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Coventry, Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, Rugby, Solihull, Warwick, Stratford and Warwickshire

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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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Man Made Moon supported by Noah Dobbie

Review

Here I go again: another evening spent in the company of really talented musicians who not only perform in a way that touches my soul but objectively demonstrate unique voices on stage & in what they write. We are truly living in a really great period for people producing such a stunning range of music, yet each one being true to themselves: and believe me I have heard plenty of material which doesn't fit in that box over the years.

You'll remember (I hope) my rhapsodising a few weeks ago over Evergreen, a comparatively recently formed band whose ascent is proving extremely rapid: since I reviewed them they have been selected to play the Main Stage at the Godiva Festival ahead of many much longer existing & frankly really good bands: check them out on the Saturday afternoon: I know I shall.

I said in that review how Evergreen comprised four great performers & writers: tonight the gig featured one of them, Noah Dobbie (she played guitar & ukulele with the group, tonight she accompanied herself on guitar apart from the final duet with Evergreen colleague Rikki Hansel).

I would not be surprised if reviews of Noah's gigs focused on her performance: and why not? She is a compelling & charismatic presence who drew a really enthusiastic response from the full venue. She has an excellent vocal range but the contralto end is special & what will probably get most mentions, as does her interesting delivery style & way of interpreting songs. However I think it is really important not to understate what a great writer she is too. Playing a set of her own compositions (including "Twenty" which she plays also with Evergreen), I found it impossible to identify any obvious comparisons to help readers understand quite what I heard. So you'll just have to go and see her live and form your own opinion. They certainly are very strong songs, highly idiosyncratic & occasionally a bit strange, albeit clearly within the bounds of classic songwriting. Whereas Evergreen as a band draw a lot from late 60s early 70s folk rock & blues, Noah sits within that framework to a certain extent, but far from entirely. Whatever her personal influences & inspirations are, she has channelled them into something entirely her own.

You can learn more about Noah at

https://www.facebook.com/noahdobbiemusic/

and her work with Evergreen at

https://www.facebook.com/evergreenharmonies/

You can catch her as part of Evergreen at the Godiva Festival on July 6th, the following day at the Stratford River Festival & on August 17th back at Temperance

I have reviewed headliners Man Made Moon's records in "Hot Music Live" in the past (current single "Weightless" in April and their "The Tourist" EP in January). I enjoyed both very much but catching them live is a subtly different experience. I found it hard to define why (and I discussed it with the whole band afterwards), but they did inject some form of extra magic in the performance, whether it was an element of "edge" or just the passion of playing songs they clearly had spent so long crafting.

What is disappointing is what a rare treat a Man Made Moon gig actually is. I mentioned in my previous reviews how well regarded they are (no band has spent longer on the HillzFM local charts) and believe me they are a stunning & captivating live act. Members do have other commitments including with other bands, but I would urge them to play more with the same emphasis as I'd recommend that you see them. They really are one of the best local live acts as well as producing excellent records.

Each track obviously has had a lot of time spent on crafting the detail as well as ensuring each is also a really strong song, memorable & impacting on the listener. With three guitarists, there is capacity of at least one each time to be processed (one sounded like an accordion at times: or a harmonica. Or both) and a laptop provided further elements such as an organ part. However this decidedly was not prog rock: the complexity of arrangements served the beauty of the songs rather than showing off musicianship.

The band, namely Ben Taylor (vocals & rhythm guitar), Colin Bean (who played superb cajon rather than his usual drums due to the venue), Nick Mew (guitar), Ian Black (lead guitar) and Gary Ryan (bass) were joined on backing vocals by Lucy Stanton  for the performance of "Weightless" & created a wonderful atmosphere in the space. The sound was pristine and although their trademark ethereal aspects were in evidence, a harder rock edge emerged from time to time, not least on new song "Rain" which  featured some scintillating guitar soloing. As with Noah, I found it hard to pin any direct comparisons down: looking back at my earlier reviews, I see I tentatively suggested Neil Young, John Lennon (they actually covered "Dear Prudence" as one of two covers along with a solo "Hallelujah" by Ben), Tom Petty, Barenaked Ladies & Pink Floyd as crutches for my attempts to describe them & I stand by all of these after the live experience, yet ultimately, their presumably myriad influences inform their music subtly & like their support act, merely form the background to their own unique style.

You can catch Man Made Moon at Napton Festival on July 6th, and the following day at Stratford River Festival. On July 19th they play Warwick Beer, Cider & Music Festival & on September 6th they return to Temperance to support The Bluetones' Mark Morriss.

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"Grow" by The Ellipsis

Review

Last week, I had every intention of writing a review in this magazine of the gig I was intending to attend at the Zephyr Lounge by The Ellipsis, supported by Free Galaxy, and CANDID. I imagine most of you know what happened & why that review never was written. The bands found out over social media: "gutted doesn't even cut it" was the headliners' response: a commendable restraint on their part as other things might have been said.

In no way can such a disappointment be cancelled out, but at least today I can write an Ellipsis review since their new single "Grow" is out today.

What of it then? Well no-one unacquainted with the band will be surprised by the elements which shape it: not just excellent musicianship (band members are in huge demand by other artists to work with them) but even more importantly, tasteful musicianship. None of the band plays to show off, they subordinate their skills to the needs of the song & the collective. In fact I was talking to their manager Paul only last week about how their extra curricular playing is informing Ellipsis music: far from distracting them, playing solo & with others is simply adding to the palette at the group's disposal. In fact as you may recall of my review of singer Henry's recent solo gig (as "Henery"), his voice is developing more & more distinction & confidence in what he can do with it, and I detect elements in "Grow" I hadn't previously heard. The title is "Grow" and that's something The Ellipsis continue to do. Not all bands can or do.

Like many of their best songs, the single has several contrasting sections which add it its quality: choppy nervy bits slide into smoother soulful passages and then groove onwards. Little licks jump into the ear, massed vocals join Henry, all the instruments contribute interesting and imaginative moments which never outstay their welcome. Solos take place behind the singing. This is a band with a great attitude to Service of the Song.

It is clearly really radio friendly & made up of exactly what should be a popular success (if anything, somewhat more sophisticated & subtle than many hits). Let's hope it does as well as it deserves to.

As I said, it is something positive to be able to post about The Ellipsis at this time, though of course their plan originally was to have a great gig AND release the single. And why ever not?  I hope all "Hot Music Live" readers will support those artists hit by the closure of The Assembly/Zephyr Lounge (and of course The Arches which also shut their doors this week alas): some, like Joe Dolman who has moved the concert he was so looking forwards to to Leamington Parish Church on December 6th, others are still working on such moves or simply have lost the showcases for their talents. No doubt too there is space on these pages for a discussion on the economics of venues & other associated issues such as the damage done to the Assembly after closure.

 

In the meantime, you can catch The Ellipsis at Temperance on 26th July

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'More Songs About Hospital Food' by Simon Morgan

Review

Warwickshire singer song writer Simon Morgan has a long & distinguished pedigree for producing music from the "heart on the sleeve" school of creation, where the integrity of the message is all. Emerging into the exciting & iconoclastic world of the late 70s Warwickshire punk scene alongside the Shapes, Flackoff, School Meals etc with his Stratford/Norton Lindsey  based group Domestic Bliss,  Simon later formed both The Suspects & The Hop & managed & played with the mighty  Ramrods of Coventry, who of course are still going strong.,

About ten years ago, Simon released  his debut solo album 'Domestic Abuse' (you can get it for free via his Bandcamp site).  He has now followed it up with 'More Songs About Hospital Food'  (I assume a nod there to Talking Heads' second album) and it is clear that this is not simply a load more tunes, but a very precise chronicling of his own life: in fact the songs are presented in the order they were written (something I have never previously encountered to my knowledge) & this explains why the first half sounds more like the folk album Simon was originally intending & subsequently the latter part veers into electronica as his musical journey took new turns during the process of writing & recording. The production by the way was by his nephew G W Birch (who is the only other contributing musician too) at Pathway Studios in Exeter.

If 'Domestic Abuse' was about Simon's road back from addiction (and this is a very key part of his music as it is with his life and work outside music), then the follow-up "is about the potential, purpose, passion and growth enabled by the recovery process". The title derives from Simon's "own stay in hospital in 2015 for septicaemia, and volunteering as an alcohol liaison in reach worker at UHCW from 2014-2017"

There have, lord knows, been plenty of great songs about addiction & even more about the immediate effects of substances. Few people (I can't actually think of any) have written whole bodies of work about recovery & the long term journeys of themselves nor the people they have supported & Simon deserves much credit for this. Knowing the structure too helps the listener perceive a linearity in the album which would otherwise be easier to miss.

 

Opener "Dark Side of the Spoon" sets the stall out very plainly: the title says it all & you are warned about what's coming,  in what is actually a catchy folk song with a voice, guitar & slide guitar telling the first tale. "Still Songs Unsung" is cut from much the same pastoral cloth in terms of accompaniment but here the author attempts to place his experiences within a broader intellectual  & conceptual framework: successfully too. "House of Leaves" sets off in a slightly different direction: in fact a western one with its harmonica and images of frontiers and Simon adopting a husky voice not dissimilar to the one Spider Stacy used in the Pogues.  "I'll Leave A Light On" combines slide, guitar & harmonica in the most Boblike track on the album  and is a most touching song, presumably about being left but keeping the option of a (welcome) return open. "Takes A Long Time To Heal" (Simon doesn't really go in for ambiguous titles) is more bleak: the vocal sound is placed in the near distance & for the first time, non-acoustic instruments enter the sonic picture, admittedly right in the background. Next up, "Pack Some Hope" steps up the arrangement drastically. I said Simon doesn't mess around with titles in respect of what they are about: however that doesn't exclude wit as evidenced by "Monopoly Bored" which references the board game throughout a track replete with samples & electronica & the theme harks back to the world view perspectives & political analysis of "Still Songs Unsung". Next up is"Frequent Flyer" and the electronic music is getting more experimental by the moment: here Simon's voice is processed in various interesting ways and he harmonises effectively with himself on this look at those who need NHS services more often than average & the impact on them of political running down of said institution..."The Kübler -Ross Model" references the ‘stages of grief' taxonomy and Simon runs that particular gamut while paying tribute to the eponymous Elizabeth.  Album closer "And So On, And So On" is the full monty in terms of its instrumental and vocal use of electronics and processing. This makes Simon seem the least ‘human' on the whole album: he sounds most disconnected if not alienated, yet the lyrical message does offer hope & the melody offers uplift...Which is a good way to sign the collection & this review off.

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Community cafe at the Hod Carrier

Review

I do love the headine gigs with the monster sound systems, massive lighting rigs and legendary names - but they're not the whole picture. Music is not just a product to be passively consumed; it's a practice to exercise, a passion to share.

For example, this morning at the Hodcarrier I had sat back with a cup of joe and a sausage sarni to enjoy a bunch of fine local musicians playing - not for hard cash or promised glory - but simply for the joy of making music together. 

Do check it out; Wednesday mornings at 10 AM, £5 for sausage or bacon in a crusty roll, bottomless coffee, warm community vibes and a chance to catch great acts like Will Ball, Robert Cooper, Wes Finch, Shanade and Stephen Boyer.

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Old and gold

"Moving On" by The Rising

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As promised in my review of their performance at Sunday's BBC Introducing Coventry & Warwickshire showcase, what follows is my review of the ...

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Jaws - new video + tour dates, include The Empire, Sat 30th Nov 2019

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A SonicPR promotion .

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BBC Introducing Showcase

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"Hot Music Live" tries really hard to do many things.

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Ubergine at Temperance

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Haunting vocals over compelling rhythms and dancing basslines.

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TRINITY 4 - A PROG/CHARITY EXTRAVAGANSA

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A day of both wonderful music prog style and generosity raising money for Scope, Mind and Help Musicians UK.

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Shanade with guests Nicky Ager & Aaron Dudfield

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By now I'm sure you'll be aware of the many bees in my bonnet as I tend to repeat  much the same obsessions in most reviews, so when I ...

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Evergreen at the Magic Lantern

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I flatter myself that some of you may remember my reviewing the Hansel Brothers in the past for "Hot Music Live" (most recently on February 10th).

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A Certain Ratio 40th Anniversary Celebration

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A SonicPR promotion .

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Vince Hill's farewell concert in Coventry

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With 2019 marking his 85th birthday, singing star Vince Hill will be heading home to Coventry next month to perform a special farewell concert at the ...

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Wes Finch supported by Stylusboy

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Another  emotionally rewarding night at the Magic Lantern, savouring two of the finest & most individual of the many great local performers ...

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Jake Rizzo supported by Henery

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Another wonderful night of song writing craft & passionate performances at the Magic Lantern last evening & two more great local musicians ...

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"Stories From The She Punks"

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As explained in the preview in "Hot Music Live" on February 1st, yesterday there was a special screening of the acclaimed documentary "Stories From ...

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Helen McCookerybook with the Sunbathers & Peter Hall

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What a beautiful evening's entertainment & soul sustenance of original music at the Tin.

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Fairport Convention supported by Izzie Derry

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As previewed in "Hot Music Live Presents", last evening Izzie Derry, who has several times been reviewed in the magazine & is part of the "Hot ...

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"We All Write The Songs" by Rob Halligan

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As promised in my review of Rob Halligan's recent gig at the Magic Lantern with Kristy Gallacher, here is my review of his most recent album, ...

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Burning Salt at the Magic Lantern

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What an interesting & subtle band Burning Salt are.

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Kristy Gallacher with Rob Halligan

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 In 1996 Elvis Costello held an event he called "A Case For Song" which was filmed for the BBC: collaborating with a range of other musicians ...

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KRISTY GALLACHER AND ROB HALLIGAN AT TEMPERANCE

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What a wonderful night of live music this was, a fine set by Rob Halligan followed by a wonderful performance by one of my favourite ...

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"Generation Now" by Taylor-Louise

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When is "easy listening" not easy listening?Possibly when it is one of those quite rare songwriting approaches where the composer deliberately ...

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"Out Upon The Ocean" EP by Stylusboy

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Writing for a music magazine in Coventry & Warwickshire, which is let's face it pretty landlocked, I don't expect to review many ...

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"The Mountain" by Brass Hip Flask

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Do you like your blues authentic & raw? I do.

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APE Night

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I have often written about the wonderful, in fact the weird, thought provoking & wonderful evenings Johnny Satsangi puts on at the Zephyr Lounge ...

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"Drag You Down" by Joe Dolman

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Isn't it a real boost when a local musician whom you've seen often playing the open mics & the local venues & whose work ...

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"Lost At Sea" EP by Izzie Derry

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A real headache for me is trying to express my admiration for work I consider is an artist's best so far without sounding like I didn't ...

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"Weightless" by Man Made Moon

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Isn't the artwork for the new Man Made Moon single "Weightless" great?  You'll be pleased to hear that the musical content rises to ...

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Taylor-Louise news

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I don't usually review artists' websites (in fact I don't think I ever have before?) but why not? They are a crucial method of keeping ...

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"Lonely Nights" by The Institutes

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I haven't yet reviewed Coventry band The Institutes for "Hot Music Live" so it's good to have the opportunity to repair that omission when ...

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Sunjay - Willoughby Village Hall, Sat 11th May 2019

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A James H Soars Media Services promotion .

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TRINITY 4 - LEAMINGTON ASSEMBLY SATURDAY 11th May 2019

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The Prog world gets together again next month at The Leamington Assembly when on 11th May Trinity the prog rock music festival returns to its ...

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Hannah Woof with John Connearn supported by Ellie Gowers

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I'm going to go with "spell-binding" as my key word (two words?) for last evening's gig.

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