Thursday, 21 March 2013


Hey folks. Apologies for not being a tad more brief and being able to complete this overview/review all in one post way back in January. That would have been much neater and more appropriate. But then of course I would have no doubt missed out even more than I already did with those top albums that started it all off. And yes, I know we are now half way through March already (a whole quarter of the way through) but you know, technically if we take it to be the financial year, I am still in time. Cutting it thin I know. There's just so much to look back on and include! It actually makes me dizzy doing so. The year went so quickly and don't even get me started on the speed this one is going at. When thinking about Luke Ritchie's The Water's Edge being the first album I reviewed back in early March I'm like WTFing at this crazy time speed. Surely there must be some kind of 'Big Bad' The Doctor needs to come and sort out. Could it be The Rani did not perish during that Last Great Time War, and is now somehow siphoning off our time? I remember writing that review up just before going to Wales for a weekend break. While there I watched the awesome Norwegian film Troll Hunter. Not sure that needs to be expressed here but if you haven't seen it yet, you should do! I can't recall if it was last year I first saw Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, or if it was 2011. No matter, it is one of those films I can (and do) watch over and over. Again, if you've not seen it, give it a try. Oh dear. Digressing once more. And so early on too. There is no hope! 

Let's crack on before Christmas really does come to smack us in the face again. Do make yourself comfortable and put those feet up. Grab a nice cup of tea or coffee, a beer or glass of wine perhaps. Once again, the below are those that really stuck out as something special last year. However, that doesn't mean I hold any of the other gigs, bands or artists in any less esteem. I'm passionate about live music and enjoy pretty much each and every gig as something unique and individual. As with the albums, I will undoubtedly miss some and for this I apologise in advance.


Editors - Birmingham - June
Their latest album has been a long time coming. Originally scheduled for release in October 2012, the departure of Chris Urbanowicz last April set this back and the date has since been revised to some time this year. This gig, one of only two UK dates in Birmingham, had all the same electrifying energy of previous shows. There is something deeply mesmerizing about Tom Smith! As band frontman he exudes such charisma, captivating all in attendance and holding us all in thrall. Oh yes, he maintains a trademark intensity that reverberates out from the stage in tidal waves. The set list included many fan favourites from the previous three albums as well as a few of the new tunes, like Sugar and Nothing. Even with Chris gone now, they sound strong and musically tight. Absolutely fucking* amazing! The band have not long returned from Nashville where they've been recording. Various festival announcements have been made including Reading and Leeds amongst many European ones. *expletive wholly necessary

Thanks to a work colleague who is a friend of the band, I did have the opportunity to attend a big charity gig they were a part of last December (along with The Courteeners, The Temper Trap & others). Sadly due to the timing, finances and work I was unable to make it. Curse my situation!! Come on someone, give me a job doing this please! Apologies. *composes self before continuing* Needless to say when they tour the new album later this year I will certainly be there. At least once, possibly twice, maybe even more. Thankfully the Editors are a band who have been consistent in producing something different with each album so far. It's always better, yes, but with the differences they adopt and utilize, what came before remains as powerful. If that makes sense? I'm really quite excited about this new album and it is definitely going to be one of the highlights of 2013, musically, I think.

Luke Jackson - Rugby - October
This young man possesses such a power it belies his youth. I'm not afraid to admit I was quite moved by his sensational performance at this solo gig at Rugby Roots Club. I am very much a fan of Luke and believe this year his level of exposure is going to go stratospheric. Not wanting to miss out and given how much I thoroughly enjoyed this October gig I bagged my tickets for his recent local solo show at The Stables in Milton Keynes last month. Even though money is scarce these days and I will have to be even more selective about the gigs I attend this year, there was just no way I was missing out on this one!

I won't repeat my review here other than to point you in its direction >>here<<. It is quite a thorough one at that but I think the quality of what Luke offers music fans deserves a complete and full appraisal. I will say that if this is your kind of music, or even if it isn't what you may typically enjoy, if you go see Luke live you will come away feeling moved I assure you. That power he has possesses some magic that will have you wanting more and quick smart.

There are number of dates up on his website so if he's somewhere near you it makes sense for you to get to a show. It does not make sense to miss out on what will be a musical highlight of 2013 for you. There will of course be more dates going up as the year goes on. Meanwhile and to keep right up to date head to Luke's Facebook page and give it a like. He's regularly posting updates including many a new video. Oh and you can also read my review of the outstanding gig at The Stables >>here<<.

Shearwater - Brighton - March
I've been a fan of this US indie folk rock band ever since stumbling across them thanks to the name of a character in a book I was reading in 2008 (The Castle series by Steph Swainston). I bought their album Rook, which was out that year and I have been hooked ever since. For me, Rook will always be my personal favourite from them but 2012's Animal Joy has some top tunes on it too. Seeing them play live was a dream realised. They didn't do too many dates in the UK but this one in Brighton happened to coincide with me seeing a play about Anne Boleyn there. I snapped up tickets as soon as I saw it advertised and had music writing/coverage been my job I would have been in London for their return in November. Shearwater are underrated in my opinion but they have a loyal fan base spanning the globe. Live, they were superb even though there were a few big changes to the line-up. Didn't matter in the slightest however, as they played like they'd all been together forever. These guys are definitely on the list of bands you MUST try out! Leviathan, Bound shuffled on to my iPod shuffle on a walk home from work just recently. Sublime!

Winter Mountain - Leamington Spa - March
Now, these guys were a real find! I usually tend to read up on the support acts for most shows I attend and check out a few of their tunes beforehand. Not so much to sing along, more to familiarize myself with the sound. I didn't get chance to do this for this Seth Lakeman gig in March so Winter Mountain were a true surprise on the night. Two such interesting and genuinely lovely guys who met while backpacking across the US in opposite directions. They both hopped on a train to Memphis (I think, if memory serves me correct), got talking and the rest is history. Their performance completely blew me away and this year should see them release their debut album on Cara Dillon's Charcoal Records. To whet your appetite you should grab their EP from iTunes by clicking >>here<<. If they happen to be billed to play near you, either as headline or support then make sure you go see them. You will thank me for telling you to do so afterwards.

Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou - Oxford (Tom McRae) - November
I could have seen this duo at Truck Festival in July had I not been my regular self regards organization. Organized chaos is the way I work, at times, and to be fair it has stood me in good stead. If it's not broke don't fix it. Well, perhaps a tweek here and there wouldn't hurt. I have a diary this year in which I'm being ultra (perhaps just under ultra if I'm honest) organized. Anyway, I'd booked my Tom McRae ticket as soon as he announced he was touring solo to promote Part 2 of his Alphabet of Hurricanes album, From The Lowlands. As always Tom was magnificent but I've reserved this mention for the support because they were phenomenal. Trevor and Hannah-Lou's vocals come together so effortlessly and produce sounds that are just exquisite. They toured endlessly last year as they geared up for and released their album, La Ferme De Fontenaille. A cracking album, four songs from which you can sample via The Proud Surrender EP below. Then get clicking and buying and then along to a gig if there's one nearby. In addition to supporting for Tom McRae, they did their own tour of social clubs and got to support the wonderful Beth Orton amongst so many other marvelous gigs. They are also on the bill for this year's Wood Festival so don't miss out on that one. More about this festival soon.

An Evening With Gilmore & Roberts
Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts - Wellingborough - October
This was a special night indeed. What a venue too! Tables and chairs laid out making it feel like we were at an awards ceremony. It was as if the walls were made especially for taking in the music and feeding it out to the our ears via direct aural tunnels. Sublime! This would not have been possible but for the deftness of skill from this stunning duo. This tour was primarily to showcase new songs from their most recent release, third album The Innocent Left, but we were treated to a number of other top tunes from the previous two as well. Opening with Jamie's Scarecrow got the feet a-stomping right from the off. With that jig-inducing fiddle combined with the fierce guitar strum as the sad, sorrowful story of the subject's failure is played right into your mind. A booming start for the pictures painted via music and vocals were vivid enough as to be mistaken for hallucination. This brilliance was only extended further as the night went on and the tunes came rolling out from the stage. The second song was another deep character piece, this time from Katriona in the form of a famous military doctor history saw fit to remove. This is one of the beauties of this kind of music, and this kind of act. They write and play songs that entertain, that move but ones which also educate. I'd never heard of Doctor James before hearing this. I read up on her immediately after, such is the level of interest the song invoked within. 

Katriona and Jamie are everything I expected them to be. Two of the most pleasant and humble musicians I've had the pleasure to watch play. Their interaction with the audience never ceased throughout the entire evening. Whether this was via them detailing how and why they came to write certain songs, or when Kat tested us to see if we could guess what her original song Silverscreen was about (I'm not telling), they warm you to them instantly. There was a real sense of getting to know them on a deep personal level. The explanation behind the emotions that shaped some of the songs made them resonate all the more. For example, Letters was written from Kat's great-grandmother's point of view. She was a Dane who worked for the BBC World Service during World War Two. She had countless letters passing through her, all the time yearning for one from her son. Amazing as a recorded track, played live it not only transports you back through time but it pulls tightly on those heartstrings. Likewise, Traveling In Time was for her granddad following the memory loss resulting from the stroke he had. This was an open window right to her soul and one delivered with such grace it's hard not to let a tear or more escape. Particularly as it bought forth feelings about the elder people in my own life, past and present. It is a wonderful gift to immortalize them in songs such as these. Fleetwood Fair took us into an interval with its kick-ass chorus Kat tried to get us all to join in with. To give the audience their due, many did.

It's not exactly uncommon these days but from all I've seen, Jamie's lap tapping guitar skills are amongst the very best. These were demonstrated aptly with The Stealing Arm as it opened up the second half of the evening. This is based on a traditional song from circa 1800, rewritten and worked to a leg-jigging tune.

No Rest For The Wicked told of their not so rock and roll lifestyle of driving up and down the country while on tour. Yes they do love it and admit they'd have it no other way but how there certainly isn't any energy left to chuck TVs out of hotel room windows. And that's when they are lucky enough to have a hotel room instead of kipping on someone's floor or in the vehicle itself after an overpriced meal out of a service station. This was followed by one of my overall favourites, Shuffle and Deal. Everything about this song is sublime. Kat shared how far from being the gambling sort, she learned to play poker at a festival using gravel for chips. The character of the song is a little deeper in trouble than this. Jamie did a grand job standing in for Larkin Poe with his backing vocals. Although they were quite rightly masculine, he delivered them with the gentle grace befitting the song.

Then there were the instrumentals such as Over Snake Pass and Seven Left For Dead. As enjoyable as these tracks are on the album, that enjoyment is quadrupled when seeing them performed live. They really launch themselves into these pieces. Don't get me wrong, the vocals on the others never hide the high quality of their musicianship, both individual or combined, it's just eye-opening to see them play this way.
Their reworking of the traditional False Knight On The Road bought the evening to a hallucinatory close. I don't know how they manage it but while your eyes are never off them as they play and sing, at the same time the images of the girl besting the antagonist are striking. The whole story is played out in full view. Without actual visuals and thanks simply to the skills and abilities of Gilmore & Roberts. It was Jamie's original song Louis Was A Boxer, based on a customer in the Subway sandwich shop he worked in while at university, that provided the encore. At the end Kat thanked everyone for coming out on a very cold Saturday night and urged us all to get our friends and relatives out to support live music  in the future. I went to a lot of gigs throughout 2012 but this was one of the finest, without a doubt. It was my first time seeing this pair but I can assure you it was the first of so very many to come.

They are about to embark upon a Spring Tour so check out the dates at their website and get yourselves along. You won't regret it! They'll also be featuring at some festivals throughout the summer no doubt, before setting out on an Autumn Tour when I hope to catch them again, if not before.

Willy Mason
There were many more gigs from last year of course and you should know me by now - I would love to give them all some space here. I must at the very least give a brief mention about the Willy Mason gig at The Musician in Leicester back in May. If I had the arts of powerful sorcery at my disposal (I'm still on moving a pencil a centimetre off the table), I would have physically relocated this pub down to Northampton, long ago. Or perhaps merely punched out a spatial portal enabling me to step through to it as and when required. These are just little details. But, yes, Willy Mason, what a performance!! Mystical, magical, marvellous music! It was like being transported so effortlessly to the deep south without breaking a sweat. If only every Monday night contained such entertainment. He is mesmerizing live and I urge all who are fans, or even just those who may only listen to him in passing and enjoy his tunes, to get to a show as soon as you can. It was also at this gig I saw the enigmatic Jinnwoo who opened as first support and is definitely someone you should check out!

Sadly, I was unable to make it to Beautiful Days last year but I sure made up for that by attending not one, but two other small independent festivals. I always considered Beautiful Days to be a relatively small affair. In comparison to Truck and Bakewell however, Beautiful Days is colossal. The small size of these other two is by no means a bad thing. It serves to make you feel even more directly connected to the musicians and bands you get to see. You can (and should) read my full two part review of Truck and then get to their website to bag your tickets to this year's event. They are flying out. More on that festival soon too.

Bakewell Music Festival was smaller still with an added bonus of stages being under a roof. Good job too as with the 'traditional' wash out of a summer we had last year, there were a number of downpours in between the bursts of sunshine and heat. Here, I saw Seth Lakeman for the second time of the year, always an outstanding first class performance. Other bands/artists that stood out for their quality were Jake Morley, with his lap-tapping guitar and poignant lyrics; Neon Railroad with their rockier sound and some great original songs; Sam Draisey, who performed a few covers with a real flair of originality and who's entire set was outstanding; Ryan Lauder with one of the strongest performances of the weekend. Special mentions for the headliners, Flight Brigadegyp, Gypsy Fire and of course Mr Seth Lakeman, who all made the Saturday night one of heightened merriment. I must give a nod to String Driven Thing's song Hey Jack too because as an Ode to the great Jack Kerouac, it really struck deep with me. Then, as the electrics blew and there was niether amp nor lights, country/soul band Phantom Limb closed the festival in true acoustic and unplugged style. They came down off the stage, hauling their instruments behind them and set up in the middle of the marquee. The remaining audience gathered round for what was a splendid intimate set.

It is back on the Truck for the 'they're so damn good they knock you over sets'. Little did I know at the time but this was one of The Last Republic's final gigs as a band as they disbanded not long after. This was a very sad fact and one I'm still crying over. They were just such a fantastic band playing inspiring and truthful music. Their set at Truck was one of my top highlights! Boat To Row build up such a huge momentum with their multi-instrumental juggernaut and had me knocked over by the force as well as so elated I was almost on the ceiling of that tent. I was looking forward to The Dreaming Spires and enjoyed them so much I went for the repeat acoustic performance in the Merch tent the following day. It was like sardines in a can in that tent but totally worth it. Conor O'Brien and his Villagers captivated me with tunes from debut album Becoming A Jackal and a few from their now released follow up Awayland. Tim Minchin could easily have closed the night with his side-splitting (as in literally and being in need of sowing up afterwards) comedy genius songs including the banned on TV Woody Allen Jesus

Due to previous negative press I'd read, I will admit I hadn't been expecting anything too amazing from Saturday night headliners and festival closers The Temper Trap. I was most pleasantly surprised with what we got to see and while they were not the best band overall, they were very close, closing the proceedings in perfect style. The most phenomenal, outstanding and sensational act of the whole event has to be Scottish rock band Frightened Rabbit! It was great to get more intimate with their music on the second stage but they should probably have been on the main stage with the crowd they drew and how much they had the audience in the palm of their hands. The band have recently released their latest album, Pedestrian Verse, which you can buy from their website -

So, that's about a wrap (not a rap, oh dear, imagining myself rapping is rather amusing - perhaps one day....for charity) for the live overview but like I say all the gigs I went to were pretty amazing. Not to neglect Don Broco outperforming We The Kings, as great as they were. What I could hear over the screaming girls that is.

Until next time folks, Peace to you all. to see Stornoway on Saturday, oh yes!


PART I   >>here<<
PART II  >>here<<
PART III >>here<<

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