If you like your music of the blues kind, you may well have seen Chris Gibbons play live. A stalwart of the local scene he has played so very many venues both solo & with other musicians. You may have seen other musicians at his gigs as he is a "musicians' musician". A very quiet and modest figure, you may have admired his cultured, tasteful & restrained guitar playing without necessarily understanding just how interesting his career has been. For example I know one & only one person who has played onstage with John & Yoko & only one who has written with Ben E King. You guessed it.
I had the privilege of hearing some rough mixes of material Chris had been working on for quite some time a few months ago. I was really looking forward to hearing that they'd been released. A combination of factors: Chris is a craftsman of the old school and worked hard to get them as he wanted to, plus other things going on in his life including unfortunately an episode of ill health have delayed "Mill Street Blues" (locals will get the title) until now & it's a honour to review it properly.
Chris loves & lives the blues & is equally adept at all its' myriad forms (though if you hear his soul playing he's just as good at that. And rock. And jazz) so you'd not be surprised to hear that the album has examples from several blues forms. However I am sure he is not trying to display his range: Chris is simply an (old school again) song writer & has selected for each song the musical setting which suits it best.
"Grey River" is in Ry Cooder territory with acoustic & slide guitar playing on a swinging & open country blues. However "Let It All Go" shifts a thousand miles north to Chicago and reminds me of some of Dylan's experiments in the basement with the Band.
"Nobody's Business" has a very modern feel with an electronic rhythmic backing and evokes the spirit of Dr John to some extent. "Raildrivin' Man" adds horns and organ & for this song we have arrived in the Memphis area: possibly by train I suppose and had a shot of the old Stax.
"Rambling Soul" introduces interesting female vocals which are processed to sound almost like samples. I found this a most interesting track: not unlike the sort of experiments Blondie or the Clash were making as they moved into new territory once their initial sound had run out of steam.
"The Night the Blues Gone Home" is a majestic song: classic blues rock with a confident lead vocal from Chris: think Robert Cray collaborating with Curtis Mayfield. I liked this one a lot & hope to hear it live.
"Two Bads" possesses (to my mind) the best lyrics on the album: craftsmanship definitely on display here.
"Didn't Know Where To Look" is the album's blues ballad and the closer for the set "Arnie's Blues" reverts to a much more traditional format, honky tonking along to great effect with harmonica & snare to get our toes tapping. This one may stay in your memory the longest...
Prior to its release, you can listen to "Mill Street Blues" here: https://soundcloud.com/chrismediamusic/sets/mill-street-blues
Tell me: are you "Old Skool"?
Crokodile Tears have been releasing albums now for some 33 years since their eponymous debut when they were known as the more conventionally spelt "Crocodile Tears" (a release which was praised by Jerry Dammers). The constant has of course been singer/songwriter Chris Sidwell (the lineup changes in fact sparked the name tweak when Chris began working with different musicians: the rest of the original lineup being essentially the cult band "Pink Umbrellas").
Nevertheless, the latest album, "Old Skool" which officially opens its term on September 3rd features among Chris' many collaborators former Reluctant Stereotype, Pink Umbrella and long time Primitives producer Paul Sampson who has played with him from that very first album & produced & mixed this one too.
Although principally Chris' baby, Crokodile Tears is also a highly collaborative ensemble. Few tracks feature precisely the same lineup & the different musicians bring a variety of instruments, approaches and sensibilities creating a most eclectic sonic collection as well as you'll hear, superb playing.
Chief current Croks (though this doesn't mean that even they play on every track) are Alf Hardy and Jerry Richards. Both were/are also in Earthlab, Alf is well known for his work at Cabin Studios and Jerry is of course a Hawklord and former member of Hawkwind. Joining them , Chris & Paul, are local musician, producer & broadcaster Keith Fabrique, local legend Sam McNulty (Squad/Giraffes), harmonica player Bryan Lea Bradford, sitarist Chris Cook, violinist Nigel Ward and others too numerous to mention. Tracks are mainly written by Chris, some with Jerry and/or Alf plus a jam co-written by the band with Chris Cook, a cover of the Lennon/McCartney "Norwegian Wood" and Jerry's wonderful ‘Coventry & Western' (as Alf dubbed the style) jig dedicated to renowned Elizabethan necromancer "Dr Dee": a great live favourite.
If the music is eclectic (and it most certainly is: this band defies genre categorisation), the subject matter is even more so. Apart from an instrumental celebrating a long deceased alchemist, the album covers a bewildering array of lyrical targets from the haircut of a national sporting treasure to ecology, astrology, photography and gender stereotyping.
However, if there is a theme (and many Croks albums do possess one), it is about love, the human condition and the passage & perspectives of time. The whole philosophy of the band is to create songs from childhood perspectives or those of adults behaving or thinking in a childish way. This at one level produces a great deal of (gentle & good) humour, but peeling at the layers of the onion in most songs reveals and rewards the listener with deeper messages. Crokodile Tears can never have produced such a beautiful set of album bookends (we are informed that "there are no secret tracks") as "Kids" and the closing "title song" called "Mermaids". Both, in their own way look back to the childhood of their narrator & can make you cry in a way "Bobbie" or "Shirley's In Birmingham" will make you laugh unless you have a heart of stone.
The Croks aim to make each new album their best yet and there can be no doubt that despite the excellence of their previous work, this one is a masterpiece. In a fair world, this album would get the airplay and critical attention its inherent qualities merit. However in the current musical media climate where lyrical sophistication, subtle performances and above all maturity fail to excite those in control of such decisions, one can only hope for someone with wit & discernment in the mainstream to open their ears & listen to it objectively to judge it on its merits. At any event, the local aficionados will appreciate it, buy it & continue to attend their gigs & the local broadcasters & writers with that discernment will carry on appreciating true & enduring quality: you know who they are. If you meet someone who likes Crokodile Tears, you know you've met someone you can respect.
Despite the release date being some weeks away yet, copies of "Old Skool" can already be bought at Temperance in Leamington.
If my review of the forthcoming album has whet your appetite for Crokodile Tears or if you read Paul Englefield's great review of their Magic Lantern gig in the magazine, you can catch them live on the eve of the album release at the Godiva Festival on 2nd September, at the Zephyr Lounge on 29th September for the "Alternative Sounds"/APE Promotions night (with Roddy "Radiation" Byers, Satsangi, Grassroutes, Jackdaw with Crowbar & Mr Binx) and again at the Zephyr Lounge on October 20th for the "Hot Music Live Introducing" night with Clemency, Izzie Derry, Violet & Luna Kiss.
In the classic rock arena, it's the epic themes that matter, burning casinos, the desperate camaraderie of the battlefield and the countdown to Armageddon. However, in the intimate theatre setting of the Magic Lantern, Crokodile Tears chose to reflect on the small, personal experiences that quietly bring meaning to life. A set rich in vivid imagery and crafted language offered songs exploring topics ranging from saturday girls to egg and chips via 60's guitars, hippies and Dr. John Dee. (Who's he anyway? Look him up, he's probably the most interesting of the Elizabethans.) It was wry, gentle, and sharply observed but always fun and the trio presented their set with a self-deprecating charm that masked a keen musical intelligence.
Although very much about the songs and stories, the 'Crocs' (to their friends enhanced this lyrically detailed material with guitar arrangements rich in texture and rhythmic interest. I was intrigued by the subtle interplay between three guitarists with distinct styles but a clear focus on creating a unified sound with a detailed groove.
The venue, The Magic Lantern, is a cosy cellar theatre in a warren of art-filled rooms below the Temperance coffee shop. It's a magical atmosphere for adventurous gigs with a layout that encourages rapport and banter between performers and music lovers. There's more at http://www.temperance.bar.
You can catch Crokodile Tears at the Alternative Sounds gig on 29th September at the Zephyr Lounge and again at Hot Music Live Introducing on 20th October also at the Zephyr.
Firstly a caveat: this is not (unfortunately) a comprehensive review of both days of Leamington's 2018 "Art in the Park": personal commitments & the heat precluded that I'm afraid. Indeed, my hat is tipped to the very many volunteers, artists & stall holders who braved the entirety of the event. I should also like to start with paying tribute to those whose vision & hard work created the event: notable Carole Sleight for the overall event & Ella Billiald of Ella B Music for, as you might have worked out, the music side.
It was, to my mind, the best "Art in the Park" yet, with a much expanded range of activities & stalls, covering a good range of the arts from painting & photography through textiles, ceramics, jewelry, performance art & of course music with something for most people from families to those with specific interests in particular art forms.
Some excellent new stalls were added, as I have said, involving some most interesting artefacts. Ones which caught my eye included Thrills of the Emporium, Sasski & Strawbs, Hills & Tor (in the Pump Rooms, used for the first time) and Reload Gallery plus Brink Events Artists with their street art.
However, this is a music magazine so I had better focus hence on that. Although crowds around the music stage have been growing since the event's inception, I am sure they have never been as big, even though as many people as possible sought the shade of the nearby free to watch from. It was fierce in front of the stage. Taylor-Louise who was the first act I saw needs no introduction to readers of "Hot Music Live" so you'll not be surprised at how well she & her band played, how well they were received nor my account of her polished & confident performance which skillfully mixed her affecting originals with the covers the broad audience was already familiar with.
I was less familiar with another BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Introducing favourite band, Mister Keith but was most impressed with their very original, melodic & imaginatively arranged pieces: do check out their album "Record of Wrongs" which I have been playing ever since.
Atlum Schema (Andy Mort) was next up and again this was another performers whose solo performance initiated me into an act I had no previously seen but certainly would again.
I was drawn on Sunday morning at 10.15 with many other aficionados of the Peas to their charismatic & highly popular set of cleverly reworked classics which goes down so well all around Britain & is ideal for such an event: the feel good factor when they play oozes off the stage & envelopes all within it. Given the long journey the band had immediately after playing, it is a credit to their commitment to the event that they supported it.
As well as the high quality & established artists who play on a professional or semi-professional basis, it was excellent that Ella mixed in community based acts which gave grassroots local music a showcase & highlighted the diversity of what is around: I enjoyed both the Spa Strummers & the Heart of England Co-op Concert Orchestra (the latter of whom were sufficiently numerous not to be able to use the awning protecting the rest of the acts).
As the sun continued to beat down, the Miss Songbird Duo (Claire Glasbey on vocals & Paul Englefield on guitar) treated the crowd to some cool jazz tinged tunes: some traditional jazz songs but also reinterpretations of songs from other genres including by Bob Dylan. I have heard Claire before but this was the finest performance I had heard: taking brave decisions to slow songs down, introduce much more space & deploy her lower range in particular to excellent effect.
The final act I caught before I scurried for hydration & shade was Chasing Deer who are one of the local acts on a good upward career trajectory & who certainly did not disappoint.
Credit to the sound crew from the Assembly who did a marvelous job under difficult circumstances with a wide range of instruments and an honourable mention to celebrity busker Dean Dyson who not only played his own pitch down with the "suitcase artists" by the lake but also filled in on the stage for Ella when she was let down by the odd "no show".
Two most enjoyable days in good company with a matching vibe.
An upbeat set of well-chosen classics and catchy melodic originals. Chasing Deer gave an energetically precise performance with strong vocal delivery and some crisp disciplined guitar work.
This summer the outdoor live music scene in Leamington and Warwick has been pretty much non-stop with it seems events most weekends and last weekend it was the turn of Art In The Park to dish out some musical delights to go with the outstanding artistic talent on display in the Jephson Gardens.
On the Saturday my visit was an early one catching the first three acts, ladies choir Venus Voices got things underway with a set of pop and stage classics with the Cats number ‘Memory' particularly impressive followed by three piece acoustic band The Record Covers (love the name!) who impressed with stripped down versions of amongst others Stereophonics anthem ‘Dakota'.
Finally on Saturday for me one of my favourite local singer/songwriters Taylor-Louise took the stage with her top backing band for a set mixing Taylor's quality original compositions with her interpretations of classic numbers and what a good choice with the hot weather to include a crowd pleasing ‘Walking On Sunshine' and I also really enjoyed her very own take on ‘Hey Now'.
A more lengthy visit on the Sunday which included an amazing mix of musical styles including the always fun set of ukulele magic by The Spa Strummers and a touch of the classics with the huge line up of the Heart of England Co-op Concert Orchestra.
The Miss Song Bird Duo were just the ticket for a hot Sunday afternoon and with Claire's wonderful vocals and Paul's well crafted guitar work the laid back delights of ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me' and Dylan's ‘Don't Think Twice, It's Alright' and more were just perfect.
Song-Bird Gebby next and her beautiful vocals were a joy to behold while her version of Elton John classic ‘Your Song' was one of my numbers of the day and to close with a real change in style and tempo it was a set of indie rock by top local outfit The Ellipsis, full of energy and attitude and a perfect way to close a weekend of fine music (and art of course!!)
A great event, my first year there and could not believe how big the whole thing was, also on a personal note I met so many people I knew from the local music scene and friends I had not seen for a while and if you are reading this was fab to meet up with you all and maybe see you at Art In The Park 2019.
Rosa is a musician who has taken a really exciting path using technology. Her music forms part of a wider performing arts experience these days. Thanks for doing this Rosa Francesca.
1. Tell us about your early influences and what lead you to want to create music
I come from a very musical family, so as a kid I was always surrounded by instruments and my parents encouraged me to pursue a career in music. I got into folk and alternative music as a teenager and started listening to people like Joanna Newsom and Sufjan Stevens, and fell in love with the maximalism and density of their arrangements and became obsessed with learning obscure instruments. This influenced my style greatly and led me to work on more intricate lyrics with complex themes.
2. Your current work and use of technology is really exciting and fascinating. You appear to have moved your music in new directions. Tell us more about this.
I recently teamed up with digital artist Edie Jo Murray, who works with mixed reality, digital collages and most notably CGI 3D art. We formed an art collective called Geminae, looking at cyberfeminism, biofeedback and neurodiversity, as we are both neurodivergent. We received a grant to purchase a brain sensing headband that picks up EEG data, and created a performance piece called Luna Affect which premiered at the Black Hole Club for Lumen's show Stellar in April and May. It consisted of me wearing the headband and controlling electronic music and video playback of NASA footage of the phases of the moon, and I'm so proud of how it turned out. In order to carry it out I had to learn visual programming in a very short space of time, and I quickly realised that I love the world of digial art and music and wanted to explore it more, so I started looking into some of the techniques I had learned on my degree involving the program Max MSP and started composing electronic music and sound art pieces.
I used to perform as a singer-songwriter, playing guitar, piano and harp and singing, but had become increasingly bored of this genre since graduating, and furthermore found it difficult to break into the Leamington music scene once I moved back into town (whereas in Lancaster I had been fairly successful and had several gigs per week, playing exciting venues such as Blackpool Tower). I stopped performing in January of this year after deciding it wasn't for me anymore, but am glad that I have found digital performance art as a new way to put my stuff out there!
3. You are going to train in music therapy. What particular projects and elements interest you most in this field?
I've always been interested in Music Therapy as my dad taught at a specialist school for the disabled and I loved performing at their music events there. At university I took a few modules in Psychology of Music and Arts, Health & Wellbeing (which is a field a bit more general and less clinical than Music Therapy). After graduating I wasn't sure if I still wanted to become a Music Therapist, so I started volunteering with a local dementia singing group and attended an experiential course at the Birmingham Centre for Arts Therapies where I learned more about the career and training process, and realised that I was still in love with the world of Music Therapy and definitely wanted to get involved. What I find magical about this form of therapy is that even people with very limited communication can still have profound reactions to music and it can really give them a new lease of life- at the dementia group, nonverbal members were often still able to sing, it's really amazing. I've applied for a Masters and am currently waiting to hear if I'll be able to train, but if I don't get on I still plan to volunteer as an Arts in Health practitioner because it is a very rewarding job.
4. What are your thoughts and feelings about the music scene locally?
I have mixed feelings about the Leamington music scene. On the one hand, I think the quality of music is very high and it means you're never disappointed at an open mic. However, this does mean it becomes a bit elitist. In Lancaster the open mics were open to people of all abilities, and you'd often get people who'd turned to music late in life and were just doing something simple on the ukelele or a silly song, but you don't get that so much here. I'm also disappointed in the fact that it's a very male-dominated scene here, and often of one particular genre of acoustic guitar folk-influenced music. I'd love to go to an open mic where there wasn't a line-up entirely of white-guys-with-guitars, but I think that's half the reason I'm not in that scene anymore anyway. I think the availability of music technology means that it's a lot more diverse scene and more people feel able to get into it.
5. If you could collaborate with any artist ever, who would it be and why?
I would love to work with the violinist Owen Pallett. He does incredible string arrangements for people like Kimbra, Arcade Fire, and The Last Shadow Puppets. I saw him live a few years back and he did some very innovative stuff with loop pedals and synths, and I like that blend of acoustic instruments and electronic music.
6. Where can people see / hear your work.
I also have a new album called Bidomain coming out on Friday 29th July which will be available at https://rosafrancesca.bandcamp.com/.
7. Leave us with three top songs you love and we should listen to.
1. Kimbra – Version of Me
2. Joanna Newsom – Leaving the City
3. St Vincent – Fast Slow Disco
Hi all latest news on my charity photo/exhibition taking place in Leamington Spa this Autumn.
ROCK AND ROLL DREAMS COME TRUE - THE LIVE MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANDREW LOCK 2008-2018
The Oak House Club Sports and Social Club
87 Upper Holly Walk
THE DATE AND TIME - WED 17TH OCTOBER 7pm- 10-30pm
FREE ENTRY - but I would advise getting there early as room has a capacity limit (just in case of course) and I also hope as free entry you will all make a donation to the collecting tins for the two fab charities, purchase raffle tickets and if you take a shine to one of the prints purchase it on the night - all proceeds will be shared between the charities below.
Zoe's Place Baby Hospice - Who have a branch in Coventry
The Cinnamon Trust - The National Charity for the elderly, the terminally ill and their pets
RAFFLE PRIZES DONATED SO FAR (MORE PROMISED AND MORE TO ASK )
1 - A YEARS MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION - FROM THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY
2 - DR. FEELGOOD GODDIES - FROM STEVE WALWYN AND DR.FEELGOOD
3 - A 12" BY 10" PRINT PROFESSIONALLY FRAMED OF ANY IMAGE ON MY WEB SITE - RICHARD / REGENT FRAMING
4 - SIGNED ALBUMS - CHERRY LEE MEWIS
5 - SIGNED ALBUM - KRISTY GALLACHER
6 - STEVE WALWYN & KRISTY GALLACHER SIGNED MOUNTED PRINTS - MYSELF
7 - CUSTUM MADE MINI FIGURE LEGO FRAME - CLARE PLUMBLEY
8 - LIMITED EDITION SIGNED PHOTO - LAURENCE JONES
9 - LITRE OF JACK DANIELS - JEFF (OAKHOUSE STEWARD)
10 - BT WHISKEY - JEFF (OAKHOUSE STEWARD)
11- CINNAMON TRUST - GOODIE BAG
12 - SIGNED ALBUM - VOODOO VEGAS
13- SIGNED EP - MATILDA PRATT
14- SIGNED DRUM SKIN, PHOTO AND A WINGS OF HEAVEN KEY RING - MAGNUM
15 - BT VEUVE CLIQUOT CHAMPAGNE - JULIE LOCK
16- £50 TOWARDS THE TAPAS MENU - CATALAN RESTAURANT WARWICK
Early doors there will be a playlist of tracks by some of the artists in the exhibition and there will also be short acoustic sets later in the evening by Steve Walwyn and Kristy Gallacher.
The exhibition will consist of 40 prints showcasing my favourite live music images 2008-2018 and 40 digital images of those that just missed this cut and the prints will be on sale and available to take away at the end of the night with all proceeds going to the supported charities.
Most will be local images with many taken at The Assembly and The Zephyr Lounge in Leamington and will also include images from The Cropredy Festival, The Warwick Folk Festival, The Cambridge Rock Festival, The Napton Festival and more.
So far confirmed to make the exhibition are images of the following (more to choose)
Cherry Lee Lewis
Joanne Shaw Taylor
***Not sure but I am considering giving the music photography etc a break from next year and concentrate on another photographic project, may change my mind of course but if so this will be a great way to celebrate my final year***
Another up-date soon.
...This years festival was a little weather affected (after all these weeks of constant sunshine as well!) but the folkies are a hardy bunch and the ...
...What a great combination: the launch of a great new book on the history of Leamington & area music in a wonderful new venue accompanied by some ...
...Cary Lord's musical career has touched the lives & ears of a great many people, even if her name is scandalously less known to some of them.
...If people think that the closure last autumn of Leamington's HEAD Records was a blow to the music lovers of Leamington: they were wrong.
...A women gently chides herself for a missed opportunity.
...Live music lives in our area! Two captivating, yet very different concerts are coming up in the next few days, not many miles apart, sharing one ...
...A great nights' jamming with the Loungers, the Clubbers and their guests tackling tunes from the Great American Songbook through to modal ...
...One of the shorter sets I have seen but what it lacked in length it more than made up for it in quality and of course it was a chance to see one of ...
...I have been attending the Big Help Music Showcases on and off for a number of years now, but the event at The Fusilier on 20th July 2018 was ...
...The purposes of this event were several: having released a four track EP and two 21 track albums of "the cream of Coventry & Warwickshire music, ...
...As I have mentioned before I had a wonderful experience at my first Cropredy Festival last year when I managed to get a pass for the Saturday (mainly ...
...A Sonic PR promotion .
...If anyone remembers my article of July 10th in which I looked forward to the Belgrade Theatre's takeover of the former "Coventry Evening ...
...Hottest ever Napton Festival weather wise (in my years covering the festival anyway) and the music was just as hot this year with possibly the best ...
...The plethora of summer music festivals that take place around the world offer music lovers many opportunities to see top-flight and established ...
...Checklist: please tick all that apply.
...An extremely hot and packed Zephyr and a tribute band up there with the very best I have ever seen playing a blinder.
...The beautiful town of Warwick always comes to life for its annual Folk Festival which as well as at the main Warwick School site spreads its wings ...
...I thought that I'd share with you hot news (within the last hour) from highly rated local duo Blind Faith (John Garrett on keyboards & Faith ...
...A couple of weeks ago, I was mourning the loss of the former "Coventry Evening Telegraph" building as a venue (though looking forwards to the ...
...Very much at home in the snug charm of the Somerville arms, the Blues Party sits comfortably between a classy blues gig and a flexible ...
...For this years festival it was the early shift for me from just after 11am (for the first band) until around 2.
...Elizabeth Cornish at the Tool Shed.
...In its relatively short lifetime, the former "Coventry Evening Telegraph" building has become a superb & iconic venue with a tremendous momentum ...
...A Fat Penguin Management promotion .
...Getting close to that time of the year again when the beautiful village of Napton puts on its wonderful annual music festival in the grounds of the ...
...A bucket list gig this one for me being a Stones fan of many years standing but having never seen them on stage.
...With my involvement in the "Alternative Sounds" project, quite a few of my pieces tend to reflect that side of music: the artists of quality but not ...
...We remain so fortunate to have in our area the Belgrade Theatre with its superb history of promoting innovative new work, fostering new talent & ...
...As usual for this festival I made my way to Warwick Market place to see what was going on music wise and yet again Leamington's 14 Records did a ...