"Jericho" by Danny Ansell
The first Danny Ansell release of 2022 has been revealed as "Jericho", which follows December's "Wishing Well".
Recorded at his own D.A.M. Studios (apart from Steven Shelley's drums which were put down at C M Studios, also in Coventry) with Danny on his customary vocals & guitars (and I'd imagine the keyboard parts too) and Patrick Beard providing bass, a trio which has recently celebrated a year together, the song itself dates back a few years: Danny played it with his late cousin Steve Madden (whose track "Juliet" can be found on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Eight' and whose talent will soon be remembered & shared with the release of the ‘Here and Gone' album on Glasslip Records) and it has already established itself as a highlight of his live set.
What is a bit spooky for me is that writing the day after I praised The Rising for their continual moving forwards musically, I find myself needing to say much the same about Danny.
Again, such is the popularity he enjoys & such the esteem, he could quite easily have settled back and released what his core audience would have expected as "Danny Ansell music" and been praised for this. Instead, there has been a real surge forwards into new areas for him & the confronting of expectations: starting for sure with his ‘As It Goes' album & the subsequent singles: the body of work he has built up over the last three years or so is most impressive & builds upon his legacy from earlier: had he just repeated past triumphs & played to what were perceived as his strengths, I'd not be writing this. Instead he has challenged himself & developed additional strengths: and all without producing music which is difficult to access nor too abstract.
For "Jericho", as I've said , is another catchy hook filled tune (how Danny Ansell audiences cope with his sets is always a mystery given how full they are of anthems with few chances of a breather) but of a very different style to "Wishing Well". However I do find something of a comparison in the person of John Lennon: while I suggested his possible influence in the psychedelic blues rock of the earlier single, here you might possibly find a very different aspect of his work: his raw & stark early 1970s solo records.
Danny's voice is thus rather high in the mix: more so than usual, over an uncompromising rhythm section and he sounds positively anguished at times as his emotions get the better of him.
It's a very bold sound he goes for & he certainly pulls it off successfully: it's this confidence in his own abilities & panache with which to rise which to challenges & soar past them that are continuing to elevate him as an artist.
A passionate commitment to continue trying to overcome even the most apparently impossible of such challenges, "Jericho" (and what an effective metaphor that is) is pretty much a manifesto for what Danny is doing with his music currently: he doesn't want to admit the possibility of failure & so that in itself strengthens him to ensure he can succeed. It's a potent message too to encourage his listeners.
Apart from the superb string of releases in recent months, it's worth mentioning too that the band have been out gigging a lot too, playing with bands such as Marquis Drive, The Dirt Road Band & The Primitives with plenty more in the diary such as:
Saturday 21st May at The Rose and Woodbine .. Coventry .. 8.30pm
Sunday 29th May.. Cannock Chase with Marquis Drive & Heavy Sol
Sunday 5th June at The Tiltyard, Kenilworth.. in association with CV Collective SC … all day event
Friday June 10th at The Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool … supporting The Absolute Jam .. tickets £10 .. doors 8pm
Saturday 2nd July at The Snig , Liverpool .. All day Indie event
Saturday 9th July .. Napton Music Festival .. Lounge Stage
Saturday 23rd July at White Lion , Brinklow, Warwickshire.. 8.30pm
Saturday August 27th .. Wyre festival… Kidderminster
Sunday August 28th .. Crownfest , two day festival in Coventry .. Onstage at 8pm
Saturday 17th September at Covtember festival , The Canal Basin Coventry .. onstage at 5.15pm
"Wishing Well" by Danny Ansell
It's a great & somewhat rare privilege to give you as much notice as I am here with Danny Ansell's next release "Wishing Well" as it won't be out until December. Normally it seems a bit cruel to whet your appetite for something you can't hear yourselves, but in this case as it has already had both national & international airplay (the USA), I'm sure you'll be able to hear it long before you get the chance to own your own copy. Since Danny and his band are back to playing prolifically live (fifteen gigs in thirteen weeks with many more already in the diary), it's a fair bet that if you can catch them, you'll hear it in concert too.
Danny also tells me that they are squeezing some more recording in next month amidst the gigs and eventually he has in mind an EP release to feature not only "Wishing Well" but his extremely well received earlier singles from 2021: "Slice of Cake" (reviewed in the magazine in April) and "Bring Back the Feeling" (likewise in August).
So what is "Wishing Well" like? Well, to be honest you can tell why US radio likes it (and hats off to KUHS in Denver for picking it in the first place). If you listen to Danny's work, he offers much variety, but a great deal of his appeal lies rooted in his being true to where he comes from: several songs are very specifically about his home town, many others contain details for his life and experiences and he very clearly is proud of who he is and is not trying to be someone else. That "mid Atlantic" tendency to sing in an American accents that is so infectious, is not his way. Nevertheless, many of his songs are just as open in paying homage to his musical interests and "Wishing Well" is perhaps the most Americana in terms of his more recent work: though that said, I hear quite substantial touches of late 1960s psychedelic and blues rock in there too (and maybe some hints of Lennon?) alongside the indie sounds that mostly get attached to reviews of Danny's music. It's a nice melting pot of several sources that blend together into something fresh yet true to his own music. I'm not surprised therefore that it has such broad appeal: it's not (I would have thought) aimed at a US audience as such, but it's very compatible with what goes down well across the pond.
The other thing worth noting is that Danny is definitely returned to the harder end of his personal rock spectrum here. His two previous singles were much more introspective and personal (for extremely good reasons) as indeed was his most recent album, ‘As It Goes'. This was great, and I stood behind no-one in the queue to praise all those records. Nevertheless, variety is the spice of life and if Danny proceeded to release too many songs on a similar emotional note, then that aspect of his overall work might be diminished.
Thankfully that's not the case and from the evidence of the three songs for the planned EP that I've heard, it will present a range of his work and I think be the more powerful for that. "Wishing Well" is as passionate as "Slice of Cake" in its own way: he really lets rip on the vocals here and the band seem liberated in responding to them. Interestingly, the song was actually recorded (by band member Patrick Beard) before the current glut of gigs: if they sound this dynamic before getting their live mojo back, goodness knows how their live performances now sound.
As I say, Danny has a lot of gigs lined up, (best check his online page for the finer details) but one of the biggest of them will be on Friday 17th December at the Empire with the Primitives and the Session.
"Bring Back the Feeling" by Danny Ansell
The most recent occasion on which we reported on Danny Ansell and his music was back in April, with the release of his "Slice of Cake" single. Now, the time has come to follow up that life & career highlight and so you'll be able to hear and to enjoy "Bring Back the Feeling" at the end of this month.
It cannot have been at all easy to find a song to succeed "Slice of Cake" and given the singularity and significance of that track, no reason at all the try to top it or emulate it. Very wisely I feel, the new single is therefore a more upbeat (in tempo & mood) song and surely his mum Maureen, the subject of "Slice of Cake" (and the ‘Hot Music Live Presents Vol 5' dedicatee) would thoroughly approve: indeed in other circumstances she would have been first onto the floor for it.
Written naturally by Danny and recorded at his home studio with the help of Patrick Beard on drums and bass (Danny playing piano & guitar as well as singing), "Bring Back the Feeling" is an archetypical Danny Ansell song. Even without totally unforeseen and sad circumstances affecting his songwriting over the last year or so, he had been experimenting to excellent effect with a more introspective and reflective style within the ‘As It Goes' album and its follow up EP ‘Stories About You'. I applaud this and greatly appreciated what he achieved: it certainly showed people the breadth of his talent and they ended up (perhaps more by luck than judgement given that many were written pre-pandemic) being right for the times.
Now however we need lifting after sixteen or so very difficult months and with the prospects for getting back together and for live music, "Bring Back the Feeling" fits this moment equally as well. Harking back to his Britpop roots, this track carries all the hallmarks of the style his considerable following will both recognise and respond to. How he can keep on writing such crowd pleasing, anthemic, hook filled tunes without repeating himself is something to instil a sense of wonder (possibly the period exploring slightly different musical avenues has helped keep this aspect of his work fresh). This is yet another in a long line of his songs which will get the crowds back on the feet dancing (and singing along) in the traditional manner. It certainly helps that the subject matter of the song fits that feeling of liberation and refinding that which we have lost in recent times.
Danny & Patrick sound pretty liberated in their performance (though can you think of a Danny Ansell record where he doesn't throw himself fully into the power & passion of the song? No: me neither) and it surges along with all the drive and dynamics, punctuated by clever little touches and variations you'd expect.
I am keen to hear it live (though that can be said of quite a few of his songs which have been created over the last couple of years but which I've not yet heard in concert) and Danny also advises me that drummer Steven Shelley will be joining the band from the 23rd July (when they'll be supporting The Session at The Arches in Spon End).
Before that, Danny is playing the New Railway Inn in Leamington this Saturday (10th July) and will be again on the same bill as The Session at the Freedom 21 Festival on Saturday 21st August.
"Slice of Cake" by Danny Ansell
Despite his skill at honing crowd pleasing anthems, the reality of Danny Ansell's songwriting is the subject matter he covers is actually very often quite melancholic: he reflects the human condition, for better or worse (and at times both of them in the same song). There are many great examples of this in his masterful ‘As It Goes' album and its follow up EP ‘Stories About You', both of which have come out since the pandemic commenced.
Nest month, with his new single "Slice of Cake", he perhaps reaches the pinnacle of this side of his writing as he tackles a loss very close to home indeed: that of his mother Maureen to whom we dedicated ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Five', given her many years of enthusiastic support for local music.
Inspire directly from the closing words of his Dad's eulogy at her funeral ("save me a seat and a slice of cake"), you can't get much more personal in writing than this, and it can't have been easy to put his feelings into words at all, let alone craft something which reflects the loss of someone so full of life. She would be very proud with the results.
However, Danny being a skilful & experienced writer as he is, did not simply create a specific tribute to an individual, however deeply he wanted to say these words. "Slice of Cake", like many of the very best songs, takes its starting point & essential emotional truth from a specific place & then broadens it out into something more universal, embracing all those who have lost people close to them, especially in recent months: which I fear will include too many of those reading this review.
Recorded last month with Patrick Beard adding bass & drums to Danny's own vocals, guitars, piano & strings, it really isn't easy to listen to "Slice of Cake", whether you know its backstory or not, without a lump coming to your throat or a tear to your eye. It is almost as if all Danny's previous writing was an apprenticeship for this one song & he has deployed all his powers into crafting a piece of huge emotional clout. Yet, just as it would not be a true Danny Ansell song if t did not reach out to everyone rather than a few, it would also not be one of his if it stayed narrowly on the side of mourning & despair: ultimately the song is about hope & meeting back up again at some time, in some place, to enjoy the best of times together once again. A message for himself, for his family but also for us all too. Oh and check out the beautifully poignant guitar solo also: an elegant touch which emphasises the message.
One of the saddest ironies of this current period is how much wonderful original material Danny has been producing, yet has not been able to play live, despite his reputation & popularity being firmly based upon his performance skills & charisma. Thankfully (touch wood) that should be put to right soon as he has a number of gigs pencilled in:
Sunday May 23rd - The Longford Engine , Coventry , 4pm
Saturday May 29th - The Arches , Coventry (Headline show) Doors 7pm
Saturday June 12th - The Amersham Arms, London Doors 1pm
Saturday 10th July - The New Railway Inn , Leamington 7pm Saturday 17th July - The Arches , Coventry (Main Support) Doors 7pm
Friday 23rd July - Three Spires Coventry 9pm
Saturday 18th September, Covtember festival , Doors 6pm
Saturday 25th September, Dead Wax , Digbeth , Birmingham 7pm
Saturday 9th October , The Waterloo Music Bar , Blackpool Supporting Marquis Drive & The 48K's Doors 7pm
‘Stories About You' by Danny Ansell
One of my personal sadnesses (among several) for our local music scene was that Danny Ansell's long awaited ‘As It Goes' album came out precisely when his great live band was unable to play the excellent songs on it: certainly among the finest Danny has written.
Nevertheless, despite what must be a large degree of frustration, Danny has not lost his creative enthusiasm and in fact has managed to record six songs during this period which he's sharing with us this month on an EP called ‘Stories About You' (and six songs is very generous for an EP).
Working in his new home studio on Wednesday & Friday evenings with bassplayer Patrick Beard, recording & producing it themselves (a first for Danny after five previous albums in professional studios) Danny has managed to capture one older song he had co-written with the late Steve Madden & five more recent ones: "Fix It Up", "Ones That You Love", "Under The Moonlight", "Love on a Shelf", "Don't Change" and the title track.
As evidenced on that last magnificent album, Danny's writing is definitely moving onwards and reaching new heights. Generally the format of recording has tended to make the songs quieter & simpler in arrangement & this serves them really well: their strengths are revealed much more readily & the tone definitely suits the themes & above all Danny's voice, which is exposed more than ever and allows the intensity of his words & delivery to ring through perfectly.
He pretty much picks up where the album left off with a collection of mature & reflective tracks, pulling off the trick of burrowing deeper into human psyches & emotions while retaining the immediacy which will attract people to them & yet (I would imagine), they'll still work well in a live setting, even with audiences brought up on high octane Danny Ansell performances.
That said, it is a bit difficult to keep from having a moist eye at times. Quite apart from the passion of the actual words, Danny has an excellent ear for melody & there is little more affecting than a sad lyric set to a beautiful, often minor key tune.
For various reasons, EPs seem to be a much more popular format for musicians than they were for many years: probably more so currently than albums. One effect is to ensure that what you get is a consistently high quality across the record & that certainly applies here (I repeat my comment about value for money). For a second successive day I find myself writing a review when I decline to pick out a favourite track (please don't insist): they are strike me as being of similar merit. Hopefully most if not all of them will get radio play.
One aspect which I think will get Danny fans excited is that although his guitar is prominent across the EP, we do hear his keyboard playing playing a more upfront role than normal & this certainly offers yet another revelation.
From the gentle yet really emotionally powerful "Don't Change" (despite its restrained sound this may well be the "cigarette lighter in the air" one from the EP), via the "state of our nation" social commentary of "Fix It Up", the Lennonesque "Love on a Shelf" , the slightly menacing "Ones That You Love" the REM channelling "Under the Moonlight" to the archetypal Danny Ansell title track which grows inexorably in its three and a half minutes with multiple layers of imagery & meaning, there is considerable variety within ‘Stories About You'. Hopefully it will keep you going until you can catch the band live again….
"Satellites" by Danny Ansell & Co
‘Satellites' is the most recent single by Danny Ansell & Co (Danny Ansell on vocals and guitars, Roger Greasby on drums and Patrick Beard ...