New Music of the Day – CLIX: The March of Progress – Gaz Brookfield

15304319_1330088023689507_6838577101719640785_oMany things come to light when you dig a little deeper towards the source of inspiration for Gaz’s songs. We know he likes cider and maps and history but this latest video from the just released 5th studio album “I Know My Place” comes from a less obvious origin, Rudolph Zallinger’s famous illustration representing 25 million years of human evolution. (That old chestnut!) And faced with the enormity of his place at the sharp end of that journey the conclusion drawn is a clear and concise “what is going on?” Which unless you are Zaphod Beeblebrox venturing into the Total Perspective Vortex, is exactly the correct response.

It also inspired the usual blend of driving, sing-along, punky-folk music featuring a cast of thousands…if not many, well…some… famous faces from the back of a van, craft ale, music festival circuit captured during the hi-jinks and shenanigans of the recording process.

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Songs of Praise, Swindon – My 12 favourite gigs of 2016 – part 1 (by Dave Franklin)

12376559_918068144947598_1890568069506145317_nI don’t get to go to many gigs that I am not involved in promoting these days, but whilst I am always present in more of a work than a punter capacity, I still get to watch, work and hang out with some wonderful bands and a set of people who are imaginative, affable, mad, crazy, creative, visionary and unlike anyone you’d meet in normal walks of life. With that in mind I thought that I’d pick my top twelve gigs I have been part of this year.

Polar Front, Lionface and Honey Trap – 7th January @ The Victoria

Polar Front are the local success story of the last year from fledging steps towards a sassy melding of R&B grooves with shimmering indie-pop to becoming soundscaping leviathans. Not only do they build massive sonorous dreamscapes and towering sonic cathedral in Sophie Goldsworthy they have the voice to back it up.

Lionface have similar draw dropping qualities, twisted electronic pop, jagged guitars and brooding melodies and one of the most mesmerising performers you will ever witness fronting the musical package.

 Gaz Brookfield and Ben Wain, Nick Parker and George Wilding – 18th February @ The Victoria

 It’s always a fun night when Gaz and his right hand man Ben head back to the town of the formers, formative musical years. Now commanding massive audiences but somehow still able to deliver an honest, often poignant, sometimes just plain fun set that still feels intimate and accessible, that’s one hell of a trick.

Nick Parker is one of my favourite people from this strange musical world to spend time with and just as big a Waterboys fan as me. His set of quirky stories, kitchen sink narratives, and sing-along rhymes defy anyone not to join in.

Opening the night was George Wilding who may look like Nick Drakes drug dealer but whose command of gutter poetry, back street operas and strange urban mythologies are second to none….except Joseph Porter. (Oh, go look him up.)

 SNDubstation and The Hat Club – 18th March @ The Locomotive

 This one was so memorable not only for the class of the bands who both take reggae and ska and blend them into wonderful, euphoric and unique musical shapes but the fact that the venue, normally known for homing a smattering of speed addled, budget lager drinkers who try to ignore and find fault with whatever music was programed that week were invaded by a party crowd who proceed to blow the roof off the place.

 The Black Feathers, Jonny Payne and The Thunder and Phil Cooper – 7th April @ The Victoria

 Anyone who doesn’t like The Black Feathers can’t be my friend. I’m sorry, those are the rules and there is nothing I can do about it. As they wander country, soul and folk musical roads they manage to lay waste any competition via the sublime way their vocals harmonise. The song crafting is great and they have an amazing stage charisma, add to that the fact that they are thoroughly nice people to hang about with and the attraction isn’t hard to see.

Jonny Payne does a neat line in Americana – country, folk, soul and gospel all find their way into the mix and the fact that The Thunder who make up the rhythm section are also two thirds of The Black Hats, one of the first bands I put on in Swindon sparks a few nostalgic conversations.

No one does accessible, acoustic pop like Phil Cooper; imagine Neil Finn with an English accent…and a hat.

 White Lilac, Wasuremono and Neverlnd – 21st April @ The Victoria

 I grew up musically with all the independent labels of the post-punk era and this gig was like a journey back in time. Sadly White Lilac is no more, as far as I’m aware, but like Wasuremono before them they blend post-punk boundary pushing, pastoral dream-pop and shimmering shoegaze into interesting new forms. The headliners take a more raw-edged approach though tempered when needed by some haunting cello lines, their support pulling at more bucolic, and atmospheric strings and garnering strange sounds from an array of retro technology.

Opener Neverlnd take the more commercial approach but still manage to walk that difficult line between radio play and cult status.

 Don Gallardo and Luke Tuchscherer – 8th May @ The Beehive

 We don’t get to put on many gigs at The Beehive but when one of East Nashville’s finest comes looking for a show you beg, borrow or steal to make it happen. Thankfully it only took a phone call.

There is quite a market in this country at the moment for music labelled Roots, Americana, or even British Americana, but when the real thing comes to town you sit up and take notice. You know how the music score of shows like “Nashville” just sound different to anything we produce on this side of the water, well, that makes a good point of reference as some of that music for that show was supplied by Mr G.

That said Luke Tuchscherer is one of our own and not only did he play the perfect support he then jumped on the drums and backed up our colonial cousin.

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.

Not Going Back to That – Doozer McDooze (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

photo-originalIf you are one of those people who moans about the state of the music industry, its manufactured posing, its production line clones, its celebration of style over substance and all the other false facets it offers, I say this to you…grow up, it’s always been like that. If you have ever used such an argument then you are not trying hard enough because if you scratch music’s shiny surface and then maybe pick and pull at a couple more layers that you’ll find underneath, eventually you will find the antidote. In fact you’ll find many but for me the real heart of the scene (used in a non-hipster, non-journo, non-ironic sort of way) is a burgeoning network of sofa surfing, constantly gigging, acoustic gunslingers who spend their life criss-crossing the continent telling their musical tales to gatherings in back street boozers, coffee shops and small festivals and my latest revelation is the most excellent Doozer McDooze.

 

Mixing wry observations with humour, passion and accessible melody, Doozer’s street smart acoustica sits somewhere between B-Sydes emotional narratives and Gaz Brookfield’s sing-along anthems (and if you don’t know either of those guys you really have some catching up to do) with songs such as Consumers and Bimbling Man even wandering into Beans on Toast lyrical territory. Bimbling? I though my mate invented that word during a drinking session in 1984.

 

The fact that this album only exists because of a Kickstarter campaign at once shows everything that is both wrong and right in the world. Firstly, it shouldn’t come to that but whilst people still think Adele is going to save us with her potty-mouthed, cockney diva routine I guess that is the way it is going to be. But the fact that it does exist does show how this wonderful grass-roots music network works, how it embraces itself, supports itself, a quiet revolution that turns and aims a one-fingered salute at the ivory towers of man-bunned, red trouser wearing record execs and says, we are going to do this anyway so get used to it.

 

So if you want to change things start engaging with this scattered collective of wonderful, deluded, driven, creative, mad and brilliant people, go to a gig, buy a CD on the way out, offer them a sofa to crash on, offer them a drink and you never know maybe the man in the street’s idea of a “solo acoustic guy” might change from Ed Sheeran to someone more honest, like the wonderful Mr McDooze. Wouldn’t that be something?

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

 

 

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