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Excited launch for Taylor-Louise's Black Heart EP

Review

Leamington Spa based singer/songwriter Taylor-Louise launched her 4th EP Black Heart to an excited audience at St. Patrick's Irish Club on Friday 22nd November. 

She began writing songs, from the age of 12, from experiences she'd had from difficult times of acceptance and her ability to read situations. 

And after just a year of performing live, she began recording and released her debut EP ‘jealous eyes', which led on to the second release ‘Take a Look at me Now'. She launched her third EP ‘Broken Reflection' in October 2017 and shortly after began working closely with a London based studio perfecting her artistry releasing the single "Twenty-Three" in 2018, prior to this latest EP 'Black Heart'. 

Taylor-Louise has achieved many successes including BBC Coventry &Warwickshire Band of the month, and Spotify's Release Radar for new releases. 

The launch night included two support bands (Evergreen and Chalk Drawings) with lots of other local performers in the audience, including Levi Washington. 

First up on stage was Evergreen who are a throwback to the 1960s and 1970s with their guitar and ukulele and close harmonies, in the style of Crosbie, Stills, Nash & young or Fleetwood Mac.

 It features Rikki Hansel (guitar, harmonica and vocals), Tyron Hansel (bass & vocals), Noah Dobbie (guitar, ukulele, mandolin and vocals) & Erin O'Rourke (guitar) and is the fourth singer in their quadruple harmonies along with Jez Walker (drums). Jez Walker also supports Taylor-Louise on percussion at smaller venues. 

Even though they have been together less than one year they won the "Godiva Calling" competition at the Coventry event so they could play on the Main Stage. 

For this evening's event they played a selection of their songs including ‘You got to Move', ‘Walking Disaster', ‘Spare Change', ‘Midnight Run', ‘Confusion (slight paranoia)' and finished with their newly released single ‘Sunny Lady'. They are in the middle of recording an EP with 14 records at their studio in Leamington Spa which should be out in January 2020. 

After a short break for delicious and spicy food from local outlet Millennium Balti, up on stage came Chalk Drawings. 

They were playing as a three-piece band with Kev Stanley (drums), Dan Holford (guitar) and Simon Dagger (guitar and vocals). As a band they have been going for 6 years and brought out a well-received album Grand Union in 2017. 

They played a set of both their own material as well as some well-known covers with lead singer Simon giving his all and drummer Kev showing off with his red and green lit drum sticks. Their own songs included ‘Blood, Sweat & tears' and ‘Halcyon Days', ‘Right as Rain' and ‘Drip Dry'. The covers included 'Valerie' (The Zutons), ‘Umbrella' (Rihanna) and ‘Zephyr Song' (Red Hot chilli Peppers). 

With the lighting now set the audience was ready for the main event of the evening with the launch of Taylor-Louise's new EP ‘Black Heart'. 

For the first third (and last third) of the event, she was joined on stage by her band consisting of Callum McKissock (bass), Sean Clarke (guitar) and Thomas Graham (drums). Taylor-Louise was singing and playing acoustic guitar. 

The first section included two songs from the new EP ‘Blessed with a Curse' and ‘Generation Now' along with ‘Bring me to Life', ‘Just to be Alive' and ‘Put into Words'. 

Taylor-Louise with her band put out a powerful sound with passionate vocals to these songs.

The middle section was Taylor-Louise on her on singing with her guitar and included a dedication to her very supportive Mum Melanie with ‘Mama Told Me' along with ‘Air to Breathe' and ‘Ink my Skin' before the band joined her again for new songs from her EP. This included recent single ‘Twenty Three' with its powerful and reflective vocals, ‘Gone' and the EP title track ‘Black Heart'. After tremendous applause, from the St. Patricks Irish Club crowd, at the end of her set she finished with an encore with ‘More to Us'. 

Taylor-Louise's next gig is at Temperence in Leamington Spa on 15th February 2020, though she will continue to write new material, which she will try out at gigs to an appreciative audience.

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Taylor-Louise launches 'Black Heart'

Review

What a fiesta of an evening on Friday at St Patrick's Club in Leamington.

Organised by Taylor-Louise as a launch evening for her "Black Heart" EP it also was a birthday celebration for her & it served too as an evening for raising awareness of mental health issues & fund raising for the local MIND: this tells you a lot about her values & of course skills in setting up a packed evening with three mindbogglingly superb acts, food & the above activity.

In fact the musical side could almost have doubled as a "Hot Music Live Presents" evening too as Taylor-Louise & her guests Chalk Drawings both appear on "Volume One" and opening act Evergreen on "Volume Two" (as of course does Naomi Beth who was helping out on the evening though not performing).

Opening the night with gusto, the fast rising Evergreen set a very high bar for the following artists. The core quartet of Rikki Hansel on guitar, harmonica and vocals, Tyron Hansel on bass & vocals, Noah Dobbie on guitar, ukulele and vocals & Erin O'Rourke who plays guitar (& on other occasions the bass) and is the fourth singer in their multilayered harmonies were joined by Jeremy Walker on drums: as indeed they are on the "Sunny Lady" single which appears on "Hot Music Live Presents 2" and he plays on the EP they are currently recording. His dynamic playing, which adds almost another melodic element with his imaginative tom work drives their powerful yet subtle playing into yet another dimension & will really aid them in larger venues & the festival appearances they hopefully will play in 2020. It was one interesting indicator of the consequences of the evolved sound that Rikki switched to an electric guitar for some numbers.

Next up were the ever popular Chalk Drawings, though reduced on this occasion to a trio of Simon Dagger (vocals & guitar) Kev Stanley (drums) and Dan Holford (guitar) as bassplayer Rob Lewis was unable to be present. Given the number of funky songs they play, it's incredible how they coped without a bass, but they surely did, giving us their usual full energy & full emotion commitment with a range of crowd pleasers such as "Halcyon Days" and "Rag & Bone". It had been quite a while since I'd last seen them play & I do hope to see more of them in 2020.

Finally the star of the show came on, aided for many (but not all) songs by a band comprising Tom Graham on drums, Sean Clarke  (whom you may know from Courthouse) on lead guitar and Callum Mckissock on bass, whom you might also know from Godiva Festival 2019 Main Stage act Brass Hip Flask.

As with the other artists tonight, Taylor-Louise shone & she thrilled. It is most interesting how this really self aware, candid & articulate musician spoke of her own mental health issues: on one hand she utterly owns her stage & had no qualms about following such high quality support acts, yet she told us how off stage she suffers anxieties & would much rather be on the stage than attending gigs as an audience member, which she finds difficult. It is rather humbling to hear someone able to share such things.

I once commented in the magazine that she seemed to be creating new material faster than she could record & release it (a reflection which she has been sufficiently taken with to put it on her Facebook page banner) and in true Taylor-Louise style, she didn't let us down with her signature setlist of rarely played old songs, very recent ones, favourites & of course her customary debut of a really new one. Most were played with the band giving them plenty of power & panache, yet mid set the others took a breather while she played several solo & she commanded the room with these just as surely as she did with her full lineup.

 

Naturally, the title track of the EP was the highlight of the evening. I hope you have read in "Hot Music Live" my reviews of previous singles taken from it:"Gone" (in June) & "Generation Now" (May), both of which naturally were also played. Nevertheless, when I first heard these songs played live some months ago, it was "Black Heart" which really caught my attention & for which I have been waiting. I really believe it can do well for her & introduce her music to an ever wider audience. Although her writing just gets better & better, this song really does stand out as being something extra special. What a privilege to have been there. Thank you Taylor-Louise & all those involved in an evening unlike others.

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"Fly" by Clemency

Review

If several of my more recent reviews have been of songs previously unheard by me & some even caught me by surprise with their release, the new single "Fly" by Clemency (out today) has long been on my radar  & I have awaited its release patiently for long months, having delighted in hearing it played live. In fact I remarked on how great I found in back in March in a live review for this magazine: clearly the audience on that occasion agreed with me (and presumably have also been counting the days to the release) as they demanded it being played twice.

And in the song itself, they certainly do fly.... Nina Bailey's voice soars heavenwards as few others can in this lyrically uplifting song, driven on its trajectory by Ben Clempson's sprightly playing. It is dangerous to predict success on a wider scale than people are enjoying at any given time (luck seems to play too big a role), yet all the right ingredients are here: the quality of the composition & performance are flawless, the end product being a song which works on every level to please those from the aficionados to those who simply respond instinctively to a piece which raises the spirit & is so deceptively simple that we can retain the words & tune in our heads to replay when we need inspiration. I certainly do wish them well with the song reaching the widest possible audience.

 

Nina  (vocals & cajon) & Ben (guitar & vocals) only created Clemency in  2017 yet since then have delighted us with their debut single "Man at the Station" (reviewed last August)  and kindly allowed us to use "Pillar to Post" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume One' last year. I can't wait for a full album of their original material given what they have been playing at their always full & mesmerising gigs.

There is a splendid video to accompany "Fly"  and like that for its predecessor, is clearly shot with love & high production values & shares too with the earlier one an almost sepia tone, evoking possible a 1930s feel, appropriate I guess for a roots act but also reflecting the timelessness of the song itself. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeNv43GlxFk

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TwoManTing

Review

Watching TwoManTing last night at the Town House in Leamington, one of my immediate thoughts was "it's been too long" since I last saw them live..... What a pleasure it was. Obviously if you get successful, you end up playing at all sorts of places far & wide & who can begrudge guitarist Jon Lewis & drummer/percussionist Jah-man Aggrey the width of their appeal. Still, it was good to have them back & the full audience showed I was far from the only one.

They were in excellent form of course but other thoughts which spun through my mind like the bewitching rhythms my ears were hearing included the appreciation not just of their technical skills (mighty as they are) but their taste & discretion. Songs often appeared deceptively simple. There was usually much space left in them (always a plus with me & a stark contrast to those much less authentic "world music" acts who seem to think that having large lineups with everyone playing frenetically on top of each other is cool...) and above all both artists demonstrate a beautiful "feel" for their instruments. A lot of guitarists one comes across are touted, many deservedly so for technical proficiency & of course there are many styles they play in, but I can't think of anyone of this particular style who plays with the finesse & touch of Jon. Though what the style is can be more elusive to describe. I suppose jazz must enter the mix, but the predominant element is definitely African highlife plus dub stylings at times. And all on one acoustic.

The songs themselves were predominantly their own, with the customary well crafted & directed lyrics, many from the current ‘Rhymes with Orange' album (check it out) but Clash fans were very well catered for with the covers of "Armagideon Time" & "Guns of Brixton".

Unsurprisingly, dancing broke out & regular Town House concert attendees The Goose & The Trout when asked expressed their enjoyment: a seal of approval. The latter reported to me that it wasn't what she was expecting, so hopefully TwoManTing not only pleased their existing fans but gained some new ones.

Personally I do hope that not so long elapses again between my seeing them live.

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