Tag Archives: featured artist

This week’s featured artist: folklorist and singer Derek Piotr

Derek Piotr is a US-based folklorist, performer and composer from New England. His work focuses primarily on the human voice and covers genres as diverse as folk, leftfield pop, classical, and dance but he has a particular interest in Appalachian versions
of traditional ballads. He has collaborated with a number of different artists including Thomas Brinkmann, Scott Solter, and Bradford Reed across various disciplines. Derek was nominated by the jury for Prix Ars Electronica in 2012, and has featured on UbuWeb and the BBC.

Derek Piotr’s CV includes an impressive ten solo albums to date in spite of only just hitting his 30s this year. I ask him about the latest Making and Then Unmaking which was released back in May.

Derek Piotr: “My tenth album, Making and Then Unmaking, is an extension of the folkloric work I’ve done in Western North Carolina, with a heavy emphasis on Appalachian ballad singing and folk and country instrumentation. Originally I was meant to work on this album in a studio in North Carolina, but due to Covid, I ended up recording 90% of the album remotely and putting the performances together via filesharing. Making and Then Unmaking features a much broader instrumental palette because of this workflow, with instruments appearing including bagpipes, clavichord, saxophone, harp, pedal steel guitar, viol da gamba, autoharp and dulcimer.”

Of particular interest to British folk enthusiasts who follow this blog is that Derek has been working in the UK all through the summer, carrying out fieldwork.

Derek Piotr: “My fieldwork in the UK has predominantly focused on collecting recordings of ‘non-singers’ in North Yorkshire. This is a direct continuity of my work in North Carolina documenting non-singers, in other words, informants who have no formal background in vocal performance but nevertheless have living knowledge of traditional song and can still sing or recite these ballads from memory. One of the informants I’ve met on my UK journey was 102…it has been a rich and valuable experience for me to collect ballads from their origin source; most of Child’s ballads were collected in Northumberland and Scotland.”

Making and Then Unmaking: released 14th May 2021

Visit Derek Piotr’s website visit here

This week’s featured artist: folk musician Mel Biggs – new album ‘From Darkness Comes Light’

Mel Biggs, who has recorded several albums as part of acclaimed trio Moirai, is one of the UK’s leading diatonic accordion players. She releases From Darkness Comes Light her debut solo album on 1st October. Over twelve stunningly inventive instrumental tracks, Mel Biggs takes us on a journey through the seasonal changes, both natural and cultural over the course of the year. Accompanied by fiddle, mandolin, piano accordion, guitar and cittern she invites us to join her on this deeply personal and evocative journey.

I ask Mel how the album came about:

This album has taken over a decade to be made. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the physical album, which took 9-ish months in lockdown, but the mental health journey I’ve been on since my early 20s. The darkness of living with anxiety and depression, a binge eating disorder, and menstrual health issues brought forth the light that is my music and composition. Further to this, and rather poignantly, the album’s completion earlier this year coincided with me being diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. Knowing this has given me the missing pieces on my past diagnoses and, well, literally everything in my life! Especially my sensory crossovers which influence my creativity so much.

The diatonic accordion (or melodeon) became my closest friend and confidante early on when I wasn’t able to understand and process the difficult emotions I experienced. It gave me a way to escape and meditate on the natural world around me. The healing power of the great outdoors is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. A sunny day in spring watching washing dry on the line brought forth Shivelight In Spring. Being high up in the Norwegian mountains breezed Oppland Upland into my brain. Zoning out of a difficult day whilst viewing winter’s golden light in the garden gave me Silver Linings. Meditating on the heat haze obscuring the view out the back of my house shone Shimmer into my life. Let me travel the world with my accordion and I’d write and write and be very content!

Mel fills us in on the themes that emerged for the album:

When it came to making the album, I looked at what material I had and realised the running theme was light states in nature through the seasons. Each piece relates to a different point in my personal discovery journey. From Darkness Comes Light is a symbiosis of seasons, nature, and light and their combined effect on mood and mental health recovery. It’s also become a statement to myself of never giving up on finding those missing pieces to understanding and accepting yourself for exactly who you are. Feels like a pretty big thing to say about an album of instrumental folk music, but I prefer using sounds to words any day!

From Darkness Comes Light released 1st October 2021 by Talking Cat Recordings

Available from: https://melbiggsmusic.co.uk/product-category/cds/

Mel Biggs – diatonic accordions, vocals 

Kat Biggs – piano accordion 

Jon Loomes – guitar, cittern 

Bridget Slater – fiddle 

David Squirrell – mandolin, octave mandola 

All tracks written & arranged by Mel Biggs (except track 4 which is Trad.). 

 Keep the conversation going about mental health & follow the ongoing visual work via the blog: www.melbiggsmusic.co.uk 

This week’s featured artist: Big River – new single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ out now

Kent-based blues rock band Big River were formed back in 2016 with their debut album Redemption released in 2019. The band took a fair bit of inspiration from that early seventies golden era of blues rock and turned out a nice line in meaty rhythm, soulful vocals, catchy hooks and big fat riffs and lush guitar solos.

Since then there’s been a bit of a shift in personnel with Damo Fawsett (guitar), Ant Wellman (bass) and Joe Martin (drums) now being joined by new boy Adam Barron who takes over from former vocalist Adam Bartholomew. This is almost certainly the best career move a band like Big River could possibly have made.

Barron came to prominence as a contestant on The Voice and then secured the lead vocalist position fronting Mick Ralphs’ solo band. Sadly, that venture came to an end with Ralphs’ debilitating stroke but Barron teaming up with Big River is a stroke of genius. One of the finest blues rock singers around these days, Barron is the perfect fit for Big River and takes the band to new heights.

The new single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ sets an exceptional standard and was released on all platforms for digital download on 20th August. Written by Barron is an old school classic rock song with a summer vibe and a catchy hook with singer’s soulful, emotive, bluesy vocals taking centre-stage. 

Barron says: “I love my family, I love my friends and I love life, even with all the complications and shit that comes with it. I really believe we have to grab any and every bit of joy we can every day, because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, (last couple of years have certainly shown us that!) and that’s what this song is about.”

Big River are currently working on a second album and preparing for tour dates in Summer / Autumn 2021. 

https://www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

Related posts:

Album review – Big River – Redemption

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

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

This week’s featured artist: stoner metal band Scarfoot – new video ‘Cactus Killer’

Scarfoot are a three piece hard rock/metal outfit from Merseyside. A video for their latest release ‘Cactus Killer’ was unveiled back in June and has already clocked up an impressive 8,000+ views.

The band are Oliver Carins (guitar and vocals), Phil Eakins (drums and vocals) and Rhys Jones (bass). Formed back in 2018 their line-up has now settled with bass-player Rhys joining the two founder members.

I get the lowdown on the video:

“We were intending to make a more… budgetarily weighty video,” confesses Rhys. “But lockdown after lockdown after lockdown made us just decide – balls to this, we’ll have some cactuses fight and animate them. It isn’t the video we originally intended to make, but in a pandemic you do what you gotta do to keep the ball rolling. We had cactuses, we’re a bit daft, so this is what we made!”

And how would the band describe their sound?

Rhys: “A yet to be defined genre. Probably stoner metal would be the closest I think but we do argue about it.

Check out Scarfoot here: https://www.scarfoot.com/

Always out to rock out: this week’s featured artist – Ryan O’Donovan

Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Ryan O’Donovan, is a Sussex-based musician who has built up a solid reputation through the learning disabled music scene. Whether it’s providing backing vocals and guitar for Beat Express, vocals and lead guitar for Zombie Crash (both bands of which are managed by Brighton-based charity Carousel that facilitate learning disabled people in the arts), lead vocals for Lost Asylum or venturing place to place solo, as his favourite saying goes, he is always out to rock out.

During the past year or so through lockdown, Ryan has attracted a significant following through a variety of online events, hosted by the likes of Carousel, Gig Buddies and, most recently, Electric Umbrella – as well as his own regular ‘Rockin at Home With Ryan’ online gigs.

I caught up with Ryan recently to discuss his musical background, influences and what inspires his song-writing.

How I got into music:

The way I got into music was rather extraordinary. I did terribly at it in school and college, I’ve never done a good job of reading musical notation or scores, yet I always seemed to be able to pick up sounds, pitches and keys by ear and identify them that way, which made me a very projective type when using my voice. I can still remember one or two examples of feedback from teachers highlighting how I put the most effort in to singing during nativity plays (I was in a Church of England primary school). According to my mum, as a baby I was even able to sing back (or more so hum at that age) a tune on the radio in perfect key with it! I grew up seeing my dad’s guitars on the walls here and there and hearing him practice; around the time I was born, he had a short-lived stint as the lead vocalist of a band called Blue Parish, though he only got as far as one gig with them where he was plagued by stage fright and never performed in another gig. Still, it would later be an influence, as well as my mum’s brothers being guitar players in their own time. I even later on heard that my great-grandmother (mother to my paternal grandma) was involved in theatre.

As well as those influences, the music of Busted made me want to pick up a guitar all the more, as well as seeing the cast of Rock School get going as a group (albeit temporary) under the coaching and guidance of Kiss’s Gene Simmons. With a few pointers on the tuning of whatever guitar I could borrow from my dad, I started playing songs I knew when I was 15; not by looking up any tabs or scores, but by remembering what key the songs were in and played the notes from there. Anything else I learned in pointers here and there over the years to come.

My musical influences:

My influences as they are now depend on which band, or any kind of group capacity, that I’m active with. As a solo artist, my influences (in alphabetical order so that I don’t miss anyone significant) include the likes of Alanis Morrisette, Alter Bridge, Avril Lavigne, Black Stone Cherry, Busted, Def Leppard, Fightstar, Fozzy, Godsmack, Guns N’ Roses, Kid Rock, Linkin Park, Nickelback, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Puddle of Mudd, Saliva and Queen. It was music I grew to love that typically involved heavy guitar playing to varying degrees – and made me want to be more and more of the sort myself.

What inspires me to write:

Aside from the musical influences of artists I’ve talked about as well as my family’s influence, there are varying inspirations for me to write songs. I started by writing an abstract collection of songs that had more fun with whatever was on my mind at the time. Then I wrote songs reflecting my insecurity with being a single man, in varying tones of looking at where I was both in a positive and negative light. Now I write about my own personal acknowledgements towards seasonal traditions, when not writing about my main life experiences in hindsight. But most of all, my main inspiration is how far I’ve come along, especially now that I’ve been playing guitar for half my life and only developed along the way as a musician, performer and individual. This IS my life’s main worth, as nothing else has stood the test of time with me like my way as a musician. And I have nothing else in mind other than to live this lifestyle to the full and make the most of it all. That’s why my saying is “Always out to rock out”.

Listen to Ryan at:

https://ryanodonovan.bandcamp.com/

https://www.reverbnation.com/ryanodonovan

https://youtube.com/channel/UCroYd2l9grairvgyZXqZwIg

This week’s featured artist: Matt Steady – new album ‘New Buryin’ Ground’ released 27th April

Matt Steady is a singer-songwriter from Leicester. His music is most closely identified with blues and folk but he pulls in a wide range of influences. Even within the confines of those two genres, however, he traverses a refreshingly broad spectrum: on the blues front going from the blistering electric variety to the mournful acoustic type and on the folk side there’s everything from contemporary singer-songwriter to Celtic soundscapes to traditional balladry. Classically-trained, Matt Steady is a highly talented and naturally expressive player, whether that’s guitar or violin, and he’s an evocative lyricist, too.

Steady has a brand new album out New Buryin’ Ground on 27th April. Prior to that though, he released a compilation album featuring highlights from his previous six albums which he launched with a very generous and fairly unique offer. If you fancy the album, you can order it online and he’ll send out the CD to you direct to your door absolutely free of charge.

The Echoes Remain is a very fine compendium of Matt Steady’s work – eleven tracks in all – and something I’m very pleased to now have in my CD collection.

What on earth possessed him to make it completely free of charge, though, I asked him:

MS: “I’m all about the win/win. This compilation album is a win for listeners and a win for me too! Firstly, as an independent artist, the main challenge I have is getting people to listen to my music. Our attention spans on social media are so short that posting up songs, no matter how good they are, is not a strategy that works particularly well. People are unlikely to stop scrolling to listen to a whole song from someone they’ve never heard of for sure! However the people who enjoy my eclectic style of music often still have CDs player, and often love listening to music in their cars or while working. It costs me very little to have CDs made these days, and with the postage paid for I’m not generally out of pocket on them. And actually any shortfall is made up by some generous folks who either leave a tip or buy an extra CD with it. So the win for the listener is obvious – a free CD delivered to their door; a menu of tracks from my other albums to introduce them to my music. And the win for me is that more people are listening to my music, more people are messaging me and having conversations with me, more people are discovering my other albums and enjoying those too. It’s a win/win for everyone!”

“And for those evolved people who don’t have CDs … it’s available as a free download as well. I don’t want to stop anyone from listening from lack of a piece of equipment. And for streamers, this compilation isn’t up on Spotify etc., but all my albums that the tracks come from are, so that’s a way of listening too.”

You can order your free CD here

Photo credit: Frank Roper Photography

I also asked Matt to tell us a little more about the new album that’s due to be released next week:

MS: “My new album is called New Buryin’ Ground, and this time rather than releasing it under my own name, it’s being released under the band name “The Grace Machine”. Alongside my vocals and guitar work, I am frankly astounded to have playing with me two very sought-after musicians – Terl Bryant on percussion and Matt Weeks on bass. I’ve been listening to their work since I was a teen (ahem that’s quite a long time ago now), and I’m still in shock that they wanted to form this band! The music itself is rocky gospel blues. Many of the tracks are interpreting old spirituals and slave songs, bringing them up to date for a modern audience. We owe so much of our musical lives and heritage to black music, crafted under such dire circumstances, and this album is a homage to those often unknown musicians. The album is full of joy and angst in equal measure, and I can only hope that we’ve done the songs justice.”

New Buryin’ Ground available from Matt Steady’s website here

Released 27th April 2021

This weeks featured artist: singer-songwriter duo O’Neil & Jones – new single ‘Broken Shoes’

Manchester-based duo O’Neill & Jones have just released their second single. ‘Broken Shoes’ released on April 2nd follows debut single ‘No Excuse’ which secured airplay in both the UK and US when it was released back in February. The duo are Mat O’Neill and Sophie Jones.

Relatively new to the singer-songwriter scene they had previously been building up a rapport with audiences as an acoustic covers duo. Their own songs soak up folk, Americana and rock influences with a strong emphasis on sweeping harmonies and strong melodies.

Announcing the release of ‘Broken Shoes’ they say:

“This one is a gently upbeat, folky song about coming to the end of a long journey, The trails we take while we’re able, and the relationships that remain once we settle down. We had such a great time writing and recording her last month and couldn’t be happier to be releasing our second single!”

The years spent performing covers proved to be a useful primer in song arrangement, catchy hooks, they tell us, and not least lessons in how to grab the attention of the listener.

And if you’re impressed with their productions skills in putting together the video for ‘Broken Shoes’ they’ve also given us a sneak glimpse behind the scenes showing us how it all came about.

With an ear for catchy melodies, lovely harmonies and beautifully-crafted lyrics I suspect we’ll be hearing quite a bit more from O’Neill and Jones.

Broken Shoes’ released 2nd April 2021

https://www.oneillandjones.com/

This week’s featured artist: Hastings-based folk duo The Limbs of Romney

The Limbs of Romney are a duo formed during lockdown by East Sussex musicians Andrew Myers and Chris Watkins. Although they are Hastings-based both have connections to Lancaster, where Myers is originally from. So, as a Hastings-based blogger also originally from Lancashire, this was bound to pique my interest.

The pair have just released a digital-only four-track EP Home to Shore.

Explaining how the duo came about, Andrew Myer explains:

“Chris and I met during one of the gaps between lockdowns. He literally knocked on my door one day and asked if I wanted to make music with him. Someone had told him I was a musician. We live in Hastings but we both have connections with Lancaster, where I’m originally from. So – we had a chat and started playing together. We immediately established a great rapport and working relationship. We write everything together, although Chris writes all the lyrics and so far has been responsible for the final mixes, laying up from the basic piano and guitar. We managed to play together regularly for a few weeks, then it was the second? third? lockdown and we had to resort to communicating by email and sending stuff backwards and forwards.”

The EP is very much inspired by tales of the sea. They weren’t trying to cash in on sea shanty craze, they are keen to assure me, as neither of them claim to be up to date enough with modern day culture to cash in on any new-fangled craze. The duo’s music is narrative folk very much driven by piano and guitar but they aren’t afraid to throw in some experimental touches, too, giving the EP a slightly ethereal, other-worldly quality. The maritime themes clearly provide a rich basis for the duo’s storytelling and down here in Hastings, of course, there’s no shortage of source material to provide inspiration.

“Our first effort ‘Home to Shore’ is a celebration of the sea – it’s three songs, with a ‘storm interlude’ which depicts a shipwreck. Chris likes to research a topic and base lyrics on that, so these songs are the fruit of many an hour spent at the Shipwreck museum in Hastings.”

All four tracks are available on YouTube here, as well as being available on Spotify.

And what next for The Limbs of Romney?

“Our current project is writing music for the ‘Town Explores A Book’ festival in St Leonards – all based on the life of Edward Lear. We should be getting some local exposure through the festival.”

Home to Shore is available on Spotify here

https://www.facebook.com/The-Limbs-of-Romney-100311922040915

This week’s featured artist: pop-punk trio Project Revise – new single out 19th March

Taking their cues from the classic pop-punk anthems of the late 90s and early 00s Project Revise are a three-piece from Worcestershire inspired by bands such as Blink 182, Goldfinger and Less Than Jake. Project Revise regularly feature on Spotify playlists like ‘New Punk Tracks’, ‘Skatepark Punks’, ‘Pop Punk’s Not Dead’ and ‘Punk Unplugged’. The band performed a live session for BBC Introducing which was broadcast back in January 2019.

​Their latest single ‘Hold Your Ground’ is released on March 19th, immediately qualifying them as this week’s featured artist. A catchy, hard-hitting and instantly-memorable slice of pop-punk is all about everyday struggles in life, according to the band, and how to overcome them while still trying to remain true to yourself.

Guitarist/vocalist Chris Tamburro tells Darren’s Music Blog:

“Hold Your Ground really pulls together all the old school punk rock and emo influences we have between us. We really feel as though our musical direction has been progressive over the last year with our previous few singles, but this song really pushes things even further! We genuinely cannot wait for everyone to hear it and are excited to finally get back into the rehearsal studio again to work on some more new music!”

The video for ‘Hold Your Ground’ features almost 70 of the band’s followers from social media joining in with the lyrics, including an appearance from Bowling For Soup front-man Jaret Reddick.

Project Revise are:

Richard Marshall – Bass & Vocals

Chris Tamburro – Guitar & Vocals

David Yarnell – Drums

‘Hold Your Ground’ released 19th March 2021

https://www.projectrevise.co.uk/