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"Real World" by Joe Dolman


It's been above a year since I last got to review a Joe Dolman release (his collaboration with Millie Tilby "Let's Go Home") so it's good to be able to tell you about today's new single called "Real World" .

Delighted as I am to tell you this, in case you hadn't picked up on it from any other source, beyond the facts, I must admit I get a little concerned with the judgemental side of reviewing artists of Joe's calibre.Of course I am so pleased when the quality of music created by Coventry and Warwickshire artists becomes appreciated more widely and I rejoice when their careers take off at national level and beyond. Living as we are lucky to do at the moment with such a breadth & depth of original talent, we have quite a few others whom I think could easily follow in Joe's footsteps.Nevertheless, by that time in his & their careers, it becomes increasingly difficult to talk about some aspects of releases which are bread & butter to those of us writing about music. The issue of "quality" becomes pretty meaningless as they reach levels where all the work is clearly of such a high standard that it can be taken as read. Equally it's no longer possible to discuss potential or those earlier aspects of development which it is so exciting to chart, especially when we cover careers from really early days. You are kind of really just left with description of the song(s) in question & such context as you can glean. So I'll do my best.

So, it's a Joe Dolman single, so it's immaculately written, performed & produced: not that you needed telling of that. One of his piano led ballads, it is hard not to jump to the conclusion that it's melancholic & fragile tone is not in some way reflective of the past months (I know I tend to read COVID19 references & resonances into far too many songs) and an even bigger leap (as the lyrics really don't support such an interpretation directly) to wonder if Joe is contrasting the "Real World" with the fantastical experiences of recent lives: he certainly is aiming his words at someone he feels is living outside such a place.

Co-written by Joe & Angus Parkin, the single was produced by Joe with Jack Arnold and mixed by Matt Cotterill. I have said often enough in the past that despite his reputation for love song writing, you do have to feel sorry for Joe or at least the characters in whose mouths he places the words he writes. Frequently they beat themselves up over their own perceived failings and in this case, although this does not seemingly apply, we don't get the impression of a happy person: which always strikes me as odd as his live performances of the songs tend to be quite joyous affairs. Maybe that paradox & tension goes so way to explain his success. It's certainly an intriguing dynamic.

As noted, the words are appropriately supported by a plangent piano which serves to emphasise the overall fragility (and I've never heard as much of that quality in Joe's voice than I can on "Real World").

In the pursuit of fame & fortune, I think there are a few potential traps: admittedly ones you can understand people falling for, but ones which I think are best avoided, especially if you want to have a long career. One is to try to please all the people all the time, another maybe to be endlessly cheery and keep accentuating feelgood factors. Joe hasn't gone down this route: sure he is very popular & has a broad fanbase, but it's not through pandering to anyone's concept of what his audience might be. I think they respond to the inherent honesty in his songs, and if they are of the nature I've just described, then so be it. After all everyone understands and experiences such emotions. Thus "Real World" is not a song for all occasions: it is a very mood specific track and seeks to capture that feeling as accurately as possible without compromising. In that way it may be seen as brave, yet it also shows integrity and as I've said, that's what's brought him this far & I think it will keep him going a lot longer than if he tried to construct synthetic pieces which he didn't personally feel.

I normally end reviews by expressing hope that the record in question will reach as many people as possible & touch as many hearts: I honestly doubt that in this case it will be any sort of issue.

If you'd like to see Joe live, then his December 17th gig at All Saints church in Leamington (rescheduled from last year), still has a few tickets available I believe via

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Made In Coventry


Made in Coventry celebrates the incredible range of music artists and styles in our city and across Warwickshire.

The first event celebrates the contribution of inspirational women to the region's music scene, with sets from Srividya Venkat, Abz Winter, Catherine & Josephine Nightingale and Letitia George.

Srividya Venkat is an Indian Carnatic violinist who started learning at the age of six in India, performing from the age of nine as both a solo violinist and in group collaborations. At the age of 10, she received the Government of India Scholarship for excellence in art (CCERT). She has performed in Music festivals in India, the United Kingdom and the USA. Srividya is also a meticulous teacher and conducts classes in Rugby and online. As an organiser, Srividya has been organising virtual concerts titled ‘Carnatic Music rendition series' since May 2020 with eminent artists from the UK, the USA and India. As a musician, she loves to experiment with different genres of music and collaborate with artists from different musical styles.

Abz Winter's music is described as 'Dark Pop,' with a retro '80s/90's sound, and electronic, dance, synth-type vibes, she has a strong voice that resonates. At only 19, Abz has been a BBC CWR Introducing Artist Of The Month and A BrumRadio's A-lister. She was also nominated for Best New Female at Radio WigWam, and nominated Best Female 2021 at the NMG Awards, as well as playing the Coventry City Cathedral ruins in July for Terry Hall's Home Grown Sessions - before The Lightning Seed.

Born in Coventry, of British and Guyanese heritage, Catherine and Josephine Nightingale were raised in an inner city multicultural household: the ground in which the musical seeds of their lives were planted was rich, deep and dark. Josephine is an artist of her times; Catherine, the epitome of old school Soul. Roots, Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Reggae, Motown, the beats and basslines of Funk and Disco, Bluebeat and Ska surrounded them growing up.

Best known across the UK for her appearance in Series 4 of The Voice in 2015, where she reached the knock-out rounds as a member of Team Ricky, soul singer Letitia George is now a presenter on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire and performs regularly around the UK.

Made In Coventry is at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, on Saturday 9 October 2021 from 7.45pm. Tickets are £6.

For more details and to book, see:

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"The Pines" by Chessi O'Dowd


The last twenty or so months have to some extent made us all consider various aspects of time I think: such as how long has elapsed since we last did things etc. That's why in the few live reviews I've managed, I've sometimes referred back to the previous gigs I'd attended: more than a year before. In fact another date sticks in my mind and that's the first concert I had in my diary which got cancelled back in March 2020, namely the launch of Chessi O'Dowd's ‘Wine Glass Filter' EP. Now that has still to take place but if you recollect, at the time, Chessi decided to release an EP track "Snowflake" as an interim measure, a song which has gained her a great deal of attention, airplay and critical praise. It also appears on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume 3'.

In the months since, Chessi of course has worked with Jack Blackman on a joint cover of "Pensacola" which was received to yet more acclaim, so it can definitely be said that although like everyone else her musical activities have been curtailed & she has endured the frustrations of slowed momentum, the two singles she has put out have greatly enhanced her reputation & she stands good to go to resume where she left off.

The superb news I am delighted to share with you this morning is that Chessi has conjured an opportunity out of a disappointment & ‘Wine Glass Filter' is still on the cards for a release, only in the interim it has expanded via lockdown written songs from an EP into a fully fledged album, produced by Dan Sealey of Merrymaker & Ocean Colour Scene renown.

The first fruit of this new collection is the release today of a trailer single called "The Pines".

To be honest, "Snowflake" and "Pensacola" are pretty hard acts to follow, each in its own way. However I remember back in March last year, rather precipitately praising the former as one of the best singles of 2020: and despite the many subsequent releases after that, I stand by that assessment. I also said at that time that in the context of releases of that year, the bar was really high, yet Chessi cleared it confidently. In this case she has pulled off a similar feat, this time in relation to her own recent work.

Part of how she has done this is by not repeating what she had previously done. "The Pines" has a gentler and more pastoral feel compared with the defiance of "Snowflake". Like other local writers in a similar vein such as Naomi Beth or Chloë Boehm, in this case Chessi has gone for the "less is more" route of an arrangement, with a sparse hypnotic guitar, varied for effect in playing style, leaving us to primarily focus on her voice, which on this occasion veers towards the languid, celebrating the pleasures of a mindful existence in a rural setting. There is a delightful calmness to the piece & it may be fanciful, but I hear in it a manifesto for coping with what we all had to deal with back in 2020: finding solace & healing amongst nature.

There is a lot of Americana around our scene at the moment and for an instant, I am in danger of describing Chessi as an Americana artist. There is good reason to do so, not least "Pensacola" and the styles of some of her close collaborators. I also immediately thought of Stone Bear's "Ole Cherry Tree" single when I first heard this song (more in terms of theme than sound I must stress). However, although Chessi is undoubtedly adept at such music, her interests seem more diverse than just existing in one box: "The Pines" could well be set in the USA but equally so in the UK or many other parts of the world. The song also can exist outside our own times & not only speak for past centuries but in future speak just as eloquently to generations for whom COVID19 will hopefully just be a chapter in history books.

I (and everyone else) have waited an inordinate amount of time for ‘Wine Glass Filter' and once again I look forwards to another launch date. Clearly it's going to be even better than originally intended and judging by "The Pines" it is going to further burnish the reputation of its creator.

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"Señorita" by Rheo Uno


I get extremely intrigued by what artists occasionally say about their own work. Obviously as a reviewer I sometimes (and only when I feel it's an accurate assessment and not knee jerk hyperbole) rate something as possibly being "their best so far". Many artists (at least the ones I review) usually err on the side of caution and wait for popular comment before rating their own work, which I think is a healthy sign. However on the odd instances where their enthusiasm for the fruits of their own creativity boils over into dubbing a track a personal favourite, I think one should take especial notice.

In this instance, I must say I take Rheo Uno's comments about her new single "Señorita" (out tomorrow) very seriously and with much respect. This is enhanced by my reaction to her previous two releases under this new brand as I felt that her debut under this new, augmented name, "Wife Me?" was especially strong and its follow up "Show Me", her first released composition of the new regime as the earlier single was written earlier, even more so.

Nevertheless, Rheo's enthusiasm for this new one is infectious and it is a real delight to witness an artist so confident in what she is doing & so obviously enjoying herself. Such attributes naturally help shape the glories of the song. Rheo clearly aims for perfection in her art (both writing & production) and the finer details of "Señorita" as with all her previous work indicate much hard work & thought as well as love. However the obsession with such matters can often result in antiseptic songs devoid of true character and passion yet Rheo seems aware of this too & "Señorita"  bubbles with authenticity & honesty.

Dabbling into Iberian culture can often, in the right hands (let's suggest the likes of ABBA or Madonna?) provide a very interesting variation providing it's not a trick you play too often & it's one you play with taste. The other end of the spectrum being of course the ghastly chart successes of material aimed at reminding returned holidaymakers of sangria drenched Spanish hotel discos. Thankfully Rheo is firmly at the classy end of this particular dichotomy.  There are plenty of Spanish musical and lyrical clichés available to her, all of which she ignores. In fact what you get is pretty much the epitome of what Rheo Uno music seems to be intended to be: well wrought danceable pop, in this case dusted with Latin elements with the softest and subtlest of touches.

I'm guessing that this may contribute to why she rates it so highly herself: it demonstrates what she can do with a light approach. "Señorita"  is certainly much less upfront than its two predecessors and not only is this contrast useful (and indicative of a broad range) but also it seems one with an appeal to a slightly more mature audience: this is cool Rheo Uno, with an insouciant elegance, one who can glide through a song as well as she can bounce through one. An adult accustomed to the finer experiences of life and as the song's lyrics suggest, a cosmopolitan individual at home in exotic and sophisticated cultures and able to express herself within them.

Created with the collaboration of Erim Ahmet and Charles Drew,"Señorita" is the third really excellent Rheo Uno release. I understand that her new profile has, with the success of the first two singles, risen in online following spectacularly, so I confidently expect that to continue. Although we can be proud that she is a local artist, her music is totally universal in appeal and I'd like to think that a national and thence international status is something which will come for her. She feels she is on a roll & upwards trajectory right now & I certainly am happy to endorse & agree with that. Viva Rheo Uno.

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