Inspiration

“To inspire people, even just for one second, is worth something.” Paul Simonon

The best dressed man in Punk rock, and sometime undercover chef on a Greenpeace ship, Paul Simonon is a true artist.

A painter prior to becoming a musician, and now a man of many achievements, and an impeccable collection of fedoras, Simonon, along with Strummer, Jones and Headon, was a key inspiration to a whole generation.

But he recognises that really four guys with guitars, drums and microphones were unlikely to change the world. The utopia they hoped for never came to pass, and now of course, their standard bearer and combat coat wearer Joe, is dead.

Nevertheless, they did inspire, and they continue to. And that, as Paul says, is worth something. People who were inspired by their vision of the world have made, and continue to make, small changes to their world. I am one of those people.

We all have that opportunity – don’t let it go to waste.

Very Heavy Christmas video

We were never going to be able to do this event justice with a hand held, but arts student Jason Lee has taken a crack at it, and managed to get some of the key elements in – the footage is of the first song when most people were hanging back in their seats, and then a song a bit further into the set. We also had video ‘lessons’ and a short plug from George, the heavy metal curate who also features in the video. About 300 people came to the event overall, with bikers coming from far and wide, and metal heads making a suprise early visit to town especially for the event. Huge thanks go to all involved and to those who supported the event, from the band to the YMCA who raised hundreds of pounds for their work with homeless young people, to the Christian motorcyclists association who rode their bikes along icey roads to be with us, and who delighted the crowd with their ‘biker bibles’.

Brilliant work everyone, and as for next year…. well its a maybe…

For more pics, hopefully more video, and more feedback on the event generally, head over to the very heavy christmas facebook page, which you can find by searching for it, or by heading to the the very heavy christmas site, and clicking through.

The Albion Band – Fighting Room review

The Albion Band; Fighting Room EPIt was a pleasure to receive a review copy of the new EP from The Albion Band last week, the pleasure coming from both the concept and the contents.

A bit like the six degrees of separation, surely most British people by now know somebody who was once in, around, or has performed with, The Albion Band. Such is the majesty of their reach, that their names are legion, for they are many.

So The Albion Band is perhaps something more of a project name rather than a specific group of people, except for one central point, Ashley Hutchings, founder of The Albion Band, and also key person in the formation of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span – for pity’s sake.

But that’s where this new incarnation is different – this is The Albion Band sans Ashley Hutchings, (except for a bit of lurking) and led instead by his son, the accomplished Blair Dunlop, on guitars and vox.

Their new release, an EP called ‘Fighting Room’ showcases Dunlop and co’s take on the Albion sound, which is a distinctly folk rock groove, reminiscent of the old days of the Albions, but also firmly up to date.

Dunlop and his cohort of Gavin Davenport, Katriona Gilmore, Tom Wright and Tim Yates deliver a energetic blast of sonic excellence with five classic slices of folk rock, led by the Thieves’ Song, penned by Davenport himself.  Beside the last song on the disc, a new rendering of Tucker Zimmerman’s Taoist Tale, the Thieves’ Song is my favourite on the release, lyrically it is a burning reminder of folk’s political inclinations, and musically would stand up well in the repertiore of any of the best folk rock acts.

The Fighting Room EP is a great start for this latest version of The Albion Band, and personally I look forward to hearing much more from them, you can buy it at The Albion Band online store, where you can also pick up some of their previous output.

It’s something of a milestone in the evolution of The Albion Band, and hopefully as a new unit we’ll be hearing much more from them over the coming months and years.

Watch out for these guys, they’ve got something.

Nevermind

It’s 20 years since Nevermind was released, I know lots of people are banging on about it, but it’s worth a short pause for thought.

Nevermind happened when I was 14, already developing a taste for punk and rock and roll, already addicted to Johnny Cash and the other ‘outlaw’ country and western singers. I reckon 14 is one of the most impressionable ages, certainly Nirvana made a huge impression on me, and impacted the way I listened, dressed, and conceived of myself for a number of years. The fact that the guys in Nirvana were all about 10 years older than me (doesnt every 14-year-old boy want to be about 24?) was probably a factor too.

Although Bleach was already out, it hadnt really registered with me to be honest, it was Nevermind that broke through to me. Perhaps just because of how heavy it was in comparison with other stuff around.

I can’t tell you how massive Smells Like Teen Spirit sounded back then. It left a huge impression, even though at first I couldnt really understand the words.

I remember hearing Graham Cray give a talk at Greenbelt, probably the following summer, in which he went through the lyrics of Smells Like Teen Spirit, if I hadnt already realised it, I then began to understand how profoundly they expressed the ennui and repressed fury that Nirvana seemed to embody.

I also remember the day that Kurt died, how there were kids in the school crying, who didnt even like his music. I wasnt impressed by that. But in some ways I already knew that Kurt’s death was the tragicaly inevitable ending of a tortured soul.

Somehow the life of Nirvana was more profound than the death, there was something of innocence in its Gen X vibe that disappeared as Kurt died and the millenials approached with their mocking reacceptance of the meta narrative.

And I forget just why I taste,

Oh, yeah, I guess it makes me smile,

I found it hard, it’s hard to find,

Oh well, whatever, nevermind.

Ah I dont know, I guess I could be talking through my hat, but this I do know for sure: There are only a handful of albums that are so iconic that they remain milestones in the path of music as popular culture. Nevermind is one of them.

The Waterboys – Sweet Dancer

The Waterboys are due to release a new album ‘An Appointment with Mr Yeats‘ in September, and for anyone keen to hear something from it a bit early, here is a special preview track – Sweet Dancer.

It’s a really beautiful track, classic Mike Scott – he really has one of the best voices in pop – unaffected and individual, yet at the same time somehow reminiscent of many of the great voices of the past fifty odd years. The music for Sweet Dancer was written by Freddie Stevenson, a blues/folk singer songwriter with a soft melodic style, who also adds vocals to the track – the only non waterboys contributor to the record.

I really love the Waterboys, I love their music and to be honest I love their style/mythology. I can remember hearing the Glastonbury Song way back when and hearing echoes of my own Christian spirituality in their neo-pagan lyrics.”I just found God where he always was.”

I still think its a great song actually, and have kept my well loved vinyl copy of it.

I suppose anyone reading my posts about music over the last few weeks would get the false impression that I’m mainly interested in the intersection of folk and pop – that wouldn’t be true, my tastes are much broader than that, but I do appreciate decent folk music, such as the recent release Weave and Spin by Lady Maisery, and I really appreciate a great artist like Mike Scott.

I’m really looking forward to hearing the rest of the album, which as you may have guessed from the title is based upon poetry by WB Yeats. It’s apparently been 20 years in the making – which bodes well in my view, best not to rush these things. The songs will already be familiar to anyone who got to the concert tour last year/earlier this year – but I didn’t. 😦

 

Lady Maisery: Weave and Spin

I’ve just received a really beautiful album from a brand new folk trio Lady Maisery. It takes something quite unusual for me to feel the need to write a review as soon as I receive the CD, and this is certainly unusual; unusually good. Quite brilliant in fact.

Weave and Spin is the first album from Lady Maisery, who are Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans. It’s made up of haunting and captivating tunes, given new life by the harmonies of these three singers.

Lady Maisery are a new group, although the three members each have impeccable and international folk credentials. If I’m any judge they are likely to find themselves getting a lot of attention over the next few months – the quality of singing and musicianship really is that good.

Of particular note is the way they have recaptured the art of ‘diddling’ – singing tunes, rather than words. Its more akin to birdsong than conventional singing. It’s not something you hear these days, mainly because people don’t do it well enough to be able to get away with it, Lady Maisery however,  have really mastered the art.

Actually this is a peculiarly rich album, full of unexpected sounds and with suprising elements of wry humour. Really I suppose this represents what English folk music does best, and that does involve nicking things from other places, so expect some european tunes, and even a Sitar type instrument along with the more traditional English sounds.

My favourites from this outstanding album , besides the diddling – I loved the anti-war ‘Portland town’, and was enthralled by The Changelings’ Lullaby and The Capable Wife, but my favourite of them all was the final track ‘Sleep On Beloved’ which I found myself listening to over and over again – astoundingly beautiful.

Lady Maisery should, if there is any musical justice, have a great year ahead of them.  Weave and Spin is available now.

Special Providence – funny who you meet on the beach

Sometimes there’s a special providence  about who you meet when you’re on the beach – last week while I was photographing the eldest daughter surfing the little waves on the Plage de la Saluce, along came these guys.

Apparently they were playing in Marseille – wish I’d managed to get along, never mind. Pleasure to meet you guys!

Now here’s a game we can all play – which Hungarian Jazz Rock band did you meet on holiday? Answers in the comments please.