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

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Fresh and funky

Wes Finch Trio at Kenilworth Arts Festival

Review

Somewhat to my surprise, yesterday afternoon I found myself enjoying live music in the actual physical presence of the musicians creating it for the first time since March 14th. Billed as the Doc Brown Trio, Wes Finch's outlet for his covers work, it actually turned out to be an essentially originals set, which was appropriate given that the concert was part of the Kenilworth Arts Festival and took place  in the open air (with good potential for social distancing) in the town's Talisman Square. No doubt in different times, the same gig might have been hosted indoors, it was good to see it happen at all with the weather smiling on proceedings and very positive responses from the crowd who were also visiting the adjacent art fair. In fact, given the number of families & young children present who might not have attended an indoor, ticketed gig, it is arguable that the performance as it took place, was more effective in introducing a new audience to Wes' music. It was good too to see faces I'd not seen in the flesh for many months such as HotMusicAl himself & Wes' Mechanicals Band colleague Katrin Gilbert. It was good too to see Kenilworth Arts Festival engaging with local music now as in earlier days this had been less the case.

Playing with Wes were his Doc Brown/Mechanicals colleagues Jools Street and Ben Haines &  Liz Crowley joined them on vocals for some numbers.  Ironically all of these had also played at the penultimate live gig I'd attended back on February 29th.

What can one say about the music? It was pretty ideal for the company, the occasion & the weather & I hope it's not too fanciful to say that band & audience to some extent responded to a sense of partial liberation, albeit (at least as far as I go) with a sense of who is near you or approaching close to you that had not really been my experience at previous concerts. The setlist had a slight overlap with that for Wes' Leap Year gig (look out for the live album in the final stages of preparation) and seemed chosen for the mood: uplifting for the most part but with threads of reflection & blues. As I say, the band played with the professionalism you'd expect but the looseness of people with the shackles taken off for an afternoon at least. Maybe one should be grateful under the circumstances for any live music at all: however I'm not sure I'd have gone along myself for a merely token exercise so the quality of the performance, the material, the sense of being in company (good company at that) to enjoy music & the feeling that people are adapting & finding ways to play & hold modified Festivals despite all the current constraints, transcended the mere "gigness" of the occasion. It was a special moment. I wonder when the next one will be for me?

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"Writers" by Chloë Boehm

Review

As I'm sure that you are aware, we were fortunate enough to be able to include the debut single of Chloë Boehm "Dare You" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three' & get in on reporting this potentially fascinating career from its very start: we also published a feature on her in March.

Chloë has been deprived of the chance to build upon her very positively received music to date  & frankly swiftly growing reputation with live performances (though she has been a regular live streamer from her refuge in Germany). However it would seem that both the positive feedback she has been getting & the circumstances of lockdown have given her a particular impetus to reflect deeply & hence to create new music: many fresh pieces having been debuted online.

This brings me to her new single "Writers" (and I'm delighted that despite the constraints she has managed the production process, on this occasion with her Sam Martin of LAYKS in support) which is a follow up to "Dare You" and "Be Gentle".

One of the characteristics of Chloë that you spot very early on is her tendency to self deprecation. I'm sure this complete lack of egotism contributes to the honesty of her writing (another trait one soon notices) and of course as noted in previous articles, she is relatively inexperienced compared with many of the musicians she plays with locally but who (and this is important I'm sure) rate her highly.  Instrumental virtuosity is something we can all applaud & lord knows we have plenty of that quality about in Coventry & Warwickshire at present. However to me it is nothing unless deployed in the service of a song: otherwise it simply becomes self indulgence & frankly dull. So when Chloë describes her own playing as "rustic", I see where she is coming from, but her developing guitar skills serve her own songs well & accentuate the truth in them. In fact what I think I'd rather label (if I must) as "instinctive" or "intuitive" can add to the originality of what we are listening to;

"Writers" (released today on all the usual platforms) is a definite progression in several respects from her earlier work. The production values are much more noticeable with obvious attention being paid to shaping her vocal sound as well as that of the instrumentation & the latter is fuller than on the earlier singles. A growing sense of confidence perhaps explains the longer introduction and her slow & measured delivery which leaves plenty of space for the words to inhabit to excellent effect.

Reflective & elegiac as so many of her songs to date are, "Writers" also has that almost intangible sense of sadness threaded through it which again seems one of her hallmarks & this in turn has a strong impact on how the listener interprets the lyrics. Less "rustic" & more limpid & lucid in tone than Chloë might have us believe, this beautiful song possesses two of the essential attributes of a successful one: it engages emotionally with us & it does not offer full narrative resolution: there is so much potential in "Writers" for us to draw our own conclusions & to apply the lyrics to our own lives & circumstances.

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"Sea of Stars" by Lemon Boy

Review

I hope you have been enjoying the track "Flamingo" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Four'? I'm pleased to share with you now the latest single from Lemon Boy, that is to say "Sea of Stars" which came out yesterday.

In fact this song first appeared on his album ‘Fading Voices' last year, but this is a new mix for us.

As you'll know, I was knocked out by the originality of Luke Bate's work at the first listening so new material from him is always most welcome. "Sea of Stars" sounds distinctly different to "Flamingo": this is clearly an artist who while staying true to himself does not want to repeat himself either. What remains a constant is the simplicity of the arrangement & ethereal beauty of the overall sound: the evocation of nature too. Less obviously "eastern" in its sonic character than other work of his I've heard, it perhaps shares with say Japanese pictorial art & poetry the desire to say more via less.

The unusual soundscape is dominated by three major elements: a very prominent snare drum, a compelling vocal (which occasionally reminded me of Ian Curtis) & a guitar figure almost endlessly repeated with subtle variations, the overall effect being hypnotic & creating an impression of the vastness of the open sea. In comparing the single version with that which came out in 2019, I'd say that he has opted to accentuate the dreamy spaciness of the mix & after repeated plays, I probably am now drawn more to this one. I certainly hope you'll appreciate its considerable& unique  beauty  too.

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"Leap Year Gig Rehearsal" by Wes Finch

Review

There is some good news for Wes Finch fans awaiting the release of his Leap Year gig live album (as (p)reviewed in this magazine last month) He has offered you a plate of hors d'oeuvres in the form of four tracks recorded at the rehearsals for the show: "Fully Grown", "Keep Fishing" , "Maurice" and "Hold That Note" and the set is available on a "name your price" basis from this link:

http://wesfinch.bandcamp.com/album/leap-year-gig-rehearsal

The four songs certainly will whet your appetite for the album release but as you will have anticipated, the quality of the performances in no way indicates any inferiority in relation to studio or full gig versions: these are vignettes of great musicians playing excellent songs with love & commitment to them & each other & a true indication of what was to follow. Pull up a comfy chair, enjoy your appetisers & make sure you have left room for the main meal.

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"Homeward Hie" & "Sunshine" by Rob Halligan

Review

Rob Halligan fans will have felt blessed over the past week with two separate releases which I hope you won't mind my telling you about in a combined review.

The (slightly) earlier of the two, "Homeward Hie" represents a new direction for Rob, being his first released instrumental & in addition to the majority of the instruments played by its composer, Ewan Cameron adds whistles to this very celtic tune. I imagine that given its title if fits into his ‘Always Heading Home' project & indeed apparently its genesis lies in an intended interlude for another song which then evolved into a standalone piece evocative of heading into the west & the sunset & finding oneself in a land a natural beauty & sense of belonging.

The second song, released on Friday, however has different emotional overtones & history. "Sunshine" dates back a good couple of decades and this reworked version featuring Rob & piano and vocals and Andreas W Andersson providing soprano saxophone from Sweden has been created for the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11 as it was Rob's Dad's favourite of his songs & as you may well know, his father lost his life on that day.

With such extra layers of meaning & emotion (the majority of which I imagine apply most emphatically to Rob himself), it is difficult to be too objective about the song itself: so many tracks gain so much more meaning in the context of how they affect us remind us of things and people: in fact I could argue that all good music, all our favourite songs, have such power over us due to evocation of memories in addition to their basic content.  Equally, I can't really comment on the track without holding in my mind why Rob has released it & the poignancy of the context.

You can see why his Dad loved this tender ballad, perched on a wire between sadness & positivity. The sax and the plangent piano simply emphasise the poignancy & I defy you to listen without a degree of moistness to your eyes.

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"Better Than This" by The Rising

Review

If you recall, like many of us, The Rising entered 2020 with high hopes & plans. They were very clearly looking forwards to their ambition to release a monthly new single. While it's obviously a shame that other factors have made this that much more difficult than it should have been, I greatly admire their tenacity at sticking as closely to their original scheme as possible & if the records they have managed to release have been a little more widely spaced than one per month, does that really matter so much when the quality has been this good?  Singles like "Just Another Name" or "I Want You" and above all the bar raising "Shadows on the Wall" can therefore be savoured a little longer while today "Better Than This" joins the club.

Naturally being able to record "at home" in their own Renegade Studio makes their ambitions more realisable & this facility & their weekly (or more) live streams have shown that the duo of Chris Logan  & Chantelle McAteer are determined not to be beaten but to maximise their musical potential in any way possible.

In fact this song appears to be a direct riposte to the situation in which they and we find ourselves: "it's GOT to get better than this" Chantelle emotes regularly in a song which lies closer in style to their great love Country music than some of the more recent releases.  In true genre style, she sings of various stories centred on those feeling down & pessimistic yet in each case she exhorts them to take deep breaths & to fight back despite any odds.

The music as you would expect is immaculate featuring drums played in Nashville by Chris Brush and specially flown over, plus various stringed instruments including what sounds like a banjo but knowing Chris' studio skills may have other origins. The sound builds steadily to match the soaring passion of the vocals: The Rising are not giving anything up without a fight & have forged a powerful track to encourage us when we need it most.

 

I think any Rising watcher (and we are growing in numbers: despite reviewing this on release date, I am far from being its first reviewer and it has received the accolade of being dubbed "Single of the Week" on CountryLine) would have imagined that The Rising would make significant career breakthroughs in 2020: the sense of momentum was certainly there. Probably, a large part of this would have centred on their compelling live act, and this has not proved too possible. Nevertheless, they are working so hard to find alternative routes & building them on the foundations of excellent writing & recorded performances that it would be an injustice if they did not finish 2020 feeling it had been a year of achievement.

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How Was That - A new release from David Page

Review

"How was that?", says Dave between tracks. Well, Dave, if you ask me, it's pretty damn good. It's a sweet blend of articulate and honest original material with Dave's warm agile voice at the heart of diverse and carefully-crafted arrangements.  While you can catch and enjoy the influences of ‘60s pop, contemporary Americana, haunting accapella and classic power-ballads, this music is ultimately about the songs and the different evocative stories they have to tell.

While it's hard to find  standout tracks from such consistently good work, I particularly enjoyed the rich ‘60s harmonies of Woman, the wistful regret of A Better Me, the epic guitar work on Like a Flower in Full Bloom and the good-time story-telling of On that Saturday Night. 

While this is certainly driven by Dave's creative vision, the album is very much a team effort with focused production by David Ellis, co-writing on one track by Graham Weston, powerful instrumental contributions from Will Ball, Ant Freeman, Alan Kitchen and David Ellis and photography by Marguerite Page.

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"Empty Beretta" by Jack Blackman

Review

We were greatly pleased to be able to feature the zeitgeist tapping "Self Isolation Song" by Jack Blackman on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Four'. Now, with the collaboration of Euan Blackman (keyboards & backing vocals),  David Vaughan on drums and James Maguire on bass, he's gone and done it again with another great song created out of the dark musical abyss of lockdown, namely "Empty Beretta"

Quite how they managed to put it together under constraints now applying is mysterious & I think it should remain that way. It certainly has all the cohesion of performers playing together & off each other to excellent effect, so if it was actually one of those tracks assembled from its constituent parts then they deserve great credit. It is a powerful & organic piece with, as you'd expect, different dynamics to the solo "Self Isolation Song".

A long (nearly five minutes) song, it has the time & space to be a slow burner, building inexorably over its course. This menacing blues (the title rather sets the tone) paints dark & disturbing images of a world where things are not as they ought to be.

Tastefully understated vocals are counterpointed to an ominous rhythm section stalking them like the Grim Reaper and then keening slide guitar figures enter the sonic picture: sometimes offering stiletto interventions and then retreating into the background to provide a more constant threat.

"Empty Beretta" never lets up & after more than four minutes of brooding intensity it certainly has left its mark by the coda. As a metaphor for our times, it is a chilling & atmospheric one which captures aspects of the common mood. As a track in its own right, it is up there with the best of his work & if difficult times have driven inspiration for work like this, then I suppose it is some compensation for having to live through them.

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Old and gold

"Emilia" by Ollie Bond

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If, like me, you enjoyed "Safe With Me" by Ollie Bond  on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three', you'll be as pleased that despite ...

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"What You Taught Me (Baby)" by Year Without A Summer

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Lots of things make writing reviews of great local music for "Hot Music Live" pleasurable.

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"21st Century Man" by The Upsiders

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I do hope that you have been following successive instalments of The Upsiders "Reconnect" project as they release them & we review them in the ...

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Paul Brook

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For those of you who have already downloaded  "Hot Music Live Presents Volume Four" (if not, please check it out ...

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"Sush On The Roof" by The Upsiders

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I must have been a bit naive when back in late March I assumed that my articles in the magazine would become more infrequent: obviously there has ...

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Wes Finch's Leap Year Gig: Live Album

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Some six months ago, I wrote what to date is my penultimate live review for the magazine: concerning Wes Finch's Leap Year gig.

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"Hot Music Live Presents Volume 4" is out now!

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"Hot Music Live Presents Volume 4" is out now!You can find it on our "Sounds" page and in BandCamp under 'Hot Music Live Presents Volume ...

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"Sway" by the Upsiders

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It was barely a fortnight ago that I was telling you all about The Upsiders' single "Worth A Million" which I'm delighted to see has been ...

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"Live in the Basement" by Stylusboy

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It was only last week that I was telling you about the new Stylusboy single "This Is Where I Belong" which was released in advance of its parent EP ...

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"This Is Where I Belong" by Stylusboy

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You'll no doubt have enjoyed that masterpiece of Stylusboy, namely   "For the Souls of My Brothers" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents ...

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"Let's Go Home" by Joe Dolman & Millie Tilby

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This is rather an unusual release to be reporting on.

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Woodbine Street Recording Studio

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In my latest feature on how local music related businesses are coping with, adapting to & evolving through the current circumstances, I am ...

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LEAMINGTON PEACE FESTIVAL YEARS 2008-10

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I really only started going along to the Peace Festival in 2008 after the purchase of my first DSLR camera, have always loved my music both live and ...

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"Front Room Sessions: The Visual Album"

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I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I especially enjoy (and enjoy writing about) music where it touches base with other art media.

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'Blank Canvas' by Henery

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I really haven't concealed my admiration for the solo work of Henery in this magazine have I? Starting with live reviews which not only revealed ...

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"Won't Let Me In" by Satsangi

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Satsangi, never a band to shirk a challenge nor to be meekly led by fate nor wander aimlessly down roads many others have trodden previously, seem to ...

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"Worth A Million" by The Upsiders

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As I write, the very first  shoots of live music performance recovery seem underway: a few people including members of Evergreen & Chessi ...

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"Promised Land" by Rob Halligan

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A strange one this, the latest single release from Rob Halligan: "Promised Land" which comes a month after his previous one, "The Other Side" was ...

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"I Want You" by The Rising

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I am pleased to report that despite all the obstacles being placed in their way since their decision to launch a single a month in 2020, The Rising ...

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"Rose" by Ross Darby

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When I reported mere days ago that one of the artists who had recently been recording at 14 Records with Matt Waddell was Ross Darby, I certainly ...

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'The Life I Had 'Til Now' EP by Little Girl Screaming

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"Darling" by Batsch

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It was April when I wrote about the "Colour of Love" single by Batsch in the magazine.

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"Wayward" by Katherine Abbott

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After the pleasure at being able to review "Lullaby For Lucas" by Katherine Abbott last month, I'm delighted that so little time has elapsed ...

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14 Records

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In my most recent article, I focussed on how local business Dr.

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Dr.Um

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Back in March, I shared some of my reflections, fears & thoughts about the impact of lockdown on the local music scene & more or less left it ...

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David Ellis

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Dave has a very distinctive sound of his own.

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"Hour Glass" by Ian Todd

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Keen readers of this magazine will recollect the February feature  of Ian Todd & even keener ones will have spotted his name amongst ...

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"To the Sun" by Henery

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One of the many disappointing aspects  of lockdown (and I write this on a day when I would otherwise have been anticipating Leamington Peace ...

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Venues in Lockdown and before: THE BUCK AND BELL AT LONG ITCHINGTON

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BEFORE LOCKDOWN:Owners of this pub are Mr Peter Evans and Mrs Cheryl EvansPete is from the Southam area attended Wolston High School.

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"Fire" solo video by Izzie Derry

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I do like being taken be surprised by music (to be honest I'm not sure I enjoy reviewing music which fails in some way to do so) and I hope I am ...

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