Making a name for herself fronting roots rock ‘n’ roll band Beth Lee & The Breakups, Texas-based singer-songwriter Beth Lee dips deep into a much broader range of musical influences for her latest album. These span her nineties love of Hope Sandoval, to the pop-friendly melodies of sixties girl groups, to the southern soul of Stax Records to contemporary Americana artists like Nicole Atkins.
Waiting On You Tonight puts Lee’s soulful, heartfelt vocals and her evident song-writing abilities centre-stage. She effortlessly distils generations of musical influences, from country to blues to soul to 60s pop to rock n roll, to deliver this gorgeous set of original songs that captures so much of what’s great about American music in its most golden age.
Canterbury-based singer-songwriter Luke Jackson has scooped up numerous awards since first being nominated for the BBC’s Young Folk Awards back in 2013.
As a folk and roots-based artist he’s tapped into a school of song-writing that goes back many generations yet his songs always seem so effortlessly contemporary, topical and relevant.
This latest seven-track EP ‘Of The Time’ is no exception. Written during lockdown these songs take us on a powerful journey, not only of Luke Jackson’s own thoughts at various times over the months between March and November 2020, but feelings that many, many of us will immediately empathise with:
“The man in charge looks troubled on the TV. Doesn’t have a single thing to say” he sings on opening track ‘I Am Not Okay With This’.
The subjects are often bleak but the songs are never bleak, testimony to Jackson’s power as a songwriter and warmth as a performer. And he can be passionate and outspoken and uncompromising but avoids that temptation to get ranty – a trap that some singer-songwriters dealing with contemporary subject matter can sometimes fall into. Again, it’s a mark of his gift as a songwriter and the pure poetry of his lyrics.
The production nicely captures that mood, too.
“The songs lend themselves to a more sparse, acoustic production so the obvious person to do these recordings with was Elliott Norris at his ‘Good Neighbour Records’ studio,” he tells us.
I first saw Luke Jackson at Cecil Sharp House five years ago and was hugely impressed. His ‘This Family Tree’ album that I picked up that evening has frequently been on my stereo ever since – but it has been a treat to get fully up to date with Luke Jackson’s more recent output and familiarise myself with his wonderful 2019 album ‘Journals’ as well as this year’s brand new EP. As soon as I heard it I had no hesitation in making him this week’s featured artist.
Based in Hailsham in East Sussex, Tim Izzard is a musician who has worked across a variety of musical genres but Starlight Rendezvous, released last month, is his debut rock album. Taking glam-era Bowie as its starting point the album makes nods in the direction of pop, prog, rock and garage, and delivers something that is both creative and original yet unashamedly wears its influences as unselfconsciously as Mick Ronson in his golden Starman costume.
Izzard tells us: “It’s a play-it-loud, 40 mins concept album (remember them!) where the time is 632 AF, we are in a Brave New World and ‘The Visitor’, Thomas Jerome Newton, is still alive and still waiting to find his way home after nearly 200 years.”
Izzard adds: “I wanted to write an album that sounded like what first and still excites me musically and that I’d want to listen to once finished. So back to Bowie playing Starman on TOTP and the album, Ziggy. Roxy Music’s first two albums, Transformer/Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Bowie’s live Beeb version of Waiting For The Man still does it for me.“
“The chords and melody for Man Who Fell To Earth came easily to me one day, and just sounded immediately like it should be a tribute. So the title Man Who Fell To Earth I chose as he appeared like an alien on TOTP and left us so dramatically two days after Blackstar, almost as if his mission had been accomplished. The lyrics name-check his songs but also the impact they had on me ‘listening in my room’.“
That self-penned Bowie tribute, the excellent ‘Man Who Fell To Earth’ has already been picking up airplay including here on BBC Radio Sussex and in the US on glam rock internet station Dandy’s Stardust Dive.
Tim Izzard’s album Starlight Rendezvous is available on Bandcamp here:
Cult US glam-influenced band The Hollywood Stars, who reunited back in 2018 after four decades apart, have a new single coming out, a live recording of the original band composition ‘Escape’ which was later made famous by Alice Cooper. ‘Escape’ (Live) is released on 15th February.
Formed in 1973 and becoming a regular draw at the legendary Whisky A Go Go club the band’s live shows attracted the the likes of John Lennon, Angie Bowie and Iggy Pop.
“I didn’t used to like The Hollywood Stars, I used to like The New York Dolls. Then I heard The Hollywood Stars play Satisfaction. Now I wanna fuck ‘em.” – Iggy Pop
An album was recorded for Columbia in 1974 but record company politics meant it ended up being scrapped.
“It was a really depressing time,” recalls lead guitarist Ruben De Fuentes. “The sessions were going great and we were so close to finishing the record. Then it all just went away.”
It would take 39 years for the scrapped Columbia album to finally see the light of day. Shine Like a Radio: The Great Lost 1974 Album was released by Last Summer/Light in the Attic in 2013.
However, two of the songs recorded for the scrapped album, both co-written by the band’s lead singer/guitarist Mark Anthony and pop Svengali Kim Fowley, went on to enjoy success with two mega US acts. ‘King of the Night Time World’ would be recorded by Kiss on their Destroyer album released in 1976 and on their Alive II album released in 1977. Another song ‘Escape’, meanwhile, was recorded by Alice Cooper on his 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare.
The Hollywood Stars split in 1974 but (with a change in line-up) picked things up again in 1976 and kept gigging through until 1978, opening for such diverse legends as rock pioneer Bo Diddley, disco star Sylvester, and punk royalty Ramones.
Forty years after the dissolution of the 1978 line-up, The Hollywood Stars reconvened for a one-off benefit concert in November 2018 at The Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles. The line-up included founding members Phares, De Fuentes and Rae, alongside the bassist from the band’s second line-up, Michael Rummans, and new guitarist, Chezz Monroe.
The revived Hollywood Stars released a live version of ‘King Of The Night Time World’ last December and are now set to release a new version of ‘Escape’ as a single on 15th February. Recorded live in 2019 when the reunited band returned to their old haunt the Whisky A Go Go this is the Hollywood Stars’ own version of the song made famous by Alice Cooper.
The Hollywood Stars current line-up is:
Ruben De Fuentes — Lead guitar
Scott Phares — Lead vocals
Terry Rae — Drums, vocals
Chezz Monroe — Second guitar
John Schayer — Bass guitar, vocals
‘Escape’ (Live) released 15th February 2021 on Golden Robot Records
I’ve been following Bristol-based acapella group The Longest Johns since they sent me their first album to review back in 2016. Following the tiktok sea shanty viral sensation that is ‘Wellerman’, however, they now find themselves in the Top 40 – with a lovely rather dumbstruck announcement on their Facebook page giving their reaction as follows: “BY POSEIDONS BEARD! It’s only gone top 40! We did it everybody, thank-you to all our families, the mod’s and the fantastic discord community, Thank-you to Anna for singing it with us and thank-you to EVERYONE who bought Wellerman and got a (Can’t believe i’m typing this) SEA SHANTY IN THE CHARTS. Ohhhh!!”
2020 was looking like a terrible year for glam veterans, Slade. Guitarist Dave Hill sacked drummer Don Powell from the continuing (ie: post- Jim and Noddy) version of the band. Bass-player Jim Lea had his prized guitar stolen and Noddy Holder exchanged a few sharp words about his former song-writing partner Jim in press interviews. All that was put to one side, however, as all four original members expressed their joy at their greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz going straight in at No. 8 in the UK album charts back in October. This was the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974!
Only a few short years ago the wheels well and truly seemed to be finally coming off the AC/DC machine. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had tragically passed away, drummer Phil Rudd was sentenced to home detention after an unedifying case involving drugs and threatening behaviour, vocalist Brian Johnson ended up being replaced by Axl Rose following major hearing problems and bass-player Cliff Williams saw the writing on the wall and decided he, too, had had enough. However, with Stevie Young replacing his late uncle, Malcolm, the classic post-Bon Scott AC/DC line-up (or as near as humanly possible to it anyway) was resurrected and a brand new album Power Up ended up reaching No. 1 in twenty-one countries.
Glitter Band founder member, John Rossall, released a wonderfully menacing twenty-first century reboot of classic 70s glam rock with his The Last Glam In Town album. Released back in October last year, it picked up favourable reviews everywhere. All tribal beats, honking brass, fuzzed-up guitar, sing-along choruses and enough handclaps and chants of ‘Hey’ to last you a lifetime, The Last Glam In Town is a modern masterpiece of the genre. “It’s like I’ve written them myself almost!” he told me when I interviewed him late last year. “It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.”
While there has been no big Charlatans comeback (their most recent album was back in 2017), Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties have been one of the bright spots throughout the pandemic. The idea was a simple one: an album and a time would be chosen and fans would converge on social media to exchange their memories, reactions and appreciation of said album. Soon there was a queue of artists eager to get involved and, for me, one of the highlights was when they featured the album by Heavy Load, a band which was composed of people with and without learning disabilities, of which my current boss was the former bass-player. You can find out more about Heavy Load, the award-winning film of the same name that was made about them and the charity that they inspired here.
Asking us to imagine what the offspring of the White Stripes and Radiohead might sound like, Kent-based alternative rock band The Fools Horses have recently released their debut single ‘Drifting Away’.
The Fools Horses are Noah Kemp (guitar and lead vocals) and Tommy Pearce (drums). Both just 16, and from the Faversham/Whitstable area, the duo met in school – bonding over similar musical tastes and drawing on influences from bands such as Muse and Royal Blood.
The duo say they explore many styles in their music but for their first single they have gone for that mellow, melancholic alt-rock vibe that Radiohead set the bar for on OK Computer. I love it. Not only have they captured a mood that so many of us must be feeling right now but with this original piece of song-writing they’ve also demonstrated they can turn in a pretty decent melody, too.
Talking about the song Noah Kemp says: “Drifting Away was written in lockdown about losing someone you love and has multiple meanings. On a personal level it’s about a breakup. However, it also relates to lockdown, and how people you used to talk to every day at school or something, are slowly drifting away as you lose contact. I wrote the lyrics by writing down exactly what I was feeling at the time and then sort of arranging them into cohesive lyrics.”
Like many bands who have had to schedule and reschedule tour dates a number of times over recent months, folk rock legends Lindisfarne have announced that they hope to have their live shows up and running again from August onwards.
Founder member, Rod Clements, comments: “While the earlier dates we had for 2021 are now looking unlikely to happen due to the protraction of the pandemic we are hoping to reinstate our concerts for August onwards.”
The band expect to play Shrewsbury, Milton Keynes, Shoreham, Bradford, Kinross, Carlisle amongst other key UK towns including their popular Christmas show in home city Newcastle-upon-Tyne in December.
“We’re really hoping that the country will be in a better place by August to enable concerts and festivals to happen,” says Clements. “We all need to blow away the cobwebs!”
You can read my interview with Rod Clements ahead of the band’s sadly aborted 2020 Spring tour – where he discusses the current line-up, what fans can expect on stage and how they originally came up with the name – here
Meanwhile, the Lindisfarne legacy continues to appeal to emerging artists with outstanding covers of the band’s best known songs by emerging talents Sam Fender (“Winter Song”) and Elizabeth Liddle (“Meet Me On The Corner”) – catch Liddle’s rendition here:
Rod Clements’s solo back catalogue dating back to the 1980s has also been re-released by Singsong Music. The releases complement the band’s extensive catalogue with takes on classics as well as new compositions and blues covers.
Following his debut folk album last year Ballads and Yarns, Roly Witherow releases a brand new single ‘The Bird and the Frog’ the first from a forthcoming new album. A prolific composer in the world of film, TV, and theatre, Roly’s credits have included Channel 4’s On The Edge, 2015 BIFA nominated film Gregor and David Hare’s The Permanent Way. For his album debut, however, Roly sought a quite different direction and recorded a highly-acclaimed album of progressive interpretations of traditional folk. Described by Folk Radio UK as 21st century Folk Music in all its glory ‘Ballads and Yarns’ received plaudits from the Times, the Guardian and many other publications.
‘The Bird and The Frog’ a self-composed song described as a fable-esque love story sees Roly continuing to draw on folk traditions. As a folk artist, Roly takes inspiration from the likes of Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Nick Hart, Lisa O’Neill and Will Pound.
Roly Witherow:“The Bird and the Frog is a fable-esque love story, centred on the taming of a Bird by the Frog. The Frog seduces the bird, convincing her to give up her wild and free existence to live with him under a log. They live a peaceful yet humdrum life in the frog’s world and whilst the Frog is contented to have tamed the object of his love, the Bird is left with the sensation that something might be missing. I had in mind thoughts of suburban lifestyles – perhaps the home counties – and our adoption of a highly compartmentalised society, as well as being a tale of young love.”
Speaking on the forthcoming album, set to be released in Winter 2021, Roly added:
This new album is a very new direction for me. If my first album, ‘Ballads and Yarns’ had an experimental bent, stemming from my experience as a film composer and combining traditional songs with electric instrumentation, spoken word and elements of world music, this new album has a “back to basics” approach, focusing on the song itself in its most minimal form. The vast majority of the songs are for just acoustic guitar and voice, and the recordings have a very live feel to them, realised in large part by the deft production of Joe Garcia of Joe’s Garage recording studio in Bristol where I recently relocated with my wife and young son during the pandemic.”
“The album will be a combination of traditional songs from the British Isles and further afield, and originals, such as this first single ‘The Bird and the Frog’. There are also some collaborations on the album, including with renowned folk singer Nick Hart.”
The music video directed by fine artist, Beatrice Vorster is assembled from fragments of archival educational footage depicting the microbiological life of frogs and birds before they come into their own.
Beatrice Vorster:“Images of tadpoles are circuit bent, overlaying footage of contemporary countryside in life in a somewhat psychedelic reimagining of how a fable would be retold. I wanted to be playful with the use of colour channel mixing as a way of tracing the emotional arch of the love story while using videos from a variety of eras to think about the timelessness of these tales which are passed down through generations.”
Personal, amusing, heart-breaking, making a point, performances from the duo Milton Hide have always been memorable, strong in melody and full of hooks. Storytellers at heart, many of their songs are grounded in traditional English song, whilst others are rooted in other folk traditions, such as Appalachian, Klezmer and popular music. Emerging out of the East Sussex open mic and folk club circuit five years ago, the acoustic duo picked up many plaudits for their debut EP, Little Fish, released in 2018.
Now husband and wife duo, Jim and Josie Tipler, are set to release their first full-length album: Temperature’s Rising. All the songs on the album are self-penned originals that Milton Hide have performed live over the past few years.
Josie Tipler: “The name of the album and title track, Temperature’s Rising, seemed very appropriate when we started to work on the album. Greta Thunberg was making news and climate activists were very prominent in the media. Also, there was a lot of protesting going on – anger over US elections and Brexit. Added to which I was in the midst of menopause and suffering frequent hot flushes. All in all, the temperature was metaphorically and actually rising. Little did we know it was going to be even more appropriate as the global pandemic took hold.”
The line-up of musicians appearing on the album are all people the duo have met through playing live. Being unable to come into the studio because of Covid-19 restrictions, the guest musicians all provided their parts to producer, John Fowler, which he then weaved into the songs utilising his incredible editing skills.
Jim Tipler:“We perform as an acoustic duo but, as with our previous EP release, we made the decision to simply present each song in the way we feel best suits it. For some, this is pretty much as we perform it live, for others, we have given it a full band treatment.”
“We asked John Fowler to record and produce it as we had previously worked well with him on a single, Say It All The Time. We knew John would not be afraid to add instrumentation where required and can also play really well. The advantage of working with other musicians is that they pick up on things in your music that you sometimes don’t notice yourself. We love John’s enthusiasm and amazing attention to detail. It was a great symbiosis and a lot of fun! That said, we had to complete the album, using social distancing – spacing ourselves out in the studio as well as doing some recording ourselves in our home studio.”
Milton Hide are:
Jim Tipler – guitars, vocals and piano
Josie Tipler – vocals, clarinet, cajon and xylophone
The full line-up of album guests is:
John Fowler from Dandelion Charm – engineer/producer and multi-instrumentalist: guitars, bass, keyboards and drums
Clare Fowler from Dandelion Charm – backing vocals
Bruce Knapp from Moltenamba – guitars
Fred Gregory from Hatful of Rain – mandolin
Phil Jones from Hatful of Rain – string bass
Ian McIlroy from Rough Chowder – accordion
Simon Yapp from Ian Roland Subtown Set – Fiddle
Artwork for the album was created by Hastings artist Helen Bryant who uses bright inks and watercolours with pen outlines to produce unique striking imagery.
1. ‘Temperature’s Rising’ – with a full band this is a rock track that was inspired by the first Women’s March after the inauguration of President Trump and the marches against Brexit, with the popular slogan “Bridges, not walls”
2. ‘A Little Piece Of Mind’ – is an ode to menopause and mid-life crisis.
3. ‘Littlefield’ – was the first single released from the album, late 2020. Whilst walking the dog one dreary depressing evening, Jim spotted a light in the window of a house that had been empty for many months. It cheered him up.
4. ‘Riding The Whale’ – describes Jim’s childhood memories of playing games on the beach with his dad
5. ‘Making Progress’ – a bit of a rant about stresses of the modern world – work, capitalism, the media and politics.
6. ‘Buckle Up’ – inspired by the true story of Sergeant Paul Meyer USAF, who ‘borrowed’ a C130 transport aircraft to fly from England back to his newly-wed wife in Virginia. A tale of extreme love and homesickness.
7. ‘Turnaround’ – the band often get lost and we now see this as a metaphor for our life. You can always change the road you’re on if you think you’re getting nowhere.
8. ‘Something You Don’t See Everyday’ – A social comment on the irony of becoming desensitised to daily horrors served up to us by modern media platforms. (contains a swearword – radio edit available)
9. ‘Spacetime’ – Professor Brian Cox explained the theory of spacetime on a documentary that Jim watched late one night. It made perfect sense after a large glass of Irish whiskey. This is Jim’s memory of the explanation.
10. ‘Say It All The Time’ – describes a black mood walk on the South Downs. Previously released as a single and re-mixed and mastered for the album.
11. ‘The Ghosts Of Milton Hide’ – written as a retrospective warning to our own children to avoid the woods after dark.
12. ‘Took To Wing (Nightingale)’ – an original modern fable about a woman seeking refuge from abuse and finding freedom in the forest. A finale to the album.
Milton Hide – what they say:
“…A superior folk-club act with a great deal of potential.” Rock’n’Reel magazine
“…high in melodic quality, perfectly-matched voices and rich with storytelling…” Folk Words
“Lovely stuff”Mike Harding
“This is a surprisingly enchanting EP” Northern Sky Magazine
“This is one of those mini-albums which goes straight onto my playlists in its entirety, with its thought-provoking lyrics and catchy tunes.” Trevor Oxborrow – The Folk Show
New studio album scheduled for release this summer
Former Rainbow vocalist, Graham Bonnet, has announced that his forthcoming album will feature ex-bandmate Don Airey. The two who performed together on the classic Down To Earth album back in 1979 will appear on a new album Graham Bonnet solo album. Bonnet is currently recording with bandmates Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass), Conrad Pesinato (guitar) and Mark Zonder (drums). In addition to the core band and the legendary Rainbow and Deep Purple keyboardist, more special guests will be announced in the coming weeks.
Bonnet says: “Similar to the first two albums with my band, it will reflect different eras of my career, but with a contemporary twist. Also, we have some heavy hitting guests including Don Airey and others yet to be announced. I’m very excited to be playing on an album again with Don. Aside from being my longtime 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. “
He adds: “I’m also delighted to be playing with the original members of the Graham Bonnet Band: Beth-Ami Heavenstone, who has been my constant partner on and off stage since meeting back in 2012; guitarist Conrado Pesinato, whose innate musical style elicits some of my best songwriting, and the iconic Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) on drums.”
The album is anticipated to be released in summer 2021 and will be Bonnet’s third release with Frontiers Music – following the Graham Bonnet Band albums The Book and Meanwhile, Back In The Garage.