Waiting On You Tonight is the latest album from Texas-based singer-songwriter Beth Lee and the follow-up to her 2016 album Keep Your Mouth Shut released in the name of her roots rock ‘n’ roll band Beth Lee & The Breakups. This time it’s a solo album recorded not in Texas but in California.
Having toured with the support of Texas blues guitarist Chris Duarte over recent years, for her latest album Lee consciously set out to explore other avenues of her song-writing abilities. While the Americana influences that characterised previous releases are still very much alive and present, here she gives voice to a much wider set of musical influences. These range from her nineties love of the ethereal vocals 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.
Lee’s soulful, heartfelt vocals and evident song-writing abilities are equally well-served by a top-class team of musicians in Julie Wolf, Vincent Rodriguez, James DePrato – the latter two being drummer and guitarist respectively for Chuck Prophet. Rodriguez also produced the album.
With Waiting On You Tonight, Beth Lee 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.
The Chair are an eight-piece folk band from Orkney. Formed in 2004, Orkney Monster is the band’s third album. Based around twin fiddles, banjo, accordion, guitar, drums and bass and this album, although recorded in the studio, aims to capture some of the energy and exhilaration of their live performances and promises their unique brand of ‘Orkney Stomp’.
Do they pull it off? Certainly. In Orkney Monster the band deliver an album that’s full of zest and joie de vivre while digging deep into their island heritage. There’s reels and jigs aplenty, with a slew of original compositions from band members as well as a handful by contemporary Scottish writers and a few traditional tunes, too.
As an eight-strong outfit the band are able to really go some on those infectiously rollicking reels and the interplay between the musicians is a wonder. But there is a more sensitive side to the band, too, as we hear on tunes like the wonderfully poignant ‘Wee Davie’ written by the band’s guitarist, Gavin Firth.
Mostly instrumental, the album does also include a couple of songs. There’s a lively take on ‘Walk Beside Me’, written by bluegrass and country artist, Tim O’Brien, that the band make truly their own as well as a beautifully mellow cover of Tom Waits’ ‘Shiver Me Timbers’.
Superb playing, beautiful tunes and buzzing with energy, Orkney Monster is simply a delightful album.
Released: 4th December 2020 by Folky Gibbon Records
Sweet have released a new video for their current single ‘Still Got The Rock’. The single is reworking of a song that first appeared as a newly-recorded bonus track on the 2015 Sweet compilation album Action: The Ultimate Story, by the band’s previous line-up. The new version features the current line-up of Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland, Lee Small and Paul Manzi. You can read my interview with Andy Scott about how the new line-up came about here.
Sweet’s new album, Isolation Boulevard, recorded within the necessary constraints imposed by the Covid-19 global pandemic, plays on the title of the mid-70s album by the band’s classic line-up: Desolation Boulevard.
In a statement on the band’s Facebook page, Sweet’s Andy Scott says:
“Once again you, the hard-core Sweet fans have stepped up and reacted positively to the new album Isolation Boulevard. The cover artwork tips a hat to Desolation Boulevard, 1975 and the band’s first Headline Tours in the USA. The comparison between the old and new is obvious as they are both a compilation of the best of Sweet’s recordings, satisfaction guaranteed.“
“Let’s go back to February 2020 and the world was just getting reports of a new virus, identified as Covid 19. Reaction to the news was slow at the start. I had some news of my own that I was dreading at this time, my cancer had returned. After our Denmark trip in March where we had a show cancelled due to new virus rules on social distancing, I started my treatment during the first lockdown in late March. This meant I was out of action until July/August and was naturally kept in total isolation. I have come through all clear thankfully and am looking forward to getting to grips with some new material next year when we as a band can be all together in a studio without restrictions.“
“The new album Isolation Boulevard was put together between lockdowns in September and October. It was pointed out to me that it had been more than 5 years since our last successful album release and as we hadn’t got Paul or Lee on any recordings especially the hits, we had better put that right as soon as possible. Most of the recording and editing was done in my studio and the results speak for themselves. The drum tracks and new bass lines are very powerful, the guitars are so clear you can hear the plectrum hit the strings and the vocal performances from Paul and Lee are perfection personified. Bruce and I cannot believe how lucky we are that this line up has hit the ground sprinting never mind running. I would personally like to sing the praises of Tom Cory, TC from the Novatines for his technical know-how and engineering skills during the recording of the album. Genius!“
“So, there you have it. Enjoy the single and album and with any luck we may just get back on the road next year.”
The ‘Still Got The Rock’ single was released in digital format on 8th December 2020. 18th December will see the digital release of the album Isolation Boulevard. There will be a limited-edition colour vinyl of both to pre-order on the release dates with delivery early in 2021. There will also be a CD format of the album available sometime in the new year.
Andy Scott – All Guitars, Synthesizers and Vocals Bruce Bisland – Drums and Vocals Paul Manzi – Lead Vocals Lee Small – Bass Guitar and Vocals Guest Musicians – Steve Mann – Keyboards on Love is Like Oxygen Producer – Andy Scott Engineer – Tom “TC” Cory Studio assistance – Kevin Smith Recorded, Edited and Mixed at Black Rock Studio, Wiltshire
A pun on their similarly titled 2002 studio album, Live On Other Planets is a live double album from Supergrass celebrating the band’s long-awaited reunion. Supergrass (and their fans) were incredibly lucky that they were able to complete the majority of their tour (at least the UK and European legs of it) just prior to COVID-19 putting a huge spanner in the works for them and the rest of the music industry. Rather than capturing a single concert the sleeve-notes state the album was recorded at various locations. Moreover, the CD version comes with an additional bonus disc that was recorded at the band’s livestreamed Summer lockdown gig at Oxford’s Bullingdon Arms.
I was at Alexandra Palace back in March for one of the band’s two London dates. Indeed, it was my penultimate live gig before lockdown and this album definitely captures some of the excitement and buzz of those reunion concerts, not to mention pretty much the entire set-list. Beginning with a magnificent ‘In It For The Money’ all the obvious crowd-pleasers are included from across the band six-album career. However, as with the reunion tour there is a big emphasis on songs from the very first album I Should Coco which celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. Gaz Coombes is in fine voice, there’s a ton of energy coming from all four members and the crowds sound just as enthusiastic as I recall they were at Ally Pally.
All live but with no live audience in the room the third disc, meanwhile, is a like a modern-day version of those old Radio 1 sessions that bands used to do for the BBC in the late 60s and early 70s. “Weird but like a good weird,” as Gaz says. It makes for a lovely bonus disc.
Released on the band’s own Supergrass Records label the album has been mixed by long-time collaborator John Cornfield who worked on the band’s first three albums. All proceeds from the album go to the #SaveOurVenues campaign.
Live On Other Planets is a brilliant memento for anyone who made it to the reunion tour – and if you are still awaiting the rescheduled gigs (including a much-anticipated slot at Glastonbury) it’s a great taste of what’s in store.
Throughout the Covid crisis the Music Venue Trust has worked to help secure the future of hundreds of grassroots music venues that have been hit by the catastrophic economic impact of the pandemic. The campaign is now focusing efforts on those venues under most imminent threat of permanent closure, ones where all other avenues of available funding from government schemes have been exhausted. Grand Elektra of Robertson Street, Hastings is one of thirty such venues on the #SaveOurVenues Red List of grassroots music venues most at risk of closure, nationally.
A number of major acts, including Ash, Muse, Kasabian and The Kooks as well as jazz icon Gil-Scott Heron, have all played there. Previously known as ‘The Crypt’, the 450 capacity venue was brought back from closure and fully refurbished back in 2015 and rebranded as the Grand Elektra. With the support of the Music Venue Trust a crowdfunding appeal has now been launched to save it.
Venue operator, Paul Mandry, told me:
“Grand Elektra fund raising via crowdfunding is so important to grassroot music venues, especially ones like us that didn’t successfully get the governments arts recovery fund, due to not ever filling out these forms before. As an independent I’ve never assumed we were viable and on top of the first lockdown, not getting certain information from accountants left us non eligible. Since that deadline we’ve had no signs that we could reapply which is a double blow because now we would be eligible as we know how to make a better case and have all the details from accountants ready to resubmit.“
“Not having the support from the arts council left us not being able to cover fixed bills like rent and lease hire which are mounting up daily, putting the venue in to the critical zone with #saveourvenues. The Crowdfunder is to cover these costs until March 2021 so we can stay open and entertain the town community like we want to do, without crippling debt, which could push us off the cliff edge we are on.”
Paul is full of praise for the role the Music Venue Trust have played throughout this crisis:
“Without the support of MVT this dreadful situation could have been a lot darker and harder to circumnavigate through to this point. We are not alone Beverley, Mark and Gang at MVT should be knighted for what they’ve accomplished throughout this global crisis. So many of us are forever grateful for their relentless energy to support and help save as much as they can of this decimated sector. I personally can’t thank them all enough.”
Falling Nine are a two-piece rock project from Cardiff consisting of David Lydiard (Vocals, Guitars, Synths) & Steven Watts (Guitars, Bass, Drums, Synths). Releasing their debut EP back in 2007 they’ve had numerous releases since then and the pair has been joined by several collaborators.
For their latest release they take on the mighty Sweet classic ‘Fox On The Run’ which was the glam heroes’ first self-written smash hit in 1975 after stepping away from song-writing team Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn.
Falling Nine frontman David Lydiard explains: “I hadn’t heard the song for ages and one day during a trip down a YouTube rabbit hole I came across a live cover by the Chili Peppers with John singing. It had a raw, punk energy to it, and being a massive Frusciante fanboy, I instantly loved it. So I put up a very rough, live acoustic version of it on our YouTube Channel, just for a bit of fun. During lockdown, Steve (Watts) stumbled across it, tells me that he likes it, and asked me if I fancy recording a full version of it, and here we are.”
‘Fox on the Run’is Falling Nine’s first new release in four years. “Sometimes life gets in the way, which is why we’ve taken so long between this and our last record (2016’s ‘Atonement’), but priorities have shifted and we’re pumped to be working on new music again.”
Falling Nine are:
David Lydiard – Vocals / Guitars / Synths
Steven Watts – Guitars / Bass / Drums
Guest lead guitarist Justin Larner was also enlisted by the duo and contributes his own original solo, giving the Sweet classic a twenty-first century makeover.
“Justin is an incredible guitar player and I’ve been a fan of his tone and his playing since first hearing him when he played with Grand Ultra, says Lydiard. “We wanted a solo that kicks you in the arse and Justin nailed it 100%.”
‘Fox on the Run’ was released on 27th November 2020 and is available on all streaming platforms
As part of the charity fund-raising initiative the Isolation Sessions, Danny Stoakes and Romeo’s Daughter guitarist Craig Joiner have released a new video to promote the song ‘Blodeuwedd the Owl’. Based on an old Welsh folk tale, with lyrics by Damh The Bard, the song tells the tragic story of Blodeuwedd – a woman who plots, along with her lover, to kill her husband. The song is a collaboration with Romeo’s Daughter guitarist Craig Joiner and see’s Danny and Craig sharing vocals with Craig also playing lead guitar and mandolin on the track.
From heavy metal to country, rock and roll to folk The Isolation Sessions is a digital album project aimed at raising money for The National Emergencies Trust Covid Appeal. Assembled by Danny Stoakes, the album features imaginative reworkings of ten of Stoakes’ favourite songs in collaboration with a host of different artists. These include Craig Joiner, Voodoo Six’s Matt Pearce and Tygers of Pan Tang’s Craig Ellis. Other tracks released include covers of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and The Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.
The National Emergencies Trust collaborates with charities and other bodies to raise and distribute money and support victims during times of a domestic disaster.
Another album of impressive blues rock from Storm Warning who have been a fixture on the UK live scene for over fifteen years now. However, this latest album Different Horizons is tinged with a note of sadness. Shortly after completing recording, guitarist, Bob Moore, sadly passed away. Different Horizons thus now acts as something of a tribute to Moore’s playing and song-writing. He was part of the band from its inception.
“Not flashy or fast, but clear, beautifully intoned and with exactly the right combination of effects. No one sounded like Bob, live or in the studio,” says vocalist Stuart Maxwell in the liner notes.
Although the band are also known for stamping their own mark on blues standards here they focus on nine new original compositions.
Commencing with birdsong before embarking on a classic slice of blues rock with title track ‘Horizons’, it’s a beautiful album and a fitting tribute. I particularly loved the moody, smouldering, bluesy guitar on tracks like ‘Can’t Sleep For Dreaming’ and ‘Long Road’ where Ian Salisbury’s soulful keyboards perfectly compliment Moore’s guitar playing. But there’s also lots to enjoy on the rockier tracks, too, like ’Questions’ with its Bad Company-esque riffing. ‘Come On In’, meanwhile, goes for some choppier Feelgoods-style R&B.
Different Horizons is an album that’s highly recommended for blues rock fans and a fitting tribute to their departed guitarist, Bob Moore.
From Moseley in Birmingham, The Lost Notes are a five-piece acoustic outfit who fuse folk, jazz and bluegrass influences to create their own unique but accessible sound with their gorgeous three-part harmonies taking centre-stage.
Lowlifes and High Times is the follow-up album to the band’s well-received debut. Comprising eleven tracks plus a couple of bonus reworkings, the songs “celebrate the ups and downs of journeymen, despots, sleazeballs, fools, the planet and the consciously idle,” the band tell us.
The band are: Ben Mills: vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica; Oli Jobes: lead guitar, vocals; Lucy Mills: vocals; Silas Wood: double bass; and Max Tomlinson: drums. The key songwriters are Mills, a jazz fan, and Jobes, a folkie. Those creative differences clearly blend together well. There’s enough jazz on the album to really make it swing and instantly get your foot tapping but enough folk to ensure the songs are based around storytelling and catchy melodies. What it means is that things never get in the slightest bit self-indulgent but they never get worthy and dull either.
Notching up appearances at the likes of Moseley Folk Festival, Bromsgrove Folk Festival and Beardy Folk Festival, I can see exactly whey their irresistible blend of folk, jazz and Americana and those beautiful harmonies would go down a storm at festivals. Definitely ones to watch.
The hashtag #FolkForChristmas was dreamt up as a means of supporting artists whose income has been devastated by the impact of coronavirus and lockdown this year. People are encouraged to support independent artists and their wonderful music and shop with them this Christmas rather than heading off to Amazon. In putting this list of recommendations together I’ve used nothing more than the totally scientific method of ranking them in order according to the number of hits each of these reviews received on my website.
No. 1: The Longest Johns – Cures What Ails Ya
If no-one has done more than Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends to repopularise sea shanties in recent years, then surely no-one has done more than Bristol’s Longest Johns to give them an alt-folk makeover, pull them into the twenty-first century and make them cool. Cures What Ails Ya is the Longest Johns’ third album. A brilliant album from the men who made shanties sexy – buy it!
No. 2: Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band – Natural Invention
Forming first as a violin-guitar-percussion trio creating a wonderful fusion of traditional English folk and a beguiling blend of international influences, the duo of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin subsequently joined for occasional tours and a live album under the delightful Gigspanner Big Band moniker. Now, the big band has got even bigger – with former Bellowhead legend John Spiers joining. A stunningly good album, even if you’re stingy enough to only buy one folk album this year make sure it’s this one.
Inspired by Nan Shepherd’s memoir, once described by the Guardian as “the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain,” Sturgeon’s album of the same name celebrates Shepherd’s nature writing and the Cairngorms mountain range in the eastern Highlands. Each of the twelve songs on the album take their titles from the chapter headings in Shepherd’s celebrated volume. Beautifully sung and exquisitely played The Living Mountain is a captivating celebration of the natural world and timeless and inspirational nature writing.
Send My Soul is the fifth studio album from singer song-writer Lorraine Jordan. Memorably described as ‘Celtic soul’ her music builds on her family’s Irish roots while also embracing more contemporary influences. It’s a combination that works fantastically well and from the moment you put it on the album oozes soulful sophistication and captivating musicality. Indeed, such is the powerfully understated beauty of the title track that I had to double-check that this was a brand new song and not a modern interpretation of a long lost gospel soul classic.
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. An absolute gem of an album.
With a name like that, songs that tell tales of heartbreak, cheap whiskey and Jesus, not to mention some deliciously effortless musicianship that just seems to ooze Nashville, I was somewhat surprised to learn that Mr Steinberg hails not from Nashville but from Norfolk (at least these days – although he’s from Yorkshire originally). What surprised me even more, however, was learning that Shadowland is, in fact, Steinberg’s debut album. Outstanding songs, exquisitely well-played and beautifully sung this album radiates such class that I’m still getting my head around the fact it’s a debut album.
All Is Not Forgotten is the fourth solo album from Scottish folk singer Siobhan Miller, three times winner of MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards and a 2018 BBC Folk Awards recipient. A beautifully pure voice that is just made for Scottish folk along with some exquisitely lovely musical arrangements and some instantly appealing songwriting ‘All Is Not Forgotten’ commends itself to you as a stand-out album as soon as you put it on.
Virginia Kettle’s vocals have been a key element of of Merry Hell’s sound since the band’s inception a decade ago. Before joining her husband John, brothers-in-law Bob and Andrew, and sundry others in the eight-piece folk-rock outfit, however, she’d established herself as a singer-songwriter in her own right. A mellower and more personal offering than a Merry Hell release No Place Like Tomorrow is a charming album that showcases Virginia Kettle’s obvious talents as a singer-songwriter.
Edge of the Wild is a collection of original songs from Hebridean-based author and artist Judy Fairbairns. Drawing inspiration from several decades spent living on the Isle of Mull and celebrating the wild beauty of its dramatic Atlantic shoreline, Edge of the Wild can be seen as something of a companion piece to Fairbairns’ acclaimed 2013 memoir ‘Island Wife’. An immensely satisfying listen and a fine musical debut.
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.