Category Archives: album reviews

Folk/world: album review – Reely Jiggered ‘Tricky Terrain’

Kate Bush with a Bhangra band and a Celtic fiddle player – if you asked me to give my first impressions of Tricky Terrain, the new album from Reely Jiggered, that’s pretty much what sprang to mind when I put it into the CD player .

Actually, as first impressions go that’s not too far out. With the soaring vocals and frenetic fiddle-playing of Royal Conservatoire of Scotland trained Alison McNeill and the band’s output inspired by both Scottish folk and World beats, they have managed to create a unique and irresistible fusion of folk, funk, rock, pop and jazz

Now releasing their third album they have headlined a number of festivals, both in Scotland and internationally, and are past winners of the Soundwave music competition. Joining Alison McNeill on vocals and fiddle are Fiona McNeill (guitar, bodhran, backing vocals) and Scott McLean (drums), with guest musicians Stuart Taylor (keys) and Gregor McPhie (bass).

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The rocking rhythms, furious fiddling and exquisite vocals aligned with those diverse beats make for an absolutely cracking album. The songs are great, too – whether it’s Alison McNeil’s own compositions exploring politics, mental health and international issues as well as the Scottish landscape and past history – or whether it’s the band’s modern take on ‘Auld Lang Syne’ which closes the album.

Fresh, vibrant and unique I’m immediately won over to ‘Reely Jiggered’ and Tricky Terrain is a superb album.

Released 1st May 2020

https://www.reelyjiggered.co.uk/

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Pop/orchestral/singer-songwriter: album review: Mike Batt ‘The Penultimate Collection’

Forever destined to be most closely associated with the Wombles and ‘Bright Eyes’, the Watership Down theme sung by Art Garfunkle, Mike Batt has an illustrious CV as a performer, arranger and composer and this 36-track, 2-disc album is an expansive career retrospective.

Not only does it include selections from his original solo material, it also includes Batt’s own recordings of hits he wrote for other artists. Along with his version of the aforementioned ‘Bright Eyes’ there’s also his own versions of ‘A Winters Tale’ (a 1983 hit for David Essex) and (I Feel Like Buddy Holly’ (a 1984 hit for Alvin Stardust) –  an ideal fit for Batt’s unmistakable vocal just as much as those who originally had hits with them.

‘Summertime City’, a hit for Batt under his own name and the theme to the BBC’s Seaside Special TV series in the seventies, also gets an airing – with Batt musing: “For many years, despite its success I looked back on it with embarrassment but now I am proud of it as a good, strong pop record. I insisted that Sony ‘delete it forever’ and the rights to the song reverted to me. So this is the first time (apart from the MB Music Cube) that it has been released since 1975.”

Batt’s Wombles days are not neglected either. ‘The Wombling Song’ an a couple of others are included but not, sadly, ‘Remember You’re A Womble’ – certainly one of my favourite hits of 1974 as an 8 year-old and surely the most splendid glam rock/folk rock mash-up of all time.

The rockier more upbeat side of Batt’s career, however, is represented by tracks like ‘Imbecile’ which features Family’s Roger Chapman on vocals as well as a beautifully unmissable solo from Rory Gallagher. Chapman also contributes vocals on another track, as does the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone whose trademark vocal graces ‘Tiger In The Night’.

An instinctive ear for a pop melody, a prolific orchestral composer and an instantly recognisable voice in his own right, Mike Batt has made a major contribution to British music over the past four decades and The Penultimate Collection is a worthy retrospective. Just why oh why was ‘Remember You’re a Womble’ missed off?

Released digitally on 8th May 2020 and in physical album format on 6th June 2020

mike batt lp

https://www.mikebatt.com/

Folk: album review – Will Pound ‘A Day Will Come’

Whereas the European referendum result prompted Remain-voting fiddler, Tom Kitching to embark on a busking-journey across England which resulted in both an album (reviewed here) and a book, for similarly Remain-voting melodeon and harmonica player, Will Pound, the referendum helped inspire a quite different project.

An album dedicated “to all Europeans wherever you come from and whatever you believe in” the release features tunes from across the now twenty seven member states that make up the EU. Named after a famous speech by nineteenth-century writer, Victor Hugo, in pursuit of the dream of European co-operation and unity, this is not an album that shies away from wearing its heart on its sleeve, right down to the burgundy passport-coloured cover.

Comprising fourteen tracks, the twenty-seven countries featured are mostly paired up – so a Dutch sailing song, for example, forms a tune-set with a Spanish dance tune. It means we are taken on a breathlessly whirlwind tour of the continent with a huge array of tempos, styles and traditions – but the quality of playing and the inventiveness of the selections never lets up.

An Arts Council-backed project Pound is joined by some highly-acclaimed figures from the folk and wider music world. Those contributing include percussionist superstar Dame Evelyn Glennie, Scots Trad Music Awards winner Jenn Butterworth, Pilgrim’s Way’s Jude Rees (who also accompanies Kitching on his recently-released album) and German fiddler Guthrun Waither. There’s even some performance poetry in the shape of contributions from Birmingham-based, Polish slam poet Bohdan Piasecki.

Celebrating political and economic unity in the shape of cultural and historical diversity this is a lovely project with a fine message and some beautiful tunes. It makes for a nice companion piece to Tom Kitching’s recent Seasons of Change release.

Released: 8th May 2020

https://willpound.com/

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News: ‘Fox and Hare’ the debut single from US indie-folk outfit the John Daniels Band

The John Daniels Band are a three-piece from Buffalo, New York and ‘Fox and Hare’ is their debut single. Playing together a few years now they’ve been honing their sound on the live circuit. They ask us to imagine if Neil Young, Lenny Kravitz and Pink Floyd got together to form a band – a blend of soul, psychedelia and amazing lyrics.

An album is due later this year, their signature style a union of indie, country and folk music. Comprised of John Verbocy, Drew Azzinaro, and Kevin Urso, who is also the band’s producer, they fuse acoustic and electric guitars with well timed percussion, creating dreamy soundscapes.

The band is the brainchild of frontman and lead songwriter Verbocy, whose raspy, warm vocals and emotional narratives are at the heart of the band. Being a two time cancer survivor, John has plenty of stories to tell and lots of emotion to share.

Asked to describe “Fox and Hare” John Verbocy tells Darren’s Music Blog: “We can recover from anything. It all starts with a thought and manifests into a reality.”

John Verbocy grew up listening to a broad range of musical influences. One day it would be Van Morrison and David Bowie, the next Paul Simon and Curtis Mayfield. “I am a total B-Side guy,” says John, “deep cuts of classic artists through and through.”

Drew Azzinaro met John in high school and they shared an affinity for music and weed, but they didn’t start making tunes together until they reunited again a few years ago. While looking for a band mate, they happened across Kevin Urso and the connection was immediate.

Kevin Urso is multi-talented artist that can claim singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and composer on his resume. He was the guitarist of BeArthur surrounding their album release Welcome To The Ongoing in 2006, and has since collaborated with it’s members on other projects, including Prime Mover by Rocco Of The Snow. In 2015, Kevin performed during Buffalo’s ‘Music Is Art’ festival in a piece called Life On Fire where his piano was set ablaze until it was rendered unplayable by the flames. He released his debut solo album, Goodbye, in 2018.

‘Fox and Hare’ by the John Daniels Band released 30th April 2020

https://johndanielsband.com/

John Daniels band pic

Singer-songwriter: album review – Tom Fairnie ‘Lightning in the Dark’

An Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter whose writing cuts across a number of styles, encompassing Americana, folk, country and blues – Tom Fairnie and has built up a considerable reputation on the Scottish folk circuit.

Over in Austin, Texas, Grammy-nominated producer, Merel Bregante, came across Fairnie’s music, was inspired by his songs and invited him over to Austin to record. Friends, family and fans rallied round to make that happen, courtesy of a crowdfunding campaign and a series of benefit gigs and Fairnie pitched up in Texas. In the studio he worked with a stellar cast of musicians who had previously played alongside the likes of Doc Watson, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Jackson Browne. Lightning in the Dark is the result, an album of breathtaking Americana with Celtic influences shining through. It’s a delicious fusion of styles. Dobros and banjos nestle with whistles and pipes to create something both beautiful and extraordinary – Celticana as Bregante dubbed it.

The sound is special but so, too, are the songs. Fairnie’s gift as a songwriter and easy-going but thought-provoking lyrics, many of them composed with songwriting partner and fellow poet Bob Shields, make this a standout-out album.

An absolute gem of an album. If you love Americana seek out Tom Fairnie’s Lightning In The Dark. You will not be disappointed.

Released: 1st May 2020

https://tomfairnie.com/home-news

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Folk: album review – Tom Kitching ‘Seasons of Change’

Two years ago fiddle-player Tom Kitching, known for his work with Gren Bartley and for being part of Pilgrims’ Way, started a blog and announced he was going on a journey.

“The sense of not knowing my own country was brought home to me by the referendum result. Virtually all my friends voted to remain, but England as a whole had other ideas. Clearly, the English are a much more complex and varied group than the people around me,” he states in his very first post back in April 2018, adding that he was aiming to travel across England, busking in towns, villages, and cities each day.

Kitching’s travels continued for well over a year and the blog eventually morphed into a book. The busking, meanwhile, ended up turning into an album – which is precisely what we are reviewing here. Recorded as live in Danebridge Methodist Chapel, Staffordshire in December 2019, some eighteen months after his journey began, Seasons of Change brings together eleven tunes mixing traditional tunes with Kitching’s own material. Essentially, a mixture of tunes from his busking repertoire along with new compositions inspired by his round-England trip.

Past collaborator Marit Fält accompanies Kitching on Nordic mandola and cittern and Pilgrim’s Way bandmate Jude Rees also joins him on English border bagpipes.
With morris tunes, reels, jigs, polkas and hornpipes it’s a wonderfully varied set of tunes in terms of tempo and pace, not to mention geographical origin. The album takes us on a journey starting with ‘Old Molly Oxford’ right up to ‘Old Age and Young’ from John Offord’s ‘Bonny Cumberland’ tunebook. There’s even a peek over the channel with the final track. The old French tune ‘La Fanatique’ is paired with Kitching’s own ‘Infinite Espresso’ inspired by an incident in a dockers’ cafe in Harwich, which Kitching assures us in the sleeve-notes we need to buy the book if we want to find out the full story.

Beautifully played and absolutely fascinating in equal measure Tom Kitching has created a real delight with his Seasons of Change album. Now all I need to do is order the book…

Released: 17th April 2020

Book, blog and album all available via http://www.tomkitching.co.uk/

tom k

Related reviews:

Book review: ‘Seasons of Change – Busking England’ by Tom Kitching

Pilgrims’ Way – Stand and Deliver 

Gavin Davenport & Tom Kitching at Warwick Folk Festival

 

Gothic rock – album review – The Birthday Massacre ‘Diamonds’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Diamonds is the eighth studio album from Canadian gothic rock outfit The Birthday Massacre. That genre embraces a whole range of musical styles, of course, and the influences here lean heavily towards the electro-pop end of the goth spectrum. Indeed, listening to the album immediately transported me back to some of the alternative club nights I went to as a sixth former in the 80s when I was occasionally allowed to hang out with the much cooler kids.

Their first since 2017′s Under Your Spell, Diamonds offers up nine brand new songs from the Toronto-based six-piece. Personally, I’d have preferred them to have upped the rock quotient with a bit more guitar and a bit less synth.

The former is not entirely absent though and there’s some nice moodily atmospheric riffs from guitarist Rainbow and some appealing solos from lead guitarist Falcore but they do tend to get drowned out in the mix somewhat.

Of what there can be no complaints about at all, however, is lead singer Chibi’s vocals as she delivers that trademark sweetness with a slightly dark undercurrent that works so perfectly for this genre.

Engaging vocals, catchy melodies, evocative atmospherics and enigmatic lyrics Diamonds is a strong product from The Birthday Massacre. Whether you completely fall in love with it or merely appreciate the depths of creativity and emotion that have gone into producing it will really depend, as a rock fan, on just how much you love electro-pop.

Released by Metropolis Records 27th March 2020

birthday cover

http://www.thebirthdaymassacre.com/home.html

 

Singer-songwriter: album review – Thomas Charlie Pederson ‘Daylight Saving Hours’

Daylight Saving Hours is the second solo album from Thomas Charlie Pederson, lead singer and guitarist with Danish alt-rockers Vinyl Floor. Unlike the guitar-driven indie rock of Vinyl Floor, however, Pederson’s solo offering takes a mellow acoustic minimalistic approach, continuing in the vein of his first solo album Second Hand War released in 2016.

Recorded at the apartment of his brother (and Vinyl Floor’s drummer) Daniel, who also produced and mixed the album, Pederson states, “The project started out as demo recordings but I’ve decided to release these songs because I want to present them as raw as possible and because I want to preserve the feel of how they were written.”

The 14 songs on the album are centred mainly around Pederson’s vocals and either his piano playing or his acoustic guitar. For all it’s stripped back intimacy, however, the album does not lack polish, with Pederson’s brother providing some lovely atmospheric flourishes with additional string and organ arrangements. The result is an instinctively sympathetic backdrop to Pederson’s contemplative lyrics and melancholic delivery.

“Unlike the first album – which was quite introvert and personal – the new album sees me writing mostly about other people with a strong emphasis on the lyrics and melody and a few lyrical wordplays thrown in for good measure,” Pederson adds. “ I write about the commitments of love, illusionists, other worldly interference, melancholia, women in trouble and the different aspects of getting older.

Given my own music tastes I very much empathise with those musicians who enjoy exploring both their rock side and their acoustic side. An album of intimate lyrics and appealing melodies Thomas Charlie Pederson more than proves his worth as a singer-songwriter with Daylight Saving Hours.

Released by Karmanian Records 7th February 2020

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https://www.facebook.com/thomascharliepedersenmusic/

News: 40th anniversary re-release for Hunter/Ronson/Van-Zandt-produced classic by the Iron City Houserockers

Forty years ago former Mott and Bowie alumni Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson teamed up with Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny), co-producers the Slimmer Twins (Steve Popovich Sr. and Marty Mooney) and the Iron City Houserockers to create the band’s legendary second album Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive).

Hailed by Rolling Stone magazine at the time as “a new American classic” Cleveland International Records is now releasing the album as an expanded 40th anniversary deluxe reissue on 22nd May.

iron Get-Out-Alive-CD-Cover

Although their debut album Love’s So Tough essentially took the band’s live show and brought it to the studio, they were looking for something more far-reaching for the follow-up. Lead singer Joe Grushecky wrote the title track ‘Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive)’ at the time Pittsburgh’s steel industry was “going down the chutes,” he says. 

“I started really zeroing in on the characters of Pittsburgh, the people who lived in my neighbourhoods, the guys who were coming out and seeing us play every night,” says Grushecky. “The whole identity of Pittsburgh was changing.”

During one particular show, as the audience was becoming a bit too enthusiastic, Grushecky told a fan, “Man, have a good time, but get out alive!” He suddenly realised he had a great song title, which ended up becoming the moniker for the album as a whole.

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Grushecky credits Van Zandt for making him a better writer by encouraging him to make every lyric of every song count and guiding him through that process. “Steve was great with arranging,” he says. “He gave invaluable input and ideas to the band.”

Ronson and Hunter may have looked the archetypal rock and roll stars of the day, but Grushecky recalls the reality being somewhat different. “They were salt of the earth guys and they were a team,” he says. “You could tell the strong affection they had for each other. It was an honour for me to work with both of them. I’ll say that to my dying days. It was just a tremendous experience for me.”

Ian Hunter looks back fondly on his time working with the band:

“Joe and the Houserockers were and are an actual rock and roll band. So many ‘rock and roll’ bands are not real – they just look and act like they are – and fool people most of the time. These guys are for real – and what a lovely man Joe is.”

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In the liner notes Grushecky offers his own reflection of the record that emerged:

“We had great songs and the band was smoking,” he writes. “We all knew something special was happening. The results were a mixture of Pittsburgh rock and roll, Jersey Shore savvy and soul, and English mystic and muscle. Add a dash of Cleveland moxie and an anything goes attitude and a legendary album was born.”

The core group was Grushecky on vocals and guitar, Gil Snyder on piano and vocals, Ned E. Rankin on drums, Art Nardini on bass, Marc Reisman on harmonica and background vocals, and new recruit Eddie Britt on guitar, who replaced founding member Gary Scalese following an injury.

Featuring many of the Houserockers’ signature tunes like ‘Pumping Iron, ‘Junior’s Bar’, and, of course, the title track, the album is released by legendary indie label Cleveland as a remastered two-CD set that includes a bonus disc with 16 previously unreleased tracks of demos and other rarities. The new vinyl edition will include a download card of those same 16 tracks to go with a vinyl replica of the original album.

Cleveland International Records was originally launched in 1977 by Steve Popovich and was relaunched in 2019 by Popovich’s son.

More information at www.clevelandinternational.com

Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive) is released on 22nd May 2020

Related posts:

Cleveland Rocks – iconic independent record label relaunches

Mott The Hoople at Shepherds Bush Empire 2019

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2016

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock 2016

Mott The Hoople Fan Convention 2016

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2014

Folk: album review – Adam Amos & Noel Rocks ‘Back Up To Zero’

Back Up To Zero is the third album from acoustic singer-songwriter duo Adam Amos & Noel Rocks. It comes after quite some gap since the first two though. Adam Amos and Noel Rocks recorded two albums together in the 1980s and toured around the UK and Europe. Their endeavours as a duo came to a premature end, however, when Amos relocated abroad. Two sell-out reunion shows at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 evidently encouraged them to rekindle their working partnership as a permanent set-up once more and they began working on Back Up To Zero in 2019, on Amos’s return to live in Scotland.

The album comprises eight original songs along with one traditional number and one cover. The duo (Amos guitar/vocals and Rocks guitar/banjo/vocals) say the songs are mainly drawn from their personal observations, with influences from Scotland, Ireland and North America.

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They are joined by a number of guest musicians: renowned Korean born Su-a Lee (Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Mr McFall’s Chamber, La Banda Europa) on cello, David Paton (Pilot, Elton John, Albert Hammond) on bass and Kenny Hutchison on accordion and piano, who was also the album’s producer.

Both Amos and Rocks are each accomplished song-writers and their reflective, thoughtful but easy-on-the-ear lyrics align nicely with some gentle, catchy melodies. The Americana as well as the Celtic influences shine through and it makes for a very pleasing mix. An engaging and likeable album from this duo let’s hope there’s a good few more gigs and a few more albums in them yet.

Released: 17th March 2020

https://www.amosandrocks.com/

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