Michael McEntee knows how to pick 'em and his bill for one of his twice monthly "comfy and acoustic" sessions illustrated his talent in this regard on 18th May 2018. Fred's House from Cambridge were the headliners. Although that said, whether "acoustic" was the right term to use for a band, all of which were using amplification with the exception of Paul Richards, the drummer is a good question. He did leave his full kit at home however and in deference to the size of the venue "only" used a Cajon and a tom tom. The Big Comfy Bookshop is a lot bigger than before, because Michael has doubled the size of the shop. It is much more organised and "comfy" now and can accommodate a larger audience.
Is there a more consummate and professional band in catering for it's core fans than Fred's House? A gig at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Fargo Village Coventry went a great deal of the way to answering that question with a resounding "Hell No!" They launched straight into a couple of their better known numbers with no preamble giving the audience hardly time to draw breath between the two. Hence "This Little Boy" which seems to have it's origin in a nursery rhyme, (but no such chant that I ever learned in my infancy contained the line, "If you want me, come and get me.") This was followed by another of their favourite vital and lively openers, "Shut Up And Dance." Sadly there was no room for the audience to comply, but Victoria Gavin made up for that in her swirling black dress.
Written by Vikki and Griff (Jameson) at a time when they were listening to a lot of Tom Petty's music, "Fire" which had at certain points a staccato rhythm, precisely timed and in unison by all the band. Indeed they were "burning like fire" roaring out "I don't wanna just another victim of your love. Incidentally I am old enough to remember a singing duo from the 1950's called "Vikki & Griff" but is fair to say they were nothing like Fred's House. The band get their name from the house where they used to gather, of a well known record producer, none other than Fred Cox, then a Coventry lad who has worked with many luminaries in the music world.
Griff triumphantly announced that their new single has been released on vinyl. He proclaimed waving a fist in the air, "after all these years arguing... I won!" The fundamental truth of a single on vinyl, is that it needs a "B" side, thus we were introduced to "Can't We Just Pretend?" A song of frustration with a partner who seems not to pay enough attention and the relationship seemed to be hanging on a knife edge "I'll hold on as long as I can," goes one line. The "A" side seems to be the reciprocal of that sentiment. "You can be my..... go-to guy... guiding light... joker... clown.. But I'll never love you." The single therefore is "Never Gonna Love you" Sorry Griff, I bought the CD version, you can't play vinyl in the car.
The regular lead guitarist Lachlan Golder was missing for this gig visiting friends (He has friends???) in Germany. Standing in for him and proving what an excellent player he is, was Adam Chinnery. You would never have known he was not a regular member of the band. He is apparently studying Jazz Guitar, but from his performance tonight, he can't have much more to learn. Mr Golder was represented however by "Bonnie & Clyde" a number he wrote for the band and which is well known to Fred's House aficionados and forms the title track of their debut album. Their second being the marvellous "Faultlines."
On the subject of albums, a third is on the cards and will be released "Sooner or Later" which also happens to be one of the tracks thereon. This is another missive about take care how you treat people, because you are certain to get bitten on the bum in the future and may need help.
"Ghost Town" was given it's customary vibrant performance, the "Bab bab bab bab bab bab bab" vocal introduction announces the arrival of another of the fan's favourites. It is the direct opposite of the song of a similar name by Coventry group, The Specials" which was written about urban decay in the city. However the two songs share a sentiment as displayed in the closing line of the Fred's House song, "We don't want no trouble here." Then we went through a "Bad Place" to a Neil Young cover of "Old Man" Vikki seemed to suggest that Young wrote it about Gafyn Jameson the Fred's House bass player, but I think she was joshing us.
The band suggested they are coming to the end of their current tour, but reference made to www.fredshousemusic.co.uk/#gigs-section seems to provide many more opportunities to witness this band in action. Action is an appropriate term to use for this bunch of entertainers and this is never better demonstrated by their (supposedly) closing number, "Beautiful You." After a gentle start it morphs into a driving beat and unusually features a vocal performance by percussionist Paul Richards. OK it only lasts a few seconds, but even he will admit it probably needs work. This is not something that can be said about his competence on the cajon. I have never seen another player of that seemingly simple instrument, get anywhere near his level of performance. He gets sounds and rhythms out of that basic looking wooden box that do not seem possible. He is a pretty nifty drummer too and always seems to have a big smile on his face, he must be the happiest drummer in the world.
All the musicians are masters of their instruments and voices, however it has to be said no-one goes to sleep during a Fred's house gig. It is loud, brash and fabulous. Check them out when they come near you.
When Michael introduced Zoe Wren from London, he indicated that it was the first time that she was appearing at The Big Comfy Bookshop. He also suggested that such was her rising star, that he was likely to be unable to afford her in the future. Zoe is a young singer who writes all of her own material and although a first glance at the lyrics of her songs might suggest that she writes about boys who tick her off, she insists that she is really not like that. She writes of things that have happened to her, people she has met and of traditional stories with her own bent. Her first song was entitled "London Town" and needs no further expansion on what that was about.
Legends, Myths and folklore of the Scottish islands abound and one such is about The Great Silkie of Skule Skerry, where the creature was a man on shore and a seal when at sea. a tale of sexual confusion because while the males of the silkie race were irresistible to the island women, silkie-women were no less alluring to the eyes of earth-born men. Zoe wrote her version of the tale in "Silkie Lullaby."
She met a blind accordionist, a friend of her Godfather, who was busking in Slovenia. He was saving money for a trip to Morocco, because he had been told that this was the best place to find love and cure his loneliness. He had almost reached his target and he felt he was "Just A Song Away" from having enough. It was a sad tale both because of his affliction and the fact that he had such faith in what he had been told. The song contained the arresting line regarding the people walking by, "He doesn't see their faces, but he hears their remarks." How often I wonder, do we assume that because someone cannot see, they happen to be deaf as well? the song gives us all a salutary lesson indeed.
Zoe returned to myth and legend in "She's A Highwayman" taking the story of a woman who, feeling neglected by her lover, hatches a plan to dress as a highwayman and rob him of his riches. In the original story, the lover falls for her all over again and they all live happily ever after. In the Zoe Wren version, the woman likes the freedom so much that she keeps to the life and rides off into the sunset - alone, free to indulge herself. a musical version of "S*d looking after man all my life, -I'm off"
This gives you a flavour of what a Zoe Wren gig is like. Her playing and singing are superb and although at one point, the technology fought back and received the admonishment, "BAD pedal!," her set was a delight. She told a little of her work in prisons leading singing workshops and this led to her song "What If The time?" and heralded "voices still unheard, and stories still to be told."
Her set finished with a rendition of the title of her recently released EP, "Gold & Smoke" where she let us know she had "coins in my pocket and good sense in my head." Long may she continue to do so. Check her out at www.zoewren.com
The opening act of the concert was a trio going under the name of "Threaded" formed in 2013. They are variously from Derby and Birmingham, which must make rehearsals interesting. They clearly managed them somehow, because their blend of violin, guitar and clarinet works beautifully. They play a mixture of tunes and songs all written by members of the group. Their opening number was "Bridge Of Eagles" which seemed to start off as a jig and then transform itself into a reel, but what do I know? It was a good start to the set. "The Long Return" demanded a degree of audience participation and soon we were all "Heave Ho-ing" along with Jamie Rutherford on guitar as he led us in the chorus.
One of their new tunes came next, about the anticipation of an event to which the writer is excitably looking forward. "Sooner Tomorrow" is a way of wishing that time would run just that little bit faster - until the next day. "The Blacksmith and The Lady" is a song which tells of a manual worker who like a certain gamekeeper in a famous D H Lawrence book, allows the Lady of the Manor to fall in love with him. M'Lord is not best pleased with this and seeks revenge. However the Blacksmith turns out to be a ghost and fades away....
How do you write a tune about a poem? I don't know, but between them, Jamie and Rosie Bott (plays clarinet) did. "Hidden Lights" recalls a poem written about a trip to an aquarium and explores the darker depths and unseen corners of the tank where unknown things happen. I give them full marks for imagination and originality on that one. The final song in the set began with Ning-Ning Li strumming her violin like a ukulele for "Left Off." She later returned to more conventional use of her instrument as she sang a duet with Jamie. It was an interesting first time for me to see and hear them play, I shall look forward to doing so again. Try facebook and search "threadedjrn."
The first and third Fridays of the month mark the twice monthly shows put on by Michael McEntee at the Big(ger) Comfy Bookshop in Coventry, check out who is on the schedule and tickets at http://www.wegottickets.com/location/14417 otherwise http://www.fargovillage.co.uk/tenants/the-big-comfy-bookshop/ for more about the shop... they sell books too!
Daria Kulesh accompanied by Jonny Dyer is currently on tour publicising both her "Spring Delights" EP and the fact that a third full album is in preparation for release early next year. I caught up with Daria shortly after she returned from a multi date tour of Germany.
The intimate setting of The Tree House Bookshop in Kenilworth provided an appropriate venue for an evening of story and song. A Daria Kulesh gig is as much about the stories as it is about the songs. She always strikes a happy balance between the two and indeed if one or the other were not in place, the atmosphere and indeed the whole event would not be the same. They are not just any old stories either, they almost amount to a history lesson in what happened during Joseph Stalin's reign during Russia's dominance over the states which fell within Churchill's definition of an "Iron Curtain" long before the term was coined.
Most of Daria's stories, which in turn prompt her songs hinge around the Ingush people who lived on the northern slopes of the Caucuses west of the Urals. People were displaced, tortured and killed by Russian forces. Children were separated from their parents. Indeed Daria's own Gt Gt Grandfather was one of these children, an Amanat. The definition of the word varies between "hostage" and "gift", depending on the context in which it was used. He was in someway fortunate, because he was allowed books and given an education by his carers and later wrote extensively. Her song "Amanat" describes his life.
That is just one of the stories, each illustrated by a song. Another is "The Moon and the Pilot" a story of romance, her Grandmother's story in fact. Yet another is about "The Panther" a rarity in that a woman was accepted into the precursor of the KGB despite that fact that she was an Ingush, ergo an outsider. She became a a deadly shot and a sniper, but she railed against the treatment of the Chechens and those of Ingushetia and would not take part in the genocide order by Stalin.
This gives a flavour of the evening. Not all of the songs are of doom and destruction, the products of Sandy Denny and indeed Bob Dylan put in an appearance. Daria's powerful soaring voice captivates the audience and Jonny Dyer's dexterity on guitar, piano and bouzouki enhance the musical content for the benefit of those fortunate enough to be present. Details of where you can catch up with this fabulous artist can be found on the website. www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/gigs with dates going through right into 2019, there must be somewhere near you.
As with all Daria Kulesh gigs, moments of humour abound. Like the time she was booked to appear on a vast stage, in front of thousands. So dressed to the nines in evening shoes, and long gown, she found herself in a muddy field pretending to plant a tree whilst miming to one of her own songs. She did make it to the big stage - just a little late. Make a note to see her and have a thoroughly enjoyable and instructive evening.
You may have already heard of Coventry native Icey Stanley who featured on Ironik's album 'Truth Be Told'. He recently released his RnB tinged banger 'SNM' featuring Ironik: https://youtu.be/RxhL7qDdAvI
Adding to the lineage of talent emerging from the Midlands, Icey Stanley garnered initial attention via his local music community. Establishing his roots within Coventry's Hip Hop scene his recognition began to spiral as he was seen supporting UK artists including JME, Fuse ODG, Meridian Dan, Big Narstie, Lady Leshurr and Devlin whilst his electric performances and aptitude at stage delivery awarded him with the opportunities to play shows in Africa, Europe and America including sets at The Global Youth Conference in Carolina and Loveworld Music Festival in Nigeria, exposing his musical prowess to different audiences across the world.
The following is a recent interview with Icey Stanley by Remina Nair, from TenLetterPR:
Tell us about your latest single ‘SNM', what's the concept behind the track?
The idea/feeling behind SNM was late night feels, when you are left alone with your thoughts. We went for a smooth production which I feel blended well with the melodic flow.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is unique, very different to a lot of UK artists; the sound is based on feeling, it's more than just a dope beat, it's the way the vocals are set to take the production to another level. I grew up on a lot on Lucky Dube (South African artist), Ja Rule, Craig David and many more great artists around my youth inspires my sound. I'm very adventurous with my sound, which can at times be risky in the music business. From 808s to smooth jazz bass a genuine mix of sounds from the west, UK foundations and southern flavour.
What is your creative process like when you're making music?
I don't usually write my songs down, most if not all are based on the initial ideas that come to mind when a beat is playing. It's more natural and in the moment; I grew up on a lot of poetry, which is the basis of my songwriting foundation; this allows me to more emotive when it comes to my storytelling.
Who are your musical influences?
My teenage years were fuelled by a lot of Rap and Grime; from Skepta, JME, Ironik to the obvious Tory Lanez, Drake, J Cole. This is why I feel my sound is very different. I have been introduced to a lot of European rappers i.e. Niska (French artist), Frenna (Holland); these guys are truly versatile and I feel have influenced my current direction.
You are flourishing within the Coventry hip hop scene, tell us more about it and who are you listening to from there?
Coventry has so much hidden talent, not many know where it is but the ones that have taken time to look into Coventry have found artists such as Mugun (@MugunCov), Mr Oulala, Pedro andSamson who has just released his project 'Rosemary Hill'. The sound is varied in Coventry.
Has your upbringing in Coventry influenced your music?
Coventry's a big part of my musical perspective, I'm planning to set my city on fire with undeniable vibes. It was just always about good vibes and energy with me, Coventry is a calm place, everyone knows each other so it's communal.
You've toured across the globe from Europe to America and Africa, what was the experience like?
I enjoy travelling and I believe experiencing different cultures is probably the best part of tour life. I went to Nigeria for the first time ever; I can tell you it's very hot and the people seem free. I loved South Africa that possibly was my greatest ever experience I explored a lot of their wild life and food, etc. - definitely a place I would visit again. All of these experiences have inspired a lot of my songwriting on my follow project to 'No Love In February'. It's also an overwhelming feeling having people who reside in a completely different geographical location singing along to your music and also appreciate it.
Do you have any gigs lined up?
We have ILUVLIVE in Birmingham, supporting a big artist in my country [Zimbabwe], Takura, on the 25th of May and a few more after my next release.
What are your goals for 2018, what do you aim to achieve?
I have got my next project in the works; parallel to that a joint EP with Mr Macee; we can't give away too much. More experimenting; It'll be something to shake up the industry.
It has been such a privilege this morning to get an exclusive preview of the new single from one of our area's top talents, Fall Girl.
Due for release on all digital platforms on 13th June (though the good news is that you can order it from 23rd May), "Anywhere" is her first release since her debut album ‘Arcana' in November 2016 and acts as an appetiser for the second album due later this year.
I don't use the phrase "top talent" lightly. We were honoured that Michelle Sciarrotta (to name the artist) allowed us on the "Alternative Sounds" team to use her track "Maybe" on our first volume of the cream of Coventry & Warwickshire music, past, present & future: we very strongly felt that her work represented the very best of the exciting music our area is currently producing. Subsequently, "Maybe" has been one of the tracks most often played on radio from that album and attracted much critical as well as popular acclaim, from international sources as well as British.
Anyway: let's talk "Anywhere".. The first thing I felt on playing it was surprise: which is excellent. I like to find music which compels me to listen & does not offer me comfort food. If I was expecting ‘Arcana part two', I was instantly disabused. The new single hits you from the first moment & carries you along in a most distinctive & idiosyncratic soundscape quite unlike the songs on her debut.
If you listen to Fall Girl either live or on record, quite apart from the excellence of her writing, the two things which strike you tend to be her extraordinary voice: one of the most distinctive around (I can't think of anyone it sounds like which both lets me off that reviewing hook & saves me from the cliché of comparison) and her virtuoso guitar playing (not only on her own tracks: check out her work with Blaze Bayley of Iron Maiden).
Well in this case, interestingly, Michelle has brought in guitarist/producer Jay Man Sun (check him out at www.jaymansun.com) to bring his talent to the party & of course this itself adds a different texture to her music.
As for that voice: well on this occasion it sits serenely on some sort of ethereal plane of its own in the mix amongst the roar of the instrumentation: quite remarkable and a testament to the excellent production as well.
It is extremely catchy as a song & well selected as a single: it sinks its hooks into your consciousness after even one play only: it should work well on the radio & one would hope commercially. Certainly I can imagine those who played "Maybe" on air will be lining up to play "Anywhere".
Lyrically the song is optimistic: Michelle has in recent months been exploring both metaphysically & in practice and it's not too much of a leap of my imagination to suppose this has been the inspiration for her song. Just right for the season too!
I said a moment ago that I try to avoid the cliché of comparison. Unfortunately I am only human & find myself slipping back into the habit if only to give you some better sense of what to expect. Fall Girl, as I said, appeared on "Alternative Sounds, Volume One" as did the Primitives. I have no idea whether this proximity had any effect, but the vocals floating over chiming guitars effect is in the same park. I might also cite tracks like Debbie Harry on Blondie's "Fade Away & Radiate" or some of Charlotte Hatherley's work: but ultimately Fall Girl is too distinctive an artist to equate easily to anyone else.
I have also had the pleasure of a preview of the accompanying video which offers a guest appearance by another huge local musical talent in a visually uplifting & joyful film which matches the mood of the song very well..... Keep an eye open for that too
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|Michael Jackson tribute|
|BBC's The Biggest Weekend|
|BBC's The Biggest Weekend|
Find more gigs in the full gig guide.