Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Union Chapel, London, 16th January 2017

Serendipity – it happens all the time, that accidental crossing of life’s tentative threads that seem to indicate something significant when a connection is made. Travelling in London by train one inevitably comes into contact with the free newspapers, and tonight the Standard is proclaiming the death of the £300K home. Seems there has been a steady decline in such houses, deemed affordable because a couple both on average salary who have scraped together a significant deposit can escape crippling rents by purchasing such a dwelling on a slightly less crippling mortgage. Not anymore. There’s only one part of London where the average house price falls into this category – Barking. Whether the Bard of Barking is aware of this I don’t know – but he was in London (with Joe Henry) to sing songs about trains. Continue reading “Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Union Chapel, London, 16th January 2017”

Margo Price @Celtic Connections with Aaron Lee Tasjan – Oran Mor, Glasgow: 24th January 2017

Bold as brass, Margo Price commanded centre stage on her Scottish debut. Wearing a figure hugging mini dress seemingly made from the same material as the ruby red slippers in Wizard of Oz, fishnet tights and thigh high boots she certainly was the centre of attention.  Now this isn’t a fashion review and generally one would avoid describing in detail an artist’s costume however, as a statement, Price’s attire spoke volumes. True rhinestone glamour that reeked of bar bands playing in roadhouse bars to disinterested drinkers, the singer clinging to dreams of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton and dressing up for a few dollars a night: you never know, a music row scout might pop in for a quick drink. Continue reading “Margo Price @Celtic Connections with Aaron Lee Tasjan – Oran Mor, Glasgow: 24th January 2017”

Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys @Celtic Connections with Louise Bichan. Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow: 21st January 2017

Perhaps due to their previous encounter with Celtic music culture via their attendance at The Shetland Island Folk Festival in 2015 Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys approached their first Celtic Connections with some fervour. Their sold out show on the third night of this year’s festival was actually their third appearance having performed at Thursday’s opening celebrations and then pitching up for Friday’s Late Night Sessions (although it was Saturday by the time they came on stage). Thankfully there was no evidence of burnout or alcohol fuelled ennui when they took to the stage tonight as they parlayed their modern take on bluegrass with Lindsay Lou in fine voice and the guys in the band pretty much on fire as they skipped around the mic and swapped instruments. Continue reading “Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys @Celtic Connections with Louise Bichan. Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow: 21st January 2017”

Hurray For The Riff Raff @ Celtic Connections with Roseanne Reid. Drygate, Glasgow: 20th January 2017

It was probably a given that many of the acts appearing at this year’s Celtic Connections will have a public opinion of sorts on the 45th President of The United States. No real surprise then, on the day of his inauguration, that Hurray For The Riff Raff’s Alynda Lee Segarra was at times angry, fiercely proud in her opposition and then visibly upset at the prospect of his term. As a Puerto Rican gay woman she is firmly in the potential firing line here but she’s never shied away from political statements and she’s certainly not going to start now. Continue reading “Hurray For The Riff Raff @ Celtic Connections with Roseanne Reid. Drygate, Glasgow: 20th January 2017”

Live: Ben Kunder & Sarah MacDougall – York House Concerts, 26th November, 2016

Image: Chris Priest

Playing as a duo in the round over split sets to an enthusiastic, if older, red wine sipping crowd Kunder and MacDougall win the room with, I would guess, a previously unknown set of songs, Kunder’s album, ‘Golden’ is one of the best of 2016 and its taught songwriting is always going to come away with the spoils. MacDougall, finger picked Martin and double denim, with songs about growing up reading Pippi Longstocking, living in the Yukon is full of unusual phrases and a very confused (and confusing) accent, reel the punters in, easily hooked.  Kunder is a wonderful blend of Young, Taylor, Simon and Van Morrison – he’s a hell of a songwriter, and his first trip to the UK is a definite success.  Continue reading “Live: Ben Kunder & Sarah MacDougall – York House Concerts, 26th November, 2016”

Radical Face, The Scala, London – Tuesday 22nd November 2016

The Scala’s stage had been transformed into a magical winter forest – with bare skeletal trees adorned with tiny lights and a drifting mist from the smoke machine making for a Narnian backdrop for both Radical Face and their opener Austin Basham. In a checked shirt and bearded, of course, and sporting a wholly unnecessary – given the rising temperature in the Scala – woolly hat Austin Basham had the appearance of a woodsman, his axe in this case being an acoustic guitar. Continue reading “Radical Face, The Scala, London – Tuesday 22nd November 2016”

Jon Boden: The Stables, Wavendon – Wednesday 9th October 2016

On his first solo tour the erstwhile voice and frontman of Bellowhead, Jon Boden, has not lost his flair for the dramatic.  There’s a variety of stage lighting, and props: ragged looking speakers and decorative battered loud speakers as well as the tour image -Jon Boden as Icarus lifted on wings made from violins. This last is present as a larger than life silhouette suspended over the back of the stage, to be lit to match the moods of the songs. Continue reading “Jon Boden: The Stables, Wavendon – Wednesday 9th October 2016”

Andy Irvine: Baldock and Letchworth Blues, Folk and Roots Club, Baldock – 19th October 2016

Perched precariously on a collapsible stage barely large enough for his four bouzoukis, bag of harmonicas and himself – Andy Irvine looks surprisingly comfortable. This in spite of the perils experienced by those sat in the front row of the unusually full side room of The Orange Tree pub where the Baldock and Letchworth Blues, Folk and Roots Club meets. Continue reading “Andy Irvine: Baldock and Letchworth Blues, Folk and Roots Club, Baldock – 19th October 2016”

AMA-UK Awards Nomination Party: Gibson Studios, London – 15th November 2016

The Christmas lights in Oxford Street are certainly pretty this year – simple glowing globes all done the centre of the street, their supports hidden in the gathering dark so they appear to hang unsuspended in the night. I’d show you a picture, but I forgot to pick up my camera before leaving. It was just as well, as it would have just gotten wet – I’d decided to gamble on it not raining and so had left my coat as well. I lost that bet. Which is a shame as I ended up wandering around for almost an hour in the drizzle as I’d got the start time wrong. So your intrepid reporter eventually approached the doors to the Gibson Studio with some trepidation Continue reading “AMA-UK Awards Nomination Party: Gibson Studios, London – 15th November 2016”

Uncle Lucius: Fat Lils, Witney. 1st November 2016

Fat Lil’s is a small club in Witney. Here were a hundred or so people prepared to sit, listen and applaud appropriately, knowingly and loudly. The supporting band Curse of Lono got the gig off to a perfect start. Here were an up and coming London band who had accompanied Uncle Lucius on a short tour of Europe beforehand and, according to them, had learned a great deal from the experience. Watch out for their EP and make all attempts to see them. I certainly will.

Anyway, Uncle Lucius are named, apparently after an old friend of the band, an eccentric old man named Lucius from down in the Louisiana swamps. The band members, all outstanding as part of a team, are Kevin Galloway, powerful vocalist, (though they all sing); Michael Carpenter, important role as lead guitar; Josh Greco on drums; Jon Brossman, keys, and Nigel Frye on bass. They are all involved in the song writing process and singing and their music making is co-ordinated and very effective. Relaxing before the gig, next door in the small restaurant, there was already something impressive about them. Continue reading “Uncle Lucius: Fat Lils, Witney. 1st November 2016”