Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Goodbye 2014: Hello 2015

Firstly, I'd like to thank everyone who has clicked on the Blog and made it such an interesting experience for me in 2014.

It has been viewed over 23K times since I started writing back in October 2103. And people are viewing from all over the world from America to New Zealand via many of the countries in between.

It really amazes me that people can be interested enough to click on and for that I thank each and every one of you who has read it.

Just a note to say that I am not affiliated or connected to ANY music label or company. This I do just for the love of the music - no monetary gain whatsoever.

Several people have contacted me regarding my musical heritage upon reading the Blog, so I'll just take a few lines to explain. I've always loved music, of all varieties, for as long as I can remember. 
Music was always being played in my parent's home. Before I was born they used to run a pub and amassed hundreds of 78rpm records that used to be played all the time when my parents moved to their new home. My brother, who is 12 years older than myself, always played records. 
I was in my local school & county orchestra playing trumpet and I've dabbled with guitars since my first 12 string (seen above) bought for me by my parents in 1974..
Over the years I've bought thousands of records, tapes, mini discs, Cds and downloads.
I don't think there's been a day that I've never played some music. Music has ALWAYS been a major part of my life.

So, now hopefully I've shined a light on where I'm coming from with this Blog. 

I always highlight music I like - there's too much negativity on the internet as it is, without me contributing to it.

It's been an excellent year in my musical world. Many albums I've loved. Many gigs that have been an absolute joy to attend. I've discussed these as the year has progressed and will continue to do the same next year.

First Aid Kit - Bristol 2014

And 2015 looks to be as interesting as 2014.

With new music due from many artists I like, including

Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Danny & The Champions of the World

Balsamo & Deighton

Zervas & Pepper

Danni Nicholls

Bella Hardy

Stephen Kellogg

Don Gallardo

The Dreaming Spires


and many, many more.

As you can see above - I have contributed to several PledgeMusic campaigns over the last year and they are an excellent way to support artists directly. You can find out more details here

And gigs already booked, including

J Mascis

Luke Jackson/Amy Wadge

Julian Cope

Jack Savoretti

Rick Wakeman

The Staves

Simple Minds


The Handsome Family


Justin Hayward

The Unthanks

Ward Thomas

Steven Wilson

and several more

So, why not join me and I'll try and point you in the direction of some great music.

If you see me at a gig in 2015 - come and say Hello - we can talk music.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Live in 2014: Martyn Joseph at Neath Little Theatre, Saturday 6th December 2014

Neath Little Theatre pulled off a coup on Saturday night as it played host to Welsh singer/songwriter Martyn Joseph.
We knew we were in for something special when we saw the Welsh flag on his mike stand and guitar case. One of Wales' best and most repected singer/songwriter had come back to Wales to play.

From the opening song, Dic Penderyn, we were treated to a very special performance.
Martyn has always been a proud Welshman and now was his chance to prove it. And he did, with aplomb.

Martyn stated that it had taken him 32 years to play in Neath and he set about making up for lost time.

With Proud Valley Boy again exploring Welsh history, Martyn covered most of his career with an exciting set of songs that highlighted his excellent lyrical and melodic skills.

With gorgeous ballads like Seahorse and more political songs like 5 Sisters, Martyn proved just what a skillful performer he really is. If you've tread the boards for over 30 years then you're going to learn something about how to entertain an audience.

His sense of humour shone throughout the performance and he related to his Welsh audience as only a Welshman can. Who else could talk about Max Boyce's more emotional lyrics?

Crowd pleasers like Lonely In America were interspersed with Martyn's more reflective songs.

His humour came to the fore when he stopped the show as he spotted some latecomers entering the theatre and decided to do a quick recap of the songs he's already played to rapturous applause.

Martyn then took some time to talk about his new charitable concept called Let Yourself Trust.
Here is a short film by Martyn explaining it.

So Many Lies ended the first half of the show after an hour on stage.

His award winning song, There's Always Maybe announced his return to the stage and his song Cardiff Bay will always be a winner at a Welsh gig - even if it is this near Swansea!

Martyn also previewed several new songs and one about Bobby Kennedy called unsurprisingly Bobby showed that he still has the skill to write a great story song, even with a political edge. And Liberal Backslider encouraged some good Welsh audience participation in the singing department.

During the next song, I'm On My Way, Martyn decided he would like to get a little closer to his audience and came into the theatre - stood on a couple of seats and led some audience singing yet again, now that we'd been sufficiently warmed up.

Martyn has produced an album called Tyres Rushing by in the Rain, which is a collection of Bruce Springsteen covers - it's a splendid record and Martyn took the opportunity of playing a couple of songs from the album, the shimmering The Ghost Of Tom Joad & Blood Brothers.

If you've heard Springsteen's Nebraska, the songs on the album are very much in this style and worth getting.

It's the measure of a performer as how they deal with the unexpected. During the beautiful Luxury Of Despair, in which Martyn sings about his experiences in the Middle East, a vital lower e string broke on Martyn's guitar. He stopped the performance, restrung the guitar and carried on to loud applause. 

It didn't take away from the power of the song and was quickly followed by Still A Lot Of Love Around Here which talks about the power of good in the world. An excellent choice of closing song.

But then there was the encore.

During Kiss The world Beautiful, Martyn made up lyrics about his journey from Cardiff to Neath. A lovely local touch which rounded off a sensational performance.
He certainly cemented his reputation as one of Wales' most consistent and quality assured songwriters.

I hope he doesn't leave it 32 years to return and judging by the reception he generated, I don't think we'll have to wait long before Neath Little Theatre sees him again.

Twitter - @martyn_joseph 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

New To Me: Dan Whitehouse

The support act on the latest Simone Felice tour was a performer called Dan Whitehouse.

Now, I like my singer songwriters of the intelligent variety and not your usual June Moon Spoon school of songwriting. When I knew I was going to be seeing him twice, I decided to investigate the man.

To my delight, he is an excellent singer/songwriter and his latest album Raw State has been produced by none other than Danny George Wilson and Chris Clarke of Danny & The Champions Of The World.
Now I know Danny to be a man of taste, so I wondered what had attracted him to be involved in Dan's album in such a big way. So I listened to the album on Spotify before I got a chance to buy it from the man himself in his gig with Simone at The Louisiana in Bristol. It's an album of dynamism, excellent songwriting and quality production.

He played an excellent acoustic set of several of the songs contained on Raw States.

Included on Youtube are 6 videos about the recording of Raw States - I have included two on this page but do seek out the rest.

The album has the golden touch of The Champs who have themselves released two of my favorite albums of the past couple of years in Stay True & Live Champs.

When you speak to the man he is intelligent, obviously loves his music and has a knowledge of his peers and past musical heroes. A man after my own heart.

Although the acoustic Dan is a wonderful thing, Raw States is a much richer experience. With the full band sound and lovely female backing vocals, it's a joy.

So seek out Raw States and BUY IT! And keep an eye out in your local area for any live performances. Dan is definitely a cut above and is worthy of your attention. So seek him out. And give him a firm handshake and a smile. He deserves it.

Twitter - @dan_whitehouse

Live in 2014: Simone Felice at The Louisiana, Bristol & The Chattery, Swansea on December 2/3 2014

Ponder this? If the performer of your favourite album of the year offered to play his greatest songs in your own home, just for you, how would you feel?

Well, this is how I felt when I got the chance to see Simone Felice twice in two days (possible because both gigs were within my travelling distance). 
Both venues were so intimate, it actually felt like he was singing just for me. Of course he wasn't, both The Louisiana and The Chattery were packed and the atmospheres were fantastic.

It was my first time to The Louisiana Bristol, which is a short walk from The Thekla (if you know where that is). The hall is a small space above the pub which can hold an audience of about 100 standing people.

Simone Felice's album Strangers is my album of 2014.

So, I could not wait to see Simone perform the songs in a live context.

But first let's talk about Dan Whitehouse. Dan has been the support artist on the whole of this tour and he is the best support artist I have seen all year.
He came on, armed with just his acoustic guitar and won over the crowd with songs from his newly released album Raw States. The album, produced by Danny & The Champions Danny Wilson & Chris Clarke is an excellent listen and the songs transfer really well in a purely acoustic context. I urge you to check out the album and to catch Dan live if possible.

Following Dan's set, Simone took to the stage with the talented Anna Mitchell on Harmonium, Piano & Percussion.

Now, Simone's albums are beautiful and often delicate things. But nothing prepares you for the Simone Felice who performs live.

The intensity of the performance, especially at The Louisiana is staggering. Simone is just mesmerizing. You cannot take your eyes off him.
The way he attacks his acoustic guitar and physically drags the words from his psyche remind me of a firebrand preacher. He is so dynamic in his presentation. Ranging from silent whispers to an almost religious urgency. He never shouts or screams but you can feel the latent power in his voice.

Right from the opening song, Charade, I was transfixed.

In both performances, Simone picks the best from throughout his career. His work with his brothers band, The Felice Brothers is covered by Radio Song and Don't Wake The Scarecrow.

His work with his last band, The Duke & The King includes the song, If You Ever Get Famous and the uptempo The Morning I Get To Hell.

Simone's eponymous solo debut is represented by killer songs like simmering The New York Times, lovingly uptempo You & I Belong and the brooding Hey Bobby Ray.

In The Chattery, Dan performs a spectacular version of Bruce Springsteen's early classic Growing Up to superb applause.

Dan Whitehouse, performing to Bob Dylan at The Chattery

I really wanted to hear how Simone performed the songs from Strangers and I was not disappointed as he played several throughout the sets.
The beautiful Bye Bye Palenville was a highlight with Anna providing some exquisite backing vocals. 

Simone had quite a few friends at The Chattery and I think this helped him to relax as his performance in Swansea seemed a more relaxed affair than in Bristol. It had a softer and more intimate vibe. But then all gigs in The Chattery are special.
I've stated before that I think The Chattery has a vibe similar to what being in Greenwich Village in New York back in the 60s must have been like. Regular musically astute audiences in a small and intimate setting. And with portraits of Bob Dylan on the walls, as both Simone and Dan commented, it's like you're being watched by greatness.

My favorite song of 2014 is the final song from Stranger called The Gallows. I was waiting for it and Simone, Anna & Dan delivered it in style.

The Gallows as performed at The Chattery.

In both shows, the main set ended with the spell binding Running Through My Head from Strangers with the obligatory audience singalong.
As The Chattery is a seated venue, Simone's performance gained a several minute standing ovation

The encore was a superb version of The Band's I Shall Be Released in which Dan is called back to the stage to sing with Simone and Anna. A truly heart stopping moment.

I've never seen anyone perform like Simone Felice - he's unique and unmissable. God bless him for it. And I can't wait to see him again.