Blues rock band Big River release long-awaited EP ‘Beautiful Trauma’ on 19th August 2022

UK blues rock band, Big River, release their new 4-track EP ‘Beautiful Trauma’ on all platforms for digital download and CD on 19th August 2022.

The track listing for Beautiful Trauma is:

  1. Don’t Hold Out
  2. The Long Way
  3. Slow Burn
  4. Beautiful Trauma

Formed in 2016, Big River have been on a journey since their first album, Redemption (released in 2019). The band have been developing new material and new ways of writing, performing and collaborating. With a new singer and bass player Big River have now put together a new EP of fresh material which shows this progression.

Big River are: Adam Barron (vocals), Damo Fawsett (guitar), Simon Gardiner (bass), Joe Martin (drums / backing vocals).

Lead vocalist, Adam Barron came to prominence as a contestant on UK TV show The Voice and went on to secure the lead vocalist position fronting Mick Ralphs’ Blues Band. Sadly, that venture came to an end with Ralphs’ debilitating stroke but Adam teamed up with Big River last year. One of the finest blues rock singers around today, he is the perfect fit for Big River as the band move on to new heights.

Announcing the new EP, drummer, Joe Martin, says: “These songs have been performed live and have gone down a storm with all audiences. Through the changes Big River have maintained their thunderous live sound, but it’s that bit sweeter. The future is bright.”

Big River are currently on the road in the UK promoting the EP until the end of the year when they will head back into the studio to start recording a full album.

Beautiful Trauma is released on 19th August on CD and all the main digital platforms.

Bandcamp: https://bigriver1.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigriverblues

Related posts:

Live review – Big River at The Carlisle, Hastings 2021

Single review – Big River – Don’t Hold Out

Album review – Big River – Redemption

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

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

Singer-songwriter: album review – The Electric Flea Show ‘Art Club of Paintings’

Art Club of Paintings is the debut album of The Electric Flea Show. Rather than a band, The Electric Flee Show is actually the pseudonym of an otherwise un-named singer-songwriter. “Unidentified, in the spirit of Banksy perhaps – or maybe just some anonymous bloke,” he writes in the accompanying press blurb.

As an album it’s got a slightly indie/experimental, lo-fi acoustic vibe to it but the songs are accessible, the melodies hummable and the lyrics thought-provoking. It’s another of those albums that was seemingly conceived during the lockdown. However, the lyrical themes were “informed but not constrained by lockdown” according to their author: thoughts of love, heartbreak, life, death and dreams for the future fill the album’s ten tracks.

The vocals have that melancholy edge in the best of that ‘sensitive singer-song-writer’ tradition but he’s got a likeable and highly engaging voice that gently draws you in. The vocals and acoustic guitar are occasionally punctuated by some slightly other-worldly special effects, vintage keyboard sounds and drum samples.

A really interesting album. I enjoyed this one. Thanks Electric Flea Show, whoever you are.

Released: 4th April 2022 by FR Records

https://theelectricfleashow.bandcamp.com/

Book review: ‘Top Of The Pops: The Punk & New Romantic Years 1976-1986’ by Peter Checksfield

Hot on the heels of Peter Checksfield’s previous Top Of The Pops book (which covered the show from its inception in 1964 through to 1975) comes this second volume taking us from 1976 through to 1986.

Again, it’s a similar format with a rundown of the acts on each episode and various titbits such as brief pen portraits of each artist, chart history and various reminiscences from some of those who performed on the show. It’s a slightly expanded format this time, including stills from each episode broadcast, resulting in a massive telephone directory -sized tome.

Unlike the first volume, where I was either yet to be born or a very young toddler for a good chunk of the episodes covered, this volume covers the entirety of my teenage years where Top Of The Pops went from something being on in the background to something I avidly watched each week.

I was ten in 1976 and vaguely starting to become aware of changes in the musical landscape. This book, however, is a timely reminder that for all of punk’s year zero rhetoric, change was gradual rather than something that happened overnight. Slade, Sweet, Mud and Gary Glitter were all still regulars at this point (even if their chart positions were somewhat lower than previously) sharing the Top Of The Pops weekly chart run-down with the likes of The Jam, The Stranglers and The Sex Pistols.

I was a bit too young to get caught up in punk and new romantic was never really my cup of tea either. But the early 1980s also saw a real renaissance for hard rock and heavy metal, which had been in the doldrums a bit in the second half of the 1970s. At the start of that new decade, bands like Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon became regulars on TOTP – not just making the album charts but making a serious mark on the singles charts, too. The period even saw a big commercial revival for Slade. Their appearance on 29th January 1981 as Checksfield notes, being their first TOTP performance in four years. It was a pivotal moment for me, instantly transforming them from being a group I remembered from my childhood that did that Christmas record to being my number one favourite band.

People will have their own particular highlights but this book, as well as being a useful and well-researched reference work, will trigger many affectionate memories, even though the less we dwell on some of the show’s past presenters the better.

Published 2022

Visit Peter Checksfield’s website here

Related reviews:

Book review: ‘Top Of The Pops: The Lost Years Rediscovered 1964-1975’ by Peter Checksfield

‘Look Wot They Dun! – The ultimate guide to UK glam rock on TV in the 70s’ by Peter Checksfield

Folk: album review – Hannah Rarity ‘To Have You Near’

I had the privilege of reviewing Hannah Rarity’s debut EP, Beginnings, for the now defunct fRoots magazine back in 2016. I predicted hers was a name to watch, Rarity’s voice reminding me of a young Cara Dillon, a comparison it seems a few others went on to make along the way. Since then, she went on to pick up BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year award  in 2018 and release her extremely well-received debut full album, Neath The Gloaming Star, that same year.

Four years later she returns with the follow-up, To Have You Near. The vocals are as captivating as ever and the songs, whether originals or Rarity’s interpretations of others’ material, are always both highly engaging and thought-provoking. With this new album, however, she brings in other influences alongside the expected Scottish folk, with touches of jazz and blues.

Hannah Rarity: “A second album is a daunting task for any artist, and To Have You Near has been born out of a turbulent, difficult time in the world. Which I think is reflected in  the freshly penned songs and my choice of poignant covers. Artistically and stylistically, I wanted it to be an intimate experience for a listener, tackling more complex subject matters along the way and experimenting further with production techniques and sounds – still grounded in traditional folk song but allowing space for other influences to permeate.”

Rarity’s own songs (whether her solo compositions or collaborations with co-songwriter, Gordon Maclean) explore themes such as home, friendship, insecurity and dementia, the latter taking the form of a touching song called ‘Kaleidoscope, based on Rarity’s work bringing music to residents in care homes through the Live Music Now initiative.

Covers include the 19th century parlour song, ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’, a cover of Tom Waite’s ‘Take It With Me’ and Julie Matthews’ ‘Comes The Hour’, originally written for a BBC Radio Ballads documentary.

To Have You Near is produced by long-time collaborator, Innes White, who also provides acoustic guitar, alongside John Lowrie (keyboards), James Lindsey (bass) and Scott McKay (drums and percussion). Lush strings courtesy of Seonaid Aitken, Katrina Lee, Patsy Reid and Alice Allen give the album additional depth and sensitivity.

Still a name to watch and still as captivating as ever, Hannah Rarity has created a thing of beauty with this, her second album.

Released: 3rd June 2022

https://www.hannahrarity.com/

Related reviews:

EP review – Hannah Rarity ‘Beginnings’

Album review – TMSA ‘Young Trad Tour 2018’

Live review: the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park 3/7/22

It’s been over thirty years since attending my first and only previous Rolling Stones gig, when I went with my dad to Manchester’s Maine Road back in 1990. My dad’s thinking back then was that if I wanted to see them live then 1990’s Urban Jungle tour might be my last chance.

Thirty-two years later and they are still at it, well Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood anyway. The set opened with a poignant tribute to Charlie Watts up on the huge screens and Jagger dedicating the concert to him.

Opening up with a wonderfully energetic version of ‘Get Off My Cloud’ to get us all instantly in the mood, the hits keep rolling. Timeless classics all, I was particularly moved by a poignant rendition of ‘Angie’ and a beautiful ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, a song we played at my dad’s funeral back in 2007 so it has special meaning for me.

There was quite a lot of banter with the crowd, a playful Jagger welcoming us to the “American Express British Summer Time Covid super-spreader event” at one point. This is the fifth time the Stones have played Hyde Park, the vocalist reminds us. “The first one was free,” he says, recalling that legendary Hyde Park concert back in July 1969 following the tragic death of Brian Jones. “The following ones were not free,”  he says with a wry grin, acknowledging the hefty wads of cash that most of us had forked out for the privilege of being here tonight.

Keith Richards is in his element, taking lead vocals for a couple of songs,  ‘You Got The Silver’ (from Let It Bleed) and ‘Happy’ (from Exile On Main Street). It also gave Jagger a short rest back stage. But for the rest of the concert he’s bopping and preening and dashing out into the crowd on the famed ‘ego-ramp’, the same as he’s always done in a way that’s just impossible to believe he’s now almost 79.

As Matt, my gig partner for the day points out, it’s not a massive entourage of a backing band. Jagger, Richards and Wood are joined by the ever-present Darryl Jones, who took over from Bill Wyman back in 1994, and Steve Jordan filling in for Charlie Watts since the latter’s shock demise last year. Alongside them are Chuck Leavell and Matt Clifford on keyboards, Bernard Fowler on backing vocals and percussion, Tim Ries and Karl Denson on saxophone, and Sasha Allen on backing vocals. Both the sound and on-stage vibe is perfection.

Jagger’s soon back on stage and the band launch into an extended, super-funked-up version of ‘Miss You’, an opportunity for a mass boogie by the Hyde Park crowd and communal “ooh-ooh ooh-ooh ooh-ooh-ooh” backing vocals before we move straight into a deliciously laid-back ‘Midnight Rambler’, with bags of harmonica from Jagger and Richards and Woods trading country-flavoured guitar licks.

And there’s still time to pack a whole more classics in: ‘Paint It Black’, ‘Start Me Up’, ‘Gimme Shelter’, ‘Jumping Jack Flash’. Another poignant moment comes as the big screens depict an eery tableau of bombed-out buildings during ‘Gimme Shelter’ as the band’s tribute to Ukraine, with backing singer, Sasha Allen, duetting with Jagger on this one and demonstrating what a fantastically soulful voice she’s got as she joins him on the ramp out into the crowd.

Unlike the Eagles last week, who launched straight into their encore set without the hassle of going off stage and coming back on again, we did have to wait a couple minutes for the band to return and conclude with ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and riotous, life-affirming ‘Satisfaction’.

I probably won’t get to see them again, regardless of the band’s future plans as they reach their sixtieth anniversary milestone. But this was special and something I’ll remember forever.

Set-list:

Get Off My Cloud

19th Nervous Breakdown

Tumbling Dice

Out of Time

Angie

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Like a Rolling Stone

You Got Me Rocking

Honky Tonk Women

You Got the Silver

Happy

Miss You

Midnight Rambler

Paint It Black

Start Me Up

Gimme Shelter

Jumping Jack Flash

Sympathy for the Devil

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Related posts:

Review: The Rolling Stones ‘Exhibitionism’ at The Saatchi Gallery

Live review: the Eagles at Hyde Park 26/6/22

Live review: the Eagles at Hyde Park 26/6/22

My first BST Hyde Park festival since Blur in 2015, and I’ve not just got one this year, but two. First the Eagles then the Rolling Stones a week later.

Having long been on my bucket-list of must-see artists, I’d somehow managed to avoid seeing the Eagles until now so today was always going to be really special. It was made even more special by the early evening support slot from none other than Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. It’s a superb fit as their lush bluegrass-soaked Americana perfectly complements the laid-back, west coast, country rock of the headliners. Giving us a selection of tracks from their stunning 2007 Raising Sand album and its recent follow-up, Raise The Roof, the pair also manage to chuck in a couple of Zep covers, too – ‘Rock and Roll’ and a majestic version of ‘The Battle of Evermore’, originally a duet between Plant and Sandy Denny.

The sun continued to shine and the Eagles took to the stage on a lovely warm summer evening in Hyde Park. If there’s one band you don’t want to see performing against a backdrop of typically unreliable British weather, it’s got to be the Eagles. But everything is on their side tonight.

Following the sad passing of Glenn Frey back in 2016, the Eagles these days are Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit and new boy, Vince Gill. It’s a masterclass of a performance and the classics just keep rolling: ‘One Of These Nights’, ‘Witchy Woman’, Take It To The Limit’, Lyin’ Eyes’, They just keep coming.

Glenn Frey’s son, Deacon, who was officially part of the line-up for a time following his father’s death, joins as a special guest for a couple of songs, including a stunning ‘Take It Easy’.

Ever the rock star, and never one to really go for the regulation, trade-mark, laid-back Eagles  persona, Joe Walsh brings his flamboyance to the performance and gets to do a couple of his solo numbers, too. He’s still in fine voice and his guitar-playing is just a delight. Drummer and founder, Don Henley, also gives us one of his solo numbers, dedicating ‘The Boys of Summer’ to Taylor Hawkins.

Those Eagles classics keep coming though. They’ll be on for two hours by the end. Probably mindful of Westminster City Council’s ultra-strict curfew policy and given that we are now well past 10pm, “We’re not going to do that walk on and walk off thing,” we’re told. Before we know it, it’s ‘Hotel California’ and it just felt magical being in Hyde Park late on a summer evening watching the Eagles perform the song they’ll always be most famous for. We’re not quite finished yet and there’s time to squeeze in ‘Rocky Mountain Way’, ‘Desperado’  and ‘Already Gone’ before the curfew hits.

A truly magical evening and a chance to finally see one of my bucket-list bands. And next week it’s the Stones!

https://eagles.com/

Setlist:

Seven Bridges Road

One of These Nights

New Kid in Town

Witchy Woman

Take It to the Limit

Lyin’ Eyes

In the City

I Can’t Tell You Why

Victim of Love

Tequila Sunrise

Best of My Love

Peaceful Easy Feeling

Take It Easy

Life’s Been Good

Those Shoes

The Boys of Summer

Funk #49

Heartache Tonight

Life in the Fast Lane

Hotel California

Rocky Mountain Way

Desperado

Already Gone

Related review:

Live review: the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park 3/7/22

Folk: album review – Fraya Thomsen ‘Release’

Harpist, singer and award-winning composer, Fraya Thomsen’s musical roots lie in the Scottish traditional music scene  but she’s equally at home in the world of film and TV, where she has composed music for a number of award-winning short films as well as pieces for contemporary choreographers and multimedia artists.

Release began life as a piece of work entitled Community & Stardust, commissioned for the 2017 Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, but then evolved into a lockdown project with the album being recorded in the participating musicians’ own homes and studios during 2020.

The team of musicians who had originally devised and performed the piece have similarly contributed to the album: Sarah Allen (flute), Shanti Jayasinha (flugelhorn), Colette O’Leary (accordion), Louise McMonagle (cello), James Maddren (drums/percussion) and Cameron Maxwell (bass). Artist, Lucy Cash, has also written the lyrics to one of the songs on the album, ‘Just This Sky Line’ which was also used for a film called A Song For Nine Elms.

Featuring tracks with titles like ‘Save The World’, ‘For The Water Protectors’ and ‘Connected’. It’s perhaps no surprise that there is a strong ecological theme to this album. The twelve tracks are a mixture of songs and tunes and while, unsurprisingly, there are obvious Celtic influences from the folk world, other musical influences make the presence felt, too. ‘Tiger’, for example, is jazz-influenced while other tracks take on a more experimental feel, again perhaps unsurprising, given Thomsen’s work in the world of film as well as folk.

There’s much to appreciate on this album with the contributions of the guest musicians perfectly complimenting Thomsen’s beautiful harp and vocal. What’s more there seems to be more to discover with each repeated listen. Put it on, sit back, soak it all in and quietly contemplate the future of our world  and our connections to one another.

Released: 9th April 2022

http://www.frayathomsen.com/

Bowie and Iggy Pop icon, Tony Fox Sales, celebrates 45 years of Lust For Life with UK tour

Tony Fox Sales featuring Clem Burke from Blondie – UK tour March 2023

Marking forty-five years since the release of the all-time classic Lust For Life album, esteemed former Iggy Pop and Tin Machine bass-player, Tony Fox Sales, sets out on a rare UK tour next Spring, his first in the UK since 1991. With an all-star line-up, Sales is joined by legendary Blondie drummer, Clem Burke; vocalist, renowned broadcaster and Pet Shop Boys dancer, Katie Puckrik; Iggy Pop and David Bowie guitarist, Kevin Armstrong;  guitarist, Luis Correia, who’s toured internationally with Earl Slick; and classical pianist, composer, and touring member of Heaven 17, Florence Sabeva.

Tony Fox Sales will perform the Lust For Life album in full, as well as revisiting songs from across the individual band members’ careers with legendary artists such as Blondie and David Bowie. The eleven-date tour also includes a special one-off date in Dublin.

The full tour dates are as follows:

Wed 1 March – The 100 Club, London: Ticket link

Thur 2 March – The Cavern, Liverpool: Ticket link

Fri 3 March – Social, Hull: Ticket link

Sat 4 March – Trades Club, Hebden Bridge: Ticket link

Sun 5 March – The Vodoo Rooms, Edinburgh: Ticket link

Mon 6 March – Arts Centre, Norwich: Ticket link

Wed 8 March – Whelan’s, Dublin: Ticket link

Thur 9 March – Arts Centre, Colchester: Ticket link

Fri 10 March – The Piper, St Leonards: Ticket link

Sat 11 March – The Lexington, London: Ticket link

Sun 12 March – The Lexington, London: Ticket link

Announcing the tour, Tony Fox Sales comments: “I look forward, with great anticipation, to returning to England to tour this coming year. The Lust For Life album was the recording highlight of my fifty-eight year career in music for me. It was an amazing experience artistically, and personally. Memories not too soon forgotten. Though, as of now, I have not worked with the entire line-up of players for this tour, I have no doubt, that this will be an ass-kicking event! Lust For Life!”

Katie Puckrik: “I’m a show pony from way back: along with my broadcast career covering pop culture, I performed onstage with The Fall and Michael Clark Company, I toured the world dancing with Pet Shop Boys, and I sang in Sparks’ opera The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, both on the original cast recording and in performance. I have worked with towering icons of music, but taking on the magnificent Iggy Pop’s vocal duties for this Lust for Life re-make/re-model is an electrifying opportunity like no other. Not only do I get to sing anthems like ‘Lust for Life’ and ‘The Passenger’ (as well as my personal fave from the album, ‘Success’), but I’m surrounded by some of Iggy, Bowie and Blondie’s key players, including Tony Sales, Clem Burke and Kevin Armstrong. So strap on your horse tails and join me in celebrating Lust for Life.”

The Tony Fox Sales band members are:

Tony Fox Sales – Bass and Backing Vocals: Growing up in Detroit, bass-player, Tony Fox Sales, and his drummer brother, Hunt, formed their first band in the mid-1960s. As a rhythm section Tony and Hunt would go on to work with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren, Bob Welch, Andy Fraser and many others. After recording a couple of albums with Todd in the early 1970s, the two brothers recorded the Kill City album with Iggy Pop in 1975 followed by Lust for Life in 1977. They both joined Iggy on his subsequent tour, recorded as TV Eye Live 1977 and released the following year. In 1982 Tony joined Chequered Past, which included singer/actor Michael Des Barres (later of Power Station); ex-Sex Pistols guitarist, Steve Jones; Blondie’s drummer, Clem Burke, as well as their bass player, Nigel Harrison. In 1988 Tony then joined forces with David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels and Hunt Sales in Tin Machine. Bowie later acknowledged that it was Tony and Hunt’s contribution to Lust for Life that led him to invite the brothers to join him.

Clem Burke – Drums: Answering an ad in the New York newspaper, Village Voice, for a band seeking a ‘freak energy’ rock drummer, Clem Burke became the drummer of Blondie in the mid-1970s. The band recorded their first album in 1976 and emerged as the great pop icons of New York’s celebrated late 1970s new wave punk scene, achieving huge commercial success with the number one hit singles ‘Atomic’, ‘Heart of Glass’, ‘Sunday Girl’, ‘Call Me’, ‘Rapture’, and ‘The Tide is High’. When Blondie temporarily broke up in 1982, Burke joined Tony Fox Sales in Chequered Past and has also played with a plethora of music legends, including Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop, The Ramones, The Eurythmics and Joan Jett. In 2006, along with the other original members of Blondie, Clem was inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Blondie already having sold over 42 million records.

Katie Puckrik – Vocals: The performer, broadcaster and writer made her TV breakthrough hosting The Word in the 1990s. As a vocalist she sang in Sparks’ opera The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, and her presenting work includes a two-part BBC TV documentary on yacht rock, a four-part BBC radio series on power pop, and her ongoing role as a commentator on Channel 5’s popular Greatest Pop Songs/Videos franchise. Her modern history podcast We Didn’t Start the Fire, based on the Billy Joel hit, was named one of The Observer’s top ten podcasts of 2021. She still considers her favourite career achievement performing with Pet Shop Boys on ‘West End Girls’. “This sexy, sinister lullaby was my ‘I’ve made it!’ anthem when I scored my best job ever: dancing on Pet Shop Boys’ 1991 Performance world tour.”

Kevin Armstrong  – Guitar and Musical Director: Kevin began his musical life with his own band Local Heroes SW9. After two albums his career began thriving as a writer, producer, bandleader and guitarist. Most notably, Kevin met David Bowie in late 1984 and worked with him on various projects, including putting together his band and performing at the legendary Live Aid in 1985. Bowie introduced Kevin to Iggy Pop as guitarist on the 1986 album Blah Blah Blah and Kevin became Iggy’s bandleader in 86/87. He put together Iggy’s touring band again from 2014 until 2019. Kevin has worked with Morrissey, Grace Jones, Sinéad O’Connor, Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby, Transvision Vamp, Brian Eno, Paul McCartney, Sandie Shaw, Gil Evans, Alien Sex Fiend, Keziah Jones and many more.

Luis Correia – Guitar: Luis is a London-based guitarist, producer and songwriter. Originally from Portugal, where he started his career as a session player, Luis moved to the UK over a decade ago and has since performed alongside names like Earl Slick (David Bowie), Bernard Fowler (The Rolling Stones), Erdal Kizilcay (David Bowie), Martin Lister (Alphaville), amongst others. His musicality and soulful playing make Luis a sought after muso on the London scene, where he’s often seen with various bands. He’s currently working on his own music and preparing for a tour with Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet later this year.

Florence Sabeva – Keyboards: a London based pianist, film composer and singer-songwriter, Flo started her career as a session pianist and has played alongside artists like Tom Bailey, Earl Slick (David Bowie) and Bernard Fowler (The Rolling Stones) and currently tours with Heaven 17. Also a very active film composer, she wrote her first score for ‘Wax, We Are The X’ and was then commissioned to write the soundtrack for the Gravity Field Festival in Guildford and to score the German movie ‘Mireille and Angelique’. Flo released her first studio album ‘The London Sessions’ in 2017, featuring eclectic works with European songwriters and artists that reflect her various music influences.

Tom Wilcox – Curator and Producer: Tom was the front man of 90’s art punk band Maniac Squat finding notoriety with their 1995 ‘hit’ F**k Off (Single of the Week in Kerrang!). Tom has since produced albums for Gillian Glover and Lisa Ronson; the latter, co-produced with Paul Cuddeford, receiving a 4-star review in Mojo and widespread critical acclaim. As a music curator, Tom’s credits include Blondiefest, Princefest and Iggyfest at the ICA, as well as conceiving and introducing bands/tours such as Tony Visconti’s Holy Holy.

Website: https://tonyfoxsalestour.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonysalestour

Related posts:

Kevin Armstrong at the Kino, St Leonards 2018

Mike Garson performs Aladdin Sane at Birmingham O2 Institute 2017

Holy Holy perform Ziggy Stardust at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2017

Holy Holy perform The Man Who Sold The World & Ziggy Stardust at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 2019

Folk-rock: album review – Julie July Band ‘Wonderland’

First catching the Julie July Band some five years ago at Warwick Folk Festival and immediately being drawn to their Sandy Denny tribute, I’ve been keeping a keen eye on this band’s progress ever since. Now on to their third album, their first (Who Knows Where The Time Goes) committed the band’s Sandy-themed tribute to disc, while the second (Lady of the First Light) was an album of all-new original material. This latest sees the band writing and performing new material, once more.

The driving duo of Julie July (vocals) and Steve Rezillo (electric guitar/vocals) remain as they have from the very start, with Rezillo also contributing a significant bulk of the songwriting duties. However, there have been a few changes along the way, too. The pair are now joined by Caley Groves (guitar) whose father was Steve Groves, a contemporary of Sandy Denny’s late partner and ex Fotheringay and Fairporter, Trevor Lucas on the Australian folk-rock scene. Also joining them is Dik Cadbury (bass/vocals) who has an impeccable folk-rock pedigree stretching back to his days in Decameron in the 1970s and who has also worked with Steve Hackett. Joining on drums is Mick Candler who began playing in local beat groups in his home city of York back in the early 1960’s, prior to joining the Roll Movement and going on to work with the likes of Decameron, Phil Beer and Steve Knightly. Finally, there is keyboard player and singer-songwriter, Carol Lee Sampson, who contributes keyboards and vocal harmonies on the album.

As with the previous album, all twelve tracks on Wonderland are original songs.

Julie July: “This album is a bit different because the new line-up has five voices so we decided to make more use of these in the songs with harmonies.”

Wonderland represents an evolution of the band in a number of ways. Although the previous album, Lady Of The First Light, was categorically not a Sandy Denny tribute album, her influence was never really very far away. In some ways it felt like a long-lost companion to Sandy Denny’s handful of post-Fotheringay ‘70s solo albums. With Wonderland, however, the band spread their wings further and a more eclectic range of influences are apparent.

It still taps into that rich vein of ‘60s and ‘70s folk rock. But there’s layer upon layer of other influences, too, from prog to blues to polished singer-songwriter to straight-ahead hard rock, and even a hint of Latin here and there. This is a band growing in confidence, reaching into its huge well of collective experience and delivering some fine music, exquisite vocals and harmonies and striking songwriting.  

Lyrical themes range from proggy mystical fantasy (‘Labyrinth’), to grappling with the strange realities of human interaction, post-lockdown (’Wonderland’) to the values of a certain former (thankfully) US President (‘Smoke And Mirrors’). It all adds up to a very pleasing third album from the Julie July Band.

Whether performing Sandy Denny’s songs or their own material, this is a band I always enjoy listening to and, after Covid messed up my usual summer festival plans these past couple of years, I now very much look forward to reconnecting with them live again, too.

Released: May 2022

https://www.juliejuly.co.uk/music

Related posts:

Folk-rock: album review – Julie July Band ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’ – A Tribute To Sandy Denny

Folk-rock: album review – Julie July Band ‘Lady of the First Light’

This week’s featured artist: East Sussex folk singer-songwriter, India Blue

Drawing inspiration from spirituality, history, folk tales, nature and the complexities of “being human”, India Blue is a folk musician and singer-songwriter based here in St. Leonards, East Sussex.

Introduced to the piano aged five, India says she began writing songs about faeries from those very first lessons, with help from her teacher Carla Smith. Aged eleven she began performing her first ever gigs as her support act, at places like Revelation in Ashford and the Sinden Theatre in Tenterden. Then came opportunities on the festival circuit, playing at small eco, pagan and hippie festivals in 2015. Prior to lockdown she was playing around eleven festivals each summer. She was awarded winner of the Equator Music Contest  in 2014, was shortlisted for Young Songwriter of the Year in 2015 and was area finalist of Open Mic UK in 2016. As well as festivals, she’s supported Jo Beth Young for her ‘Strangers’ album launch and Guy Chambers on his ‘Into The Light’ tour.

India Blue’s debut studio album, The Circus Came And Left, released earlier this Spring features thirteen self-composed songs written over a two-year period.

“The Circus Came and Left is titled from the final single, which I toyed with actually including on the album or not. It’s a very personal song, about the transience of life. But I felt in some way whilst structuring the album: this is the journey I wanted the listener to go through, as it’s the one cycle every living this also goes through (in some way or another) It was also a major reason I wanted my first solo release to be an album, rather than a single: to walk the listener through a landscape.”

“I recorded the album in the home studio of my producer and fellow musician Tom Clarkson. Recording was a heart opening experience, intertwined with cavalo nero pasta, deep yogic breaths and dances with his two-year-old daughter.”

“My favourite part of the process was recording the piano on a magnificent old Steinway in an old original Burton manor (the man who built St Leonards!) ‘We’re Free’ was the only song fully recorded in this space, it was my rendition of a Mantra, and we got it in maybe one or two takes. I feel that songs are capsules, containing the energy of their words, the time when they were written, and also recorded. I feel this album truly holds support, insight and creative power for all who listen to receive.”

While she’s mainly self-accompanied, playing piano, harp and other instruments, the album also features some talented local musicians including Bev Lee Harling (violin), Tom Clarkson (bass/electric guitar), Tom Uragallo (bodhran) and Sarah Vincent (trombone).

The Circus Came And Left is a delightful album. India Blue’s delicate yet expressive and slightly other-worldly vocal is the perfect fit for her song-writing and there’s plenty of lovely mournful piano and beautifully evocative harp to really bring these songs to life. Both Vashti Bunyan and Joanna Newsome are cited as key inspirations and there’s lots for fans of both of those artists to enjoy here.

Released: March 2022

https://www.indiabluemusic.com/