Sunday 30 September 2012

Review: Ross Neilsen – The Shack Up Sessions

Ross Neilsen – The Shack Up Sessions (Independent)
Recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi at the Shack Up Inn, an old plantation, housing a collection of sharecropper shacks, farmhouses and outbuildings. Its location, just three miles from Robert Johnson’s legendary ‘crossroads’ (the intersection of Highways 49 and 61), it might just be the finest place on earth to record an old school blues album.

After releasing a trio of band recordings, this is Ross Neilsen’s first full-length solo album and it’s a natural extension for an artist who regularly performs in a solo setting. Its mix of classic material and original songs is a common enough format on many a blues album, but thanks to Neilsen’s distinctive style and a production that is hardly hi-fidelity, but perfect, nonetheless, it sounds novel and fresh.

All those live shows, up to 200 dates a year, must have been good practice for “The Shack Up Sessions”. Recorded in just two days, the exigency and urgency just blasts through to the listener. Versions of “Can't Be Satisfied” and “Spoonful” fizz and spark; the latter featuring a sliding blues chug that should awaken the hairs on the back of the neck of the most jaundiced blues fan. The insistent walking bassline of “Goin' Somewhere” will raise a knowing smile or two, and it’s surely fitting that he closes the collection with “Blues At Midnight” and the ominous sound edit “49/61”.
Rob F.

Ross Neilsen: The Shack Up Sessions

Review: Owl Paws – Carry On

Owl Paws – Carry On (Urban Scandal Records)
San Francisco’s Owl Paws aren’t big on making biographical information public; apart from a group interest in gravy (it’s on their Facebook page, honest), details are scarce. I know there are four main members, though exactly what they each contribute to the group is a mystery, and that’s about it. Apart from the music, of course.

“Carry On” is their second EP (their self-titled debut appeared in 2011) and it’s a six-track collection of harmonic alt. folk, a genre which has its roots in the ‘60s with groups like CSN, and has zig-zagged in and out of fashion ever since. Currently it’s riding on an all-time high, and the more popular practitioners, from Fleet Foxes to Mumford and Sons, are getting serious chart action. Even those doyennes of good taste, young women, seem to like them.

If Old Paws get their act together, there’s no reason they shouldn’t join the club. They make a quite exquisite sound over these half dozen tracks; faultless boy/girl harmonies, a subtle, warm production, enveloping arrangements and songs that wash over the listener like sunlight. First impressions count, and “Hoot” is as good as any. Perhaps the upbeat “Sunrise” is the star track, but really, there’s nothing in it. Listen, buy, enjoy, etc.
Rob F.

Owl Paws: Carry On

Review: Lizzy & The Orca – Animal Material

Lizzy & The Orca – Animal Material (Independent)
Lizzy & The Orca is a Montreal based folk-pop duo. Lizzy is Lysanne Picard (vocals, ukulele, guitar, cello) and the Orca is Sébastien Ménard (electric guitar, glockenspiel). For their second EP they’re joined by the Orca-stra (their joke, not mine), which complements their instrumental line-up with percussion, bass and trumpet. Their songs are idiosyncratic and charming, but substantial, and the additional instruments round out their sound without drawing attention away from their songwriting or their individual eccentricities.

Like all the best EPs, there’s no room for filler. All five tracks are quietly captivating in their own way, though they’re not the sort of songs to grab you by the collar and shake you into submission. Instead they amble and ramble, taking their time to settle their barbs in our aural cavities, then not letting go. Try and hear it all in one go, if you can, but pay special attention to “The Things I've Done”, a lovely mix of old fashioned country, ‘60s folk and Picard’s delicate storytelling, and “The Tree Song”, a sweet little ditty, which slowly builds to something extraordinarily fine.
Rob F.

Lizzy & the Orca: Animal Material

Friday 28 September 2012

Review: Ty Haruta – Balconies

Ty Haruta – Balconies (Nakamoto Music Group)
If you take a peek at Ty Haruta’s Facebook page, under ‘Biography’ there’s a short, neat and tidy blurb, which is simultaneously deep and almost throwaway. It made me smile, as does his debut seven-song release, entitled “Balconies”.

The Los Angeles based singer-songwriter has created a collection of folk-rock and pop songs that are melodically strong, and he’s blessed with a voice that does his words justice. His style is reminiscent of artists like Jack Johnson and John Mayer, so there’s no shortage of pop hooks to get under the skin, and although the overall presentation feels relaxed and easy, the list of backing vocalists and musicians, and the various instruments they employ, is impressively long.

He begins with the almost title track “Balcony”. The phrasing is unusual, which demands attention straight away, and the rhythm is Latin, or something that originated on a Caribbean island – whatever its source, it’s sunny and warm. It sets up “Love Always”, a bubbly, upbeat number with plenty of feelgood attitude. With luck and a horribly expensive radio plugger, it’s got the potential to be a huge hit. “Wasted” would make an interesting follow-up single, and “Talking Green” is just as instant and immediate, with added bongos.
Rob F.

Ty Haruta: Balconies

Manet portraits head for London's Royal Academy

French painter Edouard Manet's portraits will be showcased in a major exhibition at London's Royal Academy next year.

The retrospective is the first of its kind in the UK and is expected to be one of 2013's exhibition highlights.

More than 50 paintings spanning Manet's career have been collected from around the world, from both public collections and private owners.

They include famous images such as The Railway and Mademoiselle Claus.

Manet: Portraying Life will feature the 19th-Century French painter's "great works" alongside lesser known pieces.

The show's curator, MaryAnne Stevens, has also promised "quite a lot of surprises" when the show opens in January.

Stevens said that Manet's portraits have "not been studied in either exhibition or book form" before, despite the artist's "unswerving commitment to the genre of portraiture throughout his career".

Throughout his life Manet surrounded himself with a wide circle of friends and admirers, including leading figures from the artistic, literary and musical communities.

The latter often served as sitters for his portraits, along with his family.

The exhibition will examine the relationship between Manet's portrait painting and his scenes of modern life, with different sections focusing on elements such as family, artist friends and "status portraits" of such figures as the politicians Henri Rochefort and Antonin Proust.

Other highlights include The Luncheon, on loan from the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, which depicts Leon, the son of Manet's wife.

Manet's professional career as an artist lasted less than three decades and was cut short by his premature death in 1883 at the age of 51.

The Royal Academy will stage the exhibition - a collaboration with the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio - from 26 January to 14 April.

Source: BBC

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Review: I Was Awake – S/T

I Was Awake – S/T (Independent)
I Was Awake is an American, five-man, contemporary progressive rock band from Boston and the surrounding area. All five members are experienced musicians, having played with various rock outfits, including Autumn Above and Fallow, and that experience tells throughout their self-titled debut EP.

Though only five tracks long, because of the genre in which they operate, that equates to well over 27 minutes of music; more than enough time to make a serious impression. This they do thanks to solid songwriting and exceptional musicianship. Both principal guitarists Justin Demko and Dan Goodhue contribute immense riffs and needle point solos, building a depth of sound that can be daunting. Fortunately plenty of light and shade is provided by a three-piece string section, Chris Harvey’s vocal, both high in tone and in the mix, and arrangements that allow room for the melodies to take hold.

All five tracks come together to form an enjoyable whole, rather than provide individual highlights (though I am particularly enamoured with “The Frightened One”), and fans of Muse, A Perfect Circle and Katatonia should really check them out.
Rob F.

I Was Awake: I Was Awake

Manx Litfest: Festival to be a "colourful celebration"

The director of a four-day literature festival under way in the Isle of Man has said it will be a celebration for the entire community.

The Manx Litfest will include a variety of talks, workshops, book launches and signings, held throughout the island.

Festival director and author, John Quirk said: "We have so much planned - it is going to be a colourful celebration of literature."

The four-day festival will run from Thursday to Sunday.

The inaugural festival will see authors and poets delivering lectures while providing a platform to promote local writers.

Chairman of the Isle of Man Arts Council, Laurence Skelly, said the festival would "promote a diverse cultural offering".

Mr Quirk came up with the the idea in 2010 after watching a talk by local crime writer Chris Ewan.

"I put the idea out there on my blog and through social media and their was a unanimously positive response," he said. "The adventure had started."

The festival has been specifically designed to be staged around the island and include as many people as possible, by a team of volunteers, who all give their time for the love of books and great writing.

Mr Quirk added: "We set out to create a colourful celebration of literature and pay tribute to the endless worlds that books open our imaginations to."

"We wanted to give literature in the Isle of Man the recognition it deserves."

"There is a vast array of events for other art forms, but it was our belief that literature had lived in the shadows here for to long."

Around 20 authors and poets from all over the British Isles will take part.

Among those visiting the island will be the ex-BBC war correspondent Martin Bell, Tolkien scholar Colin Duriez and literary agent Peter Cox , who will debate the effect of e-books on publishing.

It will also see nature writer Sarah Crowe visit the island as she begins a year-long journey in a camper van, to find the "wild" places of the British Isles.

The event has been funded through a £5,000 from the Manx Lottery Trust, as well as support by the Manx Heritage Foundation and the Isle of Man Arts Council.

Source: BBC

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Review: The Weird Andys – 1

The Weird Andys – 1 (Independent)
From Knoxville, Tennessee, The Weird Andys are a four-piece garage band with bluesy and acid rock nuances and plenty of hard rocking chops. None of them are called Andy – shame. So that’s the bare bones of it, but there’s plenty of interesting detail to fill in the gaps.

They’re partial to turning their guitars up, and when they reference Hendrix and his heavy psychedelic guitar squall, we understand precisely what they’re driving at. They mix in a little feral Americana, for some context, together with whatever rhythm they see fit, and their resulting noise is always appealing, on one level or another. They’re some decent songs, too. The album kicks off with “Pavement Pound”, a lovely, grungy storm of a song, with some delicate post-punk strings providing guidance. Both guitarists / vocalists Matt Hensley and Josh Brown show what fine musicians they are, and whoever it is taking lead vocal, also does himself proud.

Other songs of special note are “In the Know” which pleasingly combines late ‘70s punk and something that crawled out of Seattle in the mid ’80s, “Slow Train” is less urgent – there’s a clue somewhere in the title – but still rocks gloriously, and last track “Friends”, which gallops along with a rhythm that Gang Of Four would happily call their own.
Simon M.

The Weird Andys: The Weird Andys: I

Thursday 27 September 2012

Ronnie Wood denies involvement in Rolling Stones auction

Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood has said he is "staggered" and "shocked" by a sale of art and memorabilia, organised by his former wife Jo.

Rolling Stones tour outfits and a custom Fender Stratocaster are among the lots being offered at auction in Los Angeles next month.

Wood said some of the items were "clearly his personal belongings" and that he had no involvement in the sale.

The couple's divorce was finalised in 2011, after 24 years of marriage.

They had separated three years earlier, after Ronnie's widely reported relationship with waitress Ekaterina Ivanova.

Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills announced on Wednesday that Jo was putting band memorabilia, which she had collected over the years, under the hammer as part of the sale, which is expected to raise up to $500,000 (£388,000).

Should it go ahead, the auction will benefit MusiCares, the Grammys charity that offers recovery to people in the music industry.

The collection features memorabilia spanning four decades, from the guitarist's work with the Rolling Stones, his earlier association with Faces and his solo career.

Items include worn leather jackets, backstage passes from various Rolling Stones tours, and portraits of Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan.

Antiques, furniture and art from the Woods' former home in Surrey will also be included in the forthcoming sale.

An Erard harp is expected to raise up to $5,000 (£3,884), while a bronze jockey statue by Dame Elisabeth Frink could fetch as much as $85,000 (£66,000).

'Outrageous sale'

Darren Julien of Julien's Auctions announced the sale, saying: "They are still very good friends and they just decided it was time to simplify and sell some of their property."

But Ronnie Wood later released a statement through his publicist, saying he had declined the offer to participate.

"He is therefore shocked and disappointed that this auction is being misrepresented as a joint sale. This is not the case."

The statement continued: "Ronnie feels saddened that Jo has taken this course of action and wants the public to know he has not teamed up with Jo on this outrageous sale."

Jo Wood and her representatives were not immediately available to respond to the statement.

Wood, 65, has been focusing on his art career of late and opened an art show in April entitled, Faces, Time and Places in New York.

He also fronts programmes on Absolute Radio and the Sky Arts Channel that have him chatting and "jamming" with fellow musicians.

Source: BBC

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Review: Live Poets Society – Square One

Live Poets Society – Square One (Sugarbeat Music)
Live Poets Society is singer-songwriter-guitarist JeeWee Donkers and keyboardist-flutist Peter Holen, and on their debut record, drummer Frank Schuuring and bass player Rob Weenink have joined them. They remind me of a clutch of late ‘70s groups who appeared the same time as the new wave broke, but who seemed to have evolved from a classic pop tradition rather than punk. Groups like The Korgis and New Musik spring to mind, and Live Poets Society share a talent for strong tunes and songs that stick around long after they’re finished. Also, partly because of the instrumentation, they’re very good at building a melancholy mood. Nothing too dark, but it’s there, all the same.

“Square One” plays like a proper album should. It flows beautifully, one track to the next, and the quality of the material never wanes. Opening tune “Sucker for Your Smile” outlines their approach. Keys and guitars combine, and there’s a hint of Lloyd Cole’s Commotions or third album Television in the delivery. This is definitely pop music, but it’s the good stuff, and worth getting excited about. “Draw Me Closer” begins like an old Chris Isaak song before other soul-rock influences come into play, and a pristine guitar solo opens the door. “Pretty Complicated” is jazzy and upbeat, “Rub It In” features some great Traffic-like flute, and final flourish, “Trust in You”, wraps things up in fine style.
Simon M.

Live Poets Society: Square One

Andy Williams dies aged 84

Singer Andy Williams, 84, has died at his home in Branson, Missouri, a year after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.

He was best known for the song Moon River, the Oscar-winning song featured in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's.

In 1962, he started The Andy Williams Show, which was broadcast around the world and went on to win three Emmys.

Since the 1990s, he had run the Andy Williams Moon River Theater in his home town.

The singer was one of the most enduring stars of the 1960s and '70s, whose easy style and mellow voice led President Ronald Reagan to call him "a national treasure".

A new generation discovered Williams' music when Music to Watch Girls Go By made the Top 10 in 1999 after being used in an advert.

He described Moon River as his "signature song" which had a "wonderful" melody and "timeless" lyrics.

"I never tried to sing like anybody else, fortunately I didn't sound like anybody else. It just happened," said Williams.

"I was very lucky that I had a voice that sounded different to almost anybody else's and it's recognisable."

Fellow crooner Tony Christie, who achieved chart success with Is This The Way To Amarillo, described Williams as "a very charming man" who had "perfect pitch".

The singer was "one of the old school," he added, "and there aren't many left".

Williams died on Tuesday night and is survived by his wife, Debbie, and his three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian.

Global fame

Howard Andrew Williams was born in Iowa and started singing professionally with his three brothers as the Williams Brothers Quartet.

They worked in night clubs and on radio and backed Bing Crosby on his number one record Swinging on a Star in 1944.

Williams' TV show made him an international star and launched a recording career that spawned such hits as Butterfly, Love Story, Can't Get Used to Losing You and Almost There.

The weekly show lasted nine years and will be remembered by many for introducing the Osmond family to the world.

In a statement, Donny Osmond described Williams as inspiring in music and in life, and said the "warmth and grace of his singing" had shaped his own love of music.

Donny later joined his brothers to tour with Williams as his opening act and as back-up singers.

"He truly was a great singer and I will ever be indebted to Andy for giving me the opportunity to fulfil my dreams and the opportunity to be personally inspired by such a generous talent," he said.

Williams became a major star in 1956, the same year that Elvis Presley shot to fame, and was well loved in the 1960s.

"The old cliche says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren't there," said the singer.

"Well, I was there all right, but my memory of them is blurred - not by any drugs I took but by the relentless pace of the schedule I set myself."

Cancer battle

In 1962 he married Claudine Longet, a French actress and singer, with whom he had three children before their divorce in 1975.

Williams continued to play live into his 80s. During a 2007 tour of the UK, he said that performing kept him vital.

"Perhaps that two hours out onstage is the medicine that everybody should have," he told a reporter.

In November 2011, he revealed he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer but said he planned to continue performing at his own theatre.

He said at the time that bladder cancer was "no longer a death sentence" and that "people with cancer are getting through this thing".

"They're kicking it, and they're winning more and more every year. And I'm going to be one of them," he went on.

Williams left hospital in July to spend his final days at home with his family.

In lieu of flowers, his family has asked that donations be made to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.

Source: BBC

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