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The Hatstand Band


Although I have seen them play before, and greatly enjoyed their performances, I have not actually ever given them a full review for some reason (I have referred to them in the context of festivals only), so I take pleasure in being able to tell you about the Hatstand Band's gig at the Town House in Leamington last evening.

This very flexible group, based upon a core of Kate Vassalos on guitar & Keith Nickless on double bass and harmonica operate with a bewildering combination of lineups including often very impromptu guests. On this occasion they were a six piece with regular cajon player Stix, frequent guest Sophia Vassalos on vocals (much the same core operate on other occasions as Sophia's band), a lead (electric) guitarist & one of those guests, Bob on bodhran & spoons.

I had to check with Kate regarding the mixture of originals and covers since a high proportion of the songs were not known to me: this indeed is part of their great strength as their own songs are hard to distinguish from the covers so seamlessly do they fit it among deliberately chosen fairly obscure "dark Americana" cover versions (though a few I recognised, not least the rousing & audience pleasing version of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis").

The set is amazingly eclectic to be honest with songs which might be fitted into various categories: folk, blues, soul, latin and even one Russian sounding one, though their "dark Americana" self description is apt given the numbers of deaths in the lyrics and the devil pops up in virtually every single song (whisky does quite often too). Their version of "Banks of the Ohio' is even arranged to better bring out the morbid lyrics better than the usual & less appropriate poppy upbeat versions do.

Just as the setlist is eclectic, so really is the sound. The band is a wonderful variety of ages & experiences, each of which brings something different to the mix (Fairies Band vocalist Tinky: check them out on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume One', was present & asking her reaction to the band, this was the point she wanted me particularly to make in this review). And I racked my brains but could not remember ever seeing a band featuring both a cajon & bodrhan previously. Particularly as the evening wore on & the songs got more and more rousing, the harmonies three singers (Keith, Kate & Sophia) were able to create became ever more stunning.

So how did they go down? Very well is the answer. There may have been multiple deceases & demons but the songs themselves prove who has the best tunes & are played with a great deal of love. That alone is one major reason why I too appreciated their performance & wanted to review them. As I (too) often say in my pieces, I tend only to respond to honesty in performance & to musicians who clearly enjoy what they are playing & that is the tipping point for whether I feel I want to write about them.  I felt their commitment to the music & I'm sure the enthusiastic audience did too. It's something you don't really need (or cannot) put into words. And thankfully Keith's bass didn't explode as it spectacularly did when I saw them at the Godiva Festival once.

There have been some great live acts on at this venue in recent weeks: before the Hatstand Band I greatly enjoyed seeing Doc Brown & Tile Hill Billy (Wes Finch & Jools Street) and the Hansel Brothers/Evergreen: three great evenings with the pub really buzzing in response to the acts: an excellent atmosphere for live, good natured music with patrons who appreciate it. Look out for more with the Folly Brothers coming up soon too.

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"Try" and "Leaving" by Jake Rizzo


It is said of several aspects of life that "a week is a long time" within them: to the list we might now add the career of Jake Rizzo.


Merely a week ago I was happily reviewing his debut single  "If You Loved Me" for ‘Hot Music Live' while today I find myself doing similarly for his third one, namely "Leaving". In fact, so dynamic is his career at the moment that I am also reviewing the intervening second single "Try" on this occasion: I simply cannot keep up with this excellent artist's exploding career arc.

Taken like their predecessor from Jake's EP, ‘Live at Metropolis Studios' the songs are produced by Matthew Cotterill and feature other musicians Joe Dolman, Harry Green & Matt Townsend: all names which will resonate with ‘Hot Music Live' readers.

Starting with the "older"track, "Try"shares with the first song Jake's essential immediacy & integrity of performance which the live take captures particularly effectively: while flawless in its execution, the manner of its recording managers to inject a sense of spontaneity beyond what a "normal" production might have done & serves to remind us & inform new listeners of his great abilities as a live performer & his capacity to convey "true" emotional content.

A passionate number, more urgent in tone than "If You Loved Me", "Try" showcases Jake's rockingier side & is propelled by energetic playing by his collaborators.

"Leaving", today's offering, dials the heat back down (can one dial heat? Probably not but I hope you get what I'm trying to say), being a gentler number while losing none of the intensity nor commitment to an emotional truth & on this song the musicians brood intensely with the same quality of belief in Jake's music.


Do these three songs connect? I don't know but they sound like they might do. Even as stand alones they tell the world very convincingly of Jake's skill at writing passionate songs & delivering in a way which convince the listener & connect with their hearts.

How long can he keep this work rate up? Am I going to have to write a "Jake Rizzo Release of the Week" column every Sunday morning?... Well I don't mind in the least.

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JAWS – Empire Coventry - 30th Nov 2019


SonicPR promotion ...


Following the release of their long-awaited, and critically acclaimed third album, "The Ceiling", and a short run of sold-out UK headline dates, Birmingham dream-pop group JAWS are set to hit the road in November for a full UK tour.

Their third and most ambitious album yet, "The Ceiling", sees the band head back into the studio with Gethin Pearson, who also produced 2016's "Simplicity". The album represents another musical leap forward for the band, adding new textures and further honing a sound that has been theirs since their inception. 

JAWS will play a full UK headline tour for November 2019. The announcement follows the bands recent sold-out UK tour dates. Speaking about the reaction to the shows, Schofield says "The recent live dates were the biggest shows we'd ever done and the reaction was beyond what we'd ever expected, every night was like a celebration of the new record and what we'd achieved up until that point and now we want to take that same atmosphere to more places around the country, we really can't wait for these shows, there's a few places we haven't been to for years." 

JAWS will play the following dates in November:

  • 15th Nov – Bristol, The Fleece
  • 16th Nov – Southampton, Engine Rooms
  • 18th Nov – Oxford, The Bullingdon
  • 19th Nov – Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
  • 21st Nov – Liverpool, Hangar 34
  • 22nd Nov – Edinburgh, The Mash House
  • 23rd Nov – Newcastle, Riverside
  • 26th Nov – Belfast, Duke of York
  • 27th Nov – Dublin, The Academy 2 (IRE)
  • 29th Nov – Leeds, The Wardrobe
  • 30th Nov – Coventry, Empire Coventry

‘The Ceiling' is out now - order HERE

  1. Driving At Night
  2. Feel
  3. Do You Remember
  4. Fear
  5. End Of The World
  6. Patience
  7. Looking / Passing
  8. The Ceiling
  9. Please Be Kind
  10. January


"If You Loved Me" by Jake Rizzo


It is always a great pleasure to review excellent music, but to focus on a debut single is that extra bit special as you feel like a traveller joining someone on the start of what will be a wonderful journey. Mind you, the debut of Jake Rizzo on record is in some ways unusual given the length of time already he has been so highly rated: I first saw him at one of the "Melody Lounge" showcases hosted by Matt Hernandez when he was about 15 & was struck by his precocious talent even then, a skillset he has honed to marvellous effect in the intervening years.


"If You Loved Me" is released today and is billed as "Live At Metropolis Studios". Taking this to mean that it was recorded as a live take, I raise my hat to Jake for the confidence to go with his strength of being a captivating live performer & offering  us the immediacy of hearing his song as you would at a gig. And immediate it certainly is. It's like having him in your living room with you playing it just for you. It's really well balanced & produced yet his vocal is the dominant feature  in this rather unusually structured song which although a romantic one in theme, drives along with an almost desperate urgency & intensity, driven by clever instrumental additions: skittering guitar, pulsing bass & fierce drumming all are deployed at intervals to raise the emotional temperature higher.

A constant theme among my reviews (you can skip the next bit if you like: you have probably read it before) is that I find it comparatively easy to review music & artists I somehow find "honest" in their approach & craft (please don't ask me to define that too closely: it's an instinctive thing, more my heart than my head doing the work). If I come across someone, however skilled their technique etc may be who I feel is simply going through the motions or showing their skills off to no great purpose, I just pass on a review. That absolutely does not apply to Jake: I have always found one of his great strengths to be this honesty & a commitment to make music of integrity & indeed meaning. You get that admirably with "If You Loved Me", which may well be written about someone, but their identity doesn't matter: as with all good writers, he has applied the specific feelings to a song which could apply universally & so strike a chord with anyone.

The song has only been in the public domain nine hours at the time of writing so it's a bit premature to speculate on sales and airplay but I can't see why both should not be prolific. Jake has already won a substantial fanbase who'll be delighted with the single & is very much on radio radar having built that too over the years he has been perfecting his craft. As a debut & professional career calling card it is ideal & I have no doubt a great deal of thought went into the decisions surrounding it. As I said yesterday in reviewing Joe Dolman's latest single, momentum from this point is the key to ensure any impact of this song, however popular it is right now, doesn't fade in this world when music consumers' memories seem remarkably short term. Expect much more from Jake in the months to come therefore.

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The Punch Bowl, Warwick

One of our favourite local venues. There's an unusually large stage and you can choose between a standing mosh zone, a seated front bar with great sound or the comfy back bar where you can still hear the band but comfortably chat to your mates.The lovely staff are helpful, efficient and genuine supporters of the scene.