Nature Makes Amazing Shapes –  Julie Anne McCambridge (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

13906777_1092970170738503_641623144377933452_nFolk music has wandered down some interesting pathways of late. Like any genre it needs to move with the times and although there are always going to be the “folk police” – normally a bearded guy called Brian in a June Tabor tour shirt – trying to dictate what is and isn’t folk music, change, or at least evolution is inevitable. In recent times folk music has been seduced by the indie chic and Camden cool of the likes of Mumford and the Whale and more latterly emerging names such as Brona McVittie and Rowan Coupland have shown that there is a shimmering dream-pop inspired route for it to take.

But sometimes I miss the more fun, the more story telling, less mystical, the more lyrically accessible and often slightly wonky approach to the genre. If you feel the same, that you want to enjoy the songwriting rather than the soundscaping or how zeitgeisting, faddy or fashionable a record is then Nature Makes Amazing Shapes will be just what you are looking for. Because it deliberately isn’t trying to fit in and be on trend, it can cover a lot of ground and of course if you are never in fashion how can you ever be out of fashion?

Reverse is a strange, almost lullaby slice of innocent folk meets world pop, Jezebel is a jaunty confessional built on infectious bass grooves and This Sweet Delusion is a spacious plea whose simple lines leave McCambridge’s strident vocals the focal point. Just Said No is more in keeping with what you might expect from the folk tag, musically straight-forward, lyrically poignant and designed to have you singing along before the first chorus is even over and Hooligan reminds me of the ragged and roots musical machinations of The Violent Femmes, not a point of reference I get to break out very often but I’m always pleased when I do.

It’s a great album, on reflection it might not even really be a folk album after all. It’s more than that, its musical scope may touch base there more often than not but it also skirts world music, singer-songwriter stylings, warped post-punk and indie music. And of course anyone seeming to channel the spirit of Jonathan Richman, at least in approach and attitude, is exactly what music, not just folk music, needs right now.

Brian is going to hate it which is exactly why you should buy it!

 

 

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Memories – Nathan Leaman (reviewed by Darren Baker)

a0735325200_16In a world where the norm is a high gloss production, studio gimmickry, auto-tuned, over dubbed, over layered, over baked, over the top approach towards recording music, it takes a brave man to take the total opposite approach. Memories is music in the raw, the sound of the very soul being moulded into lo-fi, minimalist guitar and vocal deliveries, and then often the sound only of the essence of that soul rather than anything more tangible.

And intangible is the word as these songs drift rather than adhere to a more tethered structure, are ambient rather than built of substance, are fashioned around space rather than inhabiting that space themselves. Like the memories of the title, these are fleeting glances into an artist’s hopes and dreams, are recollections and experiences, the unstated wisdoms learned the hard way that we all carry with us.

I always think that people are a collection of stories and our personalities and outlook on life is the result of collecting them. Here the stories are plaintive and wistful, yet hinting at optimism and growth. Memories is not so much the window into Nathan Leaman’s soul, more the headphone jack socket.

Old Blue Witch – Fit and The Conniptions (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

18268101_10155334541121473_347039827637249472_nIn these times of descriptive hyperbole and overstatement it seems as if a day doesn’t go by without a “totally unique” band being wafted my way. But the fact is that these one in a million bands crop up nine times out of ten, and when they do it seems as if they are built merely from the off cuts of what ever fickle fashion trend has just breezed through. That is what makes bands such as Fit and The Conniptions so vital, for without trying too hard they embody originality, a quintessential Englishness and a flaunting of rules, or at least fashion, but in a wholly natural way, one comes from the very make-up of their mercurial musical genes rather than as the result of a PR company middle management meeting.

Old Blue Witch is a wonderful collection of slick anti-folk, warped baroque pop, bluesy meanderings, strange, celtic jiggery, political pokery and no shortage of accessible melody and infectious hooks. There are threads of early, pre-orchestral Jethro Tull, Leonard Cohen poeticism, Attila The Stockbroker subject matter and more muscular Pentangle sweetness, all woven into a design which knows its musical history yet is contemporary and alternative, not to mention subversive.

It is an ever-shifting album, one that you are never going to quite pin down with a label or genre, even my descriptive ramblings above leaves out more than it actually addresses. But I would have to say that this is an album that could only have been made in England. Not in a Brexity, flag waving sort of way, but more as a reminder of what a unique and weird make up of ideas, thoughts, sounds and cultures we actually are, and they don’t come more unique than Fit and The Conniptions. That’s a good thing, right? Quite right!

 

To find out more, buy the album and generally immerse yourself in the world of Fit and The Conniptions, follow this link.

Protectors – Standing Rock Benefit Album (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

 

a2076020414_16The original intention was to come at this album purely from a musical perspective – explore, discuss, opine just the musical factors that are found within it. But however hard you try to detach cause from result, it becomes an impossible task. Not only does the enormity of the events that sit behind this collection of songs float above the whole project, the very idea of the land, the natural world and an intangible primal force runs through the very essence of these songs, lyrically for sure but also through the music.

 

It would have been very easy for the compilers to play an obvious card at this point, to collect songs and sounds which served existing preconceptions, which tugged at heartstrings and which delivered a bag of cultural clichés and rose-tinted nostalgia. What is so clever about this collection is that whilst evoking the primal sounds and ancient, elemental spirit which is at the heart of the album, it is still wonderfully diverse, fantastically contemporary and rather than look back over it’s shoulder, is instead staring towards new horizons. Music thatperfectly captures the enduring, cyclical and timeless nature of the issues being promoted here.

 

I’ll start with Tallulah Rendall as she is the only artist I was previously aware of, but is also the perfect embodiment of an ancient concept being channelled through a modern form. With a blend of 60’s folk revival and modern chilled, pop balladry her message is one of change being the result of a multitude of small, personal shifts in attitude and outlook to realize one new, bigger cultural revision.

 

And if that is a wonderful central hub for the album to spin on, what circles it is an eclectic and myriad take on the same positivity. Karen Woods delivers a haunting, tribal – celtic jig, Murray Kyle takes a traditional protest song route and Martha Tilston takes us down some pulsing, haunting and sonorous pathways. Elsewhere there is room for emotive instrumentals and lyrical poignancy, bucolic haziness and rousing standards, music that evokes a place and songs that are universal.

 

This is an album that also resonates through a bigger picture, a picture which captures a vastly changing world, one where freedoms are being eroded, laws and justices rewritten for the gain of the few, one where the love of money is indeed the root of evil, an evil that is cashing in the natural world, for a quick turn around, selling the very stuff of existence as if they somehow owned it. Not only the water of life but the earth, our fellow inhabitants and the very air we breathe. Step beyond Standing Rock and you should see this album as a rallying point for what is to follow, a sound track to an awakening of ideas and that this may be just the tip of a fast eroding iceberg.

 

To listen to, support and purchase the album go HERE

I Know My Place – Gaz Brookfield (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14354920_10153788188541466_8361563475397586241_nTo say that Gaz Brookfield has remained a fiercely independent musician, DIY stalwart and cottage industry enterprise is like saying that he is partial to the odd tattoo or used to have a bit of a thing for cider. Gigs are booked without agents, he chauffeurs himself around aided only by his own assigned RAC man and albums are recorded largely under his own multi-instrumental steam. But there comes a point where it is time to up the game, head into the realms of bigger and slicker production, aim for a fuller sound, work with a band. What is a West Country Boy to do?

 

Well, the logical extension is to gather friends who have steered their own creative crafts through similar independent waters and put together a gang of like-minded musicians and studio folk, this time operating under a slightly more striking and collaborative Do It Themselves flag.

 

But fear not I Know My Place is still very much trade mark Gaz, the same buoyant mix of humour, history and honest reflections – life affirming, optimistic and joyous, acoustic driven songs but now it is Gaz plus, Gaz 2.0, Gaz and the boys. Effectively what you get is the best of both worlds, the range, style and scope of songs that you have come to expect from him with added depth, colour and vitality. The barrelhouse piano and meandering country violin of Life Begins, the skittering banjo and Hammond wash of Flaws are testament to this and the wonderful narrative of The Tale of Gunner Haines reminds me that the distance between Gaz and the likes of The Men They Could Hang or the lyrics of Blyth Power is not that far.

 

And if there are still some wonderfully personal and minimal outings such as Sand and Sea, and The Ferry Song reveling in appreciation and love for the natural world and people around him, there are also some total rockers, the Gogol Bordello-esque World Spins, the up beat and vivacious title track and the poignant and touching tribute to a fallen friend that is Getting Drunk for Christmas, a seasonal alternative standard if ever there was one.

 

Maybe the punks got it wrong, maybe it isn’t about kicking down the barricades and declaring year zero, maybe it is actually about climbing through the back window of the music industry party and being an awkward, uninvited guest until there are enough of you stood glaring from the back of the room that the hosts can’t ignore you. I reckon any day now someone will beckon Gaz over for that metaphorical vol-au-vent and I’m not even sure if he will take it.

Star Treatment – Wovenhand (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

 

UnknownMany bands openly reference influences from the formative years of rock, for arguments sake lets say the decade from the mid sixties onwards, but few sound as if they were actually recorded then, not in the way that Wovenhand does. And I’m not talking about any sort of deficiency in the recording quality that often indicates its age or any deliberate rose tinted pastiche that many bands think it’s cool to try to carry off. It is something in the acid tinged doom, the psychedelic subversions of the album and that swagger which rock carried it self with when it was still a young man.

 

If you close your mind to the fact that this is a current album, the sounds found here could be the source material for everyone from The Doors to The Cult to Nick Cave. And if the label Americana is one of those terms that seem so broad as to usually be redundant, here is sort of works. There is something at the core of David Eugene Edwards vision that could only have been born in the American heartland but he then takes that sound and twists it into warped stoner blues, gothic tinged psychedelia, dystopian rock and the same dark, acid-blasted country vibe that ran through his previous outfit, 16 Horsepower.

 

So if the rhinestone glitz of the Nashville music halls represents one end of the American musical dream this represents the other. Drive away from Music City, west until the car gives out along a lone highway, walk to the next town, the one that looks like the set of a post apocalyptic western and find its only bar. There is a band playing in the next room to an audience of drifters and truckers, hobo’s and hell-raisers and it sounds like this. You’ve left the American dream behind and you’re headed into the American nightmare.

 

Solo Acoustic Guy II- Gaz Brookfield (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a1523390016_16Like many, I have experienced Gaz’s music in various different guises from full electric band, three-piece, driven folk ensemble, busker-esque acoustic duo and solo player. Throughout all of these formats whether accompanied by wailing guitars, soaring fiddles, driving backbeats or whatever sounds he skilfully blends into these songs, one core feature remains the beating heart of his music. Simply the quality of the song writing.

Stripped down into the simplest of forms, one man and one guitar, it is this quality more than anything which shines through. If the first collection of stripped back versions of his songs were selected by the fans, this second outing is Gaz filling in the gaps, a mixture of the selections which didn’t make the cut first time around plus a few personal choices.

Gaz’s songs shine with an honest love of his chosen profession; the people, the travel, the new experiences, the highs and the lows, and the subject matter reflects the journey he has taken and the path, which still stretches out before him. Whether broken down on the side of the motorway (Hell or High Water,) the troubadour nature of his life (Four Chords and The Truth, The Buskers Song,) of reflection on the people who have shared the journey or influenced him (Tell it To The Beer, Frank and Sam) there always seems to be a song to be had out of the experience. And even in such a redacted format the songs range in style, from the dexterous intricacies of SN1 to the more pastoral folk of Cornish Fishing Town.

Many people use the stage and songs to build an act, to hide behind a mask but more than anyone else I know Gaz’s songs are just an extension of the man himself, they are open, charismatic, fun and at times cathartic. Journalists often talk about searching for the man behind the music but in this case the two are interchangeable, if you want to know anything about the artist, just listen to his songs. It’s as simple as that.

Buy the album HERE

 

 

Give Doozer McDooze a good kickin’

12814638_10153366167867201_7475726113821403849_nOne of the great things about working at the grassroots level of music has been watching the rise of a great DIY circuit of wandering guitar-slingers across the length and breadth of the country. Forget all those check shirted Frank Turner wannabees you see at open mic. nights, these guys are the real deal and remember for every Frank that makes it through to a commercially viable career they are dozens of players of a similar ethic criss-crossing the country, sofa surfing and playing their songs to a hand full of people in obscure backstreet pubs, coffee shops and in small festival tents. We have written about many of them here on DAA – Jake Martin, Gaz Brookfield, Nick Parker, Joe McCorriston, Jon Allen, B-Sydes, Heartwork, Neil Morris… the list goes on.

 

But unlike the aforementioned Mr T it is often next to impossible to find the funds to record the music and get it out to the public at large. Well, thank god for Kickstarter and the latest artist to take that route is the wonderfully named Doozer McDooze or as he is sometimes known “ that bloke you see at festivals.”

 

If you check out the link below and play the video you can hear him explain just how you can be involved and all the various packages as well as the breakdown of costs are there to check out too.

 

Link to Kickstarter info

 

The grass roots music scene needs all the support it can get these days, music doesn’t just suddenly jump from the bedroom to an O2 and by helping out artists such as Doozer McDooze you are not only helping the smaller network survive and flourish you will be getting some pretty great new music and other goods into the bargain.

 

Like This

 

Doesn’t that give you a warm feeling?

New Music of The Day: LXXXVII – Who Are You? – Hayley Cannon

41b82178-89be-4d3f-9f46-2e0230b9b40eThere is something so outside the box about Hayley Cannon’s music. It refuses to dance to the beat of musical trends, it ignores fashion and like her easiest comparison, Kate Bush, seems to exist in its own musical time and genre. Indeed the question of Who Are You? raised by this song is quite a succinct one, seemingly coming out of no where and making music that seems to have little precedent yet is totally accessible, music that would seem unconnected with modern requirements in what ever era it appeared in, yet once heard intrigues the listener to want more.

It is a song built on stolen fragments, sounds left echoing around after a  classical recital, a roots revival recording session and choral practice all being pulled together into a slow burning atmospheric build, gaining momentum and eventually crashing headlong across a dream-folk finishing line.

If the brief of this site is to ignore the obvious, mainstream trends, to champion the off beat and the under the radar artists, the ones making challenging and intriguing music then it seems we have a new flag to wave.

 

Sick and Sand – Joe McCorriston (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a1607762195_16It is an interesting time in the acoustic solo, singer-songwriter camp these days. As a genre it is probably the oldest format, with a historical thread that weaves  through pub singers, itinerant troubadours, court minstrels and back through time. It is also a genre filled with imposters, a seemingly fast track route for all those Ed Sheeran wannabes thinking “how hard can it be?” as they knock out another three chord Dylan rip off and wait for Simon Cowell to come a-calling. But it is a genre with a wonderful resurgence going on at the moment, as the likes of Frank Turner managed to prise open the door left slightly ajar by Billy Bragg, a whole bunch of wonderful, wandering songsters and impassioned gypsy guitar-slingers also found a way through and Joe McCorriston is part of that wave.

 

Sick and Sand is a wonderful collection of honest thoughts and anecdotal stories from a man trying to make his way through a lifestyle where the rewards are more spiritual, emotional and social than financial, a subject explored in songs such as The Dirty Game and Four Months. The wonderfully named Cardboard is Heavy Sometimes is the perfect sideswipe at the overt poeticism of some songwriters and we get a slice of acute soul searching via Never Let The Demons Win.

 

You could make an argument to say that there isn’t much more that can be done with the simple format of a voice and an acoustic guitar, which may be true but that would be missing the point and the point is it’s all about how good the songs are – Joe has some great songs and it is this stripped back format that show cases that perfectly. No tricks or musical frippery, just unreconstructed, raw guitar lines and stories of his life, the album sounds just like the live show and so is the perfect advert for what he actually does out in the real world.

 

Next time you see a guitarist wrestling songs and sentiment from a well travelled old acoustic in the corner of the pub, spare a thought for these sofa surfing, musical road warriors who entertain for little more than petrol money or a place to stay overnight, in a way they are all Joe McCorriston, they are all part of the fight back against style over substance and TV talent shows. And buy a CD before you leave, not doing so means that the music terrorists win!

 

 

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