Paul Cauthen + Fenella + Julen Santamaria, Broadcast, Glasgow, 17th June 2019

Last time Texan Paul Cauthen was around these parts he was riding solo but this first date of a short UK tour found him with a posse of armed and dangerous Dallas cowboys well able to kick up a ruckus and lay down some deadly country music. With Rolling  Stone debuting Cauthen’s audacious video for ‘Cocaine Country Dancing‘, the first song to be released from his forthcoming ‘Room 41’ album, just a few days before the show, appetites were whetted for the full band experience and we were not disapointed. Continue reading “Paul Cauthen + Fenella + Julen Santamaria, Broadcast, Glasgow, 17th June 2019”

Topic Records 80th Birthday Party, The Barbican, London, 7th June 2019

At 80 years of age Topic Records is the world’s oldest Independent Record label – and if it hasn’t been called Topic for the whole of that time there is at least a good continuity all the way back to the first recording by the Workers Music Association. In 1939 they released ‘The man who waters the workers’ beer‘ by Paddy Ryan, and bar the odd World War they haven’t looked back. Well, of course they have looked back – being at the cutting edge of the folk revival meant that Topic recorded a vast amount of old songs, as well as becoming the record release vehicle for the likes of Ewan MacColl. Old and new has ever been the way of folk, and the evening’s musical director – Eliza Carthy – captured that sense with a diverse series of musicians playing individual short sets, and then being the backing band for others, as the evening progressed. Continue reading “Topic Records 80th Birthday Party, The Barbican, London, 7th June 2019”

Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets + Sinead Burgess, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 9th June 2019

One dictionary definition of ‘perfection’ states that it is, “a state, variously, of completeness, flawlessness, or supreme excellence.” It is doubtful whether anyone at Nick Lowe’s sold out show tonight would have any hesitation in applying that definition to the man himself. From his earliest beginnings with Kippington Lodge and Brinsley Schwarz, it has always been apparent that Nick Lowe has a talent. His involvement with Stiff, and later Radar Records served to further underline that. However, the 1994 release of his ‘The Impossible Bird’ LP marked the beginning of a series of albums that have singled him out as one of the great British songwriters. Never one to stand still, Nick Lowe arrived tonight on the back of last year’s ‘Tokyo Bay’ single and this year’s ‘Love Starvation’ EP. On both releases Lowe is accompanied by Nashville instrumentalists Los Straitjackets and it’s they who are his current touring band. Continue reading “Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets + Sinead Burgess, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 9th June 2019”

Fabrizio Cammarata, The Sebright Arms, London, 29th May 2019

There was something ill fitting about Fabrizio Cammarata and his Euro entourage holed up deep within the vaults of this back alley retreat for beatnutz and shoegazers that is the Sebright Arms, way out in the frayed, albeit regenerating,  back pockets of Hackney. His recent album, ‘Lights’ has been well received since it was scrapped and rewritten during a period of inner conflict, the result being much more of a ‘band’ sound than the singer/songwriter we’ve known before. Perhaps the tour venues were chosen with this in mind as Fabrizio came charging out of the blocks with a toughened up, rock ‘n’ roll infused version of the all-new Fabrizio Cammarata. Continue reading “Fabrizio Cammarata, The Sebright Arms, London, 29th May 2019”

Jesse Dayton, Sebright Arms, London, 7th June, 2019

With reports that around only 30 folk had attended his Manchester show two days earlier, there was some concern that the numbers for this Jesse Dayton performance in the East End of London would also prove on the low side, so it was somewhat reassuring to see increasing numbers of people wandering downstairs into the cavern-like setting of the Sebright Arms shortly after Russ Tolman had finished his set – particularly seeing as Dayton had already played at Red Rooster the previous Friday and the ‘Country on a Sunday’ festival in Putney last weekend. Continue reading “Jesse Dayton, Sebright Arms, London, 7th June, 2019”

Carson McHone, the Borderline, London, 30th May 2019

Well into a 40 date tour, Carson McHone proved tonight exactly why Loose Records invested time and effort in recruiting her to their record label at the back end of 2018. Resplendent in a white two piece suit and semi-matching black and white guitar, it was about the only stylised part of the performance – the rest of the evening a perfect demonstration of the honky tonk tradition, but one artfully updated for the modern era. Having played an extensive European tour that’s included a range of venues such as hotel lobbies and cultural arts centres, McHone says the Borderline is a space she can really get into, which is even more poignant given its impending closure.
Continue reading “Carson McHone, the Borderline, London, 30th May 2019”

Tyler Ramsey, St Pancras Old Church, London, 20th May 2019

As they had an hour earlier for support Alex Carson, the sounds of cans cracking open greeted Tyler Ramsey as he made his way on stage at this wonderfully intimate London venue. Tyler Ramsey is tall and rangy, with a beard almost as long as his hair but when he strapped on his acoustic guitar it becomes obvious that here was a man who was here to play. Launching immediately into the extended instrumental ‘Raven Shadow‘ showed off his fantastic finger-picking, and when it merged seamlessly into ‘1,000 Blackbirds‘ Tyler Ramsey filled the pin-drop silent space with evocative music that felt as old as the building it was being performed in. There’s a true mystical folk imagery to the refrain “I call a thousand Blackbirds to come raining from the sky, three hundred for your trouble, three hundred one for mine, and for the pain I caused you three hundred ninety nine”, it just hangs there starkly as his guitar notes ring out. Continue reading “Tyler Ramsey, St Pancras Old Church, London, 20th May 2019”

Peter Bruntnell + Sophia Marshall, Gullivers, Manchester, 30th May 2019

Deciding whether to catch the support artist or not can be a bit of a lottery. Stay in the bar and you risk missing out on something special, roll up and you can end up shuffling around and feigning interest as some plucky trier tests the limits of your attention span. Tonight’s winners were certainly  those that abandoned their comfy seat in favour of catching  Leicester based singer-songwriter Sophia Marshall. Formally one half of the Havenots, Marshall possesses a captivating voice which she put to fine use in delivering some beautifully crafted songs. Drafting in her band, the set began with the acapella ‘Drunken Sailor’ which immediately served notice that this was no ordinary performer. There then followed a series of exquisite compositions that deserve to be heard on a bigger stage. With the ability to write such wonderful songs as ‘Beauty Sleep’, ‘Sarah’s Room’ and the superb concluding ‘Wasted Days’, it might be questioned as to why Marshall decided to include three covers in her short set. Continue reading “Peter Bruntnell + Sophia Marshall, Gullivers, Manchester, 30th May 2019”

Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London, 24th May 2019

A gig with bongo, flute, trumpet, trombone and saxophone solos, delivered in the context of a street party atmosphere, is offering something truly different. A busy and buoyant crowd packed into the O2 Forum to experience Little Steven’s ‘Summer of Sorcery’ tour and was transported away from a grey evening in London to a bustling carnival, celebrating love, unity and summer warmth. Continue reading “Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London, 24th May 2019”

Firefly Burning + Samantha Whates, St Pancras Old Church, London, 22nd May 2019

This ‘working’ church, in a small parkland oasis between Camden Town and Kings Cross, is a truly apt venue for this sort of music, Firefly Burning being described by some as a “minimalist avant-pop alt-folk ensemble.” The church’s elegant windows let in the sinking daylight and impending dusk with the set closing shortly after night has fully fallen. The band, fronted by lead vocalist Bea Hankey, are marking their 10th anniversary as a going concern as well as tying the gig into the imminent release of a new album, ‘Breathe Shallow’. Continue reading “Firefly Burning + Samantha Whates, St Pancras Old Church, London, 22nd May 2019”