Tag Archives: blues

Guernsey Gigs presents Thee Jenerators, Joe Young and The Bandits and Silas The Assyrian Assassin – The Fermain Tavern – 06/05/17

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

With a bank holiday last weekend and another coming up next week with Liberation Day, it was hard to escape the feeling of this being something of a limbo weekend, but, thanks to Guernsey Gigs, there was the hope of rock ‘n’ roll salvation at The Fermain Tavern.

The night started off in slightly more sedate fashion than that though with the acoustic punk stylings of Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Silas combined aspects of his past work fronting some the islands most notable punk bands of the last decade with hints of the ranting poetry style of Attila the Stockbroker but all in package that looked constantly on the verge of collapse.

Following a full play of The A-Team theme tune, his performance tonight seemed a little lacking in the energy and spirit of his best ones. That said it was still entertaining enough with the usual grace notes like fumbling with a folded up set list still working well.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Musically it was as you’d expect with highlights coming with Trust Fund Anarchist, Interesting Facts and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while we didn’t get the full song, Boozing’s My Religion started out as a nice play on the REM classic.

By the end of the set, an improbable cover of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up with Stace Blondel providing backing vocals from the audience, it had picked up a little and it remained entertaining but I couldn’t help but think Silas really needs a more intimate space and engaged audience to really be properly effective.

Styles couldn’t have shifted much more next as Jersey four-piece Joe Young & The Bandits launched us through a time warp into the 1970s for a set of hard rocking power blues.

While I found it hard to engage with their performance there was no denying how well they evoked the sounds and styles of the likes of Hendrix, Cream, Zeppelin, et al, but through a set of convincingly created original songs.

Frontman Martin o’Neill (there is no actual Joe Young) was nicely energetic (when he wasn’t stood frustratingly with his back to the audience) though there were moments that felt a little too much like Tenacious D, but in the throwback context they worked ok.

Joe Young & The Bandits

Joe Young & The Bandits

Bass player Eddie Laffoley meanwhile was the most naturally energetic on stage and even put in some nice vocal performances in a few tracks. Of course a band like this wins or loses with its guitarist and Greg Alliban more than lived up to expectations with his playing, but again I found it hard to find a connection with the performance.

Joe Young & The Bandits may be a barrage of cliché but it’s hard to ignore the head nodding groove they invoked, even if it was nothing I hadn’t heard a hundred times before.

After a short break Thee Jenerators took to the stage for the first time in a good while and, to start with, it looked like the good but not great feel of the night was going to continue as the band ran through a few of their newer songs.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

As soon as they launched into Fight The Power from their Jenerator X debut though things seemed to kick up several gears and never let up as we experienced possibly the most powerful garage punk assault this version of the band have produced to date.

While there were moments throughout the set where each band member seemed to lose their thread a little they didn’t let that slow them down as they powered through a selection of songs spanning their whole time together from Mystery Man to  French Disco to Yellow Fruit Pastille to Daddy Bones and got most of the small audience onto the dance floor.

With three encores culminating with a version of Bela Lugosi that verged on completely falling apart, Thee Jenerators put in a set that ended up showing them as the cathartic force of nature they are at their best and, as frontman Mark Le Gallez pointed out, there may not be many bands like this left around these days but we’re glad of those that there are, and I’m very glad there’s Thee Jenerators.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: April 2017 – Elliot Falla in session and Vorlon

Elliot Falla and Vorlon Daz Carre

Elliot Falla and Vorlon

Click here to listen to the show

On the April 2017 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I featured a pair of guests spanning the range of guitar music in Guernsey.

Elliot Falla was in session with his brand of folk influence indie-blues including tracks from his recent Throne EP and brand new songs. He also told us not only about the making of the EP but also how its been expanding his gigging away from the island following regular shows in Brighton and London over the last few months.

Vorlon on the other hand is a project from long-standing heavy metal musician Daz Carre. He told us about his new album, intense extreme metal project False Sense of Security, as well as his time playing music in the islands which began in the mid-90s and has taken in bands such as Crunchy Frog, Earthcorpse, Darker Shores, Mechanical Lobster, Nemesis and more primarily as drummer but also playing bass and guitar.

You can listen to the show for the next 30 days through the BBC iPlayer Radio App or by clicking here.

I also announced that BBC Introducing Guernsey will again be going live as part of Arts Sunday, you can find out more about that here.

Tracklist

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Acoustic Night with Blue Mountains, Mick Le Huray, Richey Powers and Llewellyn Van Eeden – The Fermain Tavern – 08/04/17

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

After a jam night and an international Folk Americana night, Guernsey Gigs continued their run of shows at The Fermain Tavern by inviting four acoustic acts on to the stage. Spanning veterans of the scene to new performers the night featured a mix of sounds, once again in a relaxed ‘club’ style setting.

First up was Llewellyn Van Eeden. Having played open mic nights and a few smaller gigs including a set on the busking stage at last year’s Vale Earth Fair, this was only my second chance to catch him play and, for the most part, it was an enjoyable performance.

With a blues feel to the majority of his set, Van Eeden added a nice abrasive edge that didn’t feel forced to a fairly standard sound.

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Adding a harmonica to a few songs rounded it off, albeit in still standard way, and, combined with a relatively easy-going nature on stage, made for a nice way to start the night.

Later in the set we were treated to a folkier song in Afrikaans before the set closed on a pair of what can only be described as ‘pirate folk’ that, while a little novelty, were good fun and went down very well with the audience.

While better known as frontman of psychedelic folk beast The Recks, Richey Powers had the opportunity to show a slightly different side of himself going solo. For the most part it was what you’d expect with folk sounds from various traditions rubbing shoulders with something of an American indie rock sensibility.

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

Much like with The Recks, Richey’s songs were often long, and in a solo setting a little over long on a couple of occasions, but generally were engrossing rides that drew the audience in.

The solo setting also gave us the chance to hear the more intricate side of Richey’s playing that often gets lost in the multilayered sound of The Recks.

With Frugal Heart providing a nice highlight the set then ended with a more intense stomping blues-y song that, if nothing else, proved a good pair of Cuban heels can work just as effectively as an amplified stomp box.

Mick Le Huray is a longstanding member of Guernsey’s music and folk scene and has been a fixture of the Sark Folk Festival since its inception and many events before. With his first solo album recorded and released in the last year he has found something of a new lease of life and that was evident here.

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Accompanied by Andrew Degnen on fiddle, Mick played a set strong with the feel of the 1960s folk revival delivered with a real sense of feeling and humility. Andrew’s violin expanded the sound nicely but didn’t help the set dragging a little in the middle for me when it went a little too traditional folk for my tastes.

A song with Guernsey French lyrics and a more upbeat closer brought Mick’s set to an end on a high point though and made a nice contrast to the two younger solo performers that came before.

In trio mode tonight Blue Mountains delivered a set made up of many songs, but all continued their journey into a melancholy side of dark Americana.

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

With Andrew Degnen’s fiddle and a few tracks where Mike Bonsall swapped from guitar to banjo, Blue Mountains new songs expanded their range of sounds but it was the harmonies and style that remained at the heart of their songs.

A real highlight of the new songs came with Hummingbird, while We Come & Go shifted things into slightly more upbeat territory towards the end of the set, it was just a shame the audience had drifted away somewhat by this stage of the night.

Rounding the night off on a great vocal harmony moment to close their take on Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl, Blue Mountains concluded things on a high point and, as this gig was clearly promoted as the first in a series, I hope to see more music of this quality in this relaxed setting going forward.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Robert J. Hunter – Where I’m From

Robert J. Hunter - Where I'm From coverWith the release of his third album, Where I’m From, Alderney born blues artist Robert J. Hunter has reached something of a landmark moment creating a stripped back live set of semi-acoustic songs to complement the more intense blues rock of his past releases.

Also featuring his now regular band mates, James Le Huray and Greg Sheffield, the album continues Hunter’s journey that began as a teenage guitarist in blues bands like Rawcuz Crowzz in Alderney before moving to Guernsey to develop his sound as a solo artist and as part of Twelve Ton Trouble (amongst others).

His move to London saw him take on his music as a more serious business resulting in several mini-tours of the UK and countless shows in and around London developing him into the formidable performer and songwriter he now is.

Where I’m From has been released through Spiritual Records and is available to listen digitally on Spotify and Apple Music and in physical form through Rob’s own website.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 10th December 2016

Robert J. Hunter - Where I'm From review scan

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The EF Trio, The OK and Ramblin’ Nick Mann – The Fermain Tavern – 28/05/16

The late May bank holiday weekend last year was one that saw Leeds band Eureka Machines play to a small crowd at The Fermain Tavern and, unfortunately, this year saw another small audience for three Guernsey acts, in this case based (loosely) around blues.

Ramblin' Nick Mann

Ramblin’ Nick Mann

Ramblin’ Nick Mann started things off in his usual lo-fi, DIY blues kind of way. Balancing the sound of his homemade guitar is often a challenge and it was clear the soundman was having a bit of trouble with that here, but that didn’t really spoil things as the Ramblin’ one’s performance is as much about the complete product as the individual songs.

Added to his repertoire tonight was some fuzz noises which lifted some passages of the music adding a nice extra variety (though not helping with the sound balance) and a few new songs including a nicely sparse and atmospheric one a bout a ship wreck.

With one audience member describing the sounds as something like a country Frank Zappa the set went down well with the small audience.

After a number of years together The OK continued to be the island’s primary self-reviewing band by living up their name. While their performance still feels a bit stilted and frontman Joe comes across as surprisingly uncomfortable on stage despite many shows its clear all four are having a good time, as were their small crop of fans.

The OK

The OK

Their choice of songs remains a bit hit and miss – I don’t think I’m ever going to warm to The OK’s take on Electric Six’s Gay Bar – but they had a few highlight moments with Free’s Wishing Well and Andrew WK’s Party Hard which is always good fun and seems up to sum up the energy the band are after, even if they didn’t quite get there tonight.

With a few more arriving (seemingly having recovered from the previous night’s end of school prom) The Elliot Falla Trio (often oddly abbreviated to The EF Trio) took to the stage and proceeded to groove their way through a set of loosely bluesy rock.

Falla himself comes across something like Robert J. Hunter did a few years ago, but with a slightly less intense vibe to his mannerisms and more of a pop sensibility to the music, though he’s still got somewhere to go on the stagecraft side of things as the quiet bits between the songs showed. He was accompanied by a rhythm section (Elizabeth Beacom on drums and Ben Roussel on bass) who bring a nice swing to the sound adding a jazzy element to the bluesy sounds, but more than capable of rocking when necessary.

The EF Trio (Elliot Falla)

The EF Trio

Along with a selection of original songs that have a real strength to them, particularly coming from such a young writer (not wishing to be patronising), some of which were showcased on Falla’s EP of last year, the trio also included a selection of covers to which they’d added their own twist. Notable among them were versions of TLC’s No Scrubs, Busted’s Year 3000 and a smoothly jazzy Valerie.

With set closer, and probably Falla’s best original to date, You’re All Gone, getting a few dancing in the shadows an encore was called for and delivered in the form of reprise of folk number Wagon Wheel all of which went down very well and rounded the slightly musically all over the place night well, marking The EF Trio as ones to watch going forward, though I have a feeling university commitments may see the band dissolve at the end of the summer.

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Tadhg Daly – Taghazout

Tadhg Daly - TaghazoutOver the last few years I’ve followed singer-songwriter Tadhg Daly and his band (originally called The Five Mile Road, in reference to their home island’s famous surf spot) from their origins in Jersey as a grunge and alt-folk tinged indie band through the release of their debut single Learn To Live in 2014 and now onto the release of their first EP, Taghazout.

The EP has two rather distinct sides to it with the first and third tracks and the second and fourth sharing a similar feeling.

Lower The Sound opens the record in brooding fashion, building both structurally and emotionally from groovy organ sounds to acoustic and electric guitars and finally the full band with a reverb heavy electric guitar solo soaring over it all. Third track, Don’t Tell Me, shares many similarities to this showing the darker, more introspective, side of Tadhg’s style.

Control Yourself and Without You I’m Alone, meanwhile, add a bluesy feel to the sound, stemming from the band’s past grungy tones. On these Daly seems to be channeling another Channel Islands’ export to the UK, Alderney’s Robert J. Hunter, in his vocal tones – albeit with his own, slightly more subtle, less all out anguished, twist.

Tadhg Daly

Tadhg Daly

All four tracks feel produced and polished to perfection and, in some ways, this is one of the downfalls of the EP. With this production style on songs of this nature, it feels they’ve lost something of the heart that I can hear in the lyrics or just below the surface within Daly’s performance.

On top of this the overlaying of backing vocals on each track, while at times well used, feels a little overdone, often overriding Daly’s own performance in a way that makes me wonder if there was a lack of confidence in the accessibility of his voice (something I can’t see at all).

As a whole Taghazout has something of the feel of a soundtrack to a hangover, or at least a Sunday morning feeling. With a slow building start leading to a mellow but brooding nature with deep thoughts overlaid on modern blues music that feels on the verge of emotionally breaking down though never quite stepping over that boundary. While it may not be perfect, as a first EP it showcases Tadhg Daly in a way that is at once accessible and hints at a deeper, darker, side to both his songwriting and performance.

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Ramblin’ Nick Mann – One Eye In The Past

Ramblin' Nick Mann - One Eye In The PastRamblin’ Nick Mann has, over the last few years, emerged onto the Guernsey music scene with a sound unlike any other referencing the earliest of bluesmen combined with a knowing sense of his own Guernsey-ness.

He launched his debut album, One Eye In The Past, at the Vale Earth Fair Unplugged event in January 2016 with one of his best performances to date.

My review of the record was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 13th February 2016 and you can read it below.

Ramblin Nick Mann - One Eye In The Past review scan 13:02:16

 

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Highly Suspect, Of Empires, Critics – The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch – 27/01/16

Highly Suspect, Of Empires, Critics - posterHeading out to The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch on a Wednesday night I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Despite having been to plenty of shows at bigger venues, from the Mean Fiddler (under the old Astoria) to the O2 arena, I had never been to a London pub gig.

Upon arriving I found a surprisingly authentic, old-fashioned looking pub, that despite the overly trendy looking clientele, looked like it had been there for decades (if not more) and it was instantly obvious the night’s live music would be taking place in a separate room upstairs.

Heading up the narrow old staircase I emerged into a dark room packed with, at a guess, just over a hundred people, stood watching and listening to Critics who were midway through their set. The London-based band, who are set to support Theory of a Deadman in the near future, delivered a selection of bass and groove driven pop-rock with a good layer of synth included.

Frontman, Lynn Paignton, displayed a friendly charisma in his performance that was confident but not over bearing while bass player Carl Warren delivered the grooves with an admirable cool, smoothness. This all combined into something the crowd in the busy venue really seemed to be enjoying.

Critics

Critics

As the bands switched over, not an easy task with the only way on and off the stage being off the front into the crowd, it was interesting to see many of the audience stay put, waiting expectantly for the next band to start, not something commonly seen at pub gigs in Guernsey where drawing the audience away from the bar is often a big challenge.

Having seen them many times on their home turf, I was interested to see Of Empires in front of a less familiar crowd, and it was clear from the start that this wasn’t phasing the four-piece at all as they launched into a set made up almost entirely of new material. The new songs continued the band’s development with their cool, slick, rock ‘n’ roll swagger now being matched entirely by the music.

Liam Bewey and George Le Page, as the engine room-like rhythm section, may have provided the power but much of the essence of what makes Of Empires sound came from Matthew Berry’s dexterous, reverb laden, vintage guitar sounds that bring to mind a slowed down version of classic rock ‘n’ roll mixed with something of The Doors and 60s counter-culture vibes.

Of Empires

Of Empires

As always their stage presence is focused and transmitted through frontman Jack Fletcher, who, despite the small stage had all the stances, shapes and poses you’d expect to see from someone like Bono in a stadium, but in this case all driven with a barely contained frantic feel that proved infectious.

While the audience’s response to Of Empires started positive but polite it grew as the set went on and by the time it came to middle-eight of Carla Jack had many singing back to him, ending the set on a high, suggesting this could be a band on the brink of taking the next step.

Despite the positive reception afforded the two opening acts it was clear, as the already busy and hot venue, filled up even more, that many had come out to see the headliners, Brooklyn three-piece, Highly Suspect.

From the start the trio came on with a soulful power in their mix of blues, garage and rock ‘n’ roll, tinged with the infectious energy of punk. Even though this marked their first appearance in London the crowd were clearly already familiar with the band and this gave guitarist/lead vocalist Johnny Stevens already positive stage presence an extra boost.

Highly Suspect

Highly Suspect

Stevens’ jagged and fractured punk-blues guitar brought to mind the likes of Jack White but with an extra speed and intensity which was nicely offset by Rich Meyer’s smooth, progressive bass lines all backed by the strong, thundering drums of Ryan Meyer that brought to mind Teaspoonriverneck’s Brett Stewart.

As the set went on Highly Suspect showed a real dynamic sense to their music with more traditional power trio blues (featuring a lead vocal turn from bassist Meyer) along with a semi-solo track from Stevens that showed a dark side within the band’s positive presence driving home their already honest and authentic feeling.

Having been unsure what to expect at the start of the night I headed back to the tube station having seen three good bands and two stand out performances and, while I assume not every pub gig in London is of such a high-caliber, it certainly was a good one to start of with.

See a few more photos from the show on Facebook

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Elliot Falla – Screaming At The Sky

Elliot Falla - Screaming At The Sky EP coverFollowing the success of the likes of Ed Sheeran, James Blake, George Ezra and more, the world has hardly been short of well turned out, young, male, singer-songwriters and one at the top of the list of those coming out of Guernsey right now is Elliot Falla. Having gigged as a solo acoustic act his debut EP, Screaming At The Sky, takes four of those songs and expands them to have a full band sound.

Opener, Say Goodbye To Our Minds, starts things off strong with that acoustic sound as other instruments gradually build behind it until it becomes a nice slice of fresh, young sounding, middle of the road rock.

You’re My Way Out builds on this with hints of blues added to the template (it’s no surprise Falla has shown himself to be a devotee of fellow islander Robert J. Hunter). This is followed by the EP’s potential misstep, Mystery Woman, that lands just on the wrong side of the balance between naïveté and immaturity, while its mix of sounds doesn’t coalesce as well as the other three songs.

Elliot Falla

Elliot Falla

Closer, You’re All Gone, however is possibly the record’s strongest track and, for me, has the feel of being a ‘lead single’ to it.

Across all four tracks Falla’s rich voice is generally impressive, though there are a few moments where it’s slightly mid-Atlantic sound feels put on and it sounds like he’s maybe trying too hard to sound like those who came before.

Musically the songs mix a few styles to create something that, while familiar, also has its own feel. Through the singer-songwriter template, comes hints of indie, blues, pop punk and MOR rock which is combined with some great production work and additional backing vocals to create an impressive full band sound.

For a debut EP Screaming At The Sky lays some solid foundations from which Falla can, hopefully, build a more coherent sound of his own as he and his writing mature and he adds a full live band to the mix, both on stage and in the studio.

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The Robert J Hunter Band – Before The Dawn

Robert J Hunter - Before The DawnLess than a year after releasing his debut album, Songs For The Weary, Robert J Hunter has returned with his second LP, Before The Dawn.

Flanked by Greg Sheffield on drums and James Le Huray on bass the album was recorded in Guernsey and mixed and mastered in the UK where the band is now based and gigs regularly in and around London as well as having completed their first UK tour in the second half of 2015.

The album is available in digital and physical form via Bandcamp and my review of Before The Dawn was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 19th December 2015 and can be read below.

Robert J Hunter - Before the Dawn review scan - 19:12:15

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