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Leamington Spa Art In The Park (Saturday)

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Joyous return to live music at premier Warwickshire event, Leamington Art In The Park.  Seems not only a photographer's delight with the crowds socially distanced across both Jephson and Mill Gardens for a 2 day event.

New and seasoned exhibitors displaying their artwork, craft and workshop, numerous food and drink outlets and perhaps 30 performers (not limited to music and dance).

Sadly I only managed to catch a tiny sample of the acts on Saturdays stage's, managing to skip most of the short afternoon downpour. I was already homeward bound, hopefully next year my recovery from ongoing illness complete.

Rather than continually skip between stages I listened to complete sets from The Jazz Apples, Keiron and Jordan Taylour and Stylusboy (who sang a fantastic cover of The Power Of Love - which featured in the Movie Back To The Future). Not forgetting a dip into Bollywood the music fix indulged in Jazz, Country, Pop, Folk and a tremendous blast of rock and blues from Orange River Remedy, sadly now tiring I only managed to stay for part of their set - it will not be too long before I chase this powerhouse trio again.

Delighted though to see the change in weather did not stop a large turnout for Sunday (as you can see elsewhere on Hot Music Live).


The Sheep Dip Sessions Welcomes


Latest in well established series of house concert in the Warwickshire village of Princethorpe, tickets for these shows are usually reserved limited on a first come first served on a very small mailing of discerning music lovers (how to add yourself to the guest list later). As ever home owner and host is Michael Luntley who delights with revelation of something of a first in that finally after 33 prior shows within his music room that he is able to welcome performance by an award winner to his home.

Sarah MsQuaid 2017 recepient of Ards International Guitar Festival Annual Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her innovative use of the DADGAD tuning and The Irish DADGAD Tuning book. Being the most recent winner in the festivals 20 year old history Sarah deservedly takes place alongside luminaires such as Davey Graham, John Renbourn, John Martyn and Gordon Giltrap. Standing centre stage adorned in the same red dress that appears on her latest album "If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous" for the first part of a solo double bill.

Much of the evenings show is centered around this Michael Chapman produced recording, although all of Sarah's earlier work – 5 solo albums and one co-write with Zoe (hitmaker with 'Sunshine On A Rainy Day') represented in an evening of either intricate acoustic picking or at times a darkness within new found talent of electric guitar. The latter instrument picked up on encouragement and now guitar loaned by Michael Chapman whose own 2017 album "50" clearly influences some of the nights edgier rock inspired tones amid set that it would be inaccurate to place solely as folk.

Software has part in looping both various instruments and vocals, in particular the percussion sampled live from single snare. Coupled with the audience invited cat calls and animal noises to make perfect rthym on song written after watching family cat 'One Sparrow Down'. At other times sparing loop of sampled vocals layer upon one another to provide chorus and harmonies, building into cacophony of sound. Hand in providing the gloss is sound engineer and road manager Martin Stansbury who helps deliver experience remarkably close to album production values.

Recurring motif throughout 3 songs forming the core of night's mid-section (and sequenced apprioately on the current album) starts with graceful reading in song written by Jeff Wayne 'Forever Autumn' (Sarah's vivid recount of this song far more charming than any words I could pen tracing it's history). Source of theme found in the 13th century hymn ''Dies Irae', sung in latin, can often be heard in movie theme tunes. Final reprise on electric guitar instrumental 'The Day Of Wrath, That Day'.

Without giving too much of the story away, there is more than a little science behind song 'The Tug Of The Moon', brings end of the second 45 minute set. Dazzling performance throughout now temporarily dims a little for encore, an accapella take of sad lament 'The Parting Glass' it's sentiment 'joy be with you all' still resonating.

Overnight stay for the much travelled singer & songwriter, her current home of England's south west will get left further behind as tour will continue into Europe. However tomorrow will see Sarah host her DADGAD guitar workshop for lucky number (in this instance only 1 seat remains) within the same music room as night's show.

Class night makes worthy addition to long line of previous musicians performing here, sharing some of the honours are Chris Wood, Will Pound, Brooks Williams, The Red Dirt Skinners, locally based bluesplayer Jack Blackman and regular Jim Crawford. The latter Devon based bluesman making return with his wry humour on March 9th for the second of this seasons 4 house concerts.   Prices of admission vary although all door money goes to the artist appearing on the night. With less than 40 seats available for each show early addition to the mailing list is recommended by emailing Michael Luntley via the Sheep Dip website.


The Hatstand Band @ Three


Chic setting of Cafe, Bistro, Bar & Cakery (table reservations essential for dining) receives music makeover for one night a month (first Thursday) with quartet of Keith Nickless (upright bass), Mark Drury (guitar), Kate Vassalos (guitar) ad Richard Noden (percussion) who collectively form The Hatstand Band. With a seemingly never ending set list of blues, folk, americana, bluegrass together with a variety of band guises and ever long list of musicians waiting to guest or jam with them, tonight no exception.

First delight is the addition of Stix (percussion and Sophia Vassalos (singer) who now (temporarliy) make the Hatstand Band a sextet. Always a pleasure to hear the pipes of Sophia, a blinding stroll through Memphis on that Marc Cohn song (hit for Cher) and then laidback take of the bluegrass number 'Moon Over Memphis'. Welcome listen having last heard Sophia lead her own Sophia Vassalos Band in November 2016 (The Twisted Barrel, Coventry) before Sophia & Stix joined 2017 tour as guests of rock band Ginger & The Wildhearts.

Keith normally the master of all things strings finds moment to add harmonica and spanner to instruments played before handing over to first guests Ben & Tom Jennings with their strange brew of cajun, americana and psychedelia. Ben showing his mastery at various times on violin, guitar and banjo. Tom equally adept on guitar, both treating audience to an acoustic set taken from their usual line-up parts of The Anteloids (full line-up outing on March 13th at The Drapers Bar & Kitchen in Coventry). Incidentally if looking for producers or film-maker Ben & Tom are the guys to contact as they also work as Rambling Recordings.

Initimate venue is at capacity with crowds waiting outside front door, the overspill also pouring into the rear garden. With such a large number present it was sadly difficult to fully appreciate a dynamic set from recent newcomer to Rugby, Phil Evans. His brand of finger picking and delicate singing lost amid the night's bustle. I look forward to opportunity to hear his performance in full within a quieter environment, Phil I suggest Kenilworth's Treehouse Bookshop who hold regular open mic & poetry nights where audience listen in rapt attention.

The Hatstand Band close the night with another set which includes cover of the perennial co-write by Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor 'Wagon Wheel'. With a refined menu (many of the recipes available to copy for yourselves) booking a table to dine at Three is recommended, more so if visiting during one of the First Thursday monthly live music nights with The Hatstand Band & guests, must be there date for the diary March 1st.


Jacob & Drinkwater @ The Guildhall


Once again slipping past the usual Hot Music Live remit boundary into neighbouring county to visit Leicester, I promise later to to reach into a couple of more local and warmer book shops that double as venues for book & poetry readings, games nights, Open Mic Nights, gigs and all manner of events. However let's settle into the city centre's rather frosty (much due to the cold night itself) Guildhall for my third viewing of Tobias Ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater.

Not having visited Leicester by night for a couple of years, the venue was quite easy to find. Park at the Rooftop car park, exit into the streets via the shopping precint and seek the BBC Radio Leicester studio (which makes itself ideal stopoff prior to a gig to plug oneself) and find the Guildhall just around the corner. After the show ample opportunity to linger in the numerous clubs & bars or simply take the short walk back to the car (less than 10 minutes, entrance to the car park is just before Frankie & Benny's in Highcross Lane).

Into the venue itself and doubtless with a near 700 year history the boards of the medieval building at various points stage to infinite number of actors, oraters, playwrights and musicians. Tonights duo tempering the chill which despite it's glorious heritage portrayed in a rich tapestry of words and images pervades the room. The museum turned over to host Devon & Cornwall based Jacob & Drinkwater who admit it's one of their rare journeys this far north, my earlier sightings much closer to my home in Warwickshire.

At least 2 of these occurences are shared with fellow Rugbieans sat immediately to my left - Carrie, her musician husband Keith and friends Richard and Kate. The latter two accompany Keith in trio The Hatstand Band. I should mention it's there second viewing this week of Tobias & Lukas (having caught the pairing on Monday at Birmingham's Kitchen Garden Cafe). Tap on the shoulder and no surprise as party reunited with Zarla, the last time the 6 of us together being also a gig with Jacob & Drinkwater (The Big Comfy Bookshop, it's extended site continuing to multitask as bookshop (pre-loved) & cafe hosting poetry & book readings, games nights, folk gigs and all manner of events).

Tonights show a dash from Cornwall via Exeter for duo, when Lukas had an early morning session recording with Sadie Horler. Without resorting to the limited space reserved as dance floor, audience delight at both the strength of songwriting by Tobias and the wonderfully adept musicianship of Lukas on double bass which occasionally is exchanged for guitar, instrument upon which Tobias equally deft.

Missing set list (reasoning why revealed during show) dips in and out of work by Tobias, the new album preceded by the widely radio airplayed title song of earlier EP "Burning Low", which in new guise makes it to the current album release "A Polyphonic Life". Favourite rendition is hard choice, the silky album cut with fellow musicians Lukas (pre-requisite), Phillip Henry, John Elliot, Tim Heymerdinger, Alastair Caplan and Andy Watts or stripped back as duo, live and acoustic seemingly finding new breathe on each listen.

Singling out one more song written by Tobias with 'If Any Dream Survives' taken from the album (spookily just playing on the CD as I write) receives comic introduction by Lukas, each musician in turn either comic or straight man. Tobias fall guy this time round dubs the song as part of his angling record. Good comedy requires timing, gents it'really is impeccable.

Thaw complete with songs lifted from 3 of the world's finest songwritiers, tonight's reading of Bob Dylan's 'Blind Willie McTell' surpassing the version heard on first witnessing Jacob & Drinkwater live at The Treehouse Bookshop (Kenilworth). Sadly I believe gig with Duotone currently happening at the Treehouse may be the last, Open Mic, poetry & book readings will continue. Which certainly means The Hatstand Band will play the venue again, I almost forgot it's players together with Carrie and daughter also present at the same Treehouse Jacob & Drinkwater show.

Winter tour presses on before Tobias and Lukas will temporarily go their own way, each also having successful careers either solo, as session musicians or players in other companies. Joyously picking up threads to re-assemble each year for Summer tour. Review perfectly concludes with sweet comments overheard made audience no longer first timers " delightful, had not heard of them before, well worth braving the weather".

Lukas returns to Coventry, this time supporting another musical partner – the Australian born Emily Barker, who in 2017 delivered a year's highlight in the wonderous album "Sweet Kind Of Blue". Emily also provides those gorgeous backing vocals on album version of the aforementioned 'If Any Dream Survives'. Catch Emily and Lukas on Sunday 11th February in The Big Comfy Bookshop Fargo Village.

Though not a true folkie, listening to most genres of music, a return to The Guildhall likely as Greenbird Promotions throughout the year bring several folk events to venue. Guest list includes Jackie Oates (February 10th), Peter Knight (ex-Steeleye Span) & John Spiers (ex Bellowhead) on March 9th.

Finding The Guildhall relatively easy when visiting Leicesster by road: Drive into the city centre heading for Highcross shopping centre. Ignore road signs for Highcross B C D, instead follow Highcross A into St Nicholas Place. On the left you should see restaurant The Fish & The Chip, immediately ahead is the pedestainised shopping centre. Oto the right Jubilee Square with BBC Radio Leicester parallel to it.

Turn left just before the shopping centre and about halfway down turn right into Highcross Street – entrance to Highcross Rooftop car park is in front of you (miss this turn and you have to join the ring road again). Exit the car park via the lifts into the covered precint and head for Jubilee Square, turn right onto Highcross street, BBC radio station will now be on your left. Walk alongside Jubilee Square to the right. Take the next left onto Guildhall Lane, the timbered Guildhall (during the daytime a noted museum) a little way up the lane on the right The Guildhall. Hint - parking at Highcross Rooftop heavily discounted after 5pm). Hope to see you there soon.


Guilty Pleasures

Twin passion indulged as The "People Like Us" spring tour thunders into The Tree House Bookshop with Fleetwood Cave (Marion & Gregg) flushed from recent high spirited performance in Banbury. Gracious host Victoria welcomes to duo full of warm repartee, sparkling wit, engaging smiles and more than one chorus song delivering all too brief an interlude from daily lives.

As 'People Like Us' kicks off proceedings also listen intently to the craic between songs and be further rewarded as we dig for victory, spend time at a retreat, live the dream (daytime TV) and hear of inspiration behind the songs. "Guinea Golden" first of 2 songs composed in or about Clifford Chambers holds promise of prize, during interval find from the book-shelves...

Extended set with inclusion of 2 numbers bound for the next TRADarr album, Marion and Gregg returning to melting pot which forged the making of Fleetwood Cave as duo when recording "Cautionary Tales". The first offering 'The Bonny Lass Of Anglesey' appears on Gregg's own solo album "Old England Grown New" song we return too later ; 'Please Be Patient' leads into scented farewell of 'Dancing Girls' before returning visit to fiddle of the late Dave Swarbrick (who featured on Gregg's recording of 'The Bonny Lass Of Anglesey') in fitting tribute 'Wizard Of The Worldly Game' and Marion's dashing bow on 'Lazurus'.

Second revelation of new TRADarr material is the setting of the John Clare poem Winter winds, cold and bleak to music in 'Winter Winds', beautiful song which should not distract from the song writing talents assembled in front of us. Marion, whose solo album "Holding Space" also shares merchandising table at concerts, writing the traditional material with a contemporary slant coming from Gregg. Together equal duties of the 10 originals upon "People Like Us". 'Lay Me Down Gently' soaring vocal graced with brief moment of silence as the beauty sinks before rapturous applause, 'Jesus' still finds abode in a Northamptonshire town.

'18th Day Of May' and re-visit to Clifford Chambers for unusual custom in 'Gypsy Queen' more opportunity for sing-along, the latter dividing room between girls and boys sadly carry things to journeys end. 'Passage Of Time' signals finale of an acoustic 'Hurry On Sundown'. Closing refrain of tour and album title song 'People Like Us' asks "Where Do We Go From Here?". In reply onward to Hinckley Act (17th February) as tour continues until end of April before Festival season gets underway. On tonights evidence both remaining tour and festival season promise great delight, Stratford Folk Festival early temptation.

Everyone prize winners, try your luck at The Tree House Bookshop on Febraury 25th when duo Jacob & Drinkwater, Tobias ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater visit (The Burning Low EP and Live At Hope Hall excellent introduction).


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Hello Goodbye

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