Thursday, 18 April 2013



The New Mendicants

The New Mendicants, Norman Blake and Joe Pernice
The Glee Club, Birmingham has an impressive line up of folk musicians over the coming months including the recently formed New Mendicants made up of Norman Blake and Joe Pernice who have both got a long pedigree with other bands such as Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits and Scud Mountain Boys. The duo will be playing the Second City venue on Friday, July 12.
Glaswegian Blake and Pernice, from Massachusetts teamed up in a Toronto tavern and will not only be bringing new sounds to their UK tour but both will be dipping into their impressive back catalogue and expect a new album in the not too distant future. Doors at the Glee Club open 8pm, tickets are £9 and you must be over 16 to attend. For more information call the box office on 0871 472 0400.

Patty Griffin has a new album
Later in July Patty Griffin will be bringing her UK tour to the Glee Club Birmingham on the back of her new album. Griffin was last in Brum at the Symphony Hall as part of Band of Joy and will be playing the considerably smaller Glee on Wednesday July 24. Her album American Kid is due for release on May 7 through New West Records.
Singer/songwriter Griffin says, American Kid "was written to honour my father".
Doors at the Glee open at 7pm, tickets are £20 in advance and for more information contact the box office on 0871 472 0400 or visit

On Friday July 5 Celebrated American songwriter, author and poet  Simone Felice is coming to the Glee Club Birmingham..
Simone Felice
Simone Felice is a celebrated songwriter, author, and poet. A native New Yorker his musical success began with his band The Felice Brothers, originally he and his two brothers Ian and James, growing to a 5-piece. Their albums Tonight at the Arizona, The Felice Brothers, and Yonder is the Clock received international praise.
Felice released an EP, New York Times, and a self-titled album in 2012. Now fresh from his sold-out Barbican show and European tour with Conor Oberst and following his Autumn 2012 sold out Union Chapel concert, he returns to the UK and Ireland to preview new songs.
Doors open 8pm, tickets are £14 and you must be over 18.

The refreshing sound of The James Riley Band has been captured on a new EP which will be released on April 28 and with a string of festivals already under their belt they will be starting a tour at the end of this month. For more information check out their site or click the links below to hear more from them.
Lay Me Down (Official Video)
Lay Me Down EP (SoundCloud)

Paper Aeroplanes
Flying into the Glee in Birmingham on Sunday May 19 are Paper Aeroplanes who will be at full strength for most of their upcoming UK tour. The four piece band's second full album will be released on May 13. Before that they head over to Germany for a month of touring. Little letters, which is the title track from the new album  is out now and has received some welcome attention in all the right places.

Gary Hammond and Sam Pirt - The Hut People
Two of the most original musicians on the folk circuit are heading down to the Midlands. The Hut People namely Sam Pirt and Gary Hammond will be at Bewdley Spring Fair on may 6 and then The Donkey, Leicester on May 9 and they are appearing at the cosy venue of Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham on July 2  0121 443 4725.  Apart from appearing for the first time at this year's Glastonbury Festival they will also be playing the Warwick Folk Festival on July 27 and 28. If you have never seen these pair before stomping and banging out their particular blend of folk and world music then make a point of doing so and you will be in a rare treat.

Another duo are making an appearance in Wolverhampton in the upstairs room of the Newhampton Inn.
Dansmall which is in fact singer and guitarist Dan Plews and fiddler Guy Fletcher who have been together for close on 20 years. The duo will be supported by Nick Greenwood and tickets are £8 in advance or £9 on the night. The venue is in the upper room of the Newhampton Inn, Riches Street, Wolverhampton.
The folk club will also play host to James Hickman and Dan Cassidy on May 4.
If you can't wait that long to do some toe tapping then this Friday (April 19) a barn dance with the Jig & Bottle Band and John Edgar, is being held at The Pavilion just off the A449 Stafford road, the dance is in aid of the local Compton Hospice.

Lady Maisery -photo by Elly Lucas
If you really want to hear traditional folk music in all its unadorned glory then you will love Lady Maisery. In May not only will they be starting a tour but they will also be releasing a new album Mayday. Pretty fresh to the folk circuit as a trio Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans provide some inspired folk singing and incredible instrumentals and will even throw in a little clog dancing if you are lucky. On May 19 they play The Poppy Folk Club, Nottingham and on May 24 they are at the Fold Cafe, Bransford, Worcs this is followed up by The Unicorn, Abingdon, Oxfordshire on May 30.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Live Review

Glee Club, (Studio), Birmingham

Walking unannounced on to the stage Devon singer/songwriter just gradually dawned on the audience as the opening bars of There Is A Stone floated over the top of the packed venue in Birmingham.

If you have heard John Smith's latest album, Great Lakes, from which, not surprisingly, most of the set was taken and you think he sounds excellent on that, then hearing his voice and guitar playing live takes thing to a whole other level.
John Smith's new album Great Lakes
Smith's emotional and rollercoaster-style singing which fluctuates perfectly from an almost childlike and soft high-pitched level to a rasping street blues grunt and everything in between is just a sheer pleasure to the ears.
The emotion the unassuming singer put into tracks such as the title song was just awesome, keeping the audience entranced with every note.With his song Jasmine, which carried more of a thump from his guitar, his soft but emotive lyrics began to display the range and quality of his voice
Another track from his Great Lakes album, Freezing Winds of Change, gave his audience another example of his tremendous guitar skills.
He pulled out a fantastic slide guitar intro for Town to Town which was atmospheric and reminiscent of the great Ry Cooder and like Cooder, Smith is obviously a craftsman when it comes to using a guitar.
Every Now and Again was a soft and deep ballad with Smith's moon howling-style refrain which evoked images of Chris Izaak and which showed the depth of sound Smith is able to create with ease. Once again with the love song Perfect Storm which was written with Canadian Ellsworth Smith displayed just how good is on the guitar skills clear again. The rawness he can produce in his voice was clearly evident in England Rolls Away and Where Did All Our Love Go Wrong was another song where Smith was able to convey deep emotion through his wonderfully versatile voice.
Towards the end of his set his pulled out Salty and Sweet, which was inspired by a small fishing port near where he grew up, which he played as a light ballad and is one of those songs that is genuinely fun to listen to.
To finish the night Smith went out with Never Going Back Again, a bluesy, bluegrass crossover type of sound, The Only One on My Mind and much to his fans delight his last one of the session was Winter where he played his guitar like drum.


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club 

Julia Disney was back on home turf as she accompanied her equally talented husband musician Gren Bartley for the concert in the upper room of the Newhampton Pub which hosts the Newhampton folk club.

They opened with Wayward Stars, a soft, melodic ballad which straight away showed Gren's talent for words and guitar playing with Julia providing the backing on keyboard.
Julia Disney on keyboard
She showed more of her versatility providing the vocal harmonies for Gren on Kings and Queens which was a more upbeat song.
Classically trained Julia then moved on to her first instrument, the fiddle, for a couple of numbers one of which was a country & western song and then a track inspired by a chain gang, My Time Is Nearly Over where Gren used his guitar to great effect with Julia providing the accents to fill the number out.
He then pulled out Between the Lines which is about suicide and yet had a surprisingly upbeat sound and although the message was serious it wasn't solemn and again the two worked wonderfully together with Gren's smooth voice and Julia providing an underpinning of an almost classical violin sound.
In contrast, they followed up with a love song Washed in Grey which was a gentle ballad with Julia back on the keyboard.
The Leamington Spa singer then went pretty much solo for another ballad Waters Run Dry where once again he showed just how good he is using the guitar to add another voice to the song which was highlighted gracefully by Julia on backing vocals.
Brick brought politics into the proceedings with a song about The Royal Bank of Scotland. With the clever words it sounded like something Jake Thackray would have written and even more so with its playful oompah-style, carnival show beat.
Gren Bartley
Welcome to My Home was another C&W offering with Julia, using pizzicato on her fiddle, to accent the song perfectly. Gren was then left on his own for his version of the great Joni Mitchell's Last Time I Saw Richard which seemed to bring out more than a hint of Andy Irvine in his voice.
This was followed by a slightly more upbeat song about people who have the ability to change your life and once again displayed how easily they work in harmony before moving on to Elmo which was an upbeat  bluegrass sound that was marked wonderfully by Julia's rasping sound on the fiddle
Towards the end of the set they played Winter Fires, from the album of the same name, about being cold in Manchester with Gren using the harmonica for the intro and Julia providing the subtle harmonies for the country sounding song.
They finished with the mis-titled Sun is on the Yardarm which was a soft ballad with Gren showing just how good he is when it comes to guitar picking.
Both these musicians are excellent in their own right but together they make up a duo which could go far in the folk world and are easily on a par with Roberts and Lakeman or Gilmore and Roberts.
For more information visit

Monday, 8 April 2013



Whip Jamboree

It was roughly three years ago when I first encountered Blackbeard's Tea Party in the basement of a cinema in York, they were supporting a great Yorkshire duo called the Hut People and, even though they were a little depleted on numbers they still managed to put on a great show.

From left Martin Coumbe, Liam "Yom" hardy, Tim yates,
Dave Boston, Stuart Giddens and front Laura Barber
 who make up Blackbeard's Teaparty.
Very much like Bellowhead, BTP is a sort of collective and you can still see them busking in various forms on the streets of York.
Their latest album Whip Jamboree, which is out on April 8, bears a lot of similarity to Bellowhead in style with its juggling mix of eclectic sounds and songs although, somehow, they manage to keep their tracks a little more grounded in traditional folk, even so, with their use of electric they also give the feel of  Fairport Convention.
The album kicks off full of energy with The Valiant Turpin whacking you with a stomping, rasping fiddle sound from Laura Barber before the shanty-style voices move in and with the cadence they create you can almost feel the ropes being hauled up over the side. The beat never lets up and is highlighted by some wonderfully manic electric guitar. There is no rest either with the next track as the squeezebox of Stuart Giddens joins the fiddle to illustrate that the Devil's In The Kitchen.
Bulgine brings some great fiddle playing which is followed by the New Jigs the sound of which would slide into any Fairport album without you noticing the join. There seems to be a great deal of experiment on this album although it doesn't always come off with one track in particular Lankin, which has the dark themes often associated with folk, but the sound seems to have gone too far away from anything recognisable as folk and at times has more of the rock sound of Santana.
However, there are some great and unusual sounds on this album and you can almost feel BTP stretching their artistic wings and exploring new areas, not tentatively but with great big steps in tracks such as Ford O'Kabul River, the tune put together by Peter Bellamy with its war cry beat which is not surprising considering it's inspired by Kipling's poem of a group of Hussars who drown while fording a river.
With Bulgine Laura is let off the leash to wonderful effect where her fiddle incorporates an undertone of Raggle Taggle Gypsies into the main tune.
The previous track The New jigs gives Stuart a chance to exercise his squeeze box before the track fills out with Laura and the guitar sounds of Martin Coumbe and Tim Yeats.
Laura really shines again on Polka Against the Clock which, with the rest of the band, somehow has the feel of a theme tune to a blockbuster movie.
Blackbeard's Teaparty
Without doubt the most fun track on the album is Rackabella which wonderfully celebrates everything to do with pork and the band give it a great stomping sound that defies you to not to tap along.
The Four Hour Shovel is one of those tracks which never really settles into one style or another starting with the brooding sound of the bass and ending with a much more traditional and lighter sound of the fiddle.
The sound of the European gypsy then wafts in, driving the "dirty" song The Landlady which has the undertones of a rather macabre or slightly sinister cabaret act but is never so dark as you miss the fun of the track.
Whistable Cottage written by Laura is about as traditional as any track on this album gets but there are still the twists and turns that never let you really get comfortable with it and this is the kind of composition which you could easily associate with those other great craftsmen of the fiddle Seth Lakeman and Dave Swarbrick.
Last on the album is the title track and once again shows the skill, speed and versatility of Laura which gives way to the shanty that ends the album as it started with a banging, stomping throat-grabbing sound.
This is such a grown up album with wonderful twists, turns and dark themes and sounds, it's certainly not one for anyone who wants an introduction to the genre, this is for serious folkies and as a lesson to anyone who thinks folk is dull.
For more information visit