Dave Burn was guitarist/vocalist with former London-based alt-country outfit ahab and its associated spin-off after the band split, Orphan Colours. Arizona is Burn’s first solo album.
Now I’d always loved ahab’s sunny, infectious, upbeat brand of Americana and that was very much followed through with Orphan Colours who released a glorious EP last year. However, with both outfits you long suspected that there might also be a more reflective, more contemplative, singer-songwriter vibe within them. And here it is. Dave Burn has pulled that off with a really nice album.
In Burn’s own words: “I took a long job working on a documentary in the Yukon filming gold miners. I came back with a broken foot and a slipped disc in my back but fortunately enough cash to rent a studio, round up some great musicians and make the album I’ve always wanted to make, which I’m very proud of.”
He is right to be proud of it. His warm, heartfelt vocals are perfectly suited to this type of material. And with Burn on acoustic guitar and mandolin, he’s pulled together a talented set of musicians, including some superbly atmospheric lead guitar from Fred Abbott (Noah & The Whale/Orphan Colours) on songs like opening track ‘Fine Company’. Abbott also contributes some beautifully authentic piano and steel guitar to the album. The old connections are not lost, either with Seebs Llewellyn (ahab/Orphan Colours) and Luke Price (ahab) contributing backing vocals.
Much as I’d like to see the ahab boys playing together again at some point in the future, clearly it was time for Burn to try his hand at coming out from a supporting role and taking centre-stage. A lot more laid-back than ahab but no less lovely, Arizona is a superb solo album from Dave Burn.
Arizona is released on 1 March 2017
ahab live at Cropredy
Orphan Colours live in London
Independent record stores that have managed to survive firstly the big chains, then the rise of Amazon then the downloading craze have tended to be the ones that made themselves far more than just a place to buy records and CDs. The Music’s Not Dead store in Bexhill-on-sea is a classic example. Its thirst for promoting music seemingly limitless and unconditional. Not only do they host regular live performances in store, they also hook up with the De La Warr Pavilion over the road to put on numerous events including this outdoor mini free festival on the terrace of the pavilion by the seafront. The first band on today The Equatorial Group particularly caught my eye.
“Sounding like Crazy Horse colliding with Fleetwood Mac on a dusty road” as their Facebook profile has it. Gentle acoustic guitar, some nice pedal steel, harmony vocals and some great laid-back lead guitar solos, their blend of slow, countrified Americana was just perfect for a hot August afternoon with a few beers by the sea. They’ve got some good original songs, too. And as you could pick up both of their self-produced EPs (2014’s Glebe and 2015’s Elvis) on CD for a fiver it seemed silly not to buy them and explore this band a little further. I’m impressed.
The Eastbourne-based band have been around since 2011 and are now happily on my radar for the future. Anyone into this type of music is well advised to keep an eye out for them. And well done to both Music’s Not Dead and De La Warr Pavilion for giving a platform to acts of this calibre.
One of the absolute joys about life in Hastings and St Leonard’s, and a key motivation for relocating here in the first place, is the proliferation of live music venues. There’s an extremely satisfying number of good-sized venues, like The White Rock Theatre, St Mary In The Castle, The Stables Theatre, The Kino Teatre and the nearby Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion. But it’s not just the larger theatre-style venues, live music in pubs and bars throughout the town appears to be as much part of pub life as pints of lager and bags of crisps. So my first actual gig as a bona fide, council-tax paying Hastings resident, as opposed to visiting music tourist, is to see Mick Bolton and Simon Shaw play an early Sunday evening set in the Gecko cafe bar around the corner from me on St Leonard’s seafront.
I’d seen keyboard player, Mick Bolton, who toured as part of Mott The Hoople in the early 70s, at a handful of Mott The Hoople-related events over the years but until tonight I’d never actually seen him perform live. He’s joined by Simon Shaw and Bolton’s pounding honky tonk style-piano and Shaw’s acoustic blues/Americana guitar make for a really nice combination. They give their own treatment to a number of well-known covers, including songs by Georgie Fame, The Beatles, The Band, Thunderclap Newman, Eric Clapton and Chuck Berry. A good few of Bolton’s self-penned originals are thrown in, too, performed in a similar style (mainly) with a couple of slower numbers thrown in towards the end.
So for a couple of hours around thirty-odd of us are entertained for free in this pleasant little seafront cafe bar by two talented musicians who are clearly enjoying playing for us. My first gig as a Hastings local, but certainly not my last, and several more are lined up already.
Folky, countryfied, bluesy, Americana, Marina Florance’s rich, velvety vocals and deft, expressive acoustic guitar playing have the effect of making every song she plays sound like a timeless classic. I first became aware of this extremely talented singer-songwrter at Folkstock’s Emerging Talent Showcase back in November. Her incredible voice and heartfelt songs bowled me over. Though not exactly a household name, Florance has been picking up more and more fans wherever she’s played and sung. Tom Robinson has championed her on his BBC 6 music show and she’s wowed audiences at the Cambridge Folk Festival.
The album opens with I Told You My Troubles. Florance has a knack of turning an initial world-weary and burdonsome vocal into a defiant and uplifting song of hope and joy. This is one of those songs, as is the next one, Little Black Cloud, a beautiful song which is the stand-out track on an exceptionally strong album.
Mostly, the album is just Florance’s rich, heartfelt vocals and her beautiful acoustic guitar-playing. But there are some nice guest contributions, too: some lovely melodeon on a couple of tracks and additional guitar from Ben Smith and alto-sax from Greg Camburn on one track. All of the songs are penned by Florance alone or with one of her writing partners. It’s testimony to her talents as a songwriter that an album as strong as this from a relative newcomer to recording succeeds without the need for a single cover version.
Let’s hope that 2016 becomes the year where Marina Florance comes to much wider public attention. This, That & The Other couldn’t be a better showcase for doing that. As soon as you put it on it has the sound and feel of a classic album, one that can happily sit by the likes of Alison Krauss, Joni Mitchell and Carole King in my CD collection.
Released: January 2016
Previous review: Marina Florance at The Islington
For sheer passion in terms of promoting new artists, there cannot be many outfits to beat Folkstock, the small “boutique” record label that’s helped bring a number of acts to wider attention. Tonight’s event in Islington is one of two nights that are being hosted under Folkstock’s “Emerging Artists” banner as part of the London Folk & Roots Festival. All of the acts showcased in the two live shows also feature on Folkstock’s “Downtown” album, which has a track contributed from each of the artists. Tonight the theme is Americana and we hear from three solo acts: Katie Rae, Marina Florance and Ben Smith as well as the headliners, five-piece band, Fred’s House.
With many artists you have a pretty rough idea of what they are going to sound like and a reasonable guess at what their musical style is going to be as soon as they take the stage. When the engaging but down-to-earth singer-guitarist, Marina Florance, takes the stage I have very little idea what to expect. But wow what an incredible, incredible voice. And in a strong field tonight, for me, she is the stand-out act of the evening. Florance came to live performance late in life but has been receiving plaudits wherever she’s played and sung. Her rich, heartfelt, expressive voice has been compared to everything from Stevie Nicks to Johnny Cash and is a joy to listen to, both on the more mournful, melancholic countrified numbers like Little Black Cloud (her contribution on the Downtown compilation CD) as well as the raunchier, bluesier songs like Big Legged Woman (from her latest EP: Triple A Side). Some great luscious, dexterous acoustic guitar-playing, too, compliments her voice perfectly. You can catch a video of her and the previous act, Kaity Rae, here
The only downside of an event like tonight is that when you do come across an emerging talent like Florance, you don’t quite get to hear enough of them before it’s time for the next act. Before she leaves the stage, however, the next artist, Ben Smith, joins her for a couple of songs. They make for a powerful musical combination and it’s gratifying to discover Smith plays on a couple of tracks on Florance’s latest EP.
She is the oldest of our emerging talent acts tonight by some way. But whoever said there was any age limit on when an artist can emerge: Marina Florance – I’m a fan!
On my first visit to Fairport’s Cropredy festival in 2010 one of the upcoming bands that, for me, proved to be one of the highlights of that weekend was ahab. And it appears that many others that weekend felt the same way about this newly-formed alt-country band back then, too.
ahab went on to travel the world, make several albums, work with Stone Roses producer John Leckie, jiggle their line-up around a bit; and then, to the disappointment of many fans, promptly called it a day (at least temporarily as members each began to work on other musical projects). However, ahab acknowledge that Cropredy 2010 provided them with their big break. So five years later they are back, in their original line-up, to say thank you to the festival crowd that helped them on their way.
It’s a great performance. A classic slice Americana. Lovely harmonies. Upbeat melodies. Beautiful musicianship. And some great songs they’ve written, too, like Lightnin’ Bug and She’s Wearing Red as well as a brilliant cover of Wagon Wheel. Who’d have thought that they originated from Hackney not Tennessee?
The band were clearly very emotional to be back at the place where it all took off for them and seem genuinely moved by the warm response they get from the Cropredy crowd. After a million thankyous to the crowd they then ask us the one question they perhaps shouldn’t have asked: “Do we look any older since we were last here?” “Yes!” we all shout back. “I love them,” whispered my friend, “but it looks like they’ve done a fair bit of partying over the last five years.”
A great sound, a great festival band and some great songs. It really would be a great shame if this really is the last we hear of ahab. Given the response the band get from the crowd and given how much they clearly enjoyed doing this gig, I doubt it will be. Let’s hope that’s the case.
Run Me Down
Call a Waiter
I’ve Been Raining
Treetop Flyers have been a popular fixture on the festival circuit for several years now and I was looking forward to seeing them again. Singer, Reid Morrison, a regular attender at Cropredy in recent years as a punter, told the crowd he’d promised himself he’d get to sing on that big stage one day. And so he did…
Formed in London in 2009, the band’s influences are not The Kinks or The Small Faces or the Clash but rather the laid-back West Coast rock of bands like Crosby Stills Nash & Young. They are a young original band for the 21st century but one who carry that influence and musical heritage so well. And for sixty minutes or so those of us at the front were no longer in rural Oxfordshire in 2014 but transported back to Woodstock in ‘69.
Treetop Flyers (named after a Stephen Stills song) have perfected their sound and they do it beautifully. From Morrison’s expressive vocals, to the laid back harmonies, the countrified electric guitar licks, the melodic strumming of the acoustic guitar and the infectious boogie, they do sound good. And they’ve got a great collection of self-written songs, too. Rose is in the Yard, Things Will Change and Is it All Worth It are especially worth hearing and lapped up by the crowd, as was there cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary which fitted the mood of the set perfectly.
Still only one album in, 2013’s The Mountain Moves, I’m expecting to hear some truly classic material from this band over the coming years. In the meantime they are a great live band – catch them at a festival or venue near you.
Photo Credit: Shoot the Living