Extended Play Catalogue Vol  1 – Neil Gregory Johnson (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2266731179_16Country music has a habit of taking itself a bit seriously, all those over-earnest, brooding acoustic guitar slingers singing of unrequited love, darker times and driving off into the sunset. And that’s fine, there is obviously a market for such a style.  Rock music is often troubled with testosterone fuelled cliche, though which is less easy to defend. Blues often gets a bad name from stadium level guys in suits and shades removing every ounce of passion and pain from the genre in the name of money and fame…ironically the total opposite of the place from which blues speaks.

So if you cut all of those rotten cores out of the aforementioned generic apples and gather all the good bits that remain, you pretty much have the basic ingredients that Neil Gregory Johnson fashions his music from and Extended Play Catalogue Vol  1 is a lesson to anyone working in roots music today in vibrant and honest songwriting.

Kicking off with the joyous Three Days on The Wagon, the perfect blend of exactly the genre splicing I have just described, the song proves to be a great calling card for what is to follow. This opening salvo blends country swagger, blues sass and rock muscle, it grooves and grinds, bounces and boogies and the wailing train whistle harmonica is the perfect icing on the cake. From there we move through the move countrified, line-dancable beats of I Want To Drink a Beer With You, a celebration to wasting time in good company. Pure blues is served up with Loving and Leaving, a timeless piece that could fit into a set list any time from the late sixties onwards and Well Kept is slow country blues that fits effortlessly into both camps.

This is an album that could only have been made by someone who isn’t that beholdened to one genre or another, someone broad minded enough to realise that its all just music. It draws lines between the Austin blues bars of today and the cosmic cowboy scene of the early 70’s, between the Southern Rock of yesteryear and the modern alt-country of today, between Chicago blues bars and the freewheelin’ scene of his North Western home. It is rootless and out of time, it references rather than rehashes, tips its hat rather than plagiarises and although much is surely familiar, it is better described as truly original music forged from classic sounds.

More than anything else Extended Play Catalogue Vol  1 is a collection of songs for the everyday and the working man, the realities of life and its loves, loss and longing but also its beauty and celebration. It may come from a personal place but every word and sentiment found here is totally relatable to the listening public at large. This maybe the sound track to Johnson’s life, but in many ways it is the sound track to all our lives. Never has an ordinary life had a score so glorious.

Listen to and buy the album HERE


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Headlights –  LegoHeads (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

LegoHeads_coverPop is a broad term. It’s probably an unnecessary one too. But for every throwaway, mainstream rehash of the genres’s golden age, you stumble across something a lot more clever. Headlights falls very squarely into the latter category. Yes, it’s clearly pop, but it is pop that makes the argument that the genre can be as deft and creative, slick, sassy and forward-thinking as any other genre and here LegoHeads weave synth-pop and modern dance vibes through some classic pop tune structures.

It ticks a lot of boxes, it pulses with a slightly understated but effective uptown funkiness, it chirps and chimes with electronic dance moves, it is both balladic and widescreen yet groovesome and compact. It will turn the heads of dance punters, grab the teen dollar and also soothe the ears of more discerning underground pop pickers. Creating great, forward thinking,  modern, original pop is a task in itself, to do so in such a way that it seems to keep every corner of the wide and diverse market happy simultaneously is something else. LegoHeads or more correctly the man behind  the moniker, Landon Trimble, is clearly a clever songwriter, but I think that he may also be a wizard.

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Scene and Heard – CCLXX : Leading Nuh Race – Dupriece Kreed (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Various_Artists_Dupriece_Kreed_Brave_Life_Antik--front-large.jpgLeading Nuh Race is a strange creation, one which sits at the cross roads of a number of conflicting ideas. It combines a soundtrack feel with a forward thinking rap work out, it has the honesty of a live take, an improvised flow (check out the unedited noises before the vocals start) but comes with a visually high concept video. It is lo-fi in its production, wilfully meanders into and out of the song but has a vocal catch which stays in the mind long after the video has finished.

Not everything has to be polished up and presented to the highest standards, the fact that this feels more like a demo makes for a wonderful change from all the slick gloss that passes by me these days. It also shows how great the technological revolution is, that music isn’t just made in high end studios and that anyone with a few hundred bucks worth of equipment can now be part of the underground revolution which is taking back control from the big industry machine. And often it is where the most innovative ideas come from…no big budget to justify, no expections.

Leading Nuh Race is wonderfully minimalist, a mix of ambient vibes and skittering trap beats but with an “in your face” top end vocal delivery. It’s beguiling and odd, it’s like little that you have heard before and it resists easy pigeon-holing or genre assignment. But that’s the whole point I guess.


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Mesadorm share new single ‘Easy’ taken from upcoming album ‘Heterogaster’

m767_MesadormnewMarch2018--1Formed in Bristol in 2015 by five longstanding friends, Mesadorm is the new collaborative project of Blythe Pepino formerly of London Art Pop trio, Vaults. Each member of Mesadorm is a high calibre performer and writer, bringing an array of musical concepts and timbres to the emotional landscape of Pepino’s lyrics.

After a few years testing the mainstream stage with a major record deal Pepino has moved back to her roots as a leftfield rock and electronica songwriter. As well as drawing influence from contemporary electronic passions like Caribou, Grizzly Bear and Sylvan Esso, Pepino also draws from late 60s and early 70s folk and popular music such as the song-smithery of Carole King, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. The song content for ‘Heterogaster’ is based around ideas of family, sex, trust and disconnection, using rich vocal harmonies, beautifully layered to musically represent these issues.

New single ‘Easy’ is taken from Mesadorm’s forthcoming album ‘Heterogaster’, released 11th May via Babylegs Records. The song is an emotive piano-led ballad, with tender, stripped-back verses and increasingly rousing, gospel-style choruses.  It narrates the perspective of a child as they experience aggression and negativity. The point of view changes each verse as the child becomes adolescent and then adult. The song features vocals from three generations of lead singer Blythe Pepino’s family, recorded at her grandmother’s house.


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Whiskey Priest –  Ben Noble (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Ben_Noble__Cover_phixrCutting Teeth hinted at Ben Noble’s ability to craft emotive and gently sweeping folkscapes but it didn’t prepare the listener for the fact that he is able to fill a whole album with the sort of songs which could have just as easily taken its place as the teaser, the calling card and the lead single.  By this point many fellow journalists have probably already mentioned Nick Drake or Bon Ivor, but for me the best comparison is actually the sparse and spacious, floating and flowing creations of Damien Rice. Here you find the same use of atmosphere and anticipation, the same  understanding that sometimes subtle shading is more powerful than vibrant brushstrokes.

Little One is a classic example of just such an approach, all strings and sentiment as much as lyric and song and around this central gem he scatters his exotic wares. Worldspin feels like a new take on Simon and Garfunkel and there are hints of David Gray around the place but for every reference I throw at you there is ten times the amount of originality going on here. The form may be familiar but Whiskey Priest is pure Ben Noble.

The lyrics have a compressed style and revel in getting straight to the point with minimal but perfect wordplay, almost like folkloric haikus or personal notes to the listener and it is this blend of intimacy and universality, poignancy and poeticism which is so effective. Most singer-song writers, folkies and acoustic poppers would have been happy enough to have written Cutting Teeth, the song which first brought this slice of Minneapolis gold, or more properly gold leaf, such is the delicacy of the album, but to then surround it with eleven more brilliant songs is really making it hard on the competition. Benchmarks have just been raised.

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Be The Change (The Shelter) – Marieme (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

27749781_908687395975096_973584009618949688_nMarieme does that most rare of things, she makes pop that sounds both grown up and wonderfully infectious at the same time. Throwaway pop is two a penny, it always has been, and that is pretty much the nature of the beast. But pop aimed at a more mature audience generally misses the point, taking itself too seriously and forgetting why it came into the room in the first place. Be The Change (The Shelter) however, is the best of both worlds.

It hooks, it zings with an understated grace, it pops in the most chilled out of ways and it certainly grooves, it is infectious and accessible but it is also cleverly put together, sassy, soulful and bluesy, and it adds an unexpected lyrical astuteness to this often misunderstood genre, so much so that the end result is nothing less than deep and meaningful pop… in the sense that all music is essentially pop when it comes right down to it.

And as cleverly wrought and finely crafted as the music is, it is Marieme’s voice that is the stand out feature, how could it not be? It is a voice filled with the ghosts of soul legends and jazz-blues icons, a natural and all encompassing vocal equally happy to whisper softly in your ear or hit the big crescendo.

In short it is pop in an evening dress, pop with an eye on the long game, pop reaching its full potential. Throwaway pop songs that you will want to keep forever! Whatever will they think of next?

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Scene and Heard – CCLXIX : Don’t Give A Fuck – G. Killan (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

maxresdefaultWhilst the title might suggest a bunch of young punks with nothing new to say, the sentiment has taken on a whole new angle in the internet age. Rather than being just a mindless generation punk anthem, a slogan or a piece of empty rhetoric, it is now has something more to say. In this internet age where the art of trolling, that is the art of twisting and subverting on-line conversations to draw a reaction out of someone, has become weaponised language, the art of turning the other cheek, or not rising to the occasion, is a discipline in itself.

But G.Killan hasn’t got time for that and in the words of the song title..he  don’t give a fuck! And although the song drives on punked up vibes, it blends in alt-rock and, surprisingly, a dexterous and contrasting slice of smooth jazz amongst its shout from the rooftops cry of belligerence and controlled frustration.

There could also be another answer I guess, maybe he has just got to that age where you don’t really care anymore. I know how he feels!

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Yellow Roses – stop.drop.rewind. (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

SDR_album.pngI said last time around that stop.drop.rewind are the masters of blending rock muscle with pop infectiousness and I Was A Portrait, the song in question, was a lesson in making music which effortlessly appeals to both camps. Yellow Roses shows another important aspect to their music, the depth of the writing. Without loosing any of their trademark sound, this time using changes in volume and intensity to underly the power of the lyrics, they approach the very sensitive subject of loosing loved ones.

The song deals with the passing of both a childhood friend taken too soon and an elderly relative, that in itself dealing with the unexpected and arbitrary nature of death but more than dwelling solely on the matter at hand, the here and now, it deals with the reflections and thoughts about their lives and the lasting effect it has on those left behind.

They wield the quiet-loud-quiet format to great success, underlining the emotion or letting the gentler thoughts drift through quieter soundscapes. It’s a personal piece for sure but also something that is universally relatable and sadly inevitable but rarely has the subject been tackled with such a combination of understated grace and unbridled passion.

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My Life –  Hot Dizzy  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Hot_Dizzy_12_PRO02.jpgAs previous releases have proved, Hot Dizzy speaks about the world as he sees it. He doesn’t trade in fantasy scenarios or dream-laden ambitions, he trades in stories that reflect his own life, spins tales where he is the central character commenting on the highs and lows of life from a very personal point of view. If Fake Nigga was his take on the falseness and the lack of loyalty amongst people he thought he knew, My Life does literally what it says on the tin. A 5 minute auto-biographical wander through his life to date.

East Coast lyrical dexterity meets underlying West Coast swagger, golden age 90’s vibes but laced with the fresh and exploratory sound of the contemporary scene, Hot Dizzy is the perfect blend of familiarity and forward thinking, of knowing your place in musical history and being brave enough to write your own chapter. From their he warps other genres through the music, it may be built on rap flows and hip-hop swagger but like all artists working at the cutting edge of todays sound you will also find strange electronica, trap-percussion and other up to the minute adaptions.

Like all music that moves the ball forward, the core values and intent of the chosen genre remain in place but it also brings new to the table. Evolution is the way forward!

More Hot Dizzy  below…

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hotdizzy
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hotdizzy
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hotdizzy/
Website: http://www.hotdizzyhd100.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/hotdizzy


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Things I Wish You Said  –  Indifferent Matters (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

28167065_583846615298623_6421704728337974505_n.jpgThere is an interesting ambiguity that sits at the literary heart of Things I Wish You Said, the first single from Indifferent Matters. Whilst the lyrics seem to dwell on a loving and functioning relationship, heartwarming analogies and the realities of trying to make things perfect in an imperfect world, the title hints at a missing piece in this puzzle, something wished for and so presumably not present. But that’s love for you and maybe that is all part of the intrigue of the song.

Musically it is on just as tantalising ground as it builds on chilled and soulful minimalism, with chiming guitars and plaintive piano just guiding the words to their intended destination, before sullen brass edges in and sounds the changes. Beats build, a trumpet carries the main riff, banks of sumptuous harmonies add body and the song grooves and sashays towards its conclusion. Things I Wish You Said deftly splices ambient funk, alternative  soulful rock, laid-back blues and an air of neo-hippyism to great effect, and why not, that isn’t a blend you come across too often and they do it elegantly. If song marks their  first time around the musical block, I can’t be the only one intrigued to hear what happens next!

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