Friday 21 December 2012

Review: Heinrich XIII and the Devilgrass Pickers - 13: the Devil's Dozen

Heinrich XIII and the Devilgrass Pickers - 13: the Devil's Dozen (Chaos Productions)
A group of good ol’ country boys from W├Âlfersheim, Germany, Heinrich XIII and the Devilgrass Pickers play a version of old school country music, which reflects their roots in metal and alternative music. It used to be a fairly well travelled path from punk, metal and grunge to alt. country, and it’s nearly always been a sincere transition. There maybe a little humour in their new songs, but that only mirrors classic country music in general, and there’s no doubt Heinrich and his band are serious musicians playing music they love.

Listening to “13: the Devil's Dozen”, you wouldn’t guess their country of origin; Heinrich’s got his dark, moody twang down pat, and the musicians around him follow suit. The album arrives fully formed in the shape of “Cold Hearted Girl” a full on country hoedown, with fiddle and mandolin blazing away. “My Ride” begins like a 50-year old burn from a local Tennessee radio station, before tumbling energetically into something more contemporary – great stuff. Song titles such as “Hangover” and “Whiskey Yodel No. 2” suggest a fascination with the evils of booze, but the former is a lament, full of regret and self-recrimination. Less so, the latter.
Simon M.

Heinrich XIII and the Devilgrass Pickers: 13: the Devil

Law relaxed on digital copying

Making digital copies of music, films and other copyrighted material for personal use is to be made legal for the first time under government plans.

It has previously been illegal in the UK to rip songs from a CD to a digital player or transfer eBooks, music, films and games from one device to another.

But people will still not be allowed to share the copies with others.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the move was "not only common sense but good business sense".

"Bringing the law into line with ordinary people's reasonable expectations will boost respect for copyright, on which our creative industries rely," he said.

"We feel we have struck the right balance between improving the way consumers benefit from copyright works they have legitimately paid for, boosting business opportunities and protecting the rights of creators."

But musicians and songwriters complained that they will lose out.

The Musicians' Union and British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors said all other European countries with a similar law also have some form of levy on items like blank CDs and media players to compensate creators.

Musicians' Union general secretary John Smith said: "We feel strongly that the lack of fair compensation will significantly disadvantage creators and performers in relation to the vast majority of their EU counterparts.

"Why would the UK government want to discriminate against its own creators, particularly since the creative economy is one of the consistent areas of economic growth?"

The change in the law will also make it easier for teachers to use copyright materials on interactive whiteboards, for people to make parodies of copyrighted works and for writers to quote other sources.

Source: BBC

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Review: Miscomunicado – Phenomenon

Miscomunicado – Phenomenon (Independent)
Describing themselves as a three-piece psychedelic electronic rock band, Dan Scott, Luke Barone and James Hodgkins (aka Miscomunicado) pretty much write their own review, though, as with all these things, the devil’s in the detail. In the two or three years they’ve been together, they’ve released a steady flow of material, and “Phenomenon” is their third long player. It may well be their best. They’re maturing as writers and musicians, and this brand new album is beautifully structured, and takes the listener on a psychedelic journey through numerous strange domains.

Indeed, various atmospheres and environments are evoked, from the darkness of space – both outer and inner – to deep seas and sub terra landscapes. They begin with “Modified Loose Cones”, and they merge the classic space rock of Hawkwind with the early electronic proto-punk of Sheffield pioneers Cabaret Voltaire. It’s wrenched into the 21st century simply through the availability of contemporary influences and production, but its exploratory heart is rooted in the ‘70s alternative scene. It’s trailed by “Be Here Now”; a chill out instrumental piece, with nice wah wah guitar and a modern beat, whilst “Fortune Teller” is a prime example of modern jam band adventure. Miscomunicado impress a little more with every new release. I’m already looking forward to album number four.
Rob F.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Bromley Council disputes Henry Moore sculpture ownership

The planned sale of a Henry Moore sculpture has prompted a row between two London councils over its ownership.

Tower Hamlets Council plans to sell Draped Seated Woman to offset the impact of government cuts.

But Bromley Council has said the sculpture belongs to Londoners as it was bought by London County Council in the 1960s to be placed in east London.

Tower Hamlets said the statue was transferred to the council during local government reorganisation.

The artwork, known as Old Flo, was loaned to Yorkshire Sculpture Park after the Stifford Estate, the Tower Hamlets housing estate in which it was housed, was demolished in the late 1990s.

'National treasure'

In a letter to Tower Hamlets, Bromley Council said the sculpture became the property of the Greater London Council when that authority replaced London County Council. And it said it remained in the ownership of the GLC until its dissolution in 1985, after which it was transferred to Bromley.

Stephen Carr, leader of Bromley Council, said: "This sculpture must remain in public ownership which is line with the original principles of Henry Moore himself.

"The idea that selling this internationally recognised sculpture will somehow tackle the financial situation facing Tower Hamlets is flawed. Local authorities need to face financial reality and look at the longer-term challenges.

"The monies raised would not protect frontline services for very long and would stop future generations appreciating this national treasure."

'Cavalier plans'

But a statement from Tower Hamlets said: "Tower Hamlets Council refute that Bromley have any right to the asset.

"Bromley maintain in their letter that the asset was acquired for Londoners as a whole.

"However LBTH [London Borough of Tower Hamlets] has checked the minutes of the LCC General Purposes Committee for 15 May 1962 which authorised the purchase and these specifically state that the statue was "to be sited in Stifford Estate (Stepney)".

"There is no dispute between any of the parties that the Stifford Estate transferred to LBTH during local government reorganisation."

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said following Bromley Council's claim "Tower Hamlets's cavalier plans" must be halted.

Tower Hamlets said it had to make the decision to sell the artwork as the cost of insuring it "proved to be unreasonable".

Source: BBC

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Review: Melissa Phillips – Fits & Starts

Melissa Phillips – Fits & Starts (Independent)
Melissa Phillips debut EP was recorded live to tape, over two days, without overdubs or auto tune. It’s probably best that no one mentions to Simon Cowell that proper, talented musicians are making records like this, though he probably wont believe it. There, not our problem.

Recorded with the assistance of James DePrato (guitar, mandolin, dobro, banjo, harmonies), Max Delaney (guitar), Danilo Lopez (percussion and harmonies) and Kevin White (bass), Phillips has fashioned a six track collection that maybe a little loose at the edges, but more than compensates with strong songs and a band that thrives under the pressure of live recording.

There’s urgency to their playing which perfectly suits Phillips’ songs. Mostly alt. country and folk in nature, she’s a songwriter with plenty to say and with the talent to convey a story without breaking her musical flow. Beginning with the vivacious “Centralia”, the quintet sound fully rehearsed and raring to let loose – they don’t disappoint. Both Phillips and her band drive the track home, and it sets them up for the remaining five songs. Other standouts include the percussion-heavy title track, and the rolling paean to youthful endeavour “So Young”.
Simon M.

Melissa Phillips: Fits & Starts

Brit Awards tip Tom Odell for the top

Singer-songwriter Tom Odell has become the first male artist to win the Brit Awards' critics' choice prize.

The 22-year-old, from West Sussex, follows in the footsteps of Adele, Emeli Sande and Jessie J - who were all tipped for success by Brits' voters.

Odell, who released his debut EP Songs From Another Love earlier this year, also features on the BBC Sound of 2013 longlist.

A "thrilled" Odell, said: "I genuinely can't believe it."

"Looking at the list of amazing female artists who have won the award already, I just hope I don't let the boys down."

Odell beat futuristic R&B group AlunaGeorge and soul singer Laura Mvula to take the prize, which he will receive at the Brit Awards next February.

Born in Chichester, he studied at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, and has been compared to the late Jeff Buckley and Chris Martin of Coldplay.

His low-key, piano-led music has won numerous fans, including Lily Allen, who originally signed him to her record label, In The Name Of, earlier this year.

"His voice if fragile yet powerful and he sings mainly love songs," she told the NME earlier this year.

"I'm not usually a massive fan of singer-songwriter stuff, but when I saw him live, his energy onstage reminded me of David Bowie. It's not soppy and moany at all, it's energetic and insightful. And he's totally gorgeous as well!"

Odell recently supported Jake Bugg on his UK tour and is performing with BBC Sound Of 2012 winner Michael Kiwanuka this month.

The Brit Awards ceremony takes place on 20 February at London's 02 Arena.

James Corden, who had to cut off Adele's acceptance speech last year as time for the live broadcast ran out, will return to host the event.

Adele is expected to win a new award, which is aimed at recognising the impact of UK artists overseas, at the ceremony. However, Mumford and Sons and One Direction could also be in the frame for the prize, after a successful year in the US.

Meanwhile, the top five acts on the BBC Sound of 2013 shortlist will be unveiled in reverse order from 31 December to 4 January.

Source: BBC

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Review: Go Long (!) – Strings Untied

Go Long (!) – Strings Untied (Independent)
All three members of Ottawa’s Go Long (!), Danielle Allard, Lucas Haneman and Nicolas Crisafi, were making music individually for a decade or more before coming together to form their group. They quickly made a name for themselves on the Ontario live circuit, playing distinctive covers of popular songs and new, original material that gig-goers seemed to enjoy. Their wide variety of influences – they cite jazz, folk, alt. rock, metal, electronica, and hip-hop as primary inspirations – has led to sound and style they can call their own.

Combining favoured covers and their own material; their debut album combines their influences in an acoustic setting, and does so without losing sight of their own, distinct artistic vision. Beginning with the single “Hurricane”, its clever lyrics and banjo propulsion makes for a stirring introduction. Songwriters Allard and Haneman consistently get it right, uniting intelligent words with melodies that stick around. Allard’s a fine vocalist, whether she’s singing her own songs or other people’s, and both “Overwhelmed” and their take on Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet” are standout tracks. Fans of Amy MacDonald, KT Tunstall and Edie Brickell’s early records should take note.
Simon M.

Long: Strings Untied

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Leicester's Summer Sundae to take a year off in 2013

Statement from the organisers:


After much consideration we have decided it's best for Summer Sundae Weekender to take a year off and as such there will be no Summer Sundae at De Montfort Hall in 2013.

We have taken this decision against the backdrop of a very difficult year for festivals in 2012. The Olympics, the recession and the weather have created a perfect storm leaving many independent festivals struggling to survive.

We feel it's a good idea to take the next year to look at different models and fresh ideas to bring the festival back for 2014 and beyond.

Meanwhile we wish De Montfort Hall a Happy 100th Birthday for 2013, and understand that they will be celebrating this in style next year. We hope to see you all again in 2014.

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Tuesday 18 December 2012

Review: Helen Shanahan – Driftwood

Helen Shanahan – Driftwood (Independent)
A singer-songwriter in the classic tradition, Helen Shanahan has crafted an eight-song collection that’s incredibly easy on the ear, but the hooks are barbed and once they’ve attached themselves to their target, there’s no escape. In her native Australia the album’s title track has already picked up the Western Australian Music Industry Association’s ‘Song of the Year’ award in the ‘Folk’ category, which luckily coincided with the album’s release, and critical plaudits will naturally follow. We’re more than happy to join in.

Close to You” is a pristine opening cut. Shanahan possesses a distinctive, adaptable voice, which is conspicuous in its ability to deliver a line full of depth and emotion, without resorting to multi-octave vocal gymnastics. It’s a compelling four-minutes and an impressive way to launch her debut long player (she released a six-track EP in 2009), but it’s matched by the stirring title track, and songs like “Play the Fool” and the remarkable “He Says” make for an incredibly consistent listening experience. “Driftwood” is an album of first class folk-pop songs, sung with genuine zeal. Miss it at your peril.
Phil S.

Helen Shanahan: Driftwood

Amy Winehouse coroner's inquest to be reheard in London

The inquest into the death of singer Amy Winehouse is to be reheard after the coroner involved in the case quit.

The coroner for Inner North London resigned after an inquiry into his decision to appoint his wife without fully checking her qualifications.

Dr Andrew Scott Reid appointed Suzanne Greenaway as the assistant deputy coroner in July 2009.

She oversaw singer Winehouse's inquest, ruling that the 27-year-old died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

The new hearing is listed to take place on Tuesday 8 January at St Pancras Coroner's Court.

Winehouse was found dead at her home in Camden, north London, on 23 July 2011.

Qualified in Australia

Ms Greenaway returned a verdict of death by misadventure, in October 2011.

During her time as deputy assistant coroner, Ms Greenaway conducted 12 inquests in Camden, including one in to Winehouse's death.

Camden council could not confirm if the other 11 inquests Ms Greenaway oversaw in Camden would be reheld, saying it would depend on the families' requests.

Ms Greenaway resigned in November last year because she had not been a lawyer in the UK for the required five years.

Dr Reid stepped down from judicial office on 7 December 2012, before the disciplinary process by the Office for Judicial Complaints was formally concluded.

Ms Greenaway qualified in Australia in 1999 and was a member of the Supreme Court there, but she had not worked as a lawyer for the required time in the UK.

According to English law, she would have needed either five years with the Law Society or five years of experience as a qualified medical practitioner. She met neither criteria.

Source: BBC

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Aitchison's slashed self-portrait bought by gallery

A self-portrait by the late Craigie Aitchison, who defaced it after an onlooker called it "flattering", has been bought by the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Aitchison, who was averse to self-promotion, insisted it could only be restored if the cuts remained visible.

The painting, dating from late 1950s or early 1960s, remained in the artist's possession until his death in 2009.

It will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London on Tuesday.

"Craigie Aitchison was a highly distinctive artist whose singular vision was rooted in an acute sensitivity to colour and subtle implications of meaning," said Paul Moorhouse, curator of twentieth century portraits.

"We are delighted that this fascinating self-portrait survived the artist's momentary destructive doubts and can now be seen by future generations."

Born in Kincardine-on-Forth in 1926, Aitchison studied in Italy and was heavily influenced by early Renaissance painters.

He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1978, won the Jerwood Painting Prize in 1994 and was awarded a CBE in 1999.

Major retrospectives of his work have been held at the Serpentine Gallery, the Royal Academy in London and the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow.

An artist and printmaker, he was respected as a painter of visionary, religious and portrait subjects, which helped bring him a considerable following.

The National Gallery has portraits of Aitchison in its photographs collection, but this is the first painted portrait of the artist it has acquired.

Source: BBC

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Review: Beth Whitney – Ukulele EP

Beth Whitney – Ukulele EP (Independent)
Hailing from Snohomish in Washington State, Beth Whitney is slowly and surely raising her profile in her hometown and surrounding areas, winning songwriting competitions and releasing a sequence of records that consistently earn critical acclaim. “Ukulele”, a seven-song EP, is her most recent release, and unsurprisingly features Whitney mainly playing ukulele (and guitar), singing her songs of course and, as is usual, her husband Aaron Fishburn accompanies her. It’s a charming folk-rock collection, with both musicians in fine form and Whitney’s songs effortlessly draw the listener into her world of rainy days, pirates and unfettered, hopeful love.

At nearly half an hour long, it’s a substantial collection, and one with plenty of artistic ambition. Opening track “Sweet On You” is simply a delight; the duo play beautifully well together, Whitney’s soft vocal (think Joanna Newsom with a little extra twang) drips gentle words of longing and affection, and a muted trumpet adds extra magic – just perfect. “Seattle Rain” is as good, though entirely dissimilar. Its echo-laden percussion and orchestrations emit an epic quality that’s retro, engaging and wholly convincing.
Phil S.

Beth Whitney: Ukulele EP