But if ever there was a band that deserved even more attention than it’s already getting, then it’s the Medway four-piece.
LOUD HORIZON has been championing the cause from way before the release of the band’s first album, and indeed wrote about them in ARTROCKER MAGAZINE some two and a half years ago! Since then (though not necessarily as a direct result of!) their stock and standing has steadily risen, with their two albums and other EP releases garnering ‘five star’ ratings from the afore-mentioned music bible, as well as broadsheet newspaper mentions and plentiful airplay on national radio.
Each release showcases the increasing maturity of song-writing (though I have to say it was of a pretty high standard from the off) and this new EP, featuring five previously unreleased recordings certainly highlights that fact.
I say there are five new recordings … though not exactly five new songs – the track ‘Three Ships,’ appears on the band’s last album, ‘At The End Of A River, The Sea …’ However it has been completely re-worked ( and slightly re-titled) for the this EP. This version ‘Three Ships (disappear here)’ has a more ‘confident’ ring about it; a sturdier feel. It’s more Seventies sounding guitar and stomp than the more acoustic and harmonica based original.It’s also about a minute and a half shorter. Better though!
‘Learning How To Be Idle,’ is dominated early on by piano and Oliver Burgess’s vocals, but then in comes the gentle twang of what sounds like a pedal-steel guitar, giving the track a bit of a bluesy, country feel … but not too much! There then follows an acoustic / solo version by Oliver of last year’s vinyl-only single, ‘Katherine’s Sleeping,’ and a similarly styled demo recorded (at the famous Sun Studios no less) by guitarist Robbie of ‘Orchard Song.’ Maybe because I’m biased, I still enjoy both although I have to say Oliver’s vocals are the better suited to this type of delivery.
‘(Just Like) A Sunny Day In June‘ is the type of song that made me think way back that THEATRE ROYAL are going to attract a LOT of positive attention
This is the first release from the band on their own Medlar Records label and is being made available on a very strictly Limited Edition, hand numbered CD format as well as the usual download. Both can be ordered through the THEATRE ROYAL Bandcamp page.
You know how sometimes bands have a sort of intangible ‘feel,’ to them; a certain ‘something’ about their whole being, the way they are presented and the general atmosphere they create – even for those who like me in this case haven’t seen that band play?
Good. So if I say that for me FAT WHITE FAMILY have the same sort of ‘feel’ to them as fellow Londoners Flowered Up did back in the early Nineties, then you’ll know what I mean. I don’t mean that there is any specific similarity on the music front (though there are little flashes) but …… ah well, I know what I mean! (It’s a compliment, by the way!)
The band have been around a year or so, tearing up the stages of their home city as they have built up a bit (a pretty damned big bit) of a cult following for their stage antics which apparently, planned or otherwise, involve various incidents of chaos, blood, nudity and general weirdness! It all adds to the FAT WHITES’ (as they are also known) notoriety of course. And ‘notoriety’ in turns leads to hype; and ‘hype’ in turns leads to big expectations.
And in this case, these ‘big expectations’ are most certainly fulfilled! This is one helluva debut album!
(I’m not too sure if my downloaded promo copy ended up in the correct track order, so don’t hang me if there are any discrepancies!)
Opener ‘Auto Neutron,’ is I suppose the closest musically to anything done by the afore-mentioned Flowered Up. Not that it’s so much ‘baggy,’ but it’s certainly got a trippy, psychedelic feel to it. The vocals are quietly sung and harmonised, but in an almost disinterested manner while the guitar provides a downbeat sharpness.
‘Raining In Your Mouth,’ is an amalgam of several sounds. The vocals are like a manic Johnny Cash morphing into more of a Johnny Thunders as the song progresses , while the backing has a Velvet Underground feel mixed with the Christmassy chimes of tubular bells.
‘Without Consent,’ features a thumping bassline running through the fast-flowing track that at points slightly echoes The Stone Roses with the shuffling drum rhythm and reverb on the vocals. ‘Special Ape,’ goes a little bluesy, in a FAT WHITE manner with a stomping beat and a bit of a background cacophony that lasts less than a minute and a half in total.
Next (in my order) is the current single (released on 18th March.) The video for the excellent ‘Cream Of The Young,‘ follows.
‘Wild American Prairie,’ has a kind of psycho-country ring to it. I can’t describe it any other way. It stomps and pounds its way through its three and a half minute duration with a twanging guitar riff and low-sounding gang vocals.
‘Borderline,’ continues with a sort of country theme. It’s more acoustic sounding and reminds me very much Canned Heat back in the Seventies – it has a sort of ‘jug band,’ basis to it.
‘Heaven On Earth,’ rips right into flow, the guitar riff raging incessantly with muffled sounding vocals being uttered like some mad, drunken jakey on a Saturday night. It’s all a bit of a distorted mess … but yet absolutely engrossing.
My favourite track is ‘Bomb Disneyland,’ so rather than try to describe it, I’ll share it here. Brilliant!
‘Garden Of The Numb,’ closes (my) album. It really just does as it says on the tin …. really bored and tired sounding vocals draped over a floor-tom beat and cabaret-blues-type picked guitar. (If Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh was to release a record, this’d be it!)
I love this album – and hopefully FAT WHITE FAMILY will be allowed out of London some time soon so that they can unleash their madness on the rest of UK. I for one will be waiting!
(Released on April 1st 2013 through Trashmouth Records)
The coastal town of Largs on the West of Scotland is probably better known for its famous ice-cream parlour than for producing credible, pop / soulful bands with masses of potential. But that now seems set to change with the emergence of three-piece BROWN BEAR & THE BANDITS.
Around a year ago, they released their ‘Truth Or Dare‘ EP and the gig-going public of Glasgow and around sat up and listened! There has been a general buzz going around these parts since then and now, with the release of their first single proper, ‘Olive Tree,’ the likes of BBC Introducing are finally picking up on the vibe.
I reckon that ‘vibe’ will soon turn to fully blown ‘hype’ shortly. So, if you’re in Scotland and fancy being able to make that claim of ’I saw them play before they were famous,’ then this is where you need to be:
Friday 23rd February : Tolbooth, Stirling (supporting Miniature Dinosaurs)
Friday 1st March : MV Festival, Aviemore
Thursday 25th April : Hootananny, Inverness **
Friday 26th April : King Tuts, Glasgow **
Saturday 27th April : PJ Malloys, Dunfermline **
Sunday 28th April : Electric Circus, Edinburgh **
(** – Revolving headline dates with Miniature Dinosaurs)
…And here are a couple of tracks from last year’s ‘Truth Or Dare’ EP just for good measure:
Brought up on a diet of Rory Gallagher and Roy Buchanan, I was introduced to The Blues at an early age. Through time, this interest led me to the Southern Rock sound of bands such as Lynryd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band etc., and more recently the blues-drenched ‘desert rock’ the likes of Sleepy Sun.
From the sound of it, THE JIM DOLAN PROJECT have made a similar journey.
‘Times Have Changed’ is not specifically like any of those bands mentioned, but if you take the general ‘feel’ and add an extra dash of Country mixed with Americana, then you’re not far away. And it’s all delivered with an authenticity that belies their Watford, England roots!
Opening track ‘Burning At Both Ends’ sets the tone for the album. With a gently chugging guitar riff, there’s a sort of sinister undertone in the grumbling bass-line as the warm vocals convey heat from the burning hell as the observation is made that ‘the devil’s your only friend.’
‘Line In The Sand’ is my favourite track on the album. It starts out slowly, in the manner of Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,’ but builds into a fantastically atmospheric anthem that conveys the image of Californian deserts littered with cactus plants and dried-out cattle skulls. (Ok – maybe that’s just me, then!) But the integration of a string section gives the song a real depth and the guitar solo has a haunted feel about it. The only possible ‘negative’ about this song is that although it runs to just shy of five minutes, it could quite easily have been built into something momentous by adding a couple of additional minutes into the instrumental break. Great stuff!
‘Dirty Blues’ does exactly as it says on the tin – it’s a gritty, rumbling blues riff that runs throughout, interspersed with little guitar licks and a rockin’ blues vocal.
I love ‘train’ songs. Not that I’m a train-spotter geek type or anything, but just the way the imagery is portrayed in songs like Rory Gallagher’s ‘Race The Breeze,’ or Dave Arcari’s ‘Blue Train.’ There are many other examples, but probably none any more descriptive than ‘Dead Man’s Handle,’ in which the pace increases as life of the tale-teller becomes more and more out of control. This is the first song on the album that features the female harmonies that will be given more prominence in later tracks.
The first of those is ‘If I Don’t See You Tonight.’ Now, I’m not big on downbeat songs and so initially I had an automatic resistance to this song, but on actively listening to the lyrics of regret and emptiness I have to say it definitely grew on me. It’s a sad story, and delivered in a way that made me think of The Beautiful South gone Country, but one that certainly merits taking time over. (Again, the string section breakdown adds tremendously to the feel of the song.)
‘Mistake’ is another slow song – this could be pushing it! Yeah – it is. I’m sure it’s a quality song in its own little way, but for someone with the attention span of a rampant gnat, two downbeat songs, one after another, is a bit much. It is broken up with some nice lap-steel guitar, but it’s still one I’d probably skip over if I didn’t have to write about it.
‘Real Life’ brings me back into the room. Can Country music also be ‘funky?’ Sounds like it. This will have you shufflin’ in your shoes. ‘Photograph’ is featured in the video below, so no need to comment – other than to say, ‘give it time.’ Certainly not one of my favourites, it is saved by the deep-sounding cello backing.
‘Kingdom Of Dust,’ returns the album to what I personally feel THE JIM DOLAN PROJECT do best – bluesy desert rock. Atmospheric slide guitar, mid-paced tempo and strong vocals with a catchy rhythm and memorable hook; yep, that’ll do nicely.
The album closer is also the title track and features the soulful (Joplin-esque) vocal style of Lynne Jackman. The intensity rises and falls in good, slow stomping fashion and certainly rivals ‘Line In The Sand’ as my favourite.
I believe this is the first album from THE JIM DOLAN PROJECT who formed only a year or so back. This should certainly gain them a good bit of attention, and I for one look forward to what may follow.
(Released through Which Wolf Wins and available now – November 2012)
(8.5 / 10)
As little as six months ago, I would have mocked had it been predicted that I would soon become a listener to Radio 2. However, the demise of Rock Radio (now part of the Real Radio Group) and the insistence from the decision-makers at Radio 1 that my age-group is no longer specifically desired (at least for their day-time shows) drove me to grudgingly tune in.
And guess what – the first two shows I discovered were Brian Matthews and The Sound Of The Sixties ….. and a ‘through the night’ show hosted by former Fun Loving Criminal, Huey Morgan.
I was hooked: especially so in the case of the latter. The eclectic choice of music and direct, no bullshit presentation, make this the perfect advert for BBC’s I-Player – (the show airs around midnight to three on a Saturday morning.)
So, when presented with a (digital) copy of Huey’s new album, it was a bit of a no-brainer. This is going to be a real mish-mash of songs that reflect Huey’s personal tastes as illustrated on his radio show.
And indeed, you can tell that this IS a perfect reflection of Huey’s taste – you get the feeling that he’s more than ‘comfortable’ with this style of music. It’s heavily loaded with New York soul, tinted with a touch of Blues and is delivered with a really smooth presentation. This however leads to my only little ‘beef,’ with ‘Say It To My Face,’ in that it does tend to be a little bit one-paced.
But I get it – I really do, even if it does take a few intent listens.
Huey Morgan is a story-teller, and one who it would seem is undoubtedly both proud of, and misses his home city of New York. The ‘New York feel’ comes across most strongly in many of these twelve songs that span fifty minutes.
‘Stick It To The Man,’ opens the album in a definite FLC style. It has that little trademark bounce with repeated guitar riffs and gentle funky ‘wah wah’ guitar and shrill piano backing. As ever, Huey’s vocals are slightly gruff and yet still sound somewhat ‘smooth.’
‘Dirty Bird,’ has Huey more or less speaking the vocals throughout the verses and again (though this time it’s the Hammond organ in the background) it has a distinct FLC sound. ‘Let My People Go ‘gently rocks things up a little, only for the pace to drop again on ‘Shaniqua.’
This is a lovely track, combining the Hammond again with piano and pedal steel guitar. Yes, it has a kind of ‘Country’ feel, but more like that you’d find on a Rolling Stones album of old.
‘The Ripple,’ for some reason makes me think of Robbie Robertson and ‘Somewhere Down The Crazy River’ – maybe I’m way off the mark …. I’m sure someone will debate the point – but they’ll lose!
‘The Way It Was Before,’ is one I particularly like. I think it appeals to the latent schoolboy in me, what with all the swearing and street talk! The backing vocals give it a sort of George Harrison feel, I think. ‘It’s Alright,’ is funky as hell with a great bass-line, and then there is the beautiful Country sound of ‘Fall Into Me.’ Again I think a bit of The Rolling Stones, but with Keef on vocals!
‘New York Bluez,’ is my favourite! Very Captain Beefheart styled vocals and Primal Scream type slide guitar; a great combo!
Of the remaining three songs, two are a little downbeat for me: ‘She’s Gone,’ and ‘The White Guard,’ although the latter does see the atmospherics intensify in the second half of its six minute duration with some nice distant sounding guitar.
That just leaves ‘Christmas By The Side Of The Road.’ Oddly, it sounds like ‘Country’ gone ‘Hawaiian’ in places, but for all that is still a compelling listen.
And I think those last two words sum up the album as a whole: there’s probably something here for everyone, but overall I’d wager that neither Radio 1 nor Real XS would be all that interested in adding it to their playlists.
But Radio 2……………..?
(Maybe I’ve now come of age …….!)
(Released through Naim Edge Records on 29th October 2012)
(8.5 / 10)
Drawing influence from Blues, Country, and (I hate to say it!) Folk music, Northampton’s PRESLEY JOHNSON are currently beavering away on their second album which should hopefully be ready for the tail end of this year.
Having played around on the London circuit, they have also played several shows in Marburg, Germany from where the video for this highly infectious track ‘Drinking Alone,’ was shot.
Coming from the Thames Delta of Southend-on-Sea, the five-piece Americana band tell the story here of their town’s pier famously burning down on 9th October 2005. Previous songs have related to the man who killed Blues singer Robert Johnson and the story of a boxer who descends into madness after taking a bribe to throw a fight.
Now, I know all songs tell a story (of sorts) but it seems to me that THE LUCKY STRIKES are particularly adept at relating fact and considered thought through their music where many bands rely simply on emotion as the stimulus for writing.
This may sound a little on the ‘heavy’ and ‘high-brow’ side, but ‘Beast Burnt Down’ doesn’t actually come across that way. I would say however that it definitely fits my preconceived notion of ‘Americana’ by virtue of the narrative coupled with the array of instruments that seem to be at play here. Most prominent in this folksy / bluesy track is the Hammond organ which combines with the violin / fiddle. There may even be a piano-accordion mixed in there, but you’ll appreciate this is not my normal listening material, so I may be a touch confused!
Whatever, given the subject matter this is a surprisingly jaunty little track which somehow also conveys the drama and anguish of the event through the increased intensity of the chorus and the crying violin.
(Digitally released on 21st May 2012)
(7.5 / 10)
The Press Release that accompanies this single opens thus:
‘Six-piece Indie band VAN SUSANS kick off the year with their brand new single, ‘Bricks Not Sticks Or Straw……’
That was as much as I read before letting the music speak for itself. And here’s what it told me:
Pigeon-holed as ‘Indie’ they may be, but these two tracks came across as being more of a popular Country Rock ilk. Maybe this is the wrong thing to say (or even admit to) but both ‘Bricks Not Sticks Or Straw,’ and ‘Disappear’ sound like the type of songs performed by the ‘guest’ bands that appear on American Idol. You know, the kind of ‘Country’ influenced band that you’ve never even heard of here in U.K. but after a few minutes you have to grudgingly acknowledge as being pretty damn good!
And this is where I see VAN SUSANS on the evidence of these two tracks. The vocals are clear, confident and concise with a gentle rasp and the overall impression is one of silky professionalism. The piano plays an integral part in both songs which are catchy and most enjoyable whist playing, but unfortunately don’t really stick around much in my memory at least.
Reading further through the Press Release, I notice that whilst Producer Oli Som is from the U.K., he learnt his trade during a stint at a Nashville studio before returning home to work with a few emerging Indie bands like VAN SUSANS. So maybe my initial impression was not too far wide of the mark?
It’s kind of hard to assess this single – if you’re expecting ‘Indie’ the likes of The Maccabees or Saturday’s Kids (just two bands that sprung to mind) then you’ll perhaps be disappointed. But if you’re more open to a wider and perhaps tenuous interpretation of the genre, then you’ll find it hard to pick fault.
I just think it may be more tailored for the American market.
(Released through Beatnik Geek Records on 26th March 2012)
(8 / 10)
Bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band etc have always held prominent positions within my record collection, despite my preferred music being more artrock and punk based. So it’s no great surprise that I find myself for the most part really enjoying this debut, eponymous album from BLACK BART.
What IS surprising however, is that these four guys come not from America’s Deep South, but from the South Coast of England! All twelve tracks have a real air of Country Rock authenticity about them, whilst all the time drawing influence from other genres such as basic rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass and blues. They do sound the real deal!
The production on this album is excellent with the sound crystal clear and well balanced. And with the band recording all the tracks in ‘live’ takes, there is a definite vibrancy about the music.
Opening song ‘Broken Like A Mirror’ is pretty standard Country fare, with nice clear-cut guitar and tight harmonies. ‘I’m Going To Jail’ is perhaps my favourite and sure to be a ‘live’ favourite. The chugging guitar and bluesy feel is almost Rory Gallagher inspired and though obviously not in the same league as my personal guitar hero, the guitar solos are indeed worthy of mention.
‘I Believe’ is slower in pace, and still with a distinct Blues feel, while ‘Town To Town’ carries on that particular mood, but with the vocals more ‘spoken’ in places as vocalist Simon Stanley-Ward almost narrates the story. (I should say at this point that he actually has a very distinctive singing voice.) Again, some lovely guitar work is incorporated throughout. ‘Reflection’ slows even further, but sounds a little meaner, and has a great little ‘hook’ with the backing vocals in the chorus.
‘Don’t Tell Me Anymore’ is the prerequisite ‘slow’ song. It kind of wafted over me a little. Still, every album’s gotta have one! ‘Come Back Home’ carries on that moody feel, but this time with more emphasis on the piano. and with more balls! (A little Bob Dylan reflection on this one, perhaps?)
‘Turnaround (Still Looks The Same)’ takes us back to the Country feel – but more in the ways of early Eagles, I’d say. ‘Home By The River’ rocks it up a notch, with nice guitar picking and some sort of ‘West Coast’ harmonies. ‘Song For A Friend’ is the longest track on the album at over five and a half minutes. It’s like a heavy blues type song, again with Dylan-esque vocals almost narrating the story and backed with lengthy guitar pieces, much in the format of mid Seventies Classic Rock. It’s almost like this is BLACK BART’S ‘Free Bird’ or ‘Stairway To Heaven’ moment!
‘Freedom Blues’ does what it says on the tin basically, although there is a bit jazz / swing built into the Blues fabric, while closing song ‘Who Made The Water’ ends the album with an injection of pace, chant-a-long gang choruses, zippy guitar and bouncy rhythm section.
Clear, distinctive and unique vocals, great guitar playing, and a pounding rhythm section that could mix with the best – all in all, this is a pretty classy album with a ‘value for money’ running time of fifty-four minutes.
(Released through Faustuss International on 25th October 2010)