazarethdirect.co.uk/