Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Wild Ponies - Radiant : No Evil Records



Not only do East Nashville based duo, Wild Ponies put on excellent shows, they are also in the game of making exceedingly thoughtful and interesting records. RADIANT is the second album released under the band moniker Doug and Telisha Williams have decided to use and it does a fine job in defining the musical ethos that comes across in their live shows. A multitude of shades paint the façade and interior of this record, while shaping a style which reflects their influences, principles and outlook.

The short gap between US and Europe release dates has heightened the anticipation for this album and it is sure to prove a popular buy during the duo’s current run of UK dates. This includes an appointment at the Maverick Festival; a perfect all round fit for Wild Ponies. Many of the eleven tracks had a preview on the last tour towards the end of 2015 with the reception being positive upon first listen. The recorded versions have lived up to the early promise with the four musicians assigned to the production adding finesse to a sound not afraid to hop between tempos and focus.

The writing input is an exciting mix of the acclaimed and the familiar with co-writes generally ruling the roost. Among the names joining Doug and Telisha on the credits include Robby Hecht, Amy Speace and Amelia White, all artists who have been active with records of their own over here in the last couple of years. Amelia, who is also playing this year’s Maverick Festival, actually contributed on two songs: ‘Home is Where the Road Goes’ and the sassy ‘Big Blue Sun’. One song on the album where Doug and Telisha didn’t seek any help is the strong closer ‘Love is Not a Sin’ which is an impassioned response to the significant changes that have occurred with same sex marriages.

Photo by Nielson Hubbard
This was of one of the distinctly memorable songs previewed at shows last year alongside album opener ‘Born with a Broken Heart’ and ‘Unplug the Machine’. The first of these has the helping writing hand of Amy Speace and generally comes across as a leisurely dark and moody song. On first listen it sounded like an Angaleena Presley composition both vocally and in song structure, and repeat plays confirm this. The second is packed with straight up rock vibes and is an unashamed assault on the overbearing presence technology can have on our lives. Not a track to be filmed at gigs, if you’re that way inclined.

The pondering and evocative vocals of Telisha are prevalent throughout the record with a neat interjection from Doug on the jaunty effort ‘Mom and Pop’, also packed with groovy guitar. Both vocal inclusions have a distinct personality to the voices with Telisha exuding oodles of southern mystique.

Musically the album reaches across several barriers with steel providing some delicate touches, Doug’s electric guitar periodically letting loose and Telisha’s double bass keeping immaculate time.

The title track ‘Radiant’ is worthy of mention and not just for its origin. Doug and Telisha were bowled over by a set of lyrics from the twelve year old Mariah Moore that they encountered while on a project and suitably turned them into a high quality temperate track. At the other end of the scale is Nashville A list songwriter Sally Barris who contributed to the gorgeous soothing lullaby ‘The Night We Never Met’, one with reassuring serenading qualities and loads of steel.

Wild Ponies have served up a treat for new and old fans alike with the surfacing of RADIANT. This dedicated release has all the nuances of an album subtly encompassing the best parts of a record seeped in the genres of country, folk, alt-rock and roots. Doug and Telisha Williams make damn good music and it’s a pleasure that opportunity has presented itself to ensure it is internationally available, both in person and on record. 


Maverick Festival Preview Update. July 1st to July 3rd 2016



The signal to start planning for the Maverick Festival arrived with the unveiling of the full weekend schedule. This announcement coincided with the revealing of a whole raft of new names, to without doubt make this the most extensive line up of Americana/roots artists on the summer festival circuit. Unfortunately it was announced that Los Pacaminos had pulled out of the event, yet this was compensated by an enhanced depth to the range of artists scheduled which is probably the festival’s defining feature.

To stock up on the home grown talent on offer, it was a case of the old and the new. The most eye catching addition was Yola Carter who will play the Barn on Friday evening in one of the prime slots. Yola has been gathering praise as a solo artist in recent times and her style of soulful blues will add an extra dimension to the weekend sound. Making their Maverick debuts alongside Yola are Scottish artist Daniel Meade bringing his stomping brand of honky tonk roots south of the border and English singer-songwriter Robert Vincent, the inaugural recipient of the AMA UK Bob Harris emerging artist award earlier this year. Peter Bruntnell is no stranger to the festival and there is a 100% guarantee that his set will rock the Sweet Home Alabama stage late on Saturday afternoon.

Wild Ponies
On the subject of artists to raise the tempo and inject a dose of rock into the proceedings, Seattle based alt-country rockers Massy Ferguson have been invited back after impressing everyone two years ago. Once again they will grace the outside Sweet Home Alabama stage on Saturday lunch time, no doubt playing songs from their new album. In contrast, three other recently confirmed artists from America make their Maverick debut and will play eagerly awaited sets. Carter Sampson is the proud owner of an excellent new record titled WILDER SIDE and for thirty minutes on Saturday afternoon the Barn will succumb to the wonderful earthy sounds of Oklahoma. Husband and wife duo the Wild Ponies will also be playing Maverick for the first time and are beginning to grow their UK following on the back of several recent visits. Amelia White is another new artist perfectly equipped with the Maverick sound. Her couple of sets spread over the weekend is an example of the smart scheduling which partially alleviates the unfortunate scenario of artist clashes.

The first part of Friday evening in the Peacock Café is designated as a Canada Day celebration and although not part of the trio of acts playing then, Ottawa based artist Lynne Hanson is a worthy inclusion to the line-up. The Barn on Saturday afternoon is one of the recommended places to be when Lynne and her band The Good Intentions take to the stage.

Just a quick word on a further couple of themes inserted into the scheduling, Britt Gully hosts the Jimmie Rodgers tribute in the Barn late on Friday evening and the sound of New Orleans is celebrated in the 'Crescent City Comes to Maverick' presentation on the Moonshine stage on Saturday. As previously mentioned at the festival launch and in the initial preview piece, Sam Outlaw, Robyn Hitchcock and Jon Langford are among the higher profile artists appearing over the weekend.

As in previous years the Maverick Festival will have a twin appeal for folks heading to its Suffolk location. Serious music fans can really get their teeth into the wealth of acts scheduled, while more casual observers can add the splendid idyllic surroundings of Easton Farm Park to what always ends up to be a weekend to treasure. Maverick continues to be the most cost effective event on the festival circuit and on the evidence of the last eight years, 2016 promises to be every bit as good.






TICKET PRICES:

Tickets are available from www.ticketweb.co.uk // www.maverickfestival.co.uk

Ranger £85.00
Weekend ticket with admission to all stages and includes up to TWO nights camping FRIDAY and SATURDAY

Wrangler £65.00
Weekend ticket with admission to all stages No Camping

Rustler £39.00
Day ticket, Saturday only

Nighthawk £25.00
Friday night only

Holy Roller £20.00
Sunday only

Tenderfoot £15.00
Children 10-15 yrs, under 10's go free 

Monday, 13 June 2016

Hannah Aldridge + Lilly Hiatt - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Sunday 12th June 2016

This was a show of many highlights. Two gifted songwriters answering a call to destiny while determine to overcome the perils of life’s obstacles. They both possess the burning desire to share their experiences, observations and feelings. Perhaps song writing and performing is a form of therapy that finds a willing audience ready to finance a journey through words and music. Whatever connects an articulate performer and active listener was prevalent in the Kitchen Garden Café this evening. Hannah Aldridge and Lilly Hiatt play music of the soul in a way that captivates a tuned-in audience leaving a trail of awe, satisfaction and belief that straight from the gut music is full of intense appeal.

Poignant moments endlessly flowed from a show that inevitably adopted a shared platform feel. The overseas touring experience, vocal presence and dominant poise edged Hannah in the billing stakes, yet Lilly wasted little time in stripping back the tracks of a brand new album to reveal a song writer of supreme talent. Together they ironically united for a rendition of Lilly’s ‘Somebody’s Daughter’ and jointly celebrated the work of a hero when spilling out a version of Gillian Welch’s ‘Look at Miss Ohio’. Those were key moments for starters as both individual sets hit on common themes akin with the deep feelings of a lyricist.

Two songs continually wrestle with the strong emotions of the listener when Hannah Aldridge hits town. ‘Black and White’ evokes a tough bond between mother and son with an inner strength surfacing amongst a superlative melody. ‘Parchman’ may have a third person origin, but is written and performed so entwined in character that it leaves a convincing impression. Not to be outdone in the melody stakes, Lilly Hiatt’s ‘Royal Blue’ regally makes a golden journey from performer to listener, while ‘Get This Right’ successfully finds an acoustic home in the absence of a full band accompaniment.

Similarities are aplenty between these two singer-songwriters and not just the wisely underplayed genetic heritage. They’re both soaked to the bone in Southern writing folklore and seemingly possess an independent spirit to find their own answers. From a Nashville base they strike out to a lot of places east, west and south, fuelled by travel, history and context. Life’s travails are turned into song writing positives and they’re both embedded in the spirit of Americana.

The contrasts are not limited to a visual observation and use of vocals. Lilly has successfully released a new album which is currently having a European renewal, while Hannah’s determination to follow up her well-received debut record is about to enter the final stages of fruition.The increased familiarity of Hannah’s unreleased new songs only adds to the anticipation of their status being updated, especially as they’ve been previewed on repeat occasions. The full band treatment and slight rock direction of them will shed more light on Hannah’s ability to ease through the styles of the South.

Lilly has grasped this opportunity to join Hannah on tour with suggested relish. Her story telling mark has been left on the calling cards of being stranded in Texarkana during ‘3 Days’ and the relaxed nature of introducing ‘Jesus Would’ve Let Me Pick the Restaurant’ in Europe. There is an optimism that this transatlantic arrangement can flourish in the foreseeable future.

It is probably fitting to leave the final words with Hannah who has made such a defined impression with European audiences over the last two years. Tonight’s unplugged version of ‘Howling Bones’ was another successful attempt to connect with an intimate crowd eager to buy into her take on art. However it was her description of ‘pouring out your guts music’ which resonated strongly and, that proverbial nail may just have had its final hammer blow. 




www.lillyhiatt.com

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Jinney Ring Folk Festival - Hanbury, Worcestershire. Saturday 11th June 2016

With a rolling backdrop of Worcestershire’s green fields, the 2016 outdoor festival season kicked off in the beautiful setting of the Jinney Ring Craft Centre’s grounds. It was a low key beginning, illuminated by the scheduling of two acclaimed artists appearing with the sure fire guarantee of impressing in terms of their talented versatility. Sam Carter and Lucy Ward duly confirmed their high profile billing to top a day where the weather gods eventually decided to show a little mercy on the folk fans gathering for this quaint festival.

Although organised as a two day event for the camping fraternity, the music was essentially confined to the Saturday with eight acts booked to frequent the single tented stage from noon till late. The majority of these represented the local scene within the county, covering several bases of a loosely defined folk genre.  

A few thoughts on those which created the most impression a bit later, but the first kind words need to be reserved for Lucy Ward who continues to show why discerning folk critics are right on the mark. For an hour as the sun set (it was a pity the two main acts weren’t allotted a little more time), Lucy gave another enchanting performance packed with feisty impassioned chat and bags of wonderful artistic invention. Whether accompanied by guitar, concertina or harmonium, the songs bristled with an enriched substance showcasing the aura that Lucy purveys as a solo artist.

The challenge is not to shed a tear for the plight of Bobby Barker in ‘Lion’ or not to be inspired by the passion of her conviction for change in ‘Bigger Than That’ and the requested ‘For the Dead Men’. A touch of on-stage eccentricity goes a long way to defining the magnetic charm of Lucy especially starting her set with visions of the end of the world in ‘The Last Pirouette’. The shade lightened considerably with a ratchetted down version of ‘Waterloo’ in honour of Lucy’s Eurovision obsession. Not to be outdone on celebrating the folk tradition, ‘Old Brown Hen’ and ‘King Willie’ were gustily sung thus showcasing the vocal versatility of this Derby-based singer-song writer – interpreter- multi instrumental musician.

Lucy’s energy, vibrancy and enthusiasm shine through her songs and if there’s a vocal vacancy to lead the song protest movement then a nominator and seconder won’t be difficult to find.

If personality and all-round aura play a significant part in Lucy Ward the performer, Sam Carter finds the optimum balance of matching the folk song ideal with the power of the electric guitar. To be fair Sam does excel when armed with the acoustic variety as well, but there is something special when he ventures down the folk rock road. A journey which continues to accumulate praise especially with the Richard Thompson connection and the False Lights project.

In contrast to Lucy, Sam has a brand new album just released and this evening’s performance brought by the Sam Carter Trio yielded several tracks from HOW THE CITY SINGS. Differences between the two were the extent of inter song dialogue, although commissioned song writing is a common theme. This was also extended to the content and desire for more justice in this world.

Perhaps the defining mark of Sam’s, also too short, hour on stage was the band musical interaction featuring the trio completed by Evan Jenkins on drums and Matt Ridley on both electric and stand-up bass. They played a sensitive subtle role supporting Sam’s slower numbers before considerably stepping up when the signal came to ramp up the rock vibes. This guitar exhibition injected a renewed life into a festival as the afternoon gave way to the evening session.

Despite Sam and Lucy being the heavy bias subjects of this feature, the remainder of the festival programme was not short of merit in its own way. Unfortunately the first two acts were not witnessed due to prior commitments, but upon arrival interest was instantly aroused by the performance of folk-punk duo Jack of All. In line with much of the day’s content, protest music was in plentiful supply as this guitar-fiddle duo possessed all the excitement of the 80s heyday when The Levellers and New Model Army spearheaded an alternative take on some of society’s conventions. The moral though is the relevance then is just as high, if not more so, thirty years on.

Worcester-based trio Granny’s Attic was probably the pick of the four lower key acts seen. Consisting of fiddle, guitar and melodeon, the trio’s sound belied the combined age of their young years as they lent heavily on the traditional strands of Irish, Scottish and English folk. The shared vocal arrangements were the perfect match for a batch of original and traditional songs. The guys certainly maximised every minute from their hour on stage and the performance suggested that they will not be short of festival bookings this summer season.

The two remaining artists were full bands with contrasting sounds thus adding to the diverse feel to this musician assembly. Woo Town Hillbillies concluded the afternoon session with a fun set of American inspired folk songs drawing on old time, bluegrass and country influences. To bring the festival to a close, indie pop rock band Jasper in the Company of Others was the perfect tonic for those wishing to end the day in upbeat mode on their feet. All the artists played their part in making the musical presentation a success and create interest that this mini jamboree could be repeated next year.

While Sam Carter and Lucy Ward were the undoubted stars of this show, even they had to play second fiddle at times to the large presence of ducks from the nearby pond. Maybe there were more edible attractions for our feathered friends than the music that filled the air for nearly twelve hours. On a final note the organisers deserve praise for their excellent offering of food and drink as well as ensuring the sound from the stage was top notch. The booking of Sam and Lucy was a venture that successfully paid off as well. 


Monday, 6 June 2016

Lera Lynn - The Bodega Bar, Nottingham. Sunday 5th June 2016

Her set started with Lera requesting a glass of whiskey from the bar and ended an hour and half later when the sumptuous song of the same name was sandwiched into a trio of encore numbers. However the only intoxicating experience in Nottingham’s Bodega Bar was an audience absolutely besotted by her sultry enigmatic style of dark and moody Americana. Countless highs have emerged during Lera Lynn’s rise up the ranks and on the evidence of this evening’s performance her new album is set to maintain the momentum. This latest UK trip has had the benefit of national TV exposure via a performance on Jools Holland’s BBC Later show and shortly Lera will embark on some big venue support slots with Ben Folds. Yet this gig was best insight that you can get of Lera and her super band.



A highly respectable Sunday night gathering packed this city centre venue and didn’t have to wait long to open their senses to the main event after London-based singer-guitarist George Cosby had opened the show with a short set of atmospheric songs. Maybe a slight adjustment was needed to the volume of sound spilling out of the stage speakers, but right from the start Lera’s band hit the optimum button. Led by Joshua Grange on baritone guitar and ably assisted by bassist Robby Handley and drummer Tom Perkinson, the guys proved the ideal foil for Lera’s sophisticated songs which possessed a powerful edge. The subsequent ninety minutes rolled out to be a sublime showcase of her new album RESISTOR beautifully punctuated by several older tracks including the inevitable ones from her True Detective involvement.

There is a Southern gothic tinge to the music of Lera Lynn and the shadier side to her onstage persona closely resembles the intense Northern indie of Sharon Van Etten. Lera also oozes with artistic class and you feel she can adapt to any genre on the left field spectrum as witnessed by an inbuilt alt-country sound. While some of her older material leans this way, RESISTOR has a subtle rock stamp all over it and reveals hidden nuances with each listen, especially prevalent in this live setting.

The three key tracks from the album to move me this evening were the punchy ‘Shape Shifter’, the awesome ‘For the Last Time’ and the engaging ‘Little Ruby’. Just to demonstrate that Lera is a great interpreter of songs as well as an impressive originator of them, she guided the band through a very individualistic version of Springsteen’s ‘Fire’ and the immortalised ‘Ring of Fire’. The latter had a previous life as one of Lera’s singles and was the cream of the encore which skilfully brought the sound down from the main set mayhem mixture of cultured and frenzied electric guitar.

Chat from the stage was rare as Lera adjusted to the impeccable and restrained politeness of your usual UK audience for this brand of sophisticated music. You get the vibes of intense listening and eventually the artist comes round to respect this. Either way it was appropriate and fruitful for the music to do the talking, but Lera did mention the US TV show which helped raise her profile and played ‘My Least Favourite Life’ and ‘A Church in Ruins’ from this angle of her recording career.

Lera Lynn has been in the spotlight now for around half a decade since the release of her debut album and is an artist ready to spiral into the listening domain of a wider audience. However you get the impression that this will be done on her terms and creative whim. To those hooked in, her music will continue to mesmerise and future independent free thinkers are out there to succumb to the sound. This show needed little alcohol to create a heady presence and eased up the rankings of a packed gig year. 


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Bruce Springsteen - Ricoh Arena, Coventry. Friday 3rd June 2016

They came clad in t-shirts spanning his career, many clutching scrawled cardboard messages ranging from a simple song request to a more enhanced plea or comment. They came to pour adulation on a rock ‘n’ roll legend with the cast iron guarantee of not being disappointed. To be more precise, 37000 packed the stands and pitch of Coventry’s Ricoh Arena to witness a three hour fifteen minute exhibition of impeccable musicianship. The legacy of Bruce Springsteen has long been intact, but with each sold out show devoid of decline, and without doubt a wave of new fans, it continues to be strengthened.

Amongst the throngs of lifelong devotees, there was the likelihood of many newbies spanning the generations and whatever the degree of Springsteen obsession, adulation filled the warmish air on this early June evening. It helps when the protagonist happens to be one of the greatest songwriters in contemporary music, is backed by a band soaring above its peers and they possess the charisma to turn a stadium into your local intimate venue.

Sandwiched between the evocative solo delivered opener ‘For You’ and closer ‘Thunder Road’ were a further 31 songs predominately fuelled by the high octane presence of the E Street Band. The eight piece line-up had the usual players in place with the sax of Jake Clemons sharing the projected roles alongside the twin guitar maestros of Nils Lofgren and Steven Van Zandt. It must make Bruce’s job a damn sight easier to be in such stage company and thus spur on his energetic power to defy the sands of time.

Just as the set list of each Springsteen show is glistening with expectation, uncertainty reigns supreme when seeking a highlight consensus. ‘No Surrender’, ‘Save My Love’ and ‘Travelin’ Band’ have a good chance of being the choice of three card waving fans, while general audience reaction to the usual suspects of ‘Born to Run’, ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark’ will likely float the boat of casual observers.

To have a stab of a nigh on impossible job, I’m happy to reflect on five songs that just did that little bit more, some with describable reasons and others that just hit the spot . On what was The River Tour, the sixth song in, ‘Sherry Darling’ ignited the show from a personal perspective and led the expected healthy number of tracks featured from this iconic record. ‘Drive All Night’ also from THE RIVER left a favourable impression later in the set. ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny Day’ was the pick of the feel good anthem numbers and as good choice as any to pinpoint Bruce’s skill of exhilarating a stadium audience. ‘Seven Nights to Rock’ was probably the highlight of the three covers, pleasing both its card waving supporters and giving a scintillating rock ‘n’ roll feel to the climax section of this outstanding show.

If there was one defining moment on the evening, it had to be the brief thought during the performance of ‘Youngstown’ of finally finding the answer to the question, ‘what is Americana music?’. Maybe just a fleeting moment, but it summed up in three minutes what Bruce Springsteen is all about. In essence he is just a songwriter with a finger on the pulse of life, possessing the knack of transcending the line of exponential appeal and exploiting the attributes to flourish in that arena.

This was my first Bruce Springsteen show and if it proves to be the only one, the privilege is immovable and has sealed the deal. It was an amazing experience to witness such a unique artist. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Press Release: David Berkeley UK Tour

DAVID BERKELEY
JUNE 2016 UK TOUR DATE ANNOUNCED

FOLLOWING THE RELEASE OF ALBUM CARDBOARD BOAT & ACCOMPANYING
NOVELLA THE FREE BRONTOSAURUS

“Berkeley’s a sixties-esque troubadour with songs to swoon by and a voice sweeter than incense and peppermints” - Rolling Stone

“Cardboard Boat’s 10 tracks incorporate beautifully constructed melancholia” - **** Record Collector

“Lyrics meet literature in this unique and interesting musical accompaniment” **** Maverick

Singer-songwriter-author David Berkeley has announced a string of UK live dates, following the UK release of his album Cardboard Boat this year. The hauntingly powerful album accompanies his novella of ten interwoven stories titled, The Free Brontosaurus (Rare Bird), released on the same day. Cardboard Boat begins with an ominous bowed bass and ends with the ethereal tinkling of metals. In between, we get Berkeley’s carefully finger picked guitar,banjos, trumpets, organ, soaring string sections, nylon and electric guitars alongside a whole array of drums and percussion sounds. Always front and center, though, is Berkeley’s signature vocals and lyrics, supported on five of the ten tracks by the silver throated Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek. Each song is a story in itself, a layered landscape of sounds and textures.

“I’ve always been drawn to blending the organic with the electronic, finding that tense balance where one morphs into the other.” David Berkeley.

Berkeley has amassed a dedicated and widespread following who fully funded the creation of this new album and book. He’s been a guest on This American Life, Mountain Stage, World Café, CNN, XM Radio’s Loft Sessions, WFUV, NPR’s Acoustic Café and many more. He recently won the 2015 Kerrville New Folk competition and ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Songwriting Award.

David will also be performing some UK shows with his other band Son Of Town Hall:

"As Son of Town Hall, Santa Fe’s David Berkeley and London’s Ben Parker present themselves as a duo born of the high seas, where they traveled together on a raft, crafting harmonies and writing songs about wonder and woe. Their sound is light and plucky, purposely timeless yet anachronistic, a sort of aural steampunk”  The Santa Fe New Mexican

Album review of Cardboard Boat

David Berkeley Live Dates:

Tuesday 7th June Flying Pig, Cambridge
Wednesday 8th June David Stead Gallery, Ripon
Thursday 9th June Paper Dress Vintage, London www.paperdressvintage.co.uk

Son Of Town Hall Live Dates:

Saturday 11th June The Bullingdon, Oxford (w. Police Dog Hogan) www.thebullingdon.co.uk
Tuesday 14th June The Lucky Pig, Fitzrovia - London www.theluckypig.co.uk
Wednesday 15th June The Tin, Coventry www.thetinmusicandarts.org.uk