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Holly & the Hounds

Review

I have reviewed the consummate musicianship of Holly Hewitt & David Page for "Hot Music Live" on several occasions, though it isn't, I admit, particularly easy to see that, given that I have done so when they have played as "Gloria Sunset" and "Retroville" as well. In fact, my last review of them was under the latter name, at the same venue (the Magic Lantern at Temperance) and with the identical lineup, having added ace rhythm section Craig Rhind & John Webber from their "Hounds" project. Now, all four are going out consistently as "Holly & the Hounds" and all the many alternatives are dormant.

So what is new since January? Well the level of skill & ability to move an audience is still there if not even better: dancing in the Magic Lantern is rare due to floor space rather than audience reticence, but last night chairs & table were moved as people failed to resist.

The set is in theory moving towards a clear blues focus, but this is only part of the story to be honest: their definition of "blues" is a generous one & material which could just as easily be pigeonholed as swing, jazz, rock & roll, country rock etc lends excellent variety: there are even three Aretha Franklin numbers.

Most obvious is the move towards writing more of their own material: Holly's "Room for One More" (completed very recently) more than held its own against the classic covers,  nominally a twelve bar, it skilfully evaded all the conventions & clichés of delivery, indicating a new songwriting talent locally.

Perhaps less obvious, and maybe I speak as one who has seen them play frequently, is a sense of liberation I felt now they are a four piece: I spoke in January of one song catalysing their performance: last night I felt that higher level present all night: they are clearly enjoying playing so much & all four were on top form with many instances of playfulness not least in Holly's vocals but also magic moments such as David (using the fewest guitar pedals I've seen deployed in a long time) throwing an improvised snatch of "Wipeout" into the solo of "It Won't Be Long": a tiny instant which was so unexpected & brought a smile to the face.

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"Gone" by Taylor-Louise

Review

If you are counting, you'll have spotted that the new single "Gone" is the third single to be released from Taylor-Louise's stunning "Black Heart" EP & it will be released next Friday.

The last one, "Generation Now" she described as "....one of my most personal, hard hitting and vulnerable songs" and it was indeed a powerful & personal song but one which took her own journey & the challenges she encountered upon it & offered her insights as a guide to others. (She is after all a teacher too!)

 

"Gone" displays a lighter approach (probably wisely: as the first single from the EP "Blessed With A Curse" was also emotionally very intense, to have a third at the same level of passionate reflection would have been very over-powering for one EP) though it should be said that all three songs are actually very uplifting ultimately & clearly intended to be so. It's just  that the first two took trips through the darkness to reach the light while "Gone" starts there.... admittedly it appears to be a song about the break up of a relationship but it is however sung from the perspective of hindsight when the protagonist is both healing & able to pass a sympathetic judgement. Once again, in line with the rest of the EP, the reflections seem more designed to be advice to the listener than the admonishments to the person addressed directly in the lyrics.

Musically it is more poppy than its immediate predecessors with a cheerful & catchy guitar motif you'll hopefully like as much as I do. The tone & feel are quite "summery" which I imagine had a lot to do with the release date decision and given Taylor-Louise's popularity with radio stations will be destined for significant airplay.

 

You can catch Taylor-Louise at the Queen's Hall in Nuneaton on June 23rd in aid of MIND (an all day event)  and then at Temperance in Leamington on June 28th supported by Abz Winter

Again the striking sleeve design is by Ayse Herring of Wildflower Design as is that of the parent EP and the two earlier singles: indeed they all constitute a complementing set.

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"Ticket To Nowhere" by Matty Coles

Review

At a dozen tracks, ‘Ticket To Nowhere', the new album by local singer-songwriter Matty Coles to which I've been listening, provides excellent value for your money. Here then are some of my reflections on a few of the songs before you make your own judgements once you've bought it. Which I suggest that you do.

 

Recorded at 14 Records, the album also contains the single "I Wanna Get High" and since that is the track some of you will already know, let's start there with this catchy & positive tune. Built around memorable couplets you can hear why it got the nod to be picked for the single berth & I am sure it will be a central part of his live act for a long while as well as a song to attract airplay for him.

There has clearly been a fruitful discussion between the artist & his producer to take advantage of the studio in helping to create a variety of sounds & feels across the set of songs, utilising a wide range of other musicians & instruments. It is interesting to note that the album launch (at the Spa Centre on June 22nd) involves a full band: this will ensure the gig reflects the sound of the album, though I'm sure all the songs are designed also to be played solo when appropriate.

The title track has a very full production in fact: rather like early 1970s John Lennon solo tracks & Matty sounds a bit like Paul Carrack on this one (and perhaps on "Money To Burn": again Lennonesque in its "Imagine" sound and Carracklike with its soulful delivery) . Like several songs ("Bad Ship" is another), the words hint at personal angst without being too specific about the details: a good move I think since these allow each listener to apply them to their own stories & circumstances. In other tales such as "Whispers In The Trees", a compassion for others is expressed to balance the picture: this is someone with a heartfelt backstory yet one who can use his own griefs to be more empathetic to others.

The intriguing "Sandra  McKay" is one of my own favourites on the album: a disturbing story enhanced by the production, the ominous tale is told partly in a somewhat dispassionate way which heightens the effect also, where anger breaks through, the target isn't always clear either (who is to blame? All of us in a way?) which is good in my book: I like ambiguity. Another personal pick (yours might very well, and totally reasonably, be different) is the Celtic/Indian  beauty of "I'll Be There".

 

"Liberty" on the other hand comes across as a bit "Who" both in the setting & in the lyrics which touch upon some of Pete Townshend's own interests. "Whiskey in My Soul" though is by far the most Blues song on the album & another which particularly caught my attention (another I'd like to hear live) & "Mothers Eyes" channels Joe Cocker rather: as soulful as say "Money To Burn" but more rasped out vocally. Also good. Variety is the spice....

In terms of the photos illustrating this article by the way, my thanks to Gemma at 14 Records for those of Matty & of the single cover. Matty has gone down the "white label" route for the album & I felt some additional images might be in order.

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Free Galaxy at the Leamington Peace Festival

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This Fathers' Day lark is pretty good and I certainly didn't turn my nose up at a Dad-size bacon butty and a fresh bottle to add to the family gin stash.

Nonetheless I did sneak down to the Peace Festival to catch Free Galaxy on the advice of Peter Drew, Tim Rogers and many others who know their rock from their roll.  It turned out to be an outrageously potent delivey of strong original material fuelled by massive double guitar riffage, anchored by a energetic bass groove and powered along by powerhouse drumming.  Not your father's rock band - even on Fathers' Day.

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