Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Indispensible: Adam Wilson presents The Quiet Revolution

It's been a long, long time since I found a radio show that I wanted to listen to every day/week/month etc.

A few months ago, one of my favourite artists, Paul McClure, posted on social media that he would be appearing on the show called The Quiet Revolution. It was on a station fairly close to Paul's residence called Harborough FM. The show was presented by Adam Wilson.

I thought that Paul would get the usual couple of tracks to play and a few minutes of on air time. But to my delight, Paul was on for most of the show. He participated in the tracks that were played and played quite a few tracks from his latest album, Smiling From The Floor Up.

But what surprised me even more was Adam knew his music. Radio presenters these days rarely care about the music - with the exception of people like Whispering Bob Harris who actively participate in all aspects of promoting quality music.

Adam is cut from the same cloth as Bob. OK, he may not be on a national radio station but people who like the music that I do should be listening to The Quiet Revolution.

It is broadcast on alternate Tuesdays - the next show will be broadcast on Tuesday 9th September 2014 - between 10pm - 12am.

You can tell from the shows that Adam really loves his music - he gives information about the artists and mentions reviews of the latest albums. He loves discovering new music and sharing them with his audience.

He plays a mixture of Americana, Folk, Blues & World Music and as the title suggests, of the quieter moments.

Here are just some of the artists who were played on Adam's Show.

Following his show, Adam lists the music he has played and attaches links to artists if you want to investigate further. I've bought quite a few artists after hearing them on The Quiet Revolution.

This blog is all about the music, and Adam plays music that I like. And if you're reading this blog, then you should check him out.

I live in Wales, so I use my Tune In radio app to sit in comfort and let the sounds wash over me - you can do this or listen online through the Harborough FM website.

So go on, check him out on April 21st at 10pm and every other Tuesday after that.
And if you like what you hear - support him (he's a nice guy) and drop him a line. Or visit the link below to see what he has played on earlier shows.

Tell him Macwood sent you.

Twitter - @awquietrevhfm 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Albums Of 2014: IQ - The Road Of Bones

Anyone who has read deeper into this blog will know that I'm partial to a bit of Prog Rock. 
This year I became reacquainted with a band who have been making quality Prog for 30+years.
The band is IQ.

While I was having a pre-gig drink at The Duke Of Wellington in Cardiff city centre prior to the Rick Wakeman Journey concert earlier in the year - my gigging Padwan, Craig and I, got talking to some Norwegian fans who had a couple of days before seen the IQ Launch gig for their new album. They raved about it saying how good it was and how it was the best thing IQ had released in years. So when I got home I ordered the CD.

Formed back in 1981 by guitarist Mike Holmes & Keyboard player Martin Orford the band have released 11 Studio albums plus other live and compilation albums and have been producing quality music from day one.

Back in January 2013 - the band took the opportunity to re-release a 30th anniversary version of their debut album Tales From The Lush Attic. It proved to be a remarkable version, like a Renaissance masterpiece being restored & cleaned and presented like the day it was produced.

This is a short video of the Anniversary version - just click on the link.

Tales From The Lush Attic

Initially owing a lot to Gabriel-era Genesis in their stage work, the band then released their second album The Wake - judged by many fans to be their best early work.

Photo Courtesy of

I then lost track of the band until their 1997 album Subterranea, a classic double Prog outing.

Like most classic Prog outfits, the band have had their fair share of personnel changes and their last album was 2009s Frequency.

But, this year, they have come back with the almost original line up - only difference now being the  latest replacement of original Keyboard player Orford with Neil Durant.

The  almost original IQ are back with a new album The Road Of Bones - and by God it's a beauty.

Firstly, lets's kick off by saying that if you find yourself interested, make sure you get the 2 disc version. 
The Road Of Bones has been released in differing formats and for the couple of pounds difference, the 2 disc version gives you an whole albums worth of extra material, all of which is worthy of inclusion on the 1 disc release.

There's even a 3 disc vinyl release coming up for those who want an even more inclusive experience.

Here's a video of guitarist/producer Michael Holmes talking about The Road Of Bones.

The 7.24 minute album opener, From The Outside In, sets the tone for the rest of the album with dynamic guitars and keyboards set to a pounding bass & drum with the vocals of Peter Nicholls soaring and swooping over the change in tempo and typical Prog musical palette. They sound like a heavier version of Lamb-era Genesis on this track.

Indeed, the whole album is probably IQ's heaviest set but it adds more drama and dynamics to their sound. I can't wait to hear this album on vinyl - and yes, it's on order.

The next track is the majestic title track, The Road Of Bones - it's 8 minutes of cinematic Prog about a serial killer in a USA Midwestern town.  If this sounds kind of out there, you're right, it's about the road that the killer builds with the bones of his victims but the track is superb. Peter Nicholls doesn't write lyrics about Prog staples such as Elves and Dragons.

photo courtesy of The Progmeister

Next up on this 5 track album is the 19 minute Without Walls. Being the centrepiece of the album, you would expect it to be Epic. And it is. Starting off as a quiet, almost ballad-like piece of music, it soon breaks into a different beast altogether, with some blistering heavier guitar work, before it heads off into many different paths and sounds - being intense and delicate in the same song - exactly like a good Prog classic should, before the Genesis-like resolution which sounds as if it could have come from Wind & Wuthering.

After the drama of Without Walls we are treated to a lovely song called Oceans, which is IQ at their most tender but halfway through the drama returns again as Peter Nicholls raises the bar on his vocal performance and gives some beautiful soaring vocals before the peace returns again.

photo courtesy of 

The album closes with another epic, Until The End - here's a very short clip.

As I said earlier, you should really be buying the 2 Disc version. This includes tracks which really do not fit in with the dark feel of the initial album. But the quality is just as good as Disc 1.

It starts with Knucklehead. Which was due to go onto the album until the very last minute and has a militaristic beat which sounds like a march. It's dense and heavy, you can see why it could have fit easily onto the Disc 1.

1312 Overture is a Mellotron driven instrumental piece which chugs along nicely and has lots of keyboard sounds and textures to listen decipher .

The 12 minute Constellations is the next track up and begins with some keyboard and rhythmic interplay which cuts across your speakers with swathes of Mellotron adding the dramatic Prog effect. It is very Genesis of the Wind & Wuthering era - it is probably the most tuneful song on both Discs and is lighter in feel, which is probably why it didn't make it onto the initial album.  But is no less dramatic and moving.

The more delicate moments continue with the next track, Fall & Rise, which has some lovely keyboard and acoustic guitar touches within it's 7 minutes.

The driving rhythms last throughout the next track, Ten Million Demons with it's sound affected vocals and keyboard heavy structure.

Disc 2 ends with the 11 minute Hardcore which is more in keeping with the music on Disc 2 with it's sweeping delicate themes and acoustic guitar passages.

If you feel that you've neglected some Prog Rock leanings in the past, or if you feel you'd like to see what the generation of bands that followed YES, GENESIS etc have achieved, then this may well be the album that reignites your interest in the genre. It's Prog at its very best - so go and invest - but make sure you get the 2 Disc version - It's Worth It.

By the way - Prog is made for headphones - so get yourself a decent pair and let the music take you far, far away.

Twitter - @IQHLive

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Archivist Volume 2: Billy Bragg - Don't Try This At Home

Stephen William Bragg. Billy Bragg. The Bard Of Barking.

However you know him - you cannot ignore him.

With a musical palette born out of the Punk Movement of the mid 1970,s Billy Bragg has been releasing LPs since 1983, with his first release Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy.
An acquired taste right from the off, there was no mistaking where Billy came from in Barking in Essex, as he became the epitome of the travelling troubadour - one man and his electric guitar.

His first album had at least 3 bona fide classics on it - The Milk Of Human Kindness, A New England & The Man In The Iron Mask and would indicate the No Compromise quality of his work to this day.

Everyone has probably heard A New England - because of the Kirsty MacColl cover, so here's another less well known track from that debut album.

Billy released 5 albums up to the release of Don't Try This At Home in 1991. All were a mixture of songs relating to his highly political socialist views and songs of love - often unrequited. 

These albums gave birth to a wealth of absolutely classic songwriting such as Levi Stubbs Tears, Greetings To The New Brunette, St Swithin's Day, It Says Here, Waiting For The Great Leap Forward... I could go on and on.

Billy is man who is never afraid of saying what he believes and observes and he uses his songs to try to galvanise people to think of and question what is going on around them - to me he has been as important to my generation of music lovers as Bob Dylan was back in the 1960s.

Billy had been honing his craft up to 1991 but with Don't Try This At Home, for me, Billy finally produced the album he had been capable of all along.

Every track is an absolute gem - and it's a double too, which Billy insisted at the time it was released, was to be the cost of a single album.

It opens with the brilliantly uplifting Accident Waiting To Happen. "Your life has lost it's dignity, it's beauty and it's passion, you're an accident waiting to happen" - the man's a poet.

In contrast, the next track is the gorgeously plaintive, Moving The Goalposts.

And that is the beauty of this album - it's full of contrasts. It's very English (British) - and tells what was/is important to the majority of the people listening at the time, or even now.

By 1991, Billy was getting some important exposure in the music world and was highly regarded by many contemporary songwriters and perhaps oddly enough, especially over the pond in the USA. He even garnered the considerable talents of Michael Stipe & Peter Buck from REM on his song he wrote with Peter Buck, You Woke Up The Neighbourhood.

Mother Of The Bride is another example of Billy at his upbeat best and includes folk instrumentation which points the way to some of his later work. Billy is never scared to try unusual musical presentations of his songs.

The album also contains one of my favourite songs of all time Sexuality, which is about the reaction to the AIDS scaremongering at the time. Co written by Johnny Marr of The Smiths and featuring the vocal talents of Kirsty MacColl, it also gave Billy one of his biggest single hits. And produced one of the best videos of all time too.

This is the album of a man at the top of his game - with such a breadth of songwriting skills and couplets to die for. He has gone on to produce some brilliant work . Yes, his vocals are an acquired taste but I doubt you'll find a better album with such variety in songs and musical presentation. So go on and dive into Don't Try This At Home and wallow in it's musical delights - of which there are many.

If you only know Billy by his singles then it's time to investigate further because he has produced some excellent work since this landmark album, which I'll let you discover for yourself.

Twitter - @billybragg

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Live in 2014: Stornoway live at Reynoldston Village Hall, Gower, Swansea - Saturday 9th August 2014

It was just in time as we reached the picturesque West Wales village of Reynoldston in the Gower Peninsula in Swansea to catch Stornoway play an intimate gig at the village hall. before the remnants of ex hurricane Bertha hit the West Wales coast and brought the wind & rain. But nothing was going to dampen the spirits for tonight's Stornoway performance.

With lead singer and guitarist Brian Briggs now living in a nearby village, it was the first in a short series of gigs as a warm up to their festival dates for Greenbelt and the Big Feastival later in August.

Supporting tonight were the Welsh/Dutch duo Trwbador - which features Angharad Van Rijswijk on vocals and loops and Owain Gwilym on Guitar and electronica.

Playing a sort of Electro/Folk/Dance music, they warmed up the crowd nicely although I wished the crowd could have been a little quieter to hear the delicacy of Anharad's vocal. I would like to hear Trwbador play to their own crowd.
The band are about to release their second album Several Wolves and are well worth checking out.

Currently working on their new album, Stornoway were probably glad for the chance to play live again and with such an intimate venue and Brian's new neighbours leading the support, the gig had a mini festival feel about it with tiny children and people of all ages in attendance.

The band kicked off the set with a new song When You're Feeling Gentle. The new material the band played tonight was excellent and bodes well for the new album.

They dusted off the cobwebs of the studio as they ran through live favourites such as Farewell Appalachia & Fuel Up.

Next up was another new song, Lost Youth. The band are funding their new album via Pledge Music (see link below)

and I've got to say that the quality of all the new songs that they've played tonight will bring a smile to the Pledgers (including me) who have yet to hear them. Trust me Pledgers, you will be blown away by the new album.

These songs were then followed by another new song The Road You Didn't Take.

Brian was then left alone for some solo work which included  a lovely version of November Song

The band then came back to join Brian for acoustic versions of Josephine & We Are The Battery Human.

Then it was time for another new track, Sing With Our Senses before ending the set with the crowd pleasing I Saw You Blink.

But the band had one more surprise and the encore produced a final track which was also a new one - Love Song Of The Beta Male - it is an epic song and has various changes in tempo and had the crowd bouncing up and down like demented chickens. 

So, an excellent evening for all the Stornoway fans who got a chance to hear how the new album was progressing and some live favouites thrown in for the uninitiated.

Twitter - @StornowayBand

Twitter - @trwbador

Friday, 8 August 2014

Albums Of 2014: The Delines - Colfax

It's been a great year for surprises in my musical world. I've got a couple of albums by the band Richmond Fontaine but I never expected an album this good to come out of their camp this year. If you haven't heard Richond Fontaine - they are worth investigating for the songwriting skills of their vocalist/guitar player -Willy Vlautin who is also a published author.

Richmond Fontaine are now 9 studio albums into their career and their album The High Country was their last release in 2011 - It's a concept album about a doomed love affair - it is quite dark and brooding, not an easy listen but an ultimately rewarding one.

This year, Willy Vlautin has reappeared with a new band and a great album of Country Soul Rock. The band is The Delines and the album is Colfax. 
Fronted by the amazing vocalist Amy Boone of the band The Damnations, it is probably the best album that Willy has written and been involved with.

Colfax opens with the smoldering Calling In which is a great signpost for the rest of the album. A gentle, atmospheric opener which is based around simple electric guitar and keyboard washes and showcases Amy's excellent vocals. It's almost a torch song.

The soulful sound that is based around frequently simple electric guitar and keyboard is heard on the next track Colfax Avenue.

A majority of the album reads like a confessional, soulful and heartbreaking. The stately pace fitting the songs and production perfectly - keeping it simple and letting the songs breathe.

Quite often the album brings to mind the more yearning moments of Maria McKee

Uncut magazine have produced the closest review to what I hear in the album - so I'll leave it to the professionals to elaborate further. It also contains a small interview with Willy Vlautin.

It's not all doom and gloom though, the uptempo and soulful Wichita Ain't So Far Away lifts the album midway with some gorgeous pedal steel accompaniment.

One fantastic surprise is the band's version of the Randy Newman lullaby with just Amy and piano, Sandman's Coming.

COLFAX could well be my album of 2014 - it's a close thing this year but at the moment it's right up there - so go ahead and purchase it with confidence and be as enchanted as I am.

Twitter - @TheDelines

New To Me: Luke Tuchscherer

While trawling through the music sites on the internet, as I do quite often, I typed in Byrds influenced bands. Various searches later I came across a band called The Whybirds.

So, I checked them out on Spotify

and on Youtube - and I liked what I heard. Tuneful Americana with a bit of attitude and a some country swing. And believe it or not, these lot came from Bedford. That's Bedford in England!
With 1 EP and 4 albums to their name the band are well worth checking out if you are a fan of Americana.

And what was even more intriguing for me was the fact that the band had a singing drummer!!

Luke Tuchesherer.

I have always been a sucker for a singing drummer - Levon Helm, Don Henley, Dave Grohl, Simone Felice and one Phil Collins among them, so I was delighted to find out that Luke was releasing a solo album.

Luke's new solo album is called You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense and it's a beauty.

Luke has more or less ditched the drums for the album and concentrates on playing acoustic guitar.

It's a lovely, varied album that is full of splendid Americana - you can almost see the tumbleweed blowing and those mission bells ringing out.

It opens with with Lord Know's I'm A Bad Man which features some terrific acoustic slide guitar and an insistent pounding rhythm.
Drummers often have interesting beats and rhythms when they produce solo work - Simone Felice's Strangers album is a good case in point. 

The country twang of When Day Is Gone adds another flavour with it's swing.

One Of Us has some some nice organ work and recalls The Band in feel. Obviously an influence on Luke.

There are also some gentler moments including Hold On, Women & (To Make It Worse) I'm Falling In Love Again.

Two Ships (Caroline Please) has a Byrds jangle and uplifting beat.

The album ends with track 12 -  Darling, It's Just Too Hard To Love a lovely ballad.

Unfortunately there are no songs from the album on Youtube or Spotify to show you.

But Luke has produced some interesting home made covers which can be found on Youtube and are well worth a listen.

James McCurry from AmericanaUK does a much better job than I could in reviewing Luke's album, so check it out here. Then invest.

Twitter - @luketuchscherer 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Albums of 2014: Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

Anyone with an interest in sport, football being a prime example, has heard of a player who has not discovered a talent until later in his life. Somebody who has had a 'normal' job or career, only to be discovered and thrown into the big time league.

You could use this analogy with Sturgill Simpson. 

At time of writing, Sturgill now 36, picked up a guitar in his early years. He then joined the Navy. When he left the navy after 3 years service he continued to play music and formed a band. 
Sturgill then went and worked for a rail company in the USA.

Knowing that there is music inside you and struggling to keep that passion burning while you are working in another job must be extremely frustrating. Sturgill continued to perform at open mic venues and in 2012 he finally got his break.

The release of his debut solo album High Top Mountain in 2013 showed what an amazing talent the world had been missing.
Steeped in old school country, the album is full of great tunes and spirited performances  of a man who is finally doing what he loves. And it shows.

Sturgill is being compared to many of the old school Country greats such as Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and most of the Outlaw boys.
High Top Mountain is 12 tracks of uncompromising Country played with passion and an honesty that is rarely seen in music these days.

Now in 2014 - hot on the heels of his debut, Sturgill has released an absolute gem of an album. Nobody expected an album this soon after High Top Mountain and I'm sure nobody expected an album this great, except maybe Sturgill himself.

Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is a revelation in Country Music sounds and approach. Not since perhaps Gram Parson has a major Country artist decided to shake up the genre with such elan.

Right from the opening track Turtles All The Way Down, Sturgill nails his colours to the mast. With the soaring Country voice rising above keyboard backing that could be described as psychedelic with what sounds like backwards guitar it's the last place you'd expect to find this sort of sonic experimentation

This is not so say that Sturgill has abandoned his classic Bakersfield sound completely with new classics like the gorgeous Voices with it drama and classic country twang.


The spirit of Johnny Cash can be heard in the jaunty A Little Light.

Country music has been looking for a 'Real' star for quite some time - his sound and approach may be a little traditional and daring or the current Nashville stars, with maybe the exception of Brad Paisley, but Sturgill Simpson certainly carries the flame within him and has produced an album that may even convert some non country music followers. 

If you really want to see how far Sturgill can take Country, just take a listen to It Ain't All Flowers. Let's hope he holds his nerve for the next album and pushes the music even further.

In 1988 a band called When In Rome had a minor one hit wonder with The Promise.

What Sturgill does with this song is just breathtaking and shows the quality of his vision of music.

So I urge you all to seek out this album. Even if you think you don't like Country music, give it a go. It's the album of a man who has hit his stride and is brave enough to take Counrty music to places it hasn't been  before. I look forward to album number 3 with relish. But there again, he may just put in a pure country performance. Let's wait and see.

Twitter - @SturgillSimpson