It's good to be able to report to you that Abz Winter is following up her very well received (not least in the review in this magazine) single "Don't Go Playing With A Young Girl's Heart" with a new original "Jump" which you can pre-order via this link:
Showing not merely an ability to write songs of great quality which belie her years, Abz also seems to have decided to ensure that her releases reflect all sides of her personality & view of the world and not just press the same emotional button with listeners on each occasion. So the sober reflections of the last single give way to a jaunty party track with a similar bounce factor to the splendid "Incompatible Me" which created such an impression last year, but telling an appreciably different story.
While that track was fundamentally a contemporary dance style composition, "Jump" favours some attractive old school disco funk, albeit adapted for our times, and as usual with Abz the arrangement is cool & sparse & allows for her vocals to predominate.
I doubt that she could have foreseen the distinct lack of partying in the conventional manner going on in at release time when she wrote it, but it does act as a necessary feel good tune & I can picture her growing legion of fans all dancing to it, but initially in their living rooms until they can rejoin her live (like everyone else, Abz's many planned gigs have been postponed or cancelled for the time being).
What I particularly love is the good humour with which the recreation of the disco style is handled: the other vocals are an absolute joy to hear with no sense of patronisation or parody: just sheer joy in the form & the performance.
Abz just gets better & better at her performance & composition crafts and offers us different aspects of both on each release: and she still has years of her teens still ahead of her. Now studying at BIMM in Birmingham one can scarcely begin to imagine what she'll be producing by the time she's twenty.
In the meantime, do pre-order "Jump' and when it arrives, pump up the volume & party round your places of confinement with Abz.
Pleased as I undoubtedly am to be reviewing "As It Goes", the brand new album from Danny Ansell & Co, there is no getting away from the facts that this is not necessarily the review Danny & I the band would have ideally liked me to be doing for you.
Firstly, as Danny himself put it yesterday: "our guitarist , family member and amazing musician Stephen Madden sadly passed away half way through the making of the album , the band overcome many emotional times and hard work to finish the album .."
Quite understandably the album is dedicated to Stephen's memory & quite apart from his great, tasteful playing, listen out for the track "Lemonade Wage" which he & Danny co-wrote.
Secondly, having spent a year working so hard to record the album at Born in a Barn Recording Studio & having to complete it in a state of grief, how disappointing that it has to be shared with the world at a time when this band who so enjoy gigging & do so very frequently, cannot do so in order to promote it.
That said, their method of honing each song to perfection before live & responding audiences means that if you are a fan of theirs' (and let's face it they are one of the very biggest local live draws), you'll probably have heard many of the tracks played on stage already. In fact "Satellites" came out as a single in January & I reviewed it in these pages: seems like a lifetime ago, back in the good old days of live gigs...
As I emphasised in that last review, Danny & his band have certain trademarks, some of which are easier to detect than others. The most obvious one is how popular & effective they are as a live act & how well the songs go down in the company of audiences: Danny has long been a "go to" artist for festival organisers both to draw in extra attendees & to whip up a powerful, communal mood once there: the songs tend to the anthemic & the sing along factor is as high as it gets.
Yet under these attributes there are many subtle lyrical & instrumental touches which perhaps are a bit easier to spot when playing the record than with your arms around the shoulders of person you are standing next to and celebrating the moment to a song you have pretty much learned the words to already.
Inside the songs are deeply human thoughts & reflections, vignettes of the lives we lead & what are obviously personal feelings & emotions: late night feelings inhabit more than a few of Danny's songs.
Due to the care with which they are created, arranged & recorded, this is a prime example of a "no filler" album. In fact it's quite unusual for me to be reviewing a genuine full album of songs developed over a long period & intended to be recorded and released as a set. Most artists these days seem to be putting out singles & EPs and even the wonderful Greengrass album I recently reviewed was originally conceived as an EP and grew with their enthusiasm for what they were doing.
So strong is this set by such a prominent local artist that it is tempting to express frustration at the lack of opportunity to hear them play it at a launch, but I'd rather not let negative emotions intrude on an album I've enjoyed playing & I shall just have to look forward to hearing it live when the chance is permitted.
So what of the tracks created by the band (Danny Ansell (guitars & vocals), Paddy ‘the Bass' Beard (bass & backing vocals), Roger Greasby (drums) and of course Steve Madden on electric guitar) and produced by Roger, Danny & Paddy?
Well like I said, "no filler" at all: eleven cracking songs and maybe the only problem is the sheer accumulated impact of playing so many dynamic tracks one after another: and you'll be very likely to get on your feet from the start and stay there.
"Satellites" deserved & received its own review a few months ago "a typically passionate song & one which makes its mark instantly upon your consciousness & memory": a fact which I suppose does raise the issue that if you do put eleven songs, all of which might make a great single, on one album, the intensity of playing one after another can be a bit overwhelming: listening to each individually is both rewarding & respectful of what went into each one.
"Police At The Door" is possibly the track which has so far had the most airplay & deservedly so. People might consider it Danny's finest song & I couldn't argue with them. Beautifully structured & played, with perhaps the clearest vocal sound I've heard on one of his recordings, the complex of emotions & reflections on life history, at times poignant, at others uplifting, ensure that there is always something to pick out each time you play it.
"Suit ‘em Up" is a quintessential live favourite style track, yet this again is really quite a sad song (most of the album is like this: he's not messing with your mind by mixing the catchy & the melancholy, but reminding us that the world contains all emotions & writing "real" songs must reflect this.) "Be yourself tonight" is the refrain... Good idea.
The album opener (and the song whose lyrics provide the title) is "Don't Give A Damn" and it actually sets the tone for what follows really well: nostalgic and ruminative, yet defiant with it with a slight celtic tinge to it.
At the other end of the collection comes "Answer's In a Bottle" which matches & bookends the first track in mood & tone & sends us off with a bit of a tear in our eyes: a brave downbeat way to leave us but one of commendable maturity with a strong message.
In its reference to dreaming, it harks back to the preceding, yet much more upbeat & blues tinged "Pocketful of Dreams": in fact many of these songs work well in pairs, telling different tales of similar subjects or answering each other: whether this complexity was planned from the beginning or was a serendipitous outcome of Danny's feelings during writing.....
The beautiful " Lemonade Wage" written with Steve lies in the centre of the collection & drifts along on another cloud of deep personal reflection: this is almost certainly the "lighter in the air" track for his concerts when they resume & works really nicely as an elegy to its co-writer.
"You Being You" is the album's romantic love song, the same beauty being present as on the other songs & yet again the soaring thoughts & vocals seldom last long without regrets creeping in: "we should be..." is the common thought here. As ambiguous as many of these songs are, Danny leaves it up to us to decide whether the people in the song will actually do the things he thinks they should be doing...
"Heart" seems to speak to the days we live in and is yet another one which would make a superb song: more very clear singing to another excellent restrained backing which sometimes swings towards Americana in style.
"Nobody Like You" is a bit more anguished than the others on the album and "All Alone at Midnight" could almost sum up the album which sounds like it was written in the wee small hours and certainly evokes them. Sounding somewhere between Irish music and American roots in style too.
Is this Danny's finest set of songs? There is a strong case for believing so. I like the way that though we have so many songs which don't really sound much like each other, nonetheless there is a great sense of an internal unity in tone and meaning: while not really a concept album, it does seem to be Danny's "State of the Union" reflection: trying to put into words his take on the mood of our times. Each track stands out completely on its own, yet taken as a collection they make an extremely powerful statement: life is complicated & there is much to regret & feel sorrow over, yet one can look forward optimistically even without knowing the details of the future. Melancholy suffuses the whole album yet it is not pessimistic. One which deserves our full attention though we have many other things to think about right now.
If you look at the "front page" of the magazine, you may have noticed that the most recent article always comes under the banner of "Fresh & Funky". Well today's review certainly lives up to that.
I hope you read my preview of Rheo's ‘Down For You' EP back in January?
In that I was full of praise for her performing & writing skills, offering a very dance orientated yet often bluesy take on music to our local scene (and in her case the international scene).
Now Rheo has turned her talents temporarily away from her own material & towards an interpretation of a hitherto uncovered track, 1995's "The Lover That You Are" (originally by Pulse featuring Antoinette Roberson on vocals): a song in fact written & released before she was even born.
In this, she is working with Birmingham's Ste Essence, a legend in the house scene & obviously it's yet another feather in her cap that she is working with someone of this calibre.
And the great news too is that they are making it available as a free download as a response to the current situation. You can get your copy here: https://soundcloud.com/donnie-anonymous-brasco/ste-essence-ft-rheo-the-lover-that-you-are-club-mix
It is naturally a challenge to take on a track which is well known & which presumably no one has dared take on before: too faithful a rendition & you risk being labelled timid & your own musicianship simply doesn't get a look in: too radical & you'll get howls of protest from lovers of the song. Ste's understanding & deep experience are obviously crucial in deciding "how far do we go?" and providing the balance between respect for the original performance & proving the resilience of the track by showing it can be made fresh (and funky) for 2020. With this foundation, Rheo is liberated to let fly her considerable vocal skills on this surprisingly (to me) brisk tempo remake: though naturally the degree of voice processing is high given the nature of the song. The sounds are crisp yet quite dry & although much of the sound is very contemporary, the odd retro synth sound provides both a nod back to the original & an effective sonic counterpoint to the modern sounds. And both sound like they are enjoying themselves which is good to hear.
During the lockdown, Rheo is taking the opportunity to write a lot of new original material, much in collaboration with musicians and producers not only across the range of genres that she embraces, but again of considerable renown in their fields. The names had better stay confidential for now but I'm delighted that Rheo has offered to share the new material with "Hot Music Live" as soon as she can.
An artist who has been steadily making an impact locally in recent months, Chloë Boehm, today has released her first track "Dare You". Consequently Chloe also her debut appearance in "Hot Music Live"
She has been appearing more & more regularly at local open mics & gaining a growing reputation with their organisers & fellow musicians as well as audiences. I first saw her myself at the LEIF open mic just before Christmas & was greatly impressed.
Equally Chloë has been posting more & more live streamed performances on social media, especially during the current cessation of live gigs: I have reposted many, if not all, on the "Hot Music Live Presents" group page on Facebook if you'd like to check them out.
What is most impressive is to get from an almost standing start as a musician performing in front of others & releasing original material has taken her only a year. She has only owned a guitar for seven months. I hope to write a feature for you on this swift & interesting journey as I think it would inspire others who might be experiencing understandable trepidation on starting out.
What has struck me (and others) has been Chloë's abilities to write striking & individual original songs in her own voice & style. This is something I have often remarked on as a really commendable feature of our contemporary scene and I imagine this confidence in being yourself and not channelling others' styles has encouraged her to do so herself, to the great benefit of songs like "Dare You".
This debut is a long song (nearly five & a half minutes), built around a haunting melody & gently pulsing guitar which offers an almost drone accompaniment to the stark & evocative vocal, wherein lies the heart of the song.
Sung in a fairly (but not slavishly so) classical folk style, the slow and steady building up of lyrical intensity & imagery over such an insistent backing creates a very powerful overall effect despite the simplicity of the structure: indeed anything more fussy or contrived in the arrangement would detract from the emotional impact.
A most interesting and compelling start to what hopefully will be a significant career. Equally hopefully we can see her play live in front of an audience again before too long.
***RESCHEDULED TO FRI 16TH OCTOBER***
With Leamington rock band Barnabus, formed way back in 1970 having an Album Launch gig in Warwick next month it seemed a good time to look back to my only show by the band at St. Patrick's Irish Club, Leamington Spa back in 2009.This big gig takes place on the night of Friday 20th March at the Nelson Club in Warwick with support by the Jaykays, tickets available behind the bar of the Nelson Club (ask for Clint) with only 140 available.
For the past three years, former Gods Toys & I vocalist Dill has been making up for the time lost out of music for personal & health reasons by becoming the most prolific of writers & recorders of original material you can imagine & has also become a confident & idiosyncratic instrumentalist, playing on all his tracks in this series.
I have reviewed all eight of his albums (issued under the stage name "Daffod'i'll") during this period between 2017 & 2020 (though on a couple of occasions, so rapidly did they come out that I have been obliged to review several together. In chronological order of release they are:
‘Love & Peace!'
‘I Wondered Lonesome As a Crowd'
‘Sky Blue Pink'
‘Pink Blue Sky'
Now Dill has distilled the 98 songs down to fifteen for a compilation, (‘The Best of Albums 1â€‹-â€‹8‘) namely:
"How Are You?", "Hi!" "You Handle It", "Cathy Come Home", "Here She Comes", "Eye N Eyes", "Summer Sunrise", "Crackpot Dream" , "Africa", "Is She", "Sunshine Girl", "America", "Boom Boom Bang Baby", "Without a Word" and "The Kingdom of Heaven" (please see my previous reviews for my take on each of these).
I'm not sure how he managed to do this nor what criteria were applied (I could imagine good cases being made for songs such as "MASS , Everything OK", "Flowers", "Galileo Galilei Galilee" "Babble On Babylon" or "See the Lightning, Beat the Rock") and perhaps the album could also be seen as a good sampler collection to introduce people to his very individual style & diverse set of styles : like Island Records used to do so well both for genres & to develop interests in then neglected & often equally idiosyncratic artists like Nick Drake. So, if you are coming fresh to his recent work, this may well be your best starting point before exploring the whole series.
After the success of my recent features on Ian Todd & Chloë Boehm, here is another one I think you'll find interesting & I think topical.
The journeys of artists interests me & no two are the same. The other interests of their's can be just as fascinating & simply by listening to them, it is not always possible to discern what else they are up to: some evangelise from the stage, other compartmentalise, often for entirely understandable reasons. Some even use different names for different activities.
One person who is very open & articulate about her range of talents & interests is Naomi Beth Rogers (I hope you downloaded her track "Run" from ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two').
I have mentioned in previous reviews of her work, both of her live performances & of her ‘Parallel Lines' EP that among her many other facets are other art forms notably dance & poetry but also mental well being: indeed she even had some shows on local radio talking about this in great detail. To that end, I thought it might be timely now to both delineate her career to date for you & share her thoughts on good mental health during the current adverse situation.
Currently twenty three years old & coming from Warwick, Naomi Beth played some local open mics in her early teens but has been playing more intensively over the past couple of years after training in musical theatre. Moving to Barcelona at eighteen to study at their Institute of Arts, she found the stimulating environment & experience helped her begin writing songs seriously. However the story is not that simple nor benevolent as during her time at university Naomi Beth developed mental health issues & her music both created a safe space for her which helped as did the multiple friendships generated by performing them.
It was after her return from Barcelona that she recorded the ‘Parallel Lines' EP with David John of Stone Bear Records which in turn has launched a virtuous spiral of success & development as more & more people have appreciated her skill, leading to her own headline gigs, playing festivals, local radio appearances on Radio Abbey & HillzFM "...and most importantly the music community gave me a sense of home after I moved back, new friendships, inspiration and support"
In her own words: "I spent the year travelling a lot ... and then coming home and the music was always there
For a long time I'd wanted to use the arts to help others. I volunteered at a refugee camp in Greece and after seeing the way sharing music, dance and art with the kids positively impacted their lives, I decided to train as an arts psychotherapist so I can make this passion my career. I'm in my first year.
Whilst learning songwriting is still my biggest outlet, and I plan to continue to record, play live and write.
Self isolating is a tough time but it's amazing to see how the online world has kept me inspired, even brought me two new writing partners and reminded me of the beautiful human spirit!
Music wise I've started collaborating and working with some new people and have a lot of stuff to record, so hopefully there will be new songs from me soon".
I took the opportunity of asking her which other artists she was currently really impressed with & could recommend to "Hot Music Live" readers. As the list potentially was too long, she highlighted Taylor Louise, Antonia Kirby, Chloë Boehm, Ellis Bloom, Curious George, Chessi O'Dowd, Merrymaker, Joe Dolman, Evergreen, Aaron Dudfield, Project Blackbird and Hannah Woof.
Turning next to the challenges of these days, we discussed the issues of anxiety around "fear about income, grief for life as we know it, loneliness" and that while potentially "everybody is susceptible, I think if you're self employed or perhaps already struggling with your mental health, you are more vulnerable in this circumstance"
Naomi Beth suggested these ideas from her own experience
"Knowing it's okay to feel some sadness, worry and grief. I try to let my feelings be, and not squash them"
"A sense of routine and daily exercise that I enjoy"
"Taking time to be excited about little things such as food, how my bedroom is, nice cups of tea"
"Accepting that I maybe won't be as productive as usual. But enjoying what I can do and focusing on that"
"FaceTiming friends, making time to support other people and check in, setting up little online projects such as writing with other people!"
To make matters more tricky, getting help when isolated & with many organisations either closed down or overwhelmed may itself be more limited than usual, so Naomi Beth suggests:
Mental health.org.uk This has a section of resources directly related to the climate at the moment,
Tara Brach has a series of talks/ guided meditations about self isolation, fear, creativity and mindfulness- she's amazing https://www.tarabrach.com/
"100 Days of Songwriting" has an awesome online community if you just want to stay motivated and creative and chat to other people too https://100daysofsongwriting.com/
Hopefully few or none of our readers will need these strategies but I'm really grateful to Naomi Beth for sharing her experience & insights: just in case they can make the difference with anyone. Don't forget too to check out her own website at https://www.naomibethjourney.com/ for myriad aspects of her activities.
Last week I wrote a piece for "Hot Music Live" looking at some of the (negative) implications for the music scene during the current crisis. As was emerging when I wrote it, artists deprived of income from live performances have released (possibly ahead of schedule) tracks, often choosing recorded material with resonances to our times. Many are already live streaming performances (mainly solo but occasionally having a go at reuniting bands via video links), some asking for donations in return & others monetising them entirely.
Venues simply can't do this, (though some recent movement for businesses from the Government may hopefully help commercial ones) so it's great to see the speed with which a new local music compilation, "Songs From The Vaults" has been put together and released on Bandcamp to raise funds for the Tin Music and Arts Centre.
You can buy it from this link for £5 (or give more if you are able)
As well as being one of my favourite local venues, and one of the very few community & charitable status arts centres for our area, it has extra emotional pull for me given that the final live review I wrote for the magazine before the closedown was of Stone Bear & Izzie Derry playing there.
Huge respect therefore to Joe Wilson of Year Without a Summer & Deathsex Bloodbath (check them out on "Hot Music Live Presents Volume One") for pulling this together. I'll let Joe explain his thinking on this:
"I think the thing with the Tin is that there's nowhere else in the city that would necessarily put on Vaudou Game, Hainbach or Anarchistwood, so to have a venue like that encourages more experimental thinking among local musicians, and then gives them a platform.... If the Tin went to the wall, for reasons beyond their control, then there would be a lot of acts with no natural home. That's before we talk about their community work, venue hire and so forth.
With places like Drapers no longer open, it's important to preserve the places which encourage artistic endeavour. For the stuff I've done musically, and the stuff the other folks on the compilation have done, that's always been the Tin. So the fundraising is a way of protecting the venue's survival through its closure, while also ensuring that the staff will continue to get paid throughout this time."
With reference to Joe's words, the compilation really does veer towards that experimental & radical side of musical creativity: the contributing artists stick their necks out a long way, ask questions others are reticent to ask & are reluctant to compromise their art in any way: so they are unlikely to get many gigs in your local to add to their income.
In fact so alternative & exploratory are the artists involved that although Sophie Hadlum had a track on "Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two" and at least one other artist will be on "Volume Three", not too many have been reviewed yet in the magazine, despite our pride in covering the diversity of local music & our delight in the esoteric: I think only Sophie, Ian Todd, We Are A Communist & Batsch to be honest. Some of them I've never previously heard of: which is a good thing for their credibility & a good thing for me as I have now been introduced to their music.
The other artists on the record (round of applause please for their generosity) are Ravens, WolfSuit, the Sequins, Delightful Young Mothers, Two Whole Quails, Charlie Tophill, Felix & Seline, Vieon, Cause of Accident, Dispute Settlement Mechanism, and RobinPlaysChords.
A round of applause too & a thought for all the staff at the Tin whose position must currently be a worry to them: not only the salaried employees but also those working there as sound engineers etc on a freelance basis. I am always impressed with their professionalism & friendliness & they deserve better than insecurity.
Under the circumstances, it almost seems superfluous to consider the actual songs as I normally would in a review. It's as esoteric as you would imagine & eclectic too. That no two tracks sounds remotely alike will not surprise you, from the manic/maniac surf-speed-punk of "Speed of Sound in Space" by We Are A Communist through Sophie Hadlum's much quieter & reflective piano piece "All I've Got Left Of Me", Ian Todd's neurotic & skittery "Parasites", Batsch's cool grooves on "Walking Beds" the soundscape of "Tote Mich Noch Einmal" by Two Whole Quails to the absolutely no holds barred whatsoever attack of Dispute Settlement Mechanism on "Queerpocalypse" there is arguably something here for everyone, assuming you have a suitably open mind to music way out of the mainstream. In the interests of succinctness so we all focus on the main goal of raising money plus my own inability to describe some of the tracks adequately, I think I'll leave them for you to explore, enjoy & create your own responses.
It would be dreadful if all the artists emerged from seclusion with a pent up passion to play & audiences similarly to hear & see them, but they had nowhere to play. It's difficult to do too much at the moment as individuals to help commercial venues, but here we have a chance to help one which is a community charity, so please buy the album, spread the word & I'll see you at the Tin when this is over.
...So, another day in lock down, another day I can't be writing about the great gig I went to last night.
...Although I really enjoy writing reviews for "Hot Music Live", I also like telling you about the artists & hopefully during this strange period, ...
...Two apologies to you all.
...A mere few hours ago, on the stroke of midnight in fact, Hannah Woof released her new single, the zeitgeisty "Self Care", her first since her equally ...
...Today I'm pleased to be able to draw your attention to a new release by Rob Halligan, namely "Come Take Your Place", his first since "Nothing ...
...Well this is something of a milestone: my first review of the new order.
...Steve is a very accomplished drummer having been in a lot of of bands playing different genres of music .
...On Sunday morning, I began writing what will obviously now be my last live review for quite some time.
...If you are anything like me, among the myriad challenges to our communities currently being presented, the probable curtailment of live music for ...
...Once again, I am in the happy position to write about a band who have hitherto yet to appear in "Hot Music Live".
...February 29th is an unusual date.
...Just before I put the answers I submitted to Paul for this article I would like to express thanks on behalf of everyone for all the hard work he does ...
...AGMP presents NOUVELLE VAGUE, 15 years Anniversary Tour.
...There are many aspects of our ‘Hot Music Live Presents' project of which I am very proud.
...If you as big a fan of The Caprines (Ed Kimberley on drums, Dave Toulson on lead guitar, John Lindley on vocals and on rhythm guitar and Curtis ...
...It's really good to return to "Hot Music Live" regulars Chasing Deer after a while.
...When it comes to defining the first record in any given genre, there's usually heated debate.
...One of my occasional delights in writing for "Hot Music Live", as regular readers may have spotted, is when art media converge: that applies for the ...
...Having reviewed them live previously, I am pleased to now tell you of the brand new single from Autopilot: "Brain Cell".
...It seems so recently that I was telling you all about the debut single by John Connearn, the appropriately entitled "First Things First" and although ...
...Today I am pleased to be able to tell you about a new release from Rob Halligan: "Nothing Good Is Wasted" which is a taster for us from his upcoming ...
...We cover so many multi-talented artists in "Hot Music Live": not just musicians but the photographers, visual artists & producers whom they work ...
...Today I'm really pleased to be reviewing the new, the brand new, single by Shanghai Hostage within minutes of its video being publicly released ...
...The Silver Wye, like any great river, rolls majestically on, picking up speed in the release of its songs.
...One conundrum I face with reviewing the calibre of artist I tend to focus on (it's an enjoyable challenge really) is how to handle it when ...
...I have recently accused Joe Dolman of being prolific in his output and here he is again with a brand new release a month since I last reviewed him.
...I first reviewed Henery & his music for "Hot Music Live" eleven months ago when I saw him supporting Ellie Gowers: "Henery was a revelation.
...RODDY WOOMBLE ANNOUNCES NEW EP + SHARES VIDEO FOR LEAD SINGLE "EVERYDAY SUN" - WATCH HERE + EXTENSIVE UK LIVE DATES FOR ...
...I expect we all agree that music can actually do things to us & for us: improve our mood & morale, lift our spirits, transform our psyches.
...I must admit to being a little low when I woke up this morning.