Sunday 25 May 2014

Review: Chris Bergson Band - Live at Jazz Standard

Chris Bergson Band - Live at Jazz Standard (Independent)
Equalling the critical success of previous releases ‘Fall Changes’ and ‘Imitate the Sun’ (numbers one and two respectively in Mojo magazine’s Blues Albums of the Year for 2009 and 2011) will have been a daunting challenge for the Chris Bergson Band; but while a stop-gap live album re-treading past glories may have seemed tempting and risk-free, ‘Live at Jazz Standard’ has an altogether weightier ambition.

Still a well-kept secret in commercial terms, Chris Bergson is a serious and important artist. As the popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries matures to the point where its narrative can be accurately documented and its distinctive cultural significance finally understood, the architectural foundations upon which it was first built call for expert curatorial support. Bergson is one of a dwindling number whose approach to that task is at once respectful, sophisticated and progressive.

Critically, although embedded unashamedly in blues, soul, jazz, folk and country, he neither wants to pickle them in aspic nor dress them up in gaudy rags as if for a children’s party.

In drawing from a deep reverence and intuitive affection for the indigenous roots of American music Bergson follows the altogether more nuanced lead of Dr John, the Allman Brothers, and Little Feat – the Grateful Dead even – who have moved American roots forward through substantial yet sustainable increments rather than speculative leaps, combining prowess and dexterity with awareness and erudition.

Hitherto, Bergson has built sensibly and to good effect on the Woodstock Vibe template pioneered by The Band, something few do well. This recording sees the start of a careful but significant progression, which gives him a more distinctive shape and individual voice. Stylistically, the set presented here (from which only two songs, ‘Mr. Jackson’ and ‘Gowanus Heights’ feature on recent studio albums) is altogether bluesier and more soulful, with less of a default to jazz. A change of keyboard player heralds more prominence for the organ and less bar-room piano; and horns that previously honked now seem to blast. Both features add welcome depth to the overall sound.

Bergson’s own guitar playing, always excellent, is more upfront than before; and in showcasing a range from acoustic delta to full-on electric rock it often acts in tandem with his vocal as call-and-response. Bergson’s singing too has always been a remarkable asset, but past recordings don’t adequately prepare for a performance which is one moment Brook Benton or Bill Withers and the next the Tom Waits of ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’. ‘High Above the Morning’ could well be the perfect starting point to hear all this at once, a reflective and soulful song with voice and guitar dueting like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Wynette, perfectly underpinned by a wash of brass and organ.

The songs themselves are the familiar combination of character driven stories (including the aforementioned ‘Gowanus Heights’ Altmanesque cast of Brooklyn faces, and the outstanding ‘Christmas Time in Bethlehem, PA’), and personal musings (such as deep soul ballad ‘Chloe’s Song’), occasionally laced with laconic humour (as is ‘Sometimes It’s You’). Range is impressive too. Opener ‘Greyhound Station’ hits the tracks running with a blues tour-de-force matching muscular guitar licks with wall-of-sound horns, to be hotly pursued by the Stax-referencing soul-funk of ‘The Only One’; while ‘Heavenly Grass’  pays tribute of a different kind to the writer’s self-declared influences of Son House, Lightning Hopkins, and Skip James.

Of the available raw ingredients Bergson’s preference for merging blues soul and jazz (as against, say, Springsteen’s leanings towards country, folk and rock and roll) may make his work less of a commercial proposition than it deserves; but with the growing confidence, immaculate playing, raw talent and flawless integrity on parade here, a wider audience and recognition has to be his due before long.
Neil B.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Review: Ike Moriz – At Last

Ike Moriz – At Last (Mosquito Records London)
Ike Moriz is one tricky artist to pin down. He originally made records in London back in the early noughties as part of a new wave of pop that sprung up in the wake of Britpop, though he always seemed to take the majority of his musical leads from the pop classicism of the preceding decades.

Since then he’s relocated to his home-country of South Africa, where he’s made a name for himself as an interpreter of the Great American Songbook - and has followed a stylistic bent with roots in the big bands of the ‘40s and ‘50s, and vocalists like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. By my reckoning “At Last” is his 14th long player, and his first since 2012’s “Siren Terpsichore”. Now Moriz has taken a new musical direction, and has discovered a whole new set of roots to explore.

“At Last” is a sincere (and utterly fascinating) take on a blues style that borrows from both the British boom of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and the jazzier sounds that he’s recently surrounded himself with. Familiar titles litter the tracklist; “Georgia On My Mind” is super smooth and elegantly soulful, while “Hound Dog” owes something to Elvis, insofar it rocks, but it swings, too, and Moriz nails both the arrangement and performance.

Opening cut “The Devil Is Real in Your Mind” features some terrific guitar work, and includes enough bad blues vibe to steer us sensible folk away from the crossroads after dark, while the title track relies heavily on piano, and feels dense and heavy like a Southern heat wave. The album concludes with “You Are My Sunshine”, its upbeat message enhanced by fluttery horns and Moriz’s playful tones.

It’s good to have him back, whatever style he’s playing, and I’m already looking forward to the next installment.
Rob F.

Monday 24 February 2014

Review: The Nymphs – It’s Been A Long Time Awaiting

The Nymphs – It’s Been A Long Time Awaiting (Independent)
Goodness, this 14-track collection sounds remarkably fresh and full of life - which is a little unexpected as The Nymphs’ sound harks back to the girl groups of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, rather than anything overtly contemporary or new. Of course, it’s their sheer melodicism that carries the day, and propels the listener through a series of songs, drenched in harmony, and solely reliant on the vocal prowess of Jane Hendry, Bek Chapman, Clare Hendry and Kelly Day.

Almost completely a capella – there’s the occasional beat for the purists to contend with – sublime arrangements underpin their songs and provide plenty of variety. The Melbourne quartet earned their spurs in their local bars and hostelries, collecting plaudits and acclaim wherever they’ve set up their mics, and working with various Australian musical luminaries along the way – together with the occasional TV appearance to help widen their audience even more.

All that talent and experience pays immediate dividends on “It’s Been A Long Time Awaiting” - the group’s debut long player. Indeed, highlights come thick and fast, right from the off, when the opening cut (and title track) introduces both the complexities of their style, together with what can only be described as instant pop appeal. New single “Shake” is equally splendid, with harmonies and vocal interaction that would make Brian Wilson sit up and take note, while “Grave Shift” indicates a more solemn and sober side to their sound, without forgoing any of the elements that make them so utterly enticing. Magical.
Phil S.

The Nymphs - It's Been A Long Time Awaiting (Live – Sideshow Alley)

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Tonight at The Musician, Leicester (18/2): Chris Conway + Mia & The Moon

Chris Conway + Mia & The Moon
"Songs Of Wonder"
Tuesday 18th February
£4adv £5door
A magical double header as two great acts present a night of songs of wonder and dreams.

Multi-instrumental wizard Chris Conway's cosmic and dreamlike songs are delivered with a dry wit, and a warm heart. This year he celebrates 25 years as a pro musician, and has released over 100 albums in many genres.

Mia and the Moon are sisters Laura & Mary-Anne Ratcliffe with the most astounding voices and stage presence and they cast a spell with their harmonies and timeless musical style. They tour the country, and have been featured on national television.

Remember; always check with the venue before travelling, or grab a ticket direct from the site:

Chet Faker dates

Chet Faker dates

20th Apr – Dublin – Button Factory
23rd Apr – Glasgow – Broadcast
24th Apr – Manchester – Soup Kitchen
25th Apr – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
27th Apr – Brighton – The Haunt
28th Apr – Bristol – Colston 2
29th Apr – London – Village Underground

'Talk Is Cheap' video:

Streaming to be included in UK singles chart

The head of music at Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra has said streaming will soon be included in the top 40 singles chart.

Speaking at a Radio Academy event in London, George Ergatoudis said play counts from services like Spotify and YouTube could be included as soon as this summer.

While countries such as the US and Germany already count music streams, the UK chart is based on sales alone.

The Official Charts Company says there is no firm date set for the change.

Chief executive Martin Talbot told the BBC the company was still working out the "how" and "when" behind the plans.

In the UK, music streaming increased by 33.7% in 2013 and now accounts for nearly 10% of revenues from recorded music. In the last year 7.4 billion songs were streamed via premium or ad-funded music services.

Daft Punk's Get Lucky was the most streamed track of 2013 in the UK, ahead of Bastille's Pompeii and Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines.

Last year was also a fifth successive record year for British singles sales, up 6% to 188.6m with the vast majority - 99.6% - accounted for by digital downloads.

Speaking in Music Week last week, Mr Talbot said: "We are beginning to look at this, as every market is - but we have a lot of due diligence to do before making what would be a significant jump in the UK."

He cited issues including what kind of streams should be counted and the possible impact on new and independent artists.

The company will also have to decide how many "plays" of a YouTube video or Spotify track would count as the equivalent of one sale.

There will also be questions about how long a user has to listen to a track before it is counted - some statisticians equate a 30-second stream to one play, others prefer only to count users who stream an entire song.

Mr Talbot's statement to Music Week was in response Universal Music UK boss, David Joseph, who told the magazine that the UK charts risk becoming irrelevant if they don't begin including streaming soon.

The Official Charts Company has previously explained that the UK chart methodology and market are both very different to America, where the Hot 100 takes into account radio airplay.

The company launched a separate Official Streaming Chart in 2012.

Mr Ergatoudis said merging that data into the Top 40 would be one of the biggest transitional changes in the Official Chart's history.

Source: BBC

Monday 17 February 2014

Review: Lynne Taylor – When Lightning Strikes

Lynne Taylor – When Lightning Strikes (Independent)
A stalwart of her local New England scene, Lynne Taylor has been a professional musician since she was 14 years old, playing solo and in various groupings. When comparisons to other artists are mentioned, names like Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Sheryl Crow are often referenced, but there’s also a timelessness to Taylor’s best work – and there’s plenty of it to be found on “When Lightning Strikes” - to spark memories of Buffy Sainte Marie, Carole King and a gaggle of revered ‘70s west coast songwriters.

Her instrument of choice is the piano, though the majority of her new songs are presented within a full band setting, where unlikely rhythms and eclectic arrangements are explored and investigated. It makes “When Lightning Strikes” a riveting listen, and the listener can expect nothing except the wholly unexpected.

“Butterfly” launches the collection, and its simple, insistent piano motif is soon added to by a half chanted / half sung vocal and tempered stings – the effect is simultaneously stimulating, strangely languid and utterly beguiling. It’s followed by the jaunty, country-rock-wired “Back By Suppertime”, a song and delivery that would have sat perfectly on Gene Clark and Carla Olson’s classic “So Rebellious A Lover” record - nice guitar solo, too.

A Spanish influence comes to bear on “Pablo's Glue”, the longest track on the album, where Latin guitars emphasize the narrative, and the percussion-heavy “Angel That Flew” stretches Taylor’s vocal chords, and brings to mind aborigine mantra and primal movement. She’s unafraid to get her hands dirty with a little political comment (“Grand Empire”) and adds to her palette with the jazz-specked classicism of “No Words”.

In the hands of a lesser artist “When Lightning Strikes” may have come across as unfocussed or confused, but not so here. There’s a singular musical vision behind these eleven tracks, and Taylor must take full credit for delivering a super album that celebrates and rejoices in its diversity, but is never distracted by it.
Phil S.

Tonight at The Musician, Leicester (17/2): Royal Blood + Tigercub

The Cookie presents

Royal Blood
Monday 17th February
plus Tigercub
Doors 7:30pm
Earlier this year, Brighton duo Royal Blood made their first public musical statement - a 3 minute slice of thrilling, primal rock & roll called 'Figure It Out' that appeared unannounced on the band's Soundcloud page but was soon picking up serious plaudits.

Now Royal Blood are pleased to announce details of their debut single. Available on 7" and download, the self-produced 'Out Of The Black' will be released on 11th November on Black Mammoth Records. It’s a single that wrings the maximum amount of noise, aggression and pure youthful exuberance out of the most minimal of ingredients, featuring nothing more than Mike Kerr's vocals and bass and Ben Thatcher's drums.

Remember; always check with the venue before travelling, or grab a ticket direct from the site:

Sunday 16 February 2014

NME sales dip below 20,000 copies

Sales of NME have hit their lowest yet, falling below 20,000 copies a month during the second half of 2013 despite last year's relaunch.

New ABC circulation figures show that the 62-year-old publication sold an average of just 18,184 a week.

It marked a drop of 21% from December 2012, when each issue was selling about 23,000 copies.

A rock music institution, the NME's circulation has dropped every year since 2009, despite several relaunches.

Its last major rival, Melody Maker, closed in 2000 when circulation dropped to 32,206.

However, the NME's publishing director, Jo Smalley, told the BBC the magazine was not in danger of closing, and had actually seen advertising revenues increase by 49% over the past 12 months.

The circulation figures are "part of a much bigger picture, which is what the NME is doing as a brand", he said.

The NME website gets 1.4m users per week, while the digital edition of the magazine sells 1,307 copies a week, and thousands of people attend NME live events and concert tours.

"We've found lots of other ways to monetise the brand and to reach the consumers because, let's be honest, there's a lot more competing for their time now," said Smalley.

"For some people, print is still very important. For other people, they're interested in engaging with the brand online or via social media. And we're serving those audiences in all those ways."

TV listings dominate

The NME's circulation figures are part of an overall downward trend. Music monthlies such as Q magazine and market-leader Mojo also recorded double-digit falls in readership, while teen publication Top of the Pops Magazine dropped 23%.

Weekly hard rock title Kerrang! also fell, reaching 35,127 people a week, down from 38,556 in 2012.

Film bible Empire shed 22,000 readers, with an average monthly circulation of 145,117; while its rival Total Film lost 15% of its readership, with monthly sales of 55,316.

However, the title sold an extra 12,134 copies in its digital edition, placing it in the top 10 e-magazines.

Gadget magazine T3 was the biggest-selling digital title, downloaded 22,319 times every month.

Magazine sales have been in decline for several years, with websites like Mail Online and the BBC competing for readers' attention.

But despite the wide availability of news websites, current affairs publications had a healthy 2013, with sales of The New Statesman and news digest The Week both increasing.

Good Housekeeping also overtook Glamour to become the top selling women's glossy monthly title, selling an average of 410,981 copies a month, a lead of just 500.

But TV listings magazines continued to rule the roost, with TV Choice the UK's biggest publication, achieving weekly sales of 1.3m - a five-year high.

The publication not only benefitted from the closure of TV Pick, but stole readers from What's On TV (down 14% to 1,04m) and Radio Times (down 7% to 826,302).

"The legacy of the ill-fated TV Pick launch has only been a positive one for TV Choice," said TV Choice's publishing director Liz Watkinson. "Even as our cover price moved back up at the start of the autumn our readers, both new and existing, stayed with us.

Source: BBC

Friday 14 February 2014

Tonight at The Musician, Leicester (14/2): Blue Circus: Burlesque & Freak Show

Talulah Blue presents...

Blue Circus: Burlesque & Freak Show
Fri 14
£10adv £12door
feat. Bendy Bendini, Talulah Blue, Doc Leroc plus live music from The Sarah Bird Band
Getting in the mood for Valentines? No us neither, so come along to this show instead!

In line with comedy week in Leicester, we have burlesque, boylesque, comedy and freakshow acts.

Bendy Bendini is a twisty legged question mark. An anatomical wonder and extraordinary gentleman performing what others can't and daren't do.

Next up will be your host for the night, international showgirl and fire-eating circus baby Talulah Blue.

Last but not least, Doc Leroc is the Mantastic Marvel of Yorkshire. Travelling the world; tantalising, titilating and traumatising audiences with his masculine boylesque.

Also featuring a live band as well as a burlesque stall!

Remember; always check with the venue before travelling, or grab a ticket direct from the site:

Thursday 13 February 2014

Tom Brosseau announces UK Tour

Tom Brosseau announces UK Tour

“Wistful, tender songs” 4/5 Mojo

“Beautifully finger picked set that recalls Woodie Guthrie and Devendra Banhart” Uncut

April Tour Dates
Saturday 12th April - Sebright Arms, London
Sunday 13th April - The Louisiana, Bristol
Monday 14th April - The Castle Hotel, Manchester
Tuesday 15th April - The Green Door Store, Brighton

Girl Band announce UK tour and festival dates‏

Girl Band announce UK tour and festival dates‏

"these shores' answer to HEALTH's pained, psychotic frenzies and Liars' daring invention. They're that good." - DIY
"abrasive, unrestrained and exhilarating" - NME
"a feral beast of a no-wave song" - Stereogum
"rules in excelsis" - The Quietus
"a fearsome six minutes" - Pitchfork
"noise-pop genius" - Drowned In Sound

3rd June Sheffield The Bell Jar

4th June Glasgow Bloc

5th June Edinburgh Electric Circus

6th June Leeds Belgrave Music Hall

10th June Cambridge The Portland Arms

11th June London The Shacklewell Arms

21st June Hilvarenbreek Best Kept Secret Festival

10th August Skipton Beacons Festival

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Tonight at The Musician, Leicester (12/2): Ewan Dobson

Ewan Dobson
Wednesday 12th February
£12.50adv £15door
plus support
Every once in a while you come across something on the internet that makes you go "wow." It may be a video, picture, song, band, or anything of the sort. In this case, it's the amazing virtuosity of Canadian fingerstyle guitarist Ewan Dobson. Ewan Dobson performs finger picking at it's finest. So much so that his Time 2 YouTube video has so far received 12.5 million hits and counting. Released as a download single it has become a global hit.

Dobson creates classic music, modern music and everything in between with only his guitar and finger picking. No bass, no drums, no vocals; nothing. It's just a one man show, and quite honestly, that's all you need. Audiences can expect masterful command of the acoustic guitar performed like no other can or has yet.

Remember; always check with the venue before travelling, or grab a ticket direct from the site: