Monday, 23 June 2014

Albums of 2014: Stone Foundation - To Find The Spirit

For any music fan out there, the advent of the Internet has been a Godsend. When I look back over the years when the only way to get any information about your favourite bands or music was either by listening to the radio of trawling through the various music press publications, I think how great it would have been to have the resources of the Internet way back when.

I remember going to various houses of friends and parties and discovering new music that way. Oh, those were the days. But now, with the internet there to help us, we have access to music from all over the world and a window into every possible musical genre you can think of. And probably many more besides.

Last year, I was introduced by a friend on Facebook to The Stone Foundation. 

I have always liked the Dexy's Soul Sound and these guys bring that sound right up to date.

Now four albums in, The Stone Foundation have grown to be a pretty formidable outfit. 

Comprising of Neil Jones - Guitar & Lead Vocals, Neil Sheasby - Bass, Vocals, Ian Arnold - Keyboards, Philip K Ford - Drums, Spencer Hague - Trombone, Lynn Thompson - Trumpet & Gary Rollins - Sax/Flute - they make a wonderful noise.

To Find The Spirit has been a few years in the pipeline but now it's here I can confidently say that it is an excellent record. There aren't that may good Soul bands out there at the moment (well, I haven't come across many) so it's great to have a band that play with passion and musical integrity.

The band really come into their own with their live performances and if you get a chance to see the band play live - then jump at the chance. Their sound fills the halls and the often extended nature of the songs brings a new dimension to their music.

photo courtesy of Allan McKay

The album features several 'guest stars' such as Soul vocalist Nolan Porter, Andy Fairweather-Low, Dexy's Pete Williams and Carleen Anderson all contributing their major talents to the album. The blend of Soul, Funk, Ska & Rock is a potent mix and produces a nicely varied album.

Indeed, you will also hear echoes of the great Soul sounds of Stax & Muscle Shoals in the music of The Stone Foundation.

bring back the happiness

Official videos for the two singles released so far can be found at the Youtube links below

Twitter - @stonefoundation 

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Monday, 16 June 2014

Albums of 2014: Robbie Boyd - So Called Man

OK, I admit it. I've been waiting a while for this one. 

Back last year, I came across this young man and his band by two rather tasty EPs called Painted Sky & Autumn's Flown. I bought the tickets was all set to see him live in Cardiff and illness forced me to miss the gig. I was gutted to say the least.

In a market that is oversubscribed with angsty singer /songwriters it was refreshing to hear a young man with an obvious lust for life and tunes to match. Songs that were not ashamed to be bright, breezy and designed to put a smile on your face rather than gaze at your navel.
Such as Autumn's Flown's Angel (not included on the album)

And also not included on the album, When I Believe

So Called Man kicks off with the upbeat Orion's Belt. This track pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album. 'Where would we be without the bees', Upbeat and melodious it showcases Robbie's positive approach to life.

photo courtesy

Another great upbeat song is the lovely I Won't Let You Go, it's folk inspired harmonies and instrumentation sound like Mumfords on prozac. It's very catchy and infectious. Like the majority of the record.

You won't find the meaning of life in the songs but you will find mainly acoustic based songs played with a vitality and passion not heard enough these days. And several of the songs do have a story to tell.

photo courtesy of

The songs will certainly put a smile on your face. It has been released at the perfect time and should certainly be part of your summer listening - exactly where it belongs.

photo courtesy of

I guarantee you'll be dancing around the kitchen to songs like I Want You To Stay

The highlight for me is the lovely Less Than Friends, which by the way, has an equally lovely video to accompany it. One thing though, I wish Robbie would get the girl in at least ONE of his videos.

It would be one of my albums of 2014 just for putting a smile on my face but it's much more than that. I love it's positivity, harmonies and general joie de vivre. Which is needed in these austere time.

Indeed, I think this album should be available on the NHS it's so uplifting.

Twitter - @robbieboydband 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Live in 2014: Gordon Giltrap - Neath Little Theatre - Saturday 14th June 2014

It was the first time for me to see ANY music in the Neath Little Theatre. I've seen a couple of plays there but have never seen any music there. So it was a lovely surprise to realise that I have a great venue for music about 1 mile down the road. Holding a couple of hundred people, it is perfect for roots/folk based music and tonight one of the best guitar players the UK has produced has come to town, Gordon Giltrap.

Support tonight was from Porthcawl singer/songwriter Nick Ward. His short set seemed to go down well and he reminded me of the great Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze in his vocal style and storytelling song style.

 With over 40 years in the music business, Gordon Giltrap has built up a serious body of work and tonight he gave the Neath audience a masterclass in guitar playing, drawing from music going right back to the 1960s.

He played many of his best known songs tonight including the lovely On Camber Sands.

Over the years, Gordon has built up a great working and personal relationship with the Wakeman family. He has toured with both Rick and his keyboard playing son Oliver. Gordon recorded an album with Oliver last year called Ravens & Lullabies and featured two tracks tonight in their instrumental form - Fiona's Smile and Anyone Can Fly

Gordon was accompanied by 5 guitars and a variety of effects pedals which he used creatively to reproduce his music on stage tonight. And the highlight of his effects repertoire was The Dodo's Dream which got a rapturous applause tonight.

Gordon talked of how 60s legend Donovan inspired musicians in the 1960s, including John Lennon and went on to play his 60s inspired track Maddie Goes West

Over the years, Gordon has met and worked with many of UK's greatest musicians and you would expect him to have some great war stories. And he did. He is quite the raconteur and his between song recollections were both interesting and entertaining.

For anyone who has followed Gordon Giltrap's career over the years, 2013 was a good year as it saw the re-release of 3 of his mid to late 70s seminal albums on newly presented CDs - Visionary, Perilous Journey & Fear Of The Dark - all with new liner notes by Oliver Wakeman. And for anyone interested in his work, these 3 albums would be a great place to start.

Gordon promised us a medley of his greatest 'hit', Heartsong and he played it to close the show. For anyone of a certain age - it cannot help but conjour up memories of exotic foreign holidays as it was the theme to the very popular BBC HOLIDAY programme back in the 1970s. But it still a timeless and majestic piece of music.

The audience gave Gordon a well deserved standing ovation and he seemed genuinely appreciative of the reaction of the Neath audience.

There was no way that Gordon was going to be allowed to leave without an encore and he came back to play a song from his 1969 album Portrait called Lucifer's Cage. And explained how it was inspired by the acoustic playing of the legendary Pete Townsend.

So, a fantastic evening of virtuoso playing by one of the finest musicians we have in the UK came to an end and hopefully the warmth of the crowd will be enough to tempt Gordon Giltrap back here to Neath.


Live in 2014: Hatful Of Rain - The Chattery, Swansea, Friday 13th June 2014

Once again, my favourite Swansea venue has come up trumps with a performance by the Brighton based Hatful Of Rain.

It was the first time I had seen the band live and I've got to say they completely blew me away.
I first came across the band on a Bob Harris session with their infectious mix of Bluegrass, Country and Folk songs. They are quietly building up a growing reputation as an exceptional live band with a growing catalogue of first class songs.

The four piece are comprised of Chloe Overton on vocals and various stringed instruments, Phil Jones on Bass, guitar and vocals, Fred Gregory on Mandolin, Guitar, vocals and James Shenton on Fiddle.

This year's tour is to support the recently released album The Morning Key which is their second album. So unsurprisingly, the set was based very much on these new songs.

Hatful of Rain joined by Tony Mear on Banjo for a few tracks

The band played two sets this evening which selected tracks from both of their albums.

The band are all obviously accomplished musicians and the humour during the show is an added bonus.

Part Two of tonight's show opened up with a delightful surprise with the band playing a wonderful version of Swedish Duo First Aid Kit track Emmylou

The songs from the second album show how the band have progressed from their debut, Way Up On The Hill. And the new album has a great production from Al Scott, who was a producer and is now a member of the brilliant Oysterband.

The set ended with a spirited version of the new single These Streets

The band finished the show with an encore of the Promised Land and the final track from the new album, Little Bird.

The audience tonight gave round applause and brought the best out of the band - The Chattery may be small but the audience is ALWAYS perfectly formed and well informed and appreciative of quality music. And tonight, they were pleased.

Twitter - @Hatful_of_Rain

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Albums of 2014: Luke Jackson - Fumes & Faith

The first album by Luke Jackson called More Than Boys introduced a young man bursting with talent. He was justly rewarded with nominations in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for both the Horizon Award & Folk Singer of the Year.

It was very much an album of youth and looking towards the future with fine production by Welsh musician Martyn Joseph and included some great songs such as Baker's Woods, Let It All Out  & How Does It Feel.

Very much Luke and his acoustic guitar.

With Fumes & Faith we have a young man living up to the promise of his debut and his second release shows even more maturity than his first. And where did such a young man get a voice and presentation of someone way beyond his years?

And he's never been shy of having a go at an unusual cover version.

The album opens up with Sister which is a beautiful signpost to the rest of the album. 

More Bluesy & Roots based than Boys, it shows the continuing direction that Luke is traveling.

The album has a very American feel to it and is another step removed from the English folk approach of his debut. Although he has not discarded his heritage completely with songs such as Father & Son.

It's a similar situation to his fellow Award Nominee Blair Dunlop, who has also brought us a great second album this year with House Of Jacks. In Fact, Luke supported Blair on his album launch show,

If a legendary delta bluesman recorded this album then we wouldn't blink twice at the integrity of the music. Yes, it's that good. There's even a gospel flavour in some of the songs. Luke has definitely looked across the pond for inspiration for Fumes & Faith. Just check out Ghost at The Crossroads for evidence of his transatlantic influence. And once again the production has been kept simple allowing all the music to breathe and highlight the varying dynamic nature of the music.

Luke has said that the debut was about 'his' journey and for Fumes he has used observation of those around him to form the narratives of his new songs.

He has such an expressive voice which can feel like touching velvet and then switch to touching fire between a verse and a chorus. To see such a young artist grow before your eyes is a real privilege. 

And with songs such as No Redemption not even getting on the album, Luke's future success seems assured.

Fumes & Faith is an album that rewards repeated listening and many of the songs will become classics in future years.

Twitter - @lukepauljackson