Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Back on the blog post (blogcast) for Band of Badgers Presents #7 I featured a little piece about a forthcoming gig celebrating thirty years since the release of Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen. That gig is fast approaching, taking place at The Slaughtered Lamb in London this coming Sunday (30th September). I would move a mountain to be there myself but I'm afraid I've not eaten quite enough spinach. As I mentioned before it is chiefly due to the lack of decent and cost effective transport we have to suffer in the UK but also due to work commitments. There have been tears and even more so with the amazing videos that have been going up on the Clubhouse Records Facebook page. These are below for your enjoyment, being recorded sessions of the artists involved in the venture.
Danny George Wilson // Case Hardin // Jack Day // Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou // The Redlands Palomino Company // The Dreaming Spires // The Hi & Lo // The Cedars // The Arlenes // Mad Staring Eyes and more....

01 - What a sensational a capella version of the title track. Just watch these two sing in perfect harmony. Amazing!

From Tristan Tipping at Clubhouse Records:

The Nebraska Sessions - A Tribute

Back in 1982 Bruce Springsteen released 'Nebraska', a collection of sparsely recorded tracks originally intended to be demos for his sixth studio album.

02 - Wow. You may or may not know I'm a huge fan of The Dreaming Spires already but they knocked me off the sofa when I first watched this a few days ago. Great stuff. I wonder if they'll be singing Atlantic City at their gigs in November. Hope so.

Almost exactly 30 years later the UK's Clubhouse Records gathered a group of musicians together at The Betsey Trotwood pub in London to pay tribute to this fantastic album.

Throughout the course of a single day, 10 bands recorded the albums 10 tracks live straight to 4 track cassette tape just like The Boss did back in the day.

03 - The WOW factor continues apace with this stunningly beautiful, country version of Mansion on the Hill.

The sessions were filmed for posterity and collected together here for your enjoyment.

Acts involved on the day include; Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou, The Dreaming Spires, Danny George Wilson, The Cedars, Case Hardin, The Redlands Palomino Company, The Hi and Lo, Mad Staring Eyes, The Arlenes and Michele Stodart.

04 - An astounding version of Johnny 99 from Case Hardin that will get those legs, hips and shoulders a-movin'. This is Americana, heart and soul!

Audio produced, recorded & mixed by Trevor Moss. Video direction, lighting, camera and edit by Pierre Thiebaut, and the project is accompanied with a set of beautifully taken stills by Martin Tyler. 

Plans to release the tracks as an album for digital download are now underway.... (Clubhouse Records).

05 - Danny proves he is still very much the champion with his version  of Highway Patrolman. With backing assistance from Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou.

I, for one, am excited about this album getting a release even if only as a digital download. The Boss is such a highly regarded figure among so many in the music business today. Quite rightly so, as he's carved out his successful career being a legendary song writer and hugely talented musician. He is the reason many follow their heart's desire into the industry themselves, even if they have a long hard road ahead of them.

06 - Steve Pulford of The Arlenes is a State Trooper indeed playing out this track.
The Nebraska Sessions is a genius idea and the calibre of the musicians involved here demonstrates the level of star quality there is out there these days. I am going to enjoy these videos from the sessions now and if you don't see me for a while I may well be recovering in hospital following almost drowning in my own tears at not being able to attend this very special gig on Sunday.

07 - What better way to leave you wanting more than The Cedars' wonderful rendition of Used Cars?

All the videos can be found on the Clubhouse Records YouTube channel >>here<<.
The final three videos from The Hi and Lo, Mad Staring Eyes and Michele Stodart will be released via You Tube and shared on the Clubhouse Records Facebook page over the next 48 hours. I will add these as they go live. Please share what you like and make sure you shout out about how much you will be wanting a copy of this fantastic tribute album. A big well done goes to all those people involved in producing this. Have a great night on Sunday!

Update: Saturday 29th September:

As promised the final few videos are coming in. Please enjoy and share them all.

08 - Mad Staring Eyes provide something amazingly original with their rendition of Open All Night.

09 - WOW. I have been well and truly wowed by all of the videos in the Nebraska Sessions but there's something really special about The Hi & Lo's MyFather's House. Amazing!!

10 - Finishing the Nebraska Sessions off in fantastic style is Michele Stodart with Reason to Believe.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


A few things to get through in this post. Starting off with a review of Melinda Ortner's brilliant EP Strangers, released last week. Then a brief review of two new singles. Follow Me, I'm Right Behind You by Joyce The Librarian and The Heart is a Muscle by Dylan Mondegreen

MTV’s “Steal The Spotlight” Grand Prize Winner
LA Music Award Nominee, Best Song
“Top 15 Songwriters Of The Year” for ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Project


I will be the first to admit this kind of music isn’t typically what I go for. I will also freely admit it would be a grave error on my part to remain ignorant to the infectious tunes of Melinda Ortner. This is what real pop should be like. Enough with the soulless pap being ceaselessly churned out thanks to, but by no means exclusively by, music reality television shows. Melinda demonstrates everything that is good about traditional popular music and where it should be at, these days. Her Strangers EP contains thought-provoking, deep and expressive lyrics married with some melodies that pull you in so fast there is a risk of a little motion sickness. It is well worth it, believe me. There is style and there is substance in abundance.

With first single Heartbeats being picked up and featured in American Pie: Book of Love, it is surprising this Californian-born singer-songwriter is still completely independent of any major label. This says a lot about the sad sorry state of the music industry at present. Yes, there are lots of other artists and bands deserving of deals but for them not to have snapped up Melinda Ortner already is just a crime.

The dark title track Strangers opens with short, almost haunting strings before the vocals begin. At first these are delicate, exuding innocence. In turn, some prominent percussion joins the mix before the vocals find their own strength and dominance. Added synths help build an ominous and moody atmosphere that lingers in the mind like a grim pursuing shadow. Wait Another Day is similarly melancholic in nature. However, in contrast to the opener it manages to mix the slower, sadder ambiance with a much more upbeat sounding chorus. The lamentation of the added cello is just sublime. To follow, there is a deliberate deception with Sweet Little Lies. It entices you in as a slow contemplative number but soon the throttle is opened as the tempo builds before the chorus breaks out into what is the catchiest number on the record. It also allows Melinda to demonstrate more of her vocal range as the style alternates with a kamikaze feel. If ears had them, this song would surely keep them on their toes. Its ending is noteworthy too for its distinctly bluesy feel. Closing track Somethin’ Sorry feels like a wonderful infusion of blues and jazz influences with a beautiful piano solo that then develops into a pure jazz jam on the keyboard.

This body of work is a perfect precursor to what should prove to be a sensational debut album (due December, at present). What is unusual is that rather than rushing out half-hearted lame pop tunes, as so many do, Melinda has spent the last five years in LA more wisely. It is clear this is one of the chief reasons Strangers possesses the star quality it does. Although still a very new act herself, any up and coming wannabes should promptly follow suit and develop themselves before launching on to the music scene. Strong and vulnerable with just the right balance of dark and light, each song on the EP offers something different so it isn’t a case of one size fits all for this artist. It will be interesting to hear how this develops further with the full album.


Follow Me, I’m Right Behind You is the first single to be released from this indie-folk band’s debut album, They May Put Land Between Us (due out 5th November). I do have the full album which I will review and I’ve already expressed what a stunningly beautiful record it is. Currently playing in my car and while not the typical sort of driving music I’m used to, it takes me places I’d rather go to as opposed to where I physically have to.

This single is a perfect introduction to the band with its gentle unassuming melodies that nevertheless sweep you up as if in the midst of a torrent. It is just a nice gentle slightly buffeting kind of torrent with padded clothing for protection. The pensive lyrics and looping one-line chorus may, at first glance, appear overly simplified but it is all in the delivery. The tender vocals fit snugly with the accompanying music. The musical prowess of band members is hinted at so well, one song will not be enough to satisfy the thirst it will leave you with for more. Roll on 5th November when all of Joyce The Librarian’s songs will be available for you to hear and enjoy.

Live Dates:

September 20th London – Green Note
November 1stCardiff – Ten Feet Tall
November 2nd – Hay-On-Wye – The Globe
November 8thLondon – The Betsey Trotwood
November 9thBristol - Folkhouse


One interesting truism about Dylan Mondegreen is that this is not the Norwegian pop artist’s real name. It is a pseudonym for Børge Sildness, who already has two previously and well-received albums under his belt. The Heart Is A Muscle is the second single from his third, self-titled (as Dylan Mondegreen, that is) album but it is the first record to get an official UK release. Again, I do have the whole album which is released on 8th October so I will aim to get a review up of the whole by then.

The Heart Is A Muscle is a gem. A seemingly melancholic love song lamenting the break up of a relationship, this is a subtle but welcome deception. It focuses more so on how the heart can take the pain of such emotional turmoil. It will recover and recuperate, especially as the girl wasn’t suitable anyway. It will go on to beat the stronger. It’s a beautiful play on words because the heart is, after all, a muscle.

There’s a real nice ethereal feel to the string accompaniments but this is only one of a number of other musical instruments and effects bought into the final mix. Even though Dylan’s vocals exude gloominess they are so palatable to the ear, they establish a quick emotional connection making you feel for the loss and pain he is singing about. The strings add a nice depth to the melancholy while the remainder of the music is considerably upbeat. It never sounds like it is contradicting itself, however. All in all this is not only masterfully crafted; it is a beautifully composed and elegantly produced song.

And Finally…

To finish off this post please see the Press Release below, from the good folk at Prescription PR. I have a copy of this album also so I will be writing my review prior to the release date and I will also be attending the gig in Wellingborough on Saturday 27th October. I’ll get up a review of this too.

New album from Gilmore and Robert: The Innocent Left

Album release: Gilmore and Roberts, The Innocent Left
Release date: 29 October 2012
Label: Navigator

'Their sound is something many artists would die for' - Spiral Earth

'..young duo who've been making waves on the folk's well deserved' - Mike Harding, BBC Radio 2

Contemporary folk/acoustic duo Gilmore and Roberts combine award-winning song writing with astounding lap-tapping guitar, fiery fiddle and their trademark harmonies, creating a powerful wall of sound. Their third album The Innocent Left, recorded in London with producer Julian Simmons (Guillemots, Ed Sheeran, Albert Lee), explores many and varied topics but remains consistently bound by Gilmore & Roberts' passion for stories. From the steady groove of the intriguing Doctor James to the relentless pounding of Scarecrow, and Silver Screen's wistful introspection, the album encompasses elements of folk, bluegrass and rock while maintaining the Yorkshire-based pair's own distinctive stylings.

Katriona Gilmore (from Knebworth, Hertfordshire) and Jamie Roberts (Barnsley and proud) met while studying at Leeds College of Music and began working together in 2006, releasing their first full-length album Shadows & Half Light two years later. In 2010, the duo were nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Horizon Award and released their hotly anticipated second album, Up From The Deep, receiving national airplay. They also scored a 'Best Original Song' Hancock Award for Fleetwood Fair.

Since then, the duo have toured with folk rock legends Fairport Convention and completed several headline tours in their own right, astonishing audiences up and down the country, as well as performing at some of Britain's largest acoustic festivals. Both are familiar faces to festival-goers nationwide from their previous projects - Gilmore with indie folk sensations Tiny Tin Lady, singer, Rosie Doonan and more recently The Albion Band, and Roberts with young English traditionalists Kerfuffle.

UK Tour Dates:
For a full list of forthcoming UK tour dates, please go to

Wednesday, 19 September 2012



It goes without saying that expectations were high given the calibre of musicians involved in this ‘new’ US band. Perhaps the most well known and a chief reason why the endeavour has so many people talking is Garbage drummer and hit music producer Butch Vig (Nirvana’s Nevermind, Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream). All four members did play together at the top end of the 70s and the result of this collaboration over thirty years later has me wondering why the heck did they not share their empires much sooner?

A wonderful addition to the Americana catalogue, it takes in a cavalcade of sounds from alternative country to bluegrass, via American folk through to indie rock. Their distinct rock influences are prevalent throughout the record, serving to lessen the bombardment of country. Even the country, though, is infused so well with the pure American roots sound the album would have suffered without it. For the most part, it is all the right amounts of these many ingredients, creating a perfect mix. If it were a cake it would be one hell of a tasty treat. One you’d definitely want a second helping of, even a third. With custard, with ice-cream, or on its own. It is such a joy to listen to, it will go with anything.

There’s a Bob Dylan style to the sound and lyrics on some songs, such as first track The Bittersweet Sound of Goodbye, which opens with a sublime acoustic guitar melody. Avalanche Girl and Cruel Love Ways are two proper standouts with their reliance on a pop-rock type chorus that’ll have you humming them long after. In fact the latter has had me trawling through my memory trying to summon up what it sounds similar to. Alas, it has a life and beauty all its own that has left me unable to locate the comparison. The former subtly dazzles the ears with its change in style.

While it is clear this record is about a bunch of old musician friends having got together for a good old jam, the outcome sounds more like it’s from an already well-established band who have been working together for years. It feels defined, precise and quite unlike anything else I think I’ve heard for quite some time. I was shocked then, to learn the album was produced without any of the four band members coming together to record. The fact it sounds so seamless and crisp is to their credit.

Things get a little bit melancholy with the country laden lament of Never Got Over You, which also has some quality electric guitar mixed in. Phil Davis’ vocals are oak-aged but very finely so and they shine like a burning sun with the likes of I’m Your Man. This song is one of those that build up, collecting instruments along the way but the prominent banjo throughout its first act is perfection. This is topped only when it makes a welcome return emerging out of the middle mix of musical mayhem.

Traditional 19th century Wisconsin River ballad The Pinery Boy is bought crashing through the time vortex into the 21st century with its beginning conjuring a vivid vista of dusty Wild West roads. This soon opens up into a tour de force of thunderous guitar rumbling and a tunefully raucous display, sounding spot on. A beautifully atmospheric cover of John Martyn’s Bless The Weather ends the proceedings in a deliberately unhurried yet ethereal manner.

No, it doesn’t knock your socks off and I wouldn’t say it is sensational but not everything can be thus nor does it need to. What it is like, is a very expensive fine wine you’d have out for extra special occasions but then guiltily sneak yourself more than your guests.  It is a fine collection of songs and music worthy of your attention. Highly enjoyable, I do hope these Emperors are planning to build on their already solid Empire.

Frank Anderson - Lead guitar, lap steel guitar, pedal steel guitar, keyboards, banjo
Pete Anderson - Bass, 12 string electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Butch Vig - Drums, Percussion, keyboards, backing vocals
Phil Davis - Lead vocals, acoustic guitar, electric rhythm guitar, harmonica

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Band of Badgers Presents #8 **Special**

If there are any issues with clipping please do let me know so I can attempt to sort them out. It played okay for me, though. I can't believe I'm actually writing this but I found it played best using Internet Explorer. This could just be because I'm having technical issues at present. Particularly with Google Chrome.

Howdy peeps and tweeps. That sounds a little wrong doesn't it? Or it sounds like I'm introducing a kids TV show or something. What's that? This isn't the Bakewell Music Festival Review? Wow, so many capital letters there. And how very astute of you to notice what this post isn't. No, indeed this is not that second seemingly elusive festival review. It will come as soon as I can possibly get it finished, though. It's not a case of knocking it together in a few spare hours. Those few spare hours are in short supply as it is but these things do take a lot longer with covering so much great music. I came up against this particular hurdle with writing up my review of Truck Festival, as you know. Part 1 is >>here<< while part 2 is >>here<<
The first part I managed to complete and get online by about 16th August. Quite why it took me almost a month more to complete and get up part two I cannot say. There's a mixture of factors, mostly culminating in how many other things I have to do (the biggest factor however, is that T word I refuse to mention this TIME - ah drat!). There's this podcast of course but also the huge backlog of reviews I'm working on (3 more CDs arrived yesterday and another 2 today - but hey keep 'em coming please as I'm absolutely loving it - I've arranged them in release date order so working through them as fast as I can - first one should be published tomorrow or Monday and is a review of Butch Vig's latest project, The Emperors of Wyoming). BUT, enough of the excuses, as legitimate as they may be. I shall cease and desist (this is my new phrase of the moment) and just crack on with stuff. And yes, I am aware that I can still at times be guilty of a little procrastination. Who here isn't? Who there isn't? Who anywhere does not procrastinate? I'm doing my best on that one but it is not an easy activity to avoid. Just this week I've been introduced to something that has blown my mind. My brain felt like it was exposed to the elements. In a good way I mean, however and not some hideous hangover after a very heavy  night on the old Jim Beam. Mmmm, I could just drink a nice bourbon right now. Please send all bottles directly to my home. (*lies*) I promise to share them.

Huge thanks goes to Ed from US indie-folk band  Pawns or Kings who like myself (and I've mentioned this before) is a big Tolkien fan. I mentioned I was re-reading The Silmarillion at the moment - how I find the time to read is beyond me but I always make time, however slow I have to go due to other commitments - and he pointed me in the direction of a German metal band called Blind Guardian. In 1998 they released a concept album titled Nightfall in Middle Earth, which was a bunch of songs reflecting on the stories throughout Tolkien's First Age masterpiece. It is now my mission to get a hold of a copy of this album because I've been working my way through the songs via YouTube and it's like being thrust into the heart of Middle Earth during those events. Most of them are just so epic with some verging on the operatic. It is outstanding and I cannot believe I have never come across at least the album before, if not the band. This social networking lark is just superb!

The songs and music have so inspired me I'm going to write my own extensive poem/ode on The Silmarillion. It may turn out rubbish but I don't much care. I've been itching to express something about it since first reading it years ago. It is the one book I could never live without and I read it each and every year, without fail. After listening to Nightfall in Middle Earth I may even have to read it again this year. Check out the song Nightfall above. Thinking about it, someone should do (and by someone I wish it could be) some sweeping animations of the events depicted in the songs. That is probably the closest thing to any alternative adaptation there will ever be due to the nature of the narrative. On another note, I am so going to bring down my decent stereo from storage at my parent's place. It has rather powerful speakers (not the best but they are loud). I better issue polite warnings to all the residents in the street that when I do get the CD they can expect to hear sounds and music louder than they've ever heard before. While I'm at it I suppose I best write to the Police and the local council too. I imagine it would make a kick ass driving album too. Okay, I must calm down a little.
Right! Waffle over (for the moment). On with the show. The latest podcast should have had its first airing on Acoustic Spectrum in my regular time slot of 7PM (BST - soon to be GMT again with the swift onset of Autumn/Fall) Thursdays. It will likely be repeated again next Thursday as podcast #9 won't be finished until the week after that, at the earliest. In the meantime this blogcast will be published (which is, incidentally why you're reading it now - am I stating the obvious? Or am I just waffling on unnecessarily - answers on a postcard to the Batcave!) and Band of Badgers Presents #8 will be a streaming only special. The chief reason for this is initially because I really wanted to play the longest song from an album I reviewed a few months ago now. The album was On an On by Syd Arthur (review >>here<<) and the song, which I played to close the show, is Paradise Lost. As for all those who have featured on all the previous podcasts, I sought permission from the band to play a song. They granted this but on condition there was no download involved. So, I resolved to do this streaming special. Originally I was going to record it just for the radio slot but then thought, well, if I can disable the download option and just stream it there's no harm doing it as the regular podcast and writing up a post as usual. So here it is. I'll also keep the episode up on Soundcloud so anyone can hit play and stream it anytime they come across it there.

The cool thing is that as well as getting to play what is an amazing song, a true musical adventure with such eventful flare and originality, I've been able to play a number of favourites of mine. 

The Playlist:
  1. Alphabet of Hurricanes - Tom McRae
  2. Believers - The Levellers 
  3. Fuel Up (4D) - Stornoway
  4. Gunfight - Laurence Fox
  5. Where We Started - Iwan Rheon
  6. For The Ride - Lera Lynn
  7. Bags Outside The Door - Blair Dunlop
  8. Rooks - Shearwater
  9. Paradise Lost - Syd Arthur
Tom McRae

What a playlist I have for this streaming only special then. At the very top where he deserves to be is Mr Tom Mcrae. He's not known as Mr Tom McRae of course, just good old Tom will do. Although less of the old. I cannot begin to explain how amazing I find this singer-songwriter. The day I was due to attend my very first (of now 6) of his gigs was rather a bitch of a day if I'm being totally honest. Way back then, on Wednesday 5th November 2003, I received some really upsetting family news. I'm not going to go into it here, it isn't the place but it was the worst kind of news you can get. Numbness followed. I was in two minds as to whether I should go to the gig at all but I am so glad I did. Tom made me feel something, deep. I really was in an emotionally devoid place at the time following that news. It's fair to say I did end up drinking quite a bit towards the end of the night too but I can remember it all very clearly. Even though now nine huge fat years have since passed. Having not long released his second album, Just Like Blood, my friend and I lapped up what that and his self-titled debut offered. I have been a huge fan ever since.
As I mentioned, I've now seen Tom six times in total, soon to be seventh with the forthcoming solo tour he's doing in support of his latest album From The Lowlands. Being his sixth studio album, it forms the second part of the Alphabet of Hurricanes album (released 2010). It had always been envisaged as a two part album and the second part should have been out much sooner but Tom split with his then record company so things didn't exactly go to plan. It was touch and go as to whether these songs would make it out on the part two component but as a lifetime fan (I think I can kind of claim that now?), I am so happy they have. I will not get into my review mode here - I have far too many actual reviews to be getting on with, but I would of course love to review it soon as I get chance - but it is amazing! Of course I'm going to say that as a very biased fan of the man. Check it out for yourself. Better still, get yourself to one of the gigs he's doing in October/November. Live he is just astounding. It's why I return time and time again. Not even a hurricane could keep me away, I tell thee! 

I did write a few pieces about Tom earlier this year which you can check out on the blog. I must check myself now or I'll go on writing about him for the remainder of this post. It would turn into the 'Tom Mcrae Special'. Don't think I wouldn't, either. The videos are two (of so very many) I took from the last gig I went to in 2011 when he was accompanied by a four string quartet. Just see for yourself! If you'd like to you can follow Tom on Twitter @tommcrae.

I'll keep it brief for the moment as I'll be covering more on this Oxford-based band with the release of their second album. First to mention is yes, they are another of those Oxford bands. Even though it is my conclusion Oxford is like Seattle is in the US for such bands, most of the guys in them do not have the beard thing going on. Perhaps this is just a UK band thing and the beards are for the US ones only? Who knows? That said, lead singer of Clock Opera (who hail from Oxford), Guy Connelly sports what has to be one of the most fantabulous beards I have ever seen. I want one. In fact, as I am off to see Band of Horses in November I have kind of started growing my own. I'll most likely end up looking like a hobo, however (hey, slaps for whoever said I already do anyway). I don't have any release dates for Stornoway's second offering just yet but I will of course share this information should I receive it. Beachcomber's Windowsill is well worth your attention and as promised on the podcast I've included a couple of videos from live gigs. One of these is the outstanding November Song played at Beautiful Days in 2010. The second is a clip of End of the Movies at the Concert for Conservation in Oxford last September. The band performed with a four string quartet at this gig, which sounded awesome. Please do excuse my shoddy camera work. I am no cameraman. I'm still working on getting a new better quality camera so hopefully future footage and pictures will be of a more publishable standard.

It is easy to understand why BBC Oxford Introducing presenter Tim Bearder was suspended from work after barricading himself in the studio and playing an hour of Stornoway songs from the demo EP The Early Adventures of Stornoway. Fair play to Tim for getting behind a local band in such a way! He is to be commended not suspended! I'm really excited about the follow up to the debut album so I will keep you posted about it.

Laurence Fox
I featured Laurence in a previous blogcast and just wanted to include the set he currently has up on his Soundcloud page. Do make the most of these tunes because as he is heading into the studio to record them properly I don't believe they will be available for too much longer. I read via his Twitter page a few months ago that Laurence was featured on a BBC Introducing show. Am I able to find a link? No. I'll update it here should I track it down at some point.

Lera Lynn
This is another album I was fortunate enough to be sent to review a couple of months ago (review >>here<<). Have You Met Lera Lynn sent me on a real nice ride through the Midwest. It is packed with quality, well-written tunes and the vocals are a pure delight. The right amount of delicacy with a wonderful mix of emotion. Lera Lynn is going to be around for a long time to come so if you haven't met her yet, make sure you acquaint yourselves soon.

If you head to her website you can bag yourself a free download of two songs. One of which is an atmospheric version of Jonny Cash's Ring of Fire.

Blair Dunlop
Aside from sharing the same birthday (although not the same year, sadly) that's where the similarities between myself and Blair Dunlop end. He is one talented young chap and so far the only person to have depicted actor Jonny Depp as a child (in Tim Burton's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory). In order to concentrate on the music, Blair has left the acting world behind but I'm sure if he wishes to return to it he will continue having the kinds of success he is having as a musician. Debut solo album, Blight and Blossom is released on 3rd October and you can pre-order it by visiting the link >>here<<. In addition to Threads below, there are a number of samples of other tracks up on Blair's website, that will be on the album.

He doesn't just have his own album coming out next month, oh no. In true prolific style, Blair is also now in charge of The Albion Band. He took over the job from his father, Ashley Hutchings and joins a wave of new recruits. It's kind of like The Albion Band: The Next Generation. They recently released their first album (as the new line-up), The Vice of the People. Perhaps this is why I struggle to locate my own musical talent. There are too many folk out there who are using up all the available talent and skill. I jest, of course. I must crack on with learning a few chords although I honestly won't share anything with you as all the top music I feature and cover would completely put me to shame. By the way, I think he looks strikingly like the actor who plays Jeremy in The Vampire Diaries. Although on the album cover there's a resemblance to Brett from Flight of the Conchords. Just needed to share that information.

When seeing Shearwater earlier this year in Brighton I wasn't aware they would be returning for yet another European tour later in the year. And so now the race is on to try and fit their gig at The Garage in London into my heavy gig attending schedule. It is on a Saturday so providing I can sort out some cost-busting advanced train tickets I may well get to see this awesome US indie-folk-rock band twice this year. That's right, indie, folk and rock were used there. It sums them up pretty well but out of all the bands I discovered around that time (2007/2008), they're the one who have really stuck with me. There is a unique and distinct sound and quality to them and their work. The first album I heard, Rook remains my favourite but that isn't to say I don't rate the others. The latest, Animal Joy was released this year. Lead vocalist Jonathan Meiburg joked how he'd left the banjo behind for this tour as they were being mistaken for a solely folk band. He has no issues with that of course but it just isn't the case as they manage to cross a number of genres. 

Syd Arthur
Yet another band who's debut album I received to review (review >>here<<). On an On from Syd Arthur was a real treat because with it, the band have managed to create something epic. It swept me up and took me on a roller coaster ride back in time to the late 60's then on through all the best progressive psychedelic music the 70's had to offer. It is no mere imitation of that music, however. It has a contemporary feel and the experimentation with all the sounds they have at their disposal is beyond words. Paradise Lost reminds me very much of what one of the great Led Zeppelin tunes might have been but again it is new and distinct to Syd Arthur. There's a free track on offer you can download at their website and they have a bunch of dates lined up which you can also check out at the website. I'm going to aim to get to the one in Leicester on 6th November if I can.


Indeed, you are not yet free to escape as I have so much more music on offer below. I did say last time that I would attempt to make this a shorter blogcast than the last but you should know me better by now. I wasn't made for brevity. I'm surprised how I managed to limit myself to the 10,000 words for my dissertaion. The only thing that stopped me going over was the potential for being marked down considerably. I thought it a bit of a cheek placing such a restriction on it though, with how windbaggy some of those Philosophers can be. Brevity is for short attention spans anyway and something I am learning to do with my album reviews. I have the skill covered there then so I can go on and on for as long as I like here. Perhaps not as long as I like or I'll still be here writing it up at Christmas.

I must share the excitement I felt when I saw one particular email drop into my inbox last week. Win A VW Camper Van would perk you up wouldn't it? Until reading the entirety of the sentence. Win A VW Camper Van tent. I think I'll leave it, thanks all the same. While it may dupe some unsuspecting and very drunken festival goers, I don't think it would carry much weight driving up the motorway (interstate). Not unless The Flinstones really were on to something with their Yabbadabbadoooo kick their feet as much as possible to start their vehicles and go manoeuvre. There's a thing. The carbon footprint would be non-existent.
A Bit of PR & R. 

Firstly, a few courtesy of those wonderful peeps at Prescription PR who I thank for sending me so much stuff to cover. I honestly wish I could do more and at a much quicker pace but alas, it is just myself. I have tried getting the cat to help out but she just meows at me grumpily while giving one of her actually quite terrifying evil stares before plodding off lest she get a big warm hug.

This is a band with a real story. Just listen to the first single from their latest album, Moms. Astounding stuff. Not cheery, no. Cheery is boring! With an opening line like, 'Heavy are the branches, hanging from my fucked up family tree,' this is real grab hold of your heart, pull it up out of your chest through your mouth  after resting as a real lump in your throat, kind of stuff. The sheer amount of sounds that the tune picks up build it to colossal heights.

Such a heavy mix is only to be expected from a band who's last album was released with an 80-page hand-designed flipbook. Creativity is in great abundance with these guys, then. Not only this, but to celebrate the release of that debut, Friend and Foe, Justin Harris assembled a 25 member choir, teaching them the various vocal layers with the help of his trained opera-singer mother. I imagine that would have been one mighty mission. What a goosebump inducing performance that must have been!

This follow up album, Moms, offers a deeply personal glance into the souls of the two remaining band members, Justin and Danny Seim. For me, as I've mentioned time and time again, this kind of 'lay your soul as bare as you possibly can', usually makes the best kind of music. Even when no lyrics may be involved. It is probably the main reason most musicians want to share their work. Those of us who can't write down lyrics to our own woes or are not able to generate a hook laden melody to express some emotional turmoil can, and do, take a huge amount of solace from the music of the bands we like.

The two guys are a contrast in terms of their actual moms. Danny's mother died when he was 17 years old whereas Justin's dad walked out on their family when he was very young. Justin has had and still does have his mom play an active role in his life. So, while it is as much about the moms of the title, the corresponding relationships they have with their fathers, was also a major influence in the writing of some of their songs.

Sadly, I've not been able to listen to the entire album yet or I would have offered a mini review of the whole. If I can rectify the situation I will try and get out a review before the release date. Moms is released on 8th October on Barsuk Records. Their European tour kicks off at the end of November so why not get yourself along to a gig near you?
Menomena UK & European Tour Dates:

11/23/12 Glasgow at Captain's Rest
11/24/12 Leeds at Brudenell Social Club
11/26/12 London at Cargo
11/28/12 Paris at Point Ephemere
11/29/12 Strasbourg at Laiterie
11/30/12 Munich at Atomic Cafe
12/01/12 Berlin at Postbahnhof
12/03/12 Hamburg at Uebel & Gehahrlich
12/04/12 Koln at Gebaude 9
12/05/12 Amsterdam at Paradiso
12/06/12 Brussels at Botanique Buy tickets
12/08/12 Camber Sands, UK at ATP Festival (SOLD OUT)

Melinda Ortner
I shall be whizzing away at my laptop to get a review of Melinda's EP up online ASAP following this blogcast. That is, as soon as I have finished off The Emperors of Wyoming, which I do almost have completed. Therefore please see the press release below for the Strangers EP and my own words will follow soon. With a view to reviewing (it sounds a bit of a muddle saying that out loud) I have had a good few listens to Strangers and must admit while it isn't really what I'd usually say is 'my kind of thing', Melinda has totally sold it to me with this offering.

MTV’s “Steal The Spotlight” Grand Prize Winner
LA Music Award Nominee, Best Song
“Top 15 Songwriters Of The Year” for ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Project

Melinda Ortner was born and raised in California, and for the past five years she’s been based in LA, launching her music career. Her first single Heartbeats was originally written for the US movie I Hate Valentine’s Day. She also penned tracks for the Finnish movie Gone With The River – her track of the same name made it into Billboard Top 100 in Finland, while Heartbeats was instead chosen for the major film ‘American Pie: Book of Love’ which really introduced Melinda to a vast audience. Since then it’s had more than 40 000 views on youtube, been aired on several US radio stations, was regularly featured on MTV2, Showtime, HBO, USA Network and Pay-Per-View.  Following this huge success, along with several key showcases (including SXSW 2011), a live MTV pre-VMA’s performance, a spot on the acclaimed Balcony TV Sessions (which can be seen here), and extensive touring, Ortner now presents her debut EP Strangers.  

The four tracks comprising the EP elegantly range from the dark title track to the incredibly catchy Sweet Little Lies. Like the forthcoming full length album (pencilled for December 2012) it mirrors a great songwriter with the ability to do exactly this, without ever losing track of the story she is telling; the story of Melinda Ortner, the dream she wants so bad and the years of hard work put into reaching it. Her lyrics are refreshingly honest and forthcoming, and her songs are written with great care, with an eye for the details as well as larger picture. Melinda uses the piano as her main tool of composing, but also brings in percussion, electronic/acoustic guitar, bass, effect pedals and cello when in the studio with producer and co-writer Asaf Rodeh.

Melinda has several international tours under her belt, including more than fifty dates in the UK and several shows around Europe and Japan. With a soulful voice, married with undeniably catchy melodies, Strangers reveals itself as deceptively dark pop with a bright side.

The Mouth of Ghosts
This time thanks goes to Kimberly at Never Enough Press, another PR company sending me heaps of new music to check out and for which I am incredibly grateful.

The Mouth of Ghosts are another band recently signed up to the independent record label, Red Dragon Records, who are going from strength to strength. The band are set to release their single 'When the Sun Sets' on 29th October having already received some worthy praise from BBC Radio 6, as well as from a number of other radio stations.

"When the Sun Sets is effortless, ethereal, and gorgeous. Soaring, sensuous vocals set in a shimmering widescreen production underpinned by an irresistible groove and the best bass-playing I've heard all year. Deservedly picked as a Fresh Fave by readers on our blog recently." Tom Robinson, BBC6 Music

A London-based quintet, it is fair to say their formation has been a work in progress, of sorts. The same beautiful quality was no doubt there in the beginning with founding members Simon Langford and Marco Italia who added Alla Seydalieva, to make a trio. Drummer Phil Page hopped on their music bus late last year before it picked up Valerie Deniz in March to complete the line-up.

Ahead of the single release, the band have a number of dates around the London area and are planning to follow it up with something not too long after. It is clear to me that they are going to grab people's attention with When the Sun Sets, so I look forward to what comes after it. Tom at BBC Radio 6 hit the spot with his description above. There's a real ethereal sound interwoven about the alternative rock and the vocals are, quite simply put, stunning! When a band can build up such an atmosphere it is a very good sign for their future.
Live Dates:

Tue Oct 09, The City Showcase @ 93 Feet East, London
Mon Oct 15, Featured Artist Slot @ Vibe Bar, London
Fri Oct 26, 'When The Sun Sets' single launch party, Mother Live, London
Sat Oct 27, Oxjam, Shepherd's Bar, London
Sat Nov 03, The Workshop, London

Lillian Todd-Jones
Citing Bob Dylan, Douglas Adams, Philip Pullman and Rudyard Kipling, as some of her influences, I will not deny it was this which enticed me to check out more closely what Lillian Todd-Jones has to offer. Twenty three years old and from Dartmoor, I am already jealous of the youth and hometown. It's a good jealous, though. In what has been a promising start for the fire dancer, she has been recording songs in London with Gordon Mills Jr (Ed Sheeran, Newton Faulkner).

The video for Butter Soul is both striking and engaging. I was only stating a few days ago how I'm never really that bothered about story-themed videos but I will admit this one captivated me.Clearly the result of some pretty damn impressive creative and artistic skills that go way beyond just the music. Filmed by director Garry Wood, the set was a dilapidated mansion. It comes to vivid life via an array of stunningly shot clips. All seem to lead back to an ethereal-looking Lillian tied to a fallen over chair. Perhaps there's a tortured element to that Butter Soul? Assistance was provided by Hollywood creature designer Todd Amos. It definitely has a WOW factor and confirms Lillian Todd-Jones not only has a myriad of layers but she also has infinite dimensions. A quick glance at her website proves this even more so. A Douglas Adams quote hits you first. Class! Take a look >>here<<.


Tom Forbes
A couple of podcasts ago (#6 to be precise - I do know there are folk out there who cannot live without precision) I played a song from Kid Conventional. His songs are an inspiration and belie his young age. There are a lot of young guys and girls capable of writing some of the most deep and emotionally charged lyrics these days. Not just these days, no doubt. Anywho, he is playing in support of Tom Forbes at the O2 Academy in Birmingham on 24th October. It is not a gig you should miss, if you're a Birminghamonian (is that what we're called?). 

Tom is himself very young to be offering up tunes that sound like they're from someone much more, well-seasoned, shall I say. If this is what the lad is producing now, he should be very excited because he has an amazing and bright future ahead of him. It's always a pleasure to help with promoting homegrown talent and as Tom is from the Midlands (UK), you can expect to be hearing more of and about him in the future. There are a host of links where you can listen to, watch more and keep up to date.


This headline gig at the O2 Academy 3 demonstrates the progress Tom has made and the quality of the set he can offer. Please get along and support him and the other acts on the bill. You can send a message to Tom at his FACEBOOK PAGE requesting tickets, which are a fantastically affordable £6. Any of you out there who are students in Birmingham, please get along and show your support.

Sigur Ros
The Icelandic band Sigur Ros are touring. Yey! I even got a chance to get tickets early as part of their fan pre-sale. Except that as with the likes of Mumford and Sons not even three different methods of trying to get tickets were successful. Sad times. Not only that, with us approaching the middle of the month already (yes that TIME features again, how is it almost the middle of the month? It was just like August??!) I'm unlikely to be able to even afford tickets now they are on general sale. Bad times. I'm so in need of seeing these guys! They're another act I've been following for quite a while. I think it was way back in 1999 when I first heard Sven-G-Englar from the album Agaetis Byrjun (ordinarily I would type it correctly complete with all the accents in the right place, but with my current technical issues I'm already running very late). The whole album enchanted me and had me transfixed. Due to such incredible demand a third London date has been added for March 2013. I'm hoping and preying there will be tickets left come payday. If not, I may have to sneak myself in somehow. Any ideas or suggestions? Email me at

Fatea Showcases
Make sure you don't miss out on the latest Showcase session - Pathways - Autumn 12. It is available for download now but only for a limited time. After that it will be available no more as a newer session will take its place. As ever, the playlist features a host of great emerging talent with music that really does span the genres. Therefore there is likely to be something for everyone, another reason it is well worth checking out.

Get your FREE download by clicking >>here<<. This current session will be available up until 31st October so don't delay, download it today! You see, I have to get all rhymey if you won't go and grab this for your collection, right NOW.

Frightened Rabbit
This Scottish indie-rock band were absolutely sensational at Truck Festival back in July where they closed the second stage on the Saturday night. Well worthy of closing the main stage, I think pretty much everyone in attendance descended on the smaller tent to catch their set. You can read my review of that via Part 2 of my Truck Festival Review but do check out the latest song being sampled at their Soundcloud page. It is taken from the forthcoming EP, State Hospital which is released on 24th September. You can pre-order it by following the links either at the band's website or via Soundcloud. With a full album due for release early next year too the rabbits have been busy and the reason for the EP is to air those songs that didn't make the cut for the album but which still need to be shared. Unable to make it to any dates on their recent/current tour (nowhere near enough, sadly) I'm satisfied that I at least got to see them perform. I will be eyeing up tickets for next year, however.

Bands of the brief.....

The Scholars
Gearing up for the release of their first brand new single, Wired on the 8th October, the guys are supporting GUN at the Oxford O2 Academy Sunday 16th September (Yes, that is this very night so get down and show your support for this amazing band - at the rate it has taken me to get this blogcast done you'll have to hurry down there - read this later, get going). They will rock, I am certain of it and I look forward to getting to a gig ASAP. There should be a few on the go closer to or shortly after the release of Wired and a video is in the process of being sorted for the song as well.

I've been listening to the five new tunes again over the last few days and I'm always glad when they (as well as the older songs) pop up on my iPod shuffle. I am a self-confessed fan of the band but the quality they exude speaks for itself. I'll be playing Wired on the next Podcast and there will be an interview as part of that blogcast as well. The video is This Heart's Built To Break, a song I played a couple of shows ago. The song is a FREE download so if you don't have it yet, get on it! Click >>here<<.

They've had many mentions but hey, they're both local (another Midlands, UK band) and amazing at what they do. So, expect more mentions. I just wanted to share the news the band are through to the finals of The Robin 2 Battle of the Bands. The final battle, which will provide a night of fine musicary is at The Robin 2 in Wolverhampton on Sunday 23rd September. Lightfire deserve to win with their sensational banging tunes of proper pure progressive rock! 

They also recently got their song Ignorance featured on Emerging Icons at Absolute Radio on the Sunday Night Music Club. Have a read of an interview band frontman Scott Sieradzki did for this >>here<< where in addition to learning a bit more about the band, you will gain insight into the Lightfire Man Championship.  

Pawns or Kings
Sadly, Pawns or Kings have been unable to release their EP, Pomme de Terre as originally planned due to computer problems. I feel for them as when my iPod Classic passed over into Silicon Heaven I was distraught. It was 80GB, which may be relatively small given the storage these days but I had more or less filled it completely with music. No, it was not all backed up thanks to me not having purchased an external HDD. Experiencing computer problems at present I will be backing up my last year's worth of data over the coming days.
These guys from the Ozarks are no defeatists, however. To keep their fans happy they have released a stand -in EP, I guess one may call it. It is no mere stand-in however as the quality is sublime. The Silo Session has a number of videos on YouTube like I mentioned last time. They have been receiving worthy attention, as they should. Now as part of a released deluxe EP you can enjoy them on iTunes or whatever player you care to use. Grab your FREE download by visiting Noisetrade >>here<<. Don't miss out, now or I'll have to get all rhymey again.

This is the third time I've featured Pawns or Kings but they are going nowhere as I'll be playing a song from them on the next show. They are soon to return to the studio to get back to work on Pomme de Terre too.

And really, finally....

I couldn't go without listing some of the latest music to enter into my earshot thanks to either bands themselves or to Twitter friends like Danny Burns, who will himself be featuring on the next podcast with his song Cocaine Avenue, below. An awesome song, which I'll talk more about on the next podcast.
I'll be featuring these bands and playing songs from them in future podcasts so contrary to my nature I'll keep this brief.

Gun Club Cemetery - visit:

Echo Raptors - visit:

And thanks to Tracy@OrderofVoices for these gems.

Order of Voices - visit:

The Fireflys - visit:

That is tragically brief I know and given how much I'm loving the sounds of these bands it doesn't do them any justice. Still, I couldn't not mention them and like I say, they will be featuring in due course.

Unfortunately there was heaps more I wanted to include but I fear if I embed any more code on to this particular page it will never load. Or worse still, it might even crash the whole interweb (perhaps that is a slight over exageration). With ongoing technical problems (I hope I've not mentioned that as many times as it feels like), it has taken me more or less the entire weekend to get this written up, processed and online. Therefore as delayed as I was with all the reviews I'm writing, I am now more than another day behind. Forgive me.

Until next time, enjoy what's here (I hope) and peace to you all.

As always my thanks to Mark Blasco at podcastthemes for the intro theme tune.