Saturday, 30 August 2014

NEWS & COMING YOUR WAY

Coming Your Way

Folk21 in Wolverhampton

On September 20 Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton plays host to the West Midlands Regional Day of Folk21.

The usual format is that the day will be in two parts with invited guests and interested parties for the first half of the conference which will feature a host of speakers who will be looking at the problems, possible solutions, ideas and network possibilities of running and maintaining folk clubs and small music venues around the country.
If you want to get some insight as to how they go you can see a full review of last year's regional day on this blog just follow the link here http://folkall.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=folk21.
The second part in the evening will showcase a bill of up and coming folk artists from around the country and will include headliner Roger Wilson with Winter Wilson, Kelly Oliver who is due to release her debut album, This Land, very soon, The Bailey Sisters, The Jigantics and Gary Edward Jones.
Tickets for the night are £10.

The rescheduled Live and Picking night at the centre will now be on Friday September 5, this has moved from the previously planned date of August 29.
Performers on the bill are Pen Fifteen, Memories of Shadows, Singing Towards Disaster and Tinned Astronaut. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are £5.

A regular promoter who uses the excellent studio facilities at the arts centre is Baddies' Boogie who stage acoustic nights. There next one is on Friday September 12. This is an incredible night out for just a fiver and you get to hear a full bill of exciting and talented young local acts. Doors open 7.30pm.

Ian Pittaway
Billy Spakemon
Just down the road the Newhampton Folk Club, in the upper room of the Newhampton Inn, Riches Street, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton will kick off its autumn season on September 13 with two acts for the price of one.
They are Ian Pittaway, a renowned singer and guitarist and Billy Spakemon who will be bringing his own brand of Black Country songs and stories.
Tickets are £9 on the door and £8 in advance. The Show starts at 8.30pm. Please note the venue is upstairs and does not have disabled access.

The impressive Town Hall, Victoria Square, Birmingham, B3 3DQ, welcomes Sam Lee, Rachel and Becky Unthank, Adrian McNally among others for A Time and Place which is an evening of music inspired by the folk song, stories and poetry of the First World War.
Mercury Prize nominated folk artists Sam Lee, Rachel and Becky Unthank collaborate for the first time to mark the centenary of the First World War.
As part of an 11-strong line-up they will perform original repertoire from the time alongside new material inspired by personal stories and arrangements to First World War poetry, all against the backdrop of Matthew J Watkins striking video design. Tickets are £18.50 plus transaction fee. The show starts 7.30pm.

Those of you who were looking forward to the man who made wooly hats cool on September 28 at the hall should note former Monkee, Mike Nesmith will not be performing there. Promoters say that due to a scheduling conflict, the tour has unfortunately had to be cancelled.
Ticket holders will be contacted in due course.

Sharon Corr
Staying in the Second City on September 23 the Glee Club welcomes Irish songstress and musician Sharon Corr who is touring with her second solo album – The Same Sun, produced by Mitchel Froom.
Tickets in advance are £17.50 otherwise with a £1.00 booking fee (per ticket)
Doors open 7:30pm and the show starts 8.15pm. The concert is standing only. For more information visit www.glee.co.uk/birmingham-music#sthash.GbwK7Ah8.dpuf.



The Kitchen Garden Cafe, King's Heath, Birmingham is hosting Grey Wolf an Americana band from Shropshire on Sunday September 7, tickets are £8 and doors open 7.30 for an 8pm start.
Then on Tuesday September 16 Lau's Kris Drever and Eamonn Coyne will be playing the venue and tickets are £10 in advance or £12 on the door.
The following Sunday, September 21, Chris Cleverly will be performing with special guest. Tickets for the show are £7 in advance and £9 on the door.
Two more well known names on the folk circuit who are playing there are Lisbee Stainton, who has been touring as part of Seth Lakeman's group, she will be performing at the cafe on Monday September 22, tickets are £12.50 and veteran Vin Garbutt will be there the following Sunday, September 28. Tickets are £12.

Stourbridge's coolest adopted son Sunjay Brayne is on his new album tour after officially launching it at Shrewsbury Folk Festival last month.
Sunjay Brayne
The eponymously named Sunjay is the 20-year-old Black Country blues/acoustic musician's third album and is officially released on September 29.
Apart from Brayne's remarkable talent as a blues guitar player, the album features renowned musicians such as banjo player Dan Walsh, singer and fiddle player Katriona Gilmore and cellist and vocalist Sarah Smout.
Brayne also runs the Stourbridge Folk Club which is based at the traditional Katie Fitzgerald's pub in Enville Street, Stourbridge.
The album is a mixture of traditional blues tunes and well known ballads given the Brayne treatment.
Award-winning Brayne, a one-time Radio 2 young folk singer of the year award nominee, has been playing guitar since the age of four and has recently finished an extensive tour supporting the legendary Steeleye Span.
Brayne will be on a nationwide tour but will also be playing around the Midlands throughout 2014. On September 19 he is at the Woodman Folk Club in Stourbridge and then on 25th at his own club Stourbridge Folk Club with Phil Beer.
The following night, 26th, he is playing at Tamworth Folk Club. On October 2 he will be at The Robin2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton supporting John Illsley and then on then on October 5 he will heading back to his birthplace to play at Derby Folk Festival
He is back in Wolverhampton at the Newhampton Folk Club on October 11 with Eddy Morton then on the 23rd he plays the Common Folk Club in Walsall with The Crystals. On November 27 he is back on his home turf at Stourbridge Folk Club in the cellar of Katie Fitzgerald's with Dan Owen. For more information visit www.sunjay.tv.

On Sunday September 14 the Simon & Garfunkel story comes to Robin2, Mount Pleasant, Bilston, Wolverhampton. Starring Dean Elliott, a leading actor from the West End, as Paul Simon.
The show is all seated and starts 8.30pm. Advance tickets are £15 or £16 on the door.
Then the  venue is staging The Lindisfarne Story with Billy Mitchell & Ray Laidlaw on Tuesday September 16.
This is another all seated show with doors opening at 7.30pm, show starts 8.30pm. Lindisfarne was Tyneside's best-loved folk/rock band for more than 30 years and the show is a celebration of the group's music and achievements. Advance tickets are £18.50 or £19.50 on the night.

Phil Beer
One of the most respected names in folk music, Phil Beer, will be playing Stourbridge folk club in a show rearranged from April 24. Beer will be playing at Katie Fitzgerald's, Enville Street, Stourbridge DY8 3TB on Thursday September 25. Doors open at 8pm for a scheduled 8.30pm start. Tickets are £10 in advance or £12 on the night. The venue is fairly small and tickets are likely to sell fast.

Also in Stourbridge the man behind the aforementioned club Sunjay Brayne, will be playing down the road at the Woodman Folk Club on Friday September 19. Entry is £6 for members and £7 for non members. 
The following Friday, September 26, the club welcomes Joe Topping and again entry is £6 for members and £7 for non-members.
It has been three years since the singer/songwriter was last at the club and Topping has been described as a cross between Ry Cooder, Woody Guthrie and Paul Brady. He has developed his own unique bottleneck guitar style.

On Wednesday September 17 duo Elmore Row will be performing at Willenhall Folk Club, New Invention. The show starts at 8.15pm and tickets are £5.

Wolverhampton's own Dan Whitehouse has announced the release date of his new album Raw State. Whitehouse, who now lives and works in Birmingham, will release he album of mostly reworked previous songs on Dec 1 with and official launch at the Glee Club, Birmingham on Sunday December 7.
The album has been produced by Danny George Wilson and Chris Clarke of the band ‘Danny and the Champions of The World’. and recorded at Chris’ studio in North London.

Finally one of Wolverhampton's newest pubs the Dog & Doublet in North Street, holds plug and play sessions every Thursday night from 9pm to 2am which is open to all local musicians and singers.




















The Mike Harding Folk Show

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

SUNJAY BRAYNE

CD Review

Sunjay

Sunjay Brayne has to be one of the coolest guys in the West Midlands and his boyish and clean-cut good looks belie the gritty blues he can play so fluently, however, on his latest and eponymous album he has chosen to keep this side of his repertoire on a fairly tight leash. 

Sunjay Brayne courtesy of Charlie Barker
 photography
At the grand old age of 20 Anglo-Asian Brayne has knocked out his third album. Although Derby born he has made his home in the Black Country more specifically Stourbridge where he runs the Stourbridge Folk Club at Katie Fitzgerald's, an old style pub with a cellar which has been converted into a studio.
Brayne has the distinctive look of a young Jake Thackray and has a sound which reminds quite a bit of the great Ralph McTell but is really all his own.
Brayne's voice is as smooth and easy as his stage manner and his opener, London Road, could almost be Streets of London Part II, it doesn't have the poignancy of McTell's track but the execution is as good as anything the great man himself would have produced.
London Road has a jugband feel about it too but it's more refined and as an added bonus you get the gem of Dan Walsh on banjo.
The blues rears its head with Brayne's own interpretation of, Drop Down Mama which comes complete with rasping gobiron and his caramel voice pushing the lyrics along keeping the mood light. This is one of the occasions when Brayne's clean cut image starts to crack and he allows the sleazier side of the blues to ooze out but not too much. Going Down the Road is a pure delight to listen to, this is where Katriona Gilmore adds a lovely undertone with her fiddle playing. Brayne's simple rocking horse rhythm on his guitar intertwines beautifully with Walsh's simple banjo picking.
Guitar is Braynes specialty and you can hear his skill on the strings from the opening bars of Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia. His stripped back singing somehow gives the track a deeper emotion which is given colour by Sarah Smout with the occasional cello insert.
Sarah Smout
Memphis in the Meantime is a real road travelling song but you do get the feel that it needs a little more edge and rawness. Brayne's voice is as good as ever but his smoothness somehow seems to neuter it but he does make up for it with his slick finger picking which keeps the tune jumping along.
Made famous by The Walker Brothers, No Regrets is obviously a favourite of Brayne's. His version  is a perfect showcase for his smooth balladeer skills and the mixture of the instruments create a pretty emotional whole.
The much covered You Don't Mess Around With Jim, from Jim Croce, is given the Brayne treatment and while you expect this to be a much dirtier blues song he puts a real polish on it. It's still pushed along with that famous 12-bar beat but Brayne gives it a much slicker treatment and the harmonica gives it that authentic blues sound.
The following track is where Brayne sounds more like McTell than any other song on the album. Close Your Eyes is a lovely, haunting and soft ballad. It shows how emotionally gentle and subtle Brayne's voice can be.
It has to be said when you choose to put your own slant on an anthem as well known as Sittin' On Top of the World you are taking a risk.
It is one of those which you can either get it right and end up with something which is really cool or you can end up with a pig's ear. Fortunately Brayne has the voice and guitar skills to nail it.
The new album from Sunjay Brayne
You can't listen to this without just lying back and letting it wash over you and taking the stress of the world away with it.
Unfortunately, the final track is the slug in the lettuce.
The style of A Folk Singer Earns Every Dime just doesn't work.
It feels like a musical version of a cut and shut where differing styles have been forced together. Brayne does the main lyrics in that faux American accent so many singers adopt and which does falter on the odd phrase.
It is sung a cappella with a single clap rhythm and a vocal incidental which is in a kind of generic northern accent.
Regrettably the track sits like a piece of gravel among a pile of diamonds.
However, this shouldn't detract from the fact that this is a damn cool album from a damn cool artist. When Brayne sings the blues with his smooth and easy style, he gives them a refined edge without taking away anything of the mojo.
The tour for Sunjay was launched at the recent Shrewsbury Folk Festival and the album is officially released on September 29.
Sunjay Brayne will also be playing around the Midlands throughout 2014. On September 19 he is at the Woodman Folk Club in Stourbridge and then on 25th at his own club Stourbridge Folk Club with Phil Beer the following night, 26th,  he is playing at Tamworth Folk Club. On October 2 he will be at The Robin2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton supporting John Illsley and then on the 5th he will heading back to his birthplace to play at  Derby Folk Festival. He is back in Wolverhampton at the Newhampton Folk Club on October 11 with Eddy Morton then on the 23rd he plays the Common Folk Club in Walsall with The Crystals. Then on November 27 he is back on his home turf at Stourbridge Folk Club in the cellar of Katie Fitzgerald's with Dan Owen.

The Mike Harding Folk Show


Friday, 22 August 2014

SKERRYVORE

CD Review

Chasing the Sun

It could be argued Skerryvore are somewhat overshadowed by fellow Scot folk/rock groups Runrig and Capercaille which is a little unfair because although there is a similarity in the three bands' sounds there is an eclecticism and a newer edge to the band which originates from Tiree.

Alec Dalglish
Runrig may have been around for 40 years and Capercaille are not too far behind them but it seems the younger pretenders, they have been around since 2005, have the future at their feet.
Going by the quality of Chasing the Sun the future's bright, the future's Skerryvore.
There are obvious influences from other musicians and bands in their performances but there is more than enough originality to make them stand out too.
As you listen to the album it becomes obvious they are willing to try most styles, experiment and innovate and so the collection encompasses classical, rock, traditional to name but a few styles but you never lose the sense this is a Scottish band.
Right from the start with Can You Hear Us? there is a musical prank with what sounds like a classical intro on the piano which quickly gives way to the singing of Alec Dalglish and Skerryvore's rock sound.
They pull the same stunt with the following track The Rut this time opening with something akin to fellow Celtic group Clannad before unleashing the wailing of the bagpipes in an upbeat instrumental that suddenly gives way to the similarly pitched guitar solo and then to give you your money's worth, back come the drones to pick up the beat even faster.
The Rut is one of the those tracks where if you like the bagpipes then this is a great track, if not then it's best avoided but you will miss some fantastic playing from Martin Gillespie.
There is a group/collective based in Cork called Two Time Polka and We Can Run sounds so much like their version of Brown Envelope it's uncanny. If you know or have ever seen TTP then you will know that's a compliment more than anything else.
Martin Gillespie
But the two groups, on this occasion, incorporate that slightly Cajun sound into the track. 
You Don't Know has an Americana feel to it while paying more than a nod to bands such as Simple Minds with that smattering of West Coast MOR rock the Americans seem to lap up in buckets.
Skerryvore and Dalglish head back more towards the traditional with the ballad Blown Away. Dalglish let's his voice off the leash and displays his range and while there is still the definite rock beat underneath there is also the clear sound of traditional music to balance things out and stop it from sounding too commercial.
The band's versatility is on show with You Were My Friend, this beautifully lilting and melancholy ballad really shows off the softer and more emotive side to Dalglish's singing. This is one of the best tracks on the album wonderful in it's simplicity and having the ability to get under your skin, in a good way of course.
They pull the funk out for Oblique Blend which has the subtlest accordion playing you can imagine it creeps
in very gentle until amid the electric guitar you suddenly realise there it is.
This is an instrumental and is essentially the band showing off and why not? It's their album and they are excellent musicians.
The bagpipes are brought in for the second half of the track but are blended in far too subtly which kind of takes off the hard wailing edge which is normally associated with the instrument.
Here I am announces itself both in the track and in the fact it's very commercial sounding and just adds to the wide tapestry of sound Skerryvore is capable of creating but on the downside it's the also the track least likely to appeal to fans of folk or traditional Scottish music.
Craig Espie
By Your Side slides a little more back along the folk track and even throws in the merest hint of reggae rhythm.
There is some lovely subtle fiddle playing from Craig Espie underneath the main sound but unfortunately it does get a little overwhelmed at times.
In the late 70s there was a crazy for bands who had nothing to do with the movement to release a disco version of one of their songs and this is what Moonraker feels like. It uses traditional strands and is easy on the ear but it's the second half of the track which is more enjoyable not least for Dalglish's wee bit of mandolin playing.
Walk With Me is a real toe-tapper with the return of the Cajun-style rhythm and is held together by the solid whistle playing of Gillespie holding it all together.
The penultimate track is Watchtower another instrumental which is very atmospheric and allows the traditional sound to give way to the slightly harder rock sound which never becomes intrusive and to add to the eeriness is Dalglish's distant wailing voice which just one of the many blends of sound they manage to cram into the track.
Almost as a bonus is the acoustic version of Blown Away which is excellent and really allows you to enjoy the depth of sound Dalglish can produce when stripped of all the other instruments, his voice has a slight touch of the incredible and distinctive sounding Kris Drever.
Chasing the Sun, like the band which created it, doesn't really fit neatly into any of the folk, rock, traditional or acoustic camps and that is probably it's downside as it's trying too hard to be all things to all listeners. However, on the upside you have a distinctive group of musicians who are not afraid to try out new combinations and take elements from myriad sources and use them as they see fit.


Chasing the Sun is released on September 1 on Tyree Records.









Tuesday, 19 August 2014

OKA VANGA

CD Review

Pilgrim

If you want to hear musicians painting an intricate vision of a trip around the globe using only the incredible sound of their talented guitar playing then Oka Vanga's Pilgrim is the one to do it.

Angela Meyer and William Cox aka Oka Vanga
Listening to Angela Meyer and William Cox is like having a two guitar orchestra in your room.
Pilgrim is a virtuoso performance without any of the pretence, there are fantastic techniques, lush sounds, evocative chords and really gorgeous sounding guitar playing.
Beneath the Southern Sky starts very gently and immediately evokes thoughts of the Deer Hunter soundtrack but it also paints a picture of lazy sunny days in the hills of Spain and adobe buildings in places such as old El Paso.
Right from the start you can feel as much as you can hear the intricate fingering which is being used to produce the acutely imaginative sound.
South of Havana picks up the pace and immediately evokes images of villagers in a local square celebrating a festival, and while the locals dance around and enjoy the wines and foods on offer, the lone guitarist keeps all the maidens enthralled. The Cliffs of Moher/Out on the Ocean picks up the pace a little more than the previous and transports you on horseback racing along the cliff's edge with the wind whipping your face and through the mane of your steed as the ocean below washes in and out like the earth breathing. The wonderful thing about this is each track and set of sounds will evoke sometimes slightly and other times completely different images. They will move and shift as fluidly as Meyer, originally from Capetown, and Cox execute the tunes with a precision the military would love to emulate.
It's impossible to calculate the amount of time one would need to put in to be this competent with an instrument but when you listen to the clarity and range of sounds the Hertfordshire-based duo produce you become thankful there are people in the world who have done all the hard work so the listener can enjoy an absolutely sumptuous album of beautifully crafted sound.
Their new album Pilgrim
Imagine yourself alone in a field, the sun is shining gently on your face, the only sounds are those of nature and as you stare up into the clear blue sky it dawns on you that you are just part of a wondrous picture created by the elements of natural world.
These are the sort of images Wildflower conjures up and if it's possible to paint with sound then Meyer and Cox are not only doing it but they are true artists.
Their fun side comes out on Bimini Girl with its jaunty, jazzy, slightly calypso style sound and you almost get a sense, as it dances along, that it's on the album as light relief, to stop things from getting too heavy.
It's the sort of track that when you play it turn the volume up, clear the furniture out of the way and dance around like you did when you were a kid and didn't care who saw you.
Night Train is a lovely complex piece of music with the sound of the two guitars interweaving like smoke trails on performing aeroplanes, even the squeak of the fingers sliding up and down the strings seem to add something to the whole.
It's hard not to make comparisons with John Williams especially on a track such as Wasteland and even more so on the opening bars. The main difference is because they play as a duo there is more depth to the dynamics of the tracks.
It's almost as if one guitar plays the narrative and the other provides the narration so not only do you get a rich full sound but you get a fuller picture.
Pilgrim's Rest is a magnificent example of acoustic guitar playing, the layers of sound bob and undulate like waves on the sea and then almost as if the players are controlling the natural world they bring the waters raging and crashing before calming them to a breathless sheet of glass.
To include Classical Gas is a bit of a cliche and if it was to prove they could do it as good as anyone then that's incontrovertible; if it was to add something new or to modernise it then they didn't achieve it, the track, however excellently executed, doesn't add anything to the sum of the album.
Skull 'n' Bones has bloodlust
Skull 'n' Bones is the most dramatic track on the album and has the feel of a concept album just on the one tune.
It's a full-bodied, grown up sound which has more than a touch of passion and matador-like bloodlust and is the sort of track Rick Wakeman or David Gilmour would have been proud of.
You could argue calling a track Dromadari is a little more playful than calling it camel. However, they do convey a feeling of desert winds, hot sands and the mysterious middle east in their playing and interwoven are the visitors from the foreign lands of Spain, Portugal the Americas all thrown in with the feel of them coming together in the melting pot of heaving markets selling some of the most exotic goods in the world.
There is the subtle musical joke on the last track Abounding Grace which alludes to both the album's title and to the spiritual side of life.
It's a lovely playful track to go out on as the music dances lightly.
You will have to go far and wide to find better guitar playing than this. There are those who are equal to it such as Williams but others such as Reinhardt, Simpson, Feliciano, John Smith and Ewan McLennan also and if you find yourself among that kind of company then you have done pretty well for yourself.

Pilgrim is available now on itunes, Amazon and CD baby












The Mike Harding Folk Show

Sunday, 17 August 2014

BADDIES BOOGIE

Live Review

Various Artists

The Newhampton Arts Centre in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton once again played host to the latest collection of talented acoustic musicians from around the Midlands.

Lee Ford
Brought together by the Amphlett brothers under the banner of Baddies Boogie the bill opener was singer/songwriter Lee Ford from Stafford.
Ford is a pretty cool, laid back singer and guitarist who performs his own ballads which are very easy on the ear. His songs and guitar technique are solid and impeccable; simple but effective and he has an honest and likeable voice.
He looks like an ordinary bloke and plays like one too, he doesn't have the most powerful or a particularly standout voice but he doesn't try to imitate or sound like anything other than he is, which is extremely refreshing.
His performance was followed by Walsall's Leah Jaine Astbury another singer guitarist who is from the Paloma Faith, Adele etc clone camp.
Astbury has a good strong voice which has a definite clarity and you get the sense that with her seemingly effortless singing she has unlimited vocal power to call upon.
There were a few minor glitches in her performance, mostly with the guitar playing but nothing major or that wrecked the set.
Astbury did do a lovely cover of Sam Smith's Stay With Me where she showed she definitely has soul in her voice and there is a good range in there. She hit the high notes without any effort at all and she could have probably held them until doomsday had she needed to.
She did also produce an impressive cover of The Only Exception from Paramore, her sharp vocals suited the track perfectly but again she seemed to struggle with some of the chords on her guitar.
Leah Jaine Astbury
The former Shire Oak and Walsall College student went out with a pretty emotive version of Bob Dylan's much covered Make You Feel My Love.
Also from Walsall, although, in complete contrast was Jon Hubbard who certainly has some personality with his cheeky chappie stage persona.
He speaks with a broad, local accent, where he admitted he was "kakin'" himself because he was up on stage alone. His singing style seems to be a confusion of styles which range from sounding like one of the Gallaghers to a weird Jaifakecan sound.
Hubbard started off with Walking to the End of the World and it did have that Britpop sound to it. He does have a lively, catchy way of performing which is infectious and while he does sound like a lot singers he doesn't sound like one individual which gives him a fractured style.
It has to be said you can't fault his performance or this enthusiasm when on stage. You can tell he has been heavily influenced by bands such as Oasis and there is even the occasional drift into sounding like Bob Marley. But it does give him an unusual sound and he does exude a confidence when performing.
Jon Hubbard
There is real depth to Hubbard's singing and you can tell, in spite of his self-deprecating manner, he is really at home on stage.
Not surprisingly he went out on a cover version of Noel Gallagher's acoustic version of Live Forever and while it wasn't a bad rendition it did sound a little laboured.
Next up was Andy Bowater aka The Rambling Man, possibly because he never stays still while performing, not only does he swing from side to side to the beat of his playing but he also repeatedly walks up and downstage to and from the mic.
Bowater's was definitely the most unusual act of the night. With a percussionist/vocalist and an electric guitarist, whom he never introduced, he produced a sound which was something akin to what an acoustic set would sound like were it produced by the BBC radiophonic workshop.
Between them they produced an interesting sound but it did make you ask would Bowater have been any less enjoyable without the sound produced by the electronic gizmos as his couple of solo numbers didn't seem to lack anything with just his voice and guitar.
Andy "Rambling Man" Bowater
One of the problems which affected the act was something which happened pretty much all night in that the sound engineering was unbalanced and consequently the sound of the instruments was overbearing.
Bowater has a melancholic style of singing which does have a slight hint of Ed Sheeran about it.
Unfortunately, the sound problems were clearly evident with the act finishing off the night, Midnight Sun, which is Sophie Watts from Stourbridge and Kidderminster's Jack Cleaver.
In their opener Cleaver's guitar playing just blew Watts' singing off the stage and there was an unnecessary echo effect left on from the previous act which didn't help things. It was not Cleaver's fault, he is a damn good guitarist but the sound engineering was all to cock.
Watts has a standout voice but even she struggled to hold her own against the whacked up sound of
Cleaver's guitar.
The last time she sang her cover version of This Love by Maroon5 at a Baddies Boogie gathering Watts was able to soar over the noisy audience but this time she mostly lost the battle against the loudness of the guitar.
Sophie Watts and Jack Cleaver
aka Midnight Sun
She has a really versatile voice with a good range and which holds its precision at either end of the scale but it was lost a little this time through no fault of her own.
The balance was slightly better for their version of Teenage Dirtbag which seems to be coming something of a signature tune for the duo.
It was only when you go towards the end of her cover version of John Legend's All of Me and Cleaver took the strumming right down that you really got a feel for how lush her voice can be when singing such a slow ballad.
It was unfortunate really that the sound was not right on the night because once again Baddies produced a bill where there wasn't really a bad act and, once again, reaffirmed that there is a great pool of young and diverse talent right here in the Midlands.












The Mike Harding Folk Show


Sunday, 10 August 2014

JANE ALLISON

CD Review

Just Another Girl

If you want a family-sized slice of Americana with a side order of Americana and Americana fries then the opening track of Just Another Girl from Welsh actress Jane Allison should be right up your street.

Jane Allison
However, if you think this is going to colour all the album then you are in for a disappointment.
It has to be said that, generally, moving from being an actor or actress to being a singer/songwriter isn't always a good move.
However, TV and film star Allison may be among the exceptions, partly because she hasn't gone down the pop route, but has chosen to stick with the type of music she likes and that's the folk-Americana strand.
Allison has made a name for herself playing eccentric and slightly strange characters in hit shows such as Nighty Night, Hunderby and starred alongside Simon Pegg in A Fantastic Fear of Everything.
Much of this album was put together in Berlin where Allison was stationed three years ago and, from a somewhat isolated existence, came the tracks. From the opening of Hymn To Hope the album seems to have retro built into it which is not a bad thing providing it is done well, and it has to be said Allison does do it well.
It has that travelling beat to it and is a solid opener to what is a pretty good debut album. It has something of a feel of Bobbie Gentry so it is in good company from the start.
This gives way to Fading Moon which when you first hear it reminds you of the opening to Cher's Gypsies Tramp & Thieves.
It has that native American heartbeat throb to it. Allison has a good voice which isn't the strongest but has a fluidity that seems to blend into the music in a melodic symbiosis.
Even if you didn't know who she was, then listening to her sing the track you would know Allison has been influenced by Joan Baez.
You could nip back to the heady days of the 60s and tune in your radio, find this track and you wouldn't know it was from 50 years in the future.
Allison's debut album Just Another Girl
Catch Me is probably the least Americana track on the disc and does have an early 80s Pat Benatar feel to it.
The echoey  underpinning of the electric guitar also gives more than a nod to a soundtrack from a Quentin Tarantino film.
All Over Now2 opens with the atmospheric sound of the church organ.
It keeps that ethereal feeling as Allison's voice shows its strength for the first time and is more than a little akin to Chrissie Hynde at least on this occasion.
This is a really strong track and carries a lot of emotion both in the lyrics and the atmosphere created through the variety of instruments working underneath Allison's voice.
Joan of Arc has the feel of something from a play rather than an album track.
Allison's voice also seems muted and restrained where you are left waiting for the big build up and the crescendo which never comes.
The following track, Real Life, starts off quite mediocre but stick with it, it does get better. Allison's snappy lyrics pick up the pace and the song develops with a definite sixties feel to it.
By the time you get to Wait for Me the Americana theme is pretty much forgotten. It's a strong and almost a power ballad but never quite puts both feet in that camp.
The final track is perhaps the best one on the album and is a haunting song where Allison's melancholic tones are accentuated by the eerie, slightly staccato cadence of the lone piano holding up her torch song.
Farewell My Boy also gives a hint that Allison has some soul to her voice which until this track has been kept pretty much hidden.
One of the most commendable aspects of this album is Allison has not played the pop card making a light frothy commercially-sounding disc.
There is genuine thoughtfulness and emotion on this album and you get the sense Allison wants to be taken seriously as a singer/songwriter and not just be passed off as an actress who wants to widen her CV.
Just Another Girl is without doubt an excellent start but of course the acid test will be whether she perseveres with a second album regardless of how this one is received. Going by this first effort she should definitely be working on the next disc.
Just Another Girl is due for release on September 6 the debut single Hymn To Hope is available for download now













Other Links:
https://soundcloud.com/jane-allison


The Mike Harding Folk Show