Monday, 30 April 2012

THE STAVES

Live Review

Glee Club, Birmingham (April 29, 2012)

Sisters Emily, Camilla and Jessica, collectively known as The Staves are maturing wonderfully with their popularity growing and their stage confidence visibly increasing.

At the Glee Club in Birmingham, which they filled quite easily moving up from the Studio last year, they kicked off their concert with Icarus which right from the off showed the wonderful way in which their voices blend with silky harmonies, each complementing the other.
The Staves at the Glee Club, Birmingham
Without wanting to make too much of this comparison but the last sibling sensation we had were The Corrs and it's safe to say that when it comes to mastery of their instruments they are a match for the Irish group.
However, when it comes to their singing and range of harmonies and the mixing of vocal playfulness they have already surpassed them.
Their creamy and effortless renderings filled the entire room with a luxurious sound which has the ability to touch the soul. With songs Time Will Tell and Facing West you could really hear Camilla come into her own adding a depth to her two sisters and then all of them giving a sweet rendition of Pay Us No Mind from their recent EP The Motherlode.
Perhaps the best example which showcased the incredible sound they create was Wise and Slow which was sung mostly a capella but just produced a wonderful sound that was bordering on angelic.They then moved into the more upbeat Winter Trees and treated the audience to Tongue Behind My Teeth from their Mexico EP.
The audience would have happily stayed there twice as long if the girls had enough material. However, they are, as far as I am aware, working on producing a full album which will be eagerly received by their growing army of fans. Until then you have to make do with the latest EP The Motherlode.
Support act Christof

They were brought back for two encores but unfortunately for now they had run out of material so they need to get writing.
The Staves were supported by a very talented singer simply called Christof who is Dutch but has managed to pick up an Irish twang from playing for some time in Galway, Eire.
He has a strong, melodic voice which also seems to have an edge which will keep him in good stead for the future. His first song Cuckoo allowed the first glimpse of his solid tones. He is one to watch for the future.
Pictures courtesy of Bianca Barrett, Editor in Chief of Gig Junkies

Thursday, 26 April 2012

NEWS

Carus Thompson

I saw Carus last year at the Robin2, Bilston, Wolverhampton when he was supporting Seth Lakeman. He's a really friendly guy but more importantly he is really talented.
He hammers a guitar to create a great sound and his voice is so strong.
Carus has finished touring with Seth for now and is embarking on an Australian tour. If you get a chance to see him then please do, his enthusiasm for his music is infectious and so entertaining.
Take a look for yourself at carusthompson.com/video

NEWS

Seth Lakeman

Next month the brilliant Seth Lakeman is to start his European tour beginning on May 1 in Knust, Hamburg, Germany. The tour will also take him through Holland, Switzerland and Austria.
He will be supported by Lisbee Stainton.
Seth will be in the UK playing the Eden Sessions on July 1 where he will be appearing alongside Frank Turner, The Sleeping Souls, Stornoway and Bellowhead who will be playing Wolverhampton later in the year. For more information visit http://www.sethlakeman.co.uk

COMING YOUR WAY

The Staves

The sibling trio of the Staveleys will be playing the Glee Club in Birmingham on Sunday April 29. The doors open at 7.00pm and tickets are £8.
The singing sisters will be promoting their new EP The Motherlode which is out now and will be available at the concert, and there will be a review of the show appearing here shortly.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

COMING YOUR WAY

Dan Whitehouse

Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Dan Whitehouse is coming back home on May 4.

The talented musician is supporting fellow Wulfrunian Scott Matthews at The Newhampton Arts Centre, Whitmore Reans, although the concert is sold out.
Perhaps more importantly Dan is moving away from EPs and has collected enough of his own material, ably abetted by Michael and Steve Clarke, to release his first, and eponymously titled, full album which is out on May 23.
Dan has served his time and has played many of the major festivals and his album is currently getting airplay on Radio 6.
On the album you can hear Dan flexing his vocal range with tracks which certainly brings to mind artists such as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Donovan and Peter Gabriel.
Whether these influences are conscious or otherwise remains to be seen, but in between these is the breathy and distinctive voice of Dan who is able to convey real emotion in his singing.
There are nice little evocative twists among the tracks such as Three Bodies which could easily be the sound of a busker on the streets of Paris.
Perhaps the tracks which gives you Dan at his stripped down best is Hold on to What We Have in which the music has more than a tinge of Pink Floyd to it.
The album comes with ambitious renderings such as the thumping rhythm of Fire of Lust and In My Stupid Face, Dan uses sound effects very well which is reminiscent of Roxy Music's early experimentations.
All in all this is a very thoughtful and reflective first offering which Dan should be proud of and is well worth a listen.
For more information go to www.dan-whitehouse.com

Sunday, 22 April 2012

FOLK 21

Live Review

Newhampton Arts Centre, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton (April 21, 2012)

Had great night watching a wonderful line up of folk musicians from all over the UK who came together to give their time, for free, to promote Folk 21 which is pushing to raise the profile and keep alive small and independent folk clubs.

The line up was pretty impressive and the music varied and highly enjoyable, giving an insight in to the myriad and eclectic strands of folk music which can be enjoyed up and down the country.
Each artist drew on their particular surroundings, background and experience adding that unique and personal touch even when the same song may be performed by different singers and musicians.
On the bill was Pete Coe, the national chairman of Folk 21, who gave the audience a show of his many talents on the banjo, bouzouki and accordion. He has a wonderfully traditional voice which has a raw and honest quality to it.
Anne Lister
There was Anne Lister from South Wales, who has a light quality and clarity to her voice which is a real breath of fresh air. She carries on the tradition of folklore in song with her simple stories of the human condition which carry that dark edge of danger and disaster around the corner.
Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham were essentially an a-capella duo who use the squeeze box occasionally. It was a nice surprise from the Derbyshire singers as Keith's looks belie his clear and distinct voice which, although powerful, did not overpower Sylvia who added that soft touch and warm edge to their singing.
Scotland's Wendy Arrowsmith has an incredibly rich and powerful voice and a range which she executes so naturally and with such ease. The passion with which she tells the tales of the human condition and the injustices of life is obvious.
Originally from Greece George Papavgeris brought his cheeky persona and irreverent humour to the proceedings. His strong voice is reminiscent of Roger Whittaker, but somehow with a continental twang. It easily filled the arts centre studio and it was complemented by his obvious talent with the guitar.
George Papavgeris

Without doubt the driving force behind the night was John Richards who performed with his band to close the show. John has a fine folk pedigree and is passionate about the genre and about local venues and clubs both thriving and recruiting the next generation of folk singers.
His line up was missing his daughter Emma who was in the late stages of labour with his first grandson and her second child, hopefully by now mother and son are doing well and being spoiled by the rest of the family.
The band's former fiddle player, Julia Disney has moved on to study a masters and has consequently gone on to help set up her own folk club which is really what Folk 21 is all about.
She has been replaced by Robin Tudor who is a more than up to the challenge adding the voice-like sound of the fiddle to John's guitar playing, Chris Drinan's flute, whistle and banjo playing and Jim Sutton's keyboard and double bass skills .
John Richards
The band finished off the night on a high inviting all the previous singers, apart from Peter Coe who had to be somewhere else, thanking everyone who turned up and the night raised more than £400 for the cause.
Folk 21 is about promoting and growing the small folk club if you like folk music and would enjoy a night out of live performances or if you have never tried a folk club before, then get on board and let me know about where you have been, who you have seen or any news of upcoming concerts.

For more information please follow these useful links
For Folk21 folktwentyone.wordpress.com/
For Peter Coe www.backshift.demon.co.uk/
For Anne Lister www.annelister.com,
For Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham www.keithkendrick.com/kn/
For George Papavgeris http://www.folk4all.net/
For John Richards http://www.thejrbs.co.uk/
For the venue www.newhamptonarts.co.uk/

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

THE HUT PEOPLE

Live Review

I was in York a couple of years ago and naturally was digging out the local music.

I came across this really unusual duo who call themselves The Hut People which is the pairing of Samuel Pirt and Gary Hammond. Both musicians have a great pedigree playing with names such as The Dubliners, The Beautiful South and that other maestro of the accordion Sharon Shannon.
Unfortunately The Huts are confined mainly to the north of England, it would be good to see them coming down to the Midlands. If you find yourself up Yorkshire/Sheffield way I strongly recommend you seek them out, they are a real treat to watch and wonderful musicians.
Sam, from Goole in Yorkshire, is the only accordion player I have ever seen who tap dances sitting down while squeezing the best out of his instrument, his enthusiasm and his willingness to hold nothing back is a wonderful sight to see, especially when his heavily shod feet are in full flight.
If you want to see someone enjoying what they do then Sam is the man, he rarely stops smiling while playing and sweating profusely with all his exertions.
Likewise to call Gary a mere percussionist is to do him a disservice this musician will literally play anything he he can beat a sound out of and he does it expertly and with sounds you have probably never heard before. His range of instruments seems almost endless and of course on their travels he picks up more and more wonderful and bizarre instruments to play.
Hut's music can take you on a musical journey across the world and is drawn from an eclectic influence of European, English and Latin sounds.
To find out more visit www.thehutpeople.co.uk and of course you can find them on facebook and youtube.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

TWO TIME POLKA

Live Review

Newhampton Inn, Folk Club, Whitmore Reans, W-ton. (April 12, 2011)

They may come from Cork in the Republic of Ireland but their sound is Americana all the way through and they knock out Cajun and blues songs with such precision that you only realise they are Irish when they speak.

TTP are without doubt one of the most original bands on the folk circuit at the moment and have a fantastic range of eclectic sounds drawn from the length and breadth of North and South America.
The Newhampton Inn, Folk Club is essentially the upstairs room of the pub in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton and, while it's great that a real ale pub runs such an event, the size of the room really didn't do the band justice and couldn't really cope with the range of sounds which TTP use in their repertoire.
This said it's always a pleasure to listen to the Cork Cajuneers fronted by one of the most accomplished and talented mandolin players around at the moment. Ray Barron is part of a wonderfully talented collection of musicians which includes Georgina Barron who plays her accordion like a pump action shotgun, the strong and gritty vocals of Aaron Dillon and local lad Davy Jones on the drums.
Over the couple of hours TTP took the small but mostly appreciative audience with the exception of a couple of women who bafflingly came to the concert and then spent a great deal of it trying to have a conversation over the top of the music, on a musical journey across North and South America.
Polka have an impressive blend of electric and acoustic sounds at their disposal and have a line up which gels wonderfully whether playing the blues or their more familiar Cajun sounds.
They integrated cover versions of songs such as Ode to Billie Joe, Merle Haggard's The Bottle Let Me Down and Kirsty McColl's There's a Guy Works Down the Chipshop.
Ray's mandolin playing is fascinating and mesmerising and uses what seems the slightest of movements with his hands. He makes the instrument wail and sing like Hendrix with his Fender. With El Comancheros he gave a glimpse of his prowess but to see him in full flight you have see him perform Dear John, which fortunately he did, then his mandolin ends up smoking.
The wonderful thing about folk music is that it can keep that political and socially observant edge and that's the case with Aaron and Brown Envelope which points a finger at Irish politics but resounds just as easily with parliament in England.
Perhaps the most "bizarre" of their songs is Dark Side of Macroom, I will leave you to find out for yourselves what and where Macroom is, but this starts with the classic prog rock sound of Pink Floyd but then is infused with Greek and Jewish strands and while this, for every reason you can think of, shouldn't work the talent of TTP pulls it off and for this reason alone you should go and see them whenever you get a chance.
For more information visit www.twotimepolka.com.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

RIP BARNEY McKENNA

I would just like to pay my tribute to the late, great Barney McKenna, who died today aged 72 when he collapsed at his home in Dublin.

He was a founder member of the massively influential Irish folk band The Dubliners and along with Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Bourke and Luke Kelly formed the band in the Fair City in 1962.
Only last month I saw Barney in action at the Town Hall, Birmingham where, ironically, he seemed to be fitter than when they were playing there last year.
Barney will be greatly missed by the world of folk and traditional Irish music and of course with the band well into their 50th anniversary tour it will throw a question mark over carrying on.
To paraphrase one of his signature tunes Barney had plenty who loved him.

Monday, 2 April 2012

SHARON SHANNON

Live Review

Glee Club, Birmingham (2011)

Irish folk musician Sharon Shannon is called a virtuoso of the accordion and boy does she deserve it. 

She does things with that accordion that a decade ago the Catholic church would have banned as incendiary. 
Internationally renowned Shannon came along with special guest and fellow veteran of the Irish/folk music circuit Eleanor McEvoy. 
During the first part of show McEvoy had a chance to display her wonderful versatility, even using a couple of boxes of Smarties as instruments on I Want It So Much. 
Then it was down to Shannon and her band of extremely talented musicians, not least of which was Dezi Donnelly who is an absolutely awesome fiddle player, to give the appreciative Glee audience a perfect example of the Craic and she hit them right between the eyes from the very first track. 
Considering she spends the whole set sitting down, the energy Shannon puts into the jigs and reels during her performance with her hands just a blur as they squeeze every last note out of her instrument is just infectious. 
With tracks such as Jewels in the Ocean, Duo in G, Raitlin Island and Flying Circus the Clare musician set the Birmingham club alight. 
Shannon of course finished the night with the two songs, Blackbird and Galway Girl, which have become her signature tunes and were constantly demanded by her persistent fans, who even in the cosy confines of the Glee studio found room to get up and dance.

THE SAW DOCTORS

Live Review

Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton (2011)

The Galway gang were back in Wolverhampton for what has almost become an annual ritual. 

The boys who come all the way from Tuam, otherwise known as The Saw Doctors, are celebrating 20 years of rousing audiences around the world and show little sign of slowing down. In fact frontman Davy Carton was so eager to get on stage he came on as a cameo backing singer for the support act. 
The Docs hit their fans between the eyes right from the off with Will It Never Stop Raining and from then on Davy and fellow frontman Leo Moran fed the eager crowd what they wanted for the next two hours. All the familiar stuff was there Tommy K, To Win Just Once, Never Mind the Strangers and Why Don’t We Share the Darkness. 
With extended versions of two of their best known anthems Green and Red of Mayo and Clare Island Leo got the chance to show what a fantastic and expert guitarist he is. He knows how to work a crowd and such is the atmosphere he, Davy and the rest of the band create it’s hard to tell sometimes who is entertaining whom. 
They of course gave the rendition of their latest single Downtown, the hit made famous by Petula Clark, in which Davy does a laudable stand-in for her. There were tracks from their latest album the Further Adventures Of… which included Indian Summer and Friday Town. 
The group never let up and were cheered back on stage for the encore which included Bless Me father, What She Said Last Night and of course the one song that has become their signature tune N17. Here’s looking forward to next year’s pilgrimage and long may it continue.

LAURA MARLING

Live Review

Birmingham Cathedral (2011)

There is something ethereal almost spiritual about petite folk singer Laura Marling, so it’s appropriate her “Ring the Bells Tour” was played in cathedrals up and down the country, ending in Birmingham. 

However, Brum Cathedral is arguably the worst place to hold such a concert, certainly for the third of her fans who were consigned to the balconies which had the most uncomfortable pews and restricted views. In fact if you were not in the front row of the balconies and you sat down, you couldn’t see the performance at all. 
Also they have had the whole tour to deal with the problems of setting up sound in buildings which were not designed to stage such events. However, the sound crew in Birmingham seem to have overlooked the fact people up in the balconies needed to hear the singer. 
The first two songs were almost inaudible due to poor sound engineering which was annoying considering the audience had to wait around 40 minutes between the support act and Marling appearing on stage, while the crew tested and tweaked the sound system. 
This detracted from the performance of Marling who is a fantastic musician and singer and is a cross between the high-noted clarity of Joni Mitchell and the power and emotion of Eva Cassidy. She was on stage for just over an hour and performed such haunting songs as Goodbye England, Night Terror, New Song and Night after Night. 
Rather arrogantly, she made it clear at the penultimate song, Rambling Man, there was only going to be All My Rage, as her encore. Marling is an amazing talent but it would be no surprise if some of the people who had paid more than £20 per ticket, none of which mentioned the restricted or - in some cases - completely blocked view, felt a little let down.

SETH LAKEMAN

Live Review

The Robin2, Bilston, Wolverhampton (2011)

You will be hard pressed to find anyone more talented or versatile than Seth Lakeman on the folk circuit. 

His skill with a violin is awesome and it wouldn’t be overstating it to put him on the same footing as Nigel Kennedy, Andre Rieu, Stephane Grapelli and John Sheahan of The Dubliners. 
Add to this his incredible competence with the banjo, acoustic guitar, bouzouki and mandolin along with his strong, emotional voice and you have a folk-rock singer who deserves all the accolades he receives. 
The Devon musician moved between heavier folk-rock to atmospheric ballads such as Changes to traditional folk and hoe downs with consummate ease much to the appreciation of the packed Robin audience. From his first song More Than Money, inspired by the men who mined granite - a track from his sixth album Tales from the Barrel House, Lakeman had his fans in his thrall. 
Much of his music is dedicated to the loss of traditional skills such as the Blacksmith’s Prayer a lament for the disappearing craft and Hard Road which tells the sorry story of people thrown out of work when a factory closes and has a deep resonance in these dark days of recession. 
There are myriad influences which can be heard in his work and which are wonderfully expressed by him and his group including blue grass, such as in The Sender and The Artisan which are accented by his rasping fiddle playing, along with blues and more traditional folk rifts such as Salt From Our Veins which are just sheer magic to listen to.


Other links:
http://www.expressandstar.com/entertainment/2011/12/14/review-seth-lakeman-at-the-robin-2-bilston/

THE DUBLINERS

Live Review

Town Hall, Birmingham (2012)

Since 1962 The Dubliners have been bringing the traditional music and stories of Ireland to the rest of the world and now, as they celebrate their 50th year, it’s fair to say they are officially the grand-daddies of Irish folk music. 

The packed Town Hall, already in party mood because it was St Patrick’s Day, gave the gang of "Banjo" Barney McKenna, John Sheahan, Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell and Patsy Watchorn a roof-lifting welcome on stage. 
Into more than two hours they packed in their old favourites such as Seven Drunken Nights, Dirty Ol’ Town, Rare Oul Times, All For Me Grog and Eileen Og with poems and big screen videos paying tributes to the other founder members Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly and Ciaran Bourke, who are sadly no longer with us. 
Even the ailing Barney, who may be slow on his feet, is still just as adept when it comes to playing his famous banjo or squeezebox on tunes such as I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me and the melancholic Lamentation. 
In the half century since they first formed, in where else other than a Dublin pub, their influence not just on Irish music but on traditional folk music worldwide cannot be measured. 
The Birmingham audience, swathed in what seemed like 40 shades of green, lapped up the jigs and reels of Swallow’s Tail, St Patrick’s Day and Jackie Colman’s Reel.

THE DUBLINERS

Live Review

Town Hall, Birmingham (2010)

Other than sitting in a pub on O’Connell Street, Dublin then the next best way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day would be in the company of Irish folk legends The Dubliners

Though all well into their 60s the band’s passion for their music is not diminished and they kept the packed Town Hall audience enthralled for best part of three hours using a mixture of familiar tunes, video and poetry together with their own brand of Irish wit and observations. 
The night opened with familiar tunes such as The Banks Of The Roses, The Ferryman and the audience were soon clapping and stamping to the reels The Belfast Hornpipe and The Swallow’s Tail. 
A Time To Remember, the title of their latest album, lived up to its name recalling the members of the band who have died Luke Kelly, who had strong connections with Birmingham – some of his relatives who still live there were at the concert; Ciaran Bourke and most recently one of the founder members Ronnie Drew. 
Playing along to old footage of their dead colleagues John Shehan on fiddle and penny whistle, Barney McKenna on banjo and melodeon, Sean Cannon on guitar, Eamonn Campbell on lead guitar and Patsy Watchorn on banjo and bodhran showed the versatility and talent which has made them one of the greatest names in Irish folk. 
The appreciative crowd lapped up old favourites such as Maids When You’re Young, Kelly The Boy From Killane, The Auld Triangle, Finnegan’s Wake, Whiskey In The Jar and The Wild Rover. 
Brought back on for two encores, with poor old Barney never really getting chance to leave the stage properly anyway, The Dubliners showed they are prepared to defy time, and in the words of Mr McKenna - when asked should they call it a day he replied “It’s too late to stop now.” Let’s hope it always is.

THE SAW DOCTORS

CD Review

To Win Just Once, The Best of The Saw Doctors (2009) 

In one sense the boys from the west of Ireland are too late as in these days of downloads and iplayers of every kind, their fans have already created their own album of their best songs. 

However, that won’t stop the Docs’ worldwide and incredibly loyal fan base from lapping up this album. Quite apart from enjoying every track fans will enjoy arguing over which tracks were and which ones should have been included. Even the band themselves handed over the responsibility to impressario Dave Robinson. 
There are tracks which won’t cause any argument such as the one Dave Carton and Leo Moran have turned into the Doc’s signature tune N17, for those not in the know - N17 is the Tuam road in to and out of Galway. 
There is the Green and Red of Mayo, the Irish record-breaking track I Useta Love Her, Clare Island, Joyce Country Ceili Band, Sing A Powerful Song, Same Oul Town, Red Cortina, Hay Wrap and Never Mind the Strangers all of which deserve a place on this CD. 
But let’s face it, with every Docs’ song having the kind of lyrics which are so observant of life and so wonderfully singalongable then every fan will be able to pick one and belt it out along with the CD – we can only hope it doesn’t take another 20 years to produce the greatest hits album. 
To Win Just Once is on the Sham Town label and The Saw Doctors. See Sawdoctors.com for more information.

LISA MILLS

Live Review

Robin 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton (2012)

Alabama blues player, Lisa Mills must be one of the music industry’s best kept secrets. 

She has talent and stage presence in bucket loads with a versatile, soulful and powerful voice which could hold its own against any of the great female singers including Janice Joplin, Aretha Franklin and Christina Aguilera. 
Even when the strings broke twice on the only guitar she had she was not fazed and banged out a cappella songs that could have rattled the structure of a football stadium let along the hangar which is the Robin. 
If you want to hear great blues songs such as Why Do I Still Love You, Sugar Coated Lovin’ and Way Down sung with incredible emotion that slides off her tongue like honey, you should find Lisa Mills and enjoy the blues how they should be sung. 

Kate Rusby

Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

Sitting regally like a queen on her throne welcoming her subjects, the heavily pregnant Kate Rusby finally made it to Wolverhampton after cancelling her Christmas show and gave a right royal performance. 
The northern lass, who is now in her 20th year of performing, has a down to earth girlish charm to go with her wonderfully distinctive voice and more than made up for the rescheduling of the concert. 
Songs such as Green Fields, Who Will Sing Me Lullabies, The Fairest of all Yarrow, Let the Cold Wind Blow and Wishing Wife, the tale of which she went to great lengths to convince of its veracity, kept her audience hanging on every note. 
Kate and her band is bringing out a compilation album to mark her two decades so it’s one to watch out for.

KATIE MELUA

Live Review

Symphony Hall, Birmingham (2011)

The little lady in black, Katie Melua, showed she is a performer of enormous talent and contrast to a nearly-packed symphony hall, switching seamlessly between rock chick, torch singer and playful songstress. 

Appearing first as a disembodied voice with her hit Closest Thing To Crazy the crystal clear tone of the Georgian singer sliced across the hall until it finally split the curtain to reveal the star looking both sexy and the innocent, girl next door. 
Katie opened up her vulnerable and torch singer side extolling the pain of love through tracks such as If You Were A Sailboat, the dark and slightly sinister I’d Love To Kill You - a track from her latest album The House, The One I Love Is Gone and Call Off The Search. 
This contrasted with her rock/blues chick side coming through on her cover of Canned Heat’s Going Up The Country and God On Drums, Devil On The Bass and as if to further demonstrate her versatility she did a solo and soulful rendition of Lilac Wine made famous by another female artist, Elkie Brooks. 
In between Katie let her more playful side take stage with Tiny Alien and Red Balloons, both accompanied, as were many of her songs, by videos and graphics projected onto the back screen. There wasn’t a great deal of stage theatrics or pyrotechnics but then when you have a voice as clear and refreshing as a mountain stream on a cold day you don’t need any embellishments. 
She kept her biggest hit to date, Nine Millions Bicycles, for one of her encore songs after an appreciative audience refused to budge until Miss Melua came back on stage, after which she finally said goodbye with the hauntingly sung I Cried For You.

GRETCHEN PETERS

Live Review

Robin 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton (2012)

Country-folk singer and native New Yorker Gretchen Peters certainly has an impressive track record and this leg of her tour promoting her latest and eighth album Hello Cruel World went down well with the packed Robin audience.

Her songs are a little more thoughtful and imaginative than the usual country fare of failed crops, broken hearts and faithful dogs but this said she isn’t the most exciting or charismatic of performers.
There are genuinely good lyrics which stick in the mind in some of her songs such as Woman on the Wheel, a song about the circus which opens with the line “There’s a man out here who puts his head in the mouth of a crocodile…”
But at other times her songs tend to slip in to clich├ę with lyrics such as “We think we’re walking on the moon, when we’re just dancing in the dark” and sometimes bordering on the bizarre with lines such as “a dog with a juicy bone, a sigh from a saxophone”.
There is no denying Peters’ talent however, and at the risk of angering her army of loyal fans here in the Black Country, after a while she gets a little monotonous and you feel yourself urging her to crank at least one song up a couple of notches just to get the circulation going in your toe-tapping foot. 
Gretchen Peters is safe middle of the road country-folk and there’s nothing wrong with that especially if you happen to be a lonely trucker on a long haul.

CHRISTY MOORE

Live Review

Birmingham Town Hall (2011)

The pretty much packed Birmingham venue seemed to bring out the best of the Kildare balladeer Christy Moore who, ably assisted by fellow guitarist Declan Sinnott, played for two hours solid for the appreciative crowd who lapped up every note.

Moore’s voice, as rich and creamy as the head of a well-poured Guinness, took his army of fans from a frenzy of clapping and wanting to join in with the familiar lyrics of songs such as Don’t Forget Your Shovel to reducing them to silent awe with a wonderfully moving and A Capella rendition of Spancil Hill.
With some light heckling from the crowd Moore warmed to his audience even giving in to shouts of Joxer which he duly played with gusto but pulled the plug when others thought they could control the concert with his friendly putdown of “I’m not a feckin' jukebox.”
Moore mostly kept away from the more familiar anthems which even those outside his army of fans may know but delighted the crowd nonetheless with hauntingly lyrical renditions of The Cliffs of Dooneen, Ride On, So Do I and Does The Train Stop at Merseyside.
There were of course the old guitar hammering songs Lisdoonvana, Ordinary Man and Yellow Triangle and just to make sure he was covering all the bases he even threw in the Christmas song of Fairytale of New York just for good measure at Easter as part of the encore.

CHRISTY MOORE

Live Review

Symphony Hall, Birmingham (2009)

If there is such a thing as guitar abuse then the Kildare balladeer Christy Moore is the worst offender, but that just goes to show his passion for playing live has not diminished even after more than 40 years of touring.

Giving the pretty-much packed Symphony Hall crowd what they wanted straight away with old favourite, Go, Move, Shift Christy showed he still knows how to work the audience. 
He continued to please with more renditions so familiar to his army of loyal fans - some of who have followed him around the country - Don’t Forget Your Shovel, Triangle, The Voyage, The Cliffs of Dooneen, Only Our Rivers Run Free but also songs from his latest album Listen, including the title track. 
Christy even showed his bhodran skills with Well Below the Valley, thumping the drum just as manically as he does his guitar strings. 
He threw in Biko Drum, Does This Train Stop on Merseyside – a track on his latest album, Delirium Tremens, The Magdalene Laundries and the song penned by Bobby Sands McIlhaton all of which were clearly appreciated by his fans who brought him back for an encore with a standing ovation. 
For almost two hours the Irish axeman rattled off a continuous stream of ballads - taking only one break to allow his fellow musician Declan Sinnot to give his rendition of I Will - which is not bad for a man the “wrong” side of 60.

KATE NASH

Live Review

My Best Friend Is You (2010)

The unique voice of Kate Nash is back with her second album My Best Friend Is You, which has a very 1960s, feel about it and shows her maturity and versatility are coming to the fore.

Some of the songs on the 13 track album are not for the faint hearted with Nash especially pulling no punches in her explicit and expletive rant Mansion song which lifts the lid on an exploitative industry.
You can hear Nash experimenting with light-hearted sounds such as on Later On and mixing music styles which, remarkably, her singing style that has a neutrality is able to taking on the hue of the track. 
From the punk-like Take Me To A Higher Plane to the old style rock ‘n’ roll of Kiss That Grrrl Nash’s voice stamps her unmistakeable style on each track.
The album includes the hit single Do-Wah-Doo which more than any track has got that beehive feel about it. One of the best tracks on the album is Early Christmas Present with its catchy rhythm and clever lyrics which are more than reminiscent of the late great Kirsty McColl.
My Best Friend Is You is on the Industry Green label.

Two Time Polka

All Roots

When you get an Irish band from Cork, which sings in American and French and plays Cajun you know you have encountered something different.

Folk band Two Time Polka which recently played at the Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton are carving themselves a niche in playing a smattering of world music while focussing mainly on their version of the Cajun sound.
This is the sort of venture that could go seriously wrong unless you have the calibre of musicians to pull it off, fortunately TTP have.
All Roots shows off superbly the range and skills of musicians Tomas Dunne, Geraldine Barron, James O’Sullivan, Leon Barron, Dave Jones and the incredibly talented Ray Barron.
This is one of those albums which defy you not to start tapping your feet. All the tracks have that strong rhythm which seems to get under your skin. One of the best tracks on the album is Get Up John which, if you want to see some expert mandolin playing, then Ray Barron is best seen on youtube because his skill with the instrument has to be seen to be believed.
This album is a wonderfully eclectic collection of American-sound folk music from the depression-like Hiram Hubbard to the more honky tonk sound of Too Hip, Gotta Go.
Geraldine Barron’s skill with an accordian is excellently showcased on the Cajun sound of the opening track Bosco Stomp, however, and at the risk of sound clich├ęd, TTP is one of the those bands that is best appreciated through a live performance.
To buy the album go to www.thelivingtradition.com and for more information about the band go to www.twotimepolka.com or email info@twotimepolka.com.

BLAZIN' FIDDLES

Live Review

Birmingham Town Hall (2010)

You will be hard pressed to find fiddlers who play their instruments with more enthusiasm, gusto or expertise than the six members of Scottish folk band Blazin’ Fiddles.

Their informal but faultless playing turned the Town Hall into a traditional folk club reminiscent of people gathering in the Scottish highlands and islands, from where the band originate, to enjoy an evening of music and merrymaking.
This said, folk music was never played quite like this with Bruce MacGregor in full flight hammering his instrument, like Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen, through a series of reels and jigs.
MacGregor, the driving force behind the band’s mission to keep alive the diverse sounds of fiddle playing from the wilds of Scotland, is more than matched by fellow fiddlers Allan Henderson, Iain MacFarlane, Jenna Reid - the most recent band member - Anna Massie, who also doubles up on guitar and Frank Zappa lookalike Andy Thorburn who provides the keyboard.
Blazin’ Fiddles moved easily from reels and jigs to slow airs and self-penned renditions produced in the style of the Scottish folk tradition.
Few if any of the tunes will be familiar to anyone other than folk fans and followers of the band. but their enthusiasm for their music had the half full hall stomping and clapping like it was Hogmany.