Sunday 17 August 2014


Live Review

Various Artists

The Newhampton Arts Centre in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton once again played host to the latest collection of talented acoustic musicians from around the Midlands.

Lee Ford
Brought together by the Amphlett brothers under the banner of Baddies Boogie the bill opener was singer/songwriter Lee Ford from Stafford.
Ford is a pretty cool, laid back singer and guitarist who performs his own ballads which are very easy on the ear. His songs and guitar technique are solid and impeccable; simple but effective and he has an honest and likeable voice.
He looks like an ordinary bloke and plays like one too, he doesn't have the most powerful or a particularly standout voice but he doesn't try to imitate or sound like anything other than he is, which is extremely refreshing.
His performance was followed by Walsall's Leah Jaine Astbury another singer guitarist who is from the Paloma Faith, Adele etc clone camp.
Astbury has a good strong voice which has a definite clarity and you get the sense that with her seemingly effortless singing she has unlimited vocal power to call upon.
There were a few minor glitches in her performance, mostly with the guitar playing but nothing major or that wrecked the set.
Astbury did do a lovely cover of Sam Smith's Stay With Me where she showed she definitely has soul in her voice and there is a good range in there. She hit the high notes without any effort at all and she could have probably held them until doomsday had she needed to.
She did also produce an impressive cover of The Only Exception from Paramore, her sharp vocals suited the track perfectly but again she seemed to struggle with some of the chords on her guitar.
Leah Jaine Astbury
The former Shire Oak and Walsall College student went out with a pretty emotive version of Bob Dylan's much covered Make You Feel My Love.
Also from Walsall, although, in complete contrast was Jon Hubbard who certainly has some personality with his cheeky chappie stage persona.
He speaks with a broad, local accent, where he admitted he was "kakin'" himself because he was up on stage alone. His singing style seems to be a confusion of styles which range from sounding like one of the Gallaghers to a weird Jaifakecan sound.
Hubbard started off with Walking to the End of the World and it did have that Britpop sound to it. He does have a lively, catchy way of performing which is infectious and while he does sound like a lot singers he doesn't sound like one individual which gives him a fractured style.
It has to be said you can't fault his performance or this enthusiasm when on stage. You can tell he has been heavily influenced by bands such as Oasis and there is even the occasional drift into sounding like Bob Marley. But it does give him an unusual sound and he does exude a confidence when performing.
Jon Hubbard
There is real depth to Hubbard's singing and you can tell, in spite of his self-deprecating manner, he is really at home on stage.
Not surprisingly he went out on a cover version of Noel Gallagher's acoustic version of Live Forever and while it wasn't a bad rendition it did sound a little laboured.
Next up was Andy Bowater aka The Rambling Man, possibly because he never stays still while performing, not only does he swing from side to side to the beat of his playing but he also repeatedly walks up and downstage to and from the mic.
Bowater's was definitely the most unusual act of the night. With a percussionist/vocalist and an electric guitarist, whom he never introduced, he produced a sound which was something akin to what an acoustic set would sound like were it produced by the BBC radiophonic workshop.
Between them they produced an interesting sound but it did make you ask would Bowater have been any less enjoyable without the sound produced by the electronic gizmos as his couple of solo numbers didn't seem to lack anything with just his voice and guitar.
Andy "Rambling Man" Bowater
One of the problems which affected the act was something which happened pretty much all night in that the sound engineering was unbalanced and consequently the sound of the instruments was overbearing.
Bowater has a melancholic style of singing which does have a slight hint of Ed Sheeran about it.
Unfortunately, the sound problems were clearly evident with the act finishing off the night, Midnight Sun, which is Sophie Watts from Stourbridge and Kidderminster's Jack Cleaver.
In their opener Cleaver's guitar playing just blew Watts' singing off the stage and there was an unnecessary echo effect left on from the previous act which didn't help things. It was not Cleaver's fault, he is a damn good guitarist but the sound engineering was all to cock.
Watts has a standout voice but even she struggled to hold her own against the whacked up sound of
Cleaver's guitar.
The last time she sang her cover version of This Love by Maroon5 at a Baddies Boogie gathering Watts was able to soar over the noisy audience but this time she mostly lost the battle against the loudness of the guitar.
Sophie Watts and Jack Cleaver
aka Midnight Sun
She has a really versatile voice with a good range and which holds its precision at either end of the scale but it was lost a little this time through no fault of her own.
The balance was slightly better for their version of Teenage Dirtbag which seems to be coming something of a signature tune for the duo.
It was only when you go towards the end of her cover version of John Legend's All of Me and Cleaver took the strumming right down that you really got a feel for how lush her voice can be when singing such a slow ballad.
It was unfortunate really that the sound was not right on the night because once again Baddies produced a bill where there wasn't really a bad act and, once again, reaffirmed that there is a great pool of young and diverse talent right here in the Midlands.

The Mike Harding Folk Show

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