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.

Watcha Clan

I was really impressed by what I heard of Watcha Clan on World On Three this week – a very talented group out of Marseille who are making the kind of fusion music that I love.

Suprem Clem of Watcha ClanYou can hear a load of their music for free on their website, which is also home to some very nice artwork and more. There’s even a free comic to download.

I will do a fuller review sometime soon, but for now, check out Watcha Clan, they are making some seriously good music.

music reviewing

I’ve a bunch of CD’s sitting waiting to be reviewed. Which is a nice position to be in, as they are all pretty good.

But I’ve been wondering if it might not make more sense to start a whole new blog just about music. That way people who read this to hear my fevered ramblings and inanities will have one less category to skip through.

Only question is whether I will be able to manage the two blogs alongside each other – maybe its worth a try.

I’ll let you know if it starts…

World Music Festival is upon me

Sorry for intermittent posting recently, for the last couple of weeks I have been expending more or less all my blogging capabilities on the North East Lincolnshire World Music Festival blog – which has been fun, if a little distracting. If you’re in the area, you can hear me talk about the festival on the BBC Radio Humberside tomorrow about 10am.
Normal service should resume next week.

blogging elsewhere

I have been asked to be a guest blogger for the North East Lincolnshire World Music Festival, which is a great pleasure as I get to waffle on about music yet again.

If you’re interested in reading more, want to come along (highly reccomended) or just feel a bit nosey about the bands set to play, which include the gypsy punk stylings of Alejandro Toledo and the Magic Tombolinos, and the Space Jazz Afrobeat sounds of the Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra, then feel free to click through.

In the meantime I shall continue to post here too, the usual gubbins I should think.

Fela Kuti ‘complete recordings’ box set released

Looks like this release was timed to coincide with the Fela! musical about to hit London village, which, by the way, is the first musical I can ever remember actually wanting to go and see. Alright, I wanted to see Les Mis but that’s a bit different (isnt it?)

Anyhow, back to the subject in hand, an enoooooooormous box set release from Wrasse records of all of Fela Kuti’s albums, a stonking 26 cds (comprising 46 albums) , plus a dvd ‘A slice of Fela’ in the ‘complete box set’ or three separate box sets of about 8 or 9 cds each – it’s an amazing thing, and if like me and half the known world you are a fan of the music of the man they call Fela – then it’s a thing of beauty! Or it would be if I had the spare £72.00 that the full box set costs. My own lack of cash aside though, that actually works out to a measely £1.50 per album by the way!

Fela Kuti was a rebel, a legend, a wildly eccentric, controversial and colourful figure, and he was the king of Afrobeat. His name is talismanic to many, and this collection or its constituent parts shouldnt just be of interest to completists, but to anyone serious about music, Africa, or the roots of modern pop, rock, funk, hip hop and soul. There is something in Fela’s music which is distinctively African – like I say, it’s a thing of beauty.

I hope to get hold of the cast recording of Fela! And if I do, I’ll review it here. The box sets are out at the beginning of November, and available from your preferred place of music purchase (unless it’s Oxfam, in which case you’ve not got a hope, these are for keeps.)

Blogging WOMAD: The Sounds of West Africa & Planeta Lem

Well this will be my final post from the festival itself, as I’ll be heading home shortly. But the music continues, and I may manage to catch a couple of acts on my way out, so this may not be my last update.

The first band I saw this morning were the aptly named The Sounds Of West Africa, who played with great skill and enthusiasm, really conjuring up the musical spirit of their West African homelands. I realised as I watched them that I had been camping next to some of them for the last few nights, I can confirm that they are not much less noisy off stage than they are on it.

Extraordinary skill on a variety of instruments, and frighteningly high kicking dancing – amazing stuff.

But then on to what I think I will class as my discovery of the weekend, Barcelona based band Planeta Lem. There’s more than a hint of Manu Chao about these guys, with a hefty dose of reggae and a backdrop of Latin rock, they pelt out numbers in their native Spanish, as well as French and English – or Spanglish. They’re a good deal younger that Chao of course, and nowhere near as iconic. But in terms of delivering a musical sensation which bears some comparison, they are the only ones who come close.Of course, coming from Barcelona they already have strong musical links with Manu, but just to cement them the bassist Chimbass used to play with Radio Bemba.  Frontman Aleko Capi was with the late great Go Lem System, as was guitarist Joni Botas.

I would reccomend these guys as a band to watch out for, they are only likely to get better. They play Nottingham’s Riverside festival on August 7th.

So that’s it from me for now… signing off.

Blogging WOMAD: Is Angelique Kidjo the new Mama Africa?

It’s been a day for superlative introductions, but could this one stick? The original title of course belonged to Miriam Makeba, but with her passing comes the opportunity to hand on the title to another, and that could well be the tour de force that is Angelique Kidjo.

She commands the stage and the crowd with natural grace, and her powerful vocals, certainly make her a strong candidate for the crown. Certainly you’d be hard pushed to find another candidate as well qualified.

Her delivery is flawless and strong without being strident, powerful but never overpowering, which again reminds me of Miriam Makeba.

But then again she is very clearly her own woman, and any comparison, no matter how flattering is unworthy, Angelique Kidjo deserves to be taken on her own merits, and backed by a strong and solid four piece band she demonstrates plenty of merit.

Angelique Kidjo is no new kid on the block, she has earned her place in the pantheon of world music greats, and her performance here at WOMAD has shown exactly how.

BBC World Music Archive available online

The BBC’s archive of world music programs is being put up online, so listeners can go back to old programs and hear the music which was in some cases especially recorded for the shows.

It’s going to be quite a resource, and well worth visiting the BBC World Music site to delve around, you can select shows by country, and listen back to recordings from as far back as 1995.

Blogging WOMAD: Saturday line-up

Following on from an amazing line up of artists on Friday night, there’s a whole lot of musical goodness to come today here at WOMAD.

Highlights are going to include: Dobet Gnahore, Angelique Kidjo, Dele Sosimi and his Afrobeat Orchestra, Salif Keita and the punky reggae party man himself – Don Letts.

But one of the delights of WOMAD is stumbling on something great which you hadnt previously expected, so I’ll be looking out for other acts, including the Toubab All Stars (white Frenchmen playing pan african music) and Rango, who play a form of ancient Trance which has the reputation of reaching right down to your bones.

Imogen Heap and Cerys Matthews also grace the stages today, as does the rapper Ty, the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain and the Geata Krar Collective. Should be an amazing day!